Monday, January 26, 2015

God's Masterpiece



For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Every fall by my home we have a large art competition called ArtPrize. It draws tens of thousands of people and thousands of artists. For two weeks straight we can walk through our downtown area and view art work displayed inside and outside of buildings. Some are massive pieces, some are tiny pictures, and every viewer has the ability to vote on the each piece created. The field is narrowed down and a large cash prize awarded based on the public vote. Then there’s another vote and cash award given by a jury of “art experts”. This second set of awards by the “experts” was brought in quite simply because the art world didn’t want to be swayed by public opinion.

Interesting, isn’t it? The public votes for one set of awards, the experts on another, and each one found a different winner. Each group saw beauty in different things. And I’m guessing if you and I walked the venues together we’d vote on different pieces too.

This is so like the world. Each day voices ranging from the person you pass on the street to those given titles as experts in beauty tell us what is beautiful. They give weight and worth based on the newest opinion of what that is, yet they aren’t the one who created us.

It’s like standing in front of a Jackson Pollock painting. You may see one thing in it, I might see another, but only the artist who created that masterpiece can title it. Only he can tell us what it truly is and why it was created. Only he can truly assign its worth.

Oh, the experts will try, but no matter what they say or how much they value it, it won’t change the reason Pollock created that painting or what he envisioned when he did.

Our lives are no different. We’ll encounter people who try and measure our worth, but only the One who created us truly knows what that is, and what does He call us? A masterpiece. Created with a purpose, with plans already in place that he created us to do. It doesn’t matter what the person beside us says, our worth is not in them. It doesn’t matter what the world’s new definition of beauty is, because it’s not found in them. All that matters is what God said the moment he envisioned us in His mind’s eye and created us.

Masterpiece.

Let’s act like it today.

Lord, help us to see what you saw when you drew us into existence; a masterpiece unparalleled by any other creation. Allow us to see the beauty of each part of our bodies. Help us build our worth in you and to discover the talents you’ve given us, appreciating them whether the world deems them big or small. Let our value rest in you and you alone. Amen.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen is one of the first historical writers I read that made me think, hmmm...historical isn't that bad. Her books gave me the push to jump in and read more historical. I haven't had a chance to pick up a book by her for some time, so when The Secret of Pembrooke Park wound up in my hands, it was like spending time with an old friend. Here's the blurb and we'll chat on the other side:


Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 

Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play...

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor's past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.

This catches Abigail's attention. Hoping to restore her family's finances--and her dowry--Abigail looks for this supposed treasure. But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn't the only one secretly searching the house.

Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past. 

As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

I loved this book! The mystery kept me guessing with a cast of characters who pulled me in and made me ask so many questions. I truly enjoyed how Julie unrolled the mystery of Pembrooke Park and all involved. I held many ideas but never was 100% sure if I was correct in my guesses until the very end. And the many answers to those many questions were revealed in stages, which kept me turning the pages anxiously awaiting more.

I also loved Abigail and her insecurities--ones so many women can identify with. She was an authentic character whose development grew in perfect pacing with the rest of the story. The romance aspect and who she'd end up with was also believable and sweet, allowing for questions of a whole other manner.

All together, this book kept me drawn in from page one with so many layers and elements that it will be sure to sit on my shelves for years. I happily give The Secret of Pembrooke Park 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Blessings & Beauty

Anyone else counting their blessings? I'd love to hear yours too:) Today's my bday and I'm blessed to be hanging out on vacation with my hubby. He was gone last week on a business trip, so it's great to have this time to play catch-up. Made it one of those weeks where it seemed easier to notice God's hand around me.

Blessings:

1) my hubby's safe travels home
2) soft, white sand to dig my feet into
3) the glassy blue of the ocean
4) rest
5) a warm breeze
6) 41 years
7) the taste of salt on my lips when I'm by the ocean.

Beauty:

All right. I'll be honest. I debated about putting this picture up here. Because, well, it's my legs. I even went so far as to put another picture up top at first so that this one wouldn't be my thumbnail when the link got shared other places...but then God reminded me what this year is about and what he said to me. So here it is, all by its lonesome...;)

For so many years I struggled with these legs! They made me too tall, were too white, too knobby, too big...and those feet? Flat as can be and not cute in sandals. I didn't look like the other tan, short, cute girls that flood this area I live in. It's been a lifelong struggle that God has seriously worked on in pieces. The older I've gotten the more I've become comfortable in my own skin, but still, I can heart that struggle when I put on anything that shows them off. As I stood in this water looking out at God's amazing, unparalleled beauty this week, God whispered, "look down". Then he preceded to remind me, "You are beautiful. Every part." And he took me through all these legs have done. Brought me to him. Bent before him in countless prayers. Walked me down the aisle to my husband. Been the strength that allowed me to run and play with my children or carry them when their legs cannot. They have always been there, without a thought unless it was a negative one...and how can that be? Because sometimes we get so twisted in the world's perfection that we cannot see the beauty in what God has given us. 

Oh, let's stop doing that, shall we? Let's work hard to see the living masterpieces he's made us in so, so many ways.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Created Beautiful


“So God created man in his own image…God saw all that he had made, and it
was very good.” Genesis 1:27, 31

So you know by now this year I'm focusing Mondays' posts on discovering our worth in Christ. To get started, I thought we should first go back to the very beginning. To the very moment God decided to create man and woman. Referenced above is a Scripture from Genesis that you’ve either read several times yourself or, quite possibly, heard at one time in your life. There are three things I want to draw your attention to within those few words.

First is that we have been created in God’s very own image. Nothing else on this planet was a “chip off the old block” to put it lightly. Whether you’re a parent or not, you know this to be true: every parent believes their children are the most beautiful on the planet. Your Father believes no less. He created you to mirror him, and you are the most beautiful creation he could imagine, nothing else compares.

Second, for every creation prior to this one, God noted it was “good.” It was only when he created man that he noted it was “very good”. If we look up the word “very” in Hebrew, it’s “meod” which translates to “muchness, force, abundance”. God wasn’t simply saying, “Pretty good there.” No, with force and conviction in his voice, he proclaimed that this creation was very good.

Ah…but what does that word “good” translate to? That’s my third point and the one most exciting. In Hebrew, the word God chose to use was “towb”. Translated, that one little word means “BEAUTIFUL”.

Let’s put it together then. You were his favorite creation. When he looked at you, he didn’t simply say good. No. He used “good” to speak over all the rest of creation, but when he created you he used “abundantly, immensely, exceedingly, beautiful.

Lord, help us to discover our worth in you. Not only that, but our beauty. Oh how we want to be beautiful and sometimes in looking for that, we wind up places we were never meant to be. Hold our hearts in your hands and whisper to each one of us how unique and beautiful we are in you.


Today's Challenge:
Think of all the massive beauty in creation around you. Find a picture of the most beautiful thing you have ever seen (mental or physical picture). A rosy sunset. Waves crashing on a white, sandy beach. A delicate flower. Whatever it is, lock onto it. Now, let His truth sink in. In his eyes, you are meod towb…abundantly more beautiful than anything else on this planet. Each and every time you proclaim the beauty of creation around you, I pray you hear his voice proclaiming your true beauty even louder.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bookshelf Friday

I'm currently reading a couple of my friends' manuscripts, so it's pulled me away from my book reviews. I cannot wait to tell you about these ladies books though...but first they have to finish editing them:)

In the meantime, Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park is awaiting me to finish my critiques, and I'll be back next week with that review along with more monthly giveaways:)

Happy weekend, friends!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blessings & Beauty

As I stared down some answers I didn't want to receive last year, God challenged me once again to count my blessings. For those of you who've been around a while, I did this a few years back. This year I'm starting over. Here's my challenge, and I hope you'll join me:

Every day I find one thing to be thankful for. Each Wednesday I'll be posting that week's list here. But God pushed it even farther. Because this year's word is Masterpiece, and it's centered on finding our worth in Christ, he's pushing me to notice beauty. Our beauty. The beauty of those around us. Even the beauty he lavishes on us because he loves us. (think about it, a man in love gives gifts: flowers, jewelry, sweet words...our God is no different.)

So, on Wednesdays I'll have my week of blessings list along with some picture or recounting of beauty I've noticed. I'll be honest, I'm not sure what all this is going to look like, but I've discovered when I follow God along the path he's illuminating it always ends in a pretty cool place. So...praying you come along for the journey. I'd love to hear your blessings or even the beauty you discover.

Blessings:

1) freshly fallen snow
2) a restful end to our Christmas break
3) watching my little girl smile as she nailed a handstand
4) food in my cupboards
5) peaceful sleep while my husband was gone
6) warm air wrapping around me as I watch the fresh snow fall:)
7) laughter

Beauty:

This girl is my BFF (we've morphed into twins through the years). I see nothing but beauty when I look at her. Her servant's heart. Her unmatched love for her family. She is a selfless wife and mother. I have learned how to love better simply by knowing her. She's been one of the biggest gifts God ever gave me. Plus, she makes me laugh, and there is something so beautiful in laughter.


Monday, January 12, 2015

One Word for 2015

Hey all:) I pray you had an amazing Christmas and are throwing yourself into this New Year. Last year I was staring down at 40, this year I'm looking at my firstborn taking driver's training. Time moves way, way too fast.

2014 came to a hard close for me. Both in my personal life and my writing life I had huge hopes. I saw God working in several areas, and it truly looked like some "yeses" to many prayers were headed my way. Instead, I received "nos"...and really hard "nos" at that. At one moment it made me wonder if God really saw me. Not just that, but was I worth enough for him to answer? To use? Or just even was I enough? When your heart is hurting, you can ask some tough questions.

By late fall he started speaking one word over and over to me in so many situations. I'm not talking silently--though sometimes it was just a whisper to my heart--but vocally through people, places, and visuals. I couldn't miss the word if I'd tried. And while he spoke it to my heart, he also reawakened a passion in me to speak it to other women's hearts. What is that word?

Masterpiece.

And he paired it with this verse: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Did you know the definition of masterpiece? Not only is a masterpiece one-of-a-kind, but it's "a work of outstanding artistry or skill" or "an artist's or craftsman's best piece of work". And that's you.

Created by God, you are unique. Beautiful. Purposed. His absolute best. And loved beyond measure. In fact, as this word continually dropped into my life, God brought with it a picture. It's that picture I used last week. This golden frame with one word in the middle: you. I'm posting it again because I want you to look at it and hear his voice. No matter what you're still waiting for, the nos you've received, the longings still in your heart, the shortcomings you see, the flecks of your past you're still trying to bury or the insecurities you face...
are his masterpiece.

Your worth is beyond measure. And this year we'll be focusing on that. Every Monday there'll be a devotional that points us back to our worth in Christ. I even have several friends who'll be guest-posting because we all struggle with this. It's time to tackle that struggle, figure out who we are in Christ, and live the abundant life he so desperately wants us to have.