Love

Love Week

Hello again!!! I hate that it has taken me this long to write another blog post. I really had all good intentions of starting the new year with a post and then making sure I did at least one a month. Well, it’s March and this is the first one. I could make all kinds of excuses as to why it’s taken me three months to write this, but I don’t have any good excuses. I’m no busier than you are. I just haven’t taken the time to do it. Like a lot of other things that are good for me, I put them off because what needs to be done right this second takes priority. So right this second I am ignoring piles of laundry, taxes, changing out of my PJs, and a zillion other things on my “To Do” lists (yes, two of them. I literally sat down and wrote on today’s “To Do” list ‘Write a bigger “To Do” list.’ *Sigh*) to write this blog post.

I wanted to start with something that happened back in December because I believe it was a pivotal moment not only in my thinking but also in my heart toward God and trusting Him more.

My church did a series for the weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas. I made a point to do each week of the series, to follow along and really focus on that week’s topic. “Hope” week wasn’t hard, I think because I have been focused on that for years in writing my book. “Peace” and “Joy” weeks were harder. Peace is getting easier as I grow in my trust in God, and joy is something I really have to choose since I lean toward “what could go wrong?” thinking. So then “Love” week started. It was the final week, and I was really excited when I sat down early that Monday morning to really find out how much God loves me, how that is enough, and to have a whole week to let that sink in. So I watched the video and answered the first question.

 

“I know it’s not my job to seek revenge,

but in this situation am I called to go beyond that?

Or is that the most loving thing I can do?”

 

How much do you really trust that God loves you?” I know that God loves me. I’ve never really questioned that He loves me.

I continued to answer the questions and quickly found out that the focus is going to be on loving my enemies the way God loves them, that loving them the way God loves them is to seek their well-being without expecting anything in return. I try to think of people who I have a hard time loving and wanting God’s best for. I thought of a coworker I used to work with at Jared years ago, but God kept nudging my heart. This is literally what my journal looks like (minus the cuss words; and for those of you who don’t know, John is Johnny’s, my son’s, father. We had a messy end to our marriage about two and a half years ago.) from that morning:

“My enemy is John. I can barely forgive him let alone “love” him. Surely I am not called to do something nice for him or to further his well-being while expecting nothing in return?

*crying break for 10 min*

I really don’t understand this and really what I’m called to do here. Where do boundaries come into the equation? I know it’s not my job to seek revenge, but in this situation am I called to go beyond that? Or is that the most loving thing I can do?

God, I really need you to meet me here and give me some clear insight into what this means. I need you to show me what this looks like. To love Johnny and expect nothing in return is a lot different than to love John or Rob or David (all ex-husbands. You can read a quick backstory in one of my older blog posts called “Hot Mess.”) and expect nothing in return.

God: Pray for John this week.

Me: Ugh! Why would I pray for the well-being of the person who has my child when I don’t get to?

God: Really? (I kinda pictured his face to be like the emoji with the flat/straight eyes and mouth.)

Me: Okay, fine. Then why should I pray for the person who ruined my life and stole my dream?

God: Look around you! Did he really? You are in a far better place than you would’ve been together. Your life isn’t ruined. Your dreams are in my hands. Not John’s. Pray for him this week and trust me.

Me: Okay, fine! God, for Johnny’s sake…

God: No, not for Johnny’s sake. Pray for John.

Me: What then? What do I pray for? You are going to have to tell me.

God: Pray for his protection. It’s the opposite of what you’ve been praying for him.

Me: Ugh! I don’t want to! This is one of the hardest things you’ve asked me to do, but fine. God, I pray that you would protect John today, as he is your child who you love and have created. Amen.”

I was literally crying and so angry the whole time I was writing that. Both Monday and Tuesday of that week I was close to being in one of the angriest moods I have ever been in. That was one of the hardest weeks. I prayed for him every day. It was clear to me that God was not asking me to reconcile with John and that boundaries with him are still needed. However, there was a conversation on Wednesday of that week where I would typically have torn him to shreds, but instead God revealed my very small heart change in having compassion for him as a broken child of God who deserves to experience the true love of Christ. The “Love” week concluded with God telling me to give John one of my books, “Hope’s Purpose,” with a note in the back to tell him that I was praying for him. I was like “Okay, fine, but I’m mad about it. I don’t want to give him my story!” God reminded me that it’s not my story. It’s His story that he graciously allowed me to tell, and it’s not my place to withhold it from anyone if He is telling me to share it. Also, that I needed to wrap it like a Christmas present, bow and all. So I did.

 

“They may have been abused, betrayed, and abandoned

by someone who should have

loved them and taken care of them…

The same power that conquered the grave and paid

for my sins paid for their sins too.”

 

I think my experience up until that week had given me a heart for those who have been hurt, those who have been abused, betrayed, and abandon by someone who should have loved them and taken care of them. That’s why my heart breaks so hard for things like domestic violence, abortion, sex trafficking, and child abuse (literally crying as I’m writing this paragraph). But then I look deeper, though, and think about the fact that God loves the person who is doing the abusing, choosing to have the abortion, and selling or soliciting sex. They may have been abused, betrayed, and abandoned by someone who should have loved them and taken care of them. They are just as broken and deserve to know the true love of God, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for them. The same power that conquered the grave and paid for my sins paid for their sins too.

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I feel like this ripped open a huge wound in my heart but that it had to be ripped open in order to heal properly. I don’t know exactly what I am supposed to do with this new perspective other than just try to show the love of Jesus to whoever is in my path each day.

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Book

Behind the Scenes Part 2: Holman Pottery

I officially asked Greg Holmes to do the illustrations for my story book, “Hope’s Purpose,” so we spent a few weeks discussing what the human characters would look like, how he would draw a faceless inanimate object as a character with emotions, when and where this this story is set, and other details like that. One day he emailed me these fabulous pictures of the main character, a pot named Hope, in all different shapes and postures suggesting this may be a great way to bring her to life.

I literally started tearing up and was, like, “Yes!!!” I loved it. Finally, one Sunday morning we met in the lobby between services at church. Greg laid out the storyboards and talked through the ideas he had for the illustrations. Everything was, seriously, perfect. I know this is hard to believe, but each page and what he chose to highlight was exactly how I imagined it in my head.

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We agreed on the storyboards, and the next step was to set up a photo shoot so that Greg could take some good pictures to use as examples to draw from, the goal being consistency. And although we didn’t want the illustrations to be photo realistic, we didn’t want them to be cartoonish either. I reached out to Steve Sprinkle to see if we could go back to his studio, but he was extremely busy (which is a good problem to have) and his shop was pretty far away. Finding a time that worked with everyone’s schedule was proving to be impossible.

“That weekend Greg and I met at the studio, and as soon as we walked in the door, it was perfect!”

I got online and searched for “Potter studios in Collin County.” I found one in McKinney but could never get connected with the owner. After a little more searching, I found Holman Pottery on 18th Street near downtown Plano. It was in this great old house, and the pictures of things they had created were awesome. I sent them an email to explain what we were doing and asked if we could come check it out to possibly take some pictures. Within a day or two, I got a reply that we could definitely do that. Everything just fell into place. That weekend Greg and I met at the studio, and as soon as we walked in the door, it was perfect! We wanted to be able to set up some scenes from the story and needed a space that still had a rustic and homey feeling. The Holman’s studio definitely felt that way. Tony Holman was there to greet us, take us on a tour, and offered to help in any way they could.

One question we had was what it would take for him to commission our main character, Hope, so that Greg would be able to have her in his studio through the months it would take to create all of these illustrations. Greg and I had decided on a shape for her, but we were fruitless in our efforts to find one already made. Greg showed him a sketch of what we were looking for and he said “Oh, yeah, no problem.” We arranged to come back for our first of two photo shoots so that we could get an idea of lighting and angles. We also wanted to take photos of Tony creating our characters so Greg could use them as inspiration when drawing the Potter’s hands in the book.

We went back for our first photo shoot. My precious son, Johnny, was able to join us, and he got the royal treatment from Tony’s wife, Debbie. She showed him the turtle collection, and he even got to sit in the yellow throne while we watched Tony create my special pot. Greg was able to take lots of great pictures that really helped with the illustration process.

We still needed to get some scenes set up with the human characters. We needed to stage them in different scenes so, again, we could have consistency throughout the whole story. I called upon my dad, mom, and brother to model for these. It was so much fun to be able to do this with my family. It’s really neat for me to look at the illustrations now and see them in the pictures.

I could not be happier with our experience with Holman Pottery. Both Greg and I have purchased other pieces as gifts for loved ones from their shop located right there in the studio. If you are looking for a special gift for someone special or even just to spoil yourself, I would encourage you to check them out online at www.holmanpottery.com or in person at 914 18th St., Plano, TX 75074.

Book, Uncategorized

I Need Your Help (Book Announcement Part 2)

Let’s back up a little bit to 2013. It was around this time that I started to think about how I would want this story to be illustrated when I actually got around to writing it out. This was going to be a children’s book: a book that a parent or a grandparent could read as a bedtime story, a touching story for children, but also a story where an adult could find healing for themselves. I had a very specific illustration style in mind. I had done some fun artsy stuff here and there, but I knew there is no way I could put the images I had in my head onto paper. Then one weekend I was singing at our main church campus. I walked back into the green room and saw this incredible picture on the wall. It may have been there before, but this was the first time I really noticed it.

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I was alone in the room, and everything came to a screeching halt as I stared at this picture with tears in my eyes and I said to myself, “This is it! This is what I have in mind for my story.” This huge 6ft x 8ft image of a child standing in between what I thought was the arms of Jesus. At the time, I did not know that my friend and one of the pastors on staff at Chase Oaks Church, Greg Holmes, had created this picture. He had been leading a group for some of the people involved in the worship arts side of ministry at the church; so in 2014 when I got the story out in writing, I began reaching out to him every once in a while over the next couple years to get his opinion and feedback. He was so gracious to share some insight, words of encouragement, and even connecting me with a potter so I could get some technical details ironed out. But as I shelved the project because life took over, our conversation surrounding the book also took a break.

I stared at this picture with tears in my eyes and I said to myself, “This is it! This is what I have in mind for my story.”

At some point I found out that Greg was the one who had created the incredible picture in the green room, the one that captured my heart and moved me to tears. When I asked him about the green room picture, this is what he told me:

The image in the green room was one of two images that I created on stage during a Christmas series in December 2011. I can’t remember what the series was called, but it had kind of a “Jesus I never knew” emphasis. I wanted to create two images of Jesus that changed our perspective a bit. For the first image, I wanted to show Jesus as a child and emphasize his poverty and the fact that he was just a kid loved by his mother, just like scores of other children on the planet. Then, for the second image I wanted to portray Jesus as an adult and emphasize his Middle Eastern ethnicity and his joy.”

Yes, yes, and more yes! So in September of 2017, I was singing again at our main campus and Greg was hosting the services that weekend, so we had a chance to talk about the book again. I told him about some things I was doing to try to move the book project forward. Again he spoke into the situation with such wisdom and direction. I told him that I had been talking with some other people about illustrations, but that I couldn’t shake the green room picture, that this style was exactly what I have in my head and would he consider taking on this project. Greg is an amazing artist; but not having done a project like this before, he was a little hesitant at first about doing it. I really couldn’t imagine trusting the images that were so clear in my mind into the hands of anyone else. You know, how when you have a vivid dream and you wish there was a way to record it so others could experience the magic? This story was far too personal to settle for less that everything I imagined. Greg agreed to illustrate this project, and this continued the journey of turning my story into a book.

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In the days and weeks to come, I will share more details about this journey. I will be sharing with you the behind the scenes process and pictures from the past several months as this project has been coming together. I wanted to take a minute, though, to share my heart and ask for your help. When trying to decide how to publish this book, I kept going back and forth between self-publishing or trying to pitch this to a publisher. I asked around, and the overwhelming feedback I got from people who have gone before me is that if you go with a publisher, then you have to be willing to let go of your illustrator. I was not willing to do that. From the picture in the greenroom to the initial story boards to each and every time Greg has sent me an image to approve, I have been overwhelmed with the feeling that he is reading my mind. How could I ever let go of such a wonderful thing? The choice was made.

Self-publishing. Great. How do we fund this thing? I was again encouraged by others to do crowd-funding since people love to be a part of things like this and there is no way I could fully fund this myself. I have put some of my own money into this project, but this is bigger than I. I spent some time looking into crowd-funding sites but felt discouraged by details such as if I don’t raise the full amount I’m needing to raise in the time allotted, then I don’t get any of the money towards the project. Also, the idea of having to share a percentage of the gift given by the people who love me with a company and not having all the money donated going to fund the project was unsettling. After lots of thought, I have decided to just put it out there to my friends and family on social media. It’s a huge step of faith to do this. I have already had some friends and family reach out to help financially, and it’s been a huge blessing. Here are some incentives for helping fund this book project.

  • For a gift of any dollar amount, you will receive a 4×6 copy of my favorite illustration from the book.
  • For a gift of $200, you will receive a 4×6 copy of my favorite illustration from the book and you will receive a signed copy of “Hope’s Purpose” signed by the author, me.
  • I have decided to make 10 of the original illustrations available as part of the incentive to raise the money for this project. For a gift of $500 you will receive a beautifully framed original illustration signed by the artist, Greg Holmes. You will also receive a signed copy of “Hope’s Purpose” signed by the author, me.

A friend of mine told me that I should say, “Any gift over $1,000 would receive a date with the author,” but let’s not get carried away.

I have partnered with some great people to help me with this project, and I want to make sure they are able to be compensated for all their hard work. The purpose of my reaching out to my friends and family for help is to make sure this project that has been so personal to me is completed with excellence.

I am trying to raise a good sized amount of money in a short amount of time: $7,000 by June 15 to be exact. Since there are always little things that come up, this is a safe estimate. I can’t offer you a tax break or a better spot in Heaven, but any support would be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in supporting me in this project, please contact me by email at ArielTalitha@gmail.com. Use the subject “I want to help!” I will send you my information where you can send a gift. If you use Venmo, you can find me @ArielTalitha. You can also direct message me on Instagram and Facebook.

I am so excited for this next step in my journey! I know God has big things, and I want to be a part of them!

Book

I Wrote A Book! (Book Announcement Part 1)

I am so excited to be writing this blog post. It’s been a long time coming, and honestly, I’ve been putting it off because I wanted it to be perfect and have every single little thing in order first. Well, again, I have to remember that the best things in life will be missed if I’m waiting for perfection. So here it is: I wrote a book!

Okay. I know that a lot of you already know this because I’ve been talking about it for years. Literally years. Back in 2010 I had just moved home after my second marriage fell apart (a short version of my story can be read in the blog post “Hot Mess”). I was doing some reading and journaling one day when all of a sudden God put a story on my heart, I believe, as a way for me to put a picture to my Heavenly Father’s love for me and His hand in my life. At the same time, He spoke to my heart saying, “This is how I will provide for you.” I kind of dismissed that part of it and focused on the story. This story has evolved over the past 8 years because my story has evolved. I am grateful that God gave me this story and the journey of writing it as a way to work through the tragedy of broken dreams and discover the hope that can only be found in Him through His redemption. The book is called “Hope’s Purpose.” This is a story of a Potter who not only gives life to every piece of pottery He creates, but also gives them a choice of how they will be used. He creates each piece with a special purpose and asks that they trust Him, but ultimately it’s their choice.

This story follows a piece of pottery named Hope. We meet her as a lump of clay, shapeless and without form. We see the Potter take the time to mold her into a precious creation with her purpose in mind. She is asked to trust the Potter but is given a choice as to how her purpose will be fulfilled. We follow her through a series of highs and lows, optimism and broken dreams, to the point where, finally, she believes she will never have a chance to be functional again, let alone be what the Potter created her to be. The stage is set for the Potter’s hand of love, grace, and redemption to work in her beautiful little life. In the end we find out for whom and what she was created.

“…God gave it to me for a reason: not just for my own healing but to share with others so they could find healing from their hurts as well.”

For the first four years, this story was just in my mind. I hadn’t taken the time to get it out onto paper. I was still working through the narrative and truth in my life and story. I was also scared, not of failure but of success. You see. I had been experiencing the “magic” of this story in my own life. It had given me tangible pictures and words to work through my pain, knowing there was hope. At certain times God had led me to share this story verbally with individuals who were going though struggles. I saw that it gave them hope and direction back to their Creator. From the very beginning, I have believed in the power of this story and that God gave it to me for a reason: not just for my own healing but to share with others so they could find healing from their hurts as well.

Finally, in the summer of 2014, I put the most current version of the story on paper and thought it was done and ready to go. I knew it was an allegory of “my story,” and at that time the conclusion was that even though the little pot had made the wrong choice a couple times in who would take her home from the shop and how she was used, the Potter revealed in the end that He had the right person for her and His purpose for her was to help the man with a mission he was on. I was praying about what the next steps were. I had contacted a few people to get their take on the story and if they had any advice in how to move forward. Everything kind of seemed to be at a standstill, and I really didn’t have complete peace about the story being done. Maybe it needed more editing? maybe a different dialog? Earlier that year I had married the man I thought was my “Happily Ever After,” and in the Spring of 2015, I gave birth to my miracle baby. I had once again set the story aside to live the life that was right in front of me, and I thought when the time is right, I’d pick it back up and move forward. Little did I know that in the summer of 2016, my happy ending would shatter. God was not done with my story.

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January 25th, 2017, I was sitting in my third-floor apartment, my sweet little boy playing with his toys on the living room floor as I sat in my chair weeping. I was a single mom with little money and no idea what my future held. My heart was broken, and I was having a hard time seeing what God was doing. The details of my divorce were proving to be quite devastating; and even though I tried so hard to be strong and brave, I was losing momentum and hope. There have been a few times in my life that God has put it on my heart to give a certain amount of money to someone or towards something, maybe as a way to show my obedience or just to be a blessing. I also believe that sometimes it has been a way to plant a seed for my future financially, not like rubbing a magic lamp and making three wishes, though. I can’t really explain it other than to say that when I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to do something, I need to listen and obey. So on this day I was really needing a certain amount of money. I was praying pretty specifically that God would provide it somehow. The immediate response I felt in my heart to my prayer was “Give $58 to the ‘Love Fund’ at church.” “WHAT?! I don’t think you heard me right. I need money. I have $60 in my account. How am I supposed to give $58!?” Again, I heard the same thing: “Give $58 to the ‘Love Fund’ at church.” I got my wallet out, went online, and gave the $58. I continued crying and prayed “Lord Jesus, I am trusting that you love me and are taking care of me, that you see what I don’t see. I will keep trusting you.” I picked up my precious baby boy and set him in his crib with some toys right outside my bathroom door so I could keep an eye on him while I showered and tried to regain my composure to move on to the next thing. I stood there as the water, mixed with tears, streamed down my face, and it was like a flash of lighting. All of a sudden, God gave me the ending to the story. It was literally like a flash of light in my head as everything fell into place. I began to cry tears of joy as I thanked God for His faithfulness. Over the years, every time I would feel financial pressure and go to God in prayer about it, I would hear Him say to my heart “Have you worked on your story?” I would kind of work on it a little but then put it away. That day, as soon as I got out of the shower, I ran to my computer and made the changes to the story that God had laid on my heart. Even though I didn’t have the amount of money I prayed for in my hand, I knew what He gave me that day was far more valuable.

To be continued…