Yesterday, (Monday) was a difficult day in the ole noggin' (my mind.). I think it was largely due to the fact that I did not sleep well the night before. From the moment I awoke my mind was filled with racing thoughts, most of which kept telling me that I am going nowhere, nobody likes me, I am weak-willed and am not a good representation of a strong christian woman.
In addition, to all these "lovely" thoughts, I had a difficult conversation with a friend last night and was feeling all sorts of emotions around it. I have not exercised in a long time because my work out buddy has been away in another country and I am frustrated with myself because I cannot seem to get up and get out of the house to go for a jog. (Plus my knee hurts) One of my good friends moved away to Hawaii. I miss her and I am sad.
Now, please understand that I do not share all this because I am looking to complain. Life is life and things happen. I share all this because, for me, what I am seeing is, in order to live a life with the peace that surpasses all understanding and to live out my purpose I need to be making sure that I am not only reading the word of GOD everyday AND thinking ON IT but that I am leaning on His grace.
So, thankfully, after a tough day, I went outside last night to spend some, much needed, alone time with the Lord. I brought my bible with me and took a seat in a lounge chair facing the west. The sun was setting behind the hill in my back yard, the air was perfectly still and I could hear birds chirping in the trees. It had been a long time since I just sat still and spent time with God so as soon as I began to talk to him I started to tear up. In fact, I even looked away. Hmmmm. That's interesting. Why did I do that? I think it was because I was ashamed at how long it had been since I had taken the time to be with him. I grasped for the words to say to my Father but eventually, as I began to read words from the bible, my heart started to find home again in his loving embrace. The world, the shame, the heaviness, the condemnation and all the pressure I was feeling started to melt away as I sat there pouring my heart out to my Father. As usual he met me there.
I asked him if I had sinned against him and if so to please show me. I asked him to help me to not be such a perfectionist and I asked him to please help me to be courageous to keep going down the path he has placed on my life. And most of all I asked Him to help me grasp what it means to LEAN on HIM for help.. To rest in Him. To remain IN HIM and to be consistent in that.
And then I started to read 2 Corinthians chapter 12.
In it Paul is talking to the people of Corinth and he is speaking of the thorn in his flesh.
What was Paul's thorn in his flesh?
The bible does not say and all we know for sure is that it was some bodily trial which God allowed to come into his life. I love that the bible is not specific about what his thorn was. It could have been that Paul suffered with migraines. It could have been an eye disease or maybe Paul suffered with the thorns that I suffer with which are insecurity and emotional eating. No matter what it was, this passage gives me comfort knowing that Paul suffered with something and its not like I LOVE that Paul suffered. It is the fact that while he suffered he still preached the gospel with passion and zeal. While he suffered he still accomplished what he accomplished in his life. He never gave up. He never lost faith in God. He never grew bitter and quit. AND even more than than that what I love the VERY MOST is that Paul asked for his thorn to be removed three times! I can relate to that. I have wanted my food struggles to go away. I have fantasized about a life where I was always confident and never struggles with emotional eating. Oh what could I accomplish then?!
Hmmmmm. I think that's that point and why I have a thorn in my flesh. Because it is not ME accomplishing the things I am accomplishing. It is Christ within me. SO I CANNOT BOAST!
If you are not familiar with this bible passage, what it talks about next is that Pauls' request to have his thorn removed was to no avail and after realizing that God was not going to be taking away his affliction, Paul then goes on to explain that instead of removing it God basically says this to him:
"I will not remove the thorn, but I will do something better. I will give you grace to bear it and just remember Paul, that although I have not given you what you have asked for, I am giving you what you need most deeply. You want my power and strength to accompany your preaching right? Well, the best way to have that happen is for you to be kept in a place of weakness."
Now I don't know about you but I don't want to struggle with any weakness. Because, for me, I not only realize I have the weakness but then I feel awful and shame about having the weakness. And even though I have wished that my weaknesses would go away I see from this passage that God is saying that he is not taking them away because he is actually grainting me something better than the removal of my weaknesses. What is it that he gives me?
He gives me the companionship of the Son of God and the assurance of His strength and enabling grace in my life.
God says that His grace is sufficient for me. I don't have to ask him to make his grace sufficient. It already is.
Now I don't know about you but I am asking God to help me to REALLY grasp what is being said here.
So I kept reading in the bible. What was Paul's response to this? Here's what Paul said:
"Therefore, I most gladly will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upone me."
Wow! OK, so instead of complaining and getting frustrated with the thorn in his flesh and with himself Paul said he would, from now on, boast in his infirmities. He would actually get on his knees and thank the Lord for them.
Um, OK, I don't know about you but this is not my first gut reaction. It is not my first thought to get on my knees and thank God that I have this food issue or that I struggle with insecurity. But what if I started doing that?
"It is when we are conscious of our weakness and nothingness that we most depend on the power of God. And it is when we are thus cast on HIm in complete dependence that His power is manifeted to us and we are TRULY strong." '
So what does this all mean? Well it means everything.
Especially for a perfectionist like me.
God’s favor was all Paul needed to successfully fulfill his life’s calling. Or I could put it another way. God's favor, his grace, is all Mandy needs to successfully fulfill her life calling.
In other words, Mandy does not need to work so hard. To beat herself up when she comes face to face with her weaknesses. NO, she can actually REJOICE in them.
What a radical response!
(I got this next part from a blogger named Kelly Levantino, Find her blog whole blog here.)
God’s grace is sufficient for the following...
1) To survive pain. God’s blessing is enough for us to make it through any kind of physical, spiritual, or emotional pain, no matter how long that pain exists. God’s grace – His favor – is enough, all by itself, to sustain us until He determines that pain should end.
2) To empower us for ministry. God’s Kingdom purposes are accomplished by His endorsement alone, not human approval, ability, or ambition. We all have a ministry, and His grace – His blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself, to make our ministries flourish.
3) To establish our security. We all wonder, to varying degrees, if we are loved, valued, appreciated, accepted, approved of, desired, etc. Too often we look to others to affirm our worth. God’s grace – His approval – is enough, all by itself, to solidify our true worth.
4) To fulfill our life callings. We are all here for two reasons: to know God and to make Him known (Exodus 9:15-16). How we make Him known, and to whom, may vary, but, ultimately, we’re all called to the same thing. And the calling is not for the feint of heart. But, God’s grace – His favor and blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself, to empower us to do what we’re supposed to be doing.
So I guess to put it succinctly God’s grace is sufficient for everything.
(Artwork credit: I got it from Google images. Kingdom Culture.)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us - Ephesians 3:20.
I have read and re-read that verse over and over, picking it apart, trying so hard to imagine what it means, specifically how it pertains to my life. What is He able to do in my life? What do I need to do to make it happen?
Seeing how it is Monday, Mandy Monday to be exact, I had spent a number of hours writing a blog post toady but then, with one simple click of a button, it all vanished when I mistakenly pressed delete just now.
So, because I do not want to spend another two hours writing another blog post, I am going to keep this simple and share a bit about this verse because this verse is a timely one for me right now as I anticipate some things that I feel are coming my way.
Because I love looking up the definitions to words and what scripture verses mean I referenced the Concordence to see how they expanded upon the meaning of Ephesians 3:20.
Here's what it said....
God is good.
God is able.
God is able to do.
God is able to do what we ask.
Able to do what we think.
Able to do what we ask or think.
Able to do above all that we ask or think.
Able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
I love this.
I have a dream. Do you?
I have held a dream in my heart for the past 11 years waiting patiently for God to answer it. This dream is to be married to my best friend and as a team we create and sell art, make videos, speak worldwide about the radical love of Jesus and share our testimonies of what God has done for us both individually and as a couple.
There have been times when I was certain that this would happen for me. I could see it in my mind's eye. I could feel it. But then the years would go by and I would be spending yet again another Christmas alone. This will be my 11th one this year. (Or will it?)
There have been times when I have been convinced I have been called to a life of singleness. Now, I have no clue what God's plan is. Yes, I do hope that I get to see my dream come true. I really do but what I have come to discover is that the real dream I have is to take what I just wrote above and believe it, to my core until I am utterly convinced down to my toes that GOD Is able and GOD can do exceedingly above all that we ask and think. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.
Because the truth is that I have some broken thinking. Thinking that is rooted in lack. Thinking that is rooted in believing that I am the one that has to do all the work. That it's up to me to earn, achieve and make this dream come true. When in reality the dream, if it does come true. will happen because God is able. God is able, period. God would be the one to do it.
I think my only job is to just to prepare myself to receive it. To believe it.
After getting a lot of likes on my Etsy Shop this past week, way more than normal and seeing my reaction it got me thinking. Why do I have a hard time receiving exceedingly abundantly more than I can ask or think? Isn't that what God is able and wants to do? So why then when good things happen like the Etsy Shop thing do I feel guilty, ashamed, skeptical and sometimes even angry about it? Why do I push it away? Do I not feel worthy?
I don't know quite yet exactly what this is all about. I am in the middle of a process but what I do know is that I can bring everything out into the light and I can pray to my Father about things. I can bring these quesitons to him. I also know that the Lord loves faith. So I pray that I believe and I am able to recieve all the he is able to do. Because he is able to make this dream of mine come true. In fact, it is a piece of cake to him.
So, just to be cheesy let's just say that my dream was a cupcake. (I drew this cupcake today and wanted to use it in the blog post)
I pray that I not only can recieve a cupcake from God but the extravagant one he would give me. The almond cashew cupcake with the light pink cream cheese frosting, the warm icy blue glaze, the light and creamy orange creamsicle whipped topping, with a homeade vanilla wafer and a bright red cherry on top.
Because God wants to abundantly and exceedingly more than we could ask or think. He puts the cherry on top of your already amazing dream and I pray that you and I are able to recieve whatever it is that he has for us. I pray I receive it as a confident daughter of a king that knows she is cherished, valued, adored and loved more than she could ever imagine.
And I pray I give all the glory to him.
Yesterday at my church, my pastor, whom I love, talked about the fact that our thoughts literally shape and determine what we do with our lives.
To back this up with scripture he referenced Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Aaaaaah, so true! Whether you believe it or not, everything we do stems first from a thought. I mean, think about it. What you think you really become! If you think you cannot do something you won't do it. If you think you can do something, you will, It's really that simple.
Now this is great news if your thoughts are positive and you think you can do anything but what if your thoughts are poopy and you constantly think about how ugly you are (which you are not), how inadequate you are (you are so capable) or how unsuccessful you are compared to the rest of the world? (You can change the world.)
I was so grateful for the reminder yesterday in this area because despite how many times I have heard that scripture verse and how many books and blogs I have read on this topic, I fall into the trap of negative thinking far more often than I want to admit and I don't know about you but I am not OK with this.
AND what I am so grateful for is that there is a solution!
Over the years I have thought some pretty poopy thoughts and was naively believing things about myself for way too long. I did not grow up reading the bible and knowing the truth about who I am in Christ. Nope, I believed that I was not a good artist. I thought I had to earn love. I believed that God was always frustrated with me because I made mistakes. I believed I had to be perfect and thin to be loved. I believed I was fat, ugly, unlikable, the list, unfortunately, goes on and on.
As a result of these poopy thoughts, several things happened. Or should I say, did not happen? I did not attempt to acquire a job as an artist. In fact, even though I graduated college with a BA in ART, I NEVER ONCE went on a job interview because I was convinced that I would not be able to do the job. So, I settled and was in positions far below what I was actually capable of. I was not living out my full potential. This then drove the negative self-talk down deeper which then resulted in more negative self-talk. I then tried to drown the negative thoughts (the ones I was aware of because there were many that I was not even aware of) with food, drugs, relationships and alcohol to appease the torture in my mind but this was a band-aid and not getting to the core of the problem. I needed a brain washing. Thankfully, that's just what I have been doing for a while now and my life is changing because of it.
Here's another illustration:
Because I did not believe that I am forgiven and that my sins have been dealt with by Jesus on the cross I spent a large part of my life trying to feel OK by being perfect. A state I always fell short of and therefore was under constant self-condemnation. BUT if you know the word of God you know that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," Roman 8:1.
This takes the weight off the pressure I used to put on myself to not make a mistake. I know that God is not sitting up on a throne looking down at me ready to pounce on my every mistake. No, in fact, God loves me "an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." Jeremiah 31:3
Did you see that? God is not mad. God is not mean. God draws us in with unfailing kindness. He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
For too many years I believed what was coming into my brain. Basically I was defenseless. I had weapons available to me but I did not know it. I knew about the bible but I didn't know the bible. But I know now and boy oh boy, am I ever going to fight back!
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes." Ephesians 6:10-18
Last week, at church during the sermon, one of the other pastor's shared something that he said would be cheesy but would be something we would undoubtedly remember when it came to renewing our minds. Boy was he right because it was a bit cheesy but, like he said, this cheesiness has stuck in my brain and has helped me.
I'll explain the gist of his cheese.
He said that every lie that comes into our minds needs to washed with the word of God and to illustrate this, he brought out a bar of soap and held it up. Pointing to the soap he said, "For every lie there is a lye. (soap, get it?)"
In other words, for every thought you have that is not of God, there is a word that will trump or supercede that negative thought or lie.
Let's say you were thinking something like this:
Lie: "Oh great, they brought in free food again. I am not going to be able to control myself if I am around all those pastries and bagels at work. I'll never get a handle on this food thing."
Lye: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
Did you see that? It is NOT TRUE that you cannot control yourself. That is a lie, a lie from the pit of hell and even though it may feel like you cannot control yourself, it does not mean it is true.
"Yah but it feels so real. I have been struggling with food for so long!"
I get it. Trust me I get it more than you know. Food has been an issue for me for a long time. But it is changing and I have found that real freedom with food is found in asking Jesus for help. In those moments when and if a negative thought comes into my brain, I speak the word, the word of God, over myself! God's word has so much power in it. In fact, it has ALL power.
In these moments, you are speaking with the authority of heaven. These are not words like, "go away negative food thought or I don't want to eat that." What you are saying when you speak God's word is FAR MORE POWERFUL than the thought because you are co-laboring with the one that wants to take the burden for you....JESUS. He died so you and I could live a life not controlled by food.
AND if speaking over the thought feels like it is not working then talk to or call a friend. Tell them what is going on. It is not weird. I do every now and again. (Although much less now.) Talking to someone you know takes the power of the lie away. I recommend that you call a friend that will give you God's word and truth to replace the lie. The lye for the lie. (Cheesy, I know, but I bet you'll remember it.)
This takes practice but this is where you find REAL victory and TRUE freedom. It may take a while for the feeling and the thoughts to go away but THEY WILL and eventually you will be walking in the freedom Christ paid such a radical price for.
This is why it is so vital to know what God says about us. If I know what he says about me, if this truth is hidden deep down into depths of my heart, then I will not be tossed around by the world's lies.
So my friend. I exhort you to get in your bible and get to know the character of God. Get to know WHO YOU REALLY are. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9
If you are being tormented by negative, fearful, anxious or worrisome thoughts then ask Jesus for the word that will supercede it. Ask him for the lye. The solution to your problem is in the bible.
I am doing this right along side you. It is the most important thing you and I will ever do. If you want things to change this is the way to do it. You have to FIRST CHANGE your thoughts and just like En Vogue sang, if you free your mind the rest will follow.
So, have fun with this because it is fun! I realize there may be pain in your life but there is freedom ahead. It is fun to realize that you are powerful and free. It is fun to experience your Saviour BEING your Saviour. It is wonderful to know what Jesus made available to us when he died on the cross for us. It is fun to know what God really thinks about you. So, let's be cheesy and wash our brains with lye and live the victorious life we were created for.
(Normally I post my artwork the brain washing artwork is not mine.)
OK, my friend, so I want you to do something for me today. I would like you to read the sentence below in blue.
If you could ask God for any gift, anything at all, what would it be?
Ok, now I want you to close your eyes for at least ten seconds and visualize that God is giving you this gift RIGHT NOW. I want you to go BIG here. Like really BIG. I want you to think about something that you really, really, really want. There are no limits here. God can give you anything! I want you to try and feel what it would feel like if you had this thing right now. What would it smell like? What would it taste like? (Maybe your thing doesn't have a smell or taste to it but hopefully you get my point.) I just want you to really try and imagine that God has given you this gift right now. OK?
Then, after you have closed your eyes and pictured yourself with this gift, I want you to open your eyes again and continue reading why I had you do this.
Are you ready?
(ten second pause.)
Welcome back. So, what did you picture? Was it a million dollars? Was it a brand new Tesla Model S? A new home? A baby? To be out of pain? A spouse?
Was it easy for you to imagine God giving you this gift? Did this visualization make you happy? Excited? What emotions and feelings came up for you? Did this exercise make you feel sad or dissappointed? Did it make you feel angry or ashamed.
Maybe you have wanted this thing for a long time and for some reason you have not seen it come into fruition yet and don't understand why. Maybe you wonder if you acutally will ever see this thing come true.
Whatever the case may be for you I want you to know that I had you do this for a reason. And this reason was not to make you sad, confused, angry or dissappointed. (If that is how it made you feel.) You see, I believe THAT THING, that gift you wish God would give you right now, is a God given desire. I also believe that God WANTS to give you this gift and that he WILL give you this gift someday in His timing! Because God is good, He knows what is best and he delights in giving us the desires of our heart!
AND to take this one step further I ALSO believe that the fact that you do not have this gift today, even though it may be hard, is in fact a wonderful gift, in and of itself, from a very generous and loving God that knows what is best for you.
I'l explain what I mean...
First off, because I love looking up the definition of words lets see what the word gift means.
gift: a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.
Did you catch that? A gift is given willingly, meaning that it is given by someone that wants to give it. Not because they have to give it to you or because you prompted them to give it to you or that you deserve it. They just want to give you something.
AND this gift is given without payment. It is given without expectation. So in other words, God wants to, like really wants to give you this gift and expects nothing in return. He wants to give it to you just because. Just because he loves you and he loves to see you smile.
OK, so then, if God wants me to have this gift and He really wants to give it to me then why do I not have it RIGHT NOW? Why have I been waiting so long? (If this is the case for you.) WHAT is stopping him and has stopped him from giving it to me?
Because he wants you to be able to truly accept that this gift is from him and he knows when you are TRULY ready for this gift-when your soul needs it. This is why I believe that NOT having this gift right now IS A GIFT and perhaps is an even BIGGER GIFT than the gift itself!
To illustrate what I mean by this, and hopefully hit my point home a bit deeper, I want to share the gift I imagined when I closed my eyes and did this exercise myself this morning.
When I closed my eyes I pictured my husband. Now, I need to tell you that I don't actually know what this man looks like. You see, I have never been married. I am not even dating anyone. So it is not like I actually saw a clear picture of a man's face. I just pictured the essence of my future husband and what it would feel like to see him, know him and be with him.
And this is no ordinary husband that I pictured. This is a handsome, strong, kind, smart, fun, honorable, God fearing and God loving man. I imagined that I was in a loving, beautiful and Christ centered relationship with this man, my best friend, and together, we were using our unique gifts and talents to happily glorify the Father and bring heaven here on earth.
It was great to visualize this and perhaps becaue I am both an artist and have pictured this many times before I was able to go pretty big, but I noticed that a number of things came up for me during this exercise. Things that have come up for me many times before.
First off, I opened my eyes and I was still single. In fact, I have been for the past 11 years. ELEVEN! Now I don't know about you I think this is a long time. A very long time. And actually, to be clear, it has been longer than 11 years because I am 40 and I have never been married or engaged. I have never even come close to being engaged but I say 11 years because this is how long I have not had a boyfriend and have been REALLY SINGLE.
Over the course of the past 11 years I have had many thoughts and feelings about the whole marriage thing. I have been scared of it. I wondered if it would ever actually happen for me. I have thought that I was incapable of being in a Christ centered marraige. I have experienced days of extreme lonliness. I have felt a deep ache in my heart for days yearning for a partner to share life with. I have been jealous of other people's marriages, especially well known christian couples.
I have also gone through periods where I have believed that I was meant to be single forever, thinking like Paul said, that this is a good thing. I have also felt total freedom and gratitude for being single. I have been really happy to NOT have to share a bed and to be able to be free to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. I have felt completely filled up and happy just being with Jesus and grateful for all the time I have had to pour into my relationship with him. Time that I would not have had if I were in a relationship and if I had a family to care for.
Throughout the past 11 years I have felt God speaking to me about my husband. I have felt that my hubby is going to be a very strong and powerful christian man and that we are going to be a team doing fun and creative things together with our giftings. I have felt him tell me that we are going to KNOW, right off the bat, that we were put together by God. I have felt that we were going to be very attracted to eachother mentally, physically and spiritually and that our life stories were going to overwhelm us at how crazy amazing it is how much we were meant to be together.
So because this marriage and relationship is NOTHING like I have ever experienced before and FAR better and more awesome than anything I could ever imagine, I have realized that I have a hard time accepting and BELIEVING that this will actually happen.
It just feels impossible. I mean how in the world am I going to be able to be in a relationship like this? How will I keep him interested in me? How am I going to find him? How will a man of this caliber actually want to be with ME and want to stay with ME? Won't I ruin it? I mean, I struggle with insecurity a lot of the time and don't you know who I am? I am just plain old simple Mandy.
Exactly and THIS is why I don't have the gift yet! This is why I say that not having the gift is a gift. Because God knows that what I really need is to KNOW and BELIEVE the word of God!!!
If I know the word of God, which I have been more and more everyday, then I would NEVER think that I am not good enough for a great man or that I would need to earn a man's love or that my desire for a husband means that I am obviously not ready because if I was I would not want a husband and be content with just having God. (All things I have believed.)
The truth is God gives me gifts because he loves me and he wants to blow my mind. Just like salvation!
What I love about God is that He cares MORE about what is on the inside of me than giving me the gift. He knows that having my mind bound to Christ and being in relationship with him is far more valuable than meeting a man. He also knows that I will end up sabotaging this gift and not fully able to receive it if my mind is not renewed with the word. So, He is a gentleman and waits to give me things. He knows the perfect timing of it all and He knows the TRUE gift is relationship with HIM!
I am a person that has a tendency to be really hard on myself. I have struggled knowing my self-worth but what I am learning more and more everyday, through the washing of God's word over my soul and brain, is that I really am a daughter of a King. That I am royalty. That I am a child of God. That I have been adopted into a heavenly family. That I don't have to earn God's gifts and love. That I don't have to be perfect for my husband. That my husband will love me BECAUSE I am fully and totally MANDY-with all my insecurities, faults, mistakes, fears, desires etc....just like God loves me.
I am not single because there is something fundamentally wrong with me. I am not single because God is mad at me or has forgotten about me. I am not single because I have not looked hard enough for a man. I am not single because I am not worthy, not perfect enough or not ready for a relationship. Its just because God has not given me this free and beautiful gift yet because it is not time. That's it. Period. Do you see this? Is this penetrating your soul? It's finally penetrating mine!
I can trust, surrender to it and have peace that this season of singleness is a gift. Period.
I am so grateful, that although there have been days that were hard and days I have doubted, I have mostly believed that this single season is a gift from God and have not wasted one single day of it. I have worked on my giftings. I have launched a business and built my own website. I have written and illustrated a number of books. But most of all I have spent time learning about God's word and spending time with him. I have grown spiritually and have healed more than I could ever express. I have hungered to know God's character. I have pursued this relationship above ALL things believing that IT is more important than marriage or anything else in this world.
So, even though I have so much more to share on this topic, I don't want this blog post to be too long, so I will close with this.
The most important thing you could ever do, the thing that will change your life, the only thing that will give you true freedom and happiness is to delight in the Lord, spend time in his presence and read his word. Just like the scripture verse says...Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Because even when you get the gift He will STILL be what your heart longs for. Your mind will still need to be renewed with the washing of his word and the most important thing you will do will be to spend time in his presence. Far above spending time with a husband.
At the same time, know that he wants to give you this gift and cannot wait for you to open it. He wants to make you smile and make you happy.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:1
Thank you Lord for all the gifts you give us. Thank you for the gift of singleness. Thank you for the gift of marriage. I praise you for all the time I have had with you and if you do give me the gift of marriage I pray I BELIEVE, with all my heart, that this is a FREE GIFT from you and I pray that I receive it everyday with gratitude, even if my husband drives me crazy, leaves his wet towels on the bathroom floor and if I ever find that I wish I were single again because I don't have as much alone time to spend with you.
God is the best gift giver and always knows just what we need.
Hi! Happy Monday, the day after Easter.
Do you know what the day after Easter means? Well, for lots of people it means the first day of the work week. For others it means a day off but for me, the day after Easter means that it is Monday and that means it is Mandy Monday, the day for me to upload a new blog post.
Starting a few months ago I decided to commit to writing a blog post each Monday no matter what. So here I am. But guess what? I have no idea what to write about. (Literally, I am writing this right now without having any clue what I am about to write.)
Saying I have no idea what to write about is not entirely true. I have about a bazillion topics in my brain that I want to write about. The problem is focusing on and picking just one and trusting that it is the RIGHT one.
Which brings me to a question I would like to ask myself. Mandy, darling, what constitutes the right one? I mean who says what the exact thing is that you are supposed to write about today? Is there a committee of blog people out there somewhere that are going to critique your post? Is God just waiting for you to get it right hoping you will end up writing the blog post he had in mind for you to write?
You see, writing a blog post is like life or death. Well, not really, but for me it is. Seriously, I need to lighten up, I know, but it is true. I care very much (probably too much) about what I put out into the world. I am always striving to make a difference because I see so much uneccessary hurt and pain in the world. (And I say uneccessary because I know that there is a solution to all of the world's hurts and pains.)
So, what should or could be fun, (like writing blogs) ends up being something that oftentimes stresses me out because of the heavy burden I sometimes feel in my heart.
For instance, this morning...
I have spent several hours so far this morning thinking of what I can write about that can inspire and help people. And I don't mean just any kind of help. I mean I want to put out information through my written words that will CHANGE PEOPLE'S LIVES.
I want to write blog posts that will kill depression, bring hope where there is none, completely heal people's hurts and wounds, make people whole again and restore marriages and broken relationships.
But I put a bit too much pressure on myself to come up with this killer, amazing and life changing blog post when perhaps it can be easier.
A lot easier.
Mandy, my dear, sweet, precious friend, just write something, anything, and relax, trusting that your energy, motivation and intention behind it is actually the most important thing. Then move on.
So what is my motivation. It is always to somehow, in an articulate way, share the good news about Jesus Christ and how the cross is the answer to everything in life.
His death and resurrection is the most glorious, crazy, radical, amazing thing in the universe and just thinking of it, knowing it, believing it personally to be true for you is the solution to every problem on this earth.
The cross and the name of Jesus Christ has within it everything you and I will ever need. I say this from experience over and over and over. Like TODAY as I see, yet again, that this good news is the answer to everything and the foundation on which I can then hear what the next step is for me to take.
So for today, as I lay here and write (I have to lay down to write because of my back) I am remembering that I don't have to figure out how to change the world and I don't have to put so much pressure on myself.
Sometimes there are days like today that I have no clear direction on what to write or where to go or what I am doing with my life.
But what I do know is that Jesus Christ is my King. I do know that He is my Saviour and I love him so much. He died for me and he wiped my slate clean taking all my sins upon himself and now because of him I get to have a close relationship with the Father.
So, just like yesterday, which was Easter, I am going to focus on that. It may not be Easter today but everday is a day to celebrate the resurrection because it is the answer to everything in life and because of that I have finally come to the end and have finished another Mandy Monday blog post. Aaaaah, I can breathe and move on.
My part is done. It's now His part to do the rest.
Do you ever feel like you struggle with food? Have you ever eaten more than you wanted to? Have you ever felt like you could not stop eating? If you are like me then you have answered yes to ALL of these questions at some point in your life and are not alone because there are thousands of people that are afflicted with food related issues all over the planet. I am also one of these people but guess what?!!! There is hope and there is freedom!
Perhaps you already know this about me but just in case you don't, I was severely bulimic for over 17 years! I nearly died but thankfully it has been 11 years since I have binged and purged my food and have been living a vibrant and beautiful life for a long time now. But this does not mean that I am still not susceptible to temptations when it comes to food but the difference now is I have someone I call upon and someone to help me through them. His name is Jesus.
When I was 29 (I am now 40) the bulimia had gotten so bad that I was literally binging and purging around the clock, unable to do anything else but that. It took a while for me to feel this way but eventually I wanted to break free from it's shackles more than anything else but when I visited a treatment center I lost all hope when I realized I did not have the money to afford the help. That was until I confided in a friend of my food struggles and found out about a FREE 12 step program for people with food addiction issues. I went to one of the meetings right away and because I was beyond desperate I joined the program immediately.
Thankfully, I stopped throwing up right away and after a few months I was amazed that I actually lost weight even though I was not exercising and was actually keeping all the food in my stomach..
Through this program I learned the importance of reaching out to people and asking for help in moments when I felt weak. I learned how to eat heathily, avoiding processed foods and anything with flour and sugar in it. I learned portion control and how vital it is to be of service to others and the most important thing I learned was that I needed to lean on a Higher Power. Thankfully I knew right away that the only real Higher Power there is, is Jesus.
For the entire ten years I was in the program I weighed out ALL of my food on a digital food scale. Every single bite. Before I retired for the night I wrote what I was going to eat the next day down in a notebook and would then call it into a sponsor every morning at 6:00 am on the dot, committing to her what I would eat that day. I also went to three mandatory meetings each week, called three people a day in the program to talk to about food related issues I may be having that day, ate my three weighed and measured meals at certain restricted meal times, did not eat ANYTHING AT ALL in between meal times, drank only water, never chewed gum, ate absolutely NO FLOUR or SUGAR, read recovery approved literature every night and morning and a plethora of additional things. The program assured me that I would never go back to bulimia if I followed all of these rules perfectly everyday.
Being a perfectionist this long list of rules worked for me. For a while. For ten years to be exact. Until I knew it was time to go. Actually, I never thought I would leave. I was not looking to leave. But to my surprise I am no longer in that program anymore and, since November of 2015, have been walking out the road of recovering from the 12 step food recovery program I was in and learning to trust God and my body every day.
So, how is it going?
To start, I have not thrown up. Not once! Now, this is a miracle because I was told for ten years that I would undoubtedly go back to bulimia if I left and not only that but I would end up being way worse than before. This intense fear kept me in the program for the whole ten years. In fact, I fully believed and declared a number of times that I would remain in the program for the rest of my life. Heck, I was grateful to do so considering the consequences of leaving. But, the prophecy of terror and torment that was spoken over me if I left has not come true. Not at all.
It took a year to do so but I have eaten flour a couple times since I left and what I was told would happen if I did eat it did not happen. I was not face down in the food after eating a flour product and I was not unable to control myself. In fact, it was tasty but not as great as I had thought it would be. Since then I have no real desire to eat any flour produts especially since I know it's not the healthiest choice for me. But it is really cool to know that I don't have to be afraid of them and that I can have themif and when I want to.
I have also eaten things with sugar in them. Now you have to understand that, for ten years, I had NO SUGAR at all. NO candy, pastries, donuts, chocolate, soda, juice, crackers, bagels, pizza, jam, cookies, peanut butter.....the list goes on and on. I would not even have a salad dressing if there was any sugar in it, even if it was the tenth ingredient way down on the list. I was frankly afraid of eating anything with sugar in it for fear I would, again, be what they called, face down in the food. But, just like the flour experience, after about a year of being out of the program, I had a piece of chocolate and did not fall face down into a pit of pastries like they said I would. I ate the chocolate. It was good. I moved on and have not had a craving since.
Now, I know I can eat sugary products and do not have to be afraid of them. I just choose not to because I know it is not healthy.
I didn;t just plunge right in and eat all kinds of flour and sugar stuff when I left. I waited and asked God when the timing was right and if it was OK to eat the chocolate and the flour product. I got the peace from Him before I did so and honestly, I think he was encouraging me to do so long before I did. But like the gentleman he is, he was patient with me.
I choose now not to eat sugary and flour filled foods because I want to be of maximum capacity to be available to whatever God wants me to do and eating crap makes me feel sluggish and poopy. So, even though I am human and may want to taste a donut from time to time and dive into a big cake I don't becasue I know where it would take me and to be quite honest I don't really want to. But I also know that, just like what happened on New Year's Eve, when I had a little pastry for dessert, it is perfectly OK to take a treat here and there if I really want one and if I really feel it is OK with God to do so. What I mean by OK with God is that I ask Him and check in with Him to see I am filled up with Him and focused on Him and not on fleshly earthly things that may pull me down into a pit of food if I am not discerning of what spiritual state I am in.
It took me a year to stop weighing everything on a scale too. I felt God encouraging me to stop this as well and it took me longer than it probably should have but I have not weighed my food for a long time now and it is going well as I find my way each day.
I also have not weighed my body since I left. For ten years I was told to get on a body scale every Friday and report my weight to my sponsor. She was in charge of not only my food but my weight. I hated weighing myself every Friday and am so relieved to not have a clue what I weigh now. My clothes fit and I think I look healthy. I don't care what I weigh. It is just a number. Now if I were to put on a lot of weight then I would want to take it off because I think it is unhealthy to carry a lot of weight and is usually a sign of a deeper problem that can be worked out and freed with Jesus.
Has it been easy since I left?
Yes and no. The amount of panic attacks and intense mental torture I went through for the first few months away from the program was pretty intense. It is worth it now that I am where I am today but it was hard for a little while in the beginning. Now, you have to understand. This program was like a cult. When you have been brain washed for ten straight years that you are a FOOD ADDICT, that you can NEVER leave the program, that you are INCAPALBE of eating like a normal person, that you have BRAIN DAMAGE and will NEVER, EVER, EVER recover it takes A LOT to TIME to change that thinking. Therefore, I would wake up in the middle of the night all by myself in my room with these horrible thoughts that would be so overwhelming, powerful and scary that the only thing that would take them away was to call upon the name of Jesus. Thank God for this because I used to rely too heavily on other things and on people when it was Jesus that I needed all along. And guess what? He came everytime.
Now this is not to say that Jesus does not come in the form of people sometimes. I believe he can and there are moments that I just need an actual person to talk to. For instance, there were a few times that the thoughts were so bad that I had to call friends to walk me through it. "Are you sure I am not going to go back to throwing up? Am I really going to be OK?" Yes! They would assure me. Thankfully I had friends that had also left the program and were walking the same path as me.
Most people that leave the program are not able to push through this torment and the temptations to eat and end up going back to the program. A lot of people do end up face down in the food and gain weight. This then causes unecessary shame. Sometimes people walk back into the program with that shame while others live outside it with it. I understand that. I know why.
I believe the program gives you a counterfeit of the real truth and disguises you with a fake freedom that seems very similar to the real freedom people can have when walking out a close and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. The real freedom Jesus went to the cross for. I believe the program progrmas your brain to believe you are a food addict and are never going to eat normal again, thus making it almost impossible to leave it and be "successful"
But here is where I get to call it on it's bluff!!! It is all a lie. A big fat lie and why it is lying is beause it does not want ANYONE to be free! It does not want you to know about Jesus and the freedom He paid such a high price for. For you! The program wants to make you coo coo running around doing all this crazy stuff.
Case in point, the thoughts that raced in my mind when I initially left were so intense that I did go back after a few months. But, I knew I had to walk into a meeting and face it to see, one last time if I really did need to go back or if I was indeed truly free.
What happened? I went to a meeting. I am so glad I had the courage to face it. I went in with the Holy Spirit as my guide and knew He would show me what the truth was, even though it felt like I was walking into the lion's den.
I liked seeing all the people. You become like family and it hurt that these people that I used to see and spend all my time with would no longer talk to me or call me anymore because I was not part of the group anymore. I missed connecting with people and was lonely. I craved community and friendship again. But I knew I could not call myself a food addict out loud when it came up to that part of the meeting and after a couple days I never went back and have not been back since.
When I got home I got on my knees and prayed and asked God for a new community, new friends, ones that truly and wholeheartedly walked their lives out with Jesus.
Well, guess what?! He gave me all of that and more. He has replaced everything I had and everything I did not have with the truth and with the real deal now. I am no longer walking in a counterfeit. I am surrounded by people that live by the word. I am surrounded by love and encouragment, truth and community! I am so grateful.
A few months into my new life out of the program, I had a moment alone with Jesus one night through one of the intense panic moments when he assured me with the word. He said that I had not been given a spirit of fear but one of power, love and of sound mind. I felt those words wash over me. I declared them over myself even though I did not yet truly believe them yet. I wanted to believe them. But the program had programmed my mind for so long. So, I just kept praying these words over myself and declaring them over myself and singing them over myself, until eventually I was walking in them and because of this I knew I could not call myself a food addict ever again. I knew I could not join that group ever again.
Now, I am in no way telling anyone to leave this program if they don't want to or don't feel ready to. It is too much to do alone and it would have been too much for me too if I did not have the relationship I had developed with Jesus to pull me through. I do not believe anyone can walk in true freedom without Him.
Thankfully over the course of the ten years I was in the program I was developing and hungry for a relationship and deeper understanding of Jesus and the word and when I finally realized that it was HIM and not the PROGRAM that kept me away from the shackles of bulimia I knew it was time to let go of the "SAFETY NET" of the program and take the hand of my Savior to trust that HE and HE alone would walk with me day by day, minute by minute. I knew this would require a lot more obedience and an even deeper relationship but I wanted that more than I wanted to supposed safety I felt in the program.
Now this brings me to today....
I burn with a desire to see others set free too. A lot of people I know and love are still in this program. I see the lies in thier minds. I see it because I used to live it.
I feel so inadequate and incapable of effecting such a HUGE change as to free them all from it's counterfeit freedom plus there are days like today that I think most people in the program would rather not experience. I think they would rather have the saftey of their scale and their meetings and their regimen than to go through the things that come your way when you are out of the program. But there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain.
Today, I woke up with horrible period cramps. This is a miracle in an of itself because for the whole ten years I was in the program I did not have a period. I got it back about a year after I left.
Because of the cramps, I was not feeling well and therefore did not get up at 6:00 am to do the normal exercise routine I do with my roommate three times a week. I was also very tired. I woke up way earlier than my alarm and was not able to go back to sleep. So the combination of period cramps and feeling tired makes me want to eat. So, even though I was not super hungry, I headed to the kitchen to eat breakfast. I love breakfast. It comforts me and that is OK.
I ate my breakfast and started to read the bible but I was tired so it was just not feeling too great. So, after breakfast I started in on finishing a resume and cover letter that I was putting together to send off for a position that I am really hoping I get. This position feels way out of my leauge but it is something I know I am capable of, especially if I walk it out with Jesus and let Him carry me through each day and I am going for it. It is a scary thing and I am walking through new territory and uncomfortable unknowns, all things that make me want to just sit in front of some food and eat.
So, after I finished the resume and cover letter and had a friend look it over, I sent it and laid down to take a little nap considering I was really tired. I also wanted to sleep because I wanted to eat more. Not because I was hungry. I wanted to eat just because I love food. But I knew I did not really need to eat. I also knew that it would not be a big deal if I did because what I eat now is really good for me. Like I said I have learned to eat very heathily but I knew THIS TIME that I was just bored and uncomfortable. So I slept for a bit. Then I awoke around 10:30 am and because I am used to eating a mid morning snack I did. It was a little plate of salmon, brussel sprouts and brown rice. Yummy. But then I wanted more.
But I knew I didn't really want more. I then had the thought, Oh no! Do I need to go back to FA?! NO! NO! NO!. Why? To declare myself a food addict and let a person run my life and have people constantly telling me that I cannot trust myself and that I will never recover? NO way!
I knew that there was something wanting to pull me down. Satan was on my tail wanting to have me preoccupied with food and he did not want me to push through hard things like exercising even though I don't want to and period cramps and pursuing a career that I feel I am incapable of but that I am going to have faith and apply for anyway.
I want to live the FULL life I was created to live. Satan wants me to be weighed down by food and rules and regulations and fears. Jesus se t me free and went to the cross and paid the price for my sin so I don't have to be tempted and give in to it. This does not mean that temptations will not come. I will be tempted by food all the time, especially in high stress situations but I am not controlled by the sinful nature. I am controlled by the Spirit of the Living God because I belong to Christ and He is my Savior. So instead of eating more, I called upon the name of Jesus and began reading Romans 8 9-17. I then started to write this blog post to remember who I am, who's I am, what Jesus has done for me and I get to walk in His victory once again.
In some ways I would say it is harder to be out of the program but I would not trade it for the world because I have grown more in the past few years since being out than I can express. It requires that I call upon the Holy Spirit every moment of the day, something I want to do but am not perfect at. And for the moments when I eat a little too much I do not condemn myself or feel overcome by shame and guilt. I give it to my Savior. I run to Him again and feel His loving embrace even more.
Through all of this, I have felt the love of God more than I ever have in ways I cannot feel when I am stressed out by all the rules and regulations I used to have to live by.
And the interesting thing is that through this deeper revelation of love I have found more clarity in my purpose and as a result find that food is becoming less and less of an issue. On top of that I also find that because I am walking through trusting my body's signals, not perfectly, I am, day by day, trusting myself more and more. I grow each day. I feel more free everyday and on the days that feel hard I know I can always run to Him.
I am grateful for it all. I am grateful I was in the program for as long as I was. I am grateful He showed me that I can walk by the Spirit and be free in Him. I am grateful that he works all things together for my good and I am grateful that there is a BIGGER plan here, far bigger than I can imagine. I am just a tiny part of this but I will live my life serving the one who set me free, free indeed. Ame and praise his holy name.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
How is your thought life? Have you ever paid attention to what you are thinking from minute to minute? For a long time I did not pay attention to my thoughts. I mean, I didn't even know it was something I could or should do.
But let me tell you from experience that this is the most important thing you could ever do for yourself. AND I MEAN THE MOST IMPORTANT.
Let me explain.
About seven years ago I got laid off from a job. I was laid off because I had just developed this excruciating back pain and was unable to work. Overnight my life changed and there I was, unemployed, hardly any money in the bank, all alone in my studio, laid up in bed in paid and with a whole lot of time on my hands.
Looking back I am so grateful that, by this point I was learning how to be grateful and trust God in all things so instead of freaking out (which I did a little of) I chose to look at this situation as though it was very good. Well I was right because it was. Really good.
Quickly, I realized I had a new job and my new job was to pay attention to what I was thinking about ALL DAY. And boy oh boy let me tell you that this was the best thing that I could have ever done because this is where my life really started to change.
Now when you have nothing and I mean NOTHING else to do ALL day but to just pay attention to your thoughts the day can feel like it is 56 hours long. But I did not have anything else to do plus I could not move from the pain so I just settled into what was and just started paying close attention to all the thoughts that came to my mind asking God to help me with them.
Most of my thoughts were pretty darn negative. Yuck! I noticed that I did not expect the best. I thought God was always disappointed in me and thought everyone around me did not like me.
Basically, I quickly realized how much I needed to change my thinking.
I put post it notes all around the house to remind me to think differently. Thankfully I knew I needed to replace my thoughts with Godly thoughts so I also began listening to sermon after sermon and read book after book all about Jesus.
Now fast forwad to four years ago...
I was at a church service in Folsom, CA where I used to live and the Pastor was preaching a sermon about the scripture verse Philippians 4:8. If you are not familiar with this verse here it is:
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
At the beginning of the pastor's sermon he gave us all an acronym that he said he had made up for the verse so he could remember it.
The acronym is THRPLGR (pronounced Thur-pull-gher). Each letter stood for one of the things we are told in this scripture verse to think on. The T is for truth, the H is for honorable, the R is for right...and so on and so forth.
It was a great church service and I was so moved by his sermon that I ran straight home afterward and wrote a poem. Well, its now been four years since then and I have been renewing my mind with the word of God ever since. And how is it going for me? Beyond what I can express but there are still days that my thinking is poopy. Today happened to be one of them.
And do you want to know the cool thing? Just when my thoughts were kind of wordly and anxious, I ran across this poem TODAY as I was moving all my files into my newly installed google drive. I had totally forgotten that I had written it. So because it blessed me I thought I would share it with you. I hope it encourages you and I pray you begin or continue on with the process of renewing your mind so you too can live the most amazing life here on earth you possibly can.
by Mandy Rita Tardif
I have something neat to tell you
Listen close and pay attention.
It’s about the fantastic THRPLGR,
And it’s magical protection.
The THRPLGR came to this earth
On the eighteenth of July.
Actually that’s not really true,
But it is also not a lie.
The THRPLGR is always happy
It thinks good things and sings a lot.
It helps us when those critters called,
The should ofs start to start.
What are the should ofs did you ask?
Well, I’ll tell you if I must.
The should ofs are those nasty
thoughts you really cannot trust.
They whisper things in your ear like
You should do this or that.
Even if the best thing for you is,
to lie down and take a nap.
They tell you that you should
be as pretty as a your friend Kate.
After which they whisper in your ear,
You really should lose some weight.
A should of thought can sound
Like the truth at times, it’s tricky.
So, it’s best to consult the word of God
if your thoughts are a little sticky.
Each letter in its crazy name
Represents a word that we can replace
The yucky thoughts that come to us
And make our poor minds race.
The T stands for the truth
Because it’s important that we see.
The truth in who we really are
A child of God, loved and free.
The H is for a big ole word
A word as honest as its name.
The H word is honorable
Think on things that mean the same.
The R is for the word right which means
what is proper, just, and true.
The letter P is for the word pure
Try to live out this word in all you do.
The letter L is for lovely
A word as gorgeous as its name
Think lovely thoughts like rainbows,
Kittens and flowers in spring rain.
The last two letters go together
They are the G and the R.
They stand for Good Reputation
In life, these words will take you far.
Now its time to sum it all up
in a couple words or less
We have learned the importance of
thinking on things that are the best.
So, if you should find your mind
Is in a bit of a nasty pickle.
Remember the anacronym THRPLGR
Surely your mind will start to tickle.
Joy will soon flow into your heart
With roaring laughter and with love.
And do not listen to those should ofs anymore.
Think on lovely things from God above.
What are you passionate about? What gets YOU out of bed in the morning, excited to start the day? Is it spending time with your children? Are you passionate about your job? A sports team? Is it your morning cup of coffee?
If you are like me then you have seen a bazillion blogs and posts about "Finding your Passion." They are all over the internet and in bookstores promising, through a few "simple steps", to help you find that thing that will get you up in the morning excited and enthusiastic about your life.
"Just revisit your childhood and think about what you loved to do back then", they will say. Well, what if you liked making mud pies? Is that what you are supposed to spend your time doing? And what if you are the type of person that is just not very passionate about anything? Is something wrong with you?
Now, I am going to say something right now that may seem a bit presumptious. But it is something I KNOW is true for not only YOU but for ME and for anyone and everyone in the whole world.
I KNOW what you are passionate about. Yep, you! I KNOW what makes your heart burn with desire and I KNOW what makes you happy.
What is it?
Well, I cannot tell you just yet. But I will. in a moment. I promise.
Over the years, I have been passionate about many things. As you may have guessed, I started out with a passion for art. It began at the age of three. All I wanted to do was color with my crayons. But, soon this passion changed and when I was 12 years old, I was, instead, infatuated with singing. I would come home every day after school and sing into a hairbrush pretending I was Whitney Houston. I constantly dreamed of preforming on Star Search one day and was a fanatic about Mariah Carey and Sarah Brightman. Then at 15 years old, my passion changed again and I became intensely fervent about a boy named Derek Eastman. Thinking of him completely consumed my thoughts. I felt special and important when he finally asked me to be his girlfriend. But then when we broke up I was lost. Therefore, I lost my passion again and then became obsessed with running. Later on, in my twenties, my passion changed again and I became fixated on being thin to the point of developing multiple addictions to bulimia, alcohol and drugs.
Are you seeing the pattern? Basically my point in sharing all of that is that my passions changed. Now you may say this is normal. Maybe you even relate. Maybe you don't. Passions change with age. It is just the way of life. Right?
Well, no matter what your experience is I want to exhort you to think about something.
What if, TODAY, you found your PASSION? What if you found that ONE thing that is so amazing and so extremely life giving that it literally makes you excited to get out of bed each day NO MATTER what. And what if this PASSION never changed. NO matter if it is a grey and rainy day, NO matter if your boyfriend or wife has left you or if your Mom has passed away. No matter if there is no money in the bank. No matter if you are in pain or lonely.
What if it were possible to be passionate, happy and full of joy from this day on for the rest of your life no matter what?
Do you think that is possible?
And, I KNOW it to be true because I have found it!!!!! And oh my goodness, it was a LONG road to get here but that is perfectly OK because I am here now and I NEVER have to go anywhere else. I never have to change my passion. I never have to worry or fear or dread pain or loss. I can be full of passion always.
And the great news is that my passion is the SAME EXACT PASSION that burns in your heart too.
What do I mean?
Like I said, over the course of my life, I have been passionate about a number of things. Boys, being thin, art, face and body painting, alcohol, drugs, FA ...but it was not until I became passionate about Jesus, truly passionate about Jesus, that I found my REAL TRUE PASSION.
Now, at this point perhaps you are rolling your eyes. Hey I get it. I am just one more of those crazy Christians that talks about, blogs about and sings about, Jesus, the way the truth and the life.
Please, though, please know that I am only writing this because I KNOW what I say is true. It is more amazing than you could ever imagine.
Heck, there are many more things I could be doing with my time right now than writing this blog post. Writing this has taken a significant amount of my time this morning when I could be doing something like drawing or singing or running (things I still love.)
But nope, even though I am passionate about art and music and running, I am way more crazy passionate about Jesus and have been so radically changed by the REAL love that is available in following and loving Him that I cannot help but to spend my time passionately writing this blog so, perhaps, one person, maybe you, can, too, be changed in the radical way I have.
Why would I want to do this? Because there are no words to describe when you find WHY you were created and WHY you are alive. This passion in Jesus, this overwhelming love, LEADS you to more PASSION.....YOUR UNIQUE PASSION!
So am I saying that you now have to figure out how to become more passionate about Jesus. No and yes.
Striving to be passionate about Jesus is not the point. The point is He first loved us! Feeling like we HAVE to be passionate for Jesus would be passionless. Jesus wants you to truly and honestly be passionate about Him. He is no fool. He does not like fake people or fake adoration. In fact, He hates it.
So, how do you get this passion?
The same why I have.
Ask for it. Honestly and humbly ask for it. Let him love you. Spend time with him. Talk to him. Let him teach you his ways. Read his word.
It truly is everything.
I used to wander to and fro. I used to be a flimsy reed in the wind. But now I am a sturdy oak tree firmly planted in the all consuming love of the Saviour that burns twenty four hours a day for our whole hearts.
It is a love that cannot be comprehended and when you have been changed by it nothing will ever be the same.
This is good news my friend.
Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the scriptures: "Passion for God's house will consume me." John 2:17
I pray you are filled with a holy passion today and that your life is never the same agian. And guess what? When you are ravished by his love and He has your whole heart you then find out WHY you were made and WHAT YOUR unique purpose is. AND I guarnatee you will leap out of bed each day roaring with passion to do that thing that he has made you for!
I KNOW IT BECAUSE I AM LIVING IT and if I can FIND THIS than ANYONE can!
Be encouraged and blessed my friend.
Several years ago I created a video on my YouTube channel. It's called "Cool Cool Whip Art, The Emotional Porcupine".
To expand my creativity, I started this fun drawing project I called "Cool Cool Whip Art."
For this project, I took two empty Cool Whip containers and filled them with words. I filled one container with nouns and one container with adjectives. I then closed my eyes and pulled out one word from each container. Then with the words I had chosen I then challenged myself to come up with a drawing right then and there.
So, one day, all alone in my bedroom in front of a video camera, I picked the words emotional and porcupine. "Wow!" I thought. "How in the world am I going to draw an emotional porcupine? In front of a camera no less?"
I sat and thought about it for a while. "Hmmmmm, what would make me emotional if I were a porcupine?"
It took a few minutes to come up with something I felt would really convey the feeling of emotion in a prickly animal but when I had it I put pencil to paper and started sketching.
The Emotional Porcupine was born.
Now, before you go any further I highly suggest you watch the story of The Emotional Porcupine here to get the most out of the rest of this blog post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPhDRupmkcw&t=7s
So what do you think about what you just saw? Well, let me just tell you that I had no idea how powerful this particular little video and drawing would be when I was drawing it. In fact, I actually thought it was a stupid project and the fact that hardly anyone liked my Emotional Porcupine You Tube video made me think I was right.
But despite the harsh and mean inner critic, I have kept my video up on You Tube all these years for the world to see because there was just something about this story that I liked.
Now fast forward to just a week ago.
I was with some friends at an all weekend long LIFE CHANGE EVENT at my church, The Father's House. It was an amazing event and weekend and, well, life changing.
Afterwards we sat and ate some lunch together. We were sharing about the new levels and depths of freedom and peace we had just received.
After lunch, I pulled out my phone and showed one of my friends my Emotional Porcupine video. I am not quite sure what compelled me to show her this video just then but looking back, I now know the Holy Spirit wanted to show me and her something that day.
She had never seen any of my videos before. In fact, she had no idea I had created my own web site and made videos and did all the countless amount of things that I do. (It's a wonder I sleep.)
I did not have a clue how much this video was going to touch her. You see, she has a child with some very difficult challenges. Her child is special, requires a lot of work and energy and it has been especially hard for my friend since she is a single Mom. Interestingly enough and unbeknownst to me, this child loves balloons. Apparently, she loves to hold them and let them go. It gives her great joy and peace.
After my friend was done watching the story of the Emotional Porcupine she asked me if she could please buy the images as prints to frame and put up in her home. I was like, "What?!!! You want to BUY these prints? Like you really want them?"
"Yes!, I do!" She replied.
I could not believe she actually wanted a copy of my little green porcupine! For years these drawings sat in a bin. A bin FILLED with artwork I have created but the world has never seen. But the images spoke something to my friend's heart. Something about her daughter. What was this something? It was HOPE!
Then to top it off, that next morning another friend texted me something that really rocked my world. I had sent her a picture of a different piece of artwork I had done that morning. Not really expecting a reply, she sent me a text back saying something that really confused me. The text read as follows: "Mandy God shows you how much He loves you through your art. Not everybody has that." I was like WHAT?! What does she mean? No, my art is FOR people. It's not FOR ME. IN fact, most of the time I look at my art and critique it never thinking it is any good. What is going on here?! I actually felt a little angry by her response. Just being honest.
And then God spoke to my heart....
"Mandy, I do speak my love to you though the art you create. That is part of what it is for.
Mandy, my sweet, you are that porcupine! My dear daughter, you have been making lemonade out of lemons for a long time. You were making lemons out of lemonade when you made that porcupine video in your room. You were in so much pain but you didn't let that stop you. You had a headfull of insecurity and doubt but you put it out there anyway. You did not have people to help you and the money to buy equipment yet you used what you had in front of you. You educated yourself. You were so resourceful. You pushed through. You were in pain but you brought me into it. You prayed to me and I was with you. I am always with you. Even though you were going through so much turmoil, you thanked me for it all. You praised and thanked me during your times of great pain and sorrow. Even when you doubted. Even when you felt like you were not doing enough. You were.
You rose above dear one and as a result you are going to help many others know they are that porcupine too. That they too can rise above any circumstance. You are going to show them that, in life, you will always have troubles, but to focus on me and together we can make lemonade out of lemons.
Mandy, I gave you this talent to create art. It is for you to glorify me. It is also for you to inspire people and bring them hope AND, dear child, it is absolutely for YOU too!.
I am so proud of you. You took the talents I gave you and you multiplied them. Now I get ready for more blessings. Beyond your wildest imagination."
I was in tears! I couldn't believe it. I wish I could articulate just how amazing this realization was. I wish I could tell you how much hope and confidence and love and peace and direction this moment breathed into me.
I have been so hard on myself thinking I have been getting nowhere with my art and my life, wondering what I was doing wrong and why I was not a successful artist but that day, I realized I was successful. Truly successful. I did not let my circumstances crush me. The fact that I keep getting up is enough.
With Him by my side, I have done what seemed impossible. I rose above my circumstances. I keep rising above my circumstances, everyday. I still have challenges. Everything was and can still feel so against me succeeding as an artist. EVERYTHING! But I keep sticking marshmallows on my quills and I keep moving forward.
AND here I am today.
And I am not stopping...no matter what.
So, no matter what you are facing. Don't give up. Don't give in. Look for a way out and above your circumstance. Sometimes this may mean that it's best to sit and wait and NOT take a drink or NOT self-medicate with some kind of substance. Sit with the pain. Let yourself feel it. Journal it out. Let yourself go through the discomfort. Reach out for help. Pray. Talk. Be real. Take your problems to God and speak truth over yourself. He is an ever present help in times of trouble. It is though these times that we grow the most when we face it head on.
AND it prepares us to be able to steward and carry the great plans God has for us.
Whatever you are going through I just want you to know that you have a choice. You have power. You are capable. Everything you need is within you. Everything you need to break free. You can do anything through Him that gives you strength. It takes time to see big changes but it's the small changes that matter each day.
So dear one, know that whatever you are facing today will pass. You will rise above it. You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Now, go buy some marshmallows and celebrate!
To purchase prints of The Emotional Porcupine click here: http://www.mandysartandsoul.com/store/p31/Emotional_Porcupine_%28Sadness_%26_Happiness%29_Print_Set_.html
Watch the making of The Emotional porcupine
On March 1, 2017 I started the #30daysofbiblelettering project with thousands of other artists across the globe. This 30 day plan is the 4th plan so far and was started by a world renowned hand lettering artist that goes by the name @stefankunz on Instagram.
The project is about hand lettering one bible verse every day for 30 consecutive days in any style you enjoy. Every artist hand letters the same bible verse each day following the 30 day plan that can be found on: http://30daysofbiblelettering.com/
I am having fun participating and it is so neat to see all the different versions people come up with.
I have never done anything like this and was hopeful that I would actually follow through until the end. Well. so far so good and since March 1 have created a work of art each day. I am now on day, and lucky, number 13. (Head to my Instagram page to see all 13 so far and if you are reading this after March 13, there are more to see.)
At first I started hand lettering each verse but then as each day progressed I started to find a style that fit more in line with what I really LOVE to do...which is to use a combination of drawing by hand, lots of color, creating coloring pages AND using Photoshop.
Basically I am finally using the Graphic Design degree I acquired 20 years ago. (I guess it's never too late.)
COming Up with the idea
Today's (Day 13) verse is Psalm 119:130 and I thought it would be fun to show you the process of HOW I came up with the final piece.
So, are you ready? Let's get started...
Sketching it out
The first thing I do each day is read the verse in the bible and then meditate on it for a while asking the Holy Spirit for inspiration on how to bring the verse to life.
When I am done praying I start sketching a number of different versions. I will commonly look on Instagram and google images for inspiration and when I feel I finally have something I like I will start sketching it up in greater detail.
For this particular verse I was initially thinking "lightbulb" but then felt more drawn to a candle to depict the light instead. I am glad I went in that direction.
Sketching out the artwork
After sketching out a couple versions of a candle in pencil and getting it to where I liked it I then traced over the sketch to ink it using Staedtler Markers.
For this step I took the penciled sketch and placed it on my glass drafting table. (sample picture from google images of my glass desk pictured below on the left.)
I then place a nice sturdy piece of watercolor paper on top of the penciled sketch and place a small desktop lamp in the back of the glass desktop to light up the lines so I can see them and ink the drawing better.
Basically, with the small lamp in the back of my glass desk top, I am making my own "light table". (sample picture from google images of a normal light table pictured below on the right.)
Scanning it in and adding font
Next, I scanned in the candle I had just drawn and brought that sketch into Photoshop. I used the "levels" tool to give it more contrast, making the whites whiter and the blacks blacker.
I then started to add the words of the bible verse one by one. The #30daysofbiblelettering project is supposed to be all about hand lettering, which I did for the first few days, but instead of hand lettering the words for today's verse, I chose to add them in Photoshop.
I am not a rebel. It is a personal preference. I like how crisp and clear the words look by adding them in this way.
Adding color using photoshop
Once I liked where everything was positioned I then started adding the color in. I used the gradient tool a lot for this piece. I wanted to achieve a warm feel to it, hence the yellow, reddish and maroon tones. I think I did a good job. I also wanted to make sure the word light and the candle looked as if it were glowing. I think I did pretty good here too.
Creating the coloring page
After the coloring part was done I then took the orginal black and white piece and made sure I saved it to make into a coloring page. I then saved the colored piece and brought both versions into a new file adding the stock photo of some colored pencils in at the bottom.
I do this for all my hand drawn coloring pages. I like the way this looks because I think it gives the viewers a feel for what the finished colored project could look like.
Uploading to Social Media
After everything was finished and done to my liking I then created another image to upload onto my social media sites. I made sure that when I posted it I added all the pertinent hashtags and links to catch the attention of anyone that may be looking for coloring pages.
I then called Weebly, the company that hosts my website to ask how I make a "free" downloadable coloring page file available to my fans.
I create and maintain every aspect of my website so I am always calling Weebly with questions. They know me by now. :-)
A nice lady directed me on how to do it and wah-la, you will find YOUR FREE coloring page file below. It is called "unfolding of words". Just click on it and save it to your computer. Then print it out and color away!
Free coloring page download
But wait! There's more. I want to see what you did. SO, when you are done coloring in your page please take a picture of it and send it to me at email@example.com.
I will upload them to my "Coloring Gallery". (It is a little bare right now.) :-)
...And then I did some groceries and went for a walk.
Motivated by the radical love of Jesus, I create beautiful works of art and passionately share my testimony to free people all across the earth to also fully and completely live the life they were uniquely created for.
I blog about things that I experiene and hope will motivate, guide and inspire you toward greater creativity, fulfillment, peace, and joy in your everyday life.