Truer Truth

There is truth (our present circumstance) and there is truer truth (the history of God’s unwavering, faithful, covenant relationship with His people). Call it ‘the grand scheme of things’ if you like, but I believe we make a big mistake when we trust God only based on what He’s done for us today, or even in our lifetime.” – Raechel Myers

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There was a time as a child when I was playing at my friend’s house, and she had one of those huge plastic tubs of Double Bubble. She poured all the gum onto the floor and to my 5 year old eyes, it was purely magnificent. My little heart was overwhelmed with the hundreds of pieces of sugary goodness before me.

As I reached to begin unwrapping a piece, she said, “Actually Casey, you can’t have any of this gum. I’m saving them.” Saving them? I thought. All of them?! That’s ridiculous. That’s rude. That’s unfair. But, being the well-mannered child I was, I smiled and said, “Oh, okay. Sorry.” And then, being the closet cleptomaniac that I was, when she turned around, I stuffed all the gum my little grubby fingers could grasp into the pockets of the outfit that my Build-A-Bear was wearing. You can’t make this stuff up, people.

When my mom picked me up, I very proudly told her what I had done. I truly thought her response would be something along the lines of, “How clever of you, Casey! Your friend not sharing was unfair, and you were totally warranted in what you did. Justice!”

But she did not say that. Before I even knew what was happening, I was back at my friend’s door, crying and having to apologize for stealing, and returning those little means of 10 seconds of sweetness back to their owner.

It was a humbling realization to me when I saw that in many ways, I still function out of the same place 5-year old Double Bubble stealing Casey did.

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If you’re anything like me, you can easily try to rationalize many of the things you do merely as a response to what’s been done. And often, l get stuck in this “that’s just the way the world works” mindset. If someone doesn’t share like they should, I can steal. If someone thinks only of themselves, I can look out for myself. If someone hurts me, I can build walls to protect myself.

And here’s the thing that’s really annoying, it’s not like I’m 100% blind here. My friend not sharing her gum with me was her being selfish. Losing someone you love is unfair. Getting lied to does lower your trust. Someone walking away from you does say, “you’re not good enough.” Feeling rejected does make you insecure.

In a sense, those things are true – I truly feel those emotions and things truly happened that led me there. But in Christ, l find real Truth worth holding onto.

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I recently looked back at Hebrews 11, the chapter that depicts all these heroes of faith in the Bible, and these verses stuck out to me:

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40

“All these did not receive what was promised.” Moses never entered the promised land. Abel brought a better sacrifice to God and got murdered. Abraham never actually saw his descendants numbered like the stars.

In each of these people’s perspective, God’s promise seemed left unfulfilled. Truly, in their eyes, it easily could’ve looked like they were forgotten, missed, abandoned. There’s no way on their own accord that they would understand fully what God was doing in real time.

Did God answer those promises? Yes. But in His timing, in His perfect way – so that not only do those promises bless Moses and Abraham, but me and you. That’s insane. That’s wonderful. Abraham could have thrown a fit about God not fulfilling His promise to Him, yet he chose to trust God anyway. There’s a reason the people in this chapter are commended for their faith – they looked beyond their circumstances and believed what God had spoken to be truer than what the world and their own hearts spoke to them.

Because ultimately, our experiences are not the truest truth. God’s story, His character, His promises, His word, His love for us – those are the truer truth.

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The truest truth is that God’s Truth surpasses what I know based on my own experiences. And while what I know based on my experiences isn’t all necessarily wrong, those “truths” are, at the minimum, significantly incomplete and lacking of full perspective, hope and meaning.

I can’t rewrite my life or even what is happening to me right now, as I sit here writing this. But I can choose to believe that God is who He says, and that He loves me the way He says He does.

Learning this is easier said than done, but trusting Him is always worth it. God promises to bless us as we trust in His truth over our own.

Dare to take God at His word, and trust Him beyond what you can see. He loves you and cares for you immeasurably more than what you can fathom. Because believing that without seeing the full picture – that’s real faith, and it’s the truest truth you can find.

Not to mention, it’s better than all the Double Bubble you can get your hands on.

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD, and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.” Jeremiah 17:7

Written by Casey Cappa // Photos by Olivia McCash

A Lament for Hope

IMG_2148PC: Adam Dahir

The prophet Jeremiah, sometimes known as the weeping prophet, felt deeply, saw clearly, and understood the true context of placing his unreserved hope in Jesus.

In his book Lamentations, he withheld nothing from his true sense of being. What he felt and experienced, he wrote down using the rawest form of honesty in doing so. He writes in Lamentations 3, “I am the man who has seen affliction . . . he [God] has made my skin and flesh waste away; he has broken my bones; . . . my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”

Jeremiah feels as though the Lord has saught him out like a bear or lion waits for their prey (vs. 10-11). In this passage, one would notice that the writer does not hold back anything; there is complete vulnerability. He describes this season of his life as a time where he felt abandoned, a slave that could not get away, and utterly bitter. Can you relate to such a time as this; a time where you felt as though a target was on your back and you kept getting pierced in the dead center time and time again?

For some of you, you may read this passage and ask yourself, “Wait, is that even okay to speak about God like that?” I know that I was taken back when I first read Lamentations. It catches most of us off guard because, for our entire lives, we have lived under this expectation that we are not allowed to tell God our true feelings. We are only allowed to praise Him for the good and tell others about the “mountain” moments that He brought us to.  We’re taught that we can’t be truthful in our pain.

This lifestyle has created such an issue for Christians. By not allowing ourselves to grieve over the trials and tribulations we are facing, we miss out on the opportunity to truly experience the greatness of God’s faithfulness even in the face of our darkest days.

We just throw ‘bandaids’ on our deepest hurts and then expect them to heal on their own without any tender care. Friends, consider this, if we continue to just temporarily deal with the hurt we have, we will never be able to have healed ‘scars’ that show of the grace and mercy that got us through the heart-throbbing moments of pain. The hell-like moments are meant for growth, for a strengthening of heart, and ultimately to bring you closer to the Father.

What I love most about this passage in Lamentations is that it does not end with the destruction of Jeremiah, but rather it drastically takes a 360 degreee change.  Lamentations 3: 21-25 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”

Jeremiah, even in that moment when he doubted God, was able to call to mind all the times that God had been faithful to provide, deliver, and free him in the past. Friend, the truth is that we are a unfaithful people by nature. BUT, I have some awesome news! Even in the midst of our adulterous hearts, our unfaithness to His love, He is faithful to follow through on His promises to never fail us or never leave us. He hears your cries and he counts your tears as they fall from your cheeks onto your pillow. He knows you and sees you and will not leave you alone. He is with you and He just wants you to be real with Him.

We must deal with our hurt. Let it matter. If your heart is broken, let it shatter, then watch God heal it to where is 110% stronger than it was before.

Not only this, but I urge you, if you are not in a season of lowness, to remember those low moments and let it produce a remembrance, a humility that guides your every day activities and leads to a continuous remembrance of God’s faithfulness and the mercies that are new every morning. He is our hope for tomorrow.

// Written by Joy Payne
Republished from Joyfully Living

Continuing is Harder than Starting

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I started Wildflower Roots jewelry back in 2015, right after I spent a year living in India working for a social enterprise, Purpose Jewelry. That year in India was spent designing jewelry lines for Purpose Jewelry and working alongside women who are survivors of human trafficking. I had never “designed” jewelry or possessed many jewelry making skills when I arrived in India, but when I left I knew this would be a craft I couldn’t give up. Designing jewelry for me was the creative challenge I needed as an artist. I had painted, crafted, sculpted and dabbled in every other artsy category you can think of most of my life. Discovering jewelry design was the greatest by far. Coming home from living abroad, especially India, was an adjustment, but deciding to keep making jewelry by starting Wildflower Roots was my best decision yet.

Wildflower Roots is simple, everyday jewelry for the everyday woman. The everyday mundane can feel unglamourous at times and yet seasons of life can alter, shift, and change in heartbeat. I live most of my life thinking about what season I am in and miss the unexpected everyday moments of joy, love, and kindness around me. What I love about wildflowers is that they bloom in unexpected seasons, they have roots that are often tough and strong, they are flexible with the wind, populating everywhere. Wildflowers are mainly weeds but they are beautiful ones. My season in India had me clinging to my roots and holding even more tightly to my ultimate root, Christ. During the hard seasons, fun seasons, and seasons of big uprooting change, my roots were what mattered the most. And I can tell you from my professional, plant lady experience (insert sarcasm here) that roots grow inch by inch, steadily and slowly, everyday. I want Wildflower Roots to be a reminder that goes beyond the art of making jewelry and to actively represent the beauty in the mundane of everyday life.

After a couple of years of working part time with Wildflower Roots, I wasn’t able to pay for my bills solely on jewelry sales. I got a full time job working at FLDWRK, a local coworking space in downtown Fullerton. I fell in love my job at FLDWRK and did my best to keep moving WFR forward as much as I could. Last year, I was engaged, planning a November wedding, working a fulltime job and trying to keep up with the demand of WFR. Once December 2017 arrived I was done. I needed a BREAK from WFR. I can’t tell you how guilty I felt. How immediately I felt behind in the jewelry business world, no longer able to keep up with those doing their businesses full time. My husband is my biggest fan and was worried I was quitting, but I felt peace that it was only for a season. The Lord provided a house for us to rent (and we left behind our teeny, tiny one-room backhouse for good). Not only did this new place have all that we had prayed for, but it had one additional blessing. In this house was a spare room and I excitedly began dreaming of creating a new space for Wildflower Roots.

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Over the course of June and July, I created my own little business plan to utilize Instagram in a new way. I turned the spare room into a mini studio and started sketching. Continuing is harder than starting. But I am here showing up as much as I can. Wildflower Roots doesn’t have a website or a Fall/Winter product line, but what Wildflower Roots does have is limited edition jewelry pieces and Instagram Story Pop-Up Shops that happen twice a month. I am so glad to be putting myself out there again designing and making jewelry, all while at my own pace. That break was exactly what I needed in a season where I thought I was done. I’m so glad I stepped back and took a new creative look at my business. In doing this, I realized that instead of trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing, I can go at my own pace, in my own way, and it doesn’t have to be BIG or wow everyone all the time. Whenever, I get caught up in seeing others smashing the jewelry game, I celebrate and admire them all, while reminding myself that I am in a different season. It’s good to feel my roots growing again.

– Meredith Galipault
Founder of Wildflower Roots
(Photos by Kayci Decker)

Interview with Anna Laura, Founder of White Flag

White Flag is a home decor company aimed to spark conversations about Jesus Christ through simple designs inspired by biblical truths. It is an organic way to help you share what you believe with the people who visit your home or office. Their flags are designed to beg the question, “what does that mean?” and open the door for a conversation.

You have a story to tell, a testimony of where you have been and where God is taking you. When you purchase and proudly hang one of their flags, you are opening the door to conversation – be brave and share your story.

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Anna, we are so excited to hear your story! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you so much! I’m so honored you asked me to be a part of Artfully Seeking! I’m Anna. I’m originally from Kansas City, Missouri but grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee with my husband, Andrew, and my three kids – Brooklyn, Justice, and River Wilde. My home is a revolving door of animals and is constantly full of plants and books. Handwritten letters, flowers wrapped in paper, sleeping with the windows open, French oldies music, and Autumn are a few of my favorite things. I’m an 8w7 on the Enneagram, I ask a lot of questions, and I love to tell stories. And finally, I’m the founder and creative director of White Flag — a lifestyle, home decor company that makes handmade, linen flags aimed to spark conversations about Jesus Christ through minimal designs inspired by Biblical truths.

How did you develop as a creative throughout your life?

I grew up around music. My dad is a professional musician, so creativity has always been a part of my life. I started playing piano and taking singing lessons when I was younger. I used to love writing poems and songs. I also loved to draw and paint, and had sketch pads nearby throughout most of my teenage years. I experimented with videography and photography, as well. Really, whatever I could get my hands on! I moved to Nashville in 2012, and then started gravitating towards creating apparel and accessories, something I had never done before. At the time, it was just a way to make a little extra money, but it ended up turning into a clothing line that focused on custom denim and t-shirts. Eventually, I burned out and ended up laying that company to rest in 2015 during a really difficult season of my life. At that point, I spent a bit of time just focusing on my family until White Flag came to life in 2017.

I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to my creativity. I don’t gravitate to one form or stay in one lane. I just enjoy creating, whether it be music, drawing, taking photos or creating tangible products, like clothing or home decor. The art of creating and bringing something to life is a beautiful process and I’ve always chased after it.

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How did the idea for White Flag form?

I’m a very visual person. For some people, God speaks audibly…for me, I think God speaks through vision. I’ll have ideas or I’ll see a glimpse of something and it will plant an idea or seed in me that slowly comes to life. White Flag was one of those visions! I remember vividly seeing a man walk into a room with a white flag hanging above a mantle and being overwhelmed with the love of Jesus. Truthfully, it didn’t make sense to me at the time, so I let it sit. A few months later, that vision was still present in my mind. I remembered a story my grandmother told me about her childhood during the war in Germany, and how she had to wave a white flag to surrender to the bomber planes above her home. When that memory came back to me, I connected the vision I had to that story. White flags are the universal symbol of surrender, and when I think of surrender, I think of Jesus. How we surrender to Him and the story He creates for our lives. In that moment, I knew I wanted to create white flags that symbolized surrender while sparking conversations for people to share their stories.

What I didn’t realize was that it was subconsciously rooted in my own desires as a kid, which is absolutely crazy to think about, because it’s proof that Jesus was laying the foundation for White Flag long before I knew it. It’s something I wished I had had when I was learning about Jesus for the first time — a gentle and organic way to ask questions and experience God through storytelling, rather than preaching at people or sharing the Bible verses we have memorized.

I think storytelling is the most powerful vehicle to share Jesus! Mark 4:33 says, “He was never without story.” I’m terrible at memorizing anything, but that verse has always stuck out to me. Jesus was the master storyteller, and I think there’s something to be said for that! When people ask me about White Flag, I always say this — you can argue with someone’s faith, you can argue with someone’s religion, but you can’t argue with someone’s story.

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What has running White Flag taught you about entrepreneurship?

Self-care is important. Entrepreneurship is a constant hustle. There will be days where work needs to be done, but you can’t do that work well if you’re running on empty. Take time for yourself, even if the decision feels unnatural and forced. You, and your company, will be better off because of it.

What is the most difficult thing about running a business?

I think it’s different for everyone, but for me, it’s always been the numbers. Spreadsheets are not my spiritual gift and I get overwhelmed pretty easily when I have to do payouts or budget for the business. Haha!

Thankfully, my husband just joined the White Flag team and has taken over that aspect. But that has always been something I’ve struggled with.

What is your favorite part about what you do?

The unexpected. I love that every day looks and feels different. I also love meeting new people and hearing stories of how White Flag has inspired them or brought joy to their lives. There’s something so magical about being WITH someone as they share their story with you. These days, those kinds of moments are few and far between, and happen mostly on a screen. I never want to take those for granted.

IMG_1718PC: Krissy Leigh Creative

What is your vision for the future of White Flag?

I’m so excited for the future of White Flag! I have a little notebook, I carry with me everywhere, that I write all of my ideas in. I can’t give away too much, but we’ll be doing limited edition partnerships with musical artists, taking on some new, non-profit partners, and working on a coffee table book of stories rooted in White Flag and surrender. There’s also some branding changes happening in the near future that I can’t wait for everyone to see.

Do you have any advice for creatives trying to make their dream happen?

Welcome change. When you’re creating something from the ground up, you can be so protective of it to the point that you sometimes prevent it from growing and evolving organically. What you thought it was supposed to look like, may not be what God had in mind at all. I’m learning to trust the process and welcome change, even if it feels uncomfortable. That’s where the beauty happens — if not in tangible ways that you can see at first, it’s certainly happening in yourself. And lastly, remember the “why.” Sometimes, all the elements of owning a business or chasing a dream can get a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to lose sight of the “why.” Remember WHY you are chasing this dream and why you started this business. Staying rooted in that is so important and will keep you connected to yourself, God, and your purpose.


IMG_1702Connect: instagram.com/mywhiteflag // Shop: www.whiteflag.org
– Written by Olivia McCash

Receiving a Restful Burden

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A few months ago, I left my job. I stepped down from all positions of ministry leadership I’d once held. As someone with a high value for productivity, purposeful work, and efficiency, it was an extremely counterintuitive step to take. I had been on staff with a campus ministry for about 5 years and felt that I’d invested all I possibly had to give into the students, the ministry, and the work that God invited me into on campus. Why should I leave now? I’ve already invested all that I have into this ministry, to start over elsewhere would be foolish.

Initially God’s invitation to enter into vocational ministry begun as a life-giving pursuit of partnering with Him to expand His Kingdom on campus. However, as the natural ups and downs of ministry (and let’s be real, life in general) came into play, I found it difficult to experience the same joy and renewed vision He had given me from the start. By year five, I found myself burnt out, jaded by the concept of ministry leadership, and barely able to get out of bed each morning to face what felt like an impossible day ahead. It felt as if I’d lost my purpose in life, as my soul’s tiredness created a barrier in being able to grasp God’s vision for His work on campus. As I’d lost vision, I lost the necessary passion for the day-to-day. As I lost passion, I began losing hope that Jesus was in it with my students and I at all. Before I knew it, my personal sense of value and worth had plummeted as I’d entered into a never-ending downward spiral of exhaustion and feeling that all I had to give was simply not enough.

In Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I’ve heard this scripture quoted time and time again, and in theory love the concept: follow Jesus, let Him take care of you (cue, Jesus Take the Wheel). However, more often than not, I found myself in a regular state of stress and anxiety…Yes, I know that I’m socially exhausted and need space to recharge…but if I could just fit in a couple more coffee meet-ups, perhaps newcomers in our ministry will feel more welcomed. Yes, I know that my schedule is so packed that I’m skipping meals here and there, but if I don’t get tasks A-Z done then everything will fall apart.…the list of self-created obligation goes on and on.

I’ve heard more than a few times that our generation (i.e., millennials) have an ever-increasing likelihood in experiencing mental illness – particularly in the forms of depression and anxiety. I myself have had my own battle with the two over the years, and only recently began seeing a therapist to gain clarity in how to acknowledge and address it.

In John Koessler’s Radical Pursuit of Rest, he claims that anxiety is not a result of misaligned priorities, but misaligned confidence. When we place confidence in ourselves and our ability to manage or control our lives rather than trusting our Creator to lead us through life, we curate anxiety due to the fact that we will never be able to control the outcome of our circumstances.

I’m not trying to make any claims about clinically diagnosed mental illness, and I acknowledge that appropriately addressing mental illness is not as simple as changing one’s spirituality or mindset.  God calls some of us to become therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors for good reason – there are certain situations in which seeking professional help truly is the most appropriate next step.

I am however, wanting to highlight the paradox I find myself in quite often…

If Jesus calls us to trust in Him because His yoke is “easy”, why does life (and even ministry) still feel so draining and impossible? How do we address the disparity between the rest Jesus promises, and the seemingly endless burnout so many of us find ourselves in?

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I’ll find myself reading article after article on social media about the latest local or national tragedy, natural disaster, or current political issue. At the same time, I can’t scroll through my feed without seeing at least half a dozen recommendations regarding the latest “self-care” tip, new experience to try out, or eatery to taste. In the very media I consume, the call to action and engagement is in tension with the rest and pleasure to be had. The concept of balancing “work” and “rest” is confusing, to say the least. It seems that in order to work, one sacrifices rest. In order to rest, one has to set aside work.

But I believe the rest that Jesus refers to in Matthew 11 gives a paradigm to realign our soul such that responsible rest and purposeful work are integrated, going hand-in-hand with one another. That we should not “labor in vain” but take on the yoke of Jesus and partner with him in His good work; all while being in a position to receive His grace.

The rest that Jesus invites us into consists of more than an isolated activity, specific meditation, or even physical sleep. He offers rest that shifts one’s entire soul to orient toward His purposes, His way of pursuing those purposes, and His power fueling that pursuit. When our soul is oriented toward Jesus and His way of life; our mind, body, and heart are able to experience full rest. It is when we pursue purpose without the guidance and empowerment of God’s spirit that we spiral into never-ending discontent and eventual burnout.

I’ve had my own struggle embracing Jesus’ restful yoke, as my meritocracy-based spirituality has led me to burnout time and time again. When I decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly mid-college, I immediately jumped into every opportunity I could find to “serve” Him. Well-intentioned enough, right? What I didn’t realize was that in the process of doing so, I subconsciously replaced Jesus’ gift of partnership with Him in His work, with my own means to “earning” His love.  I really took to heart the whole “faith without works is dead” concept. In retrospect, I don’t believe that devoting my life to serving Jesus was misaligned. I do however, see how in attempt to serve Jesus primarily through action, I disabled myself from letting Him align my soul in a way that both purposeful work, and responsible rest were integrated.

A meritocracy-based spiritual mindset speaks discontent and discouragement. It perpetuates the need to always be doing. You’re not enough. You need to do more. You need to do better. A spiritual mindset that embraces Jesus’ yoke speaks life. You are enough simply because you are created by God. He is already in control of orchestrating all that needs to be done. You are invited to partner with Him in what He’s already doing to better the world around you.

So where does this leave us? What do we do to position ourselves to give Christ our burdens, and receive His easy yoke?

Perhaps the issue at hand is less about answering this particular question, and more about the belief that there’s something we can do to experience the restful life that Jesus promises. Our culture praises the doers of our society, and it’s no surprise that it has inadvertently become ingrained into our understanding of faith and life with Jesus.

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In Matthew 11 Jesus invites His followers to take His easy yoke, and light burden. This means that though there is certainly work to be done, Jesus invites us to put our confidence in His wisdom, and His power to complete what needs to be accomplished. It means letting go of our ego and self-made yoke of obligation to earthly things, in exchange for the vision and direction that Jesus will regularly renew in us. It’s something we must to choose to do daily and even hourly. It means that rather than starting the day with “Okay Marky, here’s the list of all that you need to get done today,” we begin our day asking, “Okay Jesus, how do you want my soul to focus its attention today?”  We must position ourselves to listen and humble ourselves to respond appropriately. Sometimes response will require action. Sometimes it will require refocusing our thinking. Other times, He may ask us to simply “be still, and know that I am God.”

When God’s spirit stopped me in my tracks halfway through year 5 of campus ministry and encouraged me to leave all positions of ministry leadership I’d held, I was shocked. Why would God ever ask me to stop serving Him? What is faith without works to validate it? I couldn’t fathom a life with Jesus in which He would ask me to stop doing all that I could to “do His kingdom work.” But as I heard His call to step away from “work”, I knew I needed to respond in obedience regardless of how little it made sense to me.

Responding to Jesus may not always be the most productive way of life. It may not be the most efficient. But Jesus prioritizes people over productivity. Unlike the culture around us, He would rather cultivate healthy souls than produce a large volume of church-goers (though I’m sure if the church were consisted of mostly healthy souls, the volume of church-goers would also significantly increase).

In repositioning our purpose to simply being with and responding to God’s spirit, we can experience the rest that Jesus’ yoke is meant to bring. Our value and worth are no longer in what we do or create, but in who we are as the created. As our sense of value and worth shifts, our priorities shift. As our priorities shift, our soul aligns with Jesus and His vision for our lives. As we align more deeply with Jesus’s vision, we experience the integration of purposeful work in Jesus’ yoke and responsible rest for our souls.

In the months following the decision to leave my job, Jesus began doing an incredible work in me as He restored my sense of self-worth, and what it meant to cultivate a healthy spiritual life with Him. Though I wasn’t doing or creating anything that the world might deem as purposeful and productive, He began helping me see the value I had for simply existing as one created by Him. He equipped me with a stronger sense of inherent belovedness, and spiritual disciplines that will be necessary to remain focused and rested, even when life’s busyness inevitably kicks in. As I enter into a season of doing, creating, and producing again, I’m sure that I’ll continue to struggle with prioritizing Jesus’ restful yoke above my self-created one. However, I’m grateful to serve and know the gracious God that I do, and I’m humbled that He will forever value who I am more than what I think I can produce. I trust that despite my own tendency to attempt to “earn” His love through works, He will always bring me back to the easy yoke He has for me to carry.

Words by Mariko Sandico
Photos by Sarah Mohan

Sufficient Grace

In 2 Corinthians 12, we have the glorious opportunity to have truth poured into our hearts through Paul’s testimony. Paul was an incredible man whom I admire greatly and I believe there is much to be learned from him and his life. I also believe there is ample opportunity to relate to him and apply his struggles and his testimony to our own lives.

In this chapter, Paul discusses his weakness and how he will not boast in anything but his weakness. In verse 7, he mentions how a thorn was given to him in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. This symbolic thorn weakened him and restricted him in certain areas, perhaps in areas that he would be more likely to rely on himself rather than on God. This thorn was a bothersome thing and a painful thing, it was a weakness.

This thorn ailed him so much that 3 times he pleaded with the Lord asking Him to remove it, but the Lord said to Paul in verse 9, one of my favorite passages in the Bible, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul goes on to say that therefore he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Paul’s attitude toward this weakness in his life totally changed after hearing from the Lord. He begins by asking God to be delivered from this thorn, but after hearing from God, no longer was he praying for it to be removed but even goes on to say, “I will boast all the more gladly of it.” God turned the thorn into an instrument to bring Paul to a greater experience of His power working in his life. He learned to boast in that thorn, because through it he came to a deeper relationship with God where he knew more of His power in his life than he’d ever known before.

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I believe we can all relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh, a thorn that weakened him and caused him pain. We all have something that ails us, something that we have pleaded with God to remove from us, whether that be physical or emotional. We all have setbacks and weaknesses that seem as if they are so out of place and life would be so much better if they were absent from our lives. But how wonderful and comforting it is to rest in the truth and the hope that our Father knows what is best for us and what is required to keep us from becoming conceited.

Paul’s testimony speaks to me and I desire to have the same mindset and attitude he had toward his thorn toward my own weaknesses. There are many days I do not understand the restrictions God has allowed me to have, but I have the assurance that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Holy Spirit comforts my soul day after day and reminds me that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I want a kind of faith and humility that says “God, for Your sake, I am content with my weaknesses. If my weakness is bringing you all the more glory and if You are using my setbacks to build Your kingdom all the more, so be it.”

IMG_0426How encouraging it is to hope in the truth that our setbacks and our various weaknesses are not in vain, they are not without purpose. Not only can we rejoice in suffering because it produces perseverance, but we can boast in our setbacks because we have assurance that God’s power is perfected in them and that He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him. Let us take pride in our weakness for the sake of Christ’s name being lifted higher and His power being more evident in our lives.

God’s power is greatest when we are at our weakest and what we need most in our weakness is God’s sufficient grace. His grace is a grace that meets us where we are. It is a grace that deepens our faith and that forces us to trust in God alone. It is a grace that allows us to pour out everything we have in front of Him and bring all of our weariness to His rest. It is a grace that is sufficient to pull us back up and say, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

Paul learned to glory in his thorn because it was an instrument through which the power of God was demonstrated in His life. I pray that our faith is expanded and we are brought to a place of humility that says, “God, I boast in my weakness and I am content in my weakness if it brings your name all the more glory and honor.” No matter what you are going through, His grace is sufficient for you and He will see you through. May the greatest answer to our prayer be not taking us out of the circumstance, but God’s all-sufficient grace taking us through the circumstance with a strengthened faith and a humble spirit. Let us lean on God with all of our weight, for when we are weak, then we are strong.


Written by Kristen Bremner. Photos by Naomi June.

Master Piece in Progress

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Back in 2014 while I was working in Southeast Asia, I became very fascinated by the idea of having a tent at home, which would signify the Holy presence of God. I wanted a refuge, a resting place, a space where I can always go to encounter the One I love. Yes the Spirit of God is everywhere and is not restricted by manmade things, but there is something very special about having a designated place for the person that you most honor and treasure.

I was engaged then and due to fly back to London to be married in a few months’ time. I called my fiancé then, hubby now, and asked whether we could have a tee pee tent at home. He said yes! So this tent has been my place of intimacy, rest and soul-searching. It is where I bring my utmost brokenness, joys and mysteries to the One my soul delights in.

When it came to the time of forming some kind of a brand for this artwork-making business, I had this logo in mind. It came to me one time while I was worshipping the Lord.

I had no pen and paper with me so I quickly sketched it with my finger on iPhone using the doodle app, not wanting any detail to slip away. I saw something like the shape of a tee pee tent, and wings on both sides, overlooking the thing in the middle. That reminded me of the cherubims that guarded the ark of the covenant. At the same time, I had this thought that the name should start with an A, which is kind of like the shape of the tent in the logo. Then suddenly, it all made sense! “The Ark of Presence, where Love and Glory dwells” became the identity of the brand.

Moses said to God, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
(Exodus 33:15-16)

My hope is that everything about The Ark would breathe the glory of God. If the Presence of God is not in this, it would be completely in vain.

So, the hands and the heart behind The Ark is this girl (or rather married woman) who adores wild daisies, succulents, cacti, leaves, branches, trees, sunshine, extremely warm weather, the sea, pebbles, seashells, sand, being in water, adventur-ing with flip flops and backpack, scented candles, open space, quietness, joyfulness, childlikeness, reading while sipping tea, genuine love songs, dance performances that make you cry, vulnerable story-telling, and different cultures in the world.

I am a lover of love and beauty – a lover of the Person of love and beauty and glory and grace and truth – the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my beginning, my process, and my destination – in all of my existence and everything I do. He brought me from death to life; an amazing, hope-filled, darkness crushing and light-shining life.

I am an art psychotherapist by training and have had the privilege of using the profession to reach the lost, bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free. Before that I was a graphic designer / art director. I had left the design career to carry out the current ‘mission’ God laid on my heart.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetHowever, I have never actually stopped creating. A couple of years ago I found myself feeling rather discontent about the gifts I was buying for friends’ birthdays, weddings, Christmas, special occasions or simply to show encouragement. I started to hand-make different types of art pieces to give to family and friends and strangers (this is a ‘custom’ that I developed as a child, I’m grateful to my parents who loved and kept the endless Disney cards I painted for them).

In October 2016, after a series of amazing events and encouraging words from friends, I decided to step out and start a tiny, tiny little online business, selling ‘stuff’ that I make. Jesus called me to start The Ark, to create and sell artworks for His glory; to bring hope, light and love to this weary and broken world. I had very little idea how it might work. And I am still learning a lot each day.

I had a lot of struggles to start with. I was afraid my work was not good enough, that it’s not worth looking at, that people wouldn’t be interested, that it’s going to be a failure, that it was just a projection of ugly self-ambition. However, the Lord Jesus and my wonderful hubby keep encouraging me and spurring me on the right track. It is so easy to get back to that dark loophole and compare with others and lose the vision and the joy of creating, but I thank God that ultimately He defines ‘success’, not me, not anyone else. If I seek to please people, I lose everything. But if I seek to do everything for the glory and pleasure of Jesus, I would be the richest I can be. I have learnt and am learning that I always just need an attitude of a daughter making something for her Father – all love and no fear.

Everything in The Ark is hand-crafted by love, inspired by nature, and filled with life-giving thoughts. It is my passion to impart encouragement, childlike hope, joy, love, and dreams to the world.

One piece that I’ve been working on behind the scenes for a while, and I’m thrilled to release, is my new “Master Piece in Progress” tote bag*. The inspiration for this bag came from the book of Ephesians: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph2:10) and a quote by Sophia Bush: “’You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”

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I am astounded that God would call us His masterpiece. We are created in His image – the image of pure love, light and holiness. His wonder is placed inside of each of us, no matter where and when and how we are born. We are created in Him, through Him, for Him – our life purpose is to worship and enjoy Him. I find it extremely easy to appreciate the beauty of God, but the beauty of myself? I’m not so sure. However, God calls us His masterpiece. He creates as He speaks. Even when we’re not quite there yet, that’s how He sees us.

I’ve been learning to give grace to myself and the rest of broken humanity – which includes anyone from a family member who gets on my nerves to traffickers who sell and abuse people for money; from the most well-off and arrogant person in the world, to street children who don’t know their worth and cannot imagine anything beyond picking food from garbage dumps.

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I pray that this bag will serve as a reminder, wherever you bring it, that we are all hand-crafted by the Artist of the universe – unique and holy and made for love. We all deserve respect and honor; and at the same time, we all require patience and grace from others, because we are all “not quite there yet”. But the process is beautiful. Because the Artist is beautiful. I am so thankful that I get to share a piece of my heart with you in this simple tote bag.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
-Pablo Picasso

I give all the glory to my amazing God – the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit – the Creator of creators, who loves and inspires me daily; who has given me courage to be me, and a fearless heart to dream again.

-Bonny

*Artfully Seeking subscribers receive 10% off their tote purchase until April 18, 2018.

Writing Faith

The Bible tells us that the righteous live by faith, not by sight, but that is easier said than done; after all, it’s easier to trust what we can see than what we cannot. Some reference this verse as basis for the claim that faith is blind, but it isn’t! Living by faith, doesn’t mean we close our eyes and minds to what we are able to see and comprehend; it simply means that in addition to acknowledging the visible, we also believe there is more beyond it and choose to live for and according to that larger reality.

img_9542But the truth is that even what we can see isn’t always trustworthy, mainly because we don’t see everything. Sometimes things stay hidden for a while—or forever—and other times we just stop seeing. We can be looking at a deeper truth—be in a face-to-face stare-down with something previously hidden but now revealed—and never see it, because we have allowed ourselves to believe that what is apparent on the surface is all there is to see, and so we simply stop seeing. But faith tells us there is actually more, and living by it requires us to train our mind’s eye not to settle for what is visible, but to go digging for what is hidden behind, beneath, on the periphery, or in any of the minute yet infinite spaces in between.

img_9547Consider those Magic Eye images that were all the rage in the 90s. You remember: the ones that look like random 2D computer patterns but that actually contain 3D images only visible to those who are able to consciously shift how their eyes focus (on the “distance” behind the surface pattern rather than on the pattern itself). The ability to override the eyes’ automatic focus reflexes does not always come easily; in fact, some never master it, mainly because they give up. But that doesn’t mean the hidden images and scenes cease to be there. Because they are there, whether or not we see or acknowledge them. Knowing that and choosing to continue trying to train the brain to take over conscious control of an automatic muscle function—well that is an act of faith, a choice determined by what is unseen rather than what is presented at first sight or first effort.

No, faith is not blind. It is simply a different kind of vision, one that requires a lot of intense training over the span of a lifetime. That training comes, more often than not, in the form of a choice, forced though it may be: the choice to walk wide-eyed into each moment expectant and in search of the hidden things that will eventually be revealed only after we take the step. It is the choice to say yes to the hard stuff that will be required of us in our search for those hidden things, even when we have no inkling that they even exist, let alone what they may be. Faith understands that first-sight is not only-sight and that it may not even be accurate, and it requires a suspension of judgement and a divine level of patience that bring us face-to-face with our own insufficiency.

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Art challenges our sight, our vision, our paradigms for interpretation. Creating art, on the other hand, challenges our faith. It propels us into the battle for the hidden things in our own lives. At least that has been my experience with the creation process, especially with writing. When I read what others write, I am challenged to reconsider my conclusions about life, my paradigms, and my preconceived notions about the human experience; I am challenged to see what they see. But when I write, I am challenged to see what is still invisible in my internal landscape, and then to make it visible.

Writing is where faith rules and trains my sight to see the truer realities that exist beyond, that inhabit the space underneath, behind, above, on the periphery, and in all those in-betweens.

I could easily accept the surface-level narrative offered to me for what it appears to be, but if I want the real story, then I must go to battle for it on the page. I must fight to get past what I see with my eyes to immerse myself in the vastness beyond the limitations of my human nearsightedness.

I have been told that to be a writer, one just needs to write. Write, write, write! Write what you see; write what you feel; free write, journal, jot down thoughts and half-thoughts. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good, just get it on the page or on the screen. Exercising the writing and imaginative muscles is what strengthens them over time and theoretically equips a writer to eventually produce good content. And I agree with that theory. Until it’s time to make myself sit down and actually put it into practice.

img_9541For some, the activity of writing is more enjoyable than for others, and for some, the biggest dilemma is which of their many ideas to explore and flesh out first. I know I’m supposed to write—Pops has made that clear—but it isn’t usually enjoyable for me; it’s more like a battle. And my biggest dilemma hasn’t been that I have too many ideas. In fact, until recent months, it was that I really had no ideas at all. So making myself sit down to do it is really hard, almost scary: What if I really don’t have any ideas, and what if I can’t get any words out? Then suddenly a story appeared in my mind, and it came out fairly easily. Whether or not it is good writing is always debatable, but that isn’t really what’s important to me right now. The important thing is, I wrote something. I walked into the battle being waged between the visible and the invisible, and I won. The words on the screen document that fact, and regardless of what anyone else thinks of that story, I think it’s breathtaking because of what it took to produce it and because of the invisible realities and truths it brings to sight.

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Months passed, and then suddenly another story came—a continuation of the first one, which surprised me, since I believed the first was just a one-off. This new one was shorter, simpler, yet significantly harder to work out. Hard enough to make me cry actual tears, but important enough to the training of my faith that I could not walk away from it. So, once again I went to battle. Wounds were exposed, but safe places were also established. The battle I fought once again lives on the screen in words I can see with my physical eyes, and the victory contained therein astounds me even more than the first did.

img_9558A few more weeks passed, and again, when I was certain this sudden spurt of story-writing was still just an anomaly, Pops said, “There’s more. Go ahead, my daughter.” Only this time, I know it won’t be a one-off, and I know now that what seemed like isolated one-offs were actually parts of something bigger. He has not given me the entire outline, but instead has invited me to journey through it with Him one step, one scene, one battle at a time. And I have a choice to make. I know my heart will bleed, I will shed tears, this will hurt, and it will be hard. Do I run away? Or do I put my hand in His and jump into the vast as-yet unseen?

Writing is becoming my trust fall. It’s where I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. It’s how I learn to walk by eyes-wide-open faith and to defy the limitations of status-quo, surface-level living. Writing is also becoming my fight song. The hardest step to take every time I am beckoned back to the page is saying yes, but every word already birthed is a reminder that the yes is worth it, that choosing faith over sight is worth it.

And so I write. I write to find the life preserver, to cling to my Rescuer, to peer beyond, to defy limitations, to exercise my voice, to walk by faith and not by sight, to uncover the life of freedom I’ve been promised and live it indeed.

Written by Amber Crafton // Photos by Lindsay McMullen

Generation Distinct

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Generation Distinct began with a 20 year old girl who was called by God to pursue a big dream for her generation. 

Generation Distinct is not my dream. It is God’s dream for this generation and for this world.

It all began when I looked around at my own generation and realized so many of us were settling for the mediocrity the world expects of us.  I noticed so many of us were leaving the Church in masses. I realized there was so much potential for good and world change in our generation because we are passionate and we have big dreams and yet we were leaving that potential untapped and unnoticed.

I started to think, “God, someone has to do something about this!” 

Someone had to tell our generation we have so much potential that must be leveraged.

Someone had to tell our generation we don’t have to wait until we are older to make a difference in the world for Your glory.

Someone had to tell our generation we don’t have to walk away from God to find our adventure.

Someone had to call our generation to something greater.

I said, “God, someone has to do this.” 

He responded in that moment and said, “That’s right, Hannah. How about you?” 

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I almost pulled out my birth certificate to remind God how unqualified I was to start something and to carry His vision for this generation. I said, “No God you don’t understand, I’m really young. I don’t know what to do. I am not qualified. I’m young.” 

But He responded back and said, “That’s kind of the point.” 

If I have learned anything through the adventure of Generation Distinct it’s that God doesn’t care what your age is when He calls us to change the world…He still calls us.

And I’ve learned He doesn’t care how old we are or how young we are when He calls us to live a great story.

Before I knew it, a team was gathered and, suddenly, the dream of Generation Distinct became a reality.

– Hannah Gronowski

What is Generation Distinct?

Generation Distinct is an organization that exists to unleash a movement through inspiring and equipping the next generation to discover their passions and join the adventure of changing the world for Christ.

Generation Distinct INSPIRES and EQUIPS the next generation.

 We INSPIRE the next generation to believe three things.

1) You have the potential to change the world, make a difference and pursue Christ no matter how old you are or how unqualified the world may say you are.

2) There is a wrong you were born to make right.  Injustice abounds in this world, and the next generation’s passion and grit is needed.  When God was creating the plan of the entire world and your name came up, what did He say you would do? It’s time for YOU to believe you have a unique purpose to change the world.

3) A Movement of redemption and renewal can be unleashed in this generation.  Considered by some to be the “ME” Generation while viewed by others as the most justice-conscious and generous generation ever, even our parents, bosses and teachers can’t seem to figure us out. But, God knew this generation would be motivated to work for justice, hungry for a rallying cry, and yearning for a community to rally with. The time is now.

We are the generation to start a movement. 

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We EQUIP our generation to take action on those three things.

1) We create TOOLS. Our Generation wants to take action, they just don’t always know where to start. We want to eradicate that problem.  Generation Distinct produces tools that any person can utilize in order to start making a difference and pursuing Christ no matter their age, place, or experience.

2. We guide you to create your own WORLD CHANGE STRATEGY.

*Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project that is in development! 

3) We invite you to JOIN THE MOVEMENT. We want to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  Generation Distinct gives you that opportunity.  Champions are on the front lines of this movement, spreading the vision in their communities.  They live out the vision and spread it everywhere they go. Find more information HERE!

How would our world change if we, the next generation, discovered the life Jesus actually invites us to live?

He calls us to risk daringly, to surrender everything, and to fight boldly for His glory and to save the lost and to change the world.

The mission He has given us in anything but boring or safe.

This is what we are longing for – A cause greater than ourselves we can actually give our lives to.

“God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.” // Romans 8:14-17 (MSG)

THIS is why the vision of Generation Distinct matters.

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If we can inspire a Generation to believe these truths of who Jesus truly is, and if we can give them the tools to actually begin taking action, we believe our generation will be more committed to Christ and doing His work than any generation in all of history.

For more about Generation Distinct, please visit: www.generationdistinct.com

Photos courtesy of Generation Distinct & Hannah Gronowski

The Enoughs, The “If Onlys”, and The Middle

The word enough keeps ringing through my head like the word ex-girlfriend at a John Mayer concert. I don’t feel it. I don’t feel enough.

I worry I’m not enough for my siblings and parents. I worry I don’t measure up with the other two billion college graduates getting jobs and rings and children. I worry people will see me and imagine what I could have been or where I could have gone if only I’m afraid I’m not enough and I’m only an if only.

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Like Wednesdays or Jan from The Brady Bunch, I’m stuck in the middle. And it’s the middle section that’s hard to settle into, but I keep getting a whispered hint that the middle section is the one that I am called to.

DE Timepieces Final-8It is true that I often don’t feel like I’m enough. And that’s because I’m not. I haven’t arrived; I am no one’s savior. I’m climbing with Miley and wandering with Tolkien. If I were perfect (which also happens to be my definition for the word enough, ironically), I would already be there. I would already have washboard abs. I would already be a published author. I would already be married. But I’m not. I’m in the middle. I’m working towards something, each day trying to pull a Samwise and take one step further than the day before.

IT IS NOT A MEASUREMENT OR AN ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL; IT IS THE WILLINGNESS TO STEP, TO DANCE, TO TRUDGE THAT COUNTS.

DE Timepieces FinalAnd as a Christian, the word enough receives a more nuanced definition, I think. It goes through a transformation and is turned into a paradox of sorts. On the one hand, I am not enough. I sinned yesterday, I sinned today, and I will most likely sin tomorrow. Clearly, I have fallen off the boat and am wading with Rose trying to find a door to cling to. I am not enough.

But Jesus is enough. I am enough because of Jesus’ love for me. Where the equation once said, I≠ENOUGH, Jesus inserted Himself rather than me. Now it is JESUS=ENOUGH. When Jesus is in me and I am out of the picture, I suddenly am enough because of the magic of love.

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I will never be enough. But Jesus is. He is enough, and He relieves me of the pressure.

Written by: Drew Brown
Watches by: D E Timepieces

D E Timepieces is a watch company dedicated to redeeming the Time.

What do you make time for?

We have to ask that question. We live in a world with many distractions and constant messages about useless things. As we see the world changing daily we debate what is valuable to us. The more something is valuable, the more time is spent on it. If we spent the right amount of time on things that matter, think about the growth we will have in that area.

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As a Christian, I tend to focus on Jesus, family, ministry and providing. Jesus died for my sins (John 3:16) and in return, I devote my life to Him and the ministry He has for my family and I. Because I have many things to juggle, where my time is spent is important. If it’s not work, it’s time spent with my wife and 3 kids, worship ministry at my church, producing records in my studio, or running multiple businesses. Yeah… It’s a lot.

For my wife Katie, she’s raising 3 kids, home schools and runs day to day things for this company. Not to mention dealing with a baby and a new dog! She’s raising the next generation! It’s a lot of work.

With everthing we have going on, we need time with Jesus. He has blessed our family in ways we could have never imagined. So how do we give a God who has everything something of value? We believe it’s our Time. Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not, I still ask the same question. What do you make time for? He created you in His own image. Don’t you think we should give something in return?

Make Time for Him. He made Time for you.

By David & Katie

Shop D E Timepieces here: http://www.detimepieces.com/products