A New Beginning

I am off celebrating the New Year, my anniversary and my birthday. This post was one of the original posts we used to kick off the blog and it seemed appropriate to re-share it here as we start off a new year – new beginnings, new dreams, new opportunities. I hope you enjoy and are encouraged! 

new year clip art

I sat sipping my coffee, just finishing a gooey slice of chocolate cake swimming in a strawberry sauce and talking to a well-known watercolor artist in the DC area. “I love the transparency of watercolor, the way light seems to shine through every smear it’s mysterious how it somehow creates a beautiful picture.” Then I told her  “I always thought it would be great to try my hand at it.” Jerry had painted all her life and I brightened as she encouraged me, “You really should try, you can do it, you can learn.” Just then my mom who was sitting with us at the table turned and laughed. “Laura, has no talent, she can’t draw a thing, she’d never be any good at it.” Jerry looked stunned. As I got up to put my plate on a tray, I felt pain, pain is the only way I can describe it.  I worked hard at that moment to forgive my mom, after all, we were here for a Christian conference.  

That was years ago, but I still remember her being disappointed at my finger painting attempts at age 4. Mom was a natural for color and design. She had a “great eye” for putting things together. She devoted her life as a decorator to making things lovely and she really knew how to do it. She also had done a couple of oil paintings and some pastels, she was known as artistic. 

She and my dad devoted themselves to raising me, my brother and sister to do everything as perfectly as possible.

I was never a doodler in school or out, never tried to sketch. I always found art interesting but mine was the verbal and written world. I loved to read and write. Drawing, painting, sketching was something I couldn’t do perfectly, so I didn’t do it at all, actually I never tried or gave it much thought.  I had this yearning though as I turned 50 that was like a mist in and out it would go. Yet my husband urged me lovingly, “You can, you can.”

The pain would swell like a wave on certain occasions and I finally asked the Lord to heal me completely. A year and a half ago I heard in my heart that urging: “I want you to draw, to paint watercolors.”  “I can’t Lord, I don’t know how, I don’t have any talent,” I shot back quickly. “You can and I will show you, I will teach you.” Listening, hearing and obeying was what we were learning in my Bible Study. I gulped, asked for prayer from my women’s study group and my Ken gave me heavy doses of encouragement.

As a learned from God my heart became softer, I released the pain. With every stroke I became more confident in Him and trusted Him more, as I knew it wasn’t me.  I would have never have had the courage to try after that day at the conference. But He spoke through His word, “It’s not who you are Laura, it’s who I AM that matters.” he proclaimed to me and I held on to that.

Several days before my mom died, I told her that I had begun drawing, she wasn’t able to open her eyes, but she kissed my hands and smiled. It was nice.

I didn’t ask to learn to draw, I asked for healing of my heart and hurts. He gave me so much more. But He gave it to me when I stepped out in faith and obeyed His direction. I believed that only he could teach me and He did. I trusted and obeyed.

I learned a lot more than drawing during this time.  I learned that you won’t get anywhere if you don’t ask. Jesus said, “ask, seek and knock”. So I asked, knew that He heard my prayer and expected an answer. My answer didn’t come quickly, so I waited. I didn’t forget my prayer and neither did He. Jeremiah wrote that the Lord said: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

I made a conscious effort to forgive, how could I not?  Jesus died so that I might live forever, I was forgiven and I needed to pass it on. My mom was a very good mom, but I learned that everyone, no matter how “good” is not perfect. I heard a little saying, Christians aren’t perfect, they are just forgiven. Now, I’m more careful with my words and try to hold on to the great Apostle Paul’s advice, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” 

My spiritual support was God, He was all over this journey, and it was His making. But, love from others gave me an outer, motivating confidence. It would have been much harder without my husband’s loving insistence and effusive compliments, no matter how my drawings turned out. I also knew that my Bible study friends were praying for me and holding me accountable.

Have I learned to draw? Well, you never stop learning to draw. I did 5 or so drawings and a watercolor or two the year after my mom died. The year after my mom died, I stepped forward and registered for a class. Unthinkable, that the perfectionist would expose herself to others. When the teacher saw me gazing at the apple I had drawn and said “I know you like your apple Laura” but I want you to trust me and apply this next color…” She didn’t realize that wrapped up in that apple was the miracle of God’s healing for me. That apple was an incredible symbol of His redemption of my pain and true forgiveness. So when you pray remember that you are the apple of His eye and He hears and wants only good for you too. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Ps 145:8-9. Thank goodness I am one of His works!

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Merry Christmas

El_Greco_-_The_Nativity

Merry Christmas!! Hopefully you’re reading this post as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with those you love. Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon this post and Christmas isn’t quite so “merry” this year, and loved ones are not gathered near. It’s possible you’re reading this post and you don’t really even celebrate Christmas, or at least don’t attach to it any specific religious significance. If that’s you, I hope you’ll read on, and I pray you will be encouraged.

Much like this El Greco painting, there is a baby in the center of my family’s celebration of Christmas. That baby is no ordinary baby; as the angel said to Mary, “You shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1: 31-33). 

How do you picture Jesus? There has been some buzz recently about a new artist recreation of what Jesus actually looked like. () But In El Greco’s nativity, Jesus, Mary and Joseph have the same appearance as El Greco’s own friends and neighbors. The song “Some Children See Him” imagines children seeing Jesus as “lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” and “dark as they,” finally concluding that “The children In each diff’rent place Will see The baby Jesus’ face Like theirs.

I think most of us tend to imagine Jesus looking like us. But the prophet Isaiah says

“Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah’s description doesn’t fit our imaginings. It certainly isn’t like most of the pictures I see of Jesus. We don’t often think of this passage when we think of baby Jesus in His little manger, but this passage gives us the reason Jesus came as a baby so many years ago. Isaiah continues:

“Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus came as a baby to go to the cross for sinners. He didn’t come just to be a good example or a good teacher. He didn’t come to start a revolution. He came to be crushed. He came to be stricken. He came to be pierced. He came to be smitten by God. For us. Not just for those of us who have Pinterest worthy homes; not only for those of with homes full of cheerful loving families. He came for wounded, broken, sinful people – for everyone who will turn to him. 

Christ is the true gift at Christmas. Almighty God took on human form and was born to a family in poverty. He would not grow up with wealth and comfort. He would not grow to assume worldly power. He would grow up to take a cross and die so that we might have forgiveness for sins and be reconciled to God. As the great missionary and pastor Paul of Tarsus once wrote, “[This is] the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Not rich in stuff, but rich in that spiritual wealth that only comes through Christ.

That is the real message of Christmas. This year, see the manger in light of the cross.

If you are wondering how all this can be true or how it affects you, please have a read here and leave me a comment below.

Regardless of what your Christmas celebrations may or may not look like this year. For all who trust in Him, you have a Father who gave His son as the best gift you could ever receive. That is indeed cause for joy this season.

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Walk the Dog?

Today I received an email promotion from Etsy, an online site that specializes in selling handcrafted items. This email had tiny pictures of gift ideas. One of them was a young kid about 9 or so, who had a on a what? A fish tail from waist down. I thought, how weird, a handmade, knitted shark or mermaid tail. What do they do with it?

Then I realized how far removed I was from the world of “play”. You read this right, I wrote PLAY. I sat there for a moment and let my mind drift. I was 9 again, I realized I could spend hours with a friend playing mermaid on the beach, making up fanciful stories of adventure and romance or having a dressed up shark playmate try to wriggle and catch me– Lauri-Lei mermaid. The scene was filled with giggles and plain old fun.

It’s one week before Christmas and you are probably thinking, she’s nuts! I can’t PLAY, I have to ____________ (you fill in the blank).  Your list is probably as long as your arm and you probably only see PLAY as a luxury or perhaps think you don’t deserve to have any fun, you’ve got tooooooooooo much to do. 

 I’m guilty of hustling through life with my to do list on my back weighing me down.  Fortunately, God gave me a spouse who is not so hindered. I appreciate my husband because of his childlike nature; he’ll never grow up. Yet, my best times are when I am in his presence and he makes me laugh or something fanciful or strange comes out of his mouth. He reminds me to PLAY.

So that’s why I’m going to suggest that you stop, and look for an opportunity to PLAY during this holiday season. Play reduces stress hormones, allows you to get into a time warp (flow), can relax you or allow you to engage and connect with others.

SnowDog150

“Snow Dog” is a very popular painting, I always get comments on him, people love him. They imagine themselves outside romping in the snow. Have you ever watched a dog that loves the snow play in it? It’s amazing, zigging, zagging, rolling, eating and throwing snow in the air.  Cultivate play time during the rest of the month; make a memory not another list. Don’t just walk the dog, play with him or her!

PLAY for the pure JOY of it.  The real joy of Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth.  Be a child again and celebrate the joy of God, who put on flesh and walked among us.  

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Where is home?

georgia-o-keeffe-31-638

“Home is where the heart is.” “Bloom where you are planted.” “Wherever you are, be all there.” All of these phrases have been oft quoted to me as our family has faced multiple moves. We have moved seven times in our twelve years of marriage, and this despite not being a military family. And though we want to put down roots, the day will likely come when we will move again.

So where is home? How do I be all there? How do we flourish?

Currently, our home is in Georgetown, Texas, the Red Poppy capital of Texas, a suburb north of Austin, and one of the fastest growing cities in the country. We moved here in July for my husband’s job and have been learning and finding our way since then. I doubt Georgia O’Keeffe had Central Texas in mind when she painted these beautiful poppies, but they capture the wild loveliness we have found in our new home state.

Moving to a new home isn’t just about finding a new doctor, grocery store, church, and school. It isn’t about finding the best shortcut from home to work, or where to put the dishes in the new kitchen. In many ways, those are some of the easier parts of moving. And when you’ve moved as much as we have, those sorts of details seem to fall into place fairly quickly. 

How do you make this new place feel like home? That is often the greater challenge. What is it that makes a place feel like home? Knowing your neighbors? Attending community activities or school functions? Sharing a cup of coffee with a friend at your kitchen table? All those things are part of making the new feel familiar, and we are working diligently on all those fronts.

But I think a place really begins to feel like home when I gather with friends and no longer feel the need to share my “back story” in every conversation, the scenes in our family narrative that we take for granted with those who know us well — When did you move here? Where did you move from? What brought you here? And when my friends no longer feel the need to ask how I’m settling into a new place.

I feel at home when I can just be. 

For some of us, we may have lived in the same place for years, and it still doesn’t feel like home. You don’t have folks with whom you can be without masks, pretenses, qualifiers, and explanations. Social media too often does not help (and yes, I see the irony here). So much of our communication today is reduced to tweets, tags, and texts. How then can we truly be at home with one another?

We need to cultivate a sense of home. Let me encourage you today to make the first move. Whether you’re an old-timer or newcomer in town. Take a plate of cookies to a neighbor. Brew a pot of coffee and call someone up. But most importantly, be you. Be who you are: Take the mask off, drop the pretense, take a risk to share yourself. Yes, it’s feels frightening, but the rewards are incalculable. 

And remember that there is a God who took on flesh and made His home among us, who took the initiative with us that through faith in Him we might drop our pretenses, discover forgiveness, and dwell forever at home with Him. 

So is Georgetown “home” for us? It’s getting there. And I’m headed over to a friend’s house even today. 🙂

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Delight in Art

I’m always surprised at the variety of responses I get about a painting. The lovely and frustrating thing about creating art is that it evolves, takes on a life of it’s own. Take “GG”, which is short for “Golden Girl” this was my name for her all the way through the painting process.

GG1I was fixated on the golden light as I painted. Light and shadows always create a dynamic composition. The tension of taking a flat piece of paper and turning it into something that gives the viewer a sense of life is very exciting and mystifying! Andrew Hemingway, a British artist said: “What we know is interesting, but what we don’t know is even more interesting.” (You can see his works here.)

Anyway, GG lives and breathes on paper so to speak and creates different reactions from different people: “she looks sad, she’s beautiful, she’s focused on something that is disturbing, she’s wondering, she looks so grave for a child.” 

Really, GG is just a snapshot in time that makes us think. Now, we have busy December upon us, but I encourage you to take time to think, to ponder on the mysteries of life, the meaning and purpose of your existence. We see in GG the many mysteries of ourselves. What do you see in her?

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone