"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."
1 Thessalonians 4:13
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior:” Isaiah 43:2-3a
Not only have I heard this passage read but have also read it many times. Little did I know that on July 11, 1993, my family and I would go through one of the most difficult trials in our lives. We needed this reminder that the LORD was going through this trial with us. It is so easy to focus on the trial and allow it to suffocate you and those around you. When we focus on the LORD instead of the trial, we may not understand the “why”, but He gives us the strength to endure it.
I had just started my eighth month of pregnancy. The LORD had already blessed us with two beautiful little girls, 10 and 8 years of age. We were all excited and waiting for this precious little one to arrive. I hadn’t been feeling that great the week before, but I had seen the obstetrician that week and he said all was fine.
On that morning, I was getting ready for church and feeling strange. I just pushed it aside thinking that I would feel better in a little bit. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better but worse. While at church my mother suggested that I go to the hospital, so after calling the doctor, my husband and I left.
After we arrived and were put in a birthing room, my husband and I joked about this little one wanting to come early. The nurse placed the fetal monitor on me, and we could hear our precious baby’s heartbeat. As she had me turn to my side, our baby’s heartbeat was gone, and she could not find it again. When the doctor came in, he told me that I had to have an emergency c-section! They rushed me to the operating room and prepared to put me under. Throughout this time, I was nervous and scared, but the LORD brought to my mind some of His precious words. As I was being wheeled to the operating room, I was quoting Psalm 23 verse 4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” and Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”. As I closed my eyes from the anesthesia, I whispered to the LORD, “Your will be done!”. I prayed that our baby would be okay.
As I look back now, the LORD was there with me in that operating room and with my family in the waiting room. He never left any of us. He had me focus on Him and because of that, He gave a peace as I went under. I learned after coming out of the anesthesia, that we had another little girl, but she was in the presence of her Savior. Gabriella Joy Armstrong weighed 4 pounds 2 ounces and was 17 1/2 inches long. She had black hair and a lot of it! As my husband brought her in to me and placed her in my arms, I marveled at how much she looked like our other girls and how perfect she looked, but at the same time I felt such a heart of brokenness and saw that same brokenness on my husband’s face.
The LORD was there the whole time, comforting all of our hearts. Emotionally, I was doing well at first, but as time went on, I started thinking of all the circumstances around her birth and became angry with the negligence of the doctors. I started to take the focus off my LORD and put the focus on my pain instead. That’s a dangerous place to be as it gives room for the devil to plant his lies in your mind.
I am so glad we have such a patient, compassionate Heavenly Father. A few years earlier we had started a support group, His Loving Arms, in our church for parents that had children who died either through miscarriage, stillbirth, early infant death and even abortion. We had already had two miscarriages ourselves, and I thought it would help others that had gone through the same thing. After Gabriella was born, every time we had to tell her story in the group, the pain became even more unbearable. I thought I had released Gabriella to the LORD, and maybe I did do that to a point, but I think there was a part of me that didn’t completely. It was as if I was holding onto her little fingertips. I just didn’t want to let her go.
As we thought about her memorial stone for her grave, we wanted something else on it along with her name that would give hope to people when they saw it. We had decided on the fact that even though our baby’s body was in that ground, we had the HOPE that she was safe in Jesus’ arms. When the time came to order it, we forgot as we were overwhelmed at the thought of buying a stone for our child’s grave. When we realized that we forgot, it was too late to change it, but the LORD continually reminded me that she was in His arms.
I have come to realize that each person deals with their grief in a different way and timing. I also realized that I was not the only one affected by her death and that it was not all about me. Shocking, isn’t it?! Not only was my husband affected, but our children and parents were. It is so easy to get wrapped up in yourself, that you don’t see the pain that your loved ones are going through also. One thing I have learned is that when our focus is on the LORD, He will also help us to see the pain of others, taking the focus off ourselves.
As I was putting this devotional together, seeking the LORD’S guidance and direction, He laid on my heart that it was time to share Gabriella’s story. I reminded Him that I had done it, but He reminded me that it was time to take the “Band-Aid” off, completely. That meant it was time to draw Gabriella’s picture. I kept asking Him if He was sure, but as soon as I asked Him, I knew He was and that He had something to show me.
I started going through all the precious cards and notes that we had received from so many loving people back then. I came across a poem that my cousin wrote in memory of Gabriella, and as I read it, I knew the direction the LORD wanted me to go. Grief is real pain, and it hurts the LORD to see His children in that kind of pain. I thought I had healed and realized at that moment that I hadn’t completely. My cousin captured that raw pain I had, in her poem and with her permission, I am sharing it here.
“In Memory of Gabriella Joy”
Sweet baby girl,
Bundled and Blue,
The world’s been waiting
To meet you.
No precious cooing
Greets my ears
No eyes are dry –
Only tears, tears, tears.
My arms are empty,
My heart aches.
There’ll be no Baby’s First Birthday Cake.
I counted your fingers,
And then your toes,
How the pain and my love for you
Your lifeless form
So cold and still –
I release you to Jesus,
His arms to fill.
By Lisa Bauman
This is what the LORD wanted me to share in this devotion, that there is HOPE! Jesus gave that hope when He came to place our judgment on His body as He hung on that cross. He took our pain, our sorrows, our sin, because of His great love for us, all. As I started to draw Gabriella, the message the LORD wanted me to convey was that no matter the grief we are going through, if we have put our faith and trust in the redemption of Jesus Christ, we have that hope of being with Him someday, along with our loved ones that have gone before us.
As you look at the drawing, she is in His arms, safe! I drew her hand on top of His, as it displays such tenderness of our LORD and her feeling safe with Him. I didn’t draw His face on this picture because I wanted the focus to be on the message, that Gabriella is Safe in Jesus’ Arms! I look forward to the day that I will see her again and wrap my arms around her, telling her once more how much I love her. What a grand reunion that will be. I want to end with a poem my husband wrote regarding Gabriella’s home going. It reminds us of the HOPE we have in Jesus Christ, not only through the pain we are going through, but the fact that this is not our HOME. Heaven is… and Gabriella is waiting for us there.
“Daddy, You’re Home”
I have a daughter in Heaven now,
Though it wasn’t my plan.
She left this life without smiling once,
To hold the Savior’s hand.
I’ll never get a kiss or a hug,
Or a smile to start my day,
But never a tear will she shed,
As by the Savior’s feet she plays.
My life is much more richer now,
Although it caused much pain.
My soul is much more opened now,
To the Savior’s plan.
My life on Earth will pass
With emptiness in my heart,
Till the LORD calls me home,
To cure the hole within my heart.
When I see my Savior’s face,
The sound of little feet I hear,
And a cry of happiness,
You’re finally here!”
By Jeff Armstrong
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners.nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Psalm 1:1-3
A friend of mine had shared a picture of her grandfather and son walking hand in hand that she had taken at a cookout I was at. As I looked at the photo, I knew there was a story to tell through a painting, so I asked if I could use the photo of the two of them as a reference for my painting. She was excited and gave me permission.
As I studied the great grandfather walking hand in hand with his great grandson, I thought of the heritage this man was leaving his little great grandson and how it tied in with Psalm 1:1-3. He definitely loves to delight in the LORD and his little great grandson is like a tree planted near the water soaking in the nutrients of his great grandfather's example.
As parents, grandparents and great grandparents we need to ask ourselves what kind of heritage are we teaching for our little ones. It reminds me of Psalm 37:23-24 which says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." Whatever comes our way, our little ones need to us walking in God's truth. They need to know that God is Sovereign, that He is in control even when things seem chaotic in this world.
Finally, I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs 22:6 which says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Yes, it is our children who are training our grandchildren, but we as their grandparents train them in a special, unique way. We are walking alongside our children guiding them, when needed, as they guide and teach our grandchildren. By being that godly example that we should be, not only to our own children, but to our grandchildren also. Our grandchildren need to see us exhibit Christ, not just talking about Him, but living in Him. Do they hear His words or ours? Do they see Him in what we do or what we desire? Are we walking through the ages in TRUTH?
"A friend loveth at all times;" Proverbs 17:17
As I ponder on the above verse, I immediately think about my friendships throughout the years and even those friendships that I thought were special or real but were not. A true friend is there for you, through the special, fun times but also through those dark times in your life. I am thankful for the friends the LORD has given me that have stuck with me even through my darkest times. I am also thankful for those that were not there for me as it reminded me of what kind of friend I should be. It has made me wonder if I was not there for them through their darkest times. Have I stopped being their friends? No, because each friend that I have had and still have, hold a special place in my heart. I might not be close to them or even have contact with them, but there are times that the LORD will bring them to my mind and then He gives me the privilege to pray for them if I hear that they are going through a difficult time.
I have to ask myself a question, though. Am I there for my friends even through their darkest hours? Unfortunately, there have been times that I have not. I have asked the LORD for forgiveness and even at times, have asked for forgiveness from my friends.
When my girls were little, I loved seeing them interact with each other and with their friends as they played. There would be times, that they seemed like they were in their own little world and I would wish that I could visit it sometimes with them.
There is twelve and fourteen years difference between my youngest and my two older ones. As much as the two oldest were patient and good with their little sister, I am sure there were times that they needed their space from her. A friend of mine moved back to our home state when her second child was under a year old. My youngest and her second child were only two months apart. They almost immediately became best friends! Whenever my daughter, Samara was sad, her best friend knew how to get her to laugh. They always would look out for each other.
On one particular day, my friend and I had taken our little girls to the lake. I was able to take a picture of these two "besties" walking hand in hand on the shore of the lake. They were in their own little world, and again, I was wishing I could peek into this little world of theirs to see what had them so mesmerized.
This has been one of my favorite pictures of these two girls; so I had decided to paint this for my friend. As I worked on this painting I would pray for her and her family, but especially for these two girls as they had just entered adulthood a few years earlier. My prayer was that they would seek the LORD in their lives, making Him first place.
When I was trying to think of a title for this painting, I couldn't think of one that expressed the true meaning of it. I decided to ask my daughter, who this is about. I asked her when she looks at this memory, what comes to mind? All she could think of, was that their friendship was special...an Unbroken Bond.
Whenever I paint something, I love to apply a spiritual connotation to it. This painting reminds me of how our LORD wants our relationship with Him to be, that special unspoken bond. He wants to hold our hand as we walk through life. He loves us unconditionally and wants to guide us each step of the way. Just as Lindsay is showing Samara something that seems so important at that moment; that is what Jesus wants to do with us. I know I can get so caught up in the daily woes or busyness of life that I can easily lose sight at what is really important. Sometimes I think He just wants us to sit still, enjoy His creation and have that one on one with Him.
So whenever we feel that busyness catching up on us, remember to just sit down with your LORD and enjoy that quietness of His friendship with you as you have that "UNSPOKEN BOND" with Him!
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16-17 (KJV)
When I first set out to create this painting, I knew it would be the story of my salvation. I had put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as a child. I never felt my story was anything big because I was a kid when I got saved. Yes, He saved me from a lot of the horrors that others have gone through before getting saved when they were adults, but none the less, as I look back, I do see how I was broken. Maybe I didn’t look broken on the outside, but on the inside, I was a vessel with so many cracks, it was a wonder that I didn’t fall apart! Let me tell you my STORY OF REDEEMPTION!
In July, many years ago, a nine year old girl listened as her mother shared the Gospel with her family that she was visiting with. This little girl was me. As I listened to my mother share her faith and stating that my brother and I were also saved, it was at that moment, my eyes were opened to the fact that I was a sinner, in need of a Savior! Unfortunately, I allowed fear to keep me from going to my mom to tell her that I was not saved. I was filled with guilt not just because of the realization of my sin but with the feeling that I had made my mother lie to her family, even though she had thought that I was already saved. I kept this fear hidden in my heart and did not share it with anyone.
I had the opportunity to go to a Bible camp that summer and the LORD placed me in the right cabin. In this cabin was another girl that was searching also! Not only did He put me in the right cabin, but He had been preparing my heart all summer for the messages I would be hearing that week as I had been reading the book, "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. The evangelist talked about Pilgrim's Progress and tied in the salvation message at the end.
As we were all sitting on the bunk beds ready to pray and talk about the message, our counselor asked if anyone had any questions. I wanted so much to know how to be saved but was afraid to ask. That girl that was also searching, raised her hand and asked how to get saved!!! I couldn't believe it! Someone else wanted to know too!!! So our counselor shared Romans 3:23, that "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Then she shared how God loved us so much, that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus to be born here on this earth so that He could take the punishment for all our sins. All we had to do was admit that we were sinners, ask for His forgiveness and accept Jesus as our Savior. That night, on August 9th, many years ago, I admitted that I was a sinner in need of a Savior and asked Jesus to be my Savior. Life has not always been easy since then, but He has been there with me every step of the way, being patient with me and showing me His truths. There have been times, that He has had to hold me so close to Him, that I could hear His "heart beating"!
Several years ago, while my church choir was singing a song titled, "Power of the Cross", I saw a picture in my head and knew the LORD wanted me to paint it! It's amazing how the LORD leads me to paint or draw something to tell His story. This time He wanted me to tell my story of redemption. I was excited but nervous. I went and bought the canvas and then it just sat in my studio. I would look at it and knew that at some point I would need to work on this painting.
I had envisioned a cross with my hands in shackles in a position as if I was kneeling on the ground with my hands outstretched. Every time I thought about working on it, I allowed fear to set in and put the canvas away. Finally in the spring of 2019, the LORD in His still small voice told me that it was time for me to paint it. I had to get down on my knees and ask the LORD to forgive me for allowing fear to grip me so tight and to help me paint what HE WANTED me to paint.
I started sketching out on the canvas what I was to paint. I was still going to paint the cross with my hands in broken shackles. The LORD, though, had other plans. After I had painted my hands, I started to work on the shackles, but had no peace. As I sat there looking at what I had already done, I started praying. I felt such brokenness AND that is when the LORD laid on my heart what He wanted me to do. I started to paint cracks in my arms going up to my hands as if my arms and hands were clay vessels. I then thought how Jesus reached down from the cross with His hands as His grace embraced me and how He has never let go since that moment.
My thought was to hopefully sell it at an art show I was in, but the LORD once again had other ideas. Three months after I had painted it and had shown it at the art show, the LORD laid on my heart to donate it to a place that dealt with addiction and healing. I had gone to a meeting to encourage a friend of mine and instead I was encouraged in ways I never thought possible. That is when the LORD showed me that this painting was not meant for a private home, but for a place where the broken come, giving hope to all who see it. This painting depicts the truth of salvation. It doesn't matter what we have or have not done, salvation is for ALL!!! The nail holes on the cross represent the depth of pain He went through for us because of our sins and yet He reaches down to us in all our brokenness. In His grace, He embraces us with His redemption. We come Broken, but grace holds us now!
"From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised." Psalm 113:3 (ESV)
I had started to work on this painting several years ago while my mother was still alive. After she went home to be with the Lord, I had a hard time getting into the painting, so I put it up for quite a while. At one point, the Lord laid on my heart that it was about time for me to finish it. After much prayer and committing it to the Lord, I picked up the paintbrush and let the Lord do the rest.
As I was working on this painting, I wanted to add some things that would be more personal to me. No matter how much I would admire the sunrises and sunsets of my life, I also was reminded of the sin in my life. How would I illustrate that in a painting with a sunset?
I love the intricate details that God has designed in trees. Even when I look at a tree that has died, I still see beauty in it. As I thought about that dead tree, it reminded me of my sin, not that my sin has beauty but that it produces death. When Christ came and died for our sins, He put the beauty back into that tree by adding new life.
As you look at the dead tree, down to the right of it is a new sprig of life bursting forth from its dead trunk. This reminds me that I was dead until Christ came into my life. When I accepted Christ as my Savior, He gave me new life in Him. Beauty was once again brought into my life, but it is only through Him that the beauty is even there.
As I was adding more to the painting, I felt I also needed to have water near the tree. It reminded me that so many people have the Living Water right at their fingertips just like that tree in the painting but refuse to reach for it. Just like all trees need water to survive, we need the Living Water of God's Word to help us not to just grow in Him but to know Him better. Eventually, a tree will die without water. When we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we can only grow in our walk with Him by being in His Word on a daily basis. It is the nutrients we need to sustain us as we grow. By being in His Word our new life will continue to grow and will then produce fruit.
As I look at each sunrise and sunset that He has created, I am always reminded and amazed at how He makes each color so vibrant with the stroke of His paintbrush. How can we not praise His name when we admire the beauty of His "painted canvas"! More importantly, how can we not praise His Name when He has given us "New Life" in Him?
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:2-4,12
In 2016, a dear friend of mine knew some struggles that I was going through which were medical and I was getting very frustrated over the issues. As we prayed, she also shared a song with me that she wanted me to listen to. It was by Casting Crowns and it was entitled "Just Be Held". As I listened to that song, the second verse really touched my heart.
(SECOND VERSE:)"If your eyes are on the storm, you'll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes are on the cross, you'll know I always have and I always will. Not a tear is wasted, in time you'll understand. I'm painting beauty with the ashes, your life is in my hands."
"So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away, you're not alone, stop holding on and just be held. Your world is not falling apart, it's falling into place. I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held."
"Lift your hands, lift your eyes in the storm is where you'll find me and where you are, I'll hold your heart, I'll hold your heart. Come to me and find your rest in the arms of the God who won't let go."
Through that verse, I was reminded that when I take my eyes off of Christ especially when going through a storm, I can doubt His love and whether He is there or not. Truth of the matter is, He is there and will not leave my side and it is during those times that He is taking those ashes of my difficulties, my pain or my sorrow and painting beauty from them. I have to remember to keep my eyes on the cross, on Him.
I also love the part of the song where it says, to lift my hands and eyes through the storm because that is where I'll be able to find Him. He'll HOLD my heart!!! Wow, our heart is so fragile and it is a reminder to me that even during my most fragile times in life, He is holding me close as I keep my eyes fixed on Him.
I experienced one of those fragile times that same year, when I had started to listen to that song. The LORD knew I needed that song in such an intimate way. It was the death of our granddaughter, Colette. As we drove 18 hours. straight through to get to our daughter and son in law to comfort their hearts and still cling to the promises that the LORD will work things out for good, I played that song over and over again. I asked Him, how was He going to paint beauty from these smoldering ashes of our lives. He did it by holding us close to Him to the point we could hear His heart beating so loudly that it drowned out all other noises that we did not need to hear.
In this painting, I wanted to display that thought of Him painting beauty from the ashes. This is the picture He gave me. You do not see much beauty after a forest fire. It's so sad because as you look around, all you see is gray, black, smoke and death. The last thing you would see is an orchid growing up through the ashes. Only it's CREATOR could do that and that is what is happening in this painting. The Master Artist is creating (painting) beauty from the death ( trials of our lives) that surround us. Just as an orchid is very fragile, so are our lives. Yet our Heavenly Father, holds us with such gentleness and paints beauty into our lives. We might not think at the time that there is any beauty but with time, we will understand.
When you go through a trial that you just can't see through it, look to the Master Artist, our Heavenly Father and let Him just hold you close, because He will not let go. He's "Painting Beauty with the Ashes"!
“…For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5c-6
When I started working on this commission, I went before my LORD first, seeking His guidance and help as I started to draw. My desire is to always have God glorified in what I do, but also for Him to tell His story through the art piece. I knew these hands told a story, but I didn’t know how to bring that story out.
One thing I do as I work on a commission is to ask the client if they have any prayer requests. After corresponding with my client about the photo, she shared a little of her journey. She shared that she walked with her mom as she was going through Alzheimer’s. That's when the LORD showed me what the story of these hands told.
I thought about someone going through Alzheimer’s and even thought about how lonely they must feel as they struggle through the memory issues. I have not had any loved ones close to me go through this except one of my uncles. I have seen some in nursing homes and the LORD gave me the privilege of giving them paint classes . I have also had friends that have seen a parent go through Alzheimer's.
As I thought about how I could tie Jesus’ hand into the drawing; all that kept going through my mind was the verse that I will never leave you nor forsake you. As my client's mom went through all that she went through, I was reminded that she was not alone. Her Savior was right there holding her hand through each step she took on that journey. On the days that she might have felt alone, maybe a tear escaped and rolled down onto her hand, but still the LORD was right there … holding her tear stained hand. Even when she may have felt alone, she was “NEVER ALONE”, because He never would let go of her hand and that same nail scarred hand escorted her HOME!
No matter what we may go through in our journey called "Life", we are not alone if we have accepted Christ as our Savior. He holds our hands through the trials and sufferings that we go through. He reminds us that we too are "Never Alone"! All we have to do is trust Him and hold His hand tight!
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalms 1:1-3
The LORD had laid on my heart to paint something for some dear friends. I had asked the wife how she would like to have her family described, she told me, “CONTENT, TOGETHER, GROW and LOVE”. When I was reading a passage in Psalms 1, I knew that was the passage I was to use for their painting.
This was a challenging painting as I only had one photo to use as a reference and my desire was to have them all in a totally different position than what was in the photo. I love how the LORD, takes over and makes the painting His.
With most art pieces I do, I invite the Holy Spirit in throughout the creation of the piece. It is He who does the piece by using my hands to complete it. I also love how He teaches me so much from His Word as we create together and through it, He is glorified. He took me out of my comfort zone as I worked on this piece and showed me what He can do if I just trust Him through the process.
During this piece, I asked the LORD what He wanted me to learn. Through each brush stroke, I learned so much and even now, I am still learning, with each piece I work on. I had to ask myself where my contentment was. Was it on my own accomplishments or on what Christ has done for me and what He is doing through me? My desire is that I find my contentment in my LORD and Savior. It is He that I create for and with. He is the reason I wake up each day. No matter the outcome, I want to rejoice in Him.
Next, I thought about the word together and how that could apply to me and others. I knew what my friend meant in regards to her family. She wanted them to glorify the LORD together; in their relationship with each other and with the LORD. How could that apply to me and everyone else that I share this story with. Maybe another word for together could be relationship. God created us for relationship. He wants a relationship with us, so that is why He sent His Son down to earth to take our sin punishment. He is perfect, holy and can not be in a relationship with us because of our sin. In Romans 10:10-11, it says, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. and not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Jesus took our punishment for us so that we are REDEEMED. We are His and called by name. The choice is ours. He will never make us come to Him even though He desires that. He doesn't need us but desires that relationship with us. The truth of the matter is...we NEED Him! This relationship that is offered to us not only will give us eternal life with Him in Heaven but here on earth, through the different trials we go through in life, we have Him to lean on, to trust Him even when we might not understand things.
Grow was the next word on my friend's list. Having a family myself, I have seen my children grow physically but also in other areas of their lives. They have matured into beautiful young women and some of them are mothers themselves. Grow doesn't just mean physically. In Luke 2:52, it says, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." Just as Jesus grew, so must we. The question is... HOW? Are we going to just grow in stature? Hopefully, we will also grow with wisdom. I think the more important question to ask ourselves is; Are we growing in favor with God and others? If you are a child of God, the way to grow is through reading His Word, praying, witnessing and worshiping with other believers. Micah 6:8 says, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." That is my recipe for growth... do what is right, love mercy (kindness) and to walk humbly with my God! What about YOU?
The last word my friend mentioned was love! This is an important element in any family. Unfortunately, many have had this important ingredient missing in theirs, so how can they find it? God shows all of us His love in His Word. In Romans 5:8, it says, "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.", also in John 3:16, it says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Maybe you grew up in a loving family, but the fact of the matter is, you are still missing something if you have not accepted God's free gift of salvation. It cost Jesus as He died for our sins, but He rose again to conquer death, so we can have life in Him. The cost to us? Nothing! We just need to acknowledge our sins, repent of them and accept Christ as our Savior, our Redeemer. That is GRACE! When you have done that, then everything else will fall into place. Will it be easy? NO, but He is there to guide us through whatever we may go through in this journey called LIFE. He is our strength when we are weak. He is our all in all!
When Christ has first place in your life, as a parent, your desire is to pass that down to your children and have it evident not only in your home but in theirs when they are grown. In order to be contented together, I think we first need to be content in our relationship with the LORD. That means that we need to be satisfied, complete in Him and show our children what that truly means.
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3
The pumpkin is a fruit. It can be used to make many delicious things but without different seasonings, it is very bland. Trust me, I know!!! Inside are the “pumpkin brains” or the fibrous strands and seeds.
When I look at the pumpkin it reminds me of myself, actually all of us. Pumpkins come in different shapes, sizes and colors. As an artist I love that because I love things not all being the same. It also reminds me of how Heaven will have all different kinds of people there.
The inside of the pumpkin reminds me how gross and yucky we can be due to all of us having sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. I hate cleaning out the pumpkin because it’s so gross, but if I want to be able to use it for what it was meant to be used for, that “yuckiness” has to be cleaned out.
When we sin, it’s like those fibrous strands wrapping around those seeds. Sin grabs hold of our lives. We need help to clean out our “insides”, our sin. That’s what Christ did for us when He came and took our punishment for our sins. He took our place. When we put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, He cleanses us. Will we still sin? Yes unfortunately, while we’re here on this earth, but because the Holy Spirit indwells within us, He makes it known unto us and the need to confess it before our Heavenly Father. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
The vine brings nourishment to the pumpkin as it grows and Jesus represents that vine in us. John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” We cannot bear fruit without Christ!
When we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are to walk in the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit indwells within us. The fruits of the Spirit are LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONG-SUFFERING (patience), KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, MEEKNESS (gentleness), and SELF CONTROL. Do we display these fruits in our talk?
When I think of my speech, do I use it towards others the same way as I use it to praise my Lord? Do I encourage others with my words, do I speak truth, and am I patient with my words? I can go on but what I want to get across is my words need to express the Holy Spirit inside of me. Those are the seeds! The seeds in the pumpkin are used to eat and enjoy but also to plant so more pumpkins can grow. We’re to enjoy our Salvation in our Lord but do we share what we have with others? Do they see Christ in us by our actions and words? Just like we need to add seasonings to pumpkin recipes, are we allowing the Holy Spirit to season us? Are our words Seasoned With Grace?
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father knows the future, as He knows each step we take on this journey called "LIFE". How do we respond when all of a sudden we are hit with tragic news? There are many answers to that question but I want to share a personal answer to it.
We were awaiting the arrival of our first granddaughter and on the day that she was due, my daughter's water broke. As she and my son-in-law drove to the hospital, they talked about the long awaited birth of their baby girl. When they arrived to the hospital, they found out instead that their precious little girl was already in the presence of her Savior.
How do you respond with that kind of news? I was not there with them, but I know how I responded when I heard the news that night. My heart felt like it was ripped right out of me. Not only was I hurting in regards to my granddaughter, but more importantly, I was hurting for my daughter and son-in-law.
I went through so many emotions that day and the days after. I wondered why the LORD allowed this to happen when these two young people loved Him so much and would raise their little girl to know about Him. I then remembered the passage in God's Word about Him being the God of all comfort. He knew how we felt and He grieved with us! WOW! That's what this drawing is all about!
As my husband and I grieved, we also prayed that the LORD would provide a way for us to be able to get down there to be with our "kids". It is amazing when you look back, you tend to shake your head and say, "Why did we worry? God had this all under control!" That's exactly what happened. He had it all under control. He provided in such a way that we could have never imagined and allowed us to be down there to comfort our daughter and son-in-law, but also to grieve with them together at the service and the graveside service the following day.
How can God use this tragedy for good? Being an artist, art helps when dealing with hurt or stress. Besides reading God's Word and praying, the LORD uses drawing and painting to draw me to Him. It's my "audience of ONE" time with Him. When I draw or paint, it is as if Jesus is sitting right beside me guiding my hand with each pencil mark or brush stroke. It is as if He is hugging me when I start to cry from sadness but it is also a special time when I pray as I work. This is how the LORD helped me with my granddaughter's Home going.
As I asked the LORD how He could use the art He has me do, to glorify Him through this tragedy and as a means to help comfort my daughter and son-in-law; He showed me in a very special way. A photographer from a unique business that caters to taking beautiful, touching photos of babies that have died during birth, came and took pictures of my daughter, son-in-law and our beautiful granddaughter at the hospital. I was given a photo of my son-in-law holding his precious daughter and as I looked at that photo, I thought of Jesus holding Colette with such tenderness, just as her father was doing.
I then thought about that verse again in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and how He was the God of all comfort. When Jesus was here on earth, His friend, Lazarus, died. As He stood in front of the grave, He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but as He looked at Lazarus" sisters and friends weeping, "...He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled." "...Jesus wept." (John 11:33, 35)
I pictured Jesus standing there in that hospital room seeing the weeping of her parents but also from family and friends there. I felt that He was deeply moved and as He held her body at the same time as my son-in-law was holding her body, holding my son-in-law close to Him, He wept! Not for Colette but for her parents, family and friends. You see Colette was already in Heaven because just as Jesus had said to Martha, Lazarus' sister, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." John 11:25-26
The tear that is falling down Jesus' face in this drawing, was not for Colette, but for her Mommy and Daddy. It was for her grandparents, aunts and uncles and for the friends who were there to comfort and grieve with them. As I have looked at this drawing many times, the LORD has reminded me that not only is this a picture of Him holding our sweet, little Colette, but it also represents each little one that has gone Home to Him. Whether it is through the stillbirth that Colette went through, a miscarriage, an early infant death or even through an abortion; Jesus is right there holding these precious little ones in His arms as He welcomes them Home. For each one that He has held, He sheds that tear for the parents that are here on earth.
Does it end with the grieving? NO!!! Remember, Jesus said that HE is the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE! That is where His HOPE comes in. He came to this earth to die for each of us and that includes my granddaughter. We are ALL sinners needing a Savior. Jesus, who knew no sin, came here to die for us who know sin. All of us! Praise the LORD that He is NOT in the grave, but that He rose again, so that we can have new life in Him.
I realized many years ago, that I was a sinner in need of a Savior and that is when I humbly came to Jesus, asking forgiveness for my sins and for Him to be my Savior! What about YOU? Where do you stand? I KNOW I will see my granddaughter, Colette, someday. I would love to introduce her to you.
We also have to remember that God is SOVEREIGN, meaning that He has all power and authority over life and death. He has a purpose for each of our lives. We might not understand why God allows things to happen like the death of a child, but we also have to remember that we live in a fallen, sinful world. That's where God's HOPE comes in. Hope is to look forward with reasonable confidence. God created us to have fellowship with Him, but because of sin there is a wall between God and us. God loved us so much that He gave His Son, Jesus to be our rescuer, our redeemer. He came and took our punishment upon Himself so that we can have that fellowship with God. When we realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior and put our faith and trust in the One who gave His life for us, we have the HOPE of being with Him someday, but also to have that fellowship with Him now.
I might not understand why the LORD allowed little Colette to leave this sinful world early, in our eyes; but I know that I can TRUST His heart. He is Sovereign and He is Hope, and with that we can have confidence in His love for us. He proved that at Calvary - He is our "Sovereign Hope"!
Karen's Artistic Thoughts
I decided as I was working on this website, that a blog would be a way to explain what goes through my mind as I work on each piece the Lord has laid on my heart.