The Only Safe Place for Your Middling Heart {The Conclusion of our 31 Days - and a GIVEAWAY}

Here we are.  The very last day of this 31 days of October.  Your messages and emails and comments have meant the world to me.  They have been encouraging.

And heart-breaking.

And incredibly encouraging.

And wrenching.

And wildly funny.

I feel like we've gotten to know each other, and I don't want it to end.  A new reader wrote me a private message a few days ago saying, "So, after 31 days, what next?"

The question has haunted me since.  Not in a creepy-Halloween sort of way, but in a sweet, urgent, compelling way.  Though making art is nice  absolutely incredible, and designing jewelry and bags (and someday my own "In the Middle" clothing line) is truly fun for me... is still all about The Message, for this girl.  No, not the translation of the Bible by Eugene Petersen, but the Gospel message.  A few of you have written to me saying that the Gospel means so much more to you, that it applies to you in ways you didn't realize before.

This is what I was created to do.  Thank you for giving me the chance to do it.  When I sit here and pour my heart out through my fingers and into these containers called "words"...I know I am living my purpose.  No art, no business, no mission, no venture of any kind can be allowed to compete with the priorities of local church life  and the Gospel we so faithfully declare and represent together as one body of believers.

The grace of God made me come alive as a six year old little girl who was the only one to answer an altar call in a tiny Presbyterian church.  Then, grace made me come alive again as a stuck-in-the-middle, middle aged woman.  And it continues to be what makes me come alive, every time I stop to consider how complete I am in Christ, and how completely loved.

I wake up, each day, with my hair on fire.  I am burning to see you do - not what you wish you were gifted to do - I want to see you do what you are actually gifted to do.  I want you to know how it is exactly that you bless your world.  Already.

Whether cooking or dancing or singing or working with kids or being a great networker - your people skills or your computer skills or your organizational/administrative skills - whether fine art or the fine art of loving others - you bless the world in certain, specific ways.

Remember:  not how you wish you could bless others, but the way you actually do bless them already.  All the things you do that you take for granted, because they aren't that hard for you to do.  Capitalize on those things, and immerse yourself in them, and go from good to very good.  In the area you are gifted, I want you every week to do one hard thing that grows your gift, one easy thing to practice your gift, and one thing for someone else, in order to give your gift away.  Every day, plan for these things.  Ask yourself, "Where can I create beauty?" and "Who can I love better today?"

I want you to stare straight at who you really are, and respect what you really see.

You are made in His image.  When you liberate who you are, when you decide to daily declare His greatness through your distinctive gifts, when you let yourself do what makes you come alive, we will see Jesus, because we  finally get to see who He is in you.

Most women forget that in order to die to self, there has to be a "self" to begin with.  As Christians, we are so busy being Martha, so busy dying to ourselves, we never take the time to come alive to ourselves as image-bearers.  Dear one, you are meant to reflect the image of God.

Beloved, He is beautiful.

If, in the words of the apostle Paul, "I die daily", then that means I am also resurrected daily.   I experience new life daily, because in Christ, death never has the final say.  There is always resurrection after death.  So let's stop playing the "die to self" card, and start coming alive in Christ, shall we?  Unnecessary martyrdom is so unattractive.

Becoming fully alive isn't the end, and it isn't even the means to the end.  Being fully alive in our gifts is proof of the is confirmation of the new creature.  It verifies the accuracy of our claim to the 'yes and amen' found only in Christ.

The most difficult aspect of mid-life, is reconciling the ideal with the real.  In fighting to keep a vision of our ideal life alive, we end up making a whole lot of bad decisions, and spouses and children and best friends and churches end up being casualties in our hot pursuit of what we wish we could be.

Never let your vision of the greater glory of Christ be obscured by the lesser glory of the law, or your desire for financial success, or your desire for a Godly family, or to be self sufficient, or to "eat cleanly"or any other competing glory.

Having your whole mind renewed and lit from within with the glory of grace can get you up in the morning and give you a reason to take joy.

Every other dream and desire will fail you, no matter how worthy or how noble.   And it is never too late to put Christ absolutely, unquestioningly first in your life.  It is never too late to discover grace.

Grace is the only safe place for your middling heart.

“Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. 
For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. 
Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. 
Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. 
These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee. 
Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. 
Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. 
Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. 
I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. 
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace.” 



As a thank you for spending your 31 days with me, I am offering a giveaway, just in time for Christmas!

If you leave a comment you will be entered.  If you Facebook or Pinterest or Tweet this post, please leave another comment and I will enter you again.  If you blog about it, I will enter you yet again.  Just be sure to let me know!  You will receive:

Every print from Sheila Atchley Designs featured in this {31 Days of Celebrating Middle Age}!
Every book featured, in the whole {31 Days} project!
One piece of jewelry, your choice, from my shop!
One free spot in the online class entitled "Let's Play Dress Up" taught by Paige Knudsen!

This giveaway has a value of several hundred dollars...I hope you win!

*Please note:  I am not "sponsored".  No one donates prizes for me to give away.  I am not Pioneer Woman.  (Love her!) My blog is not monetized.  These gifts come from my own pocket.  Why?   Because yes, I am working hard to build an online platform -  I am that consumed with a desire to share Christ through words and art.  Please do share this blog with others, via email or Facebook or Pinterest.  It is my prayer that I honor that trust by being an encouragement to every person you send my direction.

Drawing will be held on Friday, November 8th.  Prizes will be shipped via my studio and Amazon soon thereafter.