I Am Encouraged

It’s hard to believe that we have been amidst a pandemic and its consequences for a whole year, and with only tentative signs that we may be able to emerge to some degree in the near future. People have suggested that the situation we find ourselves in is now the ‘new normal’, as if we have moved to a different permanent way of being than the one we had before.

But the reality is that there is no permanent way of being, new or otherwise. Life moves on. You can never stand in the same river twice. So we need to have resilience and resources to draw upon.

I am blessed to have a loving family, fabulous friends, wonderful church fellowship, and amazing colleagues, who all help with my resilience and give me emotional and practical resources to deal with what life brings along. And I have God.

I have blogged elsewhere about the loss of my Mom due to Covid, and the way in which I was held by God through the prayers of others (you can read that blog post here https://janelydialoves.wordpress.com/2020/05/29/hopefulness/)

And God has been very present throughout the last year, someone to run to when grief comes, or pressures become too much. God is my safe space. The words of the well-known Psalm 23 come back to me often …

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” Psalm 23: 1-3

These verses give me encouragement that I am not alone. Even on the darkest days, my Shepherd God walks with me, leading me to a safe, calming and soothing place where my soul can be restored, ready for whatever life brings my way again.

This piece of art is part of my ‘A to Z of me’ which I started, I think, back in 2014 and which, as you can see, I haven’t progressed very far with. This project is to encourage me to think about my faith identity and how God speaks to me in it and through it. Having to think of a word beginning with a specific letter that describes my identity is an interesting and challenging discipline. But it’s also one that helps me to develop my relationship with God. This particular entry reminds me that God is with me, encouraging me, supporting me, cheering me on, through the highs and lows of life. God is dependable and reliable, he is always there. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us that the Lord will go before us and that he will never leave or forsake us. That is an incredible promise.

Sometimes we may feel that God is distant; we can’t sense his presence and we may feel abandoned. But God promises always to be there. As the psalmist cries out …

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:7-8

There is no place that we can go that God’s presence is not with us, even when we can’t see it or feel it.

So be encouraged! God will go before you; he will never leave you. He will make you lie down in green pastures; he will lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.

I hope and pray that even amidst the chaos and uncertainty of this pandemic, we may open ourselves up to the ever present God, and that through his love, our souls will be refreshed and restored, so that we might face whatever lies before us.

The Artwork:

This book is simply a blank sheet notebook. I glue two pages together to prevent bleed-through as they’re quite thin. I used Arteza coloured pencils for this image as they are waxy and so blend well. They do make it difficult to write on afterwards though so some perseverance is needed with a permanent fineliner to outline the images.

You can see the previous entries in this book here https://janelydialoves.wordpress.com/tag/a-to-z-of-me/


Love and Devotion

This is a page from my ‘A to Z of me’ journal where I’m using each letter of the alphabet to prompt me to think of a different aspect of my faith and life.  It’s been some 6 years since I did the letter ‘C’ so perhaps this is a lifetime pursuit.  There are links to the A, B and C pages, and the inspiration for this journal at the bottom of this post.  If you appreciate beautiful art then please do go and look at Valerie Sjodin’s blog which is the inspiration for this journal.

It’s taken me some time to find the right word to represent my letter ‘D’, but finally I settled on ‘devoted’.  Initially it seemed rather arrogant to claim this for myself, so let’s just say that it’s something I’m working towards!

But what am I devoted to?  Well, there’s my family, and I’d like to think also my friends, and for me, I am also devoted to God. 

Devotion perhaps suggests obsession, but I like to think it is more about what I recognise is most important in my life.  But devotion is also an action, so it’s not just about what I think and feel, but also what I do.

I hope and I strive for devotion to God in my life.  So what does that look like?

Well I think there are two verses which I find helpful here.

Firstly …

“if you love me you will keep my commandments”

John 14:15

And what are those commandments?  Well the other three gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all report a response from Jesus to the question ‘What is the most important commandment?’ The enquirer is referring to the ten commandments given by God to Moses and recorded in the Old Testament books of Exodus (chapter 20) and Deuteronomy (chapter 5).  But Jesus doesn’t choose one of the ten commandments, instead he captures the spirit behind the commandments and summarises them into two, simple to remember, statements…

” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

These two commandments form the basis of my faith and life.  This is what forms my devotion.  Firstly that I should aim to love God with all my being, and secondly that the outworking of this love should be that I love others equally, with no prejudice and no injustice.

But that is an incredibly difficult task to do, and relying on my own strength I fall short frequently.  But I don’t rely on myself.   The Bible verse on my art journal page is the verse given to me when I was baptised as a believer back in 2001. 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

Galations 2:20

It is Christ living in me and through me that enables me to both love God and love my neighbour.

I am reminded of Corrie Ten Boom, whose sister Betsie died in a Nazi concentration camp while she, herself, survived.  After the war, Corrie travelled around testifying to how her faith in God had sustained her even amidst the darkness and evil abounding around her. 

She recounts how on one occasion after preaching a sermon on God’s forgiveness, a man came up to her whom she vaguely recognised.  He confessed that he had been a guard at the concentration camp where she and her sister was imprisoned.  He had come to faith, and repented of all he had done, but he was seeking Corrie’s forgiveness. 

Corrie looked at his hand and knew that she alone could not forgive him, so she reached out her own hand and asked Jesus to step in and make it happen.  She was overwhelmed by the feeling of forgiveness that flowed through her so that she was able to take this man’s hand and genuinely forgive him.

THAT is Christ, living in Corrie Ten Boom.

I hope and pray that I never have to endure the suffering that Corrie did, but I am thankful that when Christ lives in me I can do things that otherwise would be impossible.

I say “I am devoted” as an aspirational statement, rather than an achievement.  I pray that each day I may get better at being devoted; that I may grow in my love of God and my love of neighbour, and that in doing so, I make a positive contribution to the lives of others, and to the work of God in this world.

The artwork:

This journal is just a simple plain paper notebook.  I used coloured pencils and a fineliner on this page.  Sometimes I add felt pens for emphasis but I like the softer look of this page so I didn’t use them this time.  The pages are quite thin and the fineliner tends to bleed through so when I’ve finished I stick the page to the next one with pva glue.

You can find my other pages here:

A is for Accepted

B is for Believe

C is for Called

And for the inspiration for this journal, see Valerie Sjodin’s wonderful blog here

Valerie Sjodin’s A to Z of me

I Am Called


It’s taking me a while to do my ‘ABC of me’ journal. But that’s ok because as I’ve blogged before, it’s about the journey not the destination.

This journal is in a notebook with thin pages so I’ve glued two pages together and I’m using mainly coloured pencils and the occasional felt pen with a fine liner to pick out detail.

The text behind the images on the right hand page comes from Isaiah 61 which speaks to me about my call and I used a grey felt pen to write so it would form a background.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners …”
Isaiah 61:1

The chains go along with the words from one of my favourite hymns by Charles Wesley “And can it be” which speaks of the amazing love of Jesus and the freedom I feel in following him.

I’m now half way through my training for Christian ministry and sometimes it feels like I’ve been training forever. Sometimes it’s difficult to juggle all the demands on my time and I also wonder what God has got in store for us as a family when I complete my training. There are lots of unknowns and that can be so unsettling.

It’s at these times that I return to the knowledge that I am called into this vocation by God. I chose to accept that calling and I responded in obedience. Because of that obedience I believe God will make everything work out according to his plan.

It is both a privilege and a responsibility to answer a call placed on our lives and this verse from 1 Timothy illustrates that. I am humbled by the knowledge that Jesus thinks I am trustworthy enough to serve him in this way, and I hope I will prove worthy of his trust.

In this service of the Lord, the privilege comes when I get to walk alongside people, sharing in the joys – births, baptism, and weddings, as well as the sorrows – struggles, illness, and grief. The responsibility comes in all these times as I seek to represent Christ and help to facilitate a meeting between God and his people, and as I try to show them the love that God has shown me. A huge responsibility that If I tried to do on my own I would fail miserably at.

But when Jesus returned to the Father, he sent us his Spirit, the ‘alongside one’, our counsellor, often represented by a dove, as on my art journal page. So we do not have to do things in our own strength, but in God’s.

So, what are you called to do or be? Where is God wanting you to serve him today? And will you accept the privilege and responsibility that comes with that call? And will you allow God’s Spirit to guide and to counsel you?

For another blog on being called, see here


Life in all its fullness … now.

This is the letter B in my ‘A to Z of me’ art journal, inspired by Valerie Sjodin.


You can see my letter A entry here. I decided to do this journal just with coloured pencils and felt-tip pens so I could do it anywhere.

For all of us what we believe is a deep-seated part of our identity. Some beliefs we hold are helpful to us, others are less so. Our beliefs can help us achieve something, or can hold us back. Limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves and our capabilities prevent us from growing to be all we are meant to be.

My Christian beliefs empower me to be the very best I can be.

Sadly, for some people, religion (as opposed to faith) has scarred them and they wrongly associate faith and belief with the results of that religion experience. Some people use their beliefs to impose limitations on others, contrary to God’s will. I so wish this wasn’t the case, but the church, like the rest of society, is made up of flawed human beings. When I feel angry, annoyed or disappointed at someone or something to do with church, I remind myself that I too am imperfect, and that I’m a Christian because of Christ, not the church.

Probably the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16 …

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life.”

I love this verse, it captures God’s complete unconditional love for each and every one of us, and I hang on to that promise of eternal life. But for me, my beliefs aren’t just about what happens in the future, they are also about life now.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

My life with Jesus is full.

That’s why I believe … for today, as well as for tomorrow and for eternity.

I am Accepted

Today’s post is from a new journal I started inspired by Valerie Sjodin, an awesome artist and art journaller. She used a moleskine notebook to journal an ‘A to Z of me’. You can see all of her beautiful pages HERE. Please do go and have a look. You will see that I can only aspire to what she achieves.

However I offer my little attempt.
I took the same approach as Valerie in using an ordinary notebook and I’m using just pencil crayons, fine liner and the occasional felt-tip to highlight.

I was prompted to use the word Accepted for my ‘A’ page because of a conversation I had recently where someone clearly struggled with who I was and what I felt God was calling me to.

I reflected on my response and discovered to my delight that I’ve come a long way in being confident in myself and my calling.

I look back on my life and see how much I’ve been hurt by seeking the approval and acceptance of others and not finding it. Now I know its important to get along with others, to find ways of working together with mutual respect, even in disagreement. I wholeheartedly embrace this.

What I’m talking about here is when people do not accept you just because of who you are, regardless of how you do something. Perhaps it’s because of the colour of your skin, the family you were born into, your gender, your nationality, your faith, or any number of things that form our identity, who we are. Prejudices and narrow-mindedness are out there.

But there is good news. In God’s eyes, through Jesus, you and I are already fully accepted. We are God’s children, and God loves us unconditionally. When we live in that love, God calls us to his plans and purposes because of who we are. We don’t need to justify ourselves to others.

So today, rest assured that you are loved by God unconditionally. When you choose to embrace that love, you will know that you are accepted as a child of God, and what others think will pale beside your status and importance in God’s eyes.

See what love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. 1 JOHN 3:1