Sheepies!

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On a hillside in Wales, 2012

Driving through the countryside of Wales for the first time, we rounded the corner and came almost nose-to-nose with a hill full of sheep.  Totally without meaning to, I gleefully exclaimed, “Oh look, SHEEPIES!!!!”  And my friends never let me forget it.  The next week and a half, it became a running joke.  “Look Michele- MORE sheepies!”

I was laughing right along with them.  Sheep have always had a fuzzy place in my heart.  They just look so sweet and cuddly and remind me of friends a world away.  So I was super excited to get to include them in a recent design project.

Bravely You is about this wild adventure of grace becoming all we are meant to be in Him, so every now and again I’ll introduce you to one of my friends/clients who I have been honored to serve as they step into more of what God has called them into.

Recently I had a dear friend come and stay a few days and while she was here we got her brand new blog launched!  She has a passion for healthy community and extravagant purpose.  But I’ll let her tell more of that story.  I was honored to work with her in developing her brand and designing the visual identity elements for her blog, Woven Together. And now I’m thrilled to give her a shout out here so you can go meet her over in her own words at https://woventogetherbyhim.wordpress.com/.

Branding-KatHave you always wanted to have your own online space to share your heart with the world?  Drop me a line here and let’s get a conversation started on how I might be able to help you make that happen.  I offer a variety of visual identity design services to help you get started and there is never any obligation.  I would absolutely love to hear from you!

Beauty In the Storm

beautyinthestorm-1It was the first cool-ish day of the almost fall. A little damp around the edges but that’s north Florida for you. {A little secret? I really like rain most days.}

A dear friend and I took the day to stroll the streets of old St Augustine in between showers and then we decided to catch the sunset at the beach.  We didn’t see much sun but there was whole lot of storm.  The sea was magnificent and wild.  I could feel the pull of the tide standing there just looking at the waves rip across the sand.

Sun, storm, rain, sky, sea… it all speaks, whispers and shouts.  Deep cries out for deep.  His deep calls to mine.  And His love.  His love is vaster than the ocean.

As we soaked in the fury and of course captured it on our iPhones {yes both of these pictures were taken on an iPhone, crazy right?}, I stood there simply grateful.

This season has continued to storm around me, but now there is such overwhelming beauty in the storm.

I look ahead holding a virtually blank canvas to start from. The old season is finally behind and for the first time in a very long time I feel excitement brimming.  The kind of I can’t wait to get up in the morning because I can’t wait to see what my day will hold excitement.  I have no idea what it will look like but I know however life from here turns out, it is good because I know He is good.

As the year turned last week {Happy New Year on the Hebraic calendar!}, all that behind is truly behind and all that is ahead is living, free and beautiful. I will write more on the Hebraic meaning of this new year {Yes, I’m a bit of an original language geek.}  But as I stood wind-whipped marveling at the storm right on the edge of a new year, it felt saturated with meaning.

Storms come. In Jesus, they are never meant to destroy us.  They are invitations. Storms invite us to new places of brave, abandoned faith: to run into the shelter of the Most High and to step out on the waves with Him, letting them propel us higher and deeper into His heart.

beautyinthestorm-2 Storms are invitations to dance with Jesus and from the place of His embrace enjoy the beauty found only in the storm.

On the way driving to St. Augustine listening to an amazing message on how God uses storms in our lives by Graham Cooke was such a set-up from God. The whole afternoon was a love letter from Jesus.  If you are in a stormy season, I’d seriously recommend you head over here and grab the mp3 download of this message.

And if you find inspiration in stunning imagery and do Pinterest, check out my board on Storms.  You are loved friends. Deeply.  How do you dance through storms with Jesus?  Share with us over in our Facebook community here.

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A Creative Way to Pray

CE09.13-6Here I am again splashing this heart of mine again, split wide open on a page.  Because brave is real and brave is see-through.

This last year I’ve walked one step at a time, one breath at a time rising above the storm by grace and grace alone.  The ways I prayed before somehow have been stripped away by the gales ripping at the edges of my heart.

I couldn’t pray the way I had before.  I just couldn’t.  But I couldn’t not pray either.

My face throbbing, my heart broken, my mind scrambled, my body beaten up, my emotions somewhere between raging, raw and numb… “soaking prayer” only meant soaking through a box of tissue.  All the ways I’ve heard and sensed and saw Jesus before have been somehow dim and faint, if not totally disconnected.

But I’ve been in this kind of wilderness before.  And I know He is closer than the air I breathe even if everything in and around me screams the opposite.  I know the wilderness is a beautiful place of establishing something deeper in me than could ever be planted in a greenhouse where all is easy and comfortable.  And so I thank Him for the wilderness times.

I found when I couldn’t pray in words, I could pray in paint and color and image.  I could sit with Jesus in my studio and create. And little by little my heart began to come back to life.

My drafting table became an altar to offer the broken pieces of my life on, color saying what words could not. 

It wasn’t about the end product at all, it was about the process, about meeting Him in the process.  We so often focus on product when God is far more concerned with our hearts simply being with Him on the journey.

Some of you reading may be thinking, well I just don’t hear God period.

But beloved you can and I’d venture to say you do hear Him, probably far more than you realize.

As God has been opening this new chapter, I’ve just started a site called Sketchbook Prayers.   There I’ll be sharing images from my prayer and devotional journals.  I’ll also be opening the community aspect up for specific submissions if you decide to join us in Creative Prayer Journaling and have a page or two you’d like to share for possible posting.

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Stepping out can be a scary thing.  Blank pages and unknown terrain can be intimidating.  Trust me I get it.  This is a journey that has come full circle for me, as prayer journaling is how Jesus trained me as a teenager to interact with His voice and Scripture. It is my joy to be able to share with you something so central to my walk with Jesus.

You don’t have to be an artist or even consider yourself creative. You don’t have to be able to draw or sketch or paint. All you have to be is hungry for more of Jesus.  And be open to meet with Him in the text, in the moment, in the silence, in the struggles, in the triumphs.  Might that be you?

Then, please, pull up a chair and settle in.

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Creative Prayer Journaling  as a method is my original modern twist on the ancient Celtic contemplative practice of infusing creativity into the way they interacted with God.  Creative Prayer Journaling uses visual journaling techniques and marries them with contemplative postures of prayer. It makes space and invites you to gaze at, interact with, process, reflect, enjoy, see with new eyes, receive, gain insight, experience and behold the beauty of Jesus in Scripture, in prayer and in life.

I am available to come and lead retreats {this makes for a wonderful creative weekend event!}. I’m starting to give workshops on Creative Prayer Journaling in the North Florida area this year and can customize them to serve your church, ministry, team/small group.  I’m also traveling again starting in 2015 on a limited basis beyond Florida as my health permits.

If any of this is of interest, please please let me hear from you.  Just drop me a line here, tell me what’s on your heart and we’ll see what God does!  Always and ever grateful for each of you friends.  Always.

You are loved-

Michele

Dancing the Will of the Father

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“Then Jesus answered and said to them, “ Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19

I am starting my third week of grad school. Assignments are piling high and it would be easy to be overwhelmed by it all, caught in the spin of a wave pounding hard on the shore.  Right on the shorelines of old dreams becoming new.

But the waves are only invitations to dance.

I am dreaming…  Dreaming of the trash mounds I stood on and preached from in Africa being transformed by rivers from heaven, dreaming of a world where children are loved and cherished and held and fed and inspired to grow into everything they are created for, dreaming of sustainable models of business and of raising up leaders who are truly healthy from the inside out.

For one class project, I have been interviewing amazing leaders in my life who use coaching in various ways in their leadership roles.  In one conversation, my interviewee said what I heard as: dancing the will of the Father.  When I clarified, he actually said: advancing the will of the Father.  But the two, they are one in the same breath.

Jesus, He was dancing the will of the Father, only doing what He saw His Father doing.  Just that.  Not one move more or one less.

As I stand looking up at a mountain of things needing doing, papers to write, books to read, to do lists to accomplish and an even bigger mountain of questions regarding the future: how do I find paying clients? Pay bills? Rebuild my ministry support base? Build a business outreach platform that truly adds transformational value to those I serve? Who to connect with? Praying in the right relationships. How to share and market and over-deliver and create and study and rest and enjoy and serve and get healthy and learn and juggle all that needs to find the right balance.  How do I find my footing right in the middle of the spin of the waves of this new season?

I am reminded. Again.  It is less about a plan and more about a dance.  I don’t have to figure it all out.  Even if I could, it would be a sad second to the beauty He is weaving in this love-dance on the earth.  Nothing has changed at all.  Except the trash heaps here are a little more attractive and the poverty more polished.

But missions is still about romance. More so than ever.  All fruitfulness comes from intimacy with Him.

And I simply need to continue letting Jesus lead this dance and together with Him only do what I see our Father doing.  This alone is freedom.  This alone is success.  This alone is where I belong and where all questions bow before the light of His face.

Taking more time to listen and watch than figure and plan.  More still, less stress.  More quiet, less noise.  Intentional. Focused.  Abandoned. Embraced. Free.

How to Wear Your Scars

scars-4I’m going to start something brave here.

I often let you see my lens, but not my paintbrush.  How is it that paint spilled out on paper seems so much more vulnerable than snapshots of pixelated time?

I was on a favorite stock photography site looking for an image for this post and it hit me.  I should be creating more of what I see not simply finding something someone else has created that approximates it.  Creating for it’s own sake has fallen somewhere in the less-than-urgent crack between grad school and ministry.

But creating is at the heart of what makes me bravely who I am.

Then there are the scars.  Not the faded ones from a childhood of 23 surgeries, but the raw, hidden ones that rip at heart and hope and life itself.

We all have them.  Jesus has them. He sweated blood as His heart was breaking.  His scars where love pierced Him through tell us this… Scars remind us of where we have been.  They do not have to dictate where we are going. 

Love pierced the hands and feet of Jesus.  He wears the scars of love, not of nails.  And if we choose to walk in His love, we too will have scars.  Betrayal will come. Pain will come.  Being misunderstood, accused and cursed at.  It all rips open wounds in our soul.

scars-2But what if those ripped, torn places become the thin place and out of brokenness spills beauty and new life?

scars-7What if our scars remind of us that God’s goodness is forever?  What if scars remind us of His power even in the storm?  Of His faithfulness and that even if everyone we love walked away, He never would?

What if from our scars grew vineyards and orchards of fruitfulness and all things working together for good really means all things?

scars-3I don’t believe God ever plans our harm.  Ever.

But I do have a radical, fundamental belief in His ultimate power to redeem it all.  Every loss that colors our world.  Every pain that shades our experience.  Every betrayal that casts shadows on our journey.  Every time choosing Him, choosing love costs us a price few will ever understand, let alone see.  He sees. He knows. He weeps the tears that we cannot cry.

scars-6And He fuses those scars, weaving them with gold spilled from eternity right into our fractured, messy now. The gold glints and shimmers in the light of His gaze.

Suddenly that which has broken us becomes a place of beauty forged right in the fire of our struggle and we step in to the fellowship of His love-scars we could not have entered into any other way.  There every scar is precious.

There gold is spun from our scarred stories flung hard into the wide open arms of Grace.