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Blossomphoto
And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

-Anais Nin

gaslogs

 

Dear Precious Child,

I am so glad that you came to spend time with me today.  I felt the tears well-up at the corners of your eyes.  Tears of relief.  That relief of bowing your head before Me, surrendering your burdens, no matter how big or small.  You have been trying so hard, lately, to be all that I created you to be.   A loving mother.  A supportive wife.  An inspiring artist.  A loyal friend.  Because you are human, these tasks can be so tiring over the long haul.  This is why I created you to be in relationship with me.  I am your Father and I want you to come to Me for rest.

I see you caring for your mind, body and soul.  And sometimes, it is hard to keep these three things in balance.  You focus on learning to breathe deeply and to be in the present, only to find that your soul yearns to be in more conversation with Me.  And then you might swing the other direction, making a point to spend time in quiet prayer each day to realize that your body needs more exercise and better nutrition.  All this amongst a myriad of distractions.  Social media.  Chores.  To-do lists.  It is truly a constant juggling act!

I want you to know that I appreciate how you are giving this life your best effort.  By human standards, you may not be perfect, but you are perfect in my eyes.  I created you just as you are, fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses.  While your strengths are what you want to show to the world, it is your weaknesses that make you real to those around you.  For it is in your weaknesses that my strength is revealed.

I am so proud of you!

Love,

Your Heavenly Father

 

 

For as long as I can remember, I have felt a sense of peace when in the mountains.  Perhaps it has something to do with where I grew-up, in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I’ve heard folks call this area around Nelson County and Charlottesville, Virginia, “God’s Country,” and maybe I am biased, but I have always felt the nearness of God when I am walking through the woods.  Leaves crackling beneath my feet.  Birds singing. Streams gurgling.  Squirrels rustling about.  Sunlight filtering through the leaves.

While my family and I still live within driving distance of the mountains,  our hiking trips have become less frequent over the years.  And, at times, my soul craves the rest and solitude that I’ve always found so easily in the woods.  When we moved to our new house several years ago, I was ecstatic to realize that we are within walking distance of the Midlothian Mines, a wooded walking trail that winds amidst the ruins of an old coal mining operation of years ago.  A little slice of Heaven right in my own backyard!  Mid-way between two parallel trails, a stream trickles through the woods and the sun’s rays magically reach through the trees early in the morning.  Here, I pause, eyes closed, palms open, and I soak.  I soak in Light.  From this sacred space, comes the inspiration for my latest piece of art, Soak.

With a vague image of a girl soaking in a bathtub in the middle of the woods in my mind’s eye, I purchased a large 24×36 canvas and began on my journey to create Light.  For no reason, in particular, I felt the need to collage.  So, I spent a few days tearing and gluing various bits of paper from magazines, newspaper, and grocery bags to my canvas, creating the forest.

forestcollage1
forestcollage2

Originally, I thought that I might leave parts of the collage peaking through the painting.  So, when I soon realized that I really needed to paint over the entire collage, I faltered.  Just like real life, though, that first-step was a necessary part of my process and I told myself that the collage would still serve a purpose.  It would give my piece interest and texture.

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The first trees were added, “framing” the light.

firstpaintedtrees
To create a softer, more magical feeling, I then dry-brushed white paint into certain areas that occurred naturally due to the collage underneath.

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First comes the light, then the trees.  I worked from two photos: one that I took with my Ipod on a recent walk through The Mines and another photo downloaded from the computer that captured the colors which I envisioned.  I used a sponge to create the illusion of leaves on the trees.

moretrees&leaves

Then came the girl…I struggled a bit with my initial drawing, as I do not have much experience in drawing the human figure, but with a little help from my trusted art teacher and inspiration from a Gustav Klimt painting, I was able to bring her into fruition!  She is painted, cut from mat board, backed with foam board and her hair is formed of felted wool.

girl

From the beginning, I envisioned my girl soaking in an old-fashioned copper bathtub.  Never having worked with metal, this stage of the piece proved to be quite a learning experience!  I started with a large piece of shiny copper which I then distressed by pounding it with a ball-peen hammer on a brick and later heating with a kitchen torch, the kind used to make creme brule.  Once the patina was achieved, I cut and shaped the copper with pliers into 2 pieces which were later soldered together using the kitchen torch.  Still not quite satisfied with the patina, I dipped the whole tub into a patina solution in order to darken the copper.

bathtub
Bubbles were then crafted by hand-sewing some old vintage beads, once belonging to my late grandmother, onto a piece of tulle  found in my ribbon drawer.

bubbles
With my girl and bathtub now complete, I turned my attention back to pulling all of the pieces together within the forest scene.  This stage of my mixed-media pieces gets exciting, but can also be somewhat of a challenge as I work to bring everything together into one cohesive piece.  I started by adding some “weight” to the top portion of the painting with additional leaves made of felted wool and ribbons.  I arranged the wool and ribbons haphazardly between two pieces of Solvy, free-stitched the pieces together using clear thread on the sewing machine, and then dissolved the Solvy by immersing the pieces in a tub of water.

leaves
To create a few heavier, dimensional branches, I pounded and torched  pieces of leather lacing.

branches
With all the various elements now complete, I set-out to arrange them on top of the painted canvas.  Initially, I used masking tape to allow for rearranging. Once satisfied with the arrangement, I hand-sewed the branches onto the canvas and glued the felted pieces to the canvas with gel-medium, my most favorite adhesive.  The bathtub called for something a bit stronger due its weight, so I went with an Epoxy glue.

soak2
Almost always, upon finishing a piece of art, I stand back and take-in the piece in its entirety, my eyes wandering all over the canvas.  There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that I have created something meaningful.  That I have shared a piece of my soul.  And when my eyes start to focus on the places that I might have done differently, I remind myself that there is beauty in imperfection and in the process itself.  Just like life.

Soak!Soaking in His Presence
(24×36 canvas)

Coming-up next week:  the inspiration and process behind this piece!

girlinbathtub

Where might you find this bathing beauty relaxing so peacefully?  Stay tuned for the big reveal of my latest piece of art in the coming days!

beyoutiful

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines.  She was beautiful, for the way she thought.  She was beautiful, for that sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved.  She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile even if she was sad.  No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks.  She was beautiful, deep down to her soul.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

teaartjournal

I sit cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom closet, a freshly made cup of peppermint tea in one hand, the white pages of my art journal splayed across my lap and a bag of crayola markers plopped by my side.  Word on the street is that I am either deaf or dead, according to my girl.  Truth be told, I am in Mommy Time-out.  I have  endured an epic day of parenting and there seems to be no relief in sight as my girl stands outside, pounding on the bedroom door.

And then, I just start drawing.  Drawing the fire burning in my belly.  The hand inside squeezing my heart tight.  The cup of tea meant to quench the fire.  Praise me in the storm.  The words keep repeating inside my head.  Praise me in the storm.  I form a body around that belly on fire and she manages to stretch her arms out, offering-up a tired heart in need of restoration.  This gesture is my act of praise.  Thank you for sitting right here with me in the storm, Lord.

Some seasons are like this, aren’t they?  A rough patch of parenting.  Marital discord.  Job stress.  Chronic health issues. When the only thing left to do is to tentatively offer-up our weary hearts and pray for the strength to endure the ache in the hopes that we will witness the beauty and character that is promised to us at the end.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 2: 4

Oh, what a God we have who can and does use these hard seasons to birth even more beauty!  A God who provides us with peppermint tea for our anxious hearts.  A God who knows our own ache through his son Jesus.

I imagine Jesus felt this same longing during his time here on Earth.  Frustration over his people not listening to the message he wanted to give them.  A pained heart as he witnessed physical and emotional suffering all around him.  He didn’t just give-up and walk away, though.  Jesus persevered.  He responded with love and patience even as he cried out to his Father during those final agonizing hours on the cross.

As I travel in and out of these winter seasons of my life, I want to practice the art of praising God for the opportunity to grow in love and patience so that I might be more mature and complete.  Even if it means sipping tea in my bedroom closet.

teaartjournalclose-up

touchinghem
She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.
-Luke 8: 44

steward

I am dependent.  Dependent on a God I cannot see, but who shows himself to me in a million little ways.  And so, when I started thinking about a word that I might focus on throughout the New Year, a word that encompasses the areas of my life that I feel the need to work on, I was reminded of all the ways that God has loved on me when I finally sat at his feet in surrender.  The really really big and the seemingly small, but not unnoticed  ways.  The big things hold stories all of their own, stories that are too long for this post;  however, the small things are those to which I bring my attention more recently.

For instance, in the aftermath of the holidays in my household, I just felt mean.  Plain mean.  My boy and girl, bless their hearts, were just being kids with an extra helping of intensity, but their behaviors just really started getting to me.  If I were in a contest where giving “the look” and throwing-out words of sarcasm were being rewarded, I  surely would have won.  I am, in no way, proud of this tendency of mine when I am a mama worn-thin.  This stubborn streak.  A reminder of my humanity.  A reminder of a mama in need of God’s strength when hers runs dry.  At the same time, if I don’t find myself down on my knees begging for a clean heart every so often, I might be convinced that I can do it all on my own.  A lie that almost always leads to discontent and despair.

All that said, I have done a fair amount of soul-searching and stepping out into the unknown over the past several years with my writing and art.  If I had to describe this journey, I’d say it has been a bit like riding a roller coaster.  Peaks, valleys, fear, and excitement all rolled into one glorious ride.  And while I’m not wanting to step-off the roller coaster all together, I find myself needing to establish more balance along the way.  Along with my stubbornness, I also become distracted easily.  Being a stay-at-home mama who gets to make her own schedule is a gift.  A gift that my husband has afforded me and one that I do not take for granted.  So, when I sit at the end of a day or week and wonder why I haven’t made time for art or why the house is so dirty, I have to consider how I am using these gifts that I have so generously been given .

For the most part, if I am committed, I really do have enough time to do what needs to be done on a daily basis.    But here’s where my humanity kicks-in again.  I sit-down to check my e-mail which then leads me to check Facebook and from there, I go off on some tangent watching a You Tube video that someone posted.  Before I know it, I have allowed what could have been a 5-10 minute check-in to steal an hour away from the time I could have been finishing a few chores and enjoying a long stretch of creating in one form or another.  I am totally aware of this tendency and yet I still fall prey over and over again.

So, this year, my focus word is “steward.”  I want to be a better steward of my time and talents.  Just because I like to have all my bases covered, I did order a copy of Julie Morgenstern’s book Time Management from the Inside Out. I imagine that a lot of what I will read is already inside me;  however, I sometimes need to be reminded of what I know.  Past that, I am counting on God to help me surrender my time and talents to His plan each day.  I am dependent.  Beautifully dependent on a God who created me to live for his glory!

Adventwreath

The holiday season seems to have snuck-up on me this year and I feel rushed.  Rushed to put-up decorations.  Rushed to shop for gifts.  Rushed to write and mail Christmas cards.  Rushed to get into the holiday spirit.  I lay in bed this morning, praying for an attitude adjustment.  That I might replace my shortness with my boy and girl with a loving, gentle disposition.  My boy and girl are just about to burst with anticipation while I snip and snap at them, trying to maintain some sort of control.  At our house, the normal childhood excitement mixed with autism and ADHD produces some pretty intense energy around here, usually in the form of fast, incessant talking,  impulsive little bodies, and an insatiable desire for attention and entertainment.

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with all this unbridled energy, desperate to slow the pace down just a hair.  I need to slow-down for me.  I need to slow down for my family.  Since becoming a mama, I’ve always tried to make sure that the birth of Jesus stay right up there with the arrival of Santa. Surely, an uptight and irritable mama is not the best example of Love come down on Earth.  My boy and girl happily decorated our tree this afternoon (I didn’t move even one ornament!), I finished a batch of cards to be mailed and now that the majority of the gifts have arrived via USPS (Thank you, God, for online shopping!), I gratefully feel myself beginning to relax into the Season.

Each year, I find myself in this same conundrum – Part of me really does enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  And the other part of me, screams for quiet and calm.  Thankfully, the latter part usually gets to settle-in once the initial preparations are made.  Now that the advent wreath graces the dinner table’s center, I enjoy watching the flicker of the candle each evening as we follow Mary’s journey to Bethlehem.  And thanks to my friend Cheryl sharing her family’s tradition with me, we have started our very own “20 Books of Christmas.”  All of the holiday books collected throughout the years are now individually wrapped and lovingly sit in a basket near the hearth.  Instead of devouring all the books at once, as in the past, my boy and girl look forward to choosing one book to unwrap each evening when we can cuddle together on the couch and rediscover an old favorite or maybe even a new one.  Llama Llama, Holiday Drama was quite a hit yesterday evening!

I imagine that most of us mammas carry an extra load of stress around the holidays.  At the same time, if we can intentionally weave quiet moments amidst the busyness, we allow our hearts to truly prepare for the coming of our Savior.  So, go ahead and take that bubble bath, sit-down for a cup of tea, close your eyes for a few moments, and remember to breathe.  It’s all good.

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