The Upcycled Life

I have spent the better part of a week painting objects found at the thrift store, alongside the road, and tucked inside of barns and storage sheds. No longer wanted or needed by their owners, these things have been cast-off and forgotten. But Susan, a volunteer at Liebenzell USA, saw their potential. She has taken the old furniture, picture frames, and lamps and breathed new life into them then using them to create inviting spaces for visitors to the Guest House. She is very good at it. Lucky me. Not only have I experienced the spaces she has decorated in my own apartment, but I feel like I have been on a DIY/Fixer Upper retreat over these past ten days. Mission work is rarely boring and this time has been no exception. It has been so fun to work alongside Susan creating something beautiful.

As usual, God does not just allow my hands and feet the joy of service. He also whispers a lesson to my heart as well. As of late, I have been reading in Ephesians and chapter 2 starts like this:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. Ephesians 2:1

How? There is a whole list of reasons that follow in verses 2 and 3. (Read here for yourself.)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

Sounds a little like those cast-offs Susan has found. Junk really, ready for the trash heap, but she stopped to look and considered the beauty they could bring. God does the same. He finds us where we are, messed up from worldly living and feeling good for nothing, but because of His great love for us, he gave us new life.

I can attest to this myself. Those who knew me before the upcycle will tell you the same. God’s great mercy has transformed me. It’s His personal touch that has made all the difference in my life. He took me from dead in my worldly lifestyle to alive in Christ and how amazing that change has been. No longer do I feel worn out, used up, and hopeless. I live with joy and confidence knowing I am valued by God. This is what He does for us.

But there is more. We not only have a new life, we have been raised up with Christ so that others can see the beauty of the incomparable riches of God’s grace, expressed in His kindness to us. (Ephesians 2:6-7)

One thing to remember when considering this passage of Scripture: We did not have the ability to upcycle ourselves. It was God. He saw the potential and He did the work. It wasn’t we who made the change. Even our faith to trust His work is a gift to us.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God—not of works that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

As it should be, God should get the glory. That is what our lives should be about anyway, making God known to those around us. We have the potential to make this life following God appealing and beautiful. Let Him make it so. He has the best plans when it comes to upcycling. He makes us something entirely new.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10


Our time serving at Liebenzell USA has been wonderful. We have met so many great people and helped in a small part to create a place of sanctuary for visiting mission workers, churches, and other various groups. This a beautiful place to retreat and we are thankful for our time here.

A few pics of the Guest Houses.

Our apartment.

kitchen at Liebenzell





“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. ” Jeremiah 29:11

Something to Ponder

Best beauty treatment ever –

SOAK in the essence of Jesus.

  • Scriptures – Write them on your heart.
  • Observe the words and ideas.
  • Apply their wisdom.
  • Kneel. Communicate with an open and obedient heart to the One who has shown us how to live well. Spending time at the feet of Jesus will give anyone,  men included,  a healthy glow. Try it. You won’t be sorry.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Proverbs 31 ESV

A Smart Heart

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Wisdom: having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right.


In a life-changing moment, God appears to a very young King Solomon and says,

“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5

Boy, is this ever a loaded proposition. Our minds start to run wild with all the possibilities. I wonder if Solomon’s did too before he came upon the correct answer, or maybe God had prepared his heart for this very moment. No matter what the case may be, when it came down to it, he knew what he was going to need to fill King David’s shoes effectively.

“Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. . .So, give your servant a discerning heart. . .  ~ Solomon; 1 Kings 3:6-9

A discerning heart=Wisdom.

Out of all the things that can be asked of God, a discerning heart perhaps is the most useful.  Solomon knew he needed God’s wisdom to lead the people entrusted to his care. Good choice, considering he could not successfully rule over God’s people without God’s ways.

But Solomon is not alone when it comes to needing wisdom in life’s choices. It is essential to us, too. Jesus told us the following—

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;  knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

Our job may not be as complicated as managing a whole nation, but God’s wisdom will certainly come in handy towards living the way He knows is best.

Jesus went on to say in Matthew 7:8— “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” The beauty of belonging to God is we can seek His wisdom in all matters. We don’t have to guess about things. We have access to the best information there is available to navigate through life.

Don’t miss that little bit of James 1:5 that says, [God] gives to all generously and without criticizing. This may be important for some to hear. Let me say it again. If you lack wisdom, ask God for it. He gives it generously and without criticizing. He is not sitting up in heaven somewhere thinking, OMG, she should know this by now! He wants us to ask. He tells us to ask, promising He will deliver an answer to our question.

Towards the end of this passage in Matthew 7, Jesus concludes His thoughts about asking for wisdom and other applications for living well with this—

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Matthew 7:24


Asking for wisdom is simply a smart thing to do. It builds a steady life through our reliance on God. It shows our confidence in His ways, and reaffirms our commitment to belong to Him. And when we belong to Him, discernment and good judgement are only a question away. Just ask.

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.
Jeremiah 33:3 NET


I am able to do all things through the One who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NET

Ezra, hands poised above the keys, sat on the piano bench beside his teacher. This would be the first performance in front of an audience and he was ready. As he started to play, it was clear to the listeners that he was a beginner. The friends and family in attendance bobbed their heads to the correct beat in hopes that somehow their actions would help the five-year-old get back on track. But, he played on, missing notes and faltering with the count. The fact that it wasn’t perfect was completely lost on him. He played with confidence and finished his turn at the piano with a sweeping bow. Ezra beamed as he returned to his seat. Proud to have come and been a part of it all, he possessed the countenance of a job well done.

I love that boy. It’s not simply because he happens to be my grandson— although that would be enough. It is his outlook on life. He is spunky and full of mischief, but he is also ready to please and do a good job. When learning something new, he watches until he has a good idea of how it works, then throws himself into it as if he were an expert. Clearly from his piano experience, he meets each task with confidence.

Being sure of ourselves is a tricky thing. Once we lose that five-year-old I can do anything attitude, we start to avoid hard things that might bring us failure, and a success is not a success unless it is perfect. One flaw diminishes the value of the whole venture.

I love what Paul writes to the church in Philippi. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. The Aramaic Bible translates it like this: I master all things by The Messiah who empowers me. I think the real idea is we can do anything with Jesus, the One who strengthens, by our side.

The thing that is impressive about his statement, is he is writing it from a jail cell. Just before this verse, Paul says he has experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance he has learned the secret of contentment. Whether he is satisfied or hungry, has plenty or nothing, it was Jesus who provided the strength in it all.

I think the fact that Ezra’s piano teacher sat by his side had a lot to do with the confidence he had in his performance. She had encouraged him during their weekly lessons, patiently teaching him the ways of piano playing. Now, she sat next to him playing her part of the musical score that added a fullness to Ezra’s song.

Jesus does the same for us, helping us be more than we could be on our own. He fills in the rough spots with His own music as we sit by His side trying to play the notes of life.

For me, it comes down to this. I feel the same as Paul in his letter to Timothy. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, that He considered me faithful and appointed me to service. [1 Timothy 1:12 NET] This alone is enough for me to go forward with confidence. He has called me and equipped me with His strength to accomplish whatever lies ahead in this life. Don’t forget, it was never the plan to be on our own. With Jesus by our side, we will make beautiful music.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 NET

Journaling Activity
  • Write out the verses included in this post.
  • What are you confident in?
  • Do you avoid doing anything you might fail at?
  • How could embracing  an ‘I may not be able to do it, but God can’ attitude change your thinking?
  • Pray for God’s confidence.

Have a great week!


Joyful Attachment

You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. Romans 8:9

Who knew that the sweet little Sunday school song I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart was revealing a symbiont relationship. Yes, this feels a bit sci-fi, but it is far from fiction. Before you get visions of Alien, and creep yourself out, let’s look back at the definition. [Woo Hoo! Science and English!]

Symbiosis noun [sim-bee-oh-seez]

  1. the living together of two dissimilar organisms resulting in which both benefit from the association. 2. a relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement.

If you know anything about the Holy Spirit, you know this pretty much describes Him. If we have decided to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit is living with us. He is nothing like us, yet chooses to live with us. This is no ‘side-by-side’ arrangement. We are not merely affected by an outside influence commonly portrayed as an angel on our shoulders. He actually lives in us at the heart of our being.

So how does the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart show off this particular relationship? In Galatians 5 there is a section of scripture that describes what the attributes of the Holy Spirit happen to be. Joy is included in that list, as is love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When the Holy Spirit makes His home ‘down’ in our hearts, these come along with Him. Each of these characteristics come in a ‘God-sized’ supply, and since our symbiotic relationship is a beneficial one, they are all available to us at any time.

So why then, do we struggle to love or be patient? Why do we lack the faith or have issues with self-control? How is it these things just don’t come easy? All good questions. The answer may lie in the very noisy conditions found in our hearts.

When the Holy Spirit moved in, our hearts still had a lot of chatter coming from all kinds of voices demanding our attention. It is somewhat like when you are taking with a friend on the phone and her kids are playing in the same room. All you can hear is the noise from the background, and your conversation gets choked out because of all the racket.

First Thessalonians 5:19 says “Don’t stifle the Spirit.” That word stifle is the Greek word σβέννυμι sbénnymi   meaning to extinguish, quench, or suppress. The English dictionary lists a few more synonyms like smother, asphyxiate, suffocate, choke. This verse is essentially saying, “Do not suffocate the Holy Spirit. [You need Him breathing into your life.]” Commentary added.

The smothering process happens when we choose to live by any other voice besides the Spirit’s wise counsel. We tend to push down His advice, searching out other options in books and on websites. We consider our friend’s opinions hoping they support what we want to choose. And, time-after-time, we blatantly cover our ears and shout out all the good reasons or excuses of why our way would be best. But each time we eliminate something that is preventing us from hearing the Holy Spirit, the volume of His wisdom and ways are turned up, making them easier for us to hear and live by.

I think there is another thing is worth pointing out. The amount of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. that become ours may be in direct correlation to the amount of ourselves we have given over to God. A complete supply of the Holy Spirit’s fruit is always available to us, but we must determine to give our entire lives to Him to fully take part in it.

I know, I know. Not easy. Rest assured, we are all a work in progress. The Holy Spirit lends His expertise in all areas of our lives if we will only stop stifling His voice and follow His direction. Then, this most beneficial of all relationships can flourish, and along with it the joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts.

Heart, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control, live by the Spirit

 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13


Journaling Activity

  • Write out the following verses in your journal—Romans 8:5-11
  • Make some observations on what this passage is saying.
  • What does it look like to have the Spirit of Christ?


Treasured Identity: At Peace


You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Treasured, identity, Peace, peaceful, salvation, war, righteous

I stood there, feet on a tiny, rigid mesh platform looking to the ground a hundred feet below. I should have been scared out of my mind, but I wasn’t. I felt at ease, and perhaps even a little exhilarated.

When I arrived at the “ropes” course earlier that morning, I put myself in the capable hands of the guides. Geared up with the appropriate attire and instructed on the basics, I stepped onto the first jumping off point and set out on adventure that would eventually land me high in the canopy with a grand view. Little by little, I gained confidence in the process, replacing uncertainty with peace.

I think the key to my peace rested greatly on my trust in the professionals and my equipment. But that didn’t come automatically. There was a testing process. Each time I hooked onto the cable and let myself glide through the air, it reinforced the words of the guide. Through the practice, I gained peace in my circumstances.

Peace with God doesn’t necessarily come automatic either. We are human after all. We have waged war with God over our choices. And even when things are seemingly peaceful between God and ourselves, the enemy sneaks up. He whispers in our ear how we could never measure up to God’s standard. We listen to his lies and see trouble where there was none.

The truth:

When we surrendered our lives over to Jesus, we were automatically at peace with God.

The problem:

We don’t always trust that knowledge because we have been at war for so long.

We continue to battle with Him out of habit. We don’t believe things will work the way He says they will. We doubt. We refuse. We flounder. But over time, the proof of His word shows itself in our lives, and our faith increases along with our peace.

So, begin here. Keep your mind dependent on what God has to say about you.

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 5:1 HCSB

You have been declared righteous by your faith. You are now at peace with God. Period. Not just on your good days, but every day.

This brings me back to my illustration. When it came to the gear, the instructor was the one who put it on me. She buckled it in place and made it secure. I had nothing to do with it. This is sort of like when God justifies you. It’s Him Who clothes us in righteousness, not ourselves.

Then, once on the course it was important to follow the directions my instructor gave. It would make all the difference in the outcome of the journey along the ropes. This is really a great picture of what comes next after you have agreed to follow Jesus. Each step of the way, God has provided practical instructions for life in His words found in the Bible. Putting them to practice will start to rewire that brain that wants to fight with God, allowing a peaceful unity with Him, instead.

But before you freak out and think you don’t trust enough to hook yourself to God and jump off the platform into the unknown, remember that right with you will be the Instructor, the Holy Spirit. It is His job to remind you of the right way to live and warns you of danger. Once I was fully clothed in the appropriate gear and given very basic information on the ways of the ropes, the instructor went before me, encouraging me as I followed her example. Each time I chose to follow, I found myself higher and higher in the canopy with more faith in the process and at peace in my spirit.

Isn’t that the desired place? More faith and at peace? I believe God wants it that way. That peace—εἰρήνη eirḗnē in the Greek He provides for us is tranquility, safety and security, and even prosperity. [Prosperity according to God’s economy. A later discussion.] Trust God at His word. You’re at peace with Him if you have taken the step to trust Jesus with your life. Now, practice living in it. It will lead you to a very pleasant vantage point with a wonderful view.

 “I saw the Lord ever before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope. . .You have revealed the paths of life to me; You will fill me with gladness in Your presence.”

Acts 2:25-28 HCSB

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Journaling Activity

  • Add to your journal Romans 12:9-21. This passage is titled Christian Ethics or Christian Virtues in some Bibles.
  • Make some observations on how practicing these concepts might bring peace to you as well as peace to others.
  • Which of the actions from the passage in Romans can you apply today that will give your life a new path ending in a new perspective?
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to assist you in living in peace.

Identity Crisis

Of all the people on earth, the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.

Deuteronomy 7:6  New Living Translation



“I want what you have,” a friend confessed. After years of being involved in each other’s lives, she had noticed a difference in mine. I was confident and at peace. She said she knew it was the result of having Jesus in my life.

She went on to say it was not organized religion she was seeking. Its flaws had long turned her away from that. There was nothing that was appealing about it to her. It was the relationship she craved. The one I had with Jesus had caught her attention and she wished she could have it too.

Confident and peaceful did not happen overnight. I fought against God for my own agenda. I reasoned with Him about His standards. I doubted. I rebelled. I quit. And through it, God waited patiently for that moment when I would eventually stop struggling and turn to Him. It was then that my life began to transform.

Although the average onlooker could not see that my life was all that bad—I had resources, a family, and even happiness—but, I also knew that it was not the life God desired. I had Jesus in my pocket like a trump card to cheat hell, but my mind and heart lacked His presence. I was tired of living a life shamed by the sin I carried.

What I was missing was Jesus had taken my sin to the grave when He died. I didn’t ask Him to. He just did it. It was a gift I was told. Out of love and desire, He died for me. I was rescued from the fate sin had placed on me. Once I accepted that, Sinner was no longer my identity. A completely new list of names to go by became available to me through my relationship with Him.

Some may wonder then, did I magically quit sinning? Even on my best days, I do not get it right every time. I struggle with doing the right thing like every other human, but because I am now a child of God as John 1:12 says, I can go to my Father for advice and correction without fear of being condemned [Romans 8:1]. I am at peace with God because I have developed a connection that is honest and real with Him, not based on fear or ritual.

Working in women’s ministry, I often see how much women struggle with their identity. Their pasts haunt them, making them feel undesirable and powerless to be anything but what their thoughts whisper. Their lives reflect their attitudes about themselves, and the relationship they should be enjoying with God is distanced and impersonal. Who would want to be involved with someone who couldn’t pull it together anyway? They listen to the lies and punish themselves, forgetting what Jesus did on the cross.

The truth is if we have decided to accept God’s gift of salvation, we are no longer the same. I agree that it takes time to change our minds about things we have thought true, but not impossible. A transformation can take place but it will involve doing some throwing out of the old thoughts and replacing them with some new.

Over the next few weeks and months, I plan to take a look into what God’s own words say about us and our identity in Jesus. My hope is to replace some of the negative self-talk with words taken from Scripture. I’m in this with you. Transformation takes time but is so worth it. In the end, you too will have a peaceful confidence that will draw attention to Jesus.

. . .you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.

As a result, you can show others the goodness of God,  

for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 New Living Translation

Journaling Activity

I am big about writing out scripture. There is something soothing about it to me. It makes me slow down, helping me notice the words and the thoughts behind them. I encourage you to find a journal if you don’t have one already and give it a try. I use a plain old composition book that you can find in the school supplies for a dollar. I also use colored pens because it seems to enliven the text for me.

  • Take the scriptures from this post and write them.
  • Look them up in other translations.
  • Spend time pondering them.
  • Jot down your thoughts.
  • Look up the word treasured.

Is there something that keeps you from believing God treasures you?

Start a conversation by leaving a comment or talking with a friend.

I am praying that each women realizes that she is treasured by God.