Sunday, November 19, 2017

pa·tience

by Andrea Noles
pa·tience
ˈpāSHəns/
the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Silently now, we wait for thee.
We surrender our impatience, our hurry, our desire to do.
Father, we ask for your truth to fall upon us.
May your goodness and your glory impact us today.
We are slow learners and you teach us with your perfect patience.
Amen.


Isn’t she beautiful? Perfect shape, fun design, and home for the world’s finest drink.


My patience mug, made by Rae Dunn, has a story to tell. A story of patience, pride, and a few sips of peace.  You may want to settle in a bit for this one. Grab a blanket and a warm drink. This is not for the faint-hearted.


My husband and I began graciously passing the mug back and forth, joking that whomever drank from the mug, would be granted a day full of endless opportunities to taste the most trying fruit of all the spirit… patience.


The mug quickly made its way to the dark side of the cabinet, was pushed behind the popular  “blessed mug". Cause don’t we all just want a fresh cup of blessings. They are so much easier to manage.


I have a sweet teacher friend who pours her heart and soul into her work. We often pass each other in the hallway, shine our “I’m makin’ it” face, and wish one another well. Two weeks ago, our paths crossed, and she whispered, “don’t pray for patience, don’t pray for patience.” CAUSE DON’T WE ALL HAVE ENOUGH WISDOM BY NOW NOT TO INVITE PATIENCE TO OUR TABLE.


Shortly after, I heard another whisper. Not from a teacher, or a student, but from the beautiful voice of the Spirit.


“Andrea, patience is exactly what you need to pray for right now.”
“Take your mug with you, wherever you go, and take me too.”




So I listened.
I pulled my mug from the darkness, washed her off and...
I asked for it, and boy did it come.
Overflowing, to the brim, caffeinated tests of pure patience.


Opportunity started knockin’.


Every stoplight- Opportunity
Literacy students- Opportunity
Family- Opportunity
Appointments- Opportunity
Technology- Opportunity
People reminding me of things I’ve forgotten- Opportunity


Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.


Yes, Lord, this verse is true.


But I felt like it should read, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock and the door will fling wide open and hit ya when you walk through it."


As I struggled through a few days, I asked various friends what “patience” meant to them.


No one answered too quickly. Most stared at the sky and said they needed a minute.
I heard…


It’s a virtue.
It’s an art.
It’s steadiness.
It’s waiting.
It’s pausing
It’s a song by Guns N Roses.
It’s a fruit.


Technically, it’s the ability to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering, without getting angry or upset.


I asked God if I could really do this? All day, everyday?
And what I’ve learned is… is that I can’t.


But.


He can.
When I am patient, I am choosing to respond like Jesus.
When I am patient, I am displaying the joy that Jesus brought.
When I am patient, I spread peace like a river, just like Jesus did.


When I choose patience, I choose Jesus.
When I choose Jesus, I choose patience.


Oh Lord, help me choose you.
Let’s pause for a moment and turn to a story in scripture that reflects the heart of Jesus.



Luke 10:38-42.


Listen and read this aloud.


Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”


Do you see?
The good portion was presence. The good portion was patience. The good portion was Jesus.
I want this for us, friends.
I want the Mary life.
The life that lets the Master lead.
I want to sit and listen. I want to remember what is necessary.
Father, make us willing to walk the patient path.
Turn down the worry and hurry in our hearts, and replace it with your patience.
May our mugs be filled with better responses, soft answers, and a willingness to wait.


Teach us Lord.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

When the World Doesn't Fill Me

by Hannah Clements

Y'all, “words of affirmation” is my love language. Like for real, give me all the accolades. I will eat them up with a spoon. My 29th birthday just rolled around, and my one wish from my husband was “tell me twenty-nine things you love about me” (eyes batting, waiting with anticipation) and immediately my love tank is full. 

Right now, if I am being honest, I haven't felt very affirmed lately. My love tank is running on “E”. 

I secretly want to be the best, but a co-worker of mine seems to get more accolades than me. In the middle of a positive yet major life transition, my husband is stressed. Therefore, there is very little time for “sweet nothings” to be whispered in my ear.  My volleyball team lost every game of the season. Every. Single. Game. I will note that although my athletic ability is low, my desire to win is high. #humbling 

God isn't surprised by this season, the one where affirmations are few. I don't feel like I am winning, being successful or, at times, even noticed. Perhaps, He has waited anxiously for this season because He knew that when the world doesn't fill me I will come running to His word for affirmation.  

Here are some truths straight from the Creator of the Universe given to affirm me and to affirm you. 

I am delighted in. - Zephaniah 3:17
I am redeemed. - Psalm 49:15
I am heard. - Psalm 116:1&2
I am known. - Psalm 139:2
I am seen. - Psalm 139:3
I am never alone. - Psalm 139:7
I am wonderfully made. - Psalm 139:14
I am free. - Romans 6:22 
I am gifted. - 1 Corinthians 12:7
I am Christ’s Ambassador. - 2 Corinthians 5:20
I am God’s masterpiece. - Ephesians 2:10 
I am chosen and God’s special possession. - 1 Peter 2:9 

Friends, we can claim these truths over ourselves simply because of His goodness. Not because of anything that we have done but because of what has been done and given to us.  We can stand confidently in the seasons full of accolades and the seasons that go unseen.  

Oh Lord, 
Thank you that my identity can be found in you. You see me and know me, and you still delight in me. Thank you for your word and for the truths and encouragement you provide. You are good!
Amen.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Leaving

by Heidi Ashe

“We’ve left our church.” Never have those words been harder to say than to my precious 86-year-old granny. She loves our church. She’s been our guest on many occasions and she always tells me that she just feels the Spirit there and “Oh, I just loved that song your choir sang!”
So when my husband and I felt the call to leave our church, I couldn’t bear to tell my granny. So I didn’t, until she asked about our sweet country preacher and I had to fess up. My explanation was rushed and I remember shuffling my feet and looking down a lot, even though I was talking to her on the phone. She didn’t scold me as I expected. The line was quiet on her end as I explained that quite some time ago Chris mentioned that he felt the Lord leading us elsewhere. “I fought him on it for a while,” I told her. “It’s our home, we love it there,” I explained, “I brought my babies to that church.”
“But then I felt my heart changing too,” I mumbled not quite as confidently. “It’s been hard but we’ve been visiting lots of places,” I said. And it was the truth. Every word of it. It has been hard. But as hard as it’s been, it’s been right.
I can’t say that I understand God’s plan at the moment, but I’m learning to lean more on Him. If that is all I gain from this, that will be enough. My husband and I were active members at our small church so this change has been drastic. We firmly believe in the local church. The Bible says where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) We long to be with Jesus’ people, with fellow believers. We know that’s where He wants us and where we’ll grow the most. We’ve talked to our kids about why we’ve made this change and while I know it’s been hard on them too, they’ve been amazing. Walking confidently into each new place of worship, shaking hands, and being on their very best behavior.
I remember one Sunday evening telling my husband that they’re all just so different, referring to the many different places we’ve visited and he said something that resounded within my soul. “Well of course they are, so are all of us,” he said, “God made us all differently and we don’t all worship the same.” Dang. How perfectly right he is.
It’s been a year now and we’ve learned a lot in the leaving. A lot in the visiting. A lot in the shaking hands, smiling, reciting our names over and over and over again. We’ve been to many sanctuaries, many fellowship halls, and many Sunday school classrooms. More times than not I stand in awe at each service. Hands raised all around me, choirs joined in song.
God’s people are still out there. Still praying on their knees at the altar each week. Still singing songs of hope and redemption. Still welcoming sinners into the fold. Regardless of how different each place has been, God is still there. If you watch the news you see the desperation of the world. You see the hurting all around. Maybe it’s time we got off the screen and into a pew. Maybe it’s time we got on our knees. Maybe it’s time we held the hands of those beside us and felt the hope that only God can give.
If you’ve been out church for a bit, go back. I promise you need it. It’ll be hard. The schedule may be weird and the people may be a bit overwhelming. Forgive them, they mean well. Just go, find your people and soak them in. Join hands and then roll up your sleeves and get back to the kingdom work.  
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:3-4


Sunday, November 5, 2017

The New Create In Us Collective

by Jennifer Smith


Two are better than one,
   because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
   one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
   and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
   But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
   two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12


I have a strong grip. Something about how I was taught to shake hands as a child, I guess. I will look down at a pen as I’m writing, a grocery bag as I walk into my kitchen, or my child’s hand in a parking lot and see my knuckles practically turning white from the hold.


I also keep a strong grip on things I hold dear. Something that extends from childhood, too, and the loss of so many things at tender ages.


I keep a white-knuckled grip on things God has given me: my marriage, my children, my ministry.


But have you ever held on to something so tight it almost breaks? The thing inside your grip deteriorating under the pressure of your hands?


We think the tighter our grip, the greater our control. Our grip actually turns into a power trip. And the things in our hands die when they were meant to flourish.


I’ve felt this way about Create In Us Ministries for awhile. Due to precious things happening in my life like pregnancy, a newborn, and three little boys I haven’t found the time to write. So many ideas, but none come to fruition because my hands were busy elsewhere.


I thought of this beautiful section of the Internet, this little blog and all the wasted space. Nothing being written, stories not being told, people not being pointed to Jesus.


But what could I do? This blog is mine. No one else writes here. In this moment my thoughts were reminiscent of the pelicans in Finding Nemo:


Mine, mine, mine.


It is never good to compare yourself to the pelicans in Finding Nemo.


And then last month, as I stood in the back of our studio at our Created to Create Retreat, hearing precious women telling powerful stories about Jesus, I heard these words from the Lord:


Open your hands. And give it away.


I felt a flood of emotion and vision as God told me what to do. So today, you’re seeing it happen.


Welcome to Create In Us Collective, a place where four women will write and tell their Jesus stories. Because two is better than one and more is better than me.


I’ve invited to this Collective the three women God told me. It was clear and immediate who would share this space. These women practice the art of showing Jesus to me every time I’m in their presence. They have shared life and hurt and real with me. And I’m so happy to share them with you:


Andrea Noles is wife to Daniel and a mommy to two little boys, a teacher, and an artist. Her Jesus gift? She makes everything beautiful. Sit with her for a minute and you’ll start to look at life under the rays of a brighter sun.


Heidi Ashe is wife to Chris and a mom to three, a teacher, and a gifted writer. Her Jesus gift? She is sure and solid. She will tell you the truth while making you feel safe.


Hannah Clements is wife to Jake and a licensed counselor. Her Jesus gift? A heart for the broken. You will never meet a person who loves God’s people more. Her gift of encouragement is something you need in your life.


And I’m still Jennifer. Founder of this blog, wife to Dusty, and mom to three boys. My Jesus gift?


Opening my hands.


I’m sharing this space with women whose words will change your perspective of the hard places in life and bring you closer to Jesus.


If you’re a frequenter of the blog you know God speaks to me through birds. The sight and sound of a bird makes me stop and pay attention to the moment, to the still, small voice.


On my way home from the retreat I prayed, “God is this really what you want me to do?”


And perched on the very top of the steeple of the church I was passing was a large black bird. It’s wings extended to their fullest. He was holding his pose like he was about to take flight, but instead somebody told him to freeze. The message was loud and clear:


Open your wings, bird.


Open your hands, Jennifer.


Welcome to Create In Us Collective.



Come back tomorrow for our newest Collective post written by Heidi. For more information on our team, read about The Collective Writers on the right side of your screen.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Week 39 (The Work of Waiting)

I'm waiting. Waiting for a tick, a twinge, a sign that says things are moving forward. Week 39 for an expectant momma is the longest week in the history of all the weeks of the entire world. Her wait is the longest wait. Her wait is longer than Tom Hanks' wait in Castaway. She laughs in his waiting face as he's talking to Wilson. Her belly is her own Wilson.

This time next week I will be holding my baby boy, James.

To you 7 days might not seem so very long. And you're exactly right. But something happens during Week 39 and time starts to tick for Momma in a different way.

My nursery has been ready for weeks. My hospital bag is ready to go. I finished, weeks ago, all I could do at work at both school and the studio.

And now, I'm just waiting.

Last week I talked to Vicki about the waiting. My dear friend who with two babies of her own understands completely the week that is 39. And she reminded me of something simple: use your time. Do something. Don't wait. Work.

Don't wait. Work.

Smart, huh?

And so for the past several days I have devoted myself to creating. I've used my days to create approximately 25 original prints and a slew of handmade cards for the studio. I ordered new inventory for our boutique section. I sat with the blogger of Love Gaston and she interviewed me about the studio. I lettered on a wooden cut out for Vicki. I completed the write-up for our Created to Create event in the fall. I took my boys for cheeseburgers. I TOOK THEM TO THE LEGO STORE AND THE DISNEY STORE. After typing this, I will build a robot with my boys for Bible School.

I've also binge-watched four seasons of Call the Midwife. (Does this count?)

Don't wait. Work.

And you know, what? The work has made the wait all the more bearable. In fact, the work makes the wait completely bearable.

I'm so busy working that I forget about the waiting.

There's a verse we Christians love. We say it at graduations and as encouragement to each other. A simple verse that conveys hope and inspiration to persevere.

But we use it completely out of context. And I want to tell you why.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Oh, how true this verse is. God speaking directly to His beloved people. And every word he breathes is true. For those he has made righteous and called according to his purpose (That's you!) he has great plans and a beautiful future. Oh, what a sweet, good, and true promise!

The same goes for the people he was speaking directly to that day: the people of Israel who were being forcibly removed from their homes and about to be taken into exile, as prisoners, to Babylon.

Well, that doesn't sound so good, does it? The words forcibly, prisoner, and exile do not sound like words filled with hope nor do they sound like words that describe a non-harmful situation.

But God would use this time in Babylon to prosper his people. 

If we jump back to verse 7 it explains the Exiles should work hard for the prosperity of Babylon. In fact, they should embrace the time spent there. How much time? God tells them they will spend 70 years of waiting in Babylon before returning to Israel. 

So what do they do during 70 years of waiting in exile? They work. They live. They build houses and plant gardens. They have sons and daughters. 

And when the time of waiting is over, they will call out to God and he will hear them. They will look for him with all their hearts and he will be found. He will restore them and send them home to good things.

So the waiting and the work are worth it.

Here's what I want you to know today: waiting is hard, work makes it easier. The rewards are worth it.

I don't know what your wait is. I don't know how long you've been waiting. But I do know that being consumed by the wait isn't healthy nor is it productive. Work in your wait. And remember that God is watching the clock of your wait just as much as you are, if not more. Jeremiah 29:11 says he is the one with the plans. He's the one that knows your future. We wait-ers are to be the workers. We wait-ers aren't the planners. That's God's job.

I know God has the perfect birthdate for my sweet baby James. I know his birthdate has been appointed from the beginning of time, that it is significant and purposeful. I don't want my James to be born on a misbegotten date of my choosing. I'm willing to wait for the perfect day God has planned for him. 

Are you willing to wait for God's perfect plan for you? I know you are. 

So use your wait and work. Build your house, plant your garden. Make your mark.

I'll be over here cheering you on from my Week 39. I hope you'll do the same for me. 


Sunday, July 9, 2017

If He Calls, He Equips

I have a clear picture in my mind of my husband watching a softball game this past spring. He's standing on a hill just beside right field, away from the crowd so he could monitor our sons in the nearby playground. Ball cap, jeans, sneakers, he holds nothing in his hands, but they are lifted up to his shoulders as he grabs onto the straps of a black backpack. If you looked inside the backpack you'd find camera equipment, nothing else.

Most people who looked his way would have just seen a dad, watching a game.

But I saw more. Because there's so much more there to see.

My husband is a pastor. I don't know if you know any pastors in a non-pastor way. A family member, an old friend, a co-worker. Pastors are just regular guys. But their calling is hard.

People are hard. We are loyal and fun and smart and genuine and loving. But we are also messy. And my sweet husband does the work of helping people sort out their messes.

He does a good job. A hard job.

So when I look at him, standing on that hill, I see a man asked to a high calling. Taking care of Jesus' people. And in that backpack isn't camera equipment, but he is equipped.

Callings scare us. When we're asked to be bold for Jesus a dozen questions come to mind:

Who? Me?
I haven't been to seminary.
I don't know the answers.
I'm scared of what they will say.
I'm not smart enough.
I don't love enough.
I don't have enough faith.
That's too hard.
Fill in your blank here.

I don't know what you've been called to do, what situation God has asked you to step into. But I do know this, if Jesus has called you, He will equip you.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, though Jesus Christ...
Hebrews 13:20-21

I own an art studio. And if you've known me longer than five years, you've probably asked yourself, "Was Jennifer an artist and I just never knew it?"

This question makes me laugh because it is such a good one to ask. I was not an artist growing up. But God asked me to open an art studio. He equipped me with artistic gifts in my mid-30s. Gifts I didn't even ask for. They just appeared. He was equipping me with the talents I needed to open His studio. It still marvels me today when I paint, draw, or letter on a project. I praise Him because it's all His equipping. 

Listen to me when I tell you none of us is special. We are all apart of that big conglomerate of messy people I mentioned before. None of us is perfect, none of us better than the rest.

But there is one thing that sets some apart and that is the word, "Yes." 

Because when we say yes to the call from God, great spiritual work is done in us. Vast doors are flung open from the Holy Spirit and we receive knowledge, peace, and abilities that are not our own doing. 

I think of Acts 2 when the disciples began to preach the Gospel in languages they had never spoken before:

And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them that ability. 

God will not equip me for a task I will not say yes to.

I see my husband on that hill, holding on to that backpack. I see him leading a church, teaching and loving people. I see him leading our family. And I see him standing alone doing it. The weight of it hit me deeply. But then I saw the backpack. And the still, small voice says:

I've called him, so I've equipped him. I've equipped him with wisdom and peace and my very own presence.

And the same goes for you, dear friend. And for me. 

God will ask us to do big things and small things in His name. For our good and for His glory. And we may think that we're just not enough. 

I'd like to tell you that's a lie, but it's not. We're not enough. Our talents and brains aren't enough to accomplish the high callings of heaven. But if we step up to our calling and say the yes, we get the equipment. 

"But my God shall abundantly supply all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus," says Philippians 4:19. 

The riches of Jesus are pretty vast. If I were to dip into His supplies for my calling, I feel certain I would be properly empowered. 

So what's holding you back? Time? Education? Energy?

Or is it fear? 

Why don't you say yes? And watch that empty pack on your back be filled with all you need to succeed. 


Friday, June 16, 2017

A Father to the Fatherless

Hello, my friend. It's Father's Day. And I want to talk to you. Just to you. Not to all of our sweet friends who have present and faithful and good daddies. This Father's Day post is just for you. So lean in, I have things to tell you.

I'm not sure what your story is. Your Father Story. Did he leave when you were a baby? Or when you were a teenager? Is he sometimes there when it's convenient for him? Or has he just never been there? Did he walk you down the aisle? Or did someone else stand in his stead? Did he make some rotten, no-good mistakes that shook your world to the core? And you've found forgiveness, but the connection is just gone?

As I type these words, I weep with you and the dad-shaped hole he has left. Because I won't tell you a lie. Daddies are important. Research shows that fathers who are present in their children's lives create adults who are empathetic and more joyful.

We are our best selves when loved by a dad who gives his best.

But there are some who just don't get the gift of a good dad. And guess what?

It's not your fault.

I have several dear friends who have Rock Star Status Fathers. And, in their adult lives, you see the fruits of love-seeds their dads sowed in their lives: security, joy, self-assuredness.

I also have several dear friends who feel an intense lack of belonging on Father's Day. Their day left to wonder what could have been, what should have been if their fathers had done their job.

Dear friend, your dad had a job to do. Given to him by a holy and good Creator. And that job was to love you, shelter you, and lead you to Jesus. If your dad failed at these things I am sorry. And I have three truths to tell you today:

Forgive him.

Find a better Father.

And embrace Him.

See, fathers are humans. And just like us they are made of flesh. And that flesh comes with baggage. Things like their own upbringing, bad experiences and bad choices, holes of sin they cannot climb out of. We need to find a place in our grown-up hearts to forgive the wrong they've done us and to move on to better things.

Better things like a better Father.

Listen to Psalm 68:

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through
the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of
widows
is God in his holy habitation.

Let go of the things your earthly father can't be, or won't be. And cling to the things your heavenly Father can be and will be and ALREADY IS.

Our Father God comes and finds us in solitary, deserted, lonely places. He will love you with the intense love that only a Perfect Father can muster.

This perfect Father is also the Father of your earthly Dad. Let this perfect love that is completely yours transform your heart. Let go of the anger, the hurt, the emptiness, the loneliness, the trying-to-fill-the-dad-shaped-hole-with-whatever-thing-that-seems-to-work.

Use your heavenly Father's love to overcome to lack of your earthly father. Use your heavenly Father's love to forgive your earthly father. Use your heavenly Father's love to move on and reclaim your Daddy happiness.

I don't know why God chose you to walk this fatherless path. But I do know if God chose it for you, then it is good. Instead of clinging to a vision of what you missed, cling to the firm knowledge of what you have: shelter, security, and love from the One who will never hurt you or leave you.

It's funny, but somehow I think the fatherless are actually the fortunate. You see, it's you alone who understand the importance of a father and you alone who find all you need from our Heavenly Father. You know the completeness of being filled by Him above and no other. His love alone is perfect. No father, even a present one, can accomplish this.

"Every good gift  and every perfect gift  is from above," says James 1:17, "coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

This Father's Day, rejoice and celebrate. Be free and be full. Because you clearly have a Father. And beloved, He is the very best Daddy you could ever have.