Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Secrets of Birch Bark and Pine Cones

by Emily Conrad

It started with curls of birch bark, littered on the sidewalk like scrolls of ancient paper. The clean lines on the white bark, like the marks of an exact graphite pencil I could read if only I knew the code. The blushing pink, the feel of it in my hand, as if I'd captured a a paper bird mid-flight.

Then came the pine cones. Maybe it was the way the light hit the winding pattern. Perhaps the rich brown revealed when they open, or the green-white scales growing on the tops.

Winter is officially over, the snow has receded, and what lay underneath for so long has been revealed. The world we live in is an unparalleled work of art that sings of its Creator.

As I've been walking around my neighborhood, noticing scraps of birch and ice and pine and moss with spring-hungry eyes, I've begun to listen more closely to that song.

Spring, my favorite season, leads me to consider how much greater of an artist God is than any human.

If I tell you there's a vase of daffodils next to my laptop, with a few words, I have glossed over galaxies of details God has imbued. I've failed to mention the way the light shines through one extended petal, the scent which has grown stronger the more the flowers age, the popping yellow color, the sheen of the texture, the tiny gray lines, either veins or fold marks. And still, there's more.

Words fail.

Pictures, do, too. When an artist paints, they don't paint each of these details. Often, a smudge conveys a flower petal, a splotch a tree. And even the most beautiful photograph can't capture scent or warmth. We can't walk through it and see each little detail present in the original landscape.

When artists of any kind try to replicate the real world in our work, we can't help but simplify His complex artistry.


The fact that God's work is so complex, however, tells us He is different. All things are in His focus. Each moment, each detail. Rocks, moss, pine cones, birch bark, dripping sap, all speckled with intricate detail crafted by a God big enough to create and sustain.

The God who went to such lengths in creation tends to the needs of sparrows and grass. And He who clothes these flitting, fleeting things in gowns of detail and provision, tends to our needs, as well.

The next time you notice tulips pushing up through the mulch or the earthy scent of damp ground or the way sunshine lends warmth even when the air is cold, let these serve as a reminder that you are not alone. You have not been left to fend for yourself. You have not fallen beneath the notice of the good and loving God who is reaching out to reconcile you with Himself.

No detail is left unattended. No scrap of dirt, no moment of your life is haphazard or carelessly placed. When we follow Jesus, we follow a God who cares about the details. Nothing is outside His focus. All things are held together in Him.

He will never leave you or forsake you. Jesus will never fill in a spot of your life with a smudge instead of intricate, loving detail.

Jesus will never fill in your life with a smudge instead of intricate, loving detail via @novelwritergirl

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Dream that Used to Seem Impossible

by Emily Conrad

I’m married to my high school boyfriend, the only man I ever dated. I went to college in my hometown. Even now, at age 33, I live half a mile from my childhood home.

I’m either content with my lot in life, or I’m the queen of avoiding change. So the important part of my new beginning isn’t what happened after I started over, but rather how God turned me from the natural course of my life to the wholehearted pursuit of a dream He gave me long ago.

That dream was writing. I fell in love with crafting stories as a child, and I went to college expecting to never use my degree. My plan was to work part-time and spend the majority of my energy on penning novels.

When I first veered from that plan, it was out of necessity. Having married young, I needed to put my husband through school. In 2005, true to my change-resistant ways, I applied for a full-time position at the company where I already worked part-time.

A couple of years later, my husband finished his degree and began his career. Though I sometimes fantasized about quitting to write more, the hours had become habit, and the income made life easier. I kept my day job.

I was comfortable until God jolted me out of my routine, starting in 2012 with a broken wrist.

To find out what events that set in motion, follow me over to my post in the Begin Again series on Cisneros Café! I'm so excited to be a part of this beautiful series. While you're over there, be sure to check out the other posts.

P.S. This replaces my normal Tuesday post, so I'll see you all on Thursday. Praying that God meets you this week with renewal and new beginnings only possible by His supernatural power.

The #Dream that Used to Seem Impossible by @novelwritergirl part of the #BeginAgain series on @CisnerosCafe

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When the Journey Is Too Much For You

by Emily Conrad

I am familiar with discouragement. Just ask my friends.

Actually, please don’t. Just take my word for it that I have a tidy little list of things that aren’t going my way, and at times, it overwhelms me. The list says I am inadequate, alone, left to fend for myself in a world beyond my power to control.

In this kind of desperation, I want to run to God, but what will He say to me?

Something about my upbringing or my perfectionist heart insists that He will tell me to buck up, get back to work, do more, and do it with a better attitude. Having faith and living for eternity, when merged with my German stoicism and good girl mentality, translates to a kind of faith that insists I fake it until I make it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Escaping Distraction to Find All My Needs Already Met

by Emily Conrad

I'm sitting here, wasting time. Everyone is quiet, but my mind isn't having it. Like a ping pong ball, it refuses to hit and land. What do I expect to miss by focusing instead of constantly checking my social media, email, and blog stats?

I am not my best self and I think it's partly due to not maintaining the slower, reflective practices of reading for pleasure and writing fiction for long periods. Instead, I blog and bounce around from email to website improvements to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and in so doing, I've trained my brain not to settle in and create. 

Sitting to scribble this down is a challenge in itself. But now that I've been here a minute, it gets easier. 

I try breathing like I believe I need the air.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Learning to Count My Days

by Emily Conrad

This time last year, my husband and I were house shopping. We were just a day away from receiving an offer on the house we lived in and days away from making an offer on the house we now call home.

The day our offer was accepted on this house, my husband and I went for ice cream. I waited until we were seated with our desserts to tell him we'd gotten the house, and I still remember his smile. I've been waiting for the day to come back around so I could celebrate it. Not in any big way, but with another smile, maybe some ice cream, and definitely a helping of gratitude.

But the house-buying adventure is not the only big event to have happened in March.

On Tuesday, Facebook's On This Day feature reminded me that three years ago, I worked my last day in an office. Since then, my only job title has been writer. Another event worth celebrating.

I like looking back at specific events and considering how they've shaped my life. Unfortunately, I find scrapbooks and boxes of photos overwhelming, and I don't post often to Facebook, so the events those things can remind me of are limited.

To keep track of what's happened on which day, I implemented a Pinterest idea.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'm Not in Control (and It's Better This Way)

by Emily Conrad

I lined up all my perfectionist ducks in a row. Then, I accidentally shot one.

I'm being dramatic, but you know that sinking feeling when you realize you've missed something important? Yeah, that.

The situation goes something like this: I’m waiting on various messages from various people right now. I’d been convinced for weeks—maybe even months—that I’d done all I could and now had only to wait. But then one of my social media accounts failed to email me regarding an important, time-sensitive message. I learned of it after the opportunity had passed—by more than a week.

After I found the message and sent an apology, I spent the rest of the day shaking my head at myself for not checking the site directly for messages. Sure, it had always emailed me in the past, but should I have known better? It certainly would've been helpful if I had.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Truth to Cling to When Disaster Comes Close

by Emily Conrad

The car pulled right as if making an emergency lane change of its own accord as we traveled 75 miles per hour down the highway. But it didn’t stop pulling right, and soon we were spinning full rotations, the tires skating circles in precipitation that refused to be either fully rain or fully slow.

The first spin: disorganized fear.

The second, a silent cry for help: Jesus!

The third rotation: expectation of disaster.