Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It's Official!

It's official--ToChooseJoy.com is here!


It's the new home of my blog, as well as my shop, Bible Studies, and some other inspiring things!

I'd love for you to head over there and check it out!

A couple of things to look for:

The Shop 

Hand-Lettering and Custom Prints and Canvases, designed to lift your eyes and inspire you on the journey. I just launched a limited edition Christmas Collection with lots of prints and canvases, so be sure to check that out!



The Bible Studies

Brand new studies so that we can do life as an online community and grow in Christ together.

The first Bible Study starts December 15th!

Check out this video for a preview: vimeo.com/tochoosejoy/morejoypart4



And you can click HERE to get registered. It's FREE!


As a side-note, this blog will remain active so that you can find past posts if you're ever interested.


You all mean so much to me, and I'm SO excited to be continuing on the journey with you!

Thanks,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What's written on your cup?


 It's pretty disheartening to hear so much of the response to the Starbucks red cup issue. Please tell me that this is not what the American church is focusing on. Please tell me that this is not what American Christianity has come to: a fight for "rights" to have our vernacular printed where we think it ought to be. 

Are we expecting people who aren't Christians to act like they are Christians? To talk like they are Christians? To put Christian language on their merchandise? 


Is that the goal?



When was the last time that “in-your-face” tactics got people on the same page?  They only polarize people more. 

We live in such an incredible place of freedom. Such a place of blessing.

We live in a place where we can get into a car, drive a few blocks to the nearest coffee shop, and painlessly drop a few dollars on a cup of coffee. An awesome cup of coffee, I might add.

We live in a place where we get the incredible privilege to worship God freely--in brick and mortar buildings, in groups of people, out loud, without having to hide, with no threat to our lives.

I don't understand why what Starbucks prints or doesn't print on their cups has anything to do with how Christians can celebrate Christmas. 

We, as Christ-followers, should be more concerned with how we're representing Christ at Christmastime. 

Jesus didn't consider His equality with God as something to be grasped or to be used to His advantage. With extravagant love as His motivation, He humbled Himself and became a man (Philippians 2). Jesus Christ--God--became a man. He became a servant. And then He suffered and died. For us. And then, He rose to life again--conquering death. So that you and I could live. 

That's what Christmas is all about. Christ's humility. Christ's love.


His agenda is love. His agenda is mercy. His agenda is grace. 

He's always humble. And He's always kind. 

Psalm 16 describes God as our portion and our cup. He's enough to fill us. And He fills us with joy. 

Do we believe that Jesus is enough for us? 

Or do we have to try to find affirmation for who we are on somebody else's cup?


If we think that Christmas is worth celebrating because of who Jesus is, then let's put Christ into our own Christmases by following His example. 

In humility, let's consider others better than ourselves. In love, let's have compassion for the people around us.  Let's represent Christ at Christmas (and all the time) by living like Christ at Christmas (and all the time). 










Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When you need a clean slate.

It doesn't even take thirty seconds. They move like lightning. They don't make a sound.

And they can single-handedly turn just about anything upside down.

Because they are explorers. Investigators. Adventurers.

And to top it off, they're really cute.

Toddlers.

This week, my smallest one set out to create a masterpiece of epic proportions.


I've recently opened a shop online, creating prints and canvases with hand-lettered truths all over them.  We've taken extra care to keep my materials and the pieces I'm working on far away from little hands. A whole room as a kid-free zone.  Imagine it.

Now, scribble all over that picture in your head.

Because scribble is what he did. In black paint. All over a week of my work. Two complete paintings. One that was my sample and its twin that I had intended to ship out to a customer the next day.

It's one thing when something that belongs to me gets ruined. I don't mind so much. But when it belongs to someone else, I want to protect it like it's my child. Except, that on this particular day, I'm ashamed to say that I was more concerned about protecting the thing that belonged to someone else than I was about protecting the heart of my child.

I left the room for such a quick moment. Seconds. And I latched the door. At least, I thought I latched the door.

And when I returned, I was greeted by 21 pounds of the grandest, proudest grin. "Momma! Look!"

He was so proud of himself. So proud of his masterpieces. So proud of our collaboration.



In my shock, and quite uncharacteristically for my typical behavior, shouted, "No, Jackie, Nooooo!" in slow motion, as I fell to the floor sobbing. It was ironic, because the very words on the painting were from the verse that says, "Rejoice always," and "Give thanks in all circumstances," (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

My sweet husband came running, and wrapped his arms around me as he urged me, "The only thing that's important in this moment is that you make sure our son knows that you still love him."

Our sweet, peaceful little boy, who had seen my reaction and broken into his own set of tears.

So, I held him. And stroked his back. And continued to cry.

Bawl, really.

But, as I pulled myself together (over the next hour...), still holding my little one, I let God into my worry about how much money we had lost in supplies, and how much time it would take to make a new painting, and whether or not I would be able to ship it out by my deadline. And He quieted my heart with His peace.


And then, I had to face the music. To face the friends who were visiting when it happened--who saw my terrible response. To face my sweet husband who is always so calm under pressure. To face the ruined painting and the blank canvas I was going to have to begin on. To face my kids, who were likely confused by what had just come out of their usually-pretty-level-headed momma. To face my own shame and embarrassment. To face the rest of the day.

I so longed for forgiveness. For a fresh start. And the most amazing part is that I was received with nothing less than grace and understanding. A glimmer of God's forgiveness in the people I love most dearly.

Not only that, but my gifted and thoughtful husband brought Jack into his room with one of the paintings, and held his hand as they hung his artwork above his bed. To encourage him in imitating his momma.

And so that every time I pick him up, I'm reminded to give thanks no matter what the circumstances are. 




And then, that incredible man spent the next six hours back and forth at the other painting, slowly washing over Jack's paint scribbles with thin coats of new paint.

He painted until what had marred the painting was unrecognizable. And I was able to pick up where I left off, freshly aware of my desperation for God's mercy, of the need to have a thankful heart in everything, and of the beauty of forgiveness.



How about you?

  • How has God shown you His amazing, clean-slate forgiveness? 
  • Is there something less-than-ideal that you can give thanks for? 
  • Where would you like a fresh start?

Would you share it in the comments?



"Where is the god who can compare with you—    wiping the slate clean of guilt,Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,    to the past sins of your purged and precious people?You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long,    for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most.And compassion is on its way to us.    You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.You’ll sink our sins    to the bottom of the ocean." 
(Micah 7:18-19, The Message)
 




Tuesday, October 27, 2015

You were made to be known.

You know those friends who come into your life as surprises?

Well, my good friend Dezirae is one of those surprises.  She is a serious gift to me. Our friendship took off during the time when she selflessly committed every Monday to me, every week, for more than ten months. She came over without fail to help with my kids, with my housework, and to take care of me when CRPS had me at my lowest.

During those months, Dez made countless peanut butter sandwiches for our combined five kids.  And believe me, it's not because she lacks creativity. It's because my children would survive on bowls full of peanut butter if they were allowed.

Two-thirds of my children, that is.

My oldest is ok with peanut butter. But what she really loves is grilled cheese.  Grilled cheese that's not really grilled, and that has to be on the heel of the bread. So, Dezirae made countless peanut butter sandwiches, along with just as many un-grilled cheese sandwiches on the heel of the bread.

When I got my legs back underneath me and school started shortly afterwards, we stopped getting to see each other as much as before. But a couple of weeks ago, we were having a playdate with our kids.  Lunch time was on its way, and while I changed a diaper in the other room, Dez got out the ingredients to make sandwiches.

When I came into the kitchen to help, she said,

"All of the peanut butter sandwiches are right here. I saved the heel for Ava's grilled cheese sandwich."

And in that moment, I was beautifully reminded of how much it means to be thought of. To be remembered. To be known.

Has something like that happened to you recently? Has there been a moment when you felt truly known?

I'm so in awe of the way the Bible tells us that the very same God who determines the number of the stars and calls each one by name (Psalm 147:7) knows and thinks about and cares deeply for me and for you.  
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?"
(Psalm 8:3-4) 
He made us to be know Him. To be known by Him. We were created for divine affection by the God of the Universe, who is farther than the farthest galaxy and closer than your skin. The God who knows the number of hairs on your head and how you like your sandwiches.

I love knowing that He cares about the little details.  That they matter to Him.

He gives us such beautiful glimpses of what it means to be known by Him in some of the smallest, most seemingly-insignificant things.  Things like un-grilled cheese sandwiches on the heel of the bread.



On November 25th, I'm launching ToChooseJoy.com along with an amazing team.

  • It's all about pointing you to the Truth and helping you to focus on it. 
  • For strength.
  • For resilience. 
  • And so that you can experience true joy in every step.  


It's the new home for my blog. It's also home to a shop where you can find Scripture-based wall art. And, the thing I'm most excited about, is that we're producing interactive, video-based Bible studies with digital workbooks that you can take with you anywhere, and listen to on-the-go.

Everyone's life looks different, and we want to give you some tools so that you can strategically place the Truth in your unique life where you need it most.


  • I'd love for you to head on over to ToChooseJoy.com and click on "Join the Journey." 
  • This will add you to our email newsletter list so that you can learn more.  As a gift, you'll receive a free 8x10 "Joy" print download.
  • For more encouragement, you can follow us on Facebook.  Like us -->HERE.


Life is hard, and we want to walk the road with you.


















Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't let setbacks steal your hope.

You know the stress you feel when your wallet is missing, or how much anxiety can rise up in you when you can't find your keys and you needed to be out the door ten minutes ago?  And then...the traffic jam that is almost guaranteed to follow?

Maybe it's that feeling when you're trying to get a really awesome dinner ready before your husband walks in the door and all of your kids are melting down around your ankles.

Or when you've got a rare moment to talk with that person whom you so highly respect, and then you say something really dumb...and you try to recover by throwing out a few more sentences that you'll run through your head a thousand times later, wishing you had just. stopped. talking.

Well, no matter how much you might be sweating while they're happening, those moments aren't the end of the world.  Life keeps on moving whether you're late or not.  Your family will survive if dinner if the chicken is dry and the would-have-been alfredo sauce tastes a little like Elmer's glue.  The person you said those silly things to probably doesn't even remember your conversation now.  And, it won't even kill you to apologize later if you decide that one of the silly things you said was actually insensitive or offensive.

Setbacks.  We all have them.  


It's October 19th.  A year ago today, a seemingly small twisted ankle changed my life forever.  I've been planning an anniversary post for you!  To share with you how incredibly well I've been doing.  To update you with how I've been walking nearly pain-free.  How I feel like I've gotten my life back.  It's been amazing.

And, as it turns out, I get to share some different news with you, instead.  About an unexpected relapse.  

A setback.  

Our prayer is that this is just minor...that it will turn back around quickly.  But as the pain has increased and my walking has decreased over the past two weeks, my emotions have taken a hit.  This is certainly not what I was expecting.  We knew that it was the nature of the disease.  But I had almost forgotten that I even had it.  It was just this slightly annoying thing that I had to routinely take medicine for.  

It may get worse.  It might turn right back around and level out again.  And as much as I don't want to have to think about the possibility of having to "walk" the road where I can't physically walk again, I trust God.  

This disease is pretty lame.  

And I've faced all sorts of setbacks because of it.  Some little.  Some pretty huge.

But I'm not going to let a setback set me back.  I won't let it steal the hope that I have.  

And you don't have to let setbacks set you back, either.

Setbacks can tempt us to stop.  Or to look back.  But what would happen if we kept on looking forward, even in the setbacks?

I know, it can seem impossible to tear your focus away from whatever is setting you back in this moment or in this season.  But, the Bible makes so many promises of hope to us if we know Jesus and give our lives to Him.




Here are a few of the reasons for the hope that I have.  Some of the truths that I coach myself through (over and over and over) when things get hard:  
  • This won't last forever.
    • When you meet Jesus face-to-face, you won't have any more pain.  Ever (Revelation 21:4).  
  • God's love for you is always stronger, closer, more overwhelming.
    • No setback of any sort can separate you from God's love (Romans 8:39).  
  • God will comfort you through everything, and you'll be able to comfort other people with the same comfort you receive
    • (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • God knows what you need and will always give it to you.
    • (Philippians 4:19)
  • Suffering makes you stronger, and you can consider everything JOY because of that. 
    • The testing of your faith develops perseverance in you (James 1:2-4).  
  • Knowing Jesus is hope.
    • His love, His power, and what He can do for you and in you and through you is far beyond anything you could ask for or imagine. (Ephesians 1:17-23, 3:14-21).  

Then, I pick Bible verses that help me remember, and I write them down and put them in a places where I'll see them as I go throughout my day.


And I put songs in the background that drive the truth even deeper.



If you want more strategies for hanging onto hope and choosing joy, I'd love to have you walk in a new direction with me.  

What could joy--in every step--do for you life?

I'm getting ready to launch ToChooseJoy.com on November 25th, 2015.  

It's the new home for my blog, but it's much more than that...

Here's a sneak-peek into what I've got coming for you when ToChooseJoy launches:

  • Interactive Audio and Video Bible Studies (including FREE digital wall art from The Shop, as well as Digital and Printable Workbooks) that you can take with you on-the-go.
  • Access to FREE e-books, as they release, on all sorts of topics to help you focus and to fix your eyes on Jesus through the hectic, constant, surprising nature of your day-to-day life.
  • The Shop, where you can find inspiring prints and custom canvases.
  • Guidance on your spiritual journey, empowering you to strategically place the truth in your unique life--right where you need it most.

If any of that sounds interesting to you, I'd love for you to head over to ToChooseJoy.com right now and sign up for my email list.  When you do, you'll get a FREE digital 8x10 "Joy" print from The Shop.

Please share this post with your friends so they can come along on the journey with us!