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      Permanent Brush Strokes — Christian Living

      Alleviating Tension

      Alleviating Tension

      Setting Aside Time in our Daily Lives

       “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

      "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." - JRR Tolkien

      Have you ever tweaked your back as you roll out of bed in the morning? I have. And if it’s a particularly painful spasm, it might last a day or two derailing everything I have planned.

      Every day we camp in the unknown. Did you realize that? Every. Single. Day. 

      I’ve always known that to be true somewhere in the recesses of my brain, but never considered it in the forefront of my mind. Maybe I don’t want to think about it because the very thought creates a certain level of anxiety and tension to the planner/control-freak in me, but the fact remains that you and I honestly have no idea what will happen throughout our days.

      Sure, we make plans and have routines we like or tend to follow. If you’re a Christian who’s familiar with your Bible, you’ve seen in scripture how God often expresses that He knows the plans He has for us and will reveal them to us in His perfect timing. But even in that, we don’t know the details of the journey, and certainly not the timing.

      Personal example: yesterday I was on my way to meet a friend for coffee I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years. I was looking forward to seeing her, and hadn’t left a lot of margin to get to where I was headed. I made the decision to go a different direction then I would normally have gone, and on the way I saw a neighbor heading to her car. As I waved, I caught a look on her face. I knew her mom had been battling cancer for about a year, so I stopped, jumped out of my car, and as I walked toward her I asked if she was all right. Her mom had passed away the night before. It had been a hard-fought battle, and there were hopeful moments that her mom would beat the cancer. But in the end, the disease overwhelmed her body and she succumbed to it. 

      On the side of the street, we hugged and cried. I didn’t know her mom, but for my neighbor, she felt safe because she knew I had experienced the grief of losing my mom many years ago. The familiarity washed over me as I empathized with her transition to life without her mom's love and support. 

      All this to say, by God’s infinite grace, I was able to be fully present with my neighbor, and somehow made (what would normally be) a 20-minute drive in 10…and no, I wasn’t speeding – any more than usual. 

      Author and speaker, Doug Fields, regularly reminds his readers/listeners to make sure there’s margin in our life. I am a regular offender of this life application. But as I sit here this morning, with my cup of coffee, typing away, reflect on the passage of scripture above and the life lesson played out yesterday morning, I am challenged by the Holy Spirit to live a life with more margin in it. To be wholly present, so that when I’m passing by a person in need, my mind isn’t so cluttered that I miss the opportunity to comfort or encourage…or be comforted and encouraged.

      Today, let’s practice the art of margin in our day and week, which in turn alleviates so much of the tension we carry around. Let’s daily practice the beauty of: "I don’t know what today will bring, Father, but you do. I pray I will be fully present to not only be aware of it, but experience it abundantly, whatever ‘it’ may be." For me, that means carving out a little more time in the word of God, and cutting out unnecessary “stuff”. What about you? Do you have areas that need tailoring so you have more time to be present? Please share with me your ideas to create margin and, by extension, beauty in your life. I look forward to hearing from you! 

      Seeking the beauty in the every day stuff of life with you,

      --Lyn

      Featured artwork: “Whatever May Come,” 36” x 36” x 1.5” acrylic on canvas

      It’s funny that before I sat down to write this morning, praying that my words would be spirit-lead, I felt inspired that no matter what, I would include this painting. Did the painting inspire the content of this blog or visa versa? God knows. But it is my visual offering this month for you. I produced a series based on the wisteria I enjoyed in the Washington DC area this past spring. Please check them out on the website: lynhiner.com

      NEWS (I'm so excited to announce): Please mark your calendars for November 3rd - 6th, as I will be exhibiting my artwork at ART SAN DIEGO, at the Balboa Park Activity Center. I'll provide more information in next months blog, but my series of florals will be featured.

      Satisfaction

      Satisfaction

      Finding contentment through Christ in the monotony of every day
       “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” –Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

       I have found a certain freedom in painting, a sense of being wholly me. Have you ever experienced this? In my 47 years, I’m not sure I have. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy life tremendously and have (sadly) expressed myself without abandon for years (see my blog on Expression)! But I wouldn’t necessarily say there was freedom in that expression, only self-absorbed narcissism.

       The freedom I'm talking about is like when the characters on the bow of the Titanic spread their arms wide, screaming WOOOO HOOOO in exhilaration; a freedom you don’t typically get in day-to-day living. Lately, when I paint, I have that same wild sense of abandon! I am filled with joie de vive, a contentment. I cannot contain the satisfaction I feel, nor do I want to. I am able to paint without restraint or fear, without judgment or restriction. Yet, while I am filled with gratification for this experience, it begs the question: Why doesn't this sense of the freedom I get as an artist transfer to my day-to-day living?

       An artist has to develop a resistance to fear and criticism, and cultivate the spirit of humility and joy reflected in Philippians above. No matter how hard I try, I cannot achieve these things on my own…and trust me, I’ve tried a lot! Here’s the struggle: If God calls you to something – no matter how mundane – at what point do you take your hands off the wheel and let Him take control (thank you, Carrie Underwood, for that perfect word picture!)? This has been my obstacle since day one! Do you want to hear my theory? Selfish, foolish pride. Ugh! I know you’ve heard me discuss this before, but clearly I have a problem with thinking my way is best; hence, here I am being reminded that this is a lesson I have yet to act on. The solution is right in front of me. I have to let go and let God by bringing the exhilaration He has blessed me with as an artist into the rest of my day-to-day life – all as one – and rejoice in the satisfaction and contentment that results.

       Contentment is a state of mind. It is achieved when we have a genuinely grateful heart, despite our circumstances. From that contentment comes joy that can only be described as Spirit-filled. I’m not talking about happiness – that is fleeting and based on feelings. No, I’m talking about a peace that surpasses understanding and a joy that transcends obstacles in your life, one that comes from a spring way down in your soul. When I am painting, and being content to create whatever the Spirit leads me to create, that is the place I achieve that soul-drenched peace. The odd thing about writing that statement, is I also know that I am called to be a wife and mom, as well, and sometimes I don’t feel that contentment or peace in those roles…perhaps it’s because of the monotony of cooking and cleaning or that it can be a thankless grind filled with discouraging conversations or choices made. Yet we are still called to experience joy, all the time. We cannot do this without our hearts focused on God, and without being thankful in every situation (“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

      This continues to be a struggle for me, especially when I have my eyes focused on my stuff and me. It takes a discipline I don’t always exercise to keep my eye fixed on the Author and Perfector of my faith…but when I do, oh that peace and contentment are amazing! I am filled with a grace and love for my family and others that defies logic and a joy even in the mundane that puts a smile on my face (okay, probably not while I’m cleaning the toilets, let’s be real here, but you get the idea).

       You and I, we are in a battle, the kind that if we allow it, will darken our very soul! The trick is we must allow God to fight the battle, which requires us to step off the battlefield, hold captive our thoughts, and in humility, trust Him.

      Do you trust Him? Really trust in a God you cannot see? What about in the daily stuff of life? I can sincerely say that I do. But like my paintings, and even my relationships, I can often get in my own way, overthink a situation, try and steer the ship of contentment, and push God out of my way. I want to stop this destructive pattern. How about you? Do you get in God’s way? If so, let me know your struggles and let’s pray for one another to gain a deeper trust and understanding of who God is, and His plan for our lives so we can fully experience satisfaction. We can’t do this journey alone. God intended us to do it together. “As iron sharpens iron…” let’s be willing to get real with God and each other with our struggles. I look forward to navigating this journey together.

      Seeking beauty in the everyday stuff of life with you,

      -- Lyn

       Featured artwork:

       “Seeking the Light” 36” x 36” x 1.5” acrylic on canvas. This piece was inspired from a morning walk in my neighborhood. The sun was just coming up, and these vibrant little pink cacti flowers seemed to be reaching from their spot to absorb that life-giving light of the sun. Sort of like what I feel like I’m struggling to do. This is the first painting I’ve also added companion pieces too. Please check out the website for a view of my Seeking the Light series. Thanks!

      Expectation

      Expectation

      Trusting God During the Journey

      “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
      – John 14:1
      “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
      – Ralph Waldo Emerson

      I am a card-carrying Type-A, control freak. That means I tend to have trust issues, which is in stark contrast to my Christian worldview. Let me see if I can unravel this war going on inside my head and heart and explain what it has to do with Expectation.

      I spent my early adult life expecting that something amazing would occur, and it did. At 25, I was already married, at the top of my career and owned a house. Because I had already achieved MY interpretation of success, I had no vision of anything beyond what I was experiencing. I no longer felt a sense of anticipation for the future. This is where God began to do his work in my control-freak life.

      Following that pivotal birthday, I continued to work hard at my awesome job, weekends were spent working on our (fixer upper) house and traveling. All pleasurable, but none fulfilled my soul. Eventually, we started a family and I left my high-intensity job to become a card-carrying Type-A mommy to my girls. 

      Trust is “confident expectation/reliance on something or someone.” My greatest battle is where do I put my trust? Who do I rely on? Even though I’ve been a Christian for more than 20 years, the war of trusting myself and in my abilities more than anything else is still an often-fought battle. God has gifted me with certain characteristics and talents. The combination is unique to me, as are your characteristics and talents gifted to you. The problem arises when I use these traits without subjecting them to God’s plans for me.

      The question here is: Why don't I trust that God has great things planned for me? Why don't I think His plans are better then anything I can hope or imagine for myself (Ephesians 3:20-21)? Why do I believe I have the best ideas (did someone say "control freak?")?

      Consider this: God has a plan for each of us, you and me. Isn't that incredible? (“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 and, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” –Proverbs 3:5-6) When we look at our ideas through that lens, shouldn't the real question or thought be: "I can't wait to see what you're going to do, God!" or "What would you have me do, Lord?" Oh, for that to be my go-to thoughts. I'm a work-in-progress, for sure!

      I’m going to confess to you now that I have big ideas where my art is concerned. I imagine many artists have this same desire, but I will only throw myself under this bus. I would like to be successful. There, I said it.

      Now here’s the rub: That may not be God’s plan for me, AND the kicker is, do I trust Him for whatever His plan for me is? I still need to passionately pursue the goals I have with the gifts/talents He has given me. But the difference is, I'm to hold loosely to my plans, and be willing to have a course-correction, if necessary. All the while, I'm to give thanks to God no matter what happens in the process. Am I faithfully do that? Not always, which is sad because I have personally experienced the joy of trusting God in the middle of unknown circumstances and witnessed it time and time again among friends and family who journeyed through difficult seasons of their lives, fully expecting God to not only be present, but doing something through the event.

      When I felt God’s call to start painting at the end of 2014, I stepped into this adventure with little comprehension of the art industry. I had to trust God’s plan for me completely. Funny thing is, I still don’t know exactly what I'm suppose to do with these gifts. But our incredibly creative God already knows the unique plan He has for me (and you), and I know I can trust Him to fulfill it, when I let go, whole-heartedly trust and follow Him. It may not look like I think it should, but His ways are perfect, and I can rest in that promise. For this former Control Freaks Anonymous President (aka: me), it's scary to let go of the steering wheel, but ultimately the absolute best thing you and I can ever do is trust in a faithful God!

      Do you struggle with living your life in your own strength, or do you trust that God created you for a purpose? If the former, this battle isn’t unique to you and me. What is unique are His plans for us. Do you trust that promise? We still need to make our plans, but instead of holding onto them with a vice-like grip, we are to live our lives in expectation of what God has uniquely laid out for us, and trust Him in the process!

      Please share with me your journey of expectation and trust – it’s always better to adventure together.

      Continuing to seek beauty in the every day stuff of life with you,

      --Lyn

      Featured artwork: “Truth in the Darkness”, 48” x 24”, acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas. Available at lynhiner.com