You are a work of art. God’s Word says so.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 14
And because God loves us so much, He is constantly molding us into the best versions of ourselves.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 1-5)
As a writer, I think about God editing us. Some of those edits may be major plot restructurings while sometimes an edit may be minor like the addition of a comma or period. Some situations in our lives may be so miniscule it doesn’t even phase us. While some storms in our lives may be huge and feel like we may not come out on the other side.
“Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:23-27)
But no matter how seismic our edits may seem at the moment, we can trust our Editor and find peace in His care.
Commentary (Life Application Study Bible, NIV): There is often a stormy area of our human nature where we feel God can’t or won’t work. When we truly understand who God is, however, we will realize that he controls both the storms of nature and the storms of the troubled heart. Jesus’ power that calmed this storm can also help us deal with the problems we face. Jesus is willing to help if we only ask him. We should never discount his power even in terrible trials.
God’s got us! Nothing catches Him by surprise.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 11-12)
Commentary: God is sovereign; He is in charge. When your life seems chaotic, rest in this truth: Jesus is Lord, and God is in control. God’s purpose to save you cannot be thwarted, no matter what evil Satan may bring.
I encourage you to cling to God during life’s trials and remember you are a work of art and equip to not only survive the storm but thrive.
Rugrats was one of my favorite shows growing up. For anyone who’s unfamiliar or needs a recap, Rugrats was an animated show that focused on a group of babies and toddlers and their wild adventures. Some of the main characters were Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and Angelica. In short, Tommy was the adventurous leader, Chuckie was scared of his own shadow, Phil and Lil were eccentric twins, and Angelica was a bully. Growing up I longed to be Tommy but more identified with Chuckie. I was timid and shy. But recently, I realized I’ve grown to be a Tommy. I most identify with Tommy in the area of faith. I see myself as bold in my faith and expectant of God for His promises to come to pass. I had gotten frustrated recently and I questioned why God had me where I was at. I felt isolated, like, I didn’t have fellow bold people around to encourage me. I think my spirit had to be reminded that people didn’t have to be geographically close to me to encourage me. I was also reminded that no matter how difficult the journey may seem; God always has a way to refresh me at the right time.
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31: 25
That’s when I thought of Tommy. Was I placed where I was at to be the Tommy of my group? Not in the sense of leading wild adventures but in the area of faith walk. Metaphorically, I see myself carrying a lit torch leading people. Am I called to encourage people with my bold faith walk? Are you?
At my moment of discouragement, I was reminded to press on. I’ve heard a lot of messages recently about challenges and being broken. These messages each have an undertone of trials and training. As weary as the process may be, I’m hanging in there because I know I’ll be able to benefit in some way.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6: 9
I’m always challenging myself to serve others and recently I’ve felt a passion to help young girls. I was a Girl Scout in elementary school and middle school, and I thought this would be a good area to serve. I now help lead a Daisy Troop. Daisies are Girl Scouts in Kindergarten and First Grade. Working with girls ages 6 and 7 has been energizing and refreshing. It’s a stark and humbling change from my business school presentations to CEOs—phew those little girls have little time for nonsense! Is the subject engaging? What’s in it for them? But beyond brainstorming ways to quickly get lessons across, I’ve enjoyed soaking up the girls’ pure joy. Seeing the girls get excited about patterned construction paper and flower stickers warms my heart. It’s a reminder to take joy in little things. It shouldn’t take expensive gadgets or lavish trips to excite us.
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.” (Psalm 9:1)
Commentary (Life Application Study Bible, NIV): Our inward attitude becomes outward expression. When we praise God, we help ourselves by expanding our awareness of who He is.
Who is God to you? A big, scary judge that sits above? A magic genie? While I’m sure I’ll never be able to grasp the fullness that is the Creator of the universe, I know He is a good, forgiving, merciful God that desires an intimate relationship with all of us.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever, he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 8-12)
When we reflect on God’s character and goodness, our perspectives are shifted, and we have so much to be grateful for. Each day when I say my morning prayers, I start with gratitude. Waking up with all my senses, in my right mind, with a safe, warm place to sleep are things I try not to take for granted. I’m curious if we shift our focus, will God restore our eyes to see wonders we may be missing in everyday life?
My first blog of 2020, how exciting! Admittedly, my 2019 had a few struggles but 2020 is off to a great start. It was like a spark was ignited. I told someone about a passion project I was working on and they connected me to someone who is doing the same thing and who is well-researched in the area. In one day, I went from jaded on my project and unsure when it would come to pass, to on-fire and counting down the days until I could launch it. A scripture I’ve connected to as of late is 2 Timothy 1: 6-7: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-defense.”
I really latched onto the “fan into flame” portion. It challenged me to ask myself what I was doing to nurture the gifts and projects God has laid out for me.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2: 10)
As I work to fan into flame on this project in 2020, I’m seeking God first. I’m relying on Him to guide my steps as to what actions I should take and what connections and relationships are best. I’m also doing my best to keep God first and not make my dream an idol.
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
For a long time, I believed idols were the kind you hear about in the Old Testament i.e. gods carved out of some sort of material. I thought, I’m good on that God, I’m not bowing down to anything man-made. But an idol is anything we put before God. I love this excerpt from a blog from preacher Heather Lindsey. She writes, “An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more that God does, such as: possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc. Unfortunately, God is often nowhere to be found as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits, leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord...”
So, in essence, as I pursue my project, I’ll be keeping God first. Everything I do should be unto Him.
“Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 42:11)
As you pursue your passions and dreams, I encourage you to check in with God and make sure you’re on His page. I’m curious to know what you’re working on! You can leave a comment below or we can chat on Twitter @Marilyn_Renee
I’ve always loved to read and with business school ending this year I got some free time to read for pleasure. My favorite genres are autobiography and adventure. Here are a few books I read and what they meant to me.
Salt In My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith
Salt In My Soul is the story of Mallory Smith, a woman who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 3. Mallory shares her quest to live a normal life while battling the brutal disease that is often invisible to the naked eye. The book is in journal form and follows Mallory’s life from age 15 to her death at age 25. This book was moving because Mallory was so open with her life from questions about death to vulnerability with love. I got teary at the end but admired her family’s strength. All profits for the book are being donated with a majority of the funds going toward cystic fibrosis research. Special thanks to my friend Tamara Stone for introducing me to Mallory’s story!
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Nike has always been one of my favorite companies, but I never knew the story of the company’s early beginnings. Shoe Dog shows us how Nike went from Oregon startup to global empire. I was amazed not only by the detail of Nike’s founder’s account of the company’s early days but with his grit. Many times, Nike almost failed; many times he gambled it all. Netflix is set to create a movie based on Shoe Dog.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
I’ve never met Gabrielle Union but when I listened to her audiobook it felt like she was sitting across from me telling me her story. The audiobook is read by Union and her book is written with such frankness and humor. It felt like an older sister sharing her scars and strength.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
This novel is beautifully written and allowed my imagination to travel to the Italian Riviera for an unforgettable love story. The romance between a teenager and a guest at his parents’ house is raw and passionate. There was a movie adapted from the novel but I’ve yet to see it; the book was so good I don’t want to ruin it!
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
I one day hope to work in the world of entertainment production so tracing the steps of the powerhouse behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder was great. Shonda is a self-described introvert who for one year decided to say yes to everything that scared her. The great opportunities she accepted and things she learned about herself were truly inspiring.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
There was a lot of hype around this book so I thought I’d check it out. I appreciated the level of detail Tartt used when describing the famous painting and art in general. The nearly 800-page novel spanned several years and countries. I appreciated an unpredictable ending and an imperfect narrator.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tiny Fey is funny and a great comedic writer so it’s no surprise her autobiographical book is hilarious. Tina takes us from her early days in Pennsylvania to helming 30 Rock at NBC. Along the way we see how Tina survived college, landed her first job, and manages motherhood.
It was great to get back to reading at such a high volume and I look forward to tackling more books in 2020!
God can use us at any point in our lives. Sometimes I get in the habit of thinking God can’t use me until my life is “together.” But is our life ever really fully together? In our mess God can use us. The other day a friend was down and texting me. I told her to write her blessings down and she would quickly see how they outnumbered the bad things in her life. I had just been instructed by the Holy Spirit to do the same activity a week prior. As much as I feel like I’m in a bare, stripped season, God is still allowing me to pour into other people. I’m grateful for this season of peace, growth, and insight. I know if my life would have taken a different path post MBA aka diving right into a job I would not have gotten a chance to reconnect with my family who in the previous two years I saw once or twice each year. I wouldn’t have the chance to do a bible study with my parents and put the finishing touches on my memoir (which I’m tentatively planning to have on shelves fall 2020!) Not to mention the food is great and free at home! I say all that to say—in an uncomfortable stage God is still working and I’m discovering in every stage I can help someone else. Despite my circumstances I can see God’s goodness. I’m grateful to have a home to come to and recollect. Every day I saw homelessness right outside my door in LA. People who slept on the sidewalk and were thankful for even half a sandwich. My perspective is forever changed.
I also noticed in this stripped down season that I learn from God the most. In this season I was reminded that my value and identity doesn’t come from a job, a title, or a relationship. And I know that this season will pass. I have hope in the Lord.
“But those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25.
In this season I am waiting patiently and I know that this period will be a testament to me later and even an inspiration for others right now.
I’ve often used the analogy of a horse in a starting gate for many aspects of my life; to signify something is getting ready to happen. But the problem with this analogy was that I perceived things as paused or waiting to start when in actuality things were already in motion. When a horse is at a starting gate it may be momentarily waiting to take off, but this race isn’t the first time the horse has tasted action. When I think about my own life, I think about starting a new career as me behind a starting gate waiting to take off. I grew discouraged because I thought I was just waiting for things to happen. But then God reminded me that so many other things have happened to get me to this point, and I’ve been preparing for a while. Most horse races are around two minutes, but we all know that horse has been training for a lot longer to prepare. In our preparation we may grow weary with no end in sight, but God is faithful.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40: 31)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)
And while you may feel stuck where you are right now, it is helpful to look back at how far you’ve come.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77: 11-12)
Commentary: When you meet new trials, review how good God has been to you, this will strengthen your faith.
And when it feels like you have nothing good to reflect on remember God’s character, Psalm 103 is a great example.
It reads in part:
“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 1-5; 8-12)
Be blessed and keep the faith. I cant’ wait to share how my race unfolds!
As I wind down my job search for a full-time position after completing my MBA, I thought waiting was the worst part of the process but actually not having anything to wait for or hope for is the ultimate worst. That signifies a loss of hope, imagination, creativity and honestly loss of trust in God. God is never done with us. I believe He plants dreams in us through our entire time on Earth that are in His will for us to complete.
“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139: 15-16)
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1: 11)
Contentment through the wait is critical; gratitude for new opportunities, challenges, tests, and ultimately growth is necessary. What is being taught in the wait? What is being refined?
A wait for a job brings opportunities to grow professional skills and catch up with friends and family.
A wait for a relationship brings opportunities for self-discovery and confidence growth.
It’s hard to see it now but waiting is rarely regretted. We may never know the terrors and trials God is helping us evade during an extended wait.
I know God hasn’t failed me yet and I’m sure He never will.
“For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1: 37
We all have a track record of how He’s brought us through. We have no reason to stop trusting Him; so, we should remain patient and faithful during our waiting period. Even if no evidence is provided to comfort us. Did Noah receive a drop of rain before the flood? Did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego feel a cool breeze before entering the fiery furnace?
Stay strong in the faith, future generations are depending on it.
“They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” Psalm 145: 11-12
Ahh breakups, so hard but so necessary. As I go through this process again the lyrics to the 2007 Leona Lewis “Better in Time” song come to mind.
“Thought I couldn't live without you
It's going to hurt when it heals too
Oh yeah (It'll all get better in time)
Even though I really love you
I'm gonna smile because I deserve too
Oh (It'll all get better in time)
Since there's no more you and me (No more you and me)
This time I let you go so I can be free
And live my life how it should be
No matter how hard it is
I will be fine without you
Yes I will”
During this hard time, I have to comfort myself and keep putting one foot in front of the other. When I get down, I tend to get lethargic but now is not the time for lethargy. Like most breakups, I saw it coming but put it off. I think because the relationship started when I was in a point of transition (the summer in between business school years) that I believed I needed the relationship to carry me through the next transition (graduation and life beyond business school). I think the fatal flaw in that thought is I became too dependent on that person and was placing burdens on them meant for God; our relationship was supposed to last a season and I was trying to carry it into another. And now I’m depending on God to heal me and carry me into the next season.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isiah 46:4
Friends and family have been helpful in this process, and honestly I’ve cried more from their words of encouragement than from the actual relationship ending.
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” Proverbs 27: 9
What makes a lot of breakups difficult is that they don't end badly and the person wasn’t a bad person. So feelings will inevitably linger but in the end I know that differences between us would make for a contentious marriage that ultimately wouldn’t bring God glory. Here’s a quote from the late Billy Graham,
“The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. That is, it exists to display God. Now we see how: Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to His redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream.”
As I move forward, I’m seeking God for next steps. I’m excited to grow closer to Him and get more involved in ministry.
Sometimes it is hard to have a long-term vision for your life and not grow impatient or ungrateful in the present. I think just as God exists as Three Distinct Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) we must think of our lives in three planes: the past, present, and future. We must thank God for our past—the lessons learned, the blessings provided—and our present—His provision and protection—and our future—His blessings and Sovereignty. And when we grow impatient in the present to remember, what God promises us will come to pass.
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Habakkuk 2: 3
Commentary (Life Application Study Bible, NIV): To trust God fully means to trust Him even when we don’t understand why events occur as they do.
As we are operating in our present and trusting God for next steps in our path, He is right there, ready to provide the tools we need.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
This wisdom will enable us to make the right choices and decisions to be in places where God intends us to be—where we can receive our blessings.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place where he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him to the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11: 8-10.
Commentary: Do not be surprised if God asks you to give up secure, familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will.
I don’t know your particular situation but as you work toward your next, I pray you thank God through your present, and give Him praise for carrying you through your past.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16
Hi! I'm Marilyn!