The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name

There are storms that bear down like a hurricane, destroying the things we've held dear.

The work of our hands and the treasures we've collected can crumble beneath the weight of the wind and the waves.

There are inner storms that can rage and change the landscape of a soul.

So many of us on this broken planet are facing storms of one kind or another.

Harvey left a sea of devastation last week. Irma is bearing down on us this week.

Our little family is watching the weather closely and hunkering down this weekend. We live in central Georgia and could be in the direct path of the storm this time. Though we won't get the worst of it, we're still preparing for storms. School has already been canceled Monday. Evacuees, friends from our south, have flooded into our little town and filled every hotel room.

The needs are great. The fears are felt. But our God is still in control.

This song has been on replay in my heart the last couple of days...it is like a balm to my often-anxious heart: 

"It Is Well"

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see

And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

It is well it is well with my soul
ahhhhhhh (softly)

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.

It's hard to not be anxious and uncertain when so many are suffering and facing so much destruction in so many places around our beautiful broken world. But God is still good. I may not understand why there is so much suffering, why there are so many storms - on our land, in our souls. But I do know that He is calling to us...drawing us near to Himself. He loves us. HE is our peace, even in the middle of the storm...especially in the middle of the storms.

We don't have to be afraid.

Ann Voskamp wrote,
"In the midst of storms, all our storms, this is always true:
Sometimes God will calm the storm for you —  but sometimes God will calm you for the storm.
Sometimes God calms the storms — and sometimes the storm stills swirl and He calms our fears.
All storms only still to the sound of One Voice."

and

"The Wounded God does not say, “Do not fear, I will give you all the answers.”
He does not say, “Do not fear, I will take away all your pain.”
He does not say, “Do not fear, I will do whatever you all think.”
The Wounded God who is the one High, Almighty Wise God, who says it like a wide open embrace:
'Do not fear — for I am here.' "

He is here. He is right here. As the waves rise and the wind howls and the future is a thick cloud of uncertainty...God is right here, with us. And we can rest in Him and say with confidence, "It is well with my soul."

Praying for those facing the uncertainty of incoming storms, for those picking up the pieces from storms that have past, and for those being tossed to and fro by wind and waves in the middle of a storm that threatens to destroy the things you hold dear. Hold tight to the One who is holding you through it all...He is the unmovable, unshakable, unwavering God who loves you more than you can imagine.Trust Him. Rest in Him. He holds. 

How Togo stole my heart and broke it in all the best ways...

In October of 2013 I took a trip that changed me.

The trip was to a small town on the southern coast of Togo, Africa.
It was my first missions trip.
It was the farthest I had ever been away from my family.
It was the longest I had ever been away from my kids.
It was physically challenging.
It was emotionally exhausting.
It was so hard…and so wonderful.
It wore me out.
It opened my eyes.
It emptied me…and yet it filled me to overflowing.
It stuck with me.
It stays with me still.
Togo stole my heart and broke it in all the best ways.

We sat in a simple thatched building with a corrugated metal roof, on handmade wooden benches and sandy dirt floors. This was the church. And it was beautiful. There were no fancy sound systems or video screens or colored lights, no air conditioning or padded seats, and I didn’t understand very much of what was spoken that morning – and yet, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced a church service that was more alive with the Holy Spirit.

Many of the Togolese people who surrounded us that morning lived in poverty like I had never seen before. But as I sat there and watched them worship Jesus, I realized that I was the one who was poor.  I had a life that was overflowing with comfort and privilege and plenty (we may not seem "rich" by American standards, but when you consider all that we have--a solid roof over our heads and consistent food on our table and running water at our fingertips--we are really quite wealthy and extremely blessed)…and yet, as I sat there in that church service half a world away from my everyday life and over 5,000 miles outside my comfort zone, I realized that I was actually the one living in poverty…in spiritual poverty. I had cushioned myself within my safe and comfortable little bubble, carefully planning and crafting my life into the shape I thought was best (which looked an awful lot like the shape of what our culture says is best): the shape of least risk and most safety, least pain and most comfort, least struggle and most stuff. Oh, Jesus was always a part of it, but He was not really the whole of it. I thought He was. I said He was. But He wasn't really. I thought I was pursuing Jesus, but I was really just pursuing the American Dream with a side of Jesus. My life was not conformed to the shape of the cross...it was conformed to the shape of myself and my own selfish desires. And I didn't even really realize it. I didn’t realize how tight my grip was on my life…I didn’t realize how little faith I really had…I didn’t realize what I was missing.

I went to Togo with this idea that I would somehow help them, but the reality is that they were the ones who helped me.

The Togolese people in the church that morning may not have had much as far as worldly possessions go, but they had Jesus, and He was enough. He was more than enough.

Was Jesus enough for me? Had He ever really been enough for me?

I want to love Jesus every day of my life with the same passion that I witnessed that week in Togo...like He is all that I really need and everything I could ever want.

The people of Togo stole my heart...our missionaries, JJ and Melissa, inspired my heart...and God used Togo to begin breaking my heart in the very best way.

That trip to Togo was the beginning of the soul-shaping process that God used to begin breaking my selfishness, breaking down down my walls, breaking apart the box that I had tucked my faith into. It was the beginning of God prying my hands open…of Him showing me how to let go of my life and live with open hands, trusting Him with whatever He gives, whatever He takes, and whatever He asks me to give away. I’m still loosening my grip…still learning how to let go. Because I forget…oh, how I still forget. 

It has been almost 4 years since my feet were on that African soil. And my heart has been longing to go back ever since I left. But I’ve been learning to let God lead…learning to trust His timing…learning to love where I am, and to see the mission field right here where He has placed me.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to cross the ocean to share the power of the Cross.
I don’t have to speak another language to speak the love of Christ into someone’s life.
I don’t have to look very far or travel great distances to find a mission field.
I don’t have to get on a plane to get my life on mission for Jesus.

But I do have to open my hands.
I need to loosen my grip and not hold so tightly to this life and what I have….it is all a gift. I am blessed to bless…I have been given much so I can give much. 

And I do have to take up my cross and follow Jesus.
Following Jesus always requires sacrifice. My life must take the shape of the cross...arms open in broken surrender to His plan and His purpose.

And I do have to look beyond myself and see the needs of others.
I have to open my eyes....to really see people, see the souls that Jesus loves, see their need, and then do something to meet those needs.

And I do have to be obedient and do what God is calling me to do.
And He calls all of us to share the Good News. As Christians, we are all given a mission to share Jesus as if souls depend on it...because they do. Because a thousand years from now, all that will really matter is a person’s relationship with Jesus. Everything else will fade away, but the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus and the souls of people are eternal. If I really believe that, it will affect how I live my days and how I use my time and how I see every single human being on this big beautiful broken planet.

"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
“Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor....It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus, and a totally silent tongue about him. Of course I do not mean, by that, that those who use the pen for Christ are silent; they are not. And those who help others to use the tongue, or spread that which others have written, are doing their part well; but I mean this,—that man who says, ‘I believe in Jesus,’ but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him, by mouth, or pen, or tract, is an impostor.”
- C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 54 

Sometimes obeying God may mean getting on a plane and flying halfway around the world.

Sometimes it means getting out of the recliner and taking food to a neighbor.

This October, for me, it will mean returning to Togo with a small group from our local church to serve and work with our missionary partners, JJ and Melissa Alderman. And this time, my husband Mark is going too! (I’m so excited to have him by my side this time!)

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to return to the place that stole my heart 4 years ago.

The area where we will be serving, on the southern coast of Togo, is dominated by voodoo worship (witch doctors, fetish idol worship, sacrifices, etc). The spiritual darkness there is thick...spiritual warfare is very real…but the light of Christ is so bright, and the power of the Gospel is so strong. The work that the Aldermans are doing there is absolutely incredible, and it is a truly humbling grace to get to serve with them and work with them for a few days.

Here's what we'll be doing:

The Aldermans purchased a large piece of land on which to begin a camp and community outreach program. One of our goals on this trip will be to help with the construction of a building that will serve as a bunk house on their new property. This bunk house will be the first step toward reaching their goal of bringing locals in to share the gospel with them.

We will also be ministering to a few of the local church plants by spending some time with them and praying for their churches as they fight to share the gospel in their local villages. Most church plants there consist of about 90% new Christians – their passion for the Gospel, and the sacrifice many of them have had to make to follow Christ is both humbling and inspiring. We will also spend time with kids, loving on them and having fun with them to help build relationships between them and the Aldermans. 

I am also praying that we will be able to encourage and love on the Aldermans while we are there. Although, if it’s anything like the last time I was there, I’m pretty sure we will leave feeling far more blessed by them…just being around them and hearing their hearts and watching them do the work that God has called them to do, with so much love in their hearts and courage in their spirits…it is truly a gift just to spend time with them. They are the real deal…beautiful people who just love Jesus and want to share His love with the Togolese people and see this country experience the life-changing power of the Gospel. The dream God has given them for Togo is bigger than their lifetime…they know that the work they are doing is only a beginning, that they may never see the full results of their labor in this generation…but that doesn’t stop them from pouring everything they have into doing what God has called them to do. They are faithful to their part of God’s big story…and it is so inspiring and humbling to me just to be around them.

Mark and I are prayerfully preparing for this trip, and we are trusting God to provide all that we need. Our financial goal is, to be honest, a bit overwhelming…we have to raise a total of over $4000 since two of us are going. But nothing is too big for our God, and I am very confident that He will provide everything that we need. 

To help us reach our fundraising goal, I have designed a whole new collection of prints that I’m calling The Mission Collection. This collection includes 10 new designs, and 100% of the proceeds from all purchases will go toward our missions trip to Togo. Each of the quotes and verses I chose for this collection encourage me and remind me of the mission that God has given us. Perhaps one (or more) of them will encourage you, too? :)

Both Printable and Printed options are available. See more details for each design over on the Mission Collection page in the Shop.

If you would like to donate toward our missions trip, but would prefer to make a direct tax-deductible donation instead of purchasing a print, please email me at jennifer@littlehousestudio.net and I’ll send you all the details of how to do that. :)

Thank you in advance for supporting us and praying for us. We covet your prayers as we prepare our hearts for this trip and as we trust God to work out all the details.

And please be praying for JJ and Melissa Alderman and their Togo Palms ministry. God is doing amazing things through them. You can read more about their ministry over on their website: www.TogoPalms.life

 

Lettering for the Lord - a challenge for me & free printables for you!

Letter for the Lord Lettering Plan by Krystal Whitten

This month I have decided to jump in on Krystal Whitten's "Letter for the Lord" lettering challenge over on Instagram. I love her heart behind her work, and her lettering is absolutely beautiful. You can see more of her work on her website or IG.

A challenge like this not only encourages me to practice my own lettering skills daily, but it's also a great way to focus on God's Word every day...and to share it with you!

So I decided to try to turn some of these daily lettering challenges into printables that you can download and print for your home.  Links to all the printables of these verses is at the end of this post. I'll be adding to this list often throughout the month (you can follow me on IG to find out when a new printable is available). Hurry and snag your free printables now...they will only be available for a limited time! :) (I may turn some of them into prints in my little shop, with possibly some full-color versions as well...but for now, the sketches are all free to download! Enjoy!!)

And I'd LOVE to see your own lettering of these verses! You can jump in on the challenge at any time...read all the details over on Krystal's site, and share your handwritten verses on IG! (You don't have to have any special handwriting or lettering skills, either...just write out God's Word and share His truths to encourage your own heart and others. Remember, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.") :)

 

my dad

What my dad has taught me

My dad has taught me that real love is unconditional,
That forgiveness is powerful,
That family is valuable.

My dad has taught me that it is more fun to give than it is to receive,
That it’s more important to leave a legacy than it is to leave an inheritance,
That life should be more about making memories and less about making money.

My dad has taught me to never give up,
That the past does not define the future,
That the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

My dad has taught me that life is fun,
That I don’t have to take myself so seriously,
That laughter is good for the soul.

My dad has taught me to love big,
To give generously,
To pray expectantly.

My dad has taught me that bad days will come, but God is always good,
That I will make mistakes and mess things up, but God can redeem anything,
That others may let me down, but God never will,
That what others intend for evil, God intends for good.

My dad has taught me that I am always loved,
That he will always be there for me,
That he will always believe in me,
That I can always count on him, depend on him, call on him,
That nothing can stop his love for me,
…but that God loves me even more.

My dad has taught me many things,
But it’s not so much what he has said,
but how he has lived,
that has made all the difference.

This is my daddy’s legacy,
The heartbeat of his life story,
His one broken and given life, poured out for our family and for God…

He gives it all away.

---------

 

Happy 60th birthday to my amazing dad.
You are my mentor, my father, my hero, my friend.
I love you.

mydad

Celebrating Smallness

Celebrating Smallness || Little House Studio

Small.

It’s my “one word” for this year…one thing I’m continuously going back to and leaning into…one word that is changing how I see and experience and process my days.

I’m embracing small moments, small beginnings, small steps.

I’m pursuing smaller instead of larger, slow instead of hurry, secret instead of spotlight.

I'm focusing on the everyday routines, the often unseen rhythms, and watering the hidden places of my soul.

I’m celebrating smallness…in my life, in my work, in my days.

And it’s in a large part due to a book I read over a year ago that continues to resonate in my soul. Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman has become a dog-eared, marked-up, well-loved favorite of mine. There are so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom in its pages…so many words that speak to my heart and challenge me to see the world and the purpose of my days from a new perspective, with Kingdom eyes that notice the small hidden things, that see beyond what is temporary and visible to what is eternal and invisible.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
“Tuesday reminds me to accept the beauty of smallness, hiddenness, and the secret work of Christ in the deepest part of who I am.”

“There is a daily-ness to my work, a small-moment perspective that whispers for me to connect with the work in my right-now hands, not because it’s going to become something Big and Important, but because Someone who is Big and Important is here, with me, in me, today. I can exert the effort and risk of moving, choosing, and releasing because he is with me and the outcome rests safely in his hands.”


“We don’t have to fear this small way. We don’t have to worry that embracing smallness will shrink our impact...
When I’m small, I know I can’t control opinions, manipulate outcomes, or force my agenda on others. When I’m small, I can move into the world confident as the person I most deeply am because I know I don’t move into the world alone.
If this is true, then small is my new free.”


- Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

I just completely love this book.

So when I was asked last year if I would be interested in illustrating the pages of a coloring book based on quotes from this book, I was completely humbled and absolutely thrilled!

And then, almost immediately, I was extremely nervous and began feeling totally unqualified and inadequate to do the words of this beautiful book justice with my simple illustrations.

But then I remembered…

“We don’t know where these moments might lead, what we might grow into, whom we might influence, what impact we might have. That is not our business. Instead our job is to stay right here with our friend Jesus. To know he is with us and within us, and he’ll stay no matter what.” -Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

Over the last three years especially, God has proven to me, in very clear and humbling ways, that His plans for me are far more than I could ever dream or imagine. He has shown me that I don't need to worry about where the path might lead or whether or not I am equipped to handle what is coming around the corner, because He has been with me and He has been preparing me every step of the way, even when I didn't even know what He was doing.

I can trust Him.

And so I gave Him all my doubts and my fears and my anxiety, and I trusted His plan, and I got to work. As I worked, I prayed. Each time I began a new page, I prayed for Him to guide my pen and to allow the work of my hands to bring Him glory.

I worked quietly, secretly, one little illustration at a time. Months of moments. And then a quiet waiting.

“I can plant seeds but I can’t make them grow,
I can create art but I can’t make it sell,
I can act in faith but I can’t determine the outcome.”
-Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

And now here we are, a year later, and I have a stack of these books sitting in my dining room.

“I’m thankful we have a God who sometimes chooses to tell his big story in small, delightful, quiet ways.” -Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

It’s just pure grace. And ALL the glory and praise goes to God alone.
All of it. Every bit of it.

This project was truly a labor of love. It was such a humbling grace to get to be a part of it. I just know that the words on the pages of this book, both Emily’s beautiful words and the Scriptures that she shares, will be like a breath for your soul and will encourage your heart.

A little sneak peek inside at a few of the pages:

Some illustrations have lots of little details, others are a bit more simple with larger spaces to color in or to add your own patterns and designs. The pages are nice and thick (I love them!), and they are each perforated, so they can be easily removed to hang on your wall or frame as a gift. The cover is just beautiful and soft, with touches of gold (SO pretty!). The designers at Revell and Baker Publishing did an amazing job putting this book together...it truly is lovely. And Emily's words and the Scriptures inside are what make it absolutely beautiful!

To celebrate the release of It’s Simply Tuesday, I’m giving away some fun bonuses to the first 40 people who Pre-Order a copy of the coloring book through my shop. (Of course, you can order a book on Amazon or just about any place that you buy books, but these free bonus goodies are only available for orders made through my Little House Studio shop. ;) )

The first freebie you get when you Pre-Order is a hand-painted watercolor and line ink drawing, specially made to celebrate It’s Simply Tuesday. Each 5x7 piece is signed and numbered. I created each piece individually, so although the basic design of each piece is the same, no two are exactly alike and each one is unique.

The second free bonus you will get is a “Mustard Seed Charm & Bookmark”:

I love what Emily writes about the mustard seed in Simply Tuesday:

“We plant, trusting God for the growth.
We act in faith, trusting God for the outcome.
We build, trusting God to fill.
We offer, trusting God with the response.
We remember the mustard seed that is like the kingdom of God, the seed that will grow anywhere and everywhere even without our help. We remember this is a ‘hardy seed that remains viable for years—even centuries.’ “

This handmade bookmark with a single mustard seed in the charm is a simple reminder of the significance of small things, and that even a tiny amount of faith has the power to move mountains.

It's Simply Tuesday Pre-Order Bonuses || Little House Studio

And the third freebie you get when you pre-order is this hand-lettered 5x7 print:

I was inspired to letter this verse after I read Emily’s words in Simply Tuesday:

“This day belongs to the Lord…This is the day the Lord has made for me to rejoice and be glad in. This is not the day Emily has made to toil and strive and earn.
Today, the banquet table is laid out for me in my soul. And it looks like meetings, deadlines, and a few household chores on the outside, but on the inside I know that my Father is very fond of me, and he has plans I know nothing about, and this is the day he has made. He invites me to come and sit at his table and pull up a chair made for small legs. He invites me to surrender myself to his agenda and trust that he intends good things.”

I hope this little print will be a reminder to you, that every ordinary Tuesday, and each day of your life, is a day that the Lord has made…a day to rejoice and be glad in...a day to notice the small moments and celebrate the little gifts that God gives…a day to celebrate His grace.

It's Simply Tuesday Pre-Order Bonuses || Little House Studio

Pre-Order your copy of It’s Simply Tuesday to snag these bonus goodies! But hurry, I only made up 40 sets of freebies…order your book today to make sure you get yours! :)

And if you’re in the Greenville, SC area next Friday, April 7th, I’d love to meet you! I’ll be joining Emily for a fun little coloring night and book signing event at the Barnes and Noble on Woodruff Road at 5:00pm. See the event page for more details. I’d love to see you there!