Spirit led….

I love being led by God. Being so takes me to some unexpected places. Learning to let go and just be led by God was not easy. I had to go through some growing pains. Pain is never easy. Most times I find myself rebelling against anything which causes me pain. Pain whether physical or emotional is pain. It is real. Both are equally difficult to deal with and accept in my life. But both are necessary. Both reveal an area which needs healing. Letting go and letting myself be led by God was painful. I have no doubt I am not done learning and healing this aspect of my life. I am only just now realizing that if my life is easy, without obstacles, without difficulties, then I’m stagnant and not learning, not growing, and not being led by God.

However, there is another side of this. If I am feeling resistance then I have closed myself off to what God wants for me. Being God led, doesn’t mean life will be easier, but it does mean God will give me whatever I need in my life. However, this does mean if I trust God will give me what I need, then life is easier though it might be difficult. I am slowly being taught this by God. I have seen indications of this lately even though it has been going on for some time.

My first real, “Ah Ha!” moment that God was teaching me is from 10February2019, Sunday sermon I watched online. This sermon was about living a Christian life of condemnation versus living a Spirit filled Christian life. What an eye opening sermon! It revealed to me how I have been living a Christian life of condemnation and thus living a miserable life. This is not what God meant for me to have. In just the few days since this sermon and choosing to live a Spirit filled life, things are changing. My perspective of my own life is changing. I knew living a Spirit filled life meant I would be led by the Spirit but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My next real “Ah Ha!” moment came this morning only about an hour or so ago when I came across this post and was led to listen. This post was from an unexpected source Cinnamon and Sparkles on WordPress. Two things intrigued me enough to want to listen. The first, was the source and the second was the location of the pastor. I used to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I’m always fascinated when I learn new things about the place and find myself drawn back there for whatever reason. I seem to have a permanent link to this town or state.

The link, in the post, is part 1 of a sermon on relationship goals. This was another reason why I was drawn to listen to it. I have never had what I would consider a successful relationship. I am drawn towards trying to understand why that would be. I generally associate the difficulties I’ve had with my childhood and what it trained me to do and how difficult it is to break this training. In some cases I have basically given up because doing it alone seems to be impossible. This sermon was another eye opening experience.

Even if my experience over the past few days had just been these two sermons, I would still believe I am being Spirit led. But every day I am being shown something. Sometimes these things seem quite small and insignificant. One step at a time, I am being taught by the Spirit that he is listening and answering my prayers. He is doing so not in any way I expected but in the way I need the most. He knows where I need healing and like a precise, well experienced surgeon, He is targeting exactly the areas where I need healing and understanding first. I am beginning to understand without taking these steps first, it would most likely be impossible for me to fulfill my God designed purpose.

It would be difficult to explain what I have learned and how my life is changing without someone first listening to the sermons, so I invite you to listen to them before reading further.

Without giving a detailed history of my life, it might be difficult for someone to understand but I’ll try. I was either pre-teen or just turned a teenager when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior. I attended church and took part in the teen classes and activities. I enjoyed it all but in the background was my family life who also attended church but was not the healthiest family life. Shortly after, my parents divorced and my relationship with a boy from church fell apart. It is obvious to me now what was going on but not to this teen who was emotionally confused her whole life. The teen leaders instead of sitting down with me and trying to help me (they knew what was happening with my parents because my parents sought church counseling, I learned many years later), put me in a room with my boyfriend and told us to talk to each other. I was unable to talk and so that is how my whole life progressed. Churches failed me in trying to help me understand and my Christian life became a life of condemnation. Never feeling good enough and never feeling part of a Christian family. For years I went back and forth between attending church and creating my own spiritual life without church. I always believed in God but never felt good enough for Him or for any church to want me or accept me. Consequently, I also condemned myself at every turn and made excuses for every sin.

My life was a roller coaster ride. From high joys to low depression. The joy usually came when I was in a relationship with a man and plummeted when I realized that relationship was over. I ended the majority of them and blamed myself. I looked for reasons and found them. I tried to conquer them and deceived myself into believing I had. This was mostly romantic relationships but I lied to myself that it didn’t bleed over into my family, friends and even business relationships. As I grew older I became more and more lost and I isolated myself more and more.

When I developed breast cancer and had a bad reaction that could have led to my death, I was devastated but not enough to turn back to God. A year later, when I was laid off of my job, I found that was even more devastating than almost losing my life. It took an emotional breakdown and two years of not being able to get a job for me to finally turn back to God. He had become my only hope.

I made a commitment to try and learn about God by reading the bible from cover to cover. I wanted to learn about Him from the Word of God and not from a preacher. My earlier years taught me that I needed to find a different way to learn so I went to the source, the Bible. Since starting to read the Bible, things have been happening. I pray and sometimes I feel my prayers are answered and then later things happen to make me see they weren’t answered in the way I thought they were. I would apply for a job I thought for sure I was being shown was the job for me, have an interview and hear nothing. I would see something online which I was sure was a message to me as an answer to a prayer and then it would all fall apart. Things would happen and then the thing that looked so promising would then crumble into pieces and disintegrate. Over and over again this would happen. Each time this happened I looked at myself to blame. I blamed myself for sabotaging it all. I would believe I wasn’t good enough. I believed all this was happening because I deserved to be punished. I was living a life of condemnation. I saw no end to it and started giving up hope.

There was one prayer I pray quite often that never changes. “God help me to become the person you want me to become.” What I didn’t see until 10February, was that God was indeed helping me to become the person he has always meant for me to be. To be the person he created me to be. On 10 February, when I learned the difference between living a life of condemnation and living a Spirit filled life, I saw for the first time what God was trying to teach me. I vowed that day and prayed that day to live a Spirit filled life and put aside condemnation.

Without a doubt in the week following, I lived cautiously. I waited for the old thought patterns to reassert themselves. I waited for overwhelming depression, and anxiety to come rolling back into my life. So far that has not happened. Instead, every day I’m shown something new. When I reveal something about myself one night, the next day I’m shown how I can overcome it or how healing can begin and I was led to the second sermon about relationships. In part one, I learned how trying to fill myself by other’s expectations is not what God wants for me. I knew that, even when I was a teen and left home and tried to live my life according to my own expectations. But, what I didn’t realize was my expectations were built off of society’s expectations and not upon the person God made me to be. As long as I continue to try and be the person built off of society’s expectations I will never feel I am good enough. WHAT AN EYE OPENING MESSAGE!

This is why I had to write this post today. What I think about my job, what I think about my relationships, friendships, family and so forth have all been built off of societal expectations.

If you find yourself with feelings of not being good enough, of not having a successful relationship, of hating your job and so forth, listen to Part 1 of “Before the Person: Relationship Goals” and see if it has a message for you. I know it did for me.

I am not going to stop there. I am going to listen to the rest of the series. I will do so when I’m led to do so by the Spirit.

Bless you and if you feel moved to leave a comment please do so.

 

God, artwork, dreams and reality….

Wow, time seems to be having quite a bit of fun with me since my last post on the 3rd of April. My work schedule seems to reflect this. I had one day off on the 3rd, worked 1 day, then 2 days off, worked 1 day, then 2 more days off, then worked 8 days. During each of the two days I had work done on my car, my windshield replaced, and multiple recall items replaced. Thankfully, my insurance covered the windshield and the recall items didn’t cost me anything. While the car was worked on I worked hard doing a much needed cleaning of our home. I still have a bit more to do, however, it feels good that a majority of it has been done. In the midst of all of this I did some artwork, art journaling, designing and focused on a class and some other studying. I’m going to talk about these but not necessarily in that order.

I’ll tackle the studying part first, and if you aren’t interested feel free to skip down to the next topic.

STUDYING:

I’ll give a bit of background. I grew up protestant with a leaning towards Baptist and later non-denomination Christian. The very first church I remember going to wasn’t either one of these, and I’m not sure what denomination it was considered. I remember enjoying Church there because there was no preacher, just elders who ran the church and on occasion invited speakers to our Sunday services. Generally, Sunday service for the family was conducted with someone reading a passage from the bible and different members standing and reading from the bible, intermixed with singing gospel songs. There wasn’t anyone to tell us how to interpret the scripture. Even Sunday school for the kids was an adult reading from the Bible and then talking to the children about what was read, generally they were well known stories, like Noah and the Ark. I believe this early introduction to this type of congregation influenced my opinion of churches later on. I’m not sure what led my parents to switch from that church to a Baptist church but they did. The difference between the two was extreme though as a young person I wasn’t adept at working out why when I had been taught from an early age to not question my parents or adults. I just know I couldn’t fully integrate into the way these later churches were run, not even the non-denominational churches and I tried several of them. This was no reflection upon my belief in God, only in the very nature of how Churches are run and Preachers preach their sermons.

With this being said, it has been years since I stepped into a church. It never fails though that each time I have, I felt there was something fundamentally wrong, because every time I walked out of church I felt worse than when I walked into it. As the years passed I stopped attending church even though I didn’t stop believing in God. I have developed different names to represent God, such as, Universe, which usually is my way of saying Universal Intelligence, or Greater Being, or Great Unknown, and so forth. This is just my way of accepting that there is something unknowable that is greater than all of us. I consider myself spiritual and not religious.

When I am faced with the need to understand something, I don’t rely on what other people say or believe. That has never been my way. Consequently, I research, I observe, I experiment, and I do whatever I can to satisfy that need to understand. It doesn’t matter the topic. Whether it is how a certain art supply will work with or not work with another art supply, or if it is what makes certain people tick or respond in the way they do, including myself, and yes this includes understanding God.

I am often confused as to why I am driven to the need to understand something when I am not at other times. For instance, creativity has always been a part of my life. Throughout my life I’ve used various ways to bring creativity into it. Art, such as drawing and painting, were not part of this between the end of high school and until a few years ago. Oh, for brief periods of only a day or two or a week at the most I might have tried to get back into sketching but I was never driven to understand my need for it until a few years ago. Just as I’m driven now to understand more about God or more importantly my beliefs after years of being absent from any church.

I used to think those years were absent of all desire to understand. When I look back on it now, I believe those years were my period to observe and sometimes experiment. Experimenting was rare however. Observing takes years, at least my way of observing takes years because I’m observing everything around me and storing up inside, my response to what I have observed. Once enough is stored, it then drives me to research, and study whatever I can find, in order to understand what I have observed and continue to observe.

You are probably wondering why or how all of this is related to my belief in God. Well, I’ve spent my whole life observing and storing up information. Now, I am driven to try and understand which means research. I often make this decision subconsciously which the World or Universe, or if you prefer, God responds to. I had no sooner made this decision subconsciously when a resource was made known to me. That resource is a 5 year journey called “Thru the Bible” which contains five years of recordings with Dr. J. Vernon McGee where he takes you through the whole Bible. I tried several times to read the Bible on my own but usually got discouraged and stopped. I don’t think I made it through more than a couple books on my own.

This journey I began on the 5th of April is different from all my other attempts to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. I’m not saying I agree with everything McGee says in the recordings but what I am finding is because these are recordings I’m able to slow down, listen to what he says about the chapter I read, and allow my own intelligence and spiritual guidance to come to my own interpretation. I write down notes which contains my questions, how I understand what I read or what I’m lead to understand.

When I say lead, I’m not talking about just McGee’s comments because more often than not his comments spark more questions which are often not in alignment with his interpretation. I’m finally understanding that I am quite literal. If McGee’s interpretation contains within it something that is not stated in the scripture I just read and he gives no supporting scripture, I tend to discard his interpretation or parts of it, unless I come across scripture that later supports his interpretation. I know he comes from years and years of study, schooling and experience but that doesn’t mean he is right in everything he says. In fact, I often find he has very condescending and what I feel are judgemental statements which tend to rub me the wrong way. I take that as a sign to explore more and so I do.

I have considered not listening any further to his recordings, however, if I did, then I would not have the catalyst I need. I know this because I start my study period by first reading the chapter. After reading the chapter I usually have little insight. When I follow that by listening to the recordings for that chapter while making notes, I gain more insight and understanding. It doesn’t stop there, sometimes the rest of my day I find myself often contemplating what I am learning. If I only read the chapter I would probably lose out on a good 75% of what I learn when I allow McGee’s comments to trigger the opening of doors to further understanding.

This will be a three to five year journey of studying the Bible (from beginning to end) and possibly other resources as I come across them. I am curious if this will somehow work its way into my artwork and whether it will become a life long journey. I do know this journey will not be an easy one because it has already created some amazing shifts in my understanding and reality.

When I enter into something that creates such major shifts, time flows strangely and the world around me alters in unexpected ways.

ARTWORK:

Last time, I started a page in my watercolor art journal, in an attempt to go lighter with the watercolor pigments that I did on my previous page. I had shown this picture of the first layer of watercolor:

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Though the image shows a light blue in the colors there really wasn’t any. It was the untouched watercolor paper or areas barely touched by paint that showed up with a blue tint. Seeing this in the photo made me want to play with adding other colors.

You can see in the below image where I added some blue and some more yellow. In some places where the blue touched yellow, the mix created a green or blue-green color. I let some of the blue run or drip. I then let it dry.

IMG_1365

Once it was dry, I used a graphite pencil to create some shapes, then used white acrylic paint around the shapes, trying to bring them forward. I didn’t want to cover the whole background with this layer of white so I left some areas alone.

It has probably been a week since I worked on this page. I’m still trying to decide what to do next. I’m thinking doodles. In the meantime, and in between my studies and art journaling, I was lead to focusing on a class.

CLASS & Journaling:

In December 2017, I purchased the Art Bundle for Good. I learned about the Art Bundle in early 2017 and made my first purchase. The Art Bundle for Good is a project created or organized by John Bardos which provides some amazing art resources at an unbelievable discount and portions go to a worthy charity. When I first learned about it, I wasn’t sure about it but gave it a try and now I’m so glad I did. Having purchased two of the Art Bundles I’m amazed and thrilled with all that is included. I have resources that will last me for years so even if I can’t purchase another art class, there are enough courses in the two Art Bundles to keep me busy for a long time.

From one of these resources I received an email stating that Dream Lab was shutting down. I had only glanced at this opportunity when I went through the process to acquire the courses provided from the Art Bundle in December. I quickly emailed the owner, Andrea Schroeder asking if I would lose access to the courses. She quickly replied, stating no, that she was just altering the free course she had available, basically upgrading it and changing its name.

What this email did was to make me look at the courses I received from Andrea in the Art Bundle to see how they fit in my current life. I admit, I have been struggling with attracting what I want to have in my life, so when I saw the email and reviewed the courses, I thought “why not”. It couldn’t hurt. The course I’m talking about is “Creative Dream Incubator”. Her approach is very simple and what I love most about her lesson is the simplicity of it. Her artwork may not look like what I would create but it shows me that it doesn’t have to be elaborate or a masterpiece. People with little to no art skills can use her methods and techniques in helping to bring about a particular dream they may be struggling with developing and want to have in their life. I do believe it is based on the law of attraction but she takes it down to a more simplistic level for those who are not accustomed to or understanding what all is involved in the law of attraction. She provides simple tools you can learn to apply in your everyday life. I am up to module three. There are six modules in total.

I will admit that even with the simple methods I’m still learning how to apply them every day. I need to find ways that work for me. What I find interesting is in the artwork in particular I have added some of the steps before I read the module where she suggests adding particular things. So for me the artwork for supporting my dream comes naturally while the rest of the supporting elements doesn’t. I believe this is due to my being taught to not ask questions when I was a child and due to my environment causing me to focus on the negative instead of the positive things in life. I am hoping these methods will help me to alter that aspect of myself.

I won’t be adding pictures of this lesson for two reasons. The first is I feel the need to keep it private but wanted to write about the class in case others might be struggling with similar issues and want to give it a try. The other reason is Andrea worked hard on these courses and the pictures would be giving away too much of her hard work. I am recording my progress in my journal, which is the journal I use almost daily and my version of a bullet journal. This class isn’t just helping me with learning how to create my dream but it is also helping me to learn ways in which I can use my journal to support those dreams.

OTHER:

For a while now, I’ve had a couple things on my mind. Stencils/Masks and stamps. I read an article in the March/April 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors called “Printing Lab: Carved Monotypes” by Dawn Emerson. Even before reading the article I have been wanting to find a way to make my own stamps. I have already made a few of my own stencils and masks, which I want to continue to do.

I don’t know why but this is something I keep putting off. There was a discussion in one of the groups on Facebook about copyright issues when using commercial stamps and stencils in artwork people want to sell. Like others I feel it is crazy when a product you buy can’t be used in your own artwork that you want to sell, especially if the person selling the artwork isn’t just selling a print of the image but has added their own artwork as well. I won’t go into the legalities of this. It is too complicated and too volatile of a topic.

I have in the past purchased some stencils and stamps. I use them only for my personal artwork. Since I don’t currently sell any artwork, it isn’t an issue. From the very start of getting into mixed media I have always felt the need to have everything in my artwork be my unique artwork. This is just one of the many reasons I also don’t do collage very much using commercially created items. I won’t get into that either. With wanting my artwork to be my own unique artwork it means if I want to use stenciling/masking or stamping techniques and collage techniques then I need to create my own. There is one benefit to making my own. I can do it cost effectively.

Below are two of my new stencil designs. I drew them on regular printer paper using pencil, then went over the final design in ink and scanned them into my computer. Scanning them serves a few purposes. It saves them in case the original copy gets destroyed. I can increase or decrease their size or even use just a portion of the design. I could potentially sell the design too. If printed at original size on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper there is a small border around the edge which may not show up in this image.

Stencil1 copy

Stencil2 copy

I hope to use some of my images from Inktober 2017 to create stamps. You can see the images from Inktober 2017 here.  This takes me back to the article I read in Cloth Paper Scissors. In the article the artist created a monoprint from an image she carved into wood. This gave me the idea to try and use my wood burning tool to carve an image into a small piece of wood, seal it, and use it as a sort of stamp. I haven’t tried this yet but plan to in the near future. I also picked up some carving material used to make stamps so I can experiment to decide which method works best. It is possible one works best for certain applications while the other works best for other types of applications. I’m excited to give this a try and see what develops.

I often feel like I’m not doing much when it comes to my creativity. To alleviate me of this perception I started listing in my daily journal the things I have done that day. Sometimes, it is true, that I haven’t done any artwork but there is creativity in almost everything we do. Sometimes I have to get creative in accomplishing the mundane things in my life. Creating this list also helps me to see when other things have taken precedent and it is generally easy to see why.

I leave you on that note now. My studies call to me as well as those mundane things in life that need to be taken care of. Feel free to comment. Hearing from those who take the time to read my post is one of the more simpler joys in life.

❤ ❤ ❤