Devotionals

Creating with the Creator: Clay

Growing up, I never would have considered myself artistic. Though I enjoyed doodling, my best drawings were glorified stick figures. I never took an art class in high school, preferring yearbook and other digital platforms instead.

When I was recovering from a surgery a few years ago, I discovered to my delight that Bob Ross was now on Netflix. I had fond childhood memories of his show coming on after my favorite cartoons. Using some art supplies my husband had gifted me for Christmas, I decided to paint with Bob. Honestly, I just wanted to see if someone with zero artistic talent could magically turn blobs of paint into gorgeous woodland scenes the way he did on his show. Turns out- she can.

It was new, therapeutic, and a great way to break up my Netflix binges. And anyways, I couldn’t physically do much else. Then, a few years ago the leader of my community group described how she loved to do art with God. I was intrigued. She described letting Him take the wheel with her as she painted.

I gave it a shot, dwelling on the Creator as I created. It’s a powerful, beautiful experience. God is not limited to speaking through Scripture alone. He can speak in profound ways when we open ourselves up to Him and set aside the time.

Anyways, I recently attended a women’s retreat with that same friend. In fact, she co-organizes the entire retreat. She encouraged me to lead other women in the process of connecting with God through art, but this time I would use small slabs of clay instead (easier to transport, set up, clean up).

It was beautiful to witness so many skeptical women having a deep, meaningful time with God. He spoke to them, loved them, affirmed them, challenged them, allowed them to experience His presence.

For their reference, I wrote down the process of manipulating clay with the Creator. I’d like to share it with you all, as well. Give it a chance- you never know what God will want to share with you.

Process:

Creating with the Creator can be a powerful experience. If you’ve never done it before, you might have reservations, doubts, or insecurities about creating your art. That’s natural, but unneeded. Remember that nobody will judge your creation. After all, you don’t even have to show it to anyone. It’s all about spending quality time with God and opening up to new and unique ways of connecting with Him.

First, talk to God. As you hold your clay in your hands and begin to work it, pray. This might look different for everyone. You might tell Him your insecurities about this exercise and ask Him to release your fears of judgement or outcome. You might tell God how you’re feeling or what’s going through your mind. You might praise Him and have a time of Thanksgiving. You might ask Him to speak with you as you simply listen, expectantly.  A song, an image, a word, a verse, or a shape might pop into your brain. Don’t resist it- God can speak however He chooses.

Second, let your experience with God shape the clay in your hands. Perhaps He wants you to make something specific. Perhaps He wants you to just feel the clay and be with Him. Perhaps your hands will form something you don’t understand- He might even reveal the meaning to you later. When shaping the clay, there’s no right or wrong; there’s no good or bad. There’s just connecting with the Father and opening yourself to an experience with Him.

Reflection Questions:

1. What did God communicate to me through this experience? How did it feel?

2. What did this experience tell me about the nature, character, or qualities of God?

Verses to Consider:

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” -Isaiah 64:8

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” -Genesis 2:7

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” -Ephesians 2:10

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Blog · Devotionals

For When You Feel Inadequate

I don’t know about you, but the end of this year feels like a continuous, somehow slow kick in the pants. I allowed grading to stack up and to-do lists to run a bit too long. My seniors checked out waaay earlier than usual and I’m trying every trick I know to keep them engaged. Content needs to be finished, grades need to be calculated, and it can all be… a lot.

Today I was frustrated when I got home. I snapped at my husband and worked out so hard my abs kind of hurt in a you-shouldn’t-have-done-that kind of way. (Confession: I’ve pulled my intercostal muscles more than once so I’m supposed to be “careful.”)

And then I broke down, took an extra long shower, apologized to my husband, and finally ate some food.

And you know what? When I finally broke down and acknowledged how I was feeling, I started to feel better. I allowed myself to embrace the frustration and then seek out its source. Turns out I’ve been juggling all the things- and I’m hard on myself when something falls through the cracks.

It might be Teachers’ Appreciation Week, but in high school world, this week is called “AP week” and students are carrying that stress in their shoulders, faces, and spirits. Maybe they don’t have time to work on my “regular” class. Maybe it seems less important compared to the other stressors in their lives. I allow their attitudes and motivation (mostly lack thereof) to determine my success as a teacher.

As I dug a bit deeper, I realized that at the root of my frustration was a deep rooted feeling of inadequacy. I’m not enough. I’m not good enough or smart enough or engaging enough. These whispers slowly poison my mind until I’m undone.

But my worth is not determined by teenagers. It’s not determined by test scores. Or programs. Or meeting outcomes.

My worth is determined by God. Just God. I’ve been designed by Him, crafted by Him, made perfect by His Son.

Lucky for me- God is constant. When things around me change or I feel as though I’m drowning, God is the same. So my value is the same. I am not less.

The simplicity and truth of this nourishes my soul. I am enough. Because He is enough. And that will always be… enough.

Breathe in God, exhale the lies.

 

Devotionals

Salve for the Soul When You Wake Up in a Funk

Do you ever wake up in a funk? I’m not sure anyone else really uses that term, but it’s what my mom always said. It just means I woke up in a sad, pessimistic mood. You see, I pulled the intercostal muscles along my right side (again) without even doing anything strenuous and I haven’t slept well the past two nights. So I woke up in a funk. The minute I was awake I grabbed my phone and mindlessly watched Instagram stories for an hour. And you know what? I felt even worse.

Mindless activities used to distract from pain, sadness, or reality usually come with negative side effects. Like feeling worse. Like ignoring the Lord’s call to bring my worries to Him. Eventually I got out of bed nearly crying and my husband encouraged me to read my Bible.

This morning, I need to know who God is. If I know who He is, I can better understand who I am. I can better understand my purpose. I can better understand the significance of my life. But to know who He is, I have to spend time thinking about Him.

I opened my Bible to Psalm 23, which is my personal favorite Scripture. It’s always spoken to me in powerful ways and drawn me into a closer, more tender relationship with the Lord. Today I decided to read it through a new lens. For every verse, I asked myself and God “who is my shepherd?” By that I mean- literally, who is He? What are His qualities, characteristics, passions, and purposes?

Who is my Shepherd?

  • The LORD
  • Provider
  • Knows me
  • Caring
  • Knowledgeable
  • Persistent
  • Wise
  • Strong
  • Honorable
  • Close by
  • Protector
  • Comforter
  • Hospitable
  • Holy
  • Love
  • Generous
  • Good
  • Pursuer
  • Eternal

I take comfort in these words, knowing that my identity comes from God alone. The only opinion that matter is His. Not my family’s, friends’, or coworkers’ opinions. Just His.

So if He is all of these things, who am I? I take His qualities one at a time and I ask myself what identity His qualities give me.

Here’s a sample of my list:

  • Daughter of the LORD of the universe
  • Provided for
  • Known
  • Cared for
  • Pursued
  • Honored
  • Near Him
  • Protected
  • Loved
  • Saved

As I created my two lists, I grew closer to the Lord. It’s incredible how many different ways there are to connect with Him. He’s able to connect with me (and you!) in an entirely unique way. Because He made us unique and knows what each of us needs.

So let me encourage you, friend. Read your favorite Scripture today and ask God who He is. He will reveal Himself to you in layers, ever more complex as He draws you deeper. And your heart will be moved to worship. And that posture can change not only your day, but your life.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness
or his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23

Devotionals

I Am Never Alone

I took the Enneagram test a few weeks ago. I know, I know- late to the game. For those of you who don’t know, Enneagram is like a (in my opinion) better version of the Myers-Briggs personality test. It tells you your tendencies, fears, areas of strength, etc. I’m a type 6 wing 5, which means that my main fear is being abandoned. And let me get pretty real here: that’s absolutely true for me.

I fear that I am worthless. And that I will therefore be abandoned. I think, in a way, that’s classic middle child syndrome. Middle children tend to feel overlooked or left out or unimportant. But regardless, I hold on tight to the people around me because I do not want to be left behind. Or forgotten.

My birthday is tomorrow. Let me confess something: I’m always disappointed by my birthday. You see, I want people to prove that I have worth. I measure that in the recognition and affirmations that I get from the people around me. Let me clue you in on a little secret: that’s a terrible idea. If my worth is based on the behavior and affirmations of others, I’m bound to be disappointed, as demonstrated by my frustration with my birthday year after year. No matter how much love and affirmation I receive, I’m bound to let their behavior prove that I am worthless in my own mind. And that feels terrible.

Today, I prayed about it. I did some thought work. I wrote my thoughts down on paper and then examined them. I decided to change them, starting with this one: “people don’t care about me.” Then I asked God what to replace this thought with.

He whispered “I am never alone.” That God’s thought for me to adopt into my brain patterns- a thought to truly think on purpose. And, friend, it rocked me. God always knows exactly what I need to hear and what words I need to think. It always brings tears to my eyes.

I am never alone. You know why? Because I am completely known and fully loved by God. He is with me always and therefore I am never alone. I can ignore Him, mentally walk away, tune Him out. But He is always there.

Part of my personality is to be extremely loyal to the people around me. My Enneagram type is even called “The Defender.” But you know who’s more loyal? God. He does not abandon me when times get tough or I’m ignoring Him. He does not ignore me when I’m frustrated, hurt, or confused. Because He’s loyal. More loyal than I could ever imagine.

He’s so loyal and committed to being with me that He sacrificed His own son to bring me into deeper relationship with Him. What?! Who does that?! God.

I might not deserve it. I might not understand it. But God is always with me. I am never alone.

And friend, neither are you.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” -Psalm 137: 7-18

 

Devotionals

Made for More

I am made for more. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe. I am clothed in the purest white. I am called worthy. I am loved beyond reason, beyond measure.

I was walking down the hall today at school, slouching slightly and caught up in my thoughts about the day. And then the thought crossed my mind: I am the daughter of the King. Not just any king- The King. God, who commands nature, designed the skies, knows my future, and redeems humanity, is my Father.

Does that ever just catch your breath, make you pause?

The thought crossed my mind today and it changed my entire outlook and demeanor. I threw my shoulders back just like my mama always begged me to do, and I walked with dignity. For I am the daughter of the King.

Just like every daughter born to every king, I have done absolutely nothing to deserve this title. It’s who I am. It doesn’t even make complete sense. After all, I am a sinner born to sinners who dwells in this truly sinful world. Yet God calls me His daughter. And I’m just going to soak in this knowledge today.

Will you soak in this knowledge with me? Write it down, say it out loud, sing it softly, proclaim it boldly. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe.

And if I’m the daughter of the king, I am a co-heir of the kingdom with Christ. He has done everything to deserve it. I have done nothing. Yet I am the daughter of the king. It’s who I am.

And just like every daughter born to a king, this means everything about my life, my purpose, and my mission is changed. This identity both makes me special and gives implications to how I’ll live my life. My life is tied to and dependent upon the king. And that’s the right place to be, for He made me for more. So much more than I could ever imagine.

And so I walk with dignity. I walk with dependence. I walk with assurance. I walk with the king.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” -Romans 8: 14-16

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” -Galatians 4: 4-7

Devotionals

Always Remember What God Has Done

Do you ever feel like you keep hearing the same message from completely different sources? It’s almost like a weird deja vu. My friend Phoebe calls them Sacred Echos. Well, I’ve had one the past few days. You see, at Church we’ve been going through a series in Exodus, following the story of Moses. And usually when God does something completely miraculous, He asks the Israelites to remember and preserve the memory for posterity. Sometimes it’s with a physical sign, like stones, and sometimes He just tells them to remember that He’s the LORD. And as I read, it seems obvious that they should remember. Like duh, you’re not likely going to forget the Red Sea literally splitting in half for you to walk through.

And yet…do I remember all the miracles I’ve seen in my own life? Do I remember all the times God has come through and unexpectedly answered my prayers? Do I remember the times I’ve felt His presence so deeply, I know without a doubt He’s there? How easily I forget. How easily I fall into discouragement, despair, frustration, confusion, or doubt.

Today, I heard a similar message on one of my favorite podcasts. She encouraged me to remember what God has done for me. To make the reminder visible, symbolic, near to me. Just as the Israelites had physical reminders of God everywhere in their home and on their person, so I too can make physical signs. I can remind myself that God is there, has always been there, and will always be there. Always. Nothing else in my life is constant except the presence, love, and acceptance of the Lord. And He always comes through.

He came through when I survived what should have been a fatal car accident with barely a scratch on me. He came through when I had blood clots, 3 procedures, and 1 major surgery in the span of 6 months. He came through when I struggled to survive my first year of teaching. He came through in providing me with the most loving, incredible partner.

And He’ll continue to come through. For me…and for you. He’s relentless in His pursuit and He won’t relent until He has us completely. Until we realize our utter and complete dependence upon Him. Our dependence brings us freedom and joy. He wants to be near us. He wants to take our yoke in exchange for His. His is much lighter and much more bearable. Because His Son has already done all of the work for us. For eternity.

So remember Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” Psalm 77:11

“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
 The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.
 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.[b]
 The deep waters have covered them;
    they sank to the depths like a stone.
 Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.” -Exodus 15:2-6

Devotionals

Transition

I don’t know about you but for me, transitions are the worst. They’re equally full of heartfelt goodbyes and uncomfortable hellos. For me, summer is always a time of transitions as I think about how much I’ll miss my students who are moving on to a new grade level or going off to college. I convince myself that the next batch of students will never be as good, as warm, as close. Then I have all this time on my hands. So I put my head down and work on TPT resources. And now I’m coming up for air, ready to transition to the next phase of summer: working on my unit plans, ordering supplies, thinking about first day of school activities. Meanwhile, we moved this past weekend. We now have an elderly roommate. So many transitions.

Emotionally, I always start off okay. I have so many things to distract my mind as I unpack, decorate, or work on my store. But when I pause, when I relax, when I create space, in come the emotions: sad, happy, grateful, uncomfortable, annoyed, angry, anxious, fearful.

And where is God? He feels distant, though I know His spirit dwells inside of me. Literally. So I confess to Him my feelings. I don’t get answers right away. And though that can be frustrating, if I take a moment, I can choose to look back on all the ways He has come through for me  and others even in the last month. He’s there. He’s faithful. When God feels distant, it’s because I tried to move away from Him. And it’s time to come home.

He is my stability even when I’m hurting or facing the unknown. I tend to be like the Israelites wandering around the wilderness, angry and complaining against the God who just delivered them out of slavery and feeds them from the heavens each day. And to that hardness of heart, God’s word says “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:14). All that belongs to Christ?! Are you kidding me?! If that doesn’t humble my soul then nothing will. We are asked to do a small, yet hard thing: trust God. Believe Him. Beyond our negative thoughts and feelings, trust in Him. And in return, we share in everything that belongs to Christ- the Son of God who sits at His right hand.

Jesus has already done all the heavy lifting for me. So now I believe, trust, submit. He will deliver. Even when I’m uncomfortable and feeling all the feelings. He is bigger than my feelings and my fears. He is God. And I will share in everything that belongs to Him.