Winds of Change

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In March of this year, I sensed the winds of change blowing. In April, God confirmed what I was sensing. My vision for my businesses, Kairos Coaching, LLC, and Soul Graffiti Art Studio, was changing, as was the world around me. My family is changing. Both of my kids are growing older and are very active. Most of their activities take place in the afternoons and weekends. As a mama and entrepreneur, I have always said that I will put the needs of my children and family above any professional endeavor.

At the same time, I sensed the Lord calling me to build a space…a new and expanded studio space in, of all places, my backyard. I talked to my dad in late April. He is going to help us build and design it. He was thrilled! We have always enjoyed working/building together, ever since we remodeled our home as a family with my mom and sister. Then, I got the dreaded phone call from my dad on May 13th , telling me he has cancer. He is adamant and so am I that we will build anyway!

Therefore, as of September 30th, Soul Graffiti Art Studio will be moving. We will no longer be on Main Street in downtown Clayton. My vision, has morphed into my life calling:

“I help people see differently by encouraging them to shift perspective and reframe the world around them.”

My vision starts with me and God, and as a result, my whole world has been reframed. Turning 40 may have had a little to do with it, but I believe it’s deeper than that. When I stepped out in faith and opened Soul Graffiti Art Studio, the old Lizzie morphed into someone new. I have never done anything so wild and uninhibited in all my life. I don’t have the words to accurately depict the transformation. You can’t go back to the safety of the boat when the King of Kings calls you to walk on water.

I will be expanding my online presence, creating commisioned paintings, and teaching limited private lessons. I will no longer have classes or host parties at my private studio space. But, I will be painting, and to be honest, it is painting I have missed the most. I will also be writing a book about how to awaken the wonder in our lives. As I have been advised by people who care about me and my future, I have been encouraged to write and share with a broader audience the things I have learned as an artist and Professional Life Coach. The bigger and more distant plans will be to travel and speak all over the world sharing this life changing message. I’ve lived it and I know the power of seeing differently.

I will also be transporting my children to various events and practices, and possibly traditional school in the distant future. I want to be all in for the people who matter most to me. That also includes my husband and my family, especially my dad during his treatment for cancer. This decision has been clear from the beginning. I knew before I knew, and I know without any doubt that God is on the move, once again. I’m grateful He still speaks. I pray I continue to listen. The time I will get to spend with my dad is a gift.

Thank you for your support of Soul Graffiti Art Studio over the past 3 years. We opened on Main Street October 1st, 2013 and will move back home, September 30th, 2016, 3 years exactly. Everything at my current studio on Main Street will continue as normal until late September. I know God isn’t finished with Soul Graffiti. I’ve never had to worry about paying rent. Every camp this summer, but one, was sold out. Private lessons are full. But, GOD!!!! I’ve said to many of you, “when God tells me to move, or close the door, I will say with tremendous gratitude, thank you, Lord. What a thrilling adventure!” He isn’t closing the door, He’s opening a window and the view is spectacular. 

Please follow me via social media. More books, coloring books, paintings, instructional videos, and other inspirations are in the works:

Facebook:    www.facebook.com/soulgraffitiartstudio

Etsy:                www.etsy.com/shop/SoulGraffitiArt (will be adding new art weekly!)

Website:       www.soulgraffitiartstudio.com (currently under construction)

                       www.lizziebranch.com

Contact:        lizziebranch@gmail.com

                          919.740.2131

 

 

Joining an Elite Club

The fine print on the back of the tube of emerald green paint was smaller than I had remembered. I blinked my eyes and turned away to refocus and tried again. The more I squinted and blinked, the blurrier the print became. Knowing that I am 3 months shy of turning 40 years young, in the back of my head an objective truth was churning that my subjective reasoning was trying to comprehend…

Maybe the print was smaller than normal. This could be true, except for the fact that I’d been buying the same Matisse Structure paint tubes for a couple of years. They all looked the same. Maybe the light was bad. So, I turned on a light, squinted my eyes, and tried again. Hmmmm. No better. My subjective reasoning was running out of options.

Could it be true? I mean, this happens for everyone, but this early? I read a lot and I use my eyes as an artist for detail work, but doesn’t this begin to happen in your mid forties?

I was having difficulty reading simple text that had never been an issue before. After I got over the shock of this monumental shift in my life…sitting on the cusp of almost 40 years old, two things ran through my mind. The vain part of me said, “Yippeeeee!!” I can finally buy those cool and colorful reader glasses that everyone over 40 wears! Seriously, have you seen the selection lately? Every color and pattern you can possibly imagine. My inner artist could care less that this means I am now a member of an elite club. She is just thrilled that color and snazzy patterns are in her near future!

The second thing that went though my mind caused me to pause and ponder:

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:11-13

Oh wow. I was seriously seeing dimly. It was almost like someone flipped a switch and I could not longer see up close very well. I could see letters, but not make them out completely. You know the next part of the story, right?

After a quick trip to satisfy my inner artist, I had my first pair of $2.99 reader glasses. I was the stuff. And the stuff could read up close and look snazzy doing it.

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Now, I could see face to face. I could fully know what I was reading. I didn’t have to squint. What relief to know it was a simple fix.

But some things in life are not so simple. $2.99 and doesn’t even come close to fixing most of our dim mirrors in life. Most of our days are spent squinting and wondering what the next day will hold. Sometimes in matters of life and death. What do we do to gain clarity? To see face to face in the midst of the fog of life?

We have to use Truth to shine a Light on the fog. The promise that all will work out in the end, even though today is dark.

The Truths or promises of God are like my readers. I rely on them when life is foggy, when my vision is foggy. I am a highly exalted, loved and cherished, Light caster of the Most High. My Assurance is complete. I need to do nothing more to earn favor, mercy, or grace. I am deeply loved.

Remember how the verses above end? “The greatest of these is LOVE.” Freely given. Knowing you are loved changes everything. Even your perspective on the fog.

In order to read clearly, all I need to do is wear my readers. It was only fitting that my first pair of readers matched my emerald green paint. If I have to wear readers, they must be my favorite color.

So when life flickers dim and a shift in perspective is needed, remember one day we will see face to face and fully know all the whys. Until then, stand on the solid foundation of your assurance. In the midst of deep and dimly lit fog, you are deeply and eternally loved. Choose to believe this today. The fog may not go away, but you will be able to see it differently. And that is a choice we can all make…clarity comes when we believe what we know to be true.

Love to you all….and if you are approaching 40, get ready to pick out some snazzy readers!

Where I’ve Been

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I saw someone tonight I haven’t seen in years. We met through our children years ago and I’ve always enjoyed talking with her. She’s been an encouragement to me as a writer and would let me know that my blog posts seemed to be on target in her life.

It sort of made me sad. To hear her say that. Because, I’ve not been blogging. And trust me, it’s not because I haven’t had anything to say. It’s because sometimes the things I feel led to share don’t come in neat little packages with bows and ribbons.

They are messy.
Controversial.
Rough around the edges.
Not shrouded in Christianese.

The things I chew on during the day and often way too late at night, don’t always have happy endings. They are not perfectly healed. Some things still have sutures and stuff oozing from them. I feel like I tip toe between what’s okay to say and what I really want to say.

This creates a wicked struggle in my head and heart. I know most of y’all don’t have it all together. Neither do I. I struggle. I fight every day to keep my head above water. But, I know more than I’ve ever known that healthy is not fragmented. Healthy is whole. There is no line between secular and sacred. It is ALL sacred. Even the messy.

I’ve determined that I need to share more of the messy, controversial, rough, and real things I kick around like a soccer ball in my head. I’ve held back for all the wrong reasons. The main one being offending someone.

Well, guess what? Not everyone is going to like me. And, I’m finally okay with that truth.

I know there’s a Light that shines deep within me that emanates from the Holiest of Holies. I only have to answer to the Source of that Light, my Father, and I know I am highly esteemed and have the assurance that I am His and He is mine. Nothing could ever separate me from His love.

I pray I love first and give grace abundantly. I pray no selfish ambition is ever used for my gain. May the Light of Christ shine bright as I open the door…

 

Opportunity

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I’ve learned in 38 years that life can change forever as we know it in a mere second. But, this doesn’t stop me from wondering what the next day might hold. I am a dreamer and a visionary, always looking for the next God-given opportunity. But, there are times in our lives when we have to wait.

Waiting is by far one of the hardest things I HAVE to do.

But, in the waiting, there are SO many gifts. So much to soak in and learn. Here are a few of the gifts I am unwrapping as I wait:

1. Waiting builds our character: as we wait, we still “work” towards our goal, but we can’t make things happen. As a result, our character, or the qualities that define who we are, get tested. Are we patient and trusting that the end result will be what’s best for us or do we get easily irritated and frustrated with every little thing. I know I’ve been on both sides of that fence. I’m reminded of this verse when I’m waiting, Romans 5:3-5:

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

2. Waiting builds our courage: as we wait, our courage muscle gets strengthened. We take baby steps in the direction of our dream. And our courage grows. Faith without works is dead. Useless. Faith in the God who knows the outcome and our daily courageous work in the little bitty details that seem to drain us in the short-term, add up to success in the long-term. Don’t lose hope. I’m reminded of this verse when I’m not feeling so courageous. It always helps to grow my courage that starts out as a small seed in my heart, Acts 27:25:

“So keep up your courage, (wo)men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”

3. Waiting builds our commitment: as we wait, our commitment level to the dream or goal, grows or wanes. As we take small steps forward and some times get knocked backwards, we can determine whether or not this is the next opportunity we need to pursue. Either it is or it isn’t and waiting helps us determine our next best step. Sometimes, we need the waiting period so we can say no to what we thought was going to be yes. Other times, we need to waiting period so we can grow and God can prepare our lives for the changes that our new commitment will bring. When I am discerning my commitment level, this verse always helps me focus, Psalm 37:5-6:

“Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.”

Are you waiting for something right now? Does life seem to be standing still? I know how you feel. Waiting is so hard.

I encourage you to chase hard after God, not opportunity. To pursue Him with all you’ve got. Seek Him. Read His word. Surrender your dreams and goals to Him. He has a majestic plan for you. He is preparing your for tomorrow, and next week, and next year. I know it deep in my soul.

Seek God and He will give you all the opportunity you can possibly handle. Wait and see what amazing plans He has for you. As you wait, they will begin to unfold…in ways you would have never imagined or could have made happen.

“Trust the Lord with all your heart.
Lean not in your own understanding.
In all your ways, acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Opportunity means “favorable and suitable” and “going towards a port”. It involves action. And when things seem to be stuck at a standstill, trust me, many things and people are being moved on your behalf. Things feel stagnate, but God is working beneath the “stagnancy”. Movement is happening even when you can’t see or feel it. Do the things He calls you to do today and do them well.

Believe this friend…and peace will be another gift you unwrap as you wait for His plans for you to unfold. Peace for your journey. Peace as you wait for Him to move mountains.

 

Dreams Do Come True

I’ve been waiting a long time for this. 21 years to be more specific. I remember the day like it was yesterday. White jerseys. Blue shorts. A crowded gymnasium. Family and friends cheering us on. We had played together since 7th grade and we were seniors now. It was our big moment to shine. We had won 26 games so far and we were determined to win all of our games.

But, it didn’t happened the way we had planned. We lost our last and final volleyball game at Princeton High School. It was a hard, hard loss to swallow for a group of 8 seniors. For us and our coach, Paula Wooten.

Sort of like life, some losses are much harder to deal with than others. This one stung well beyond the fall of 1993. It has probably followed and haunted some of us for years. I know it has me:

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Fast forward to 2014…yesterday, a group of tenacious young ladies changed all of that! The Princeton High School Lady Bulldawgs won the NCHSAA State 1A Volleyball Championship! I could not be happier for them! It was victory for them, Head Coach Paige Renfrow, Assistant Coach Paula Wooten, all the amazing players, and redemption for me as a player on the 1993 team that lost out in the state playoffs. WE ALL WON YESTERDAY!

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Because, when you are from a town like Princeton, where everyone is like family, when one person wins, you win, too. Another way to say it would be like this:

Sometimes dreams don’t get realized by you personally, but you get to be a part of them when they do happen. 

I lost tears when the Lady Bulldawgs won yesterday at Reynolds. However, the tears were different 21 years later. They were tears of jubilation and celebration! Never stop believing. Never stop dreaming.

I am so proud of the 2014 NCHSAA 1A State Champions, the Princeton Bulldawgs! Congratulations players and coaches. You made this dream a reality! And, I’m proud of the small but passionate town of Princeton.

Dreams do come true:

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Addicted to Pixels

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Something had gone horribly wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something wasn’t right. It was almost as if someone had cast a spell on my children. They were not themselves. Walking zombies. Eyes glazed over. Emotions a wreck. Sensitive to everything and tears came easily. Mouthy and disrespectful. And we’re not talking teenagers. We’re talking a 9 and a 6-year-old.

I first noticed the mood swings. Both of my kids are pretty mellow. But, during the past summer, both of them were so moody and hard to deal with. I chalked it up to the lack of routine summer often brings.

Then I noticed the lack of motivation. Neither of them wanted to do anything but sit around and watch television, watch videos on the laptop, or play games on the iPad. This concerned me because both of my kids are normally very active and creative. Typically, their energy is hard to match. I assumed it was the heat summer brings and they didn’t want to go outside and play.

Next, I started realizing they were not playing with their toys that didn’t require charging. Like dolls, LEGOs, books, games, puzzles, etc. Their play set in the backyard was covered in dust. I don’t remember them swinging on the swings all summer long. I would force them outside and they would sit on the porch and stare out into the yard.

Lastly, I noticed the aimless way they went through their days. Almost zombie like. This freaked me out. Nothing I did could snap them back to reality. They would stare off into space. I am not exaggerating. It was almost as if they were focused on something in another realm so intently that they couldn’t do life. They were sleepwalking through reality.

I asked both of them multiple times, what’s wrong? What are you thinking about? The answers I got from both of them were, “I don’t know,” or “I’m tired.” As a mom who spends a lot of time with her children, I knew something was not right. Something was out of balance. I was ready to take drastic measures. But, I couldn’t figure out what to do.

During the school year, things were fine. It seemed as if the unstructured summer months created a monster that I had yet been able to identify. I couldn’t wait for school to start back. I was hoping the structure and routine would help them snap back to their old selves. Surely this wasn’t permanent? I don’t like zombies!

We started school in early August. And it was hard. I mean really hard. All three of us cried most days. They would rush through their work. Callie would read her Nancy Drew books, but that was about it. Sean would just stare off into space if I wasn’t sitting next to him helping him focus. I was getting worried.

Everyone I talked with about my concerns thought I was being overly concerned. I felt like I was losing my kids and I had no idea what to do! No one could see what I was seeing.  We slogged through the first 3 weeks of school.

Then we left for Disney World. I was hoping and praying the change in scenery would help everyone. I randomly announced on the way to Florida that “screen time” would be off-limits while we were at Disney. No computer, television, iPad, etc. Even mom and dad agreed to no “screen time”. It was going to be a fun-filled week of adventure. I couldn’t wait!

Disney World was amazing. More than any of us could have imagined. I began to see glimpses of my kids pre-summer. They were energetic, creative, and most of all in touch with reality. Now, I know Disney World is not like real life, but my kids were slowly returning.

Vacation over, the kids played games on the iPad all the way home. Yes. ALL THE WAY HOME.

When we got back to NC, my zombies were back. Then, it hit me. FINALLY. The screens. The computer, iPad, and television. It is another reality and my kids have been spending way too much time in Pixel Land. They had been pixelated.

Indeed, something was terribly wrong and it was all my fault. My kids do what I allow them to do. I would never harm them on purpose, but what I allowed for several months in my home did harm them. And it all started out so innocuously. So much so that no one noticed until major changes had taken place.

Screens dramatically affect my kids. Their moods, their behavior, their minds, their lives. They  have a hard time coming back to the real world when they are asked to put the screens away.

As I thought about the past 3 to 4 months, it all began to make sense. They had limited screen time during the school year, but during the summer, those limitations were lifted by their loving and caring mother. I felt sick to my stomach. They didn’t do this to themselves. I allowed it to happen. But, this also meant that I had the power to stop it.

It was around 9pm on the Sunday night after we got back from Disney World and we were having our weekly family meeting. I announced that we would be screen free for the next week. You would have thought I announced we were moving to Antarctica. They both melted down and cried, “Why, mom? We didn’t play games or watch television all week at Disney!”

I explained to them why we were going to be screen free. After the tears stopped and they could hear me, they both settled down and shared what was on their hearts. Here are several observations they shared:

“Mom, when I play the iPad, I go into another orbit. I don’t know what happens to me.”
“I think Minecraft should be called Mindcraft because it affects my mind.”
“Playing electronics and watching TV all the time makes me feel almost mad.”
“It’s like I get sucked in. I can’t stop thinking about it even when I’m not playing it.”

Wow. I was the one in tears when we said our prayers and kissed good night. But, I knew something was about to change. And this change would be good for us. All of us.

The first week without screens went as expected, horribly. The withdrawals were intense. We were dealing with addiction. Addicted to pixels. What a revelation. And to think it was going on for so long beneath the radar of my watchful eyes. I felt violated by the pixelization of my children.

The second week without screens was much better. My eyes, now opened to this silent pixel invader, began to see glimpses of my kids. My real kids. Not the zombies who had been sleeping in my kids’ beds. They built forts in the back yard, LEGO masterpieces in the play room, and held tea parties for all of their stuffed animal friends. Both have read, painted, and created more in the past month than they did all summer.

During week three, we gave the screens back. With limitations. 30 minutes after school work had been completed and 30 minutes after dinner. This one hour daily total includes all screens, computer, iPad, and television. They set a timer and self-monitor.

But, the craziest thing of all? They don’t even ask for screen time anymore! This summer, they asked incessantly. ALL THE TIME.

Now, almost every night while we are saying goodnight and tucking them in, one of them will say, “Mom, I didn’t even use my screen time today! Wow, how did that happen?”

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It happened because your mom started paying attention. And gave you guidelines by which to live your life. I’ve apologized to both of them. Both have given me grace. But more than that, I have my kids back. My creative, outdoor loving, energetic kids. My house is a mess. The noise level while they are playing is almost deafening, but they are no longer sleepwalking through reality. They are fully aware of the world around them.

My kids, no longer addicted to pixels, are addicted to playing. That’s an addiction I can fully support without limitations!

 

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced something similar with your kids? I would love to hear from you!

How Do You Even Begin To Understand

I listened as she spewed forth the venom that poisoned her for years. My heart swollen, my hands sweaty, and my mind sickened by the details. Depressed? Of course she was depressed. To be honest, I was surprised she was alive. She had endured untold horrors. Things no one should ever have to endure.

How do you even begin to understand? To explain all of it?

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How do you go on? How do you live with the weight that smothers you so much you feel like you can’t breathe, yet go through the motions again for another 24 hours?

When you’re depressed, the hours roll off the clock like frozen molasses.

When you’re depressed, you often don’t want to go on.

The alternative, death, is much more appealing than the thought of having to endure. No one wants to talk about suicide. Depression. Very very dark days. Total eclipses of the heart.

And when we are depressed, we feel like no one wants to listen to our desperate saga.

So we masquerade in our darkness like nocturnal gypsies. In the dark of night when it feels safer, we cry into our pillows because we don’t want to be a burden…and pillows don’t remember or care.

When we’re depressed, what do we need?

We need to know we’re not alone.
We need to know we’re loved.
We need to know we don’t have to have it all together all the time.
We need to do our art.
We need to be accepted just as we are.
We need to not be judged for being different.
We need to share our stories with safe people.

Maybe if we know we are not alone, loved, okay just as we are, accepted, not being judged for being different…maybe that will be when we feel safe enough to share our stories. Maybe that will be a place where seeds are planted, shoots of green growth begin to painfully, yet miraculously pierce the ground, and vibrant life begins anew.

Loving one another is always dirty work. We’re all a mess if you strip us down to our basic selves. We’re all needy whether you want to admit you have needs or not.

I don’t believe in a “cure all” for mental illness. But, I do believe love and acceptance is always the best place to start. No one thing will cure all mental illness. But, one comment, one pay it forward at your coffee joint, one note dropped in the mail, one sincere “how are you”…these things will plant seeds. Seeds of change.

We need each other. We need grace. We need soothing grace to rain down and cleanse our souls. Be the gift of grace to someone today. And if you need grace, please don’t be afraid to ask.

My friend told her once “untold” horrors that day and I listened. Not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t not listen. I was compelled by grace. Gripped by this familiar gift that I’ve been given so freely.

She spoke the unspeakable horrors that day and was so very brave. She spoke and grace rained down. Buckets of grace.

 

The Do Good Life

When I was a performance based, people pleasing, pew possessing Christian, I never read my Bible. I rarely prayed. But, I wanted you to think I did. Good works and church attendance and saying the right things paved the road of good intentions ahead of me. Never cursing or having a glass of wine or talking about all the doubts I had.

Doubts? What if someone found out I secretly had doubts. I questioned things. I wondered if all the stuff I said I believed was true? Or was it some game I was playing by adhering to a set of rules and jumping through hoops.

How could this be? I could quote verses that spoke of freedom in Christ, but I felt like a prisoner. I sang songs that echoed amazing grace when I felt way less than amazing. I held back anger and frustration for years thinking I must be doing something wrong or not doing enough or maybe I was just plain screwed up.

I feared God and other people. Honestly, I feared other people more than I feared God. I feared they would figure out that I didn’t have it all together. I wasn’t as perfect as I proclaimed. That maybe, I actually needed God. A lot.

But, I didn’t know Him. I knew a lot about Him. My eternal salvation was secure, but I was miserable. And as I looked around my coveted pew, I didn’t seem to be the only one who was miserable.

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I believe we preach freedom, but we live captive.

I believe we talk a lot about God, but we don’t talk to Him or listen to Him.

I believe we want our Heaven card punched, but don’t know who we are on this side of Heaven.

I realize that this message will rock the boat. Stir the pot. And ruffle some feathers.

And maybe that’s why I feel compelled to write it and share it with you. I was sick and tired of the “do good life”. It got me no where but depressed and farther from God than I’ve ever been. One day several years ago, one very lonely and dark day, I decided to show up. Naked and with nothing to offer but me. No good deeds. No performances. No money. No idea what would happen next.

What happened was a miracle of sorts. At the end of performing me, I found the real me. The one who had been hiding. The funny thing is, I really really liked her and knew her instantly. She had always been with me, but I was too busy posing to take the time to get to know her.

When I began to face my doubts, look for answers to my questions, and live in the truth of who I was, needy and desperate for Jesus Christ, only then did I begin to experience freedom and amazing grace and joy as the real me. I didn’t need God until I came to the end of the self who was playing god.

But when I let go of the ropes that held me captive consisting of good works, performing, and self-dependency, I discovered grace for the very first time. Instead of falling from grace, I landed in a huge sea of grace. Overwhelming and intoxicating grace.

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  **Stay tuned for part two of this message. If you don’t want to miss it, subscribe to my blog by email. You can do this by typing your email into the box in the upper right corner of this page.  

 

 

 

When God Speaks

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{Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons}

Callie and Sean were rocking and talking on the front porch. Anthony had plans to spruce up the natural area in our front yard while I was gone. The kids were going to help him pick up the branches and overgrowth after he finished cutting and trimming. It all seemed like a good plan. At my urging, the kids would sit on the front porch until Anthony finished swinging the axe and the bushaxe. Just made sense to this mama…

I backed out of the driveway and waved good bye to my three favorite people. As I shifted the car into drive, my mind shifted to getting to an appointment in Raleigh on time. I turned the radio off because quiet just made sense to this mama…

I started driving the backroads that would lead me to the highway 70 Clayton bypass. 3 minutes and less than 2 miles into my quiet drive, my solitude was interrupted by a jarring message. I sensed a breath taking thought from out of the clear blue sky:

“Call Anthony and warn him about the yellow jackets.”

Totally did not make sense to this mama, but I could not pick up my phone fast enough. I hit send and he answered. Now, when I left home, his cell phone was on the kitchen counter and he was outside. I knew he was probably not going to answer, but he did to my surprise.

I said, “Babe, please be careful and watch out for yellow jackets.”

He was breathless and said, “How did you know?”

I inquired, “Know what?”

He said with a gasp, “I just got stung by several yellow jackets on my legs. I must have disturbed their nest.”

“Oh my God…are the kids okay?” I asked. Just made sense to this mama to ask about the kids first…

“Yes. It just happened. No kidding, I just walked in the front door. Callie ran and got my phone because it was ringing when I told them to run in the house. Seriously, how did you know?”

“I didn’t know. I don’t know how I knew. I just got this thought from nowhere that said to call you and tell you to watch out for yellow jackets. Are you okay?” I asked. I was so concerned about the kids, I hadn’t even asked him how he was.

“You’re serious…you just had a thought? Wow…I wish you had gotten it about 60 seconds sooner. This happened right before you called. My phone was still ringing when I ran in the front door behind the kids,” he shared.

I chuckled at his humor, but quickly went into nurse mode and told him to take some benadryl and tell Callie to get the ice packs for his stings. I stayed on the phone with him for the duration of my drive to make sure he was okay.

I was shaken, but in awe. In awe of that thought. That simple yet powerful thought. I knew I had to call Anthony and warn him. Absolutely no doubt.

Sometimes it is a thought.
Sometimes a phone call.
Sometimes a dream.
Sometimes a vision.
Sometimes a message from a stranger.
Sometimes an answer to prayer.
Sometimes the way the light bounces off the water.
Sometimes a verse or quote.
Sometimes a song.
Sometimes a piece of seaglass.
Sometimes a letter in the mail.
Sometimes a missed flight.
Sometimes a red light.
Sometimes a license plate.
Sometimes you just know and you don’t know why.

But this I do know. God still speaks to us. And when God speaks, I listen. When I can’t give a natural explanation, there has to be a supernatural explanation. That is the mystery of walking with God. The mystery of listening to the Spirit.

How do you listen to the Spirit? How do you know when God is “talking” to you? I am no theologian, but I listen by being quiet. By resting in the moment and tuning out the world. It was no accident I was craving quiet when I got into the car to drive to Raleigh. I need quiet in my life. I need to shut my mouth and be still. Be open to hear what the Helper, the Holy Spirit, wants to say to me.

I don’t hear from God everyday in an almost audible voice. But, I see Him every day in creation. When I look at my kids. When I think about the love story I get to live everyday within the boundaries of marriage. When I get to talk with a soul sister who loves me. It just doesn’t make sense to think that all of these gifts could come from any other source.

Open your eyes. Open your hands. Open your ears. Breathe deeply. And be ready to receive. Always be ready, be expectant. This is the mystery. Don’t try to understand it. Respect it and trust that God knows best. Even if the phone call is 60 seconds “too late”.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When your dreams seem forgotten…

She knew exactly what she was doing. And she knew it was wrong…but something inside of her couldn’t make her do the right thing.

Green and brown. The letter “T” for “turtle”. Instructions were given as she stared at the coloring page in front of her. “Use your green and brown crayons to color the turtle and then trace the upper and lower case T’s using your pencil.”

Green and brown. Green and brown. Green and brown. These words echoed in her head as she reached into the dark cold desk and pulled out the red crayon.

Dare she? What’s the worst thing that could happen? It was just a little color….

Ahhhh, there. Now her little box turtle had a red patch on his shell.

She no longer noticed the teacher sitting at her desk across the room as she replaced the red crayon for a blue crayon. The red box needed a neighbor and blue was the perfect choice. Somehow, deep inside of her, she knew this to be true. Red needs blue and blue needs red, for then they become purple!

You guessed it. Blue was slipped back into the desk for the chunky purple crayon. She peeled back the Crayola paper and filled in the whitespace outlined in black next to the red patch on the box turtle.

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All the while, she could feel the excitement welling up inside of her little blonde haired blue-eyed soul. It was as if she was the only 5-year-old in the classroom. Nothing else mattered. She was creating a colorful masterpiece.

This process continued until she had the entire turtle colored Technicolor, explosion style! It satisfied her so much that she got out of her desk and walked up to her teacher’s desk to show her. She was so proud. Until….

She stuffed the folded piece of paper with a note written on it into her book bag. She couldn’t imagine why her teacher folded her masterpiece. And she had no idea what the words written in red on the back said. Her teacher’s instructions were to give it to her mom for her to read.

All the way home, she wondered what the words could possibly say. But, she couldn’t read yet, and the letters were all curvy. They weren’t printed like other letters they practiced each day.

She was so curious and couldn’t wait to share the picture with her parents. Maybe her teacher really liked her turtle, but she didn’t seem too happy about it when she folded it and wrote the note on it…

The next morning, she pulled the note out of her book bag. It was no longer a masterpiece. It was a note written in red curvy letters explaining that she had not followed directions and needed to learn to do what the teacher says.

She walked up to her teacher’s desk and handed it to her with an apology. “I’m sorry for not listening to your directions.”

But, deep inside, she wasn’t sorry. She was shamed. She was hurt. She was broken. She was changed. Soulfully so.

And, she had learned one thing very well. If you want to do well in school, in life, or in general, you have to do exactly what you are told and ignore the passion and creativity that wells up inside of you.

This is the only way to be successful in school. Once this lie weaved its way into her 5-year-old mind and soul, it grew vines and thorns and became a way of life.

All throughout school and college and graduate school, she did the right thing. Her box of 8 chunky crayons was traded in for a box of 264 crayons that took up space on a shelf in her office. She loved the splash of color it added to the room. But, she never used them…

Until she decided at 35 years old to write a children’s book. Writing is academic. It can’t be the wrong thing to do, she thought. She took a class in acrylics because she wanted to learn how to sketch and draw for her book. Not because she wanted to paint or draw, but because it would help her accomplish something else.

But you know what? That didn’t happen at all. It didn’t go quite like she had planned. She fell in love, and you know what they say about love, right? It consumes you. You constantly think about the person or thing you love. Her crayons came off the shelf. She dusted them off and used every color in the Technicolor rainbow.

The little 5-year-old girl who was also sitting on the shelf in the game of life, was given a second chance to do what she loves. And when she’s painting, nothing else matters. Hours pass by without her even noticing. They just seem to slip off the clock.

All along, God was helping her to become who she is now. It took 30 years for this little 5-year-old girl to break out the paint and crayons. And I don’t regret any of it. Not one thing I experienced in the 30 years before today. All of those experiences led me here. For that, I am very grateful for that 5-year-old little girl and her courage.

In those 3 decades, she never disappeared. There were glimpses of her all along the way.

The way she would pause and watch the sunset and clouds swirl. The way she would linger by the paint section at Lowe’s. The way she would always be attracted to those passionate artistic people she met along her journey. The way she would always use colored pens and markers instead of black ink. The way she would somehow mysteriously find every office supply store in town.

Yes. She never left. She was there all along. And now she gets to play with paint. All the time. And it feels just right. Almost perfect.

 

What is one thing you do that causes you to lose track of time?

What dream or desire inside of you is left undone?

What do you want to do about it?