A Study in Gray

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A Study in Gray

Sometimes gray seems negative, dreary, drab, cold, sad, or mediocre. “Black and white” people don’t really care for gray areas and/or dismiss them all together.

As I sit in my local coffee shop, I am surrounded by gray. The gray of the cement that is exposed from the underbelly of the stairway, the gray and white tiles of the backsplash, the stainless steal of the equipment and the gray weathered wood adorning the walls. This is one of my favorite places to be.

There is a slideshow on the TV that rotates artwork. It’s a project of the Kalos Foundation and today it displayed the paining above: Emil Carlsen’s Study in Gray. When it appeared and took it’s turn among the carousel of artwork, it moved me. It’s so simple. It’s gray. I adored it at once.

One thing you may not know about me is that I love a neutral color palette! I feel like it leaves room to really showcase any pop of color while keeping things calm and serene. I like calm and serene. My home is a very neutral, not boring, but neutral with touches of color that reflect the seasons.

I think my life is a gray palette. To me that isn’t boring or drab, even though I have struggled to think so. To me, it means a neutral slate for God to showcase His beauty on and through. I say that not in arrogance, as if I’m showing Christ so well in all I do, but to recognize that the beauty and joy people may see in me is only because of the color God paints in my life.

Being gray means my color isn’t fighting His. Being a gray palette is a neutral slate to begin with, a starting point you might say. It’s only by the red blood of Jesus that was shed on a cross for my sins, did I become white as snow and all my fleshly colors became a neutral palette for Him to create and use.

Isaiah 64 and Jeremiah 18, paints the picture of God as the potter and us as the clay. It think this is such a beautiful representation, a poignant picture in our mind’s eye. Clay has no beauty in its beginning stages, but there is so much potential locked within it grayness, (Yes, I know there are many colors of clay…but hang with me on the gray.) The clay cannot will itself to be beautiful, useful, or valuable. It must to be pliable in the potter’s hand, bending and stretching to his touch. It must be supple. A hard piece of clay cannot be transformed into a useful vessel or a valuable art piece unless it is made pliable and worked by the potter’s hand.

And there it is. The Potter’s Hand. It is gentle, but firm. It is controlled and moves with intention. It works to shape and smooth the clay. The potter’s wheel is a place where the clay becomes beauty in the hands of the potter. Without the hands, the clay would be slung off into a splatted mess!

Of course the fire that will give this vessel strength and stability is to come, but even in the firing process, the potter is gentle.

And then…color. Stains, glazes and paints bring vibrancy and the punches of color express even more clearly the potter’s creative side. Even the vessel remains the earthen color of the clay, the beauty of worth and purpose are clear.

I am gray clay. In many areas the Potter’s hands are working on me to create new purpose. In other areas, I am as well loved and used vessel with colors that are like no-one else. The scratches and chips add to the authentic-ness and beauty of this piece…well, at least I like to think so.

Today I am taking time to pray and ask God what new thing He is doing in me and thanking Him for making the gray purposeful and beautiful and for adding all the color that makes life vibrant. Maybe the next time you enter a room with a neutral decor, or walk outside on a cloudy day that feels gloomy or dismal, ask God to help you see the beauty in the grayness, and then you can ask Him to show you vibrant pops of color that only stand out because of the gray.

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Tending Change

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Tending Change

It’s spring. This spring, however, is different from springs of the past. It is a new and different spring. 

I don’t know about you, but I love the change of season. I think I love the anticipation and expectations. I remember the beauty of the prior year and expect it all over again.  In spring, I look for the dogwood to put on its whimsical white blossoms. Summer brings fireflies and long days. Autumn...oh how it leaves me breathless! (my husband would be so impressed with the pun!) The leaves alone are worth reveling in, but add Thanksgiving to it and I just can’t even explain how much I adore autumn! Winter is usually a beautiful season of warm food, lots of family time, good books and great blankets. I expect to snuggle in and enjoy the season of hibernation.

But today, as I was reading through my PowerSheets, I read something I had written in December: 

New seasons can be just as beautiful, or more beautiful, than the ones that have passed.

Today, this truth seeded itself into my heart. So I will tend it this spring.

Usually, I look forward to all the consistency and sameness each season. But some years, the season is full of unexpected differences. My son graduated high school one spring. That spring was very different. It will never be repeated, and it was beautiful. The hot summer months with both children swelling my belly was different...but oh so beautiful. It was filled with joy and it was a hard, toiling time. Being ready to give birth in July and August in Texas is hard by itself, but a few minor health complications added to the toil of childbirth! Nonetheless, it was two of the most beautiful summers I have in my memory! 

I tend to struggle with change. I usually despise and resist it. Change tends to leave me ruffled and sometimes sad to boot. Ruffled because I like routine, consistency, and knowing what to expect. Sad because I catch myself longing for the beauty I once knew and have come to expect. 

I remember vividly when my kiddos were 16 and 12 and I struggled with the change of relationships and all the growing up that was happening. The difficulty was that I was resisting the change…the independent spirits, no legos, less tree climbing. Instead of enjoying this new season, I lamented…out loud, nonetheless…about how I immensely missed 7 and 3! I missed the pigtails and snuggle-toothed smile, and the freckles; oh how I missed the freckles that were fading fast. But in doing that I was missing the beauty before me, not to mention making my children feel that 16 and 12 was not as exciting or fulfilling to me as the past! I am so thankful to God for bringing this  attitude to my attention so I didn’t miss the whole transition. How sad it would have truly been if I had wished that year away!

Today when I reread what I had jotted down, it made me think about how I’m living right now. Am I seeing the beauty in this season, even in the hard things, the unexpected things? Am I missing today because I’m looking back at and longing for yesterday?  Am I ruffled about the changes ahead, or am I facing them knowing God is on my side and in Him, all thing work to my good and are beautiful?

I'm pondering these questions in my heart and laying them at the feet of Jesus. I want to be present and expecting now. I want to drink in the beauty of this season. How are you doing this spring? Is it as expected and you’re able to love the beauty in the flowerbeds and your life, or is change disheartening you and making you wish this season away? 

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Autumn Change and A Giveaway!

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Autumn Change and A Giveaway!

Autumn is quickly approaching and the hot summer days have already cooled a bit here.  Out of doors time is so much more appealing when the temperatures aren't licking the 100 mark on the thermometer! Join me at Beyond The Nook where I am sharing what God whispered to my heart as I basked in the pre-autumn breeze and the Shadows Beckoned.

BUT WAIT...THERE'S MORE!

This past week I have had the privilege of previewing The After's new CD entitled Live On Forever! Live on Forever releases TODAY and to celebrate I'm giving away a copy to one of my readers! This album is full of God's faithfulness and love. True to their contemporary sound, The Afters, share with us their heart in the midst of tragedy below. I thought it was too beautiful not to share with you.


The heart of Live on Forever:

It’s easy to assume stories of trial and triumph are just for the Bible or the history books. But miracles still happen, even when adversity hits hardest. Just ask Josh Havens, guitarist and lead vocalist of The Afters. He relates how the band’s latest effort, Live on Forever, began during a season of tragedy. 

Just as the band regrouped to record, Havens witnessed the wife of a close friend contract cancer. Drummer Jordan Mohilowski (who produced the new album) had a brief health scare, and a close companion in his church—part of the worship team—was hit and killed by an impaired driver. She was a young woman, Havens says, who had unlimited potential.

But Live on Forever–the band’s fifth with the Fair Trade label-still took shape as a celebration of faithfulness, protection and promise—one that shimmers with strong rhythms, undeniable energy and compelling pop hooks. The album finds Havens in strong, soaring voice as he invites listeners to find shelter and strength in God. “If any theme has emerged, it would be ‘inspiration and motivation,’” Havens says. 

Havens himself felt a deep need to hold on after another loss struck: The band’s longtime soundman, Anthony Martinez, saw his newborn daughter die in infancy. 

Ask Havens to pick out a song that sums up the spirit of the album, and he chooses “Battles.” “It was the last song we wrote and the fastest we wrote,” he says. “We don’t typically write songs fast; we’ll change lyrics and melodies and craft our songs carefully. But ‘Battles’ poured out, the music and lyrics, in one day. It’s about standing up against fear and knowing God is always with us,” Havens explains. “It’s one of the takeaways we hope people get: ‘Don’t give up to fear.

Havens shares how, half a world away from his home in Phoenix, he caught a small glimpse of heaven’s reassurance. The place: downtown Amsterdam. The occasion: a dinner between shows with band members and spouses—including soundman Martinez and his wife. For their baby daughter, the Martinez couple had chosen an unusual moniker with an unusual spelling: Pieper. Against all odds, it also happened to be exactly how the intimate restaurant they dined at spelled its name. Still, no one was prepared for what happened at the end of the meal. “We were talking about baby Pieper, and as we got up to leave, we noticed that the only thing on the walls—the only thing—was a framed document, an award for hospitality. And the date on the award—the only date in the place—was Pieper’s birthday. Her mother just started bawling.” Havens sums up the reassurance all took home that night: “We thought, ‘This is where God’s angels fly: right in the middle of the loss.’ God gives us little glimpses to show us he’s here.”

“We worked on this record for almost two years and over those two years, it was a real season of loss,” Havens recalls. “But in the end, Live on Forever is about moving us to trust God, to stand up against fear. It’s an ‘ante up’ record, an anthem for people’s lives: ‘God you are with me in all this. I’m not alone.’”

Congratulations to J. Kindle!
You're the winner of the new CD, Live On Forever by The Afters!

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Summer Daze

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Summer Daze

In the grocery store, paper, crayons and lunch boxes have replaced the seasonal goodies that line the shelves when we first enter the store.  Walmart has put away summer floats and water guns to make room for folders and notebooks. School is right around the corner. All too soon a new smell will be on the breeze and the school year will be well under way. Football, bon fires and extracurricular activities will bring us out and about this fall.

As summer daze comes to a halt, it’s time to dust off the thinking caps and prepare for what we hope will be another successful year.  But spells success?  Won’t you join me at Beyond the Nook as I talk about Crayons, Teachers & New Clothes

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