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I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

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This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

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Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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This week has been a week of traditions for me. Alan left for a trip with several students on Sunday night, while in the mean time I wrap up the end of Christmas and the year reflecting on all that has come and gone.

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If you are interested, I have included links for our past year reflections. Not sure what happened in 2011. Ha!

2010

2012

2013

2014

Before I begin, I must admit something I noticed about this year. I have hardly used my real camera. It’s not really surprising, because of several reasons. One I started working more, and therefore have less “free” time. Two, the camera on my phone is a lot more convenient. No matter, I have also noticed what I take a lot of pictures of, and have decided to be more purposeful in what I capture in 2016.Also my phone broke in the summer so I lost my photos that I didn’t back up. Thanks to IG I have a few of them saved.

January: To start the new year, we were on our way back from a fantastic trip to Colorado for Christmas. My family met together to celebrate my parents’ 50 Anniversary and first Christmas together in almost 30 years. There are 7 of us kids, so it’s hard to all get together. We made a brief trip to visit my aunt and uncle in the flat top mountains. Although it was extremely cold, we love the gorgeous views and 18 inches of snow on the ground. We spent New Years Eve crammed in a hotel room on our return home. That is after spending 5 hours that morning traveling and then realizing my phone was lost on the flat top mountains where it fell out while I was taking pictures with my real camera. What a way to end 2014!!! As I looked through all my pictures, the only one I have from January is the one below. I had bought a set of 4 view finders and the disks for less than $2 and my kids loved it. For a couple of days. Well worth the 2 bucks.

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February: Is always a busy time with Valentines and other school activities. Alex was in a play at school. Tori got her glasses for the first time. 3 of 5 kids had the flu, one of which had to be taken to the ER because she was dehydrated. Fun times at the Bandy house! About this time our dog had chewed up my Bible I had since I was in college. I cried for 2 days. However, about the same time I had discovered Illustrated Faith and Bible Journaling. Alan had gotten me a journaling Bible (at a great cyber deal) for Christmas and so a new personal adventure began. Alan began to fill in as Interim at a church near by.

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March: Usually with warm weather, although it can still snow, we begin to spend time out and about more. Spring Break always falls in March for us. Alex was turning 16 this year, and had been planning a big weekend for her sweet 16. I took her and several of her close friend to Nashville for a long weekend. It was a fast, all girls, shop til you drop and stay up late fun time. I’m sure it’s one she won’t ever forget. A dear friend of mine found out she had cancer, which is never an easy or good time.

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April: This month is kind of a blur. I’m not going to lie. Easter is always a  very full weekend for me with the nature of my job. This year we hosted a large event, and made it bigger by creating what we called “A Family Passion Week Journey.” With that out-of-the-way, the end of the school year began to wind down. We had tons of showers & birthday parties, as well as play rehearsals, land runs, and field trips.

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May: May began with a bang. The large play at the High school was the first two weekends. We had major rain storms that dropped 8+ inches in an hour. Dance recital. End of school awards. Before I knew it the month was coming to a close as well as the school year. Alan took the older two kids to TX for Comicon, which was a first for all three. They had a great time! I believe somewhere in this time, Alan received Tenure at his job.

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June: During this month, Josiah was only home for one week. He had a couple of camps, plus spent some time with a friend. Tori went to her first camp with the church. My parents’ moved from the state they lived in the longest, after retiring, to a much closer state to us. Honestly, June was a bit of a blur. It was a down time to relax and enjoy the summer. Because Kiki’s birthday was at the end of the school year, we had her birthday party in June. I went for the old school at home, let the kids play with very little planned style. All we had planned was decorating cakes. It was fantastic.  At the same time I had also begun to work more. My dear friend had surgery to remove her cancer, and because we worked together, I began to help fill in while she was in recovery.

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July: Always begins with a bang. Ha-I’m so punny. We celebrated in our tradition by going to Pops. (A little burger joint on Rt 66.) Alex took driver’s ed. VBS was a huge success. Then we went on a late vacation at the end of the month. After having a nice visit with Doc and Hunny for a few days, we headed on down to the beach. I had done a little research and found out that sea turtles began to hatch about the time that we would be on vacation. Our first night there at dinner we were talking about what we would like to do at the beach. I told everyone that I wanted to watch baby sea turtles hatch. That night, Alan took the kids to the beach to catch ghost crabs and I stayed behind with the little one. He called me almost right away, because they came to a nest of hatching turtles. The rest of the week was full of them We were between two nests that hatched every night. It was an amazing time to turn 40.

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August: I don’t like taking a vacation so late in the summer because when we return we hit the ground running. The kids always begin the school year mid-August. During August, we also went down to help my parents move in to their new home.

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September: Looking at the calendar, September was a quiet month for us.  Kiki got her first pair of glasses. The kids were in full swing at school. I was still working more hours at work. Uneventful is always a good thing.

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October: This month began with Alex in One Act (which is a competition play) with school. During Fall Break we decided to take the kids camping for one night to unplug and make some memories. Only three of the kids dressed up for Halloween, which as a mom is kind of sad. Alan’s mom ended up being very sick, and so we began to make plans for her to finally move in with us. When we bought this house, it was knowing that one day we would need to help give her more care. It was good to see long-term plans begin to occur, although  seeing your loved ones ill and aging is not always easy.

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November: It’s kind of funny for me to look at my calendar for November and see barely anything written on it. I know it was full, because everyday is full. I love all the sweet blessings that our family brings and means. In our fullness there is joy. It doesn’t mean that it is easy or fun, but making everyday count is what life is all about.

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December: Perhaps November doesn’t seem very full because December is off the hook crazy. There was one day in particular that pushed and stretched me, but I didn’t crack. I got a glimps to see what I was made of, and what I saw is that I am limited. We all are, but we can always face far more than what life hands to us. To know that I have the Peace of Christ in me, there is more to this life than the moment I am in. Life is not made up in moments, and true greatness in not ever found in things. You can always give more of yourself, and it’s not until you are completely empty that you find how full you can really be.

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As I look ahead to 2016, I honestly have no idea what lies ahead. For us, big changes are coming- our oldest is almost done with High School. What?!?! But there are so many things we don’t know are coming. Both in joy and sorrow.  My hope is that I am humbled by the blessings and challenged to be more by the trials. Never take love for granted. Hug your babies, don’t be afraid to be messy, laugh at life, be challenged to love the unlovely, and be a light for those struggling in the dark.

Happy New Year, from our family to yours.

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It’s official! Thanksgiving has come and gone; December has begun. It’s the Christmas season full of parties, delicious food, wonderful decorations, extreme hyper-busyness (as if life wasn’t already in hyperdrive), shopping, and giving to others. And that is just to name a few.

Last year I posted everyday about the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is an advent activity that we began a couple of years ago. You can read more about it here, but to summarize we have a Christmas ornament and scripture passage that we open and read. The passages start in the Old Testament and follows the lineage and story of the coming Messiah as it can be traced all the way through scripture.

I have included here what I wrote last year about day one if you are interested in reading more. This year I’ve decided that I will be using my journaling Bible and will be illustrating my faith following the Jesse Tree. Some of them will be super easy, but I know that other illustrations will be a challenge. Although I enjoy art and challenging myself to play with creativity, by no means am I Michelangelo. But that’s okay. There are no rules to illustrating my faith except that it is art worship to me.

For today’s illustration, I used this pin from Pinterest for inspiration. I wanted to capture the darkness and light being separated in creation.

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When I showed my family the illustration every single one of them commented with “but you painted over the words and can’t read (the Bible).” imageI love that! I love it because it means that the Word is important to them. When I use my Journaling Bible it is important for me personally not to cover up the words because I want to illustrate what is being said, but the words themselves are more important than the pictures and illustrations that are made. Perhaps there will be a season in my life that I don’t feel so strongly about it. All that to say, rest assured. I only painted over the introduction material and nothing else.image

If you haven’t read my previous post about today’s Jesse tree, it links creation found in Genesis 1 with the pre-existence of Christ and creation found in John 1. I also love how in Revelation, when it describes the new heaven and new earth, it says there is no need of the sun because the Lamb is the source of our light. I had all these things in mind as I was painting as if it could truly be captured. Oh, the magnitude!

 

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3 weeks before Easter I decided that I would read through the Gospel of John leading up to Easter. It is one of my favorites and is so full of deep theology and rich emotion. It was truly a wonderful thing. Not only was I reading it, but I also decided that I would use a journaling Bible that Alan got me for Christmas.

Recently I have discovered an amazing group in the cyber world who are involved in the illustrated faith movement. I call it a movement, although some may not consider it so.

Illustrated Faith is a group of people (which is primarily women, but not completely) who illustrate verses, songs, art, etc in the margins and pages of their Bibles. It is a form of art worship. Some are great at lettering, others at drawing. Some us stamps, stickers and scrapbooking skills. Really there is no right or wrong way. Some cover the words up with illustrations so they can’t be read, but others purposely avoid that. If you have a chance, check out this site.

So I thought I would share my pages I journaled from the Gospel of John.

For the first chapter, there are so many great verses I wanted to highlight that I choose 3. The word, Jesus is the light of life, and the lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

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The second chapter I wanted to highlight the central theme of belief and journal some thoughts about that. What I hope is to pass this Bible down to one of my kids and it be a treasure of my faith.

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Chapter 3 I again highlighted “belief”. Jesus repeats this phrase over and over in the gospel. Belief in Him is what brings about eternal life.

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Chapter 4 is the woman at the well, so I choose to draw a coffee cup. Also highlighted a verse from Matthew about harvest.

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In chapter 6, I wanted to journal a little about the significance of Jesus’ “I Am” statement, but didn’t have much room. I used a “tip in” which is adding a photo or paper that can be folded back.

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{from a journal entry after reading the book of Ecclesiastes}

:the final conclusion to this “meaningless” adventure (of life) is this: FEAR GOD & OBEY HIS COMMANDS. Everything else means nothing. Work for pleasure (not to gain things or for status); live in the moment. Success is not measured in what you have because in the end you will lose it all….and who would know any better than Solomon?

{God} has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecc. 3:11

 

Ecclesiastes 3

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Did you know that Olive trees are some of the longest living trees? There have been Olive Groves that date to over 4,000 years old. (source) When we were visiting Turkey this past summer, there were groves of olive trees everywhere (being in the Mediterranean region, this was no surprise). The day that we visited Ephesus, our guide was pointed out the tree pictured below to me. It sits at the entrance to the stadium that Paul was mostly likely taken to in Acts 19 during a riot. I wish now that I could remember who old he told me the tree was (it was in the hundreds). He explained to me that they are resurrection trees. The trees die- the bark and branches, but the roots continue to grow and live. In a sense, they can come back to life from the dead. Knowing how long they live and survive makes the following verse all that more meaningful.

 

Olive Tree, from Ephesus: Turkey

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