Do you need an Epiphany?

“Happy Epiphany!” “Have a joyous Epiphany!” “Wishing you a blessed Epiphany” I’m guessing you’ve neither given nor received any such greetings this holiday season. It’s entirely possible you have no idea that January 6th is Epiphany. It’s also possible that you may not even know what Epiphany is, or why I’d be writing a blog post on it….

Epiphany is traditionally observed 12 days after Christmas to commemorate the arrival of the Magi to adore the Christ child. Now, the Bible provides scant details on their visit, but Christians throughout history have added in their own details, celebrations and observations.

In our home, about the only celebration we do for Epiphany is that we un-decorate from Christmas. Not actually on January 6th, but the closest Saturday to it. I like to run the Christmas season all the way through until then. So clearly, it’s not my grand observance of this event that spurs my blogging.

No, it’s actually a painting (convenient for an art related blog…) that spurs me to write this time. When I was in college, I was required to take an art appreciation class. I had never considered myself much of an appreciator of art, so I was more than bit intimidated.

I remember having to choose a painting and write a paper about it, specifically about what the artist might be trying to convey through their work. For reasons I do not remember I chose this painting by Sandro Botticelli.

 

 

epiphany

As I began studying the painting, called the Adoration of the Magi, I discovered that Botticelli had painted several different Adorations and as I studied them, I saw some interesting differences. The older paintings of the Magi seemed more formal, the Christ child more distant. The newer paintings were much more intimate. Seriously doubting myself, I timidly wrote a paper positing that Botticelli had undergone some type of spiritual journey as he painted.

I was pleasantly surprised when my professor returned my paper and validated my conclusions. For the first time, I felt like I “got” an artist – that I could look at someone’s art and really understand what was going on in the work; it was more than just “oh, that’s a nice painting.” In a way, it was my own personal “epiphany”.

Epiphany
Do you need an Epiphany?

Now, I’m not writing to encourage you to go take an art appreciation class, or hang a Botticellli print on your wall – though both of those would enrich your life, I’m sure. It’s the beginning of a new year, the time for reflecting on the year that is ending and making resolutions for the new year. What are those things that intimidate you? Are there topics/subjects that seem beyond your comprehension? Is there a skill that continually eludes you? Why not make this year the year to conquer those fears? What step can you take this week to climb that mountain? Share in the comments and we can all encourage each other!

Oh, and Happy Epiphany 🙂

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Driftwood and adoration

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love a surprise gift. I have had very few gifts that have left me speechless. But for Ken and I last Friday, this one was an eye popper! This handcrafted driftwood sculpture stands about 19 inches high. Stunning, like nothing we have ever seen. See what you think:

driftwood and adoration

This was truly a heart gift from our friends Jo & Bill and everything about it resonates with our personalities, our decor (simple) and our love for the Creator.

Driftwood is called “marine debris,” the remains of trees that have been washed into the ocean. To be used properly it must be brushed and bleached. It doesn’t sound very inspiring, yet for ages, man has created art from driftwood.

As I pondered the uniqueness of this gift. I felt the simplicity and elegance of taking such dead, weathered wood and with tiny little nails making a thing of beauty. 

driftwood and adoration

While it is a striking “thing,” the real beauty is that it calls us to the most marvelous act of sacrifice. God, the author of all things, stepping out of His heavenly home and suiting up in flesh, as a baby in a simple stable, laid in a simple manger, made from wood. Simple, yet totally incomprehensible in many ways.

Some people worship great art; some folks worship icons. But God is Spirit and He alone is meant to be adored and worshiped in spirit and in truth

driftwood and adoration

You may not be able to craft a driftwood sculpture, but you can create an atmosphere of adoration in the simplest of ways. Here are a couple of ways I have found:

  • Sing to Him
  • Speak in your heart to Him
  • Love others like He loves

You will be creating if you do those three things, creating a life pleasing to him, a life of being more like Him.

We seem to be awash with lovely blessings this year, our handmade quilt,  this sculpture, the support of my sister, brother, brothers in law, our family, friends, church family. Truly our Father gives us all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). How have you been made rich in your heart and life? How determined are you to create an atmosphere of adoration this season?

 

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Tidings of Chaos and Noise

Does it feel like your world is too full of chaos and noise instead of comfort and joy this season? Too often lately, I’ve felt more like this picture:

chaos and noise

My calendar is too full. I’ve forgotten yet another appointment; I’ve missed another friend who said she wanted to get together. A different family has said “maybe after the holidays” when I’ve tried to schedule something. Not criticisms, just reality. I’m busy. You’re busy.

My “to do” list has overflowed my calendar and endless “post-it” notes are scattered around to vainly try to cut through the noise of obligations and remind me of the endless tasks that need to be done. Everything seems “urgent” these days.

There are gifts to buy and wrap, packages to send, cards to address, cookies to bake. And that’s just this week! Christmas carols remind me that the reason for the season is the Prince of Peace, but my world feels at odds with that at the moment.

Can you relate? Does life feel a bit out of control for you? Do you want to cover your ears and scream – if only to blot out the external noise for just a moment?

As I was rushing home the other day from a bevy of errands, I was convicted by hearing the song “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” on the radio. I know that song, I’ve heard it many times before. But a line grabbed my attention “O Hush the noise, ye men of strife/and hear the angels sing.”

Did you catch that? “Hush”, hush the noise? I don’t remember that being in the song…. And as it turns out, that line is in a 3rd verse that is often not included in hymnals. The story behind the hymn is fascinating, so do have a read over at that link.

What I need is not more time or less stuff to do. I need to HUSH. I need to stop striving, stop rushing and just HUSH. Can I hear the angels singing? Have we missed the message of that first Christmas in all the noise of our “preparations”? Take a minute – or several – and just stop what you’re doing. I know, you have too much to do. Stop anyway.

Take a listen.

He has come, He is coming again and that day will bring real and lasting peace. Let’s not miss that promise of peace in all the noise of our day.

Merry Christmas!!

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Joy for the Sad

There are some paintings you just can’t part with. The painting below, “I’ll Fly Away” was really my first pastel painting. 

© Laura Gabel, "I'll Fly Away". Pastel on art.
© Laura Gabel, “I’ll Fly Away”. Pastel on art.

I didn’t like pastel, I thought it was messy, dusty and difficult. I persevered somewhat, but my teacher Laurie McKelvie was so passionate and so encouraging I just had to plod on. Kudos to her; I ended up loving pastel, learned about the amazing history and longevity of pastel, and developed as a pastel painter. But this blog isn’t about that story, as wonderful as it is.

I wouldn’t sell this painting, not because it’s my first, but because it is somewhat autobiographical. It’s really about the story of how I saw myself.  I was determined to compose and design a painting that portrayed the old me. My art was born out of some very raw pain, sadness and hurt. If you are not familiar with how I came to art very late in my life, please do read my story

When you look at the painting you see a young, unhappy girl gazing at the bluebird, wishing and hoping she could fly away. Believing that beauty was somehow in her future, that freedom was right around the corner. Sadness and pain is on her face but the bluebird is her hope of transformation. 

Finding True Joy

We hear so much about “Joy to the World” during this season and the joy of our Savior’s arrival is real. But as the light of His birth grows brighter and brighter, as we draw nearer to Christmas day there are others, for whom the days grow darker. Sadness overtakes them, loneliness beckons, darkness tries to overtake the light. 

But a prophet (Isaiah 61:1-3) promised that Jesus would come to comfort all who mourn, to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. That promise is real! In fact often when people see this painting they can’t possibly believe that this was me! But it was.

Here are some things I learned during this transforming time:

  • Misery loves company and it’s usually the wrong kind of company! Choose to be with those that will feed your soul with joy, not your sadness.
  • Practice looking for beauty in nature. Peace can be found in the quiet contemplation of His creation.
  • Concentrate on what you have rather than what you don’t have. This is important! All advertising points to what you must have in order to make you happy. But as we all know, the happiness of a new phone, car, dress doesn’t last long. So as my good friend Pam says, “turn your wanter off!”
  • Focus on the Light of the world. 

joy to the world

I’d love to know what you think of my first painting. How have you learned to repaint your life?

 

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What are you waiting for?

waiting of advent
The Annunciation by Leonardo DaVinci

Waiting…..it feels like we as a culture have lost patience with waiting. Our smart phones give us immediate access to anyone and anything we could want; our microwaves allow us to provide sustenance to ourselves (and our households) without the time it takes for a home cooked meal to be prepared. We have “self check out” lines in stores so we don’t even have to wait for a cashier.

My youngest daughter is enamored with the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. One of her favorites (and mine too, honestly) is called Waiting is Not Easy. In this book, Piggie wants to surprise her friend Gerald (the Elephant), but Gerald hates waiting. His moans and groans during his forced waiting are hilarious. In the end (I won’t spoil it all), Gerald finds out that Piggie’s surprise was more than worth the wait. In fact, it couldn’t even be enjoyed without the wait. Try as we may to eliminate waiting from our lives, sometimes it is absolutely necessary.

When it comes to art, waiting is often essential. Great works of art are not created in a brief moment. Appreciating art doesn’t happen in a fly by glance. We need time to create, time to enjoy, time to ponder.

The waiting of Advent

We are currently in the season of Advent, traditionally observed by the church universal as a time of waiting – waiting for the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus the Christ. First, as a celebration of His coming at Christmas, but also as a looking forward to His second coming at the end of time. I find it interesting that in a culture so obsessed with NOT waiting, the observation of Advent has fallen out of favor in many churches and families.

waiting of advent

Here in our family, we do observe Advent. We started our advent wreath this past Sunday. And we begin our advent calendar on December 1st. We try to combine a countdown of fun activities with decorations for a small Christmas tree in my daughters’ room and a nightly devotional reading.

waiting of advent

The wreath, the calendar, the decorations, the lights, all the visual trimmings that go along with this season bring a sense of wonder and beauty to our world. Children in particular are easily engaged through these tangible representations and through both the visual symbols and the devotional readings, we want to cultivate in our family a deep sense of delight in the waiting. The waiting will be worth it when the celebration of Christmas arrives. Not for the gifts, not even for the family that will be gathered in our home. The real joy will be found in the True Gift, the baby in a manger. That same baby who is our one day returning King. The waiting will be worth it.

waiting of advent

Are you waiting?

What about you? Do you dread the busy-ness of the holiday season. Maybe you’ve lost a family member and celebrating Christmas without them just doesn’t even seem doable this year. Maybe you just do Santa but don’t want to be bothered with all the “Jesus” stuff. Perhaps you celebrate Hannukah or Yule or nothing. Can I boldly challenge you to try one of the devotionals I linked to earlier? I know it may be WAY outside of your comfort zone. It may even make you angry that I would suggest it. But in this time of waiting, there is hope to be found. There is comfort and joy in abundance for the Lord is indeed come.

What are you waiting for?

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