Sunday, September 27, 2020

Beauty in the Hard

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

Hi Friends,

As a nation, as a world, we have been experiencing some hard. Individually, we may be experiencing hard. Joseph knew hard. He knew a lot of it. But through it all, he trusted God. He knew God was using the hard for His purpose- and that purpose was good. That didn't necessarily make the hard easier, but it did give it purpose, God's purpose. The same is true for us. Our hard has a purpose. God is working in it. Nothing surprises Him. Covid didn't surprise Him. The unrest doesn't surprise Him. Our individual circumstances don't surprise Him. He knew. He knows. And He is working His purpose through it all.

My friend and owner of Sweet 'n Sassy Stamps, Korin Sutherland, shared a post on FB originally written by Kimberly Henderson of Proverbs 31 Ministries. It really resonated with me and is what inspired this page. Here is what Kimberly wrote:

I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine.
I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.
I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives.
And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beatings, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain.
And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hard will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear.
So instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I'm asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.
He knows the beauty the hard will grow. He knows, friend. Let's lift our nation, our world, each other up to Him. He is our hope. He is working in this mess. And He is good.

Page Details: Do you ever work on a page and things just keep messing up? Well, I do! LOL I decided to do a background using acrylic paint and baby wipes. I just put some paint on the baby wipe, and spread it out on the page, blending when I started a new color. But, I dropped some paint on the Scripture. So, I tried to clean it off, and ended up rubbing the words a little too much so that they started to come up. OOOPS!
Then, when I went to stamp the words on the page, I started stamping the wrong word!
The great thing about acrylics is that if you mess up, you can just paint over it and start over! You can see that even after I painted over it, you can still see a little of the "HA", but once I stamped "WILL" over it, you can't see the mess up.

If I hadn't been using acrylics, I probably would have covered the "HA" with something- a word sticker, a torn hymnal page, scrapbook paper, something that would have camouflaged the mistake.

I used the following Sweet 'n Sassy Stamps sets: Playful Alpha, Bold & Outline Caps, True Beauty, and Made New. I also used a white pen to highlight the words.
Trust Him, Friends. He knows the hard you are in and He's right there with you. Have a blessed week! Andrea

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Vine and the Gardener...

Hi friends,

In John 15, in the middle of Jesus' farewell discourse at his last meal with his disciples before his death, he describes his relationship with his Heavenly Father and with his disciples using several images. One of them is that of a vine and branches. This extended metaphor shows how we are a part of Christ and how we draw our source of life from him. When Jesus says 'I am the true vine' he is claiming to fulfil what Israel was meant to have been. Israel is referred to as a vine in the Old Testament, but it failed in its purpose as it grew wild and sick, and was eventually destroyed by other nations. Jesus reframes this image around himself (as with so many other images he uses as he teaches).

If Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches bearing leaves and fruit, then the Father is the gardener. As the gardener, he cuts away branches that don't bear fruit, and prunes those that do so that they will produce even more. This is both an encouraging and sobering truth. Our Heavenly Father will remove branches of his true vine that show they are no longer drawing life from the vine - they have become unfruitful and therefore unnecessary. When Jesus spoke these words they could have applied to those Pharisees and Sadducees who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the source of life, and therefore were not bearing fruit. Today, this could apply to those who claim to be part of the vine but who are not bearing fruit because their connection to the source has dried up. It is the Father's right to tend and care for the vine, and he does so with infinite wisdom. He doesn't just lop off branches carelessly - he knows which branches need careful tending and which ones just need to go.

What I find interesting is that along with cutting off branches that don't bear fruit, the Father prunes the ones that do - which means cutting bits from them. So either way, cutting is involved! Sometimes God cuts things from our lives or ministries which feel painful, and we feel empty or bare as a result. But in these seasons we need to know that God the Father does this for the good of the vine. We are still connected, so we are still drawing life from Jesus, and the cutting away he does in our lives will actually lead to more fruit in the future. So if you feel the painful snip of God's pruning in your life, be encouraged.... there is greater fruit coming. 

On this page in my Illustrating Bible, I painted a background with acrylic paints, then stamped the leaves from Give Thanks over the top with Stazon brown ink, colouring with coloured pencils (if you are colouring over darker backgrounds, you can add a layer of white pencil first, then add colour over the top). The verse was stamped with a combination of I Am, School Days Alpha, Rebecca Script Alpha and Mini Grunge Type Alpha. I added a couple of butterfly stickers and some washi tape down the side to finish. Here are the sets I used:

Let's be encouraged as we see our Heavenly Father at work as the gardener and choose to keep drawing our life from the vine, Jesus Christ.

Be blessed...

x Amy x

Monday, September 21, 2020

I was so moved this week, listening to "Run to the Father" by Cody Carnes.  
Verse 1
I've carried a burden for too long on my own
I wasn't created to bear it alone
I hear Your invitation to let it all go
I see it now, I'm laying it down
And I know that I need You

I run to the Father, I fall into grace
I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait
My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend
So I'll run to the Father again and again and again and again
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

Verse 2
You saw my condition, had a plan from the start
Your Son for redemption, the price for my heart
And I don't have a context for that kind of love
I don't understand, I can't comprehend
All I know is I need You

I run to the Father, I fall into grace
I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait
My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend
So I'll run to the Father again and again and again and again
Oh-oh, oh-oh…
Again and again and again and again (Oh-oh, oh-oh)
Oh-oh, oh-oh… (Oh-ohh)

My heart has been in Your sights
Long before my first breath
Running into Your arms
Is running to life from death
And I feel this rush deep in my chest
Your mercy is calling out
Just as I am You pull me in
And I know I need You now

I run to the Father, I fall into grace
I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait
My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend
So I'll run to the Father again and again
I run to the Father, I fall into grace
I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait
And my heart found a surgeon, my soul found a friend
So I'll run to the Father again and again and again and again
Oh-oh, oh-oh…
Again and again and again and again (Oh-oh, oh-oh)
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
Again and again

Oh, what an amazing God we have!  He loves us unconditionally and made a way for all man-kind to be adopted in to the holy family through Jesus.  There is nothing we can do to earn it and we certainly don't deserve it, but He still made a way.  That is grace, my friends!

With the cooler, fall like weather we are having I knew I wanted to journal the lyrics "fall in to grace".  I was lead to these verses in Ephesians 1:

3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. 5 He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.

11 In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory.

13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.

After reading and meditating on these verses, the imagery in my head was of God's love falling all around us like leaves in the Fall.  That love was then raked up in to a heaping pile of grace by Jesus and all we have to do is fall in to that amazing grace like we used to fall into leaf piles as children.

Artsy Details: 

I started by using destress oxides smooshed on a piece of watercolor paper and drying between colors to create layers and layers of beautiful, fall leafy colors.  I splattered some gold watercolor paint over the top and some brown ink for contrast.

Then I stamped the leaves using Autumn Splendor and heat embossed them with gold embossing powder.

I did not look forward to the next part...I had to fussy cut them all out!  Can I tell you how much I DO NOT like fussy cutting?

I painted my page using acrylic paint.  I went for a golden sunset look that makes fall feel so magical to me. Then I added my title with the new Playful Alpha set and added my leaves falling like God's love and leaf pile of grace.  I just want to jump in it, don't you?

Until next time, catch up with me on Instagram and Facebook @simplyjillsjourney.


I Am the Bread of Life

 "And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." - John 6:35

I am thoroughly enjoying my study of the "I AM" statements of Jesus in John 6. This chapter is a long chapter (71 verses!), but so rich in teaching, instruction, and truth. To top it off, my pastor's wife has been teaching a Sunday School series entitled "The Lord's Prayer" which ties Matthew 6 ("Give us this day our daily bread") in with John 6 ("I am the bread of life"). Plus, I received an email from one of my Christian blogs this week with a sermon on this very topic. I love it when God does that! 😊

There is so much rich and powerful symbolism in these verses that I'm afraid I can only brush the surface. I highly encourage you to read John 6:22-59 for the full story and spend some time studying these truths on your own. It's far deeper than I ever realized! With that said, I'm going to take just a few minutes to share what I have learned and am learning from the commentaries I've studied, the teachers I've listened to, and of course, the unfailing Word of God.

The "I Am the Bread of Life" statement is the first of the "I AM" statements of Jesus. In this statement, Jesus is saying that anyone who comes to Him "to obtain what the soul craves, and as the only all-sufficient and ordained source of supply shall have conscious and abiding satisfaction" (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown Commentary). Jesus is the bread that sustains your life and mine - not just physically, but spiritually as well.  

Friends, you and I were created with a deep spiritual need to know our Creator. God created me hungry. But my hunger goes far deeper than my physical need - it is a deep, emotional, spiritual need. It's a need that only the One who created me can fulfill. In these verses, Jesus is showing us the difference between physical fullness and spiritual fullness. The people in John 6 came back to Jesus because he had performed a miracle and met their physical needs (Jesus feeds the five thousand, verses 1-14), but Jesus wanted them to know that He offers so much more than that! He can satisfy not only their physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well. 

Only those who believe on Jesus will find their deepest hunger satisfied.

Jesus uses the example of manna in the wilderness to make His point. The Israelites were obviously very familiar with this story - their ancestors had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, but God sustained them by providing manna daily. The manna couldn't be gathered and stored for future use. No, it had to be used that day or by the end of the day it would rot. Thus the Israelites learned to rely on God for their food daily (verses 30-35). 

"Christ is bread to the soul which bread is to the body, nourishes and supports the spiritual life as the bread does the physical life."
- Matthew Henry Commentary

It was Jesus who taught us how to pray: Lord, give us this day our daily bread (Matt 6:11). He took the physical illustration of the daily manna in the wilderness and gave you and I the spiritual application. He alone is the eternal food for my soul. He alone can satisfy my deepest hunger. In Jesus' answer to the people, he lifted their eyes from their physical need to their spiritual reality. The truth is:

You can have a full stomach but an empty life.

So often we live empty. We have everything we could possibly need, but we are still empty. When we are living empty, it's because we're not being filled with the right things. That's when Jesus beckons you to come to His table and be filled. You say, "yeah, but how?!" (This is where my Sunday School lessons come in handy 😉 my pastor's wife always has the YBH - yeah, but how do I apply this to my life?) 

Let's be real here - life has a tendency to empty us of God's goodness. We may start our day filled, but little by little, bit by bit, we pour out until there is nothing left. We are living empty. When we live life empty, we live filled with frustration and anger. God says to come to His table and be filled. Go to Him in prayer, get in His Word, and speak truth. In all of life's "emptying" moments, make these two statements:
  1. Lord, how can I glorify You in this moment?
  2. Thank you, Lord, for what you are going to do. (state your faith) 

"For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." - Psalm 107:9

Let the empty hungering be the catalyst for God to work in you and through you. There is a filling up that happens when you speak the truth according to God's Word and focus on what you do have as opposed to what you don't have. Jesus knows your hunger, He understands your emptiness - that's why He gave you the truth  of John 6. He is the spiritual food that will give eternal satisfaction, and is the only source for the consistent peace you need in the emptying moments of life. 

Page Details

I knew I wanted to draw a loaf of bread, but I'm not incredibly artistic so I needed help. I just Googled how to draw and easy loaf of bread and found a quick, two minute YouTube video (seriously, any one could do it!). I then stamped my titles using the I Am and Bitty Minnie Alpha stamp sets from Sweet 'n Sassy Stamps, watercolored the loaf of bread using my favorite Prima Marketing Pastel Dreams watercolor paints, and added some grey shadowing. 

(The blue spots are bleed-over from the page next to this one. I'm a messy journaler, what can I say? 🤷😉)


May you be filled with the Bread of Life this week, 


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

God's Plan

Genesis 41:38-41
And Pharaoh, said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?" Then the Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you." And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt."

We've all been there at one point or another. So frustrated with not knowing what you want, what you're meant to do with your life and how to get there. Or maybe you've been like "Why did this happen to me Lord? What did I do to deserve this?!" We all question the things that happen in our lives sometimes. And as Christians, we are taught to put our trust in God because he knows the plans he has for us. 

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

"God does indeed have a plan for our lives, he just has a much better view from above!" 
-Mike Breaux
I love that! Think about how much better you can see anything when you are looking at it from up above and can see the whole picture! He has the ability to see from above like no one else, and has a love that is deep and wide.

The story of Joseph is a perfect example of how God has a plan for his people. Joseph's life was FAR from easy. He faced a lot of adversity over the years. When we was younger he came off as a bit arrogant to his brothers that already didn't like him, when he told them that God gave him a dream that Joseph would be the ruler of all of them they were so angry. His brothers ended up throwing him into a pit and selling him into slavery. Joseph's troubles didn't end there. He later worked in the Potiphar's home where he was falsely accused of rape, then thrown in jail. He was determined to do good no matter where he was and helped some men in the jail just to later be betrayed. Joseph ended up spending another 2 years in jail before the Pharaoh finally pulled him out and made him a ruler.

But the thing everyone should take away from Joseph's story is that that no matter what Joseph faced, God was with him! Though his situations were tough, God never abandoned him or left his side. Good came from all the situations that Joseph faced. And those adversities he went through helped shape him into the man and ruler he later became. Over all of those years, God was putting in the work to build Joseph's character. God is far more into our character than our comfort. He's not concerned about what is most comfortable or easy for us. He is busy building us into the people he wants us to be. 

God timed Joseph's life just right. He struggled yes, but in one 24 hour period, he took Joseph from a jail cell to the second most powerful position in the nation of Egypt! Now THAT is powerful! 
God's plan is to have the right person, in the right place, at the right time, for his right purposes. 

God is always with you, working in the dark. You may not see him, you may not hear him, but he is there working for your good. So never lose hope on a God who never sleeps!

Stephanie Gammon

Just Say Jesus

Consider The Wildflowers

Happy Alpha

Chunky Lowercase Alpha

Fur-ever Friends 


Monday, September 14, 2020

I Delight in the Great I AM

Hello sweet friends!

There's been a lot of talk about a "hot minute" or "hot while," and the fact that we get so busy-busy with life's "squeaky wheels" that we are unable to do everything we've set out to do.  Purposed to do.  Thought we could do?
That's me. 
But, I didn't realize until this school year started just what that "hot minute" could infer: y'all it's been hot.  

The Good Lord has brought us along in our (Mike's and my) journey, giving us insight into what's next, for how long, and what it will require.  Every step we take, we bite our bottom lip and with (somewhat) hesitation we say, "alright Lord, let's do it."  

To be honest, there's a lot more reservation in me than resides in my husband.  And at great length, I DO come around, but I have to confess that it's not been the easiest of "surrender" this year.  

As time goes on, I'm learning what it means to "delight yourself in the LORD." (Psalm 37:4)
I've always had a hard time with this saying in its antiquity and the fact is, upon study, my flesh is not always ready to "delight" in much of anything. 
That's why I'm still learning.  I'm still being chiseled and chastened, shaped and sharpened.  It's a growth that, as I stated above, is involving all areas of my life.  To the glory of God and God alone, amen.

All of Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the **LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I'm not a brand new Christian, but I am finding out how this and Matthew 5:2-12 (the Sermon on the Mount) are related.  
**Note: "LORD" in all caps this way, refers to the personal name of God.  He is YHWH, which is "I AM," the all-sufficient One, self-sustained and above all else.

God is good; let me start with that.
I'll add to it, God is sovereign.
Lastly, God is in control.
It's easy to refer to Psalm 37:4 when speaking to a Christian about God's favor on the obedient.  We tend to go this direction when we teach that in doing "a, b and c" we should get "x, y and z."  
But the heart of this verse is such that "delighting" oneself has more to do with the constant surrender to God's will, pleasure and commands, and less to do with obtaining reward following our doing for Christ. 
It carries the intentional posture of submission to God's ways, God's thinking, God's call on your life and mine as Christians, which then ultimately gives us the desires of our hearts as they become more aligned with Him who is 
Sovereign, and
in control.

When you marry this to the passage in Matthew (again found in Luke 6), you come to understand what delighting yourself in the LORD is, and what that looks like for the Christ follower.
"...poor in spirit..." (Matt. 5:3)
"...those who mourn..." (v.4)
"...those who are meek..." (v.5)
"...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..." (v.6)
"...the merciful..." (v. 7)
"...the pure in heart..." (v.8)
"...the peacemakers..." (v.9)
"...those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake..." (v.10)
"...[those who are reviled, persecuted, slandered for Jesus' name]..." (v11.)

And though the list may look uncanny and backwards, foreign and maybe even unfavorable, this is the list that adheres itself to the ones whose desires of their hearts are filled. 

Our hearts are evil above all things and super bad, y'all.  The Bible shows and tells us this throughout scripture, but most explicitly in Jeremiah 17:9.  Our motives, are thoughts, our intentions base themselves in a heart that is broken, corrupt and ridden with sin from birth.  Rightly ordering this inherent chaos takes more than a bargain to do good to get good things.  Works for reward from God does not fix the problem of our bent and tendencies toward our flesh.  
God who is good, sovereign and in control is the One who brings pure and true desires to pass.  He's the One who works in us "both to will, and to work for his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)  As one processes through life in sanctification by His Spirit, we become increasingly aligned with His will, His ways, His glory, His good, His desires, His heart. 
Our hearts are aligned with His.
Our desires are aligned with His.
And we're blessed.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit...theirs is the kingdom of God."
"Blessed are the meek...they will inherit the earth."
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness...they will be satisfied."
This is an echo from another place where it talks about the one who is blessed by taking delight in the LORD...
"Blessed is he who...delights in the LORD's instruction, and meditates on it day and night." (Psalm 1)
All of scripture may speak to the depravity of the human heart, AND scripture speaks to the antidote for our flesh - this delight in God, who He is and what He wants - throughout. THAT'S AWESOME!

This doesn't come naturally. 
We need to be taught. 
We need to learn from the Master Himself.
We need the power of the Holy Spirit Himself.
We need the blood of the Son of God Himself to break our hearts open to change for His Name's sake.  For our good; for His glory.

"Teach me, LORD, the meaning of Your statutes, and I will always keep them. 
Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart. 
Help me stay on the path of Your commands, for I take pleasure in it. 
Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to the material gain. 
Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways
Confirm what You said to Your servant for it produces reverence for You. 
Turn away the disgrace I dread; indeed, Your judgments are good
How I long for Your precepts!
Give me life through Your righteousness."
Psalm 119:33-40  

God calls us to a life of delight.  A life of happiness.  A life of blessedness.  A life full, abundant, lively, good, and wonderful.
He does this by way of molding us to His commands, statutes, instruction.  
What did we say before?
He is good - therefore, we trust in His ways.
He is sovereign - therefore, we trust in His supreme authority to guide.
He is in control - therefore, we trust in His ability to do what is right.

It's not a life of do good, get good.
It's a life of follow Good, be blessed.
I'm learning still, but...

I delight in the Great I AM.
Lord may it ever be, and continue to glory! Amen.

Much love,

IG: mercies_journaled
Link for Sweet n Sassy Stamps:
   - Stamps used: Playful Alpha, 
I AM, Singing Praises, Cheerful Hexies, Fall in Love With Jesus, Marker Alpha, Bold & Outline Caps Alpha