My life as a portrait mosaic

I don’t remember the first time I saw a portrait mosaic. I think I was sitting in a doctor’s office or a waiting room somewhere, and at first I wondered if it were some kind of new impressionistic art. The image was all fuzzy and out of focus, and I didn’t understand why it would be framed and displayed.

Well, I just had to look closer.

mosaic-eyeThat one big image was actually made of a ton of smaller images. Probably tens of thousands of little images all came together in one big portrait. I don’t remember what the subject of the portrait was, but the concept stuck with me.

Life is a portrait mosaic

I have my own little picture of my life. I know its shape and size. I know what colors it has. I know the subjects in it. I know what it focuses on. I know because I can see it. It’s my life. I know what it looks like.

You have one too. Everybody does.

Little stories, big picture

We all have an idea of what the portrait of our life looks like. It’s smooth and in focus. It’s not missing any pieces. And it’s perfectly cohesive from one corner to the next. That’s what we see.

But if you look look closer, you’ll realize that your big life portrait is actually made up of many smaller portraits. We all live more than one story. We all experience events in our lives that change who we are and challenge what we believe.

Not everything that’s happened in my life has been happy. Not every choice I’ve made has been good. But God is big enough that He’s taken all those dark spots in my life and fitted them perfectly into the grand portrait of my life.

This is what we’ve got to remember. Just because there’s an experience we’ve had that wasn’t positive doesn’t mean our lives are over. As much as it would be nice to imagine a life full of nothing but happy memories, that’s not how it works.

We live in a broken world

Our first parents broke the world long ago, and we’re still dealing with the consequences of their actions. Nobody is perfect. No life is perfect. No relationships are perfect. So that means we’re all trying to build a life using broken pieces, and it’s not something we have the power to do.

But God does.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

This verse has been used too much probably, but isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it comforting? If you belong to Jesus, if you’re seeking His heart, you can trust that everything happening in your life will ultimately turn out good. Because God is good, even if your circumstances aren’t.

Maybe you lost your job. Maybe a loved one has died. Maybe you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or maybe you’ve just endured the end of a relationship you thought you’d never lose. Those are all bad things. Nobody’s saying they’re good.

But God is big enough to take those bad things and plug them into a bigger picture where they will play a role in making a beautiful story come to life. That negative experience will just be a part of the larger picture. After all, portraits have to include shadows, or else the image won’t be realistic.

Life might stink right now. It’s okay. Say it. God never promised that life wouldn’t stink. He actually promised the exact opposite (John 16:33). What He did promise is that we wouldn’t have to go through those times of difficulty and suffering alone (Matthew 28:20). He also promised that those dark moments we have to endure won’t be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
mosaic-pin-1When we see one part of a portrait, God sees the whole piece in its entirety. We may only be able to see one pixel right now, and that pixel might be blacker than the pit. But even the brightest painting still has a few flecks of darkness in it. How do you know you aren’t just seeing one of those?

And if the opposite is true and all you see are the good moments, understand that you’ll have to go through some bad stuff too. Everyone does. But a bad situation doesn’t have to ruin your life. A bad situation can be the stepping stone you use to climb higher than you’ve been before.

So instead of focusing on one picture, try looking for the others. You can’t see things from God’s perspective, but you can trust Him when he says He’s got it under control. He sees the whole picture when we see just a small piece.

Beat the holiday blues before they get here

The holidays are fast approaching. Seems too soon to say it, but it’s true. On one hand, it’s exciting. Christmas is my favorite time of year. Sure the days are darker, and the weather is cold. But there are lights and decorations and presents and songs! But for some folks, that’s not enough to cheer them up. There’s a whole population of people who just can’t escape the winter blues.

A part of me understands that. Long cold stretches of time without sunlight can bring people down. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe you lost a job. Maybe you can’t make Christmas what it was last year for whatever reason, and you just don’t see much to look forward to.

Well, this past weekend, I remembered something, and I thought I ought to pass it on.

The Christmas Tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The Christmas Tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 15:58.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

When the days are long and cold or dark and dreary, it can be easy to feel like nothing you do is actually accomplishing anything. It might feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, or it might feel like you never see any results from all your investments.

How can you be cheerful about doing anything if everything feels useless?

The problem with that mentality is that it keeps you in one place. That attitude is a paralytic. If you let yourself feel that way, you’ll never try to do anything. You’ll never crawl out of your shell. You’ll never take a risk on anything or anyone.

So instead of sitting around thinking about everything that’s going wrong, get up and go do something. And I don’t mean busywork. The world is full of busywork. I mean do something for someone else. Make cookies for someone who’s having a bad day. Make soup for someone who’s sick. Go clean house for an exhausted mom. Send an encouraging email or a funny card to a friend.

Do something that takes your eyes off your own trouble, and you might be surprised how your trouble looks when you come back to it. No, it probably won’t have disappeared, but it won’t look so dark and dire.

There’s something about serving others that always brightens my mood. And the beauty about serving is that it’s not complicated. Just show up. Be available. Someone will put you to work, and if you do that work for God, He’ll bless it and you.

Don’t get out and do something just for the sake of doing it. Do it in Jesus’ name. Love others in Jesus’ name. Serve people in Jesus’ name. And when you get back to your life inside your little shell, you won’t be satisfied there any more, because you will have seen the great big world outside your walls and all the awesome things God is doing.

You may be in a dark place in your life right now. I get that. Everyone has been there. But you don’t have to stay there. And getting out of it for a little while might actually help you see your situation clearer.

So get off the couch, friends. Your situation won’t fix itself. God will take care of it, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit still the whole time.

Go find someone to be kind to. It will revolutionize the way you look at your own problems. And if you get into the habit of serving others now, you might even find that you miss the holiday blues entirely. The Christmas spirit might find you in spite of yourself.

Old oil barrel - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The Golden Touch

Some people never struggle with anything. Doesn’t it feel that way? Don’t you know people who succeed at everything they do? It feels completely unfair. When you work your butt off to accomplish great things, and every door is slammed in your face, it’s really difficult to sit passively on the sidelines and be grateful for the success other people have.

Of course, the flaw with that thinking is obvious. Everyone struggles. Everyone has difficulties. And if we think that the sun is always shining on someone, that just means they haven’t told us about their rainy days. Everyone gets rained on, although it feels like some of us get hailed on more frequently.

Old oil barrel - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Old oil barrel - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 15:58.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Do you know the story of King Midas? I’m not sure what culture it comes from, but it’s one of those legendary morality tales that has survived thousands of years. In case you don’t know it, the story is about a man, King Midas, who loved wealth. But one day, he is given the opportunity to have a wish granted. And he wishes that everything he touches would turn to gold.

Personally, I think that would be pretty cool. Just to have the power to turn one thing into something else. That would be pretty amazing. But there is a downfall to Midas’s wish. He can’t eat. He tries, and the food turns to gold before it gets to his mouth. And there is a worse consequence. His beloved daughter comes to greet him, and when he touches her, she turns to gold.

The story of King Midas is really more about greed and contentment than anything else, but it’s what I thought of when I read today’s verse. Because I know people who have the Midas touch. Everything they touch turns to gold. Every venture they try succeeds. Every risk they take pays off. And me? I’m stuck on the sidelines. At least, that’s what it feels like to me.

But then, I read this verse.

Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Take a minute and let that sink in. It doesn’t matter what you do, whether it’s large or small, complicated or simple, if you do it for God, it will make a difference somewhere, somehow. Seem too good to be true? Well, think about it. Who else can make that statement? Only God is big enough to take our lives and our actions and use them in a way that changes others. Only God is able to take our screw ups and our mistakes and make something good come out of it.

I get really frustrated because it feels to me that I have always been on the sidelines helping other people succeed. But what does it mean to succeed? What does it mean to accomplish great things? What is a great thing? How do you measure success? How do you measure greatness?

I’m sure King Midas measured wealth by how much gold he had in his vaults before he had the golden touch. But after? Wealth would have been an apple he could eat. Wealth would have been his daughter smiling at him.

It’s all about perspective.

I have big goals. I have big dreams. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I need to keep my perspective in check because no matter what I do, if I do it for God, it will make a difference, if not here then in heaven where it really matters anyway. Does that mean I can stop pursuing my dreams down here? No way. God gives us dreams for a reason, but it’s wrong to get caught up in whether you are succeeding in your estimation or not. It’s wrong to compare yourself and your progress to someone else because you’re not them. They have their own dreams and goals, and while it’s easy to compare yourself to someone else, it’s not productive.

Nobody has the golden touch. Everyone struggles.

So what if all I ever accomplish is to help someone meet God? So what if all I ever do is to encourage someone to keep following God in the midst of hardship? So what if I put my dreams on hold to help someone else accomplish the task of reaching out to the lost? Maybe that’s not my dream specifically. But if I do it for God, it won’t be a waste of time.