My daughter the unwitting celebrity

I have a “famous” daughter. My children are an endless source of inspiration and I love to write about them. In fact, I just did a quick search on my own blog and found more than ten examples of posts where I mention my girls. We take them on trips to art museums, we expose them to local artisans, we encourage their own creativity, and we delight to see them embracing, appreciating, and contributing art.

We, as a school community, celebrate both the visual and performing artistic endeavors of our students in grades K through 12 every spring. The students perform a variety of musical numbers for their adoring fans.  We also have a chance to view many of their art projects on display. Students are invited to submit original artwork to grace the cover of the program for the evening’s festivities.

daughter art 2

My oldest daughter labored for days on getting her design just right. She wanted to find the perfect illustration for this year’s theme of “summer”. In the end, the teachers recognized her hard work by granting her the privilege of having her artwork on the program’s cover. She became an instant celebrity on campus the day it was announced. I arrived to pick her up at the end of the day, and as we lingered on campus, every student who passed us called out their congratulations.

daughter art

Proud daughter, proud mama

I was so proud of my daughter for having her artwork recognized. Our students were so gracious to acknowledge their classmate’s success, and to be genuinely proud of her accomplishment. My daughter was definitely excited to have won, but she was also humble. I know that she does not like to be in the spotlight and was even a bit embarrassed at all the attention. She was also extremely worried about being publicly acknowledged during the night’s program. Her fears were relieved when she was simply recognized verbally that evening.

Now, I don’t know whether or not my children will ever have artwork on display in a gallery or a museum. But I do know that they love to create. Their minds of full of countless ideas, and art is one way in which they can express that imagination. I want to encourage them to be creative. We want them to enter contests, to take risks, to face their fears. I’m delighted that their school and their art provide them with opportunities to do so.

daughter art 1

What about you? Are there risks you can take? What art do you have to create? We all have something to share. Let’s also be the ones to cheer others on in their successes. And remember, if you should see artwork by A. Keller in your local museum, you saw her here first!

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In Search of Some Good News

Do you find yourself tired of hearing the phrase, “I wonder what’s going to happen next?” Are some of your friends programmed into the continuing saga of the “terrible”? Sometimes it seems that there is constant chatter which revolves around tragedy, sickness, poverty etc. I’m in search of some good news – how about you?

Please understand, I’m not denying that those things exist. I, myself, want to look for the good. Sometimes though, I think my brain is calibrated to look for the negative. Yet, last Saturday, I felt a stirring of hopefulness beating in my chest. A whisper that said, “look around and see what I have been up to and it’s good.”

So I’m encouraged, a lot! In fact, lately I’ve experienced true heroes and heroines in my everyday life. I want to share a few of these with you.

“Try not to become a man of success rather try to become a man of value.” –Albert Einstein

Good news at church

The men at Faith Community Church designed and developed a breakfast tribute to the women of the community last Saturday. It was awesome! I was amazed to see men with hearts to say, “you women are super special to us and we want to spoil you.” We were served, sung to, and encouraged by men with genuine hearts.

good news

It’s heartening to know that we have men in the land that value women. Men who value women not just on a special day, but every day!

And I’m encouraged by the bravery and solid strength of our young women of today. A month ago, I visited Ft. Worth and was overcome by the zeal and love for the Lord in so many of the young women I met at City Life Center. Young mothers, teaching school, bringing up their children, walking next to their husbands, walking a hard, but godly road.

good news 2

Good news in families

I am impressed by Michelle, my co-blogger who daily makes a decision to lovingly serve her family with joy in her heart. I was excited to be with one such mother yesterday, who is looking to strengthen her identity in God and impact her family.

I’m encouraged by a young couple, Jeremy and Cammie, who adopted 4 girls. They have recently made a heart wrenching decision to sacrifice so much, in faith that one of those daughters would grow stronger in a program away from them.

It’s hard to shine in a culture that cultivates a “me first” attitude.  We are reminded to “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Phil. 2:14

I know that television and radio generally features bad news. But if that’s all we see, it’s a mighty narrow vision. A negative focus isn’t a healthy focus. I was reminded of this, when I read Psalm 16:2-3, “I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you. The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

I want you to be encouraged to look for those heroes and heroines  right in your own back yard. I’d love to hear about those folks who are being a light of encouragement in your life!

 

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A Gala, Grace, and Goodbye

A wise bear once said, ““How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. If that is true, then I am indeed lucky, blessed in fact.

Two years ago, my family moved to the Austin, Texas area because my husband had accepted a teaching position at a classical school in Georgetown. This summer finds us packing up our home, saying “goodbye”, and moving yet again. I am excited to start a new adventure at a new school. However, I am finding the saying of “goodbye” to be incredibly difficult.

Recently, Laura blogged about a new painting she was finishing up for a benefit auction for our current school, Grace Academy. When I had originally asked Laura if she’d be willing to paint a landscape of our campus for the auction, I did not know we would be leaving the school. And so I found myself on a Friday night, surrounded by people who love the school and were excited to contribute their funds towards the furtherance of Grace Academy’s mission. Among the items up for bid was Laura’s painting.

goodbye to grace

Unexpectedly, I found myself anxious over it’s sale. Not because I didn’t think it would be popular, but because I was worried over who might get the painting. Would it be someone I know? Someone who loves art? A family who loves Grace Academy? Even though I didn’t create the beautiful landscape, saying “goodbye” to it felt a bit intimidating; it was also a “goodbye” to the school I’d come to love.

The auction was a silent auction, so I wasn’t aware of how the bidding was going. A friend of mine promised me that she’d let me know who purchased the painting once all the dust of the gala auction had settled. The next morning, I received a text from a dear friend that said, “guess what I have?!” and this picture:

grace goodbye 2

Not quite goodbye….yet

I found myself relieved that she was the one who purchased “Sunrise at Grace”. I told her that I was glad it was going to a good home; having it with her felt like it was still “in the family”.But I was also sad as the realization hit that she would be one of the hardest people to bid goodbye. She also texted me, “And now with y’all moving it holds another special place for me because I wouldn’t have the painting without your connection to Laura. So thank you! I will treasure it always. And always think of your and your family as well as the school we love so much!”

I have joked with her in the past that she is my muse when I have nothing to write about. On at least one occasion, she was the direct inspiration for my post of the week. I can think of countless other friends that I have met as a result of our time at Grace Academy who have so clearly influenced who I am as a person.

My friend sent a wonderful thank you note to Laura in regards to the painting:

I am writing to let you know that my family now has your beautiful painting of the Grace Academy landscape on our mantle! It is just beautiful!!! It will always hold a special place in my heart. Our two boys (currently 10th and 8th graders) started attending school at Grace in third and first grade. I can so clearly remember the first time my husband and I drove onto campus. The property is beautiful and just has a feeling of peace and joy. Even 8 years later I think of that first time I entered campus and how peaceful it was almost every single day that I drive onto the property. So thank you Laura! Thank you for your selfless donation of time and talent to our school. We will treasure it always. May God richly bless you in your artistic endeavors!

goodbye

This school will always hold a special place in our hearts as well. Even as I am writing this, I am a substitute teacher in the Upper School. I was just told by a roomful of eighth graders that I am their favorite sub, as I passed out their difficult Logic test. We will miss the students, we will miss the teachers, we will miss the parents. We are lucky indeed, for it is quite hard to say goodbye.

 

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These goats mean business

Alas, I don’t! As some of you know I have a rooster and some chickens, but no goats.

juladame goat business

Just recently though, I learned how goats launched a business. I met Julie Wells a while back at an arts and crafts show. By chance and love, my dear husband bought me some of her all natural hand cream. I’m not the kind that goes out and buys hand cream for myself, but at the risk of sounding like a commercial, I couldn’t believe how wonderful that stuff was.

So, I’ve had it in my head to talk to Julie Wells, creator of Juladame, and find out what she might have to share with me and our readers. Her journey is quite interesting.

Here are a few important things I gleaned from my time spent with Julie.

juladame business

The business of being mindful
  • Creativity is not always due to natural talent. Julie said she just fell into it when someone gave her a few goats that needed milking. Chance and opportunity are good friends.
  • Julie paid attention. She said it just felt right. Pay attention when something feels right to you, when you are in the moment of being present and enjoying that time. That “still small voice” in all of us needs to be surfaced and acknowledged.
  • Decide if you’re really passionate. Julie was surprised to learn that some people consider her an artisan. If you enjoy any of Julie’s products, you easily see that she loves what she does and has developed quality soaps and creams. But Julie considers herself an educator. Why? Because in Julie’s heart, people should not have to settle for products that have a lot of harmful chemicals. She’s truly excited when people see the benefits of goat’s milk on their skin.

Juladame1 business

The business of perseverance
  • Be determined. While Julie fell into it, she kept on with it. In effect she kept falling forward. When she moved to Florida, her tried and true recipes from New York weren’t working. She didn’t throw up her hands here in Florida, and walk away from her business. She persisted.
  • Don’t think you’re too old! Julie started when she was 42 years old. As many of you know I started painting when I was around 59. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt when he was 80 years old, fearing the journey, yet trusting God. Fear at any age is our greatest enemy.

Juladame8 business

  • She cares. Julie named her business as a legacy for her 3 daughters. Listen to the interview here to learn how:

    One of her daughters is a dedicated mother and can see the benefits of working from home. Julie also considers her customers her friends. She gets to know them, their needs, and appreciates their feedback. So for her it’s all about family and friends.

Juladame7 business

Julie has some special words to share with those of you who may not believe you are creative. She’s encouraging, and her products make lovely gifts and are reasonably priced. Why not treat yourself or a friend? Go to Julie’s page and give her a call.

Let’s support our local artisans! Which brings me to a special request. Do you have an artist, artisan or friend that you think might make a great guest? Please let me know.

 

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The Art of Friendship – revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a book launch team for the book “Messy Beautiful Friendship”. Well, the book has launched, and now I’m “launching” my book review.

Christine Hoover, the author, is a pastor’s wife in Charlottesville, VA. In God’s providence, I was once a pastor’s wife in Virginia, and Christine and I had the chance to correspond over email. We’ve not kept in touch personally throughout the years, but I do read her blog. So, I was excited when she mentioned that she was writing a book on friendship. I was happy to sign up to be on her launch team and read her book.

I appreciate Christine’s uninhibited style of writing. She is honest about her failures and humble about her success. Most importantly, she grounds all of what she has to say not in her own experience, but in the Scriptures. If we are to discover what real friendship is, as Christians, we must look to what the Bible says friendship ought to be.

As someone who has moved six times in my 13 years of marriage, I know how challenging it can be to make friends. Even finding a casual acquaintance can be intimidating – especially for those of us who are more introverted in nature. But finding deep, lasting, godly, life giving friendship? Sometimes that seems like an impossibility.

friendship

What is Friendship?

Christine looks at some of our misconceptions about what friendship is and then lays out a biblical vision for true friendship. She posits that we often find ourselves dissatisfied with our current friendships because we don’t have an accurate understanding from the Bible of what friendship should be. She says:

When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can. I want God to give me good friends, and when he has, I’ve been prone to shove him aside for the attention, wisdom, and companionship of those friends, despite knowing that they were intended as gifts rather than replacements. People are not fillers for a present God, and God is not a placeholder for future friends. (Messy Beautiful Friendship, p. 38)

All too often, I find that to be true. I’d rather have the “perfect” friendship here and not rely upon the eternal friendship I have with Christ. I want to see friendship as a gift from God. But the challenge to me is not to love the gift more than I love the Giver.

friendship

Threats to Friendship

She also then examines some of the threats to developing deep and lasting friendships. In her final sections she offers some practical wisdom and insightful challenges to us as we seek out friendships that honor Christ. I especially appreciated her chapter entitled “Faithful Wounds” about speaking the truth in love. Unfortunately, our culture has adopted the idea that to love someone means you never disagree with them, and thus would never have a need to confront them. However, the Bible teaches that “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” (Prov. 27:5) It is precisely because we love our friends that we will confront them when we see them wandering from the truth.

I highly recommend Christine’s book. Even if you are a person who makes friends easily, it can be a helpful reminder of what biblical friendship is. The book is a quick and relatively easy read. She even includes some discussion questions in the back of the book. I think the book quite readily lends itself to being a selection for a ladies book club.

friendship

As I am facing yet another move, I find myself grieving the leaving of my current friends and feeling anxious about making new ones. What a comfort to know that I already have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Tell me a story of one of your dear friends. Or share a picture of you with your friends! I’m always encouraged by hearing how God has blessed you. And if you happen to pick up a copy of Christine’s book, let me know what you think.

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Rest and Recharge to Charge Ahead!

sunrise at grace rest
© Laura Gabel, “Sunrise at Grace”. Oil on canvas, 24″x48″. $850.

I’m taking a bit of a rest because I’ve just completed a 2 foot by 4 foot painting that will be at a benefit auction for Grace Academy in Georgetown, just outside of Austin, Texas. It’s a sizeable painting and I am excited to be able to share it with all of you!

Here are a few progress shots from the painting “Sunrise at Grace”:

Grace sunrise rest

Sunrise at Grace rest

When I start, get in the middle, and finish a painting like this one, there is a lot of planning involved to make sure the composition works out well. The overall effect that I want to portray must be in my head before I ever take paint to canvas.

Something else happens when I paint. I go through many emotional moments: concern, joy when a certain section turns out really well, despair when I think I’ve blown it, self doubt, and exhilaration. Finally, I come to the moment when I say “it’s done” in my head. But I’d still like to have another month with it. 

Sunrise Grace progress 7

Sunrise at Grace progress 8

Then the last feeling for me is a jumble of being happy, sad, and exhausted.

Some paintings are all consuming, for me. I often find that means I have a hard time stopping. I think, dream, and have it floating around in my head a lot! This was one of those paintings.

I can tell when my battery is low and I need to recharge so I can move forward. Moving forward means digesting what I’ve learned from this painting and clearing my heart and mind. I need to make room for my next painting, which more than likely, will be entirely different.

How do I recharge? I actively rest! Huh? It sounds like an oxymoron but it isn’t.

First, a couple of questions for you about rest:

  • When you think of the word “rest” in a natural sense what does it mean to you?
  • What does the word “rest” mean to you in a spiritual sense?
  • Do you find that you try to “rest” in the Lord only when you’ve explored all your other options, or hit rock bottom?

Now that you’ve taken a little inventory, here are a couple of things I’ve learned about rest that have helped me. Hopefully these will give you a different perspective on rest.

Rest is fruitful

Our minds can be refreshed and our strength renewed when we slow down and allow our minds and emotions to enjoy quiet times. Try it; watch what happens when you take a walk, go to the beach, meditate on just one scripture or turn off the cell phone and tv.

Rest is an activity

I admit this really doesn’t make sense but if you schedule a time-out for yourself you are halfway there. Being intentional about resting doesn’t mean you strive or struggle. It means you can be determined to take that break whether it be for 10 minutes, a day, or a weekend. Rest takes practice. Exodus 23:12 reminds us that “on the seventh day you shall rest;…that [you] may be refreshed.”

Rest is a choice

When you choose to recharge your batteries, you have decided to go against the world’s wisdom that counsels that we should run faster and harder. Choosing to take some of your time and dedicate it to slowing down is the best way to partner and collaborate with Christ. He promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Here is my simple way to practice rest: by deciding to climb into His loving arms to be held, behold Him and be loved! 

How do you recharge your batteries? Has this article has given you the encouragement you need to practice resting? If so, let me know.

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The Art of Friendship

Webster defines friendship as “the state of being friends”. Unless we are clear on what a friend is, that definition is not particularly helpful. Webster here provides a more helpful definition of “one who is attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion“. So we can say that friendship then is the state of being attached to another by affection or esteem; having favored companions.

Think for a moment about the friendships in your life – what affection or esteem attaches you to those individuals? What is it that links our lives with the lives of others? Paul Cézanne painted a series of paintings called “The Card Players” that visually explores some of these connections.

 

art of friendship

Here, we see two gentlemen engrossed in a card game. There is no money on the table, thus indicating that they are not gambling but are simply engaged in a friendly game of cards. The background is ill-defined, perhaps because it doesn’t matter where they are, or perhaps to further place these men in the spotlight of the painting.

In other works in the series, the crowd of men grows:

art of friendship

And in one, even a child is included:

art of friendship

In all of these paintings, the card players themselves are the focus. How long have they gathered to play cards? Why do they gather to play cards? Cézanne used local farmhands, some of whom worked on his family farm, as his models for these paintings (and numerous sketches that were completed prior to the paintings. The relationships between these men may have been little more than co-workers, yet here we see them spending time together, sharing a mutual affection for cards. So is this friendship?

I often hear folks make a distinction between “friends” and “acquaintances”, in order to clarify that simply knowing a person and being in proximity to them does not guarantee a friendship exists. As someone who has moved several times in my married life, I definitely agree that just knowing people doesn’t mean I have a friendship with them. I might even play cards with them, but friendship, that requires something more – more time, more effort, more risk.

What is Friendship?

I was recently invited to be part of a launch team for a new book by Christine Hoover entitled Messy Beautiful Friendship. I’ve only just begun reading the book and I’m excited to see what she has to say. She begins with crafting a new definition of friendship – one that requires us to let go of our assumptions that friendship is really just about me and finding people with whom I “click.” But what if friendship wasn’t about me and what I gain from it? What if developing friendships was more like creating art – more about the process and the delight of the recipient and less about my own needs and insecurities? Can we even conceive of what that might look like?

The book just released on the 18th of April, and I’m eagerly trying to finish it. Stay tuned for another post once I’m done. In the meantime, tell me about some of your most treasured friendships – what is it that makes them so valuable?

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A Wonderful Reunion

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a surprise reunion with someone you loved and lost?

Unexpected, joyous…a warmth in the heart. At least that is what I hope for Ian when he sets eyes on his beloved dog Sally in this painting.

Ian reunion

This painting of Ian was commissioned as a surprise from his sister-in-law Joy and I was excited to create this for many reasons. This is an international painting, as they live in England. Second, I love making memories come alive for my clients. Time stands still and yet travels right into the heart when a painting speaks to him or herIan’s beloved dog is no longer with him, but what a sweet reunion he will experience through art.

Simply, when I paint, it delights me to delight the viewer. 

The painting should be in Ian’s hands by the end of this week. So I’ve included a few progress shots for his family and you.

reunion progress 1

The challenges of developing a painting stroke by stroke are well worth the effort. Pastel is such a vibrant medium and I really wanted to show the tender love these two had for each other.

The way they look at the camera together mirrors a long and loyal relationship.

I am very much believing that Ian will be totally surprised at seeing his special friend come alive.

An Easter Reunion

It’s one thing to see a painting of a friend you think you’ve lost forever, but it’s another to see that friend resurrected and very much alive after he has been in the grave for 3 days!  What a reunion that would be!

Imagine the heart palpitations, the joy, the disbelief, the overwhelming feeling that it really can’t be.

That’s what Mary saw as she lingered in the garden, looking for her loving friend Jesus’ body. But it wasn’t his dead body she found. He was alive! She saw him, she spoke to him and he said, “go and tell the disciples that I am he, I am alive!”

Yes, she saw him with her own eyes. Some say, seeing is believing, but Christ emphatically told one of his disciples, Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

That should give us all hope this wonderful Easter week.

Perhaps you have not believed, but are ready to now.  Realize that according to Jesus and His word, you are blessed! Talk to a friend, visit a church, email me at laura@lgabel.com.

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Finding Your Voice

Alas our wonderful rooster Max died a couple of weeks back. I’m learning that chickens just do that, sometimes for no reason. At any rate, the ladies of our hen house, now number 6 (Trixie, Greta, Lucy, Ethel, Eenie, Meenie) and they needed a rooster! Enter Max II, a feisty all black rooster, that is a teenager.

As a teen, Max II had not yet crowed, so we waited. Then one morning about a week or so ago, I heard this feeble little crowing, and then again, and again, a little louder the next time. It was exciting, Max II was finding his voice! Finally, a real cock-a-doodle-do came out. It took effort.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop sponsored by the Nature Coast Art League. Our instructor was Christine Peloquin, an amazing artist and teacher.

Peloquin voice

Christine is generous, funny, outgoing and giving. She came prepared and guided us through an exciting artistic process that she has developed over time.

She’s made a wonderful video “Reflecting My Place In This World”  which describes her journey in finding her artistic style, philosophy, her voice.

Like all of us, Christine is an amalgam of her heritage, her family, and her life experiences. One of the things I really appreciated about Christine is how she began the workshop by telling us how she evolved as an artist. How she got to where she is today. (And in my mind, in preparation for tomorrow.) In effect, she talked about finding her voice in the art world.

voice Peloquin
“Story Seen in the Picture” by Christine Peloquin. 30″ x 24″ acrylic, charcoal, paper and fabric collage on wood panel
What’s Your Voice?

Now don’t tune out, you don’t have to be an artist, writer or musician to find your voice. Your voice is simply who you are and who you were created to be. It involves your mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Some folks develop their voice unconsciously. Others, very deliberately look to explore how their talents, skills, passions, and life experiences can be of value to others.

The idea behind finding your voice is important: “you are unique, an imprint of the Divine, there is no one on earth quite like you.” This is a very exhilarating and sobering idea.

If you pay attention, you often inherently know what you are good at, what you’re passionate about, what you love doing, often how you find yourself helping others.

Finding My Voice

In this workshop and all the others that I’ve participated in, I take a piece of that creative spark and absorb it, so that it becomes more me. It’s a process.

Laura, Star, voice blog

I’m curious by nature and I’m not trying to rush this journey, I’m trying to enjoy it!

It’s about discovery. “God gets glory from concealing things; kings get glory from investigating things.” Proverbs 25:2 CJB So don’t rush it, it will evolve.

“Revelation is never a straight road. It is Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz; it is Lucy’s story in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a series of events that form His story in you that changes your DNA and aligns you with His.” Shawn Bolz.

Stay tuned for an interview with Christine and learn how she has creatively developed ways to impact others and enhance her world and ours.

I’ve been learning a lot about “finding my voice”, how about you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

I hope you like Star as much as I do! You can find my work here.

© Laura Gabel, "Star". Acrylic and Mixed Media on Board, 16x12. $275.
© Laura Gabel, “Star”. Acrylic and Mixed Media on Board, 16×12. $275.
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Musings on a Muse

“Muse” has become a popular way of describing the source of inspiration for one’s creative endeavors. But originally, the Muses were seven sisters who were thought to preside over songs, poetry and the arts in general.   Euterpe has been of particular interest to me lately, as she is often portrayed with a flute and is the representative muse of lyric poetry.

flute muse

I have played the flute since I was a young child. However, since my college days, I’ve not had many opportunities to play. Over the Christmas holidays, I attended a concert at my local public library with a harpist and a flautist.  After the concert, I introduced myself to the flautist and discovered that she teaches flute at the local university where I live and leads a flute ensemble there.

Finding my muse

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself every week with 3 other students and one faculty member rediscovering my love for my flute and having an amazing time playing beautiful music together. It’s never too late to return to your artistic loves. I feel energized, free, less stressed, just happier overall because I have that outlet again. I’m so grateful for my husband encouraging me to seek out the opportunity to play again and for my new musical friends who’ve welcomed me and been patient with me as I get the rust out of my playing ability. I’ve found my muse again.

flute and situ muse

I’ve also learned to play a new instrument – the sikus (also called Andean panpipes). There is a separate little ensemble that play Andean folk music, and I was welcomed warmly as I learn to play this new instrument.

Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve been so impressed by the humility of these students as they listen and learn from one another. I’m looking forward to playing with them throughout the year.

 

Finding your muse

So what inspires you? Who is your “muse”? Is there a long forgotten hobby or passion that you’ve stuffed aside? Maybe there’s something new that you’ve been thinking of learning. What’s stopping you? When we create, we showcase the beauty and creativity of the One who created us in His image. Share your muse stories  – your “musings” with me!

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