I have had the pleasure of working with Mandy England for the past few months with Life Lived Beautifully! If you own any of the new journals, you are looking at her incredible hand-lettereing art on them! Not only can Mandy script words beautifully, but she is also a talented artist, momma to three, and business owner. Most importantly, she loves Jesus and she is passionate about sharing His truth! It is my joy for you to meet Mandy. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy getting to know her!
Introduce yourself like we are having a cup of coffee together. What kind of coffee/tea would you drink?
Heeeeey! I'm Mandy. I love iced coffee. No matter how cold it is, I really do prefer it iced. If I don't have a cup of coffee, I get a wicked headache by about noon. I know that's a red flag, but I'm not giving it up just yet. ;) I'm the blessed wife to David, and mother to Sophie (3), Judah (2), and Christian (6 months). I've always been more interested in using the creative side of my brain, and I dabble in many crafty things- mostly because I have a short attention span.
What is your definition of a "life lived beautifully"?
I think that a life that is lived beautifully is one that openly shows the scars and ugliness of sin and points to the One who has redeemed the mess. In Isaiah 61, it talks about God giving His people a beautiful headdress instead of ashes... and I believe that beauty is made all the more beautiful because of the ashes. The ugly helps us to appreciate the beauty in a way we never could have before. A life that demonstrates the kindness of God's grace and redemption in their brokenness is truly beautiful.
When did you start following Jesus?
I am in awe of God's hand on my life... He has been so kind to lead me down paths that I never would have chosen to bring me places that I did not know I wanted to go! Raised in a very traditional southern baptist church, I "asked Jesus into my heart" when I was in kindergarten and was baptized. But I knew nothing of grace. No matter what the church taught, it just seemed like religion, the Bible, Christianity, and Jesus was all a bunch of rules masquerading as a "free gift." I had no assurance of my salvation... no real relationship with God. I lived in fear and prayed "the prayer" over and over again, hoping that I would "get it right" at some point.
At the same time (and this makes almost no sense), I felt like a "super Christian" since I knew all the verses, was at church any time the doors were open, and had served in every way I could. I was both incredibly self-righteous and at the same time half-way aware of the fact that I was a fraud. If you had asked me to share my testimony at the time, I would have told you that since I was raised in a Christian home and saved at an early age, I really hadn't done anything too terrible, so my life after Jesus hadn't changed very much. The truth was that my life had never changed because I had never experienced grace. I was dead.
And then I met David my sophomore year of college. He had never really been to church or heard the gospel. We like to joke that I "evange-dated" him. He "got saved" and was baptized, and a little over a year after meeting, we were married. While in college. It's every bit as crazy as it sounds! I don't know what we were thinking! And it was a mess. A hot mess of lies, bitterness, and ugly.
About a year into our marriage, God started to work in David's heart. He was addicted to porn and so trapped in a cage of lies. One Sunday morning, the truth of the gospel came true for him, and he felt like God asked him to hand over the baggage that he had been carrying. Praise the Lord, he did! He experienced the freedom of the gospel, and with it came honesty and humble brokenness. And I was crushed. My entire world fell apart. The things that David confessed to me both from his past and present felt like constant daggers to my heart. While he sought counsel and accountability from godly men in our church and began to try to reconcile our marriage, I became incredibly bitter. I hated my husband, thought often about divorce, and would angrily ask him on a daily basis how he could possibly have done this to me. I was angry at God too... I felt like it was unfair of Him to let this happen.
Being the good "Christian" that I was, I did see this as a problem. I worried about it. I kind of wanted to forgive and move on.. but I literally couldn't and I secretly liked feeling hurt anyway. This went on for a year and a half. For all that time, I got to see God working in David's life and changing him. But time was not healing my wounds... in fact, time only made me more bitter. I often asked God if I was saved, since I had no ability to forgive David, and I always felt like God responded with Phil. 1:6 "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
February 13, 2011, we visited a church in Virginia, and it was that morning that God opened my eyes to the gospel and changed my heart. The sermon that morning was on a passage of scripture that had tormented me... Matthew 18:21-35, the story of the unforgiving servant. As soon as the sermon started, a conversation began between me and God. I told Him that I knew who I was supposed to be in the story. I was the servant who the king had forgiven much, but who then refused to forgive his own servant's small debt. But I admitted that I did not see it that way. It seemed to me that David had hurt me far more than I could ever have hurt God. I began to pray that God would help me to see myself through His eyes. He responded by telling me to write down my sin on a giant white board. I told Him, "no," and He asked "why not?" Imagining all the things that I would have to write on that board, I began to worry that someone might see what I've actually done. Suddenly the veil on my "picture-perfect" Christian life started to fall, and I began to admit to myself for the first time ever the evil of my heart... the sins done in secret, the ugliness of my thoughts. I was horrified at who I actually was. At the same time, I stopped focusing on how David had wronged me, and became incredibly alarmed at the realization of who my sins were against. For the first time in my life, God gave me a glimpse of His holiness and of how incredibly short I had fallen. It was a moment of extreme shame, followed by a flood of overwhelming and irresistible grace. My hard heart had hated my husband for over a year, and in an instant, my soul cried out, "of course I forgive him! How could I not, when Holy God has forgiven me so much?!" The old analogies that had always sounded so trite made perfect sense suddenly. I was blind and now I could see! I was dead and now I was alive! Holy God changed my heart, gave me new eyes, and brought me to life. All praise to Him! And I follow Him in gratitude.
What are some verses you constantly cling to and bring life to your soul?
I mentioned this one above and how the Lord used it to encourage me: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." - Phil 1:6. I still find so much comfort in this verse. Knowing what God has done in my life gives me so much confidence of who is working in me and comfort that He will not give up on me. He said so. And He has already shown Himself faithful.
Galatians 5:1 has been a big deal for me this year. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Sometimes I almost feel like I don't deserve to live in victory... like it's wrong for me to even dare ask for freedom. But that is a lie! Jesus said, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) This year has been one of clinging to truth, battling lies, and asking for extra grace to chose to live in freedom through Jesus.
How do you integrate sharing the Gospel with creativity?
A lot of my art is hand-lettering, which is a perfect outlet for gospel sharing. If I were fishing, God's Word would be the hook, and pretty lettering the bait. I hope that people who would not otherwise be drawn to read the Bible might find interest in it through something as simple as beautifully written words.
I honestly can't say that there has been a grand scheme to get myself where I am right now. Ideas come and interests evolve, and as I look back I can see God's hand in all of it. I know that anything that has been built is by His grace alone, and the same goes for any dreams that never made it to reality. In all openness, I find myself continually at war with "my dreams" for my art and my desire to use it as a platform for the Lord. This has been a year of lots of prayer over my shop, and specifically now at the end of the year I have been taking time away from all the art and orders to just be still and listen to God's leading. He is stirring me in some new directions that I am very excited about, and I feel like the "art" side of it may take a back burner in 2015. Right now I am praying over ideas for a study on truth and how to best encourage other women to live in the freedom that they have in Christ. If you feel led to follow along, please feel free to join me here!.
What life lessons have you learned in being a wife, momma, and owning a small business? What tips would you have for other mom’s doing the same thing?
So much of my time is wrapped up in being wife, mama, and small biz owner... they are such an important part of what I do. But the thing that I have to constantly remind myself is that these roles are not my identity. My identity is in Christ. Ephesians 1 talks about how we have been adopted as sons of God through Jesus, receiving every spiritual blessing, redeemed, forgiven, and lavished in the riches of God's grace. That is my identity. That is your identity if you are a child of God. That is the only identity worth clinging to, because if we base our identity on our performance of any of our roles, we will always disappoint ourselves. On the days when we don't live up to the expectation that we have for what a good wife should be, or we lose our temper with our children, or our shop doesn't get the views or make the sales we were hoping for... that's ok! That should not change how we feel about ourselves, because those things (though they may be important) are not our identity. Our identity is in Christ. Everything that we can boast of is in Christ. And our God is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow... so if I am rooting my identity in Him, then I can't be shaken by my successes or failures. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36)
If you could do anything for the glory of God, what would it be?
This is such a hard question! There are so many things that I would love to do. I don't even know what I would pick if I could choose one right this second. But I know how I would want to do it. I want to live as if I am constantly jumping off a great height with complete surety that there is Someone there to catch me. Because He is. I feel like I am waiting now. Learning to trust Him in the little day-to-day things. And one day when He asks me to leap, I will know Him well enough to see His invisible hand beneath me, let go of everything, and jump.
If you could tell every woman reading this blog one thing God has laid on your heart, what would it be?
One thing that God has really been laying on my heart lately is the thought that when I am weak, He is strong. This doesn't have to apply just to the big moments... like David fighting Goliath. If I get to the end of the day and don't feel like I have any patience left to get my children ready for bed, that is just as much an opportunity for God to show His power through me. What would it look like if we chose to live in eager expectation of His provision?... To recognize our weakness and say "God, I can't right now. But I know you can." Wallowing in weakness is really a form of idolatry... choosing self-focus instead of fixing our eyes on the One who is able. I want to encourage you to notice when you are feeling empty, tired, worthless, and beaten down... and instead of throwing up your hands in exasperation, open your hands to the Lord and ask Him for extra grace to accomplish what needs to be done. Not so that we can feel good about what we've done, but so that God can be glorified in our lives. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Catch up on other women who are living their life beautifully for God's glory: