Encouragement from the Studio: Trust and Contentment

Exodus 14:13-14 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

At the start of this New Year, 2019, God gave me two words, trust and contentment. As I thought about those two words I realized that to trust God I must know and understand His character and look for it displayed in my life. Then as I learn trust and more about his character, contentment will develop because I will be able to see him working in my life. I will be able to see his plan and be content that it is a good plan.

Exodus 14 is the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and being trapped between the Red Sea and their attackers. A story most of us feel we know really well. But as I read this story the day God brought trust and contentment to mind, three things stood out to me. In verses 13 and 14 Moses tells the people “Do not be afraid,” and “stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring to you today,” and “the LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.”

I believe these calls to action are paramount to displaying our trust in the Lord and our contentment with his plan. To not be afraid when adversity is coming at us from all sides, to be content to stand firm and be still in the place God has put us. If we continue to move, run or hide from adversity then we won’t get to experience God’s complete character. We won’t get to see how He plans to deliver us and fight for us and we will miss out on a large part of God’s character, His faithfulness to His people!

My desire to put these two word into action this year is leading me to search the bible and my life for areas where the Lord displays faithfulness, love, protection, holiness, sovereignty, control, power, compassion, mercy, grace and forgiveness in my life.

The more we look for God’s character qualities displayed in our life, the more we will be able to trust Him as a God who desires our good and His glory. Trusting him will allow us to be content with where he has us, even if its in the middle of a storm.

Whether you are in the storm or in the calm, take a moment each day to look for the ways God displays His character in your life. The more you look for it, the more you will see it.

How is God using your trials? Big or Small.

Authors Note: I know it has been many, many months since I wrote a blog but I think you will understand after you read this why I took such a long break. I do hope my honesty is encouraging to whoever reads this post.

The fist line of my journal today reads “God, please show me how your are using this trial to supply my needs?” Truth is my husband and I are walking through on of the biggest trials or valleys of our life.  Often times we just feel confused and don’t quite understand why God is taking us through this period of time and we wonder how long oh Lord is this going to last?

But God works in mysterious ways. Today and last night it was through three different sources – my bible study, the daily devotional that my husband and I do together each night and an article that I read – they all pointed me to this thought, what needs has God supplied through this trial?

We don’t often want to look to our trials to supply our needs, instead we beg and cry out to God to take away the trial, we tell him we can’t handle it, we don’t want it and we get angry with God for not protecting us from it.

But the more I walk through the valley, the more I see the ways God is using it. Yes, I don’t want to be here! I would rather learn these lessons some other way, but would I? Would I learn these lessons if I wasn’t walking through this trial? No, I wouldn’t and as much as it hurts to say that, it’s the truth.

Our trial has required of us to reduced our debt and start living more within our means than we ever have before. It has given us a new perspective on what is truly important in this life and I can tell you right now its NOT things of this world. It has taught me to be a prayer warrior and not just for myself but for my family, friends and my church. The most important lesson we are learning is TRUST, to trust God, to trust each other and to trust other wise Christians to walk along side us. God is also teaching us that he will supply the strength and grace we need to take each step, because he is walking with us even when we can’t see him.

In Job 2:10 it says “… shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” and in Romans 8:28 its says “And we KNOW that in ALL THINGS, God works for the GOOD of those who LOVE HIM, who have been called according to HIS PURPOSE” (emphasis mine).

If God has chosen you, called you and you love Him, you must remember that God uses ALL THINGS (suffering, grief, trials, joy, thanksgiving), all things to work good in our lives. If you walk through life accepting only the good things from God but getting angry for the trials, you will miss a large portion of what God wants to teach you. So my challenge to you today, ask yourself “What is God teaching me through my suffering?”

At some point in the future, I am not sure when, I will share more details of our story, but for now my friends you just have to trust that I am not speaking from a place of ease and comfort but from the middle of one of the deepest darkest valleys of my life and I am still saying “God is Good! Trust him and look for the ways he is using your trials to teach you.” Some days its harder than others, but remember that God tells us in Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Be encouraged today, God is always present and he will care for you.

Encouragement from the Studio: God’s great love

As I look back across 2017 and reflect on all that God has done this year, I am amazed. There were lots of ups and downs throughout the year, but today I am rejoicing in how God has brought my husband Michael and I through 2017 to head into a new year together.

We didn’t have any major life changing events in 2017, but can I still look back and see God’s hand on everything that happened last year.

About this time last year we were living in a rental house that was put up for sale, Michael’s overtime at work was practically nonexistent and we were told if we wanted to stay in our house that the rent would be increased. This news added to the stress of the holidays by 100%! There was nothing we could do except look for a new rental house.

So we started the search and we looked and we looked and we looked, we were beginning to give up hope that we were ever going to find a place we could afford and we started making a plan to live in the apartment above my parent’s garage and in our travel trailer. Not ideal to say the least! Then all of the sudden, when were about to give up hope, there it was listed for a rent, a small but doable duplex in a country setting! It was perfect and God provided it at the perfect time and the perfect price.

As I look back though I remember feeling unsure of what was going to happen. I questioned everything and everyone, I didn’t think we were going to find a place to live; I couldn’t trust that God would provide. The truth is, I still see that same pattern in me today, but why? When time and time again I can see where God has provided exactly what we needed when we needed it! Why can’t I trust him with the unknown, instead of waiting to trust him after the fact?

I don’t know that I have the answer to this question. I just know that this is something I struggle with and that I want to work on throughout next year.

This morning God brought this verse to my attention from Lamentations 3:22. Its says, “Because of the LORD’S GREAT LOVE (emphasis mine), we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They (his compassions) are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God continues to love us even when we doubt Him, even when we don’t trust Him. We don’t have to wait for a new year to embrace his compassion and love! Its there for us each and every morning, each and every day of each and every year for the rest of our lives! He loves us, he wants what is best for us and he accepts us just as we are.

So as we head into 2018, why not embrace God’s compassion each morning and live life like his promises claim we can? There is no reason for us to be consumed by our doubts, because his love never fails us. He is there each day just waiting for us to run to him and let him embrace us. He is faithful, lets live 2018 in the light of his faithfulness!

How has God been faithful to you this year? I would love to know. What can you use prayer for this year? Leave a comment below and I will be praying for you. I truly believe God blesses us when we walk through life together by praying for and sharing our prayer requests with one another.

Happy New Year! May God’s faithfulness exceed your wildest dreams this year!

Encouragement From The Studio: Renew Your Mind

For the past four weeks I have been participating in an online bible study through Proverbs 31 Ministries (proverbs31.org). The study was based on Max Lucado’s book titled Anxious for Nothing and Philippians 4:4-9. It has been a wonderful study and book. Which leads me to my thoughts for today that I hope will encourage and inspire you.

Often, as women we have a hard time controlling our thoughts. They are all connected and one thought leads to another, which leads to another and so on. We can spiral downhill so fast with our “what if’s” and “how will I handle that” questions. Our thoughts often turn to “what can I do to stop it”. We are basically asking, “how can I control my life”, so that none of these what if’s happen!  This is not how God wants us to live our lives; without peace, hope or security. We all know this, but how do we stop it? How do we stop the thoughts from spiraling out of control so fast we don’t even know how we ended up in a pile of tears on the bedroom floor?

Okay, maybe you don’t end up that way, but I am going to be honest, I often do. My personality is one that tends towards negative thought patterns, which leads me to the “what if’s” of life and “what am I going to do”, and “how do I control this problem?” Basically the problem can control me to the point that I am on the bedroom floor crying my eyes out not knowing how I am going to fix it.

Do you see the problem here? How am I going to fix? Stop right there! I have forgotten something. I am not in this life alone! God is with me and I don’t have to fix it, but there is something I have to do. I have to learn how to let go of my negative thought patterns and make them obedient to Christ. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 God calls us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” But HOW? This is the question I have always asked myself, God, friends and mentors. How? How do I do this? I would try all sorts of things and none of them worked.

But this week in my study of Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing, he explains that using Philippians 4:8 as a pattern to change our thinking is the perfect way to actually start taking our thoughts captive. This verse says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT (emphasis mine), whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE – if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY – think about such things” Lucado challenges his readers to start putting this into practice by taking whatever storm, challenge or anxious thought that is coming your way and look for the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable within it, instead of the negative, what if’s that our minds normally come up with.

Since I read about this principal I have been trying to put it into practice in my journal and it has helped me to actually start to leave my worries at the feet of Jesus instead of trying to control them myself, by looking for the positive in the situation.

What this looks like for me is each of these positive words True, Noble, Right and so on is noted in my journal with a different blessing written next to each for whatever it is in my life that is causing me to be anxious and have negative thoughts. By practicing this everyday, I think you will see your thought patterns begin to change and take on a new point of view. I pray that you will allow God to take control instead of trying to keep it for yourself and you will start seeing the blessings in the storms. It will be hard at first, but God promises in Romans 8:28 “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He IS using everything in your life for HIS GOOD and HIS PURPOSE, even though you may not be able to see it right now.

As a way of helping you put this into practice I have created two journal pages for you as a free download. One page is for your prayer & thanksgiving and the other is for practicing taking your thoughts captive. Download it, print as many as you need and start putting into practice what God calls us to. (DOWNLOAD HERE)

I pray this has encouraged you! Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts!

Encouragement From The Studio: HOPE

I often have to remind myself of the definition of certain words. We hear them so often and use them ourselves, but do we really know what they mean?

Psalms 130:5 tells us “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my HOPE.” As I read that I wondered, “Do I really have a grasp on how to wait for the Lord and put my HOPE in His word? What does it mean to really mean to hope?

The definition of hope is to expect with confidence. Wow! God is asking us to learn to wait for His timing but we are not just to wait and let doubt, fear or negativity wash over us. We are supposed to wait, read His word, learn from his word and expect with confidence that He has a plan. That he will provide and that he will come through for us.

I am not very good at this instead I try to control, change, plan or make decisions that will force something to happen. In doing so I am missing out on what God can teach me in the waiting and hoping. Do you have confidence that the Lord id doing something great in the waiting?

Philippians 1:16 “being CONFIDENT of this, that he who has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Encouragement From the Studio: My God Will

As I spent time with God early one morning, reading a devotional and listening to the pouring rain, in those quiet hours of the morning God started to reveal to me that He has done nothing to deserve our distrust. His word does not say, He might meet our needs or maybe he will bless us. His word clearly states, He will meet our needs and he will bless us. (Phil 4:19, Eph.1:3) With these amazing promises how do we forget to trust him? How do we forget about him so easily in our day-to-day lives and try to do everything on our own? Is it because our lives don’t look like we think they should? Are we God? Do we know what is best for ourselves? Sometime we think we do, but in truth we do not. God promises that he will bless us, He promises that he will meet our needs! God has our best at the center of His sovereign plan. Ask him to remind you today that He will meet your needs and that you have already been blessed, wherever you are, whatever life looks like, He has blessed you. Rest in that and be content that He knows what He is doing!

Phillippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."

Ephesians 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."

Gift Center

Encouragement from the Studio: Collateral Beauty

Beauty in the midst of struggle

Recently, my husband and I watched the new movie “Collateral Beauty” and we enjoyed it very much. It is not a theological movie, it is not based on God’s word or God’s promises and it makes no claims to be, but its premise - beauty in pain and sorrow – stirred in me a search for collateral beauty. A collateral beauty based on a faith filled life that believes that God is sovereign and in His sovereignty He has a plan for every thing that happens in our life; big or small, painful or joyful.

I began to pray that if I was to share this idea of collateral beauty with you, that He would give me wisdom and reinforce that it was truly backed up in His promises and in His Word.  There are many other ways to state this idea, beauty in the ashes of life, beauty in the pain of this world and joy in the trials He gives us, but it all leads to one place, collateral beauty. I also didn’t want just random Bible verses that supported my musings, but biblical examples of people, who found collateral beauty in the midst of their story or whose story shows us that collateral beauty can be found anywhere and at any time.

As I was driving to pick up my step-son Logan this morning and take him to his bus, I asked God to reveal to me some of these stories and so my mind began to wander through the pages of the Scripture and even now as I think about it, I am beginning to see that there is collateral beauty in almost every story in the Bible.  The story of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, in Genesis chapters 21 – 22 and as you read those words you see the beauty that comes from the trials and waiting that Abraham and Sarah had to endure. Even though they did not always make right decisions, God had promised them a child and he still fulfilled his promise, He gave them a son, Isaac, their collateral beauty in the midst of life.

Then there is the book of Ruth! A book filled with pain and suffering, but ends with beauty, the beauty of God’s plan in the midst of it all. The beauty of following His will when everything looks dark and with out hope! This story shows the collateral beauty of commitment, compassion and love for others that Ruth displayed in her actions towards Naomi, the collateral beauty of Boaz and his honorable acts to redeem Ruth and Naomi and continue the family line.

The one story that displays collateral beauty the best is Jesus Christ on the cross! God gives his only son, He allows him to die on the cross for us, sinners, to save us! We are the beauty from that pain! Our lives devoted to Christ and living out His plan for us is the most fulfilling example of collateral beauty.

I will be honest, I know my struggles are not as deep and painful as some out there, but to me they are struggles non-the-less and I need to remind myself to look for the collateral beauty in all things. I also do not know what God has in store for me down the road or how the lessons I learn in the small things will prepare me for something bigger. So please don’t feel like I am belittling your pain or making small of the things you struggle with. Pain is real. Our struggles are real and they are different for everyone. But there is one common thread in all of these stories, God and his plan and following Him no matter where He leads us. It may take small things like a sunrise on a day that you didn’t want to get out of bed that speaks of collateral beauty or it maybe something life changing. It may take months or years to see collateral beauty in what you are experiencing, but don’t let the pain blind you from what God is trying to teach you. Allow God to show you the beauty through the lens of pain and struggle. Once you see the beauty in what you have experienced you can share it with those who need it most.

Collateral beauty, look for it and you might find it in the most unexpected places, a sunrise, a rainbow, a flower in bloom, a friend who shows you compassion or a phone call or card just to say I am thinking of you. Collateral beauty is around us everyday, if we will allow God to show it to us.

Encouragement From The Studio: Colliding with God

This past weekend was spent at my church’s Women’s Retreat, where I was able to rest, relax and reconnect with God, friends and make new friends. We heard from a wonderful speaker named Willow Weston. Willow spoke to us about colliding with God in the midst of our wounds and pain, about getting back up on the bike and not remaining stuck in an unhealthy place.

I don’t have a big amazing story to tell about my childhood, my past or how God has rescued me, but as I look back across my life; I can tell what I remember the most. I remember the big exciting good things that happened and I remember the things that hurt the most. I think these shape us into who we are. The good things teach us about joy, living life to the fullest and show us how God has provided for us; while the painful things form and shape us.

How do you react to pain? Do you get stuck, unable to move? Do you fall and stay down? Do you go around saying “I am fine” when your really not? Who does God say He came to heal, the healthy or the sick? God sent his Son to earth to collide with us in the midst of our messiest moments. To heal us from the pain and walk with us through life, holding us up each time we are tempted to fall. If we didn’t have pain we wouldn’t see any need for a God so great! We would never run to him and seek his love if everything in life was perfect! God wants to meet us in our pain.

God meeting us in our pain starts with being able to be authentic. “God’s greatest work happens in our authenticity,” Willow Weston.  Are you authentic? If someone asks “how are you?,” how do you answer? Do you feel like you can be honest with one others?

Maybe the bigger question is, do you allow other people to be honest with you? If you ask someone how they are, do you want the real answer? Or are you asking just because it is the expected question in social settings?

The more I think about colliding with God, being authentic and getting back up on the bike, the more I realize it starts with me! I have to be willing to listen to other people’s stories and foster safe relationships with them before they are going to be willing to listen to my story. Being authentic has to start with listening to others!  Then, maybe I will be given the chance to share my story with them.

My desire is to be seen as woman who is colliding with God, seeking Him,  seeking those in need and are hurting, those who need to talk. I desire to be known as a listener.

Can you imagine what it would be like to walk into a room and know its full of people who want to be authentic, people who want to learn from each other, people who want to share in your pain, people who want to acknowledge God and His plan for their life and the lives around them?

Hosea 6:3 says “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear, he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth”

God calls us to press on through our junk to acknowledge Him,  to get back up on the bike; He will meet us. Just like we know the sun will rise every morning, we can count on Him meeting us. He will water us with his love and affection as we collide with Him.

My challenge to you, don’t wait for someone else to try it first, become the woman in your sphere of influence who is authentic, who asks “How are you?” and really wants the answer, who takes the time to listen to someone else’s story.  Amazing things will happen and God will collide with you as you seek to collide with Him and with others in their story.

Encouragement from the Studio: Live Loved

Based off of “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst

If my hands are full but inside is nothing but an empty exhausted shell then I am not living in the light of Gods love. Living loved takes a slower pace, it takes time in God's word and time in prayer to bring your focus back to where God wants it, on Him and on His plan for your life. It takes truly dwelling in His word, soaking it up, believing the promises are true and claiming them. Not letting the ways of this fallen world define who you are, but letting God the one who loves you unconditionally fill you with true love. Then and only then can you truly pour love back into those around you. Then you can look at all the situations in your life from a view of love. Living loved keeps you from seeing everything in a negative light and allows you assume the best of others, instead of instantly assuming you have been rejected, forgotten, uninvited or poorly thought of. Living loved allows you to stay firmly rooted in the truth of Gods love for you and changes your view of the world around you. Living loved does not come naturally or easily, it takes discipline and practice. My choice today: to start living loved. Yes I might stumble and fall and have to get up again, but I would much rather walk through life living loved than disappointed and rejected. Gods word calls us to delight in him and to dwell in him. These two words take time. Slow down today to dwell in and delight in God. Claim this promise today, “ The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who DELIGHTS in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Pslams 37:23-24. My prayer for you my friends is that you would grab ahold of Gods love for you and live each day loved by Him.

Encouragement from the studio

My blog is a little late this week and I have to admit I am not feeling very creative at this moment. As an artist and a creator you often feel like you have to be creative all the time. It's what people expect. But artists go through ups and downs of creativity, just like the ups and downs of life. My plan this week was to talk to you about decorating in red, white and blue since the 4th of July is just around the corner, but instead I feel led to share some encouragement with you. Maybe we will get to the decorating a little bit later in the post or later in the week. At the moment I am just going where God leads me.

This morning I read the verse Psalms 139:14 “I praise you (God) because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your (God's) works (ME!) are wonderful I know that full well.” Such encouragement in that verse, especially in a time when I feel like I am lacking. Lacking in my creativity, lacking in my motivation, lacking in how I love others, lacking in job orders and much more.

God created me? WOW! God made me just how he wanted me! Amazing! God knows that I will have moments of creativity and moments when I am not so creative, but even then, God made me. He made me a wife, stepmom, artist, home-cook, introvert, quiet, a thinker, a creator, a planner, a problem solver and more. He knows who I am, he knows my sins and he loves me in spite of them. He gives me permission to be who he created me to be, because his works – which is every single living thing on this earth – are wonderful.

But do I give myself permission to be who he created me to be? Or do I hold myself up to an unrealistic standard, one that he has not put into place? Do I allow myself to just be me? No, I don't! I place expectations on myself and high ones at that. Ones that I am not sure God would never think to put there. Some examples are: I must do something creative every week or everyday, I must work at making new designs for Etsy every day to ensure I have sales each week, new and creative dinner recipes must be tried, I can't let my step-kids see me make a mistake and to everyone on the outside my life must look perfect.

Is that what God calls me to? Is that what God made me for? No! God calls me to be who he made me with my imperfections and all. I am wonderful in his eyes, just as I am! Yes, he wants me to work on certain areas, to allow him to refine me, to grow in selflessness, love, kindness, grace, peace, fearlessness, forgiveness and a lot more I am sure. But he has given me the ability to learn those things. Its all part of being fearfully and wonderfully made and being chosen as one of His children. Its part of his wonderful plan for me. But while I am learning and refining, he is loving me unconditionally and he wants me to be who he created me to be.

Can you give yourself permission to be who God made you to be? Can you accept the truth in Psalms 139:14 despite what anyone else tells you? That He loves you, that He created you just as He wants you to be and that you are one of His wonderful works?

I hope that you can! No, you won't accept it perfectly everyday, but I hope you will join me on the journey of allowing this truth to grow in you until you accept it as fact. God loves you, just as you are, where you are, in the midst of the circumstances of your life!

Be sure to check out my Etsy store for inspirational digital prints. www.bethannerickson.etsy.com