The Master Artist is Weaving a Beautiful Work

A friend and I were talking the other day about how we can always look back and see how God was working, but when we are in the midst of things we rarely see the tapestry he is weaving from our life events. And then, we started telling the stories until we were laughing at God’s creativity.

Connecting the dots is God’s specialty. He truly does want to work all things together for our good.

How many times have you looked back on a series of events and noticed that what you thought were random connections was actually a calculated step by step route to the end result? I do this often, and I am always amazed.

Try it sometime – start tracing a recent outcome backwards – you will see the finger of God drawing the lines between all the connections for as far as you can see. For example, this week I have the privilege of being the live backstage announcer for a very big conference here in California called The California Women’s Conference. I am overwhelmed to see my name on the speaker’s page for such a big event, because I know the likelihood of an opportunity like this coming to me is so very small. But I also know that none of this happened by chance.

When I trace backwards from this week’s event, it looks something like this:

Exciting 2 days and lots of work being the live announcer for the biggest conference for women business owners in California << Signed contract to be announcer for CWC  << Email sent just a month ago, with my proposal to be the announcer << Again, God told me to send an email to Michelle about this <<Let several months go by, decided I shouldn’t do it << pitched Michelle Patterson my offer to be the announcer, she immediately said yes << felt God whisper to me “tell her you will be the announcer for this conference ” << attended several events for Women Network << volunteered to be on Advisory Board for the conference << introduced to Michelle Patterson (CEO of Women Network) by friend Kristi << Kristi invited me to local Chamber of Commerce events << joined my Chamber of Commerce at the suggestion of new friend Kristi << met a new friend named Kristi at a market party for my Nerium business << became a Nerium brand partner and began attending events to learn more << researched this new idea of starting a business with Nerium << a friend suggested I’d like some of the products he is using & the company he is with << saw something from a new friend on Facebook that made me want to know more << joined a group called Dreamers and Builders & made new friends << answered a call to adventure by an author I follow and admire << Etc. Etc.

Honestly, I can go even further back in this sequence to why I joined Facebook in the first place, and on and on. My huge opportunity to be the announcer at such a big event was not randomly generated. It was woven by God through connections I’ve made in the past several years. In the midst of that was his voice prompting me when to take action. In the future I will look back at other events and be able to trace them back to this very week and the people I will meet as a result of attending and announcing for this conference.

NONE of it is random, although it ALWAYS seems that way at the time. When I look at the hand of God and what He is bringing into my life, I can do this exercise over and over again – always with the same outcome: the realization that GOD IS WORKING ALL THINGS TOGETHER FOR MY GOOD.

It’s an exercise in remembering the faithfulness of God.

Even when all the events in a sequence are not happy ones. Yes, even then. Perhaps especially then.

Even when we interrupt the artists hands and try to do it ourselves. Yes, even then. When we are ready to give the tools back to Him, God gently corrects our messy mistakes, although he doesn’t cover them up. They become part of the fabric of our lives. He weaves his colorful threads in between those places to make it beautiful again.

Take some time this week to draft a list of connected events & people you’ve met and I’m sure you’ll be overcome with the same awe and wonder.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful tapestry He is weaving of your life. I hope you will be able to step back from time to time and see it coming together.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NASB)

I Have Fought the Good Fight…

There’s something about celebrating the life of one who’s gone to heaven before us that makes us evaluate EVERYTHING. Am I right?

I find myself mulling over the questions: Will I be missed? Will people cry? Will my life be worth celebrating? Will my legacy live on? What is my legacy, anyway?

Our family suffered a loss last week when our cousin Steve went home to heaven. It wasn’t unexpected, Steve had suffered the ravaging effects of Muscular Dystrophy for nearly 40 years. But oh, the hole that is left by his passing.

I was fortunate to travel to Oregon to be with family at this time, and witness the great outpouring of love for my cousin. The family had beautiful tributes to share, but it was the comments made by his ham radio buddies that really got to me.

After being diagnosed at age 13, Steve immersed himself in the ham radio world. Before the internet was even a glimmer, he had acquaintances around the world. Ever friendly, ever helpful, Steve became a bright light in the community, even going on to win awards for his skills too numerous to count. He shared recipes for his favorite foods and “traveled” the world by talking with friends and strangers on his radio, and looking at photos on his computer. He was noted for being the first ham radio operator to make contact with the Space Shuttle, among so many other accomplishments.

Steven Richard Kelly ~ March 13, 1964 - August 4, 2016

Steven Richard Kelly ~ March 13, 1964 – August 4, 2016

This was a man who hadn’t left the house for probably more than a decade, and now I’m hearing story after story of how he had helped design landscaping, a radio tower, and even a kitchen or two. In the midst of his own pain and what appeared to outsiders to be isolation, Steve pushed past the limits of his diagnosis and used technology to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others. He lived the life he was given to the fullest he was able.

As I sat there listening to his friend’s tearful tribute, I was in awe of this man and felt very sorry I hadn’t made a point to spend more time with him each time I came to town. Obviously this is my loss.

Which brings me back to the task at hand… taking inventory of my life.

If I had a diagnosis rendering me housebound, would I proceed to make such a difference in the lives of others that they would pack the house for my memorial service? My thought right now is that I would waste an awful lot of time feeling sorry for myself and searching for a way out of my predicament.

Steve never did that. He knew where he was going, and he knew where his strength for each day came from. He didn’t complain about his lot in life, he made the most of it.

I believe God gives us glimpses like this to snap us out of our own complacency. We all can remember those who have risen above their circumstances with such a force of character it’s impossible to ignore. And impossible to avoid. Take a moment to think back on that person you know, and use their inspiration to go and change your world… and just maybe that world will say they are better for having known you.

Live the life you are given to the fullest you are able.

Thanks for the reminder, Steve. Tell everyone hi for us and keep that heavenly party jammin’ until we get there!

” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)

 

 

Enjoying God, the Artist

I’m in Yosemite National Park this week. Or church, as I like to call it.

Yosemite Valley – Photo by Tami Romani

Isn’t it amazing how we feel closer to God when we are in His majestic creation? I hear this a lot from my friends, “being at the ocean is so calming to me,” and “when I’m in the mountains I feel like I’m being restored” – these are common themes in conversations lately. A friend told me the other day, “The reason people feel closest to God in nature is because nature is not trying to be anything other than what God created it to be.”

God’s creation isn’t trying to show off. It doesn’t need to. God created it to be what it is – an expression of His handiwork. We could learn a lot from God’s beautiful creation.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
 The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:4-5

My yearly pilgrimage to Yosemite has become a necessity. It fills me up & gets me ready to tackle the rest of the year. The serenity of a bike ride whenever I want, the reading a book just because, the laughing and lingering with friends over a morning cup of coffee without a meeting to rush off to… these are the things that make being in this place extra special.

Yosemite Bike Path - Photo by Tami Romani

Yosemite Bike Path – Photo by Tami Romani

Not only is it wonderful to be away from the busyness of life sometimes, there’s an awe that takes over when I’m in such a place. I’m reminded that in the mundane of my life, there is majesty all around if I take the time to experience it. I believe it’s no accident there is very limited cell phone service and excruciatingly slow internet in the few places you can pick up a signal here. This place is meant for unplugging. And if you won’t do it on your own, it’s kind of forced upon you. It’s a good kind of coercion. For if I don’t worship Him in the midst of His glorious artwork, the rocks will surely cry out.

Yosemite Falls - Photo by Tami Romani

Yosemite Falls – Photo by Tami Romani

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Psalm 96:11-12

But you don’t have to trek to your nearest National Park to find this kind of peace. Sit outside during your next lunch break and listen to the birds sing their melody. When the sun begins to set, turn off your electronics and watch the miracle of the dance as the light fades from the sky.

What Yosemite reminds me of every year, is the importance of being in God’s presence in the moment. It’s kind of a shame that I need this reminder, but I am so very grateful it’s there.

Sitting with God in the Silence

It’s been a silent week.

Not in the sense that I haven’t interacted with people or done work or spent time with friends. It’s more like I know God’s there, but he’s not speaking. And that’s OK. We are sitting in the silence together.

Last Sunday, as we were celebrating Christ’s resurrection, he chose to take a precious little life from this earth to be with him in Glory. Tori was the 19 month old daughter of some friends, and I was just one of thousands who had fallen in love with her. Before she was even born and her mama would share the ultrasound photos, we were oohing and aahing over her beauty. When she was born, we oohed and aahed some more over her stunning eyes and rosebud mouth. Ever the photographer, her mama would grace the internet with her precious image so that much more than just family could gaze upon her beauty. Even before that awful genetic disorder reared its ugly head, Tori’s tribe was gathering.

Tori Photo by Lesa Brackbill

Tori
Photo by Lesa Brackbill

Then, just when Tori should have been learning to roll over and pull herself up to the cheers of her many admirers, her responsive little face stopped responding. The smile had gone. Her cooing had stopped. Her big beautiful eyes remained, but her once animated expression was fading. Within a matter of days her parents learned their precious daughter was dying.

Over the next year, I witnessed the most awful, terrible, beautiful thing. As her health began to deteriorate, Tori’s parents were not bitter. They were not angry. They were filled with grace and trust in a God who had let them down. Yes, they must have had overwhelming sad moments. They are human, after all. But we watched as they now embarked on a journey of grace, filled with happy times and even joy.

Where does this come from?

When God doesn’t obey our commands (i.e. prayer requests), what are we left with? We are left with the silence. But in the silence, he is still there.

In the silence, God is still there. He is.

Tori is healed and whole now and most likely sitting on Jesus’ lap, telling all the other kids about how she did more things on her bucket list before she was two years old than most people do in a lifetime.

We are left with the silence. When I say, “but God, what about that dream you gave me that Tori was healed?”

Silence.

When I look at my sweet grandson who came into the world just a month after Tori did, I see a whole, healthy child and ask, “why them, God? How did you see fit to spare our family this heartache?”

Silence.

But somehow, the silence is filled with peace. The kind of peace we will never understand. In those moments, God is silent. But he is present.

He sits with us in the silence.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

I had the honor of meeting Tori in person, when she was with her sweet mama, Lesa, to fulfill her bucket list item of visiting her mom's Alma Mater (Azusa Pacific University)

I had the honor of meeting Tori in person, when she was with her sweet mama, Lesa, to fulfill her bucket list item of visiting her mom’s Alma Mater (Azusa Pacific University)

Holding sweet Tori's hand while she slept.

Holding sweet Tori’s hand while she slept.

Tori’s story is far from over. Her parents are committed to keeping her memory alive and raising awareness for newborn screening for Krabbe disease. Follow their journey at thebrackbills.com

the WOW factor

I was watching a show on NatGeo channel the other day called “Animal Dances.” How could you possibly scroll past that title without checking it out?

So, there they were. All these different animals in different parts of the world showing their “stuff” in mating ritual dances. The females watch the males display their grandeur and stamina before they choose a mate.

One particular bird, from the middle of the jungle, did a dance that you would not believe. He was an interesting looking black bird of paradise with long antennae-looking spires coming from the top of his head. He looked normal enough to me until the females came to watch. Not only did he toss some red berries about on his “stage” for decoration before his dance, but he placed them “just so.” Then, he stood up and his feathers fanned up and out like a huge black skirt as he paraded back and forth, eyes open wide. His spires flowed this way and that with his movements. And perhaps most interestingly, he had a patch of different feathers on his chest that were bright, shiny and colorful like sequins that caught the light to dazzle the ladies.

What a display! All this just to perpetuate the life-cycle of this little bird out in the middle of nowhere. I just thought…. WOW  (expressing astonishment and admiration)! This bird perhaps has no other purpose than to just be amusing to God, and now that we have captured it on film, we humans can also enjoy this amazing bit of nature.

I began to think about it. There are so many bugs, plants, birds, reptiles, sea creatures, and mammals on this planet. In the past several decades, due to technological advances, we have observed and discovered many new species. This means that for hundreds of thousands of years and more, creatures and species like this have existed even without our knowledge. God did it for His own pleasure!

How many little patches of flowers are out in a field that no human eye ever enjoys? But there they are. Part of the cycle of life that God set into motion. My Mom always says, “What a Creative Creator!”

Indeed! What a planet He created for us to enjoy.

The Psalms are full of verses about the beauty and wonder of God’s great earth. For example, Psalm 104:24-25: “How many are your works, O Lord? In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.”

Photo by Kristin No. Cal. Coast

Photo by Kristin ~ No. Cal. Coast

I say, don’t get so caught up in life “stuff” and “schedules” and “work” that you let days, weeks, months pass without noticing the little things. The random wild flower amongst the thorns. The tiny ladybug going about her daily routine. The variety of flora and fauna in your local park. The sweet call of a bird as it flits around through the trees.

Life brings it’s ups and downs, but there is always beauty in the world that God created for us. Never cease to be amazed and grateful. Do your part to take care of this amazing earth. Spend time out in nature. Be still, watch and listen. Let it renew your soul.

Never cease to say….. “WOW!” and thank God for all His creative gifts!

WHAT STINKS?

When you go into a department store you are offered samples of the latest designer fragrance. It seems there is an aroma for every occasion or desire….enticing you by the name, or what fruit, floral, herb or tree it consists of. Some people with allergies can’t stand the faintest scent.

Too much fragrance makes you want to get some fresh air!!!

Jesus, our example, is called the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley, and both of those flowers have a delicate sweet fragrance.

IMG_7159a

If you read II Corinthians 2:14-16 you will see we are admonished to spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere we go.  How do we do that?  Jesus is not a liquid substance we can splash on the outside of our bodies to make us smell sweet with love like He is!

The aroma that was pleasing to God, as written in the Old Testament, was because the children of Israel were sacrificing burnt offerings to Him.  The smoke going up to His nostrils pleased Him because the one sacrificing was repentant of his sins, and asking for forgiveness.  But, he had to keep sacrificing animals, etc. over and over again.

When Christ gave His life once and for all on the cross…..that sacrifice was final. All we have to do now is accept Jesus as our Savior once, and live a life pleasing as a sweet aroma to God.

Sometimes we can be overpowering with our “Christ Fragrance” and cause those we are around to stay away. Our critical attitudes, our hypocritical life styles, our death words cause those we are supposed to be an example to of the redemptive love of Christ, wonder why we stink!!! And that stench pushes people away from wanting to know Christ.

On the other hand, as you will see in the verse below, those who refuse to be drawn to the sweet pleasant fragrance of Christ’s love in us choose to be repelled by that aroma.

The aroma is always the same: it is sweet to some, and a stench to others.

II Corinthians 2:14-16 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”

Dear Lord, let your sweet aroma fill my life, from the inside of me to all those around me. Amen

UGLY JUNK

For eight months I was blessed to live in an apartment on one of the northernmost beaches of Massachusetts. I watched the Atlantic Ocean change every day. The heartbeat of the sea was sometimes calm with small waves lapping against the sand like a lake. Sometimes those waves were angry and frantic, especially during the epic storm named “Sandy.” Even the color of the sea changed from day to day depending on the sky of blue, grey, or spotted with white puffy clouds.

IMG_1295b

Although I was safe in my shelter watching those violent storms, I certainly recognized the power of the waves as they pounded the shore, and I was constantly thankful for God’s laws in commanding the waves to keep a boundary, lest they overtake the earth! (Job 38:8-11)

While walking along the beach after the most violent of storms, I was disgusted at the “garbage” that was regurgitated from the turbulent sea. It is one thing to know that we, as humans, have violated our oceans with waste, but also to realize some of the items “thrown up” were from shipwrecks where lives were lost.

On that day of seeing and smelling “garbage” I also found beautiful pieces of sea glass, tossed to smooth perfection.

What a contrast, I thought, and so like our lives.

In our life experiences we suppress years of “ugly junk” deep in our innermost being. When the ”junk” is stirred up it comes out in anger, sadness and depression. Like those one time broken pieces of glass, jagged and ugly, we are confronted with the sharp edges of our lives. We can either push the sharp edges back down until the pain becomes unbearable, or we can allow Almighty God to gently toss and tumble the hurts until those experiences are formed into something beautiful. It may take many years, but the process is a release of control…yes, an absolute giving up of those hurts to the Master to knock off the sharp, rough edges and form a one-of-a-kind, beautiful person, who is an example of trust and faith in God.

The sea glass was once a bottle, dish, or maybe a sugar bowl that was useful, but now it is a broken shard that has been refined into a beautiful, colorful, smooth piece that can be made into elegant jewelry or some other art form that pleases the eye!

CSC_0453a

Dear Lord, help us to allow your clean up of the “ugly junk” in our lives and give it over to you to make something lastingly beautiful and useful out of our brokenness. We want to be beautiful on the inside as well as outside so that others will see Your beauty shining through us. Thank you, Lord, that you care enough to take us through the storms of life. Amen.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

A Repost from October 2013 – because it is a good reminder from time to time!

My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me

Today, sitting outside on our front porch, I was captivated by two little birds building a nest under our eaves.  

They sang beautifully as they worked, coming back with some small twig for their nest. Nothing spectacular, just a small effort. Yet it brought out a beautiful song of Praise. 

CSC_0262 

There are so many little birds you would not think they would gain the Heavenly Father’s attention, yet Jesus said NOT ONE of them falls to the ground but what the Heavenly Father sees it – making each one significant in His eyes. 

I began to sing, “My Heavenly Father watches over me. Though billows roll, He keeps my soul, My Heavenly Father watches over me.” 

Is God interested in insignificant me? Yes. He is. 

He sees us when the billows of life rage around us, and He keeps us. We are not insignificant to our Heavenly Father. 

Written by Gladys 3/30/04

 

Are You Drinking The Water of Life?

Sitting on our dining room table is a lovely plant of white daisies.

white daisies

We have had this lovely plant for almost a month and it has thrived at our house. However, last night I noticed the petals were drooping and looked withered. “I’ll have to water that tomorrow,” I said.

But, just to be safe, I got a glass of water and wet the dry soil. This morning I was greatly surprised – for that plant that was withering and dying was REVIVED! The flower petals that were drooping were now lovely once again, and once again it was a thing of beauty.

As I looked, I thought about the Water of Life. Many of God’s children who should be alive and vibrant in Jesus are dull and complaining about life. IN their spirit, they have wilted. There is no longer the Fragrance of Jesus. What is the remedy?

Just an outpouring of the Water of Life, which is Jesus, poured into that spirit, and that life will revive and look new again. We used to sing…”Let the Beauty of Jesus be seen in me…..” That’s a prayer I want to pray today.

(Gladys Johnson ~ April 8, 2006)

God’s Timing is Perfect!

One of the great things about getting older is that your perspective on life changes. One major shift I am noticing in my own life is my perception of time. When you’re young you feel like everything needs to happen NOW and your patience is weak. Today’s Internet culture makes people feel that way as well. We seem to lack patience and many people won’t stick with something long enough to see the result they desire if it seems like it is taking too long to get there.

We want what we want, and we want it now.

I am learning, albeit slowly, that God’s timing is perfect. This is true for the major events in life as well as the details of the everyday. We will never fully understand His timing with some things while we are here on earth because He is infinite and we are here for a moment. However, if we pay attention, we will notice when His timing is right even when it differs from our expectations. He knew every second of our lives before He put time in motion.

clock-4

Have you ever been late getting somewhere and then on the way driving you see a terrible car accident? Maybe if you had left at the “right time” you would have been the one in that accident. Perhaps this was God’s way of protecting you.

Do you ever think about what you thought you’d be doing at this stage in life? Maybe you have been working toward a goal that you have not yet accomplished. Don’t worry. Perhaps God is still working to prepare you for what you will face once that goal is reached. Or maybe He is guiding you toward something better than you imagined for yourself.

Stay the course. Keep working. Keep hoping. Keep believing.

A couple weeks ago I was on a great trip to visit my family on the West Coast. My Aunt Tami and I took a road trip from L.A. to Portland, Oregon. It was great fun!

On the second day of our trip we got going later in the morning than we had planned, and then we spent a lot more time site-seeing than planned. We realized we would never make it into Oregon in time to get a hotel for the night and wondered how this may affect the rest of our trip and our arrival time at our cousin’s house the next evening.

The weather was foggy and rainy as we passed through the Redwoods on the way to the coast. Just as we broke out of the forest and saw the beach, there was the sun! We had two perfect hours of beautiful sun and no fog as we enjoyed that beach. Had we been “on time” we never would have been there at that moment! We expected a gorgeous sunset because of all the clouds, but just as the sun was setting a heavy fog came in and we could no longer see anything! We got in the car and found a little hotel. Turns out we were just in time to get to a restaurant to eat in the tiny town and had we stayed for the sunset we would have had to skip dinner. We had already traveled about nine hours without a meal!

The rest of the trip followed suit. Many things happened because our “planned timing” was off. Things that we would have missed if we had been on our own timing.

This example is only meant to remind us that God cares about the little things. Even when we are on vacation enjoying the beauty He created. Because Tami and I chose to see that timing as a gift, it was significant. What joy we shared as we gathered driftwood, dug our toes into the beautiful black sand and took photos of the beauty that surrounded us. We knew if we had passed through earlier or later in the thick fog we would not have even noticed that we were passing by that beautiful place.

There are trials in life that don’t make sense to us now, but remember that your life and all it’s troubles are in God’s hands. An unexpected death of a loved one. Cancer in a friend who lives a clean and healthy lifestyle. The loss of a great job. God cares for us always during those times. He has a plan and we can be confident that if we love Him with all our heart and soul and love our neighbors as ourselves, He will always carry us and see us through.

If God cares for us in the timing of simple pleasures in life, then we can be sure He cares for us in the timing of major life events as well.

Take heart in the midst of your trials. God’s got this.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9