On Loving and Longing

it’s Valentine’s Day next week, and the aisles at Target are working overtime to make sure we know that love is in the air, am I right? 

And does it seem like we are all collectively trying to feel light, flirty, and happy…yet know that life is truly often heavy, burdensome, and even our best days are as the Psalmist says: “but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

I’m not trying to be a downer; I’m just telling the truth from where I’m seeing it: Love is sweet and fragrant and fun, but it also requires labor, sacrifice, and diligence. I can’t look at pink hearts without considering all the purple ones too in the trenches of life. Love and loss, love and longing…seems to always go hand in hand.

After almost 19 years of marriage and loving a husband plus six kiddos…love (the verb) and the celebration of it feels much different than it used to:

Less fluff and more foundation. Less stuff and more substance. Less heartburn, but more heartache.

Life is full of opportunities to love, feel longing or loss, and to love anyway.

I’ve been thinking on these things as Valentine’s Day approaches and GraceLaced Shoppe launched the Be Still Series this week (with a sale!) The series is about fighting chaos and the discouragement of waiting for change, with the steadying truth of God’s Word. It’s His Word that reminds us that:

He is good when He blesses and takes away. He is not through with us yet and will indeed wipe away every tear and make all things new. We can be still because He is still on the throne, even when everything is not perfectly lovely or loving.

Love and longing can sometimes feel like the same thing: Both make the heart ache and both teach us to trust what we can’t always see with our eyes. 

So maybe these verses meet you at the intersection of loving and loss, maybe they find you yearning and waiting, and maybe these verses remind you that you must just keep pressing on in love and praise because Christ is love and your life is in Him.

I hope so.


*And if these (or anything else in the shoppe) speaks to you this week, we are having a shoppe-wide sale, so enjoy the discount and free print promo through Wednesday 2/15. 


Cheering you on, friends.

Because of grace,

 

(Family portrait by my friend, Joy Prouty of Wildflowers Photography)

Grinding The Wheat in 2017

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you that what I do here and on Instagram is equally for preaching to own heart as it is to encourage yours. I’d tell you that true hope isn’t in pretty prints but with the good news they proclaim. I want to be a John the Baptist with brush in hand, pointing to the One who actually brings life. May GraceLaced art be a starting point, not the end itself. Let’s not treat the Word as Spurgeon describes: 

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in His service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. 

Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in Thy precepts.”  (C.H. Spurgeon)

Friends: persevere in the grinding, gathering, plucking, and stooping low to drink from the Well offered to us. May all the beauty + truth you find here in 2017 merely adorn what is most satisfying: Christ himself.

We can’t drink from a cup that is already full of our agenda and striving, so to that end will you pray for me as I pray for you: That we would be emptied of our kingdom and filled up with His.

That’s my commitment as I seek to steward this space well; thank you for beginning another year with me here. 


In effort to grind the wheat this year, I’m beginning (again) another year-long reading plan with the ESV Bible App. You can choose from several plans, and read passages in app, or have it read to you. It’ll track your progress and keep you working through the Scriptures in manageable chunks.

I’d love for you to join me. It’s not going to be perfect, and some of us will have to set aside our ideas of a perfectly quiet house and unfettered time with all our commentaries open, plus endless hours to Bible journal — let’s be real; that’s not going to happen every day. Some us won’t make it all the way through without missing a single day, and it will drive us crazy, but that isn’t the point. It’s not about us, but about knowing Him and the promises of His Word, in its entirety. The point is to PERSIST:

I hear the app only has Bible reading plans for the iPhone version. If you’re an Android user, I will post daily reading charts as often as I’m able in my Instastories in the mornings: Instagram.com/graelaced. Join me there for encouragement!

Sometimes it’s not the words of my mouth that’s the problem – I’m fairly good at guarding those; it’s the meditations of my heart that can run unfettered, which in time, will reveal itslef in my speech too. I’ve been sharing on the blog and in Instastories about not just liking the bread, but #grindingthewheat in 2017. We do that by tethering the meditations of our hearts to the unfailing Word of God…not for a pep talk or for self-affirmation, but to align our desires with His. Our Rock and our Redeemer isn’t just faithful for salvation but for every day we’ll need hope for our tongues + minds in 2017! 


By the way….Did you purchase last year’s Garden of Truth calendar? Now that the year is over, are you re-purposing it and memorizing the scriptures? I hope so! Let me know how you are using last year’s calendar, I’d love to know.

And if you haven’t purchased a 2017 Hope In the Desert Calendar, don’t wait! They are 50-70% off in the Shoppe, depending on quantity. My hope is that you will let the Word minister to your heart day by day, and that these scriptures will be hidden in our hearts as we preach the truth to ourselves!


Praying for you as you grind the wheat and grow in the Word in 2017. It’s worth it…to persist and not give up. I’m standing and seeking along with you. 

Because of grace,

 

Farewell to 2016 {from the Simons Family}

As we head into the last weekend of 2016, our family’s reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’re going. Was 2016 as hard for you as it was for us? We will all collectively celebrate the turning of a new year in just two days, but some journeys and seasons in life simply don’t reset just because the calendar says it’s a new day.

As always, new beginnings start in our hearts. 

For me, it begins with giving praise for all Christ has done to redeem us and to give hope to our foolishness. But it also begins with tracing back through, and not forgetting, what waters He’s brought us through this year, and how we’ve learned to praise Him, even when they’re not waters we choose to tread. 

(Photo credit: Joy Prouty, Wildflowers Photography)
(Photo credit: Joy Prouty, Wildflowers Photography)

2016 gave new meaning to Job’s words: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
 

From the start of the year, when my oldest son and I traveled with Compassion Bloggers to Ecuador.

…To the unexpected opportunity to fulfill a family dream of creating a respite in Durango, Colorado,

…To Troy coming to the end of his 8 year journey as headmaster of a classical school we were part of founding,

…To writing and painting my first book, due to release in September 2017,

…To a painful season of goodbyes and new beginnings,

…To the best and the hardest moments in training young hearts,

…And to ending the year looking at one another as a family, and as a small business, and marveling at His bountiful blessing, first and foremost displayed in grace, everyday.

The One who’s birth we celebrated just days ago – Emmanuel – has been faithful and merciful at every turn. His hand has guided and provided for us as a family in both physically and emotionally.

Coming soon to GraceLaced Shoppe...
Coming soon to GraceLaced Shoppe…

And as a small business owner, I thank you, on behalf of my family and the GraceLaced Team, for not simply purchasing my artwork and products in 2016, but for joining us as we seek to adorn the gospel of Christ and make the beauty of God’s Word and creation known. He is worthy; we are honored to reflect His glory.

I’m excited for what 2017 may bring, but as we prepare to share these changes and things to come, I keep in mind: Let your will be done, Lord.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

— Proverbs 19:21

If there’s one thing I learned in 2016, through the fire of refining by the Lord’s hand, it’s that I want no plan that is not of Him and in Him and for His glory. 

To that end, Lord, lead us into 2017…to Christ be the glory for all that is to come.


In case you missed it in our newsletter, or on social media, we are closing out the year with a huge Inventory Clearance SALE!

GraceLaced Hope In the Desert 2017 Calendars are 50-70% off, popular prints and all Christmas products are marked down, and many prints are discontinuing. Prices good while supplies last! Sale ends 11:59pm MST 1/1/17!

Because of grace,

 

Holiday Launch 2016 + Sale

This season doesn’t have to usher in busyness in our hearts even if it seems that way on our calendars. The holiday season…our celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas, are opportunities for us to remember the joy of God’s provisions, beginning with the ultimate gift of salvation through Christ coming to abide with us.

Today, we launch Holiday 2016 in GraceLaced Shoppe, with new Thanksgiving and Christmas prints, canvases, Christmas cards, and a new journal. Here are this year’s offerings…


THANKSGIVING

Our Thanksgiving designs are all about gratitude and praise, in all circumstances, to the One who is worthy…

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CHRISTMAS

For Christmas we invite you to join us in celebrating the birth of our Savior. The JOY we long for in this live is made possible because Christ came to ABIDE with us. We celebrate and REJOICE in a risen Christ. It’s for this joy that we TELL others, far and wide, of the hope of the gospel.

Abide With Us
Abide With Us

NEW YEAR

Finally, our favorite product all year: Hope In the Desert 2017 Calendar, created to help us to memorize scripture with 12 repurpose-able scripture memory cards and 8×10 art prints. Buy a single calendar for yourself or a discounted 4-pack to divide up and give as gifts to your family and friends. (With this week’s additional 20% sale, each calendar in the 4-pack ends up being just $30 apiece!)

SALE DETAILS

Enjoy 20% off all “Holiday” category items in the Shoppe with code: BEATTHERUSH.

The sale ends at 11:59pm MDT, Sunday, October 30.

(P.S. If you are already a subscriber, be sure to open the email you received in your inbox this morning for a little free gift from us!)

Shop all GraceLaced Holiday Products

Grateful for all of you who celebrate each season with my artwork. To Him be all glory.

Because of grace,

 

For Us Moms Who Long To Create

I’m often asked how I do it — how I can be a mom to six and still make time for creative endeavors like art and writing, while also running a business. The shortest answer is this: I didn’t for many years. It looked different in various seasons, and most importantly — I have lots of help (more on that another time!)

We moms tend to think that it’s all or nothing; that we must either throw ourselves into mothering or fully into career, a creative pursuit, or business. We sometimes think that making time for one assumes the demise of the other, but that’s simply not true. 

I spent the first 12 years of motherhood learning how to be a wife and mom. The days were full and nights were short as one or two were always in diapers for the last 14.5 years. I had to learn to rest, again and again. The Lord used motherhood to sanctify me and continues to do so. There was little room for art, but I snuck it in to nap times, evenings, and weekends.

I don’t think I understood it then like I do now, but somehow: We get to reflect our Maker’s artistry, we just have to change the means in which we do so in various seasons. Whether it’s with a sewing machine or supper ingredients, we can use what time and resources we have to do the most with our giftings. It just may not look the way we expect it to. 

I’m honored that part of my story is told by the authors of Life Creative: Inspiration For Today’s Renaissance Mom, Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart. Life Creative, which releases today, is a book in celebration of motherhood woven together with creativity. Wendy and Kelli know what it is to long to create as moms, and they share encouragement for us to do so in various seasons of our lives. It’s a book to inspire women to embrace both by God’s grace and for His glory, because motherhood and creativity are certainly not exclusive of one another.

Are you a Renaissance mom? Are you a creative, desiring to see how God will use your giftings alongside your calling of motherhood? I pray you’ll be encouraged to be equally bold and patient, content yet curious. Our gracious God made you uniquely you…and He’s writing a beautiful story through your giftings, friend.

Because of grace,

 

Hope…In The Desert {Launch + Sale!}

For those who know barrenness, waiting, thirst, and longing…

…those who know dry seasons of the soul…

…for the one who’s cup isn’t overflowing like it once did:

God makes a way in the wilderness. He provides rivers in the desert, and breaks up our fallow ground. He is the author of hope in, and through the desert.

I have known such desert seasons more than a few times in my life, and can confidently say there is nothing more satisfying than a parched soul whose thirst is quenched — Jesus alone is our balm and sustainer in those seasons. 

I am grateful and thrilled to share with you the Hope in the Desert 2017 (3-in-1) Calendar.

My prayer for us is this:

That come what may in 2017, whether our current circumstances change or don’t; whether we feel relief or not; whether we experience lush growth or press on in drought, we might hold fast to our HOPE in Christ, the source of living water, himself. 

As with the last year’s Garden of Truth 2016 Calendar, the Hope in the Desert 2017 Calendar is meant to instruct, inspire, and encourage us as we speak to our longings with the truth of God’s Word.

It is designed to be repurposed as (12) 8×10 art prints and (12) scripture memory cards. My desire is for us to find the Word of God beautiful, practical, transformative, and purposeful in our everyday lives. That is my heart behind every piece painted in GraceLaced Shoppe, but especially in our annual calendar. We hope you love this year’s version as much as we do. 


WE ARE CELEBRATING WITH A SALE!

 

Now thru September 20, receive the entire 12 image Hope In the Desert Lock Screen download set, FREE with calendar purchase. (You will receive an email with FREE coupon code once you’ve purchased a calendar.)

(FYI: With the 20% storewide discount, our already discounted 4-pack bundles are only $120…making the calendars only $30 a piece!)

Take advantage of the 20% entire store on canvases, including brand new Hope In the Desert Canvas offerings…

I hope these verses are a balm to your soul as they are to mine as we break up the fallow ground of disbelief and hardness of heart, and welcome the downpour of sustaining grace that comes only by way of redemption. He is our hope in every season…even in the desert.

Grateful for you all. Press on, friends.

Because of grace,

 

Capturing Photos For Business and the Everyday

We hear the encouragement often to “be present” or “be in the moment” and clearly, this digital age has got us all distracted from what’s alive and real, right before us. But as a mama, I long to capture these everyday moments that I have with my boys: the messes we make (and sometimes bemoan) but later wish we had captured in a photo or a picnic at the park; these boys are growing like weeds, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

But sometimes I’m worn out and distracted, and I teeter between freedom and guilt in capturing my everyday life. I love when I catch a candid photo, a moment that truly captures these ordinary but special days, as they truly are. Photos tell a story that our hearts want to remember long after the immediate memory fades.I want to tell the story the Lord has given me, but sometimes the photos don’t reflect that story and I get frustrated. Do you get that way? 

Capturing everyday moments with our families, whether with a DSLR (a “real” camera, i.e. the Nikon D750 I use) or phone, is easier when the tools and logistics are more natural than forced. My friend, Ashley Campbell of Under the Sycamore really embodies this. She truly inspires me to find the #extraordinaryinmyordinary through creatively seeing and capturing my everyday. 

I love that Ashley encourages all of us non-professional photographers to use the tools we have to creatively tell our stories…and to find freedom in it. With the accessibility of excellent cameras in our back pockets these days, we really have every reason to document and capture our point of view.

Ashley recently interviewed me for one of her SnapShop courses, “iPhone & Business.” I don’t have fancy camera crews or professional photographers for my business; I’m simply armed with my iPhone. If you’ve ever wondered about how I shoot my product photos, the interview tells all. 

We’re all trying to live out our callings. We’re all trying to bring praise to what He’s done in our lives by telling our stories. I’m growing in this myself, day by day, and I hope you will too. Let’s not be all or nothing people with photography and capturing our everyday. These are blessed and worthy moments and endeavors we are living, whether in home and business. Let’s find freedom and growth in learning to see better, and capturing what we see with more wonder. I’m grateful that we don’t have to be fancy or amazing to do so.


SnapShop classes for both DSLR and iPhone are available through Ashley’s membership site + community, where you can learn and grow at your own pace.  For $5 per month, you get access to all past lessons, with new content added each month. There is a $50 sign up fee (so worth it – the DSLR class alone used to be $250) but I’ve got a discount for you!

$10 off with code: GraceLaced

(code expires 9/16/16)

Learn more and join SnapShop here.


Pressing in and pressing on together,

 

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