I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HERE!

Whatever landed you here – reading a blog post, checking out a new piece of art, registering for an upcoming retreat, or listening to a podcast (coming soon) – I’m glad you’ve taken a moment out of your busy schedule to spend with me! Don’t be in a rush. Drink in God’s goodness. When you step back into your world, may you find yourself refreshed, inspired and encouraged – and may it have been time well spent. ♥

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On the Blog

Have Faith

When the hubs handed me these flowers today he said, “These have a little summer in them, but they’re also a reminder that change is on its way…”I needed that – after a year, I mean a WEEK of virtual 4th grade – technology failures, tween meltdowns, screen fatigue, off the hook anxiety, and everyone reacting to everyone else’s reactions – by Friday I was DONE. I was running away to Australia like that little boy in the horrible, no good, very bad day book. But Australia has its own set of problems and getting there, its own set of challenges. Truth is, I don’t think any of us actually longs for a complete absence of challenge in our lives. Most of us have valiantly made it through some pretty intense seasons. We’ve dragged ourselves over some pretty tall hurdles. We’ve stood back up after some pretty ugly beat downs. We’ve rallied our hearts to give it one more shot after some pretty heartbreaking betrayals. But what I think we truly long for in our moments of frailty and not-having-it-all-togetherness is the assurance that God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do – that He is capable and strong and not thrown by this mess at all. We need to have faith. Faith that this will not be our undoing. Faith that He is bigger than our fear. Faith that no matter how much our flesh falters and fails and freaks out, we are still His. Faith that endures the searing heat of late summer, knowing that the cooling and gloriousness of fall is close behind. Faith that change is on its way. It’s the very essence of God’s creator DNA – new beginnings, redeemed situations, transformed hearts, altered trajectories. It’s stunning really – the One who has not even a shadow of turning within Himself has the power to change everything around Him. Even this crummy week. So take heart my friend – let it not be troubled. This too shall pass – you are not stuck or overlooked or forgotten. John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This week, may you find the assurance your heart longs for…and in finding Him, the perfect peace that only He brings.

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Grace for the Pivot

Today feels like I’m squeezing lemons to make lemonade…only to realize I’ve nicked up my hands while slicing the lemons. You know the tiny little cuts you don’t even realize are there, until the acidic juice hits and makes you want booboo kisses from your mama. Today I want booboo kisses from my mama. I’m doing the best I can – we’re all doing the best we can, really – making lemonade out of lemons. We’re trying to stay positive, not let the fear take hold – keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and our hearts connected to those we love. But this Covid-19 thing is real in ways we haven’t dealt with reality in quite some time. And by some time I mean ever. So today it stings…in a variety of places. It’s Day 2 of distance learning for my daughter, and the entire day has been one massive meltdown. It’s Week 2 of off-site officing for me, and even though we’re trying to use technology to stay connected I’m finding it difficult to juggle the new reality. It’s a Season of Unknowns for my husband as the majority of his income has gone the way of mandated quarantines – with closed restaurants and church gatherings, canceled theater performances and social distancing. But we press on, trying to make something palatable, refreshing even, out of the sour fruit. I’m attempting to work each day – that is, while I’m not homeschooling my 3rd grader in core math that I don’t even understand, prepping the next meal for the restless natives or trying to keep my house from being swallowed up by the Piles Of Stuff monster. I thought being a mom who was also working outside the home was tough, but it doesn’t even come close to trying to work while we’re ALL AT home together. The disruptions are agitating, to say the least, not to mention the emotional tug of war between work responsibilities and wanting to engage with my family. How do I do it all well? What I’d really love is the freedom to play – to be carefree and whimsical and imaginative, untethered from responsibilities or harsh realities – to do thoughtful things for my neighbors, to have a broader view of the kingdom opportunities this pandemic offers, to make these moments matter. But today I find my heart still in survival-mode lockdown – trying to adjust to the new normal, trying to find different rhythms, trying to make sense out of what isn’t.Maybe that lemonade is a bit too tart for your liking – just trying to keep myself honest here. Being a fixer by nature I can move too quickly to sweeten things up – and quick fixes are not what I’m looking for in this season. Otherwise, I’d be glued to social media or binging on some mind-numbing streaming service series or just staying under the covers for the rest of the day. No, what I’m in search of is the grace to pivot. See, I know God works in mysterious ways. I know that God sees the bigger picture. I know that He works all things for my good. I know an awful lot of amazing things about God in my head…and even in my heart. But all too often I’ve used them to placate, disconnect, and numb out from the stinging realities of life gone sideways. What I’m starting to realize is that when gospel knowledge becomes living breathing transformational salve for my soul – it’s the power of grace in action. Grace tempers my snarky impulses to bite back. Grace soothes the prickly spines of fear and anxiety lodged in my heart. Grace reminds me that I am not stuck and this too shall pass. Grace lets me be myself, not some alter-ego superhuman mutant version of me – I can feel everything and nothing at all and think way too much about some things and forget all about others and admit that I’m far less competent than I’d like you to think I am – and yet Grace says that’s all okay…and God can still work with that and through that and in spite of that. Grace doesn’t pretend that life isn’t tart – that it doesn’t sting on abraded hearts – instead it brings perfect balance to the sour and the sweet. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10 So I’m asking – no, I’m pleading with God – to give me grace for this mandated season of pivot. Grace for the painful present and the frightful future and all the glorious God-filled moments in-between. I pray that His grace will be like a tall, refreshing glass of cool lemonade on a swelteringly hot summer’s day. And I pray the same for you, my friend. May you draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (paraphrased) – Hebrews 4:16 ESV What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ – Zechariah 4:7 NAS

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The Rising Tide

The news is bad. Each day it seems worse…and more complex…and more uncertain. Daily I have to fight my addiction to MORE information. Higher death tolls, faster spread rate, lack of protective equipment…the list goes on and on. I hear the words that we’re doing good, but nothing I read sounds very good, and it certainly doesn’t make me feel good at all. Each grim reality crashes like a wave onto the shore of our hearts. The media is selling facts over fear and science instead of supposition. But “Knowledge is Power” is just a lie – you can know everything there is to know about a thing, but it doesn’t mean you can keep it from happening. You can do your part to help “flatten the curve,” but there’s no guarantee you’ll escape unscathed. Heartbreaking tales of love and loss are passed around like old war stories – only difference is they’re happening in our lifetime – to people we know. And fear creeps up little by little like the evening tide. Predictions have been wrong. Advice waffles between “dos” and “don’ts”. There’ve been a million “I said that yesterday but don’t mean it today.” Experts can’t seem to agree and models can’t possibly encompass the endless variables of every unique situation. But my heart wants answers. I don’t want shifty sand – I want rock-solid incontrovertible fact. THEN I can rest. THEN I can move forward with a plan. I don’t like NOT knowing – it leaves me feeling powerless. I’m a DOER, and there’s always room for more to be done. But we’re told to wait, do less, shelter in place…and I feel itchy in my soul. (I can feel my heart begin to race as that confession spills onto my keyboard.) As an artist, God has granted me the gift of feeling things deeply…but that doesn’t make those feelings altogether accurate. So, oddly enough, I’ve had to quarantine myself from the quarantine news. I can only trust my fragile state with a few sound bites at a time. And as I’ve detoxed, a remarkable phenomenon has occurred. The tides have turned. Now I no longer feel the waves of fear creeping higher, but God’s MERCY! I can busy myself with building whatever sandcastle of delusion I want, stack one anxiety on top of the other like a stone altar of stress, drag a big stick through the wet sand to spell out the words H-E-L-P M-E, or build a blazing hot fire on the shoreline in hopes that a far-away vessel might see my distress signal and rescue me. I can do all of that and more. But eventually and inevitably the waves of God’s mercy return and sweep it all away – every care, every neurotic obsession, every restless wandering of my heart – dragged deep into the sea…because the sea is BIG ENOUGH to hold it all. Every last bit of it. Truth is, every day can start fresh for us – wave-washed smooth sand, new shells scattered about like stars to discover, tiny claw prints from sandpipers and seagulls scurrying about, and the smell of new beginnings in the salty air. Lamentations 3:23-24 says it like this: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I will hope in him.” So let the waves of mercy wash over you, my friend. Again and again and again. For GREAT is His faithfulness. His mercies NEVER come to an end.

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“With You in Mind”

These days of fear and unrest can be difficult to navigate…but art and music can be salve to the aching soul. This painting was done during a time of worship and devotion on Good Friday as we considered the sacrifice of Jesus and joined in His sufferings.

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The Dust & The Dirt

In my family, we didn’t do much in the way of observing Lent. It was a bit too liturgical for the church I grew up in, and as kids, our focus was solely on frilly dresses and white patent leather shoes, and OF COURSE, Easter baskets and bunnies and the goodies that would leave me on a perpetual sugar high for a month. Needless to say, Ash Wednesday definitely didn’t show up on our calendar, either. And to this day, I’ve never actually participated in a public Ash Wednesday service. But I have to admit, my heart has been so drawn to the symbolic themes it embodies – the solemn recognition of our full-circle connection to the dust (Gen. 3:19, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return”) and the corporate repentance for our sins. Why not observe a sacred assembly of hearts where we collectively come clean? Joel 2:12-13 reminds us: “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,    “return to me with all your heart,with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;and rend your hearts and not your garments.”Return to the Lord your God,    for he is gracious and merciful,slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. As an adult, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the contemplative nature of Lent – the idea of coming to terms with the human condition and acknowledging my own culpability in it – owning up to and mourning the need for a Savior before celebrating His resurrection with great joy. It gives Easter morning context and gravity. It reminds us of what we’ve been saved from – what our condition would be without the sacrifice. It invites us a bit closer to death so that we can celebrate life. Oddly enough, my soul is okay with that – digging in the dirt, getting my hands dirty in the mess of me. Today I will sit in the dust – with fasting and weeping and mourning. I will rend my heart and set my face on the Lord my God who saved me from my wretched state. I will return to the Lord with all my heart and bask in His grace and mercy, ever thankful that He loves us lavishly in spite of it all. Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust? As the season of Lent arrives, what blessing do you need to claim from the ashes? BLESSING THE DUST All those daysyou felt like dust,like dirt,as if all you had to dowas turn your facetoward the windand be scatteredto the four cornersor swept awayby the smallest breathas insubstantial—did you not knowwhat the Holy Onecan do with dust?This is the daywe freely saywe are scorched.This is the hourwe are markedby what has made itthrough the burning.This is the momentwe ask for the blessingthat lives withinthe ancient ashes,that makes its homeinside the soil ofthis sacred earth.So let us be markednot for sorrow.And let us be markednot for shame.Let us be markednot for false humilityor for thinkingwe are lessthan we arebut for claimingwhat God can dowithin the dust,within the dirt,within the stuffof which the worldis madeand the stars that blazein our bonesand the galaxies that spiralinside the smudgewe bear. From Jan Richardson’s “Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons”

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Deep

I’d been through the darkest years of my life and had somehow survived thanks to the kindness of close friends and church family. But it was such an anomaly – an uncharacteristic blip on the screen – that it was easy to just tie a millstone around it all and send it straight to the bottom of the sea. Out of sight, out of mind. But then came the dream: all around me was inky blackness and I was keenly aware that I was deep down in the ocean where even light gave up the fight. Overhead a warm glow appeared – like a Touched By An Angel moment – illuminating a rusty, carbuncled door of a sunken ship. I tried and tried to turn the huge round hatch handle, but it wouldn’t budge. I used my feet and legs to try and force the door open, to no avail. And as I labored, I felt the Lord lean in and gently say, You buried it good and deep, didn’t ya? And just like the crew discovering ruins from the Titanic, with one simple question He uncovered the wreckage of my not-so-perfect life, and with it, he raised the disappointment and fear and shame from the dark depths and brought them up into the light. You see, I may have hidden it from people around me, but I hadn’t hidden it from Him – He knew right where it was all along. Truth be told, there is no depth so deep that His love can’t reach it. No matter the inky blackness. No matter the years that have rolled past. No matter the disappointment and fear and shame. No matter how truly dead a thing might be. Because God has a way of resurrecting dead things. 1 You have searched me, Lord,    and you know me.2 You know when I sit and when I rise;    you perceive my thoughts from afar.3 You discern my going out and my lying down;    you are familiar with all my ways.4 Before a word is on my tongue    you, Lord, know it completely.5 You hem me in behind and before,    and you lay your hand upon me.6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,    too lofty for me to attain.7 Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence?8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,    if I settle on the far side of the sea,10 even there your hand will guide me,    your right hand will hold me fast.11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me    and the light become night around me,”12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;    the night will shine like the day,    for darkness is as light to you. – Psalm 139

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