You Make Beautiful Things by Gungor Band (click to listen)

You are probably wondering why I would label one of the posts the same name as the blog. Well, I couldn’t think of a more perfect title.

First of all, if this blog could have a theme song, this first song embedded in this post would be it. I think of all the times I have felt less than I’m worth. All the times I thought to myself, “I know God says He loves me, He wants to use me, He has a purpose and a plan for me…but why? Doesn’t He know who I am? What I’ve done? How I’ve neglected Him and let Him down?”

Then, I hear, “He makes beautiful things. He makes beautiful things out of us…”

How He loves us, uses our imperfections, and works everything out for GOOD. Amazing. Powerful. Loving.

I may not know what you are going through, what you’ve overcome, or what you may be about to face. But, I do know with full confidence that God is FAITHFUL! And even if you feel like it’s all over…there’s nothing left to look forward to, I can honestly tell you He makes ALL things new. In fact, this is the time to get excited. It’s time to bring yourself to joy. It’s in this time…you’re being made stronger…smarter…more compassionate…effective…unstopable. You will find that as He continues to quietly heal your heart, restore hopes, revive dreams…your confidence is rooted in who God is – not yourself.

Enjoy these songs. I hope they minister to you as much as they have me.
Dry Bones by Gungor Band (click to listen)

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Here is my open, honest confession…transparent and exposed for all to see:  I don’t feel overly enthusiastic about my life ALL the time, EVERY day.  I would like to think that we all would.  But, there are days when I feel like I have no idea what I’m here for.

What’s my “thing”?  Sometimes, it feels like everyone else I know has their “thing” they excel in whether it’s their creativity, their entrepreneurship, or other unique abilities.  What am I here for?  What am I doing?

I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves that question at least once in our lives.  It’s good to ask ourselves these questions.  The reality is that we ALL were created with a purposeful design.  I love reading scriptures where it says how God knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Jer. 1:5).

He has a plan and a purpose for us (Jer. 29:11) and all of them were written before we took our first breath (Psalm 139:16).  We weren’t meant to wander through our life without direction. But, in order to know what direction and what plans God has for us, it is imperative that we seek Him first and pray for wisdom.

God isn’t holding back any good thing from us, including wisdom.  In fact, God tells us to ASK and He would give us wisdom LIBERALLY (James 1:5).

I encourage you to take some time today and ask God what He has planned for you.  It will be way better than what you have planned for yourself anyway. It may be something He is setting up for you five years from now, ten years from now, or tomorrow.  Be open.  Be ready.  And even if you are right in line with what He has prepared for you right now, still ask Him to show you more.  There is always more!

Life can be so exciting if you let it be.  What adventure are you going to choose to encounter?

Almost a week and a half ago, I challenged myself (as well as our readers) to CREATE and SHARE.  I gave myself a week, but as life goes, I found I needed more time.  So, here is my creation.  It’s the first drawing I’ve done in quite a few years…so, please…be gracious :).

I found that while I was creating this drawing, it took me some time to get a groove going.  But even so, the skill set that was there at one time wasn’t as refined as it used to be.  That’s true of anything we do.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t get back to that level of ability or even surpass it with a little time and continued effort.  Don’t give up!

Hmmmm….”Don’t Give Up.”  Sometimes, I can feel that way about my relationship with God.  Not to say that our relationships are a skill set.  But, there are times I’ve just let go of this tenacity, this passion for God and the things He does.  It’s never been done on purpose, but the fact is that it happened.  And I get back to this place where I see how far I’ve gotten from where I knew I was before: I have to tell myself, “Don’t give up.”

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think where you used to be, the things you used to do – whether it is good or bad – and you can see how far you’ve come.  I know for me, I know where I used to be without Jesus.  I was very prideful, helplessly lost, and hurting (although I always tried not to let that show because I was…well, prideful!)

I also know where I was in my relationship with God the first few years I was saved.  There was a fire in my heart, a zeal that couldn’t be stopped.  T.V. didn’t captivate me anymore, but my Bible did.  I couldn’t put it down!  I couldn’t stop singing and worshipping throughout my day.  God’s goodness was ALL I could think about.  I’m ashamed to say that now, I look at my life and that area isn’t the same.

Well, I see it.  I recognize it.  I’m changing it.  I had put my focus on other things and let them begin to consume my life.  Am I saying TV is bad? No.  I’ve just let that replace God – my focal point and compass in my life.  Now, please understand that I am also NOT saying that we should be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.  Jesus wasn’t even that way during His time here on earth.  He loved and related to all people on all levels, as should we. 

As I’m writing these things, I think of two scriptures.  The first one is when Jesus tells us not to lose our first love.  (Rev. 2:4-5).  This early church He’s speaking to did AMAZING things in the name of the Lord and stood for righteousness – it’s what they were KNOWN for.  But, then Jesus tells them that they lost their first love, their passion for Him.  They never stopped doing the works.  Let me word it this way…they didn’t stop their church programs.  They continued to reach their community, reach their church members, and probably started new programs and outreaches.  BUT.  They lost the reason they were doing those things in the first place.  They lost their exhuberent passion for God, for His presence.  At that point…the works lose their significance. 

It’s the same when you get married.  You do these special, sweet things for one another when you get married because this love, this passion for that person propelled you to do those things.  Then, your ten year anniversary comes around and you do something special for one another.  But is the fact that it’s ten years propelling you to do something?  Is it an obligation?  OR, is your passion, your love for your spouse drawing you to do something special for them?  If it’s out of obligation, the gesture has less meaning.  I think we can all agree on that.  And that is what Jesus tells us.  If the PASSION for Him isn’t in what we do and it’s an obligation, we might as well pack up and go home. 

The second thing that comes to mind is when Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 that he is forgetting those things which are behind…and he presses toward the goal.  Don’t let your past successes or failures be your hang up.  Your past failures can’t keep you down if you won’t let it.  Instead, use them as motivation to move forward and know that God isn’t holding them over you.  Don’t let your past success be your excuse to keep looking behind you and think that your best days are still there – behind you.  Today is a new day just waiting for you to achieve your next success! 

LIVE UNASHAMED.  LIVE PASSIONATELY.  LIVE FREE.  LIVE.

P.S. please enjoy 🙂

If you really gave yourself a fair shot, I don’t think you would be able to find only one thing that you enjoy. I find that I have let some things that I enjoy doing fall by the wayside due to just…life and honestly, some laziness.

I enjoy drawing, but I haven’t done a single piece of anything, not even a stick figure person, in years. About two months ago my husband, who loves drawing more than I do (and is better than I am), bought a drawing pad and oil pastels so we could create some art together for our home. We haven’t even marked one sheet.

Why am I telling you this?

My goal this next week is to do something creative with at least one of those sheets and oil pastels. I guess I just want to prove to myself that the passion is not gone – that I can still do something that is not planned or even “productive” from a “to-do list” standpoint.

There are even some uncharted hobbies that I think I would like to learn more about…like photography. I love to take pictures; I just want to learn how to take good ones 🙂

What is something you love to do that you’ve missed out on doing lately? Is there a new hobby or passion you’d like to give a try?

I believe we ALL have beautiful things we can create, whether through songs, drawings, photographs, sculptures, gardening, cooking, new inventions…and the list really could go on.

By next week, I hope to have a picture of whatever I draw posted on this blog. AND, with that said, I extend my personal challenge to you. What will you create this week? CREATE and SHARE! The world around you will thank you, including yourself.

We all go through events in our lives that help mold and change us to who we are.  Some are great experiences; some are ones we’d rather forget ever happened.  No matter what package the experience comes in, they all teach us something…a lesson that can be learned, character that can be developed.

I was talking with my husband this last weekend about some things he and I both experienced separately in our past that were equally hurtful and how we think it has affected us, shaped us into who we are and how we think today.  It was at that time he said the most profound thing I think I have EVER heard (and I’m not just saying that because it was my husband who said it).  He told me that we ALL experience conflicts in our life in one way or another, but the trick is to not give your circumstance an IDENTITY.  Identify only the lesson learned and move on- not the person or groups of people that brought it on.  He even gave an amazing example: if you touch a hot stove and you only focus on the stove, you are missing the lesson…DON’T TOUCH HOT STUFF!  If you miss that major lesson, you may fail to realize not to touch the hot waffle iron because you’re so focused on the stove.  Get it?

Okay, well, here’s another one just in case.  Someone you love, trust, and respect suddenly treats you like you are no longer someone to be valued.  The way they treat you feels like they are dismissing you because they feel you are no longer useful to them.  You feel used and hurt, and you begin to question your own worth.

So, it’s during this time you have a choice.  You can choose to hold this against that person.  And every time it even begins to feel like someone is doing the same thing, you think of that person and let this hurt you all over again.  Maybe you even start hurting people who start doing something similar before they can really hurt you like “so-and-so” did.  So, for the rest of your life, you’ll encounter this same circumstance only to miss the entire point, and instead, you begin to continue feeding the hurt, feeding the hate for that person that first hurt you, and foster a bitterness that will consume you.

OR…you can choose to forgive the person for your own sake, realize no matter how intentional a person may or may not have been in hurting you that we all make mistakes, we all need some mercy and forgiveness, and know that you make an ACTIVE choice to love freely.  Also, as a side note, your self worth isn’t in what you do, what you accomplish, who you know, who knows you, how many praises people sing about you or not…your self worth is in who created you.  You are created beautifully, perfectly, and purposefully in the image of God Almighty.

As you begin to live your life with this realization- that we all need love, forgiveness, mercy and that our worth is more than what we do and what others say we are, you start living in this new found freedom.  Now, what others TRY to do to bring you down (intentional or not) doesn’t affect you the way it did before.  You know to recognize some of those signs, and you don’t get burned by them.

We all go through hurts and disappointments.  The beautiful part about all of this is that even through the things that we wish we didn’t go through, after some time, we may find that we are stronger, smarter, and purposely positioned for the next thing we are about to encounter in our life.  It just may be some good things that you would not have otherwise been able to appreciate or recognize.  For me, I can tell you one of the last biggest disappointments and hurts brought me right to the place I am today and married to the best man I personally have ever known.

Embrace life, learn, and live.

Stephanie Reynolds

Welcome Ashes to Beauty readers! So, I’ve been thinking of this phase in my life that I’m currently in – this “transitional state of mind.”  Here’s some background to catch you up.  My life has been this crazy, ever-changing adventure.  I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Knoxville, TN, left Tennessee to go to college in Ohio where I stayed for five years after graduation, moved to Los Angeles, CA only to have met my future husband within the first month I was there.  Did I mention he lives in Tennessee?  After staying in CA for only nine months, I moved back to Tennessee, got married, and now, in a few days, I will have been married for a month.  So, now I’m here in a small town in the middle of Tennessee –  a whole new area that is nowhere NEAR where I grew up.  CRAZY! But, also crazy fun!

I say all this to say that we all go through these transitional stages in life.  It’s not necessarily in how many places you live and move to; these transitions in your life can range from groups of friends, the relationships you have, job changes, changes in dreams, etc.  I’m sure you can look back at your life and think of many transitions you’ve experienced, or maybe you are going through one now.

I’ve found that with these transitions, there can be a well of emotions that come with it.  The first big transition (although there were many before) was when I was making the transition from high school to college.   I was moving from a place that I grew up in: where most of the people I knew were people I had been around almost my whole life, a place where I learned to do most of what I know to do today (synchronized swimming, play the piano, sing, etc),  and from a town that I could maneuver around with my eyes closed.  I remember feeling so ready to leave, but at the same time somewhat scared about what I was moving into.  It was ALL uncharted territory.  I moved to Canton, OH; a place I never knew even existed…yes- I know, the Football Hall of Fame is its claim to glory, but in my defense, I wasn’t into football.  Let’s put it this way, I lived in Knoxville where it’s pride and joy is the Tennessee Vols- Peyton Manning’s catapult into the NFL.  While he was playing for the Vols and in a place where everyone idolized him, someone had mentioned his name in one of my classes in high school.  I asked who he was – everyone fell silent (including the teacher). Looks went from shock, to disappointment, to mob-like anger…I thought I was about to get lynched!  Which, honestly, may not have been a far off concept…

Yeah…so I had a point…  I found myself in the biggest transition I had ever faced! I was leaving home, my mom was moving to NYC, everything that I thought was the foundation of my life was dissolving, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.  I found myself enveloped in waves of emotions.  Although Knoxville felt so small to me and I felt like I just had to break out of the “norm”, I couldn’t help but well up with this separation anxiety.  I found myself go through a series of various emotions at various times.  There were moments I would cry and feel nostalgic of the life I was leaving behind, and then there were times I felt this overwhelming sense of adventure- an adventure I couldn’t wait to tackle head on.  I used to think I was emotional, hormonal, and just “being a girl”, but I think (to some degree) everyone feels these ranges of emotions as they continue into different parts of their life.

Not to sound so cliche, but life really is an adventure!  I know change can be scary and, at times, overwhelming.  But, throughout the ranges of emotions you can encounter, it comes down to making a conscious choice.   You can choose to focus on what you’re leaving behind or you can focus what you have yet to experience and gain.  Life can be so exciting if you let it be or it can be scary – you can CHOOSE to stay stagnant throughout your life.  I’m not here to say one way is necessarily wrong or right, but more so to challenge you.  Maybe there’s a dream in your heart to change careers, to have children, to be married, to continue your education, to start a philanthropic program- changes that you feel are too big for you.  God has a plan and a purpose for EVERYONE – a beautiful design he purposed before time began.  But, it’s discovered and uncovered through a host of journeys and experiences – purposefully planned by you or not.  The whole point is to jump in and trust!  You will find things out about yourself that you never would have known otherwise, experience opportunities and produce memories that are better than you could have ever planned, and more importantly – LIVE your life instead of simply existing.

What new adventures are in store for you today?  Embrace it! Live it! Enjoy it! YOUR time is NOW!

– Stephanie Reynolds

P.S. If you would like to share any life-changing experiences- PLEASE SHARE! I would LOVE to hear about them!

So, the last time I posted, I said I would write about self esteem.  Broad topic – I know.  I keep wondering where should I start?  To be honest, this will be something I write about from time to time, so this won’t cover it all.  But, to start, I have one question to ask you – how do you see yourself?

When you look in the mirror, what thoughts go through your mind?  What are some of the phrases or words that come to mind? Beautiful…intelligent…thoughtful…loved… or does it sound more like I’m fat…I’m not good enough…Why can’t I be like “so and so”…
Who told you to be like any one else but who you are created to be?  Okay, okay…you are probably thinking “Geez, Steph.  Take a breather!  Why are you so intense about this?”  I believe when you see yourself less than what you are, it’s a creative, deceptive tool to keep you below the level you were meant to live life.  If you allow yourself to be trapped in this self-consumed place where you are (in a sense) destroying your confidence, you will lose the courage to dream big and passionately pursue those dreams.

Here’s the thing.  We are all created with a purpose – a plan.  We are all destined to do great things.  And here’s the thing- “great things” are all relative…not to be compared.  Your great could be serving our kids as a teacher, becoming an actor who uses their stardom to reach out to others, or being a role model to your kids by being the kind of responsible parent they need.  Even more fantastic, you’re not even set in just one role…you could be associated and placed in multiple roles.  But, if we continue to wallow in our own self-pity and continue to get down on ourselves, we won’t have time to reach out to others and use those great gifts that are embedded in us.  THAT would be an incredible disappointment.

My challenge to you is simply this…if you are finding yourself in this labyrinth of self-destructive thoughts, start by simply looking in the mirror every day and start speaking good things over yourself: I am smartI am capable…I AM…CONFIDENT!

Let your best life start now!

Stephanie Reynolds

So, here’s my first blog.  Not sure how many people actually care now, but I hope this space will someday serve as a place where people can be encouraged and inspired.  To start, I just want to share a bit about myself.  I am newly married (less than two weeks), and I’m insanely happy!  However, the road to get here took some time, a lot of heartache, and way too many tears.  But, to be where I am now, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m a semi-small town girl who LOVES the big cities but enjoys the simple pleasures of great friends and family. I love to dream big and make big things happen – just like I hope this will be something big and great!  My heart is to show people their potential and worth.  Stay tuned for my next post where I plan to focus on a topic very dear to me…self esteem.

Until then…be well!

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