CONTEST: Let me design a prayer prompt calendar just for you

I love to design my monthly prayer prompt calendars. I love the colors, the quirky connections, and coming up with the themes. There are more ideas than time to produce them. The hard part is narrowing it down and selecting a direction. That’s where you come in. Because you know what? I think there are lots of ...

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I love to design my monthly prayer prompt calendars. I love the colors, the quirky connections, and coming up with the themes. There are more ideas than time to produce them. The hard part is narrowing it down and selecting a direction. That’s where you come in.

Because you know what? I think there are lots of you out there with great ideas, too. And there are a lot of online ministries I’d be honored to help in this small way, so I decided to run a contest for bloggers.

Submit your idea for a theme for my March calendar before January 31, and if I select your idea, you win! You’ll get a calendar designed around that theme that you can give away on your blog (either free when they subscribe to your blog, or just as a free download for everyone—your choice how to promote it). I will also use it as the March calendar on my website, but I will publish it on my blog, linking to your blog, along with a brief introduction to you and your message.

You don’t have to be a designer to participate—in fact, I hope you’re not, because then I have more leeway! 🙂 Your idea does not have to be completely thought through, nor does it have to look like one of mine. The sample calendars throughout this post are provided to help you start thinking. Many of mine so far have centered on that month’s holidays, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day or summer, but even in those cases, I’ve gone in a certain thematic direction (love, thankfulness, etc.). Let yourself be creative! At the same time, know that I’ll choose one entry based on the possibilities I see to be creative with it, so you don’t really need to provide the creativity—and you never know what idea will intrigue me the most. Here are some examples of what I’m looking for. Your submission does not have to be any more detailed than the samples below.

Sample idea based on a graphic concept:

Chalkboard—calendar can look like a chalkboard with hand-drawn graphics and type, with the prompts themed around people who use chalk (teachers, kids, sidewalk artists, seamstresses, or what have you)

Sample idea based on a ministry topic:

A real example I created for a friend—she writes about being a single mom and the issues she faces, so I designed a calendar with prayers specific to her audience (your ministry may be about hope, or forgiveness, or renewal, or marriage, or love…)

Sample idea based on a scripture or Biblical theme:

Fruit of the spirit—prayer prompts might be about people who exhibit specific fruit and prayers for us to manifest those things (example: pray for someone who consistently shows joy; help me practice kindness) —OR—

Psalm 91 (“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”)—calendar would include prayers about shelter (giving thanks for it), prompts related to things like protection, security, steadfastness, leaning on God, etc.

Sample idea based on book content (I’ll use my own because that’s an easy example):

Upside down—graphically, the type could be oriented in many different directions, and the prompts would be centered on unexpected people to pray for, ways to look at your own prayers differently or from a new perspective

or, say you write fiction:

Prayer prompts associated with your book, like people who share names with your characters; people who share professions or hobbies or quirks of a character; prompts about adventure or history or a specific place; and so on

Sample idea centered around specific people to pray for:

Prayers for children (infants and their parents; preschoolers; teens; athletes; someone struggling in school; kids whose parents recently divorced, etc.)

To enter, leave your ideas in a comment below or email me (kellyostanley@me.com). I need your website/blog URL and a brief description of your idea (doesn’t have to be any more detailed than the examples above) and how that relates to your site/ministry/message/book. You may include a sample prayer prompt or two, or not. If you have a certain style in mind, you can mention that (or show me a sample image)—or leave that part up to me.

If I select your entry, I will be in touch to learn more about your ministry and theme and to ask if you’d like to submit some of the specific prayer prompts as well. (Totally up to you; I am glad to come up with them myself, if you’d like.) Remember: deadline is January 31, and I’ll design the calendar by Feb. 20 so you have some time to promote it before March 1. Good luck! Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

P.S. I won’t use your ideas if you are not selected as the winner; they’ll remain yours, I promise. If you want to keep the ideas confidential, please submit to me by email with the subject line “prayer prompt contest.”

P.P.S. If you happen to be a man, I promise not to make the calendar look feminine or frilly. Don’t rule out this opportunity based on how my calendars have looked in the past. It just so happens that the majority of my readers are women, so I let myself be girly sometimes.

 

Everything you could possibly ever need

Well, maybe it’s not an entirely exhaustive list :-). As you think about what you will study, how you might adjust your prayer life (journaling habits, Bible study, and so on), and what you hope to accomplish this year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of some resources that are available here ...

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Well, maybe it’s not an entirely exhaustive list :-). As you think about what you will study, how you might adjust your prayer life (journaling habits, Bible study, and so on), and what you hope to accomplish this year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of some resources that are available here on my site.

Prayer Prompt Calendars—every month I create a new calendar, roughly centered on a random theme. By subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter, you will receive the link to download each calendar as soon as it’s ready. Print this and hang it on your fridge, tack it on the wall by your computer, or keep it in your journal or Bible to help you jump-start your prayers—and hopefully, along the way, expand your awareness of the importance of prayer and the needs all around us. Here is this month’s calendar for you to check out (without subscribing)—hope you like it enough to sign up to get new ones every month!


Designed to Pray


Praying Upside Down


A to Z prayer cards*—print these free downloads and use to help incorporate learning into prayer time with your child…or just for yourself!


Wallpaper downloads for your phone on computer—currently, I only have one design available, but hope to create more soon!


10 Ways to Love” printable—a list of scriptures to remind us of what’s important—how to show love in our daily life. Available in gray or in white.


*If you’re not already a subscriber, you’ll have to sign up for my newsletter to access these.

 

Start where you are (taking the measure of things)

This is Suzie Eller’s latest #LiveFreeThursday writing prompt. So many times we tell people what they need to do to be found by Christ. Maybe we do the same with ourselves. Yet he started with the disciples right where they were. He CALLED them to follow him, when others were looking at each other incredulously saying, ...

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This is Suzie Eller’s latest #LiveFreeThursday writing prompt.

So many times we tell people what they need to do to be found by Christ. Maybe we do the same with ourselves. Yet he started with the disciples right where they were. He CALLED them to follow him, when others were looking at each other incredulously saying, “Um, did he really just pick that guy?”

What might happen if we just start where we are? In ministry. In courage. In a big decisions. In faith. In our relationships. In hope. What if we understood that this is a BIG act of faith?

Let’s talk about it here, if you’d like. For me, starting right where I am means I put my foot on the starting line and I take off, sometimes without having any other plan but the Holy Spirit’s whisper of, “Go!”. It’s not my comfy plan, because I really want to map it out and tell God how it should look, and be super prepared in case I fall flat on my face.

Yet he says, “Go.”

Today, in response, I’m sharing an excerpt from chapter 14 of Praying Upside Down about proportion. It’s about Colleese, who was connected to me through a mutual friend, and has become a dear friend of mine. She is facing some serious surgeries and other issues. Will you please pray for her?


Much of this book is about keeping your eyes open and trying to see what God is doing—not because we have a right to know, but because it’s much easier to hang on through frustrating times when we can get a glimpse of what’s to come. Faith, however, is blind. It’s believing in spite of what you see. And being changed along the way. The reality is we may never know the end of a particular story. God may show Himself, or He may not. But even if we don’t know, even if we don’t see, it doesn’t mean God isn’t working, changing, effecting, delivering. It just means we happen to be unable to see it at the moment.

My friend Colleese has numerous health issues—multiple sclerosis, anaphylactic allergies, and seizures, among other things. One day, in the basement laundry room of her apartment building, sitting in her wheelchair, she felt an MS flare coming on. She was terrified. From experience, she knew that this wasn’t going to be a brief wave of pain, but something that incapacitated her. She had no one to call, and she knew the risks inherent in it happening while she was alone. She wasn’t falling prey to an overactive imagination. Her fears were well-founded.

Years before this night, she’d witnessed an event on TV in which people of many faiths came together during a choir rehearsal. They wanted to pray for a particular woman to be healed, but there was such diversity of religion that they decided, instead, to sing to her. One voice sang her name, and then another, then another. Sweet tenderness, swelling into a beautiful harmony. Colleese said you could see the change in the women in the group, holding hands, with tears on their faces as they prayed. They didn’t have answers, so they lifted up their friend to the One who did. Her name—the song—was the prayer, and it bound them all together.

It also planted a seed in Colleese.

That night in the laundry room, she began to sing. As her strength melted from the pain, she had nothing left and needed God. All she could do was offer herself, offer where she was and what she was experiencing, to God as her prayer. In that moment, it was literally all she had. No family, no one nearby to help. She knew her condition could be life-threatening, but she pushed out the fear that was crowding in. And she began to sing. Not a particular melody, just putting the words about her immediate situation into song. I’m scared and I don’t know what I’m going to do, how I’m going to survive down here for the next twenty minutes. I can’t make my wheelchair go. . . . She sang about where she was, and before long—even though the physical symptoms did not abate—the words evolved into something more and lifted her to a new place. Thank You that I have enough clothes to have four washers full. Thank You that I live in a country where I don’t have to wash by a river. Thank You for electricity. Thank You for money. Thank You for soap. Thank You that You have given me enough of a life that I have clothes that I was able to make dirty. Thank You.

As she sang, the fear receded even though she was still in pain. She managed to get her clothes out of the washers and into dryers, fold them, and get both the laundry and herself upstairs to her apartment—singing the whole time. She told me, “I didn’t physically change, but something changed inside because it was all real—spontaneous. Prayer-singing—no matter what I’m doing in life, if I sing where I am—this is my gift to Him. The only thing I can offer Him is ‘here I am.’”

This isn’t a story about a miracle cure, but in some ways it’s even better. It’s about a woman who offered all that she had—as little as it was—and found that it was enough. He is enough. For Colleese, and for you, and for me.

Before this, she often had trouble praying. She would overthink the words and be stuck, something many of us can relate to. When Colleese censored her prayers, they became not a holy thing but a head thing. That day in the basement, she learned that prayer, in the form of a personal song, is her sustenance. It comes from the depths of her soul. “Medically, I probably should not be alive today,” she says. But she is. And not because she gets up at five a.m. to pray for half an hour a day, but because she never ceases. She offers all that she has, and she finds over and over again that it is enough. That God has carried her through. Sustained her. Changed her.

And given her a valuable gift. She feels rich.

In the book of Mark, Mark recounts a moment when Jesus sat near the collection box at the entrance of the Temple, watching people bring their offerings. Later, He called together His disciples and told them about one woman’s giving. “This poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44). Jesus wasn’t as moved by the wealthy people’s contributions as He was with hers. It wasn’t the value of the coins she gave, but the enormous cost of giving all that she had. He shows us that our measure of generosity and wealth, like so many other things, is upside down.

Colleese inherently understands this. She knows that God needs nothing, and He deserves everything. She doesn’t ask anything in return, just lifts up people and situations from her heart. She lets God decide where her prayers will go, for how long, and what tune she will sing. Even on the day when she was caught sitting in her wheelchair outside when a rainstorm hit. If that wasn’t bad enough, an SUV sped through a puddle and drenched Colleese and her service dog. Although she was in shock momentarily, Colleese found herself singing. That’s not very nice. Maybe they didn’t know, maybe they didn’t see me, but even if they did, I’m called to pray for them.

It is the person who prays who is changed.

The Bible confirms what Colleese discovered. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16). “Pay attention to the language,” she says. “It does not say ‘so that the person you’re praying for may be healed.’ It says you (the one praying) may be. And that’s one of the reasons we’re called to pray.”

She even prays in the pool, beginning and ending with laps of thanksgiving. “It’s really a special place for me, being held up—and I’m not the one doing the holding. That’s really a good picture of God.” Her experience in the basement laundry room, and in the years since, has turned a formal relationship into a tender one. Her prayer life went from forced and stilted to vibrant and real when she gave her physical being as her spiritual offering. When she offers herself—her body, her situation, her feelings—as prayer, every moment with Him is a gift.

And it all started because she took stock of where she was.

***

Oftentimes, when an artist is drawing from life, she will extend her arm in front of her, pencil in hand, and use her thumb to mark off the length of an object. She will then compare that length to another—are these two objects the same width? Twice as long? One-third as wide? These measurements help her keep the objects in the drawing at the same relative size.

Colleese’s prayer-singing is like the artist extending a pencil as a way of measuring the scale, angles, and positions of the objects she’s drawing.

In art, this technique is called “sighting,” and it involves holding a pencil at arm’s length, elbow locked, one eye closed. These positions must always be the same so that relative measurements are consistent. By measuring objects, the artist can reproduce the illusion of space accurately. When an object recedes in perspective, it gets shorter. The artist’s mind might insist that the person in the background is as tall as the one in the foreground, but if one person is farther away, she can’t draw him the same size on the paper without distorting the scene. Sighting is another way to override the knowledge stored in our brains that contradicts what our eyes actually see.

When Colleese sings to God, she’s looking for an accurate representation of that moment. Not what she wants it to be, but what it is. That reality then becomes the basis of her offering, the foundation for her prayer. Like the artist, Colleese doesn’t get to decide how things actually look, but she does her best to see clearly so that she has more to offer Him.

***

Ancient Egyptian artists used hieratic scale in their art—in other words, the size of an object denoted its relative importance. Kings and gods were several times larger than the common people. Sometimes you see this in the drawings of children. Mommy and Daddy are taller than the house because they dominate the child’s world. Over many centuries, artists began to value accurate depiction of forms over hierarchical representation. In ancient Greek sculpture, you’ll see the true proportions of the ideal human form. In the Renaissance, artists began to see the connection between proportion (size relationships) and the illusion of three dimensions—in other words, how the relative size of objects shows the distance of one element from another or from the viewer. Actually, size is only meaningful when it tells us about an object’s dimensions in relationship to something else.

When you use proportion in prayer, first take stock of where you are and what you’re dealing with. How big is this problem compared to the next? What is the problem? How close or far are you from God? Is God at the center of your composition (with regard to how you spend your money, time, and attention), or are you?

Or simply, This is where I am, Lord. I’m giving it to You.

Whether you sing your prayers, write them, or speak them, whether they’re long or short or detailed or abstract, proportion is a useful way to remember who God is. When Colleese began to sing in the basement that day, she knew she did not have anything else to offer. But she understood that He did. And she went to Him because she saw how big He is. How good. Not because He would do something for her, but just because of who He is. Because He is so much greater, and He deserved all that she had. Everything she had.

Colleese’s song came from praise, not from wanting. Being with Him—as she was, as He is, without any demands or pleas—was all she wanted. Everything she wanted. As her song turned to praise, her attitude and understanding changed—a beautiful result from a pure intention.

In our culture, people go to great lengths to gain power, whether in politics or business, and even sometimes in churches. In our spiritual lives, we eventually come to accept that although there is power, we don’t have it. When we acknowledge God’s magnificence, goodness, and knowingness—His ability to see ahead of us and forgive what’s behind us—then we’ve shifted the balance. We’ve traded in the illusion of our own power for the reality of His. We’ve recognized our need for Him and reinforced our understanding of our relative strengths. And once that’s done, our only solution is to hand problems—any of them, all of them—over to Him. Trade what you have, sight unseen, for whatever He will give you. He has proven Himself more times than we can imagine. Not because He needed to prove how good He is, but because, as God, He can’t help but be good.

Yet He wants to be involved. To hold us, oh so tightly, and sustain us. To change us in the middle of our darkest hours. And, in the process, to teach our hearts to sing.

Inspired by Kevin Bacon to connect the dots in prayer

I took a humanities course during my freshman year of college. As much as I now love to read and write, discussing classic literature right after lunchtime made me especially sleepy—warm classroom, full tummy, and the lack of sleep caused by the near all-nighters I pulled regularly as an architecture major. But one day the lesson woke me up because my professor was ...

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I took a humanities course during my freshman year of college. As much as I now love to read and write, discussing classic literature right after lunchtime made me especially sleepy—warm classroom, full tummy, and the lack of sleep caused by the near all-nighters I pulled regularly as an architecture major.

But one day the lesson woke me up because my professor was describing stream of consciousness. Developed by a group of writers in the early twentieth century, it was meant to express the flow of thoughts and feelings in a character’s mind. It relates to the way one thought triggers another and then another, and before you know it, you’re in a whole new place. I thought, Finally! That’s what you call the way I think!

If “stream of consciousness” sounds too fancy, think about “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It’s a game based on the concept of six degrees of separation, which supposes that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. In this game, people challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and Kevin Bacon.

You can put this thought process—the concept of making connections and seeing how interrelated we all are—to work in your prayers. Because we’re all connected, one way or another.

DIRECTIONS: Write the name of someone important to you in the center of the page. Who or what is connected to that person? His or her children? Businesses? Relatives? Spouse? Draw lines from the original name, connecting them to others. Thoughts of one child might make you think of someone else’s child. Draw lines between them. Praying for one friend’s marriage may remind you of another couple who needs prayer. Diagram the trajectory of your prayers, noticing the parallels and intersections.

Look below at two samples—one centering on my pastors and best friends, Nathan and Peggy, and one centering on a concept (in this case, marriage). Experiment with different starting points and see where your mind takes you. Click here to download a blank worksheet or just start mapping your prayers on a blank sheet of paper.

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Designed to Pray coverThe exercise above is from Week 3 | Day 3 of my new book, Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God. I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out. It’s a different kind of book. Whether you’ve been praying for a long time or are just beginning to, this eight-week adventure will infuse passion and creativity into your communication with God. Filled with daily activities—everything from coloring pages to writing prompts to doodling—it’s an innovative way to start viewing God, the world around you, and your faith with a new perspective.

The Beautiful Word Bible giveaway

It’s somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that I would have a stack of these Bibles—just begging for someone to come along with colorful writing implements and a love for drawing—as my right arm is immobilized for at least five weeks for surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon? Yeah. Well. So I’ll content myself with ...

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It’s somewhat ironic, don’t you think, that I would have a stack of these Bibles—just begging for someone to come along with colorful writing implements and a love for drawing—as my right arm is immobilized for at least five weeks for surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon?

Yeah. Well.

So I’ll content myself with doing a brief review (because typing left-handed is still slow-going)… and then I’ll give YOU a chance to win one of two copies of this beautiful book. (They knew what they were talking about when they named it.)

The NIV translation is my favorite, and that’s what these giveaway copies are (although this also comes in KJV and NKJV versions). I’m always wishing for lots of space to write notes in my Bibles and for nice, clean, elegant typography. This Bible offers those things, plus key verses illustrated in a wide variety of styles (all fun and colorful). It’s nice to see Scriptures expressed artistically—it gives us a chance to focus on key words and concepts and better understand them. If you’re comfortable drawing in your Bible, that’s what this was made for—but even if that’s not your thing, use the space for notes or journaling. Write about what a certain verse means to you, what you’re learning, who you’re praying for, what questions you have about it, the definitions of words or other related verses… it’s wide open and flexible. You can find your own way and do your own thing. If you want to doodle or draw, then DO. It’s a whole new dimension of interaction with God’s word that can be meaningful and enlightening.

(On a side note, I find the recent surge of interest in coloring, drawing, and so forth pretty exciting… especially since my new book, Designed to Pray, is coming out in August. It’s full of hands-on prayer activities—coloring pages, writing prompts, charts and questions and pages on which to explore—to help you find new insights in prayer by embracing your creativity. Watch for more announcements, or pre-order now :-).)

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that the text in the Beautiful Word Bible is a little too small for my nearing-50 eyes. But the font is pretty and legible—an important consideration to this designer :-). I also wish the paper was a little thicker because some of the illustrated verses kind of show through the pages. Then again, Bibles always use thin paper or else they’d be too big and bulky to carry around!

Beautiful Word Bible composite

Would you like to win one of these Bibles? I have a hard-cover version and one with a leather cover to give away. To enter, just subscribe to my blog posts (right-hand sidebar) or leave a comment below. On April 8 (next Friday) I will post winners. And I’ll even include a little box of colored pencils I had produced as swag for the release of Praying Upside Down.

Hope lots of you will enter—I’m excited to be able to give these away! What do you think about this Bible? Does it scare you or thrill you to be invited to color in your Bible?


Some additional info from Zondervan that you might find useful:

Tips For Bible Art Journaling:

  1. Use the right pen: Look for a pen designed for Bible journaling to minimize bleed through and tears. There are many options in plenty of colors. Or, try your hand at colored pencils which make a great alternative to pens.
  2. Practice on scrap paper: Learn key factors like spacing and ink drying time before you make your mark on your Bible.
  3. Use back pages: When you get comfortable and want to move to Bible paper, try the pages in the back to help build confidence.
  4. Integrate Washi tape: Just a little tape under favorite verses and around the edge adds a lot of interest to the pages
  5. Peel and stick: You name it, there is a sticker for it. From letters and pictures, to shapes, ribbons, and designs. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to brighten your pages with stickers.
  6. Stencil and stamp: Just like stickers, there are endless options in these categories to enhance your Bible without having an art degree.
  7. Appreciate the paper: Use the translucency to your advantage by tracing your favorite images directly onto the Bible paper.
  8. Get inspired: Reflect on the designs found in NIV Beautiful Word Bible or your favorite verse art to help spark ideas.
  9. Don’t stress about mistakes: You will make them – learn and let go of perfection!

Shanna’s 7 Tips to Illustrate Your Faith (courtesy IllustratedFaith.com):

  • Spend time with God – read a devotional, listen to worship music.
  • Pray about it – ask God to guide you
  • Write it down – what is God telling you?
  • Draw it – bring that big idea into the margins of your Bible
  • Date it – Date your entries as you will want to go back to those verses and reflect
  • Tab it – Use tables to see what themes you’ve covered
  • Forget the rules – Connect with God in the way that is most natural to you!

The best way to love someone? Through prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6, NIV When you sit down to draw a still life, you have to be careful to maintain a consistent position. If you get up to stretch and sit down a few inches ...

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6, NIV

When you sit down to draw a still life, you have to be careful to maintain a consistent position. If you get up to stretch and sit down a few inches to the right, the scene will look different. The spaces between objects will have changed, relative proportions shifted. Lines moving away from you will be at different angles. Even if you’re not an artist, you’ve probably seen this is another way. When your family poses for a Christmas photo in front of the tree, it might look as though it’s growing out of your son’s head. But if you shift a couple feet to one side, that is no longer the case. Because you found a new perspective.

When I decided to keep a prayer journal for one month (from Thanksgiving through Christmas) for my friend Peggy, I knew it would be a meaningful gift. But I didn’t realize it would be a gift to me, too.

Peggy’s life intersects mine in so many ways. She and her husband pastor our church. Our children are about the same ages, and we grew up attending the same school together for most of our lives. When I went forward, wanting to be baptized, in sixth grade, it was during Peggy’s slumber party (she’d taken us to her church’s revival). When I later found my church and discovered what it meant to have an intimate relationship with Jesus, I learned much of it from watching her.

Peggy helped me discover the power of prayer. So often we tell people we’ll pray and promptly forget, though. I wanted a tangible record of my commitment to pray for her.

So I chose a small journal and sat down every day to write out my prayers. I prayed for a different aspect of her life each day—her children, husband, ministry, leadership, faith life, friendships, extended family, work, finances, and health.

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When I intentionally prayed for Peggy and her family, asking for God’s protection and intervention, guidance and leadership, I got a new glimpse into Peggy’s life—her faith, her struggles—that I hadn’t seen before. In turn, I found a renewed sense of gratitude for her gifts—her joy, her welcoming kindness, her fun-loving personality. A greater respect for the weights she carries and for the responsibility of her position. A new awe for the strength of her character and the depths of her faith. And it made me a better friend.

Amazing things happen when we pray. God draws nearer. Rough edges are made smooth. Hardened hearts are softened. It was easy to pray for Peggy because I already cared about her. It may not be as easy to pray for someone you don’t particularly like—someone who hurt you, makes snide comments, lies, cheats, or can’t be trusted. But here’s the hard truth about Christianity: we’re called to embrace the teachings and practices of Jesus, and that isn’t easy.

Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). To pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6).

But not just any old prayers will do. We’re to pray with thanksgiving.

Lucky for us, prayer and gratitude go hand in hand.

Pray for your enemy (or rival, or the person who offended you on Facebook) and you will discover that there’s more than one side to every story. Pray for the wife of a man you’re attracted to, and before long, you have one more good reason to avoid getting too close to him. Pray for the boss who sets a negative tone in the workplace and you might find yourself shouldering some of the emotional load he carries; your newfound compassion may change the dynamic of your relationship. Ask God to show you ways to give and you may realize your financial situation isn’t as dire as you thought.

The greatest gift you can offer to someone is your heartfelt prayer. Along the way, you will begin to see that, whatever your view, God is there.

And gratitude will bubble up. No matter where you are sitting.

(First published on the Tyndale blog, November 17, 2015.)

 

Finding peace in just the right place

I feel like I’m constantly saying the same old thing on these guest post intros… I met this lovely woman through the Facebook group my agent set up for clients of her agency, and I haven’t met her in person, but I love her… yadda yadda yadda. The thing is, though, it continues to be ...

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jayme_mansfield-069I feel like I’m constantly saying the same old thing on these guest post intros… I met this lovely woman through the Facebook group my agent set up for clients of her agency, and I haven’t met her in person, but I love her… yadda yadda yadda.

The thing is, though, it continues to be true. They’re all interesting and talented, kind and generous—all-around lovely people.

But I think Jayme Mansfield is really something special. Maybe because she wrote this incredible review of Praying Upside Down on her blog. Maybe because I love the name of her blog—The Blank Canvas: Fill it with Him. Maybe because she’s an artist. Or perhaps it’s because her book, Chasing the Butterfly, is really, really good.

Or maybe I should stop trying to define it and keep it simple: She’s really awesome and I hope you enjoy this guest post.

GRAPHIC spinning in circles

The Colorado Rocky Mountains are calling my name today. I’m fortunate—only a short drive from the west side of Denver will soon find me surrounded by forests of pine, valleys blanketed in wild flowers, high and fast-moving rivers from summer’s abundance of rain, and the remnants of last winter’s snow still capping the highest peaks.

But wait…though the allure of trading the city for a few days for a slice of mountain tranquility shouts to me to wrangle the dog into backseat and race the car out of town, it’s really God whispering to my soul to come rest with Him—“to be still, and know that I am God.”

He knows me well. Anxious thoughts have been brewing—my teaching job, although wonderful, has tiptoed closer than when vacation began. The myriad of home and garden improvements waits impatiently on the “to-do list.” Best intentions to meet friends for coffee, wheedle away at the stack of books on my nightstand, and re-start my long neglected Pilates regime, now wait like bored spectators—hoping for even a bit of action. Worst of all (for us author peeps), is my next unfinished manuscript with the self-prescribed, ambitious, end-of-summer birthday—which will not happen. Sigh!

Ah, yes, He knows me well. I could spend another weekend spinning in circles like my rooftop weather vane in a windstorm—heading north to the grocery store, south to the basement laundry room, east to mow the lawn, and then west to walk the dog. A momentary pause, when the wind is merely catching its breath, may allow me pause at my computer.

Or, I could stop and breathe. Close my eyes, and pray—Lord, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to be? And let His words play over in my mind, “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20).

Regardless of what I am doing, I do know this—He wants me with Him. Sometimes it’s among a whirlwind of people and activity—a beehive life. Other times, it is in solitude, quietness, and stillness—nestled in His presence.

Yes, He knows me, oh, so well. Today, He’s beckoning me to spend time with Him alone (okay, Gracie will tag along as I’m convinced she is one of His favorite dogs.) I’ll turn the music off while I drive, hike to a favorite vantage point to gaze upon one of His many creations—and then I will listen, soak in the inspiration, the calm, and the peace that is essential before I write.

But most importantly, I will be with Him so that I can hear the what—the answer to my prayer to be reoriented, to have my physical, emotional, and spiritual compass be recalculated. After all, I’m convinced that is when the views are most glorious.


To spend more time with Jayme, visit her at: Her website | Facebook Author Page | PinterestGoodreadsTwitterInstagramJayme’s Art Studio website

5119HhoZ9aLAuthor Bio: Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator. She provides vivid imagery as she melds her inspiring writing and artistic talents. Her debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, released in late summer 2014, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Recently, she was awarded the 2015 Christian Small Publishers Association Book of the Year in Historical Fiction and the novel is a 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award Finalist for Women’s Fiction. Her passion for weaving stories about women who find their strength in the Lord continues in her upcoming novel, Rush, a historically compelling tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush in the late 1800’s. Jayme owns, paints, and shares the joy of creating visual art with children and adults at the Piggy Toes Art Studio in Lakewood, Colorado for the past twenty years. After a career in both the business and creative sides of advertising, Jayme received her teaching and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Creative Arts. For many years in elementary education, she has shared a passion for literacy and the writing process with her students. She teaches at Aspen Academy in Greenwood Village, Colorado. She is married to James and has three teenage boys.

The essence of creativity…

As I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, ...

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GRAPHIC essence of creativityAs I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, afraid the thought would vanish with the scenery. Bits of my own writing, bits of other people’s.

This quotation is one I stumbled upon again recently. I immediately fell in love with when I first read it—when Ann Voskamp posted it in 2012 in a post about why everyone needs to make art everyday. (Read that post here.)

Because of my new book, I’m thinking a lot about creativity. About risk. About finding the courage to seek God even when it’s not easy. To look for Him even when we’re tired and weary. To pick up the Bible even when we don’t know where to start. Wondering about how to keep up a life of faith, how to not burn out, how to push through anyway. And I’m pondering how to still my mind and relax into my relationship with God even as I try frantically to meet this next writing deadline.

Just because I’m writing about prayer does not mean I struggle any less than you do. But with each comment I receive, each message and question about prayer, I am more and more inspired to work on this book. I’m in love with the subject. I’m in love with creativity. And I’m remembering how much I’m in love with the Creator who inspires all of those things.

And I’m grateful for you. For that thing inside that won’t let go, the part of you that keeps reaching, keeps wanting to try again or find more of God or reach out to connect with others. The part of you that keeps hoping. We hear all the time that God is love. And oh, He is. We can rest in it, pull it around us, wrap ourselves in the warm cloak of God’s adoration.

But the word that makes my spirit leap is hope. Hope says there’s always something more. That the end is not the end. That somehow, some way, things will get better. Deadlines will be met, bodies will be healed, finances will balance, relationships will be restored, life will move forward, and God will prevail.

But allowing ourselves to believe? Letting ourselves feel that hope? It’s hard. And scary. It’s a huge risk. But if you look back at Ann’s quote, note that she doesn’t simply say that creativity is believing. She says it’s believing enough.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to believe everything you hear or study. You don’t need all the answers. You can still wonder, and doubt, and try, and fail, and walk forward, and fall back. But just believe enough to pick yourself back up. To take one more step. To reach out your hand, to tilt your face towards the sky. To dream. To create. To pray. To seek. To hope. And to find.

Because the biggest risks bring the greatest rewards.

 

 

Interview, review, and a giveaway

Courtney DeFeo is a friend of my agent, and that’s how we connected, but it seems we have lots in common. One of her creations is Alphabet Scripture Cards, which are pretty cool. Her bio describes her better than I could: Courtney DeFeo believes our kids can light up the world. As a former marketing ...

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Courtney DeFeo is a friend of my agent, and that’s how we connected, but it seems we have lots in common. One of her creations is Alphabet Scripture Cards, which are pretty cool.

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Her bio describes her better than I could:

Courtney DeFeo believes our kids can light up the world. As a former marketing professional, she lives in a constant brainstorm with herself and suspects it’s the route of her migraines. She wants her little light to shine so that her family knows Jesus intimately and others might see His love in the process. She is the creator of ABC Scripture Cards, Light ‘Em Up and Conversation Cups – and author of In This House, We Will Giggle. Her house is a wreck and she hates to cook. She adores her hot, patient husband. She posts entirely too many photos of her girls on Instagram. Connect with Courtney anytime: TwitterWebsiteFacebookInstagram.

I was so happy to be interviewed for her site. Head over there to read our conversation—or leave a comment on the post on her site in order to enter for a giveaway of a copy of my book.


I was so moved by this review of my book, and blown away when I realized the author is 15 years old. I can’t imagine being so…well, amazing…at that age. (Or any other, quite frankly!) I hope you’ll hop over there to read her lovely review and check out the rest of her blog while you’re at it. Besides, you’ve gotta love this pic.

 

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I’m supposed to be a word person, right? So why can’t I find words to describe how it feels to hear other people talk about Praying Upside Down? Why can’t I figure out how to convey my sense of awe? How can I express the humility I feel, coupled with giddy exhilaration that someone got it, that someone heard from God or turned towards Him in a new way? I’ve known all along that if anyone hears God through those words, it’s because God is drawing them, not because I’m anything remarkable. But just to be able to be a part of that process? As I said a whole paragraph ago, I just have no words to describe it. (Apparently, though, I have plenty of words to describe the ways in which I cannot describe it. Go figure.) To all of you who have reached out in some way to share your experience,  T H A N K   Y O U . xo

Messy Prayer

God has an amazing way of connecting us with each other. Becky Kopitzke and I share the same agent. During the reach-out-to-everyone-you-know phase of my book promotion, I wrote to her. Turns out, she lives near where my daughter Anna goes to school in Wisconsin. And attends the church that Anna had hoped to check ...

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God has an amazing way of connecting us with each other. Becky Kopitzke and I share the same agent. During the reach-out-to-everyone-you-know phase of my book promotion, I wrote to her. Turns out, she lives near where my daughter Anna goes to school in Wisconsin. And attends the church that Anna had hoped to check out at some point. Becky graciously welcomed her in and has met her at the coffee shop. I’m blown away by the ways God shows His love to us, by the people He places in our lives at the right times. Today I’m honored to post at Becky’s blog about when prayer is messy. Leave a comment on her blog for a chance to win a copy of Praying Upside Down!

Prayer-Messy

Surely I’m not the only mom who’s cringed at the unavoidable (but unsavory) task of accepting the artwork being held out by her small child. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? A soggy piece of construction paper, drenched with runny paint, dripping in rivulets across the page. And down your child’s arms. And into your purse, if you’re not careful. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there might even be glue. And glitter. You just know that if you touch this glorious bastion of creativity, it’s going to rub off on you, too.

Being creative can be messy.

So can prayer.

Then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If prayer is, in its simplest form, communication with God—a way of reaching hold of a greater power, the greater power—then wouldn’t you want some of that to rub off?

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