Friday, March 29, 2013

Faithful Friday: Hope

Each Holy Week is different.  Though the Passion and the Truth remain the same, each year it is a new experience.  I have celebrated Easter in different parishes and denominations which allow for obvious variation in experience, but it goes deeper than surroundings.

Perhaps it is the stage of my life, a year of events that influence my perception.  For instance, being newly married I was more aware of the relationship between Joseph and Mary this past Christmas, particularly the strength and courage of Joseph as he took on this unique family.  This Easter the brightness of hope shines upon me as my earthly family is forced to confront mortality.

Last night in the Maundy Thursday service I watched the altar be stripped bare of its ornamentation.  Piece by piece the rector removed each component.  I watched as a line of women, clothed in black came slowly, one by one to the altar to take away each chalice, linen, crucifix, candle stick, and vase.  Then they took the priest's outer vestments and the altar was left bare-a blank wooden table, with a single overhead light, in a darkened church, while violin and organ played their haunting duet.  Lastly, they placed upon the altar table a crown of thorns, a stark and somber reminder of the arrest yet to come, and they read us the account of the watch of Gethesame.  I keenly felt the loss as our altar was systematically disassembled.  They weren't just taking away things, but vestiges of a life, The Life. 

The next few days will be pierced by solemnity and remembrance just as one mourns the loss of a loved one; yet we remember that the resurrection is coming.  In faith we secure our hope, knowing this separation is only temporary until we are reunited with the Lord.  And what a reunion it is, and was, and will be- full of wonder and joy and understanding as the glory of God is revealed.  

We press on in Hope, not as wishful thinking, but in "confident expectation," in the assured goodness of our God who so loved the world that He sent His only Son.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Light a Candle: Thankful Thursday

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness {Peter Benenson}

We are called to be lights to the world.  So here are the things, some big some small, that are lighting up my life right now:

1. My husband who helps me edit works, deals with my messes, and is a pretty spectacular teammate
2. My awesome family; being an auntie
3. Friends and community who hold me accountable and encourage me and openly tell me their stories
4. People who ask good questions and people with humble answers
5. The public library- full of free ideas and inspirations
6. Holy week- loaded with special services to get our minds and hearts ready for Easter
7. Nuberri BOGO coupons- hello free frozen yogurt.  {espresso is my favorite}
8. Inspirational apps that help me to cast my cares and learn
9. Working in a positive environment
10. Spring and all it's gifts (minus allergies)

These things get my "seal" of approval.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

e(dot)e Guest Blogged- Oh My!

My friends at Designs Unlimited, a stellar design company based here in Tallahassee, graciously invited me to guest blog today.  You can find some of my latest projects via my post {by clicking here}.  Catch their thrifty design ideas, works in progress, Friday Favorites and more on their staff blog and then scroll through their fabulous portfolio and see how they're working magic with spaces.  You're bound to find some "Pin-spirational" things.
{Oh dear, I just made a pun about pinterest... I'm officially addicted}

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tallahassee Tuesday

I probably haven't told you yet, though I think most of my readership is friends and family who already know, but- I live in Tallahassee, FL.  I love it, but I didn't always.

I first moved here almost 4 years ago as a grad student.  It was the first time I lived alone and so far from home.  I hated my first year here- imagine being over eight hours from home and everyone you know, and caught in limbo between college-aged and adult.  As a grad student I didn't quite fit with the college crowd or the "young professionals."  It took about a year for me to branch out from the small program in which I was enrolled and uncover the treasures of Tallahassee life.

Tallahassee can be good soil, if you can dig in deep enough to weather the constant turnover of the young adult population.  There are lots of great churches, sweet boutiques, nearby towns/counties to explore, beautiful back roads, delicious restaurants, and good people.  I found that once I knew a few people and found a handful of "go-to" hangouts, I started to feel the sense of community for which I searched.

Lessons I'm learning: Love where you Live, or more poetically, "Bloom where you're planted."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Faithful Friday

Faithful Fridays are rapidly becoming the only blogging day to which I am, well, faithful.  I do have some works in progress that I'll share soon, but remembering that God is the ultimate artist, let's look at His works in progress shall we?

I laugh about having ADHD, and sometimes I begrudge it- the real problems it creates for me are difficult (but not impossible) to overcome.    There are lots of down sides like hours and days when the fog rolls in and I can't get motivated to do tasks, much less focus on stuff.  The guilt of zoning out when I most want to be present for my friends and family is not fun, and neither is the struggle with memory {sometimes I feel like a goldfish}.  But there are also some upsides like- having lots of energy, being able to see connections between seemingly different concepts, being able to sleep regardless of the recency of my last caffeine fix, and noticing the little details.  

There's something redemptive about being distractable.  It helps me keep some of my childlike wonder at the world.  While my loved ones and acquaintances may have mixed feelings about my, "Oh hey, look, a butterfly," moments, I have to say I'm glad I caught some of those things.  In the busyness and the rush of today's tempo it gets hard to take time to appreciate the small wonders of our environment.  We can easily overlook the small delights around us, like the cheery yellow butterfly wending its way through the garden, or a magnificent sunset glimpsed through a clearing in the trees.

Recently I've been reminded to focus on the good things, to seek them out instead of focusing on my problems for fear that they'll never be solved.  Just as I was promised, the more actively I seek to find the good, the more readily I find it.  The changes in light, the whimsy of clouds, the colors of the sky- we can write them off as scientific, natural processes, but isn't it more fun, more beneficial and beautiful to marvel at them as majestic reminders of God's glory?  Even secular and agnostic sources are promoting an attitude of gratitude.  As believers we get to personally say thank you to the Creator for these visual gifts!  We can let the world tell us that these are just daily environmental occurrences, or we can accept that these things are demonstrations of Gods love for us.  God doesn't need the flowers to blossom or the sun to shine but He lovingly creates them.  They are His artistic expressions.  They are for you as much as they are for me.  Will you allow Him to woe you today?  Will you allow Him to console you in a brief distraction from your problems?  Open yourself to the possibility that that bright beam of sunshine or gentle breeze are His way of getting your attention and reminding you of His presence.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Birthdays Galore, Part 2

I've finally, almost, maybe completed this month's birthday least I've caught up with the "overdue ones."  Here are my most recent creations.  

Can I just be brutally honest and say, when drawing "chocolate" cartoon frosting, it's very hard not to make the icing look like a cartoon doggie 'chocolates.'  You know what I'm saying?!  I might have failed here, I'm not sure, but for future reference, it is helpful to not have the bottom of your icing be perfectly flat.  Either let the "cupcake" come up over the "liner" and draw the "icing" wiggly on top of that, or draw the "icing" overlapping the "liner."  I prefer the second approach because it looks more decadent, and it's easier.

I hope I haven't been too crass just now, but you see for all my serious thoughts, I have at least a handful of silly ones to go along with them.

Moving on...

I'm fairly obsessed with these new bunting style ones.  They were pretty straight forward, but time consuming.  I had a bunch of little scraps of tissue paper lying around from another project {I may feature that later}.  That's the thing about creative types, we can become pack rats as we up-cycle things. But that's the beauty of arts and crafting is it not?  That nothing is ever too little, too crumpled, too insignificant, or too damaged to be given a new life in a new creation.  
{See why I think of God as the ultimate artist?}

Process: Draw {imperfect} line(s) in alcohol-based ink
-watercolor wash--- allow to dry
-draw V shapes connected to the lines.
-cut out triangles within the V-shapes
-cut various triangles of tissue paper slightly larger than the cutouts
-dab glue on the reverse side and paste on tissue paper
-Voila, colorful bunting card.

My final creation surprised even me.  I only had a scrap of paper left, but-as I discussed above, those are the best "crafts."  I folded it in half and something made me think to do a fox.  One lucky friend will receive this card which, on the inside, says "I heard it was a foxy lady's birthday!"

Friday, March 15, 2013

Faithful Friday: Casting Cares

At twenty-sha-ma-na-na-na years old, I'm not where I imagined I'd be as determined by my teenage self.  Like so many others I imagined I'd have it all by now- college education and successful career making lots of money or at least "making a difference," happy marriage, a house, new car, etc. There's nothing wrong with wanting the American dream, but it is exhausting and demoralizing to relentlessly chase it on your own merit.

Reflecting on the life I envisioned for myself, I'm so thankful for ungranted prayers.  A lot of my dreams changed as I met new challenges, no surprise.  Psychology quickly replaced biology as my major when I realized I was more interested in minds than bodies.  My limited dating history, prior to meeting my husband, reads like a comedy of errors. The economy tanked as I left college and many of us are over-educated for the jobs we're working and the house/car/material dreams are harder to obtain.

I had big dreams of being significant for helping people, but here's what I've learned: it is absolutely exhausting trying to make yourself significant of your own merit, holding onto plans so tightly against the push and pull of unforeseeable circumstances.  I got a graduate degree that held so much promise of making me significant to my community, but using it pulled me away from my family, faith community, and the things that kept me grounded.  I spent almost a year of forsaking the things and people that mattered most, giving all my best effort trying to shine on my own.

God doesn't ask me to be my own light source, but to reflect divine light.  Every bump, scrape, scratch, and ding acquired through living and refinement allows me to reflect His light in a new way.  If I shine it's because He polished me; if I am dull it is because I tried to evade His hand.  Refinement hurts and God's not shy about it.  We are tested in a "furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10) and even the wise will stumble so that they may be refined and purified (Daniel 11:35).  It is through refinement, however painful, that we know we are loved (Zechariah 13:9), as a parent disciplines a child out of love.

Refinement is hard; I'm probably not the first to tell you about that.  It was hard giving up a career that made me proud, but disgruntled.  God loves a humble servant, and humble me He does.  Yet here I sit, happier and more blessed, living a life unexpected.  We all face painful circumstances.  It's part of our refinement.  It's painful to accept that sometimes our plans are ill-suited, but when we surrender our expectations God reveals His glory.

How many of life's pains give rise to something more beautiful that couldn't have existed otherwise?  How much more do we appreciate the things for which we labored or that came at a high cost?  Shall we resent the labor and the cost and give up, or press on in hope of victory?  There's a party going on in heaven.  These battles are already decided and won.  We are free to accept today's challenges as enough for today (Matthew 6:34).  Cast your cares.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birthdays Galore

There's something about the month of March and my friends- I seem to have more friends with birthdays in March (and October) than any other month!  Of course, I often don't notice it, and their birthdays slip past me.  This is tragic as I am a birthday lover and I enjoy making birthday cards.  Today I knocked two birthday cards out so two lucky people are getting handmade cards soon.

Cupcakes are enormously fun for me to doodle.  These started out as rather bland (and blobby) water color cupcakes, but with a little pen and colored pencil I think they turned out surprisingly good. 

So that's about two down... plus one I made previously... only a half-dozen more to go.  Time to get crackin'!

Friday, March 8, 2013


Admittedly, I've been feeling kind of stuck lately in my artwork.  I haven't been creating as much as I'd like.  I tried to prep a  few canvases, but they were not turning out how I wanted.  I was uninspired by the backgrounds I created.  Sometimes I struggle with paint.

Last night, however, I took a risk and reverted back to mixed media/watercolor which has long been a love of mine.  There's some kind of lovely quality of layering waxy colored pencil (prismacolor is my choice) over translucent watercolor or marker, sometimes both.  I'm limited in the colors I can use for colored pencil  since my set is the 24 pack + a medium gray.  Sometimes that's advantageous.  It provides a rule, a construct, a challenge to work with and structure the art.

This lion -> is 5x7".  I intended to have a brighter, more orange background, mixing yellow and red on the page, but I didn't wash my brush out well enough and a tinge of blue made it a perfect golden brown to inspire this lion.  Happy accident.  I think this lion grew out of a couple circumstances.  I had a tantrum last week with that bad news. I roared. It was cathartic.  Moving on.  It could also stem from a conversation I had with a friend about images from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.  I like that idea.

8x12" Acrylic & Watercolor
8x10" Acrylic & Watercolor

I was so excited and thankful to create again last night.  I have a couple of exciting things in the works that I had not imagined in the way they came out.  My husband even noted it's a bit of a new style, a new twist.  I created more realistic backgrounds this time.  Seascapes inspired by a brilliant blue water color tube.  I've been playing around with the idea of doing  a starfish, but I didn't imagine creating it like I did below.  I had not intended to create a white pelican, but in my magazine destruction I found a Florida Wildlife magazine and I suppose he came to mind from that.  Neither one is yet complete, but I'm so excited to start working on them.  They too are already mixed-media.  I used water color and salt to create texture for the seascape of the pelican, then outlined my sketch and details in acrylic.  The starfish is also watercolor with an acrylic wash for the details.

Faithful Friday: Diving In

There's that old adage that says, "Write what you know."  Well, I'll confess it here and now, despite how I may act, I don't know much.  I suppose being now securely in my mid-twenties, the "wisdom" of my "all-knowing" teen years has abated.  I look around and I realize the more I learn the more I am aware of what I don't know.  Believe me, sometimes the hardest words to say are, "I don't know."  We're taught to believe that it's a cop-out answer, and sometimes it is a brush off, code for "Just leave me alone.  I can't/won't give you the answer you're seeking."  But in all honestly, a lot of times I genuinely don't know.   I'm learning to humble myself and say, "I don't know; let me look into it and we can learn together."

Okay, since now you know that I don't always know, (Friends! anyone?), here's one of the lessons I'm learning: God loves a bold heart- so start diving in.

I really enjoy the messages of Joyce Meyer Ministries.  I like her approach.  Her messages aren't sugar-coated and she gives a lot of practical advice.  Basically she tells it how it is- we live in a broken world that you can't control, but you can control yourself, your attitude and behaviors; complaining and inaction won't fix the world-it starts with you.

Sometimes I start my morning listening to Joyce Meyer via her iphone app.  One morning she spoke about how God loves a bold heart.  He loved the boldness of David who didn't sit back and quibble over how he was going to defeat Goliath; rather, he just trusted God and went out and did it with the skills he had.  I've told you about how planning can get me into trouble.  I start to think too much...yada yada.  Well this message kind of struck home and it reminded me of another passage that's stuck in my heart.

Jeremiah 31:22 begins with "How long will you waver oh faithless daughter..." It is the verse that pierces my soul when I am discerning what to do and am inactive.  Waver-yes that about sums up how I can refuse to set my mind to one path because I'm afraid of failing, sometimes hoping someone or some circumstance will push me in one direction or another.  Faithless daughter- ouch.  The sting of truth.  The verse comes shortly after Jeremiah 29:11 which promises that God's ultimate plan for those whom he loves is to prosper them.  So I imagine God in this verse saying "I [just] promised you that in the end you will prosper and not be harmed; trust me; step out in faith and do."

I am learning to apply this in everyday life.  As Joyce Meyer has discussed, it starts with the mundane tasks.  For her it was putting a cart back at the grocery store.  For me it's been dishes.  We don't have a dishwasher, or rather we have two dishwashers and our dishwashers are powered by elbow grease.  In our (rather tiny) kitchen, those dishes pile up, especially if we have guests over or if we try and get fancy with our meals.  This morning was one of those mornings where the magic cleaning fairy didn't visit us in the night, so I awoke to quite a mountain of particularly dirty dishes.  It was almost overwhelming to think about cleaning them, but I'm learning.  I didn't think about it. I just did it, as I've done before, and I'm always surprised at how quickly the task goes.

It makes me think, how often do I "deliberate" to the point of inaction?  All the while giving more and more of an opening for the enemy.  It's a special kind of procrastination to put off doing something simply to put it off, not because you wanted to do some other specific thing instead, but purely out of avoidance and sloth.  It's the kind that always brings on the bad guilt that festers in me and makes me insecure about other things.  So for me, I'm learning obedience, discipline, and trust, I suppose, through simple everyday tasks like doing the dishes.  Complaining and magnifying that mountain won't make it go away, but it will make me inactive and unhappy.  I'm learning it's better just to dive on into the task, trusting that it's for my benefit and if it isn't I'll be rescued from it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bill Fish

Last night going through a National Geographic I found some pictures of swordfish which led to the idea to do a bill fish.  I sketched it out in my small "art journal." My art journal is probably 4x6'' and it's a Utrech brand with lots of different samples of paper (genius). 

Below is Monsieur le Billfish, pretty close to finish.  I've got to stylize him yet.  It's something I'm playing with.  I keep being drawn to strange animals for my art.  I think it's their quirks that I find so appealing-like people.  If and when I complete him, I'll post it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Faithful Friday- Surviving Spiritual Storms

In the midst of the storm, it is hard sometimes to find hope in the darkness.  God's promise to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11), to give us a future and a hope can be hard to hold onto as we perceive calamity.  Sometimes we feel like Job- we are going along, living good lives, perfecting our hearts and surrendering and singing praises; until the enemy attacks and takes away a bit of our security.  We may stumble, but we pick ourselves up by holding onto whatever goodness is left, no matter how small.  And sometimes the enemy takes away everything in his power to take away-he strips us bare of our blessings and taunts us to give up our last vestige of hope.  He tries to convince us that God has forsaken us because He has allowed the enemy to take away our blessings.  It is in these times, when the ground slips out from under us, however, that we are most tightly held.  How wonderful to have our distractions removed that we might focus on Him.  Those wonderful blessings upon which we based our happiness and judged our standing with the Lord, cannot hold a candle to the gift of Christ in eternal relationship and salvation with the one true God, and that is a gift that I shamefully confess I overlook too often.  It makes me think that in the midst of my despair as my world feels like it is in upheaval and I face incredible loss, God is righting my priorities.  He tells me to cling to Him first, above all else.  He says, "Watch this, as I play Jenga with your life!  My Spirit will fill the holes and uphold you and you will not topple over because you are Mine."

Each storm I face, I must hold onto the hope that it will make me stronger.  I have to return to the story of Job, who lost everything, and then God revealed Himself, His majesty and divine, ultimate power-and then blessed Job ten fold for all that was taken away.  I know that my God has the power to restore all things, to give me answers to every prayer, and trust me- I try to give Him the solutions to my problems- but I am so thankful that He overrides me. I remind myself that His ways are not my ways and His ways are higher than mine.  He sees the ripples before they form and He knows that my solution is temporary and He uses His powers not to give temporary gifts, but lasting ones.  So I will be thankful for the "no's" I receive, and I will praise Him in the midst of the storm because His will is done and out of it His blessings will flow like a river milk and honey.  Oh friends, I will certainly falter in this life, seeking temporary comfort instead of divine relief.  But, when the haze of shock subsides and I find myself knocked to my knees- it is then that I will realize that I am perfectly poised to pray.  In these moments, surely I am held closer to the heart of Christ who suffered first.  You see, I believe in a creator God, not a destroyer.  Sometimes in life, as in art, in order to create some things must be deconstructed.  That part of refinement can be painful, but the beauty of being made a new creation makes pain worth while.  New creation is exciting.  I am learning not to wring my hands when God moves in my life, but to rub them together excitedly in the knowledge that something good is coming out of this and I have a front row ticket to see God at work.

Yesterday bad news came knocking and then it let itself into my peace of mind and told me how it would alter so many of the things I'd planned and expected for my future.  In the light of a new day though, I can recognize that even when bad news waltzes right in I don't have to lay out the welcome mat and feed it some snacks.  I don't have to get caught up, bending over backwards to entertain bad news and how it might affect each facet of my life.  No. Paul tells me to keep pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14) and reassures me that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  When the rivers overflow the bank we can look at the tragic mess that's left behind and forget to move forward.  OR we can look for what was strong enough to endure, what's left standing.  We can be thankful for the fertile soil that's left in the wake of the storm and use it to grow new and better dreams.

In the eye of the storm there is peace.  If you stay where you are the other side of the storm may hit you, but if what if you could move with it?  Who do you think stands in the center of that supernatural peace and conducts the winds of change?