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Running Aground

Mar 22, 17

I am a true Florida native. I LOVE the water and grew up boating on the St. John’s River. My childhood was dotted with trips to the Keys and the Bahamas. There is something so healing about being on the water. Whether digging your toes in the sand or dipping in the refreshing, crystal water, there is a healing power in those bodies of water. For me, I feel like the Lord speaks His gentle whispers when I am near water. His gentle breezes speak loudly to my heart.50911051-1072-4DAB-A9E5-F0B985C2D34AOn a sailing trip during one of my daughter’s senior year, I talked with her and her friends about anchoring their faith, and how anchors don’t weigh your faith down, but rather secure your heart so that you have the freedom to explore the place where God has set you.

Just recently, we took our son to Exuma, Bahamas. What an incredible place to witness the full glory of God’s Creation! We rented a little 18 foot Boston whaler, which gave us the ability to explore multiple little cays and an incredible, huge sandbar. A few times, while running around in these beautiful waters, our little boat would hit the bottom of the shallows. We’d trim the motor and somehow work our way back out of these precarious positions and into deeper waters behind us.

One afternoon when the tide was almost out, my husband and I took the boat to explore a little spot on the island. We anchored in knee deep water, but I wanted to get a little closer. Clark hopped out of the boat to pull us closer to shore, when all of a sudden we came to a dead stop. We were beached. We strenuously and furiously pushed and shoved, trying to nudge the boat into the deeper, safer waters, but we were stuck and not budging. And frustrated. And grumbling. And blaming. All in a matter of minutes.IMG_1528.JPGFinally (it felt much longer than it actually was!) someone in a dingy came to our rescue, and with his help we made our way to the safety of the depths. Even in the midst of the frustration of this scenario (as beautiful as it was, it was a little scary to think we might have to wait hours for the tide to make its way back in).

There are days that leave me feeling stuck in the shallows. Whether I’m stuck on a painting that needs finishing, stuck in a rut where I pray for the same thing over and over without seeing results. Sometimes aren’t we all a little stuck? Thankfully, we have a Mighty Helper who comes to our rescue anytime we call upon Him. He doesn’t just happen to wander by in a dingy when we’re in trouble. No, He is aware of our every move and is available when He call His name. No matter what our circumstance or how stranded we may feel, He is waiting to pull us further into deep waters and into a deeper relationship with Him.

If you’re feeling stuck today, maybe you need to realize that you aren’t floundering where it’s deep, but instead you’re beached where it’s shallow. Call His name, push away, and be held.
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An Introduction to Shabbat

Mar 15, 17

Last week I shared a post about simplifying and trusting God. A few friends that know me well asked if everything was OK. Let me assure you, I’m celebrating with joy the journey that the Lord has me on right now. However, I want to use this space to always be real and transparent about the frustrations, trials and tribulations that we all encounter. We all need moments of time to refocus and set our sights back in line with the King of Kings.

Last March, Clark (my husband) and my oldest daughter Blakely went to Israel with Kathie Lee Gifford and about 40 of her co-workers, family members, and friends. It was truly a trip of a lifetime, and I blogged about a few highlights. On February 23rd our Israel group reunited in Ocean Reef, Florida for a weekend reunion. What a joy to be reunited with this group that really started to feel like family across the ocean!

During our reunion celebration, we practiced the Jewish custom of Shabbat, led by Rabbi Jason Sobel. Friends, put simply: It was amazing and a life changing practice for me. Shabbat is a designated day of the week to shut out the burdens, discouragements, distractions and chaos of the previous 6 days. It’s a time to come together, celebrate and bless with your family. For our Shabbat, we gathered on Friday night at Kathie Lee’s house to walk through the 4 blessings of Shabbat with Rabbi Sobel. He shared with us that the purpose of the custom is:
C28EB218-4BD3-4224-80C8-E4B6178761931. To be reminded of Eden and embark on a foretaste of our future. 
When you think about it, the beginning of our time on Earth began in the Garden of Eden… the purest example of God’s intention for our lives. When we observe the Sabbath and rest and commune with the Lord, we are reconnecting with that original design, a taste of those days in the paradise of Eden. And because we have faith that Christ is returning to restore paradise on Earth, observing a Sabbath is also providing us a glimpse of the future as believers. By engaging with God’s design for rest and worship through Shabbat, we are positioning our hearts for hope and anticipation.

2. To be postured for thankfulness.
Shabbat creates a space for us to fulfill the very purpose for which we were created – to worship our Creator. When we celebrate the Sabbath, we remember what God has done for us, and when we remember, we also thank Him for His eternal goodness. Shabbat gives us the opportunity to set the tone of our hearts to worship God with gratitude through the week ahead.

3. To be refreshed and rejuvenated.
All too often, we find ourselves feeling like we don’t have time to take to rest and observe the Sabbath. Unfortunately, our constant busyness frequently leads to burnout and strained relationships. Shabbat is intended to be an oasis of time to be refreshed and rejuvenated both in our bodies and our souls. Even God rested on the Sabbath, setting an example for us to follow.

4. To be led into a more connected life.
The purpose of creation has always been about connection. A blessed, meaningful life is one that is full of connections and relationships. The Sabbath helps us connect more deeply to God, His Word, and others around us, increasing the meaning and depth of our lives. When we observe Shabbat, we are submitting to God’s original design for us, honoring Him and creating the necessary space to embrace the connections He intends to bring peace, joy and wholeness into our lives.
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At dinner it really hit me that we do not spend enough intentional time with our families. Sure, we find ourselves together as we hustle and bustle back and forth to sporting events, school events, church, even time spent hanging out watching football or golfing. However, in our culture, we really do not take the time to come together for a solid 24 hours to bless one another (in a very literal sense. During our Shabbat supper, we had the husbands bless the children then the wives then the husbands). There is a lot of singing and dancing, laughing and eating, and oh yes, drinking some fine wine!

But why don’t we exercise more intentionality? More reflecting, relaxing, and rejoicing in a God who is ever present at all times in our lives. Shabbat enforced in me the need to rejoice in the middle of all circumstances. There is something powerful that occurs when you come together as a family or a close group of loved ones and intentionally celebrate a meal together. Jesus modeled this perfectly for us, when He gathered His disciples around Him to break bread and celebrate despite the cross that was looming before Him.

What a powerful art to begin to put into practice! I’m excited to share more about Shabbat in the future, including a handy guide to host your own Shabbat supper club. Stay tuned!

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Simplify and Trust

Mar 6, 17

AnneNeilson_August2016_Finals_BSP-105I am ever so grateful for the gift that God has given me, but as my businesses have grown, it seems that the passion to paint gets in the way of the busy details of running a business and managing employees. The daily details of payroll, maintaining excellent customer service, finding new artists and developing new products… it can be chaotic and messy from time to time.

It sometimes seems so complicated. Just the daily details of life can be so fraught and complex. Recently, I was reminded it was GOD who equipped me in the first place and set my feet on this path, and it will be GOD who will continue to guide me along the steep rocky steps as I navigate through this journey.

Just the other week, orders went out to all our wholesale accounts, and our fulfillment warehouse triple shipped their scripture card orders. As I got so frustrated and tried to figure out the best way to deal with issues (computer glitches, human glitches, mail glitches), I was reminded that I need to stop and rest in HIM.

He is a mystery to our human minds, but His commands to us throughout Scripture are so simple. It’s our human nature that clutters them up. I challenge you today to evaluate the thoughts, emotions, and habits that you need to simplify in order to get back to the root of your trust in Him. Our lives our chaotic, but our Lord is calm.

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Among the Dust and Dirt

Feb 1, 17

16265762_1935700416658137_64882121648028615_nThe new year is starting out at a breakneck pace for our team. We just wrapped a major construction project and move from our Southend art gallery and Home showroom to a huge, gorgeous space in the Southpark area of Charlotte (the Shops at Morrison, for local readers… come see us!).

As exciting as being settled in a new space is, the process of moving and construction is not nearly as fun or glamorous. Sorting through possessions, choosing what to keep, what to throw away, packing, unpacking, organizing, and then remembering where everything is… whew. Add in, dust, dirt, erecting walls, refinishing floors, and navigating around the dust and dirt… It’s overwhelming!

12E48B7C-747D-4505-BC7F-C9AD4CEC9023Entering into a new relationship with Christ is a lot like the construction process and the act of moving. The end result is beautiful, refreshing and incredible, but the process can be a little messy. As we come to know Jesus more intimately, we are required to sort through all of our junk and make decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Each move is the opportunity to move forward to your next destination a little bit lighter, and a little bit less cluttered. A move toward God gives us the same opportunity… a chance to shed the burdens we’ve been carrying way too long, and a chance to let Him cleanse our messes. Moving toward Him means being dusted off, cleansed, and pulled out of the direct that announces that we are a work in progress.

30AA08AF-1C69-4AC2-8D31-8420B497BB52There are great reminders from each past season to take with us mementos. Tokens to remind us of what we’ve cherished, what we’ve overcome and what He’s seen us through.

This week, as we open the doors of our new space, I have so much joy in my heart as I unpack those reminders of where He and I have walked together, and look around me at the new walls ready to see the journey He is leading me on next.

I would love to hear from you! What is among your boxes? What signs of life are pulled out of the dust and dirt?
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The Knock

Dec 22, 16

Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

lamb-dk-6x6The story is a familiar one, even if the details of it can be hard to grasp. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable because there wasn’t any room for her family at the inn… or any of the inns… in Bethlehem or Nazareth the night God chose as His Son’s birthday. And while we typically relate to Mary’s plight, I think more often, we’re like the innkeeper.

Did the innkeeper even realize as he turned away a heavily pregnant woman and her tired husband that he was turning away the parents of the Prince of Peace? Could he have known that by putting out the No Vacancy sign, he was eliminating himself from witnessing the birth of the Savior? Did he know as he locked the door, that he was missing out on a miracle?

It makes me wonder as we’re just days away from Christmas, how many times I close the door on a miracle because my days feel too full. I wonder if I miss the thing that I’m praying for because it doesn’t feel like I have any more room to welcome inconvenience. What miracles is God performing right in my own backyard that He wants to be doing inside of me?

This week, I urge you to keep your ears open for The Knock. Listen carefully for the guests that are asking to take up residence inside of you. You never know when God is asking you to be the innkeeper for His next great promise.

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One Simple Prayer

Dec 14, 16

When we released our newest coffee table book Angels: The Collector’s Edition, we were thrilled with the 150+ pages of brand new content from artwork to stories of encouragement from some of the most celebrated musical artists. Today, we want to share our friend Amy Grant’s piece titled “One Simple Prayer.” Read her heart below, and find out more about The Collector’s Edition here. You can also order Amy’s brand new Christmas album “Tennessee Christmas” here!
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One Simple Prayer – a guest post from Amy Grant.
A simple prayer… a life-changing outcome.

Jesus demonstrated this time and again throughout the Gospels, with His divine simplicity leading to supernatural results. What is my simple prayer? Could something of mine become like the 5 loaves and 2 fish in His hands?

25 years ago I was in the midst of one of the busiest seasons of my life, with two young children and a busy music career.  While I was grateful to be touring, traveling and singing, I was exhausted….that bone-crushing fatigue that gets harder and harder to shake off. One morning, stumbling into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I found myself telling my mother-in-law, Mary, “I don’t remember the last time I prayed a succinct prayer. I feel like I’m running on fumes with myself, with my kids and with God.” In her gentle matter of fact way, Mary smiled and said “Amy, I think it just takes one good prayer in the morning and you’ll be ok. Just pray this, ‘Lord, lead me today to those I need and to those that need me, and let something I do have eternal significance.’ That’s all that really matters.”

I have prayed that prayer nearly every day for a quarter of a century, and it has changed my life. Asking God to lead me to those I need and to those who need me makes me curious about everyone whose path I cross. What if the person on the other side of the gas pump needs me? Or an even crazier thought than that…what if I need them?

Just praying that simple prayer heightens my awareness of the people around me, as I anticipate the day ahead. There is power in the spoken word… a word of prayer, a spoken dream, a spoken hope.

In the spring of 1994, I purchased a beautiful farm in Middle Tennessee. I love the open fields and the wooded hills. Three old cabins and a barn, that all date back to the late 1800’s, were the only structures on the property when I bought it.

It’s the place where Vince and I got married. Now my mother’s ashes are buried there.

img_9734A few years ago, I began to feel that the farm was meant to be more than a personal getaway. Eventually, I started referring to the farm as my 5 loaves and 2 fish, wondering what God could inspire in me if I would put this place I loved so much in His hands.

One Sunday afternoon, I loaded up two of my sisters, my friend Sharry, and my father to drive the fields with me. We bumped and bounced along in the sunshine with the windows rolled down. I told them that I felt like someone had taken this pot of dreams that had long been on the backburner in my mind, shoved it to a front burner and turned the heat to high. One of my sisters suggested that I start speaking my dreams aloud as we drove along. “OK”, I said. “I want to grow old surrounded by friends and family, experiencing community, experiencing God through His creation, experiencing healing.” I continued imagining what could happen on this land…a community garden, a hillside of beehives, opportunities to share an outdoor experience with people from all walks of life. For two hours we drove and dreamed, until we returned to the cabins on the hilltop.
barefootrepublic-5025_27494864361_oSomeone suggested that we get out of the car and pray. (I think I remember their words were “Amy, let’s pray that you stay out of the way!’) I laughed at the prospect So we gathered around, holding hands. Sharry reached in through the car window to rest her hand on my dad’s chest, adding him to the circle, whether he knew it or not. You see, my father suffers from advanced dementia. He was with us that day, but he also wasn’t. He spent most of our ride silently fixated on his seatbelt. It’s been a long time since he’s said my name. A long time since he’s said much that makes sense at all. But still, Sharry reached out to include him in our circle. In that moment right before we bowed our heads, when we were just taking in the sight of each other, Dad broke his two-hour silence. He looked at the four of us and said clearly and coherently, “This is all going to happen, and there’ll be great celebrating!” You could have knocked us all over with a feather. We were dumbfounded and awestruck. I wanted to grab a pen and paper in case he was about to reveal THE PLAN, but the next thing out of his mouth was just gibberish. That didn’t matter. We were laughing and praying and ready to welcome the adventure.

Little did I know that the adventure would begin immediately! Within a week I had met Tommy Rhodes and offered him the use of our farm the following June to host his Barefoot Republic Camp, a faith based day camp bringing children together from all different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds in an environment of reconciliation and love. It would take all the pages in this book and more to describe what has happened since our prayer on the hillside, and how the wind of faith continues to fill the sails of this dream  Maybe the best part of all is seeing so many threads of relationships formed over decades of my life being woven together with a new and vibrant energy.

A simple prayer can have a life-changing outcome.
What is your simple prayer?

Why don’t you join me in mine?

Lord, Lead me today to those I need

And to those that need me,
And let something I do have eternal significance. Amen.

 

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B. U. S. Y.

Dec 8, 16

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I’ve talked about it on the blog before, but it’s worth mentioning again, without a doubt, the most frequent comment people make to me is about how busy I am. Sure I’m a wife, a mother, an artist and a business owner, but God has called me to each of these roles, so if I’m busy, I’m busy being obedient to Him.

I’ve found that when we’re serving out the calling that God has put on our lives, it doesn’t feel BUSY. Instead, walking out our callings should leave us feeling fulfilled and like we’re a part of the Lord’s masterful plan.

In the midst of the packed holiday schedule, I would encourage us instead, to stop glorifying how ‘busy’ we are, and instead focus on doing BUSY:

Be
Uniquely
Serving
Yahweh

By
Using
(what is)
Specifically
Yours

Each of us has been given a gift. And each of us has a role to play in the world God has created for us. If you’re feeling too busy, I challenge you to take a pause and evaluate what it is that grants you fulfillment instead of increased craze. Serve Him with what He has given you and find the peace and joy of the Season!

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Enough

Dec 3, 16

supervention-2-ch-17x14There’s a worship song whose chorus says, “If I lose it all, You’re enough. If I gain the world, You’re enough. My joy is complete.” I love praising the King, who despite anything we lack or anything we need, completes us so fully. He is truly enough. But what’s equally incredible, is that to Him, we are also enough.

The word “enough,” for women, can be such an easy trap to fall into. We can coast too long on the idea that “this is good enough,” rather than seek to live God’s very best for our lives. OR we can unknowingly toss ourselves into a tornado of self-doubt that nothing we do “will ever be enough.” We deprive the power that God placed in us and cut short the identity that He custom made for us.

Until we come to the point where we have truly had ENOUGH of the s elf-doubt, self-loathing and self-dissatisfaction, our love for the One who created us will be anemic. Because He tells me, that I am ENOUGH. Because He was ENOUGH. One extraordinarily ordinary life was MORE than enough to atone for the mistakes made by generations. Until I can grasp that … I will always fall prey to the beast of “not enough.”

On the flip side, if I settle deep into the quicksand of belief that “this is good enough” and never seek beyond myself or grapple for more, then I am selling short the truth that the SAME POWER that conquered the grave lives in me.

The enemy loves the game of enough, because he loves to tip it violently, never allowing us a moment to regain an equilibrium. But it’s a game the Lord doesn’t need to play… ” Because I MADE you, and I declare that you are enough because you are my image, my chosen ones. ”

There is nothing that my children could do that would not be enough for me. They breathe and call me “Mom,” and that is beauty and perfection to me. My Father is beckoning me to breathe Him in and call to Him.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll catch up on the laundry, or workout more, or get ahead on work, or spend time painting my nails… And maybe I won’t. But it will be enough. Because I am enough for the One who made me.

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The Hard to Reach Places

Dec 2, 16

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
sunrise-on-the-river-cb-30x30When my kids were little, I remember bath time being so much fun, and truly, such a mess. Squeals and shouting and slaughtering and splashing. Some nights I don’t know that we got clean so much as we all got wet. As they got a little older, it was my responsibility to start teaching them how to bathe and make sure they were clean. For a while they relied on me to help them with the hard to reach places… behind their ears, that weird spot on your back that your arms can’t reach… the ones that without realizing it could get pretty dirty.

For a lot of us, our hearts are our hard to reach place.  As toddlers we didn’t have any trouble expressing our wants and needs. As we got a little older, and as our emotions became a little more complex, it got harder to communicate. And as adults, for many of us, the nooks and crannies of our hearts have become clogged with the residue of unexpressed turmoil, pain and anxiety.

The beauty of our Lord is that He is a cleaner. Not only that, He knows all of our hard to reach places, because He was the One who sculpted them in the first place. He carefully carved out that hiding place in your heart and designed it in a way that only He can reach and clean out.

Just as any mother knows her child innately and knows the words to soothe each ache or fear, our Father created us to hear Him perfectly. I urge you, especially as we enter this holiday season that is sure to be full of activity and rushing, to spend a few minutes each day examining your heart’s hard to reach places and invite Him in to renew and purify them.

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A Gift of Gratitude

Nov 22, 16

This week, Wendy and I traveled to New York with our friends Ron and Beth Hall for some press conferences to raise awareness about homelessness. I was eager for the trip with some of my favorite people dedicated to one of my favorite causes, but I had no idea how God would open my own eyes.
img_7212When we arrived, Wendy and I had to laugh at our hotel accommodations. In short, they were pretty abysmal in comparison to what we’ve gotten used to on our travels together, but we were game and just excited to be there. After checking in and unpacking, we all headed to a nearby drugstore for some necessities.

As we were leaving the store, we noticed a young woman nearby wrapped in blankets. Ron approached her and began asking her some questions. We learned that her name was Ashley, she was 28 and had been homeless for 6 months. Like everyone living in poverty and homelessness, she had a story and was now living a reality she had never expected.

As it happened, my husband was originally planning to join us on the trip, so we had 2 rooms. We invited Ashley to come with us and use our second room. As she expressed her gratitude, she shared with us just how badly she wanted a bath and the opportunity to get cleaned up. She wanted the dignity of cleanliness that we too often take for granted.

img_7200The next morning, we were planning to attend a full day at the New York City Rescue Mission. We invited Ashley to join us, and she sat beside us, alongside leaders of top corporations, a perfect picture of brokenness inside of beauty. At the end of the day, we arranged for Ashley to use a room at the Rescue Mission. We showed her the rooms, heard the rules and sent her back to the hotel to collect her things.

I wish this story had a happy ending in which I could declare that Ashley has been radically transformed and is safely situated at the Mission, but unfortunately, that isn’t true. Ashley left to get her things and didn’t return. But thankfully we can cling to Jeremiah 29:11, which assures us that God has plans for Ashley. He has a hope and a future appointed just for her. We had the opportunity to declare that truth over her, and Ron and I agreed that the seeds that were planted during our time with Ashley may blossom into hope and restoration for her. img_7223Homelessness and its factors and symptoms are complex, but they aren’t hopeless. Homelessness has a face. It’s Ashley’s face… it’s the face of thousands of people who find themselves in a wholly unexpected situation, fighting for survival. But I’m encouraged by the simple truth that Jesus knows and recognizes each of His precious children. They are not forgotten or unseen, and I urge you to keep your eyes open for the Ashleys around you. Give them hope, encouragement, dignity and love. Make sure they know that we have not forgotten them. We are not blind to them.

As we arrived back in Charlotte, I was more aware than ever of the luxuries we live in that we all-too-often take for granted. Ashley was so thankful for a bath… something that is routine for me. This week, in the heart of Thanksgiving, I ask that you make yourself aware of the luxuries you have immediate access to and extend your arms to those in your path that don’t. Be grateful and be generous. Be Jesus.

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