What will you create this year?

You may have heard the phrase “New Year, New Décor.” My question would be why take someone else’s idea of décor?  Don’t settle for copying another’s style. Create your own!

Yes, you can create!

You’re probably saying to yourself, “What in the world is Laura talking about? I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Well let’s dream a little bit, PERHAPS:

  • You’ve wanted a room in your house that speaks peace to all that enter.
  • You’re looking to get energized in 2018.
  • You’ve really wanted to do something with that old photo of your parents before it disintegrates.
  • You want to reaffirm the love you have for your children, grandchildren, pets in a special way.
  • You’ve got a drab room you need to clear up or clear out. You just need a fresh vision.
  • You want to create your own special space or a space for someone you love, small or large.

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Creating doesn’t necessarily mean do-it-yourself. You can co-create. All you need is a starting point, an idea, a dream, a vision, a color.

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Art has the opportunity to translate those thoughts, that vision, and transport you to a special place. The world would be a lot duller and colorless without art. A painting can spruce up a dark room or calm you down in your frenzied world. Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves, and lose ourselves at the same time.”

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If there is something in your heart or head, your past or future that you’d like Laura to create in oil, pastel, or acrylic? I’d love to discuss it with you.

I get such joy when I am able to take the dreams of someone and create something that puts all those thoughts on canvas. Here’s a little clip of the unveiling of one of my most recent creations: SarasotaWaterfall

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Keep in mind that the outer you is always a reflection of the inner you. So strengthen your outer self by thinking on “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. Philippians 4:8 

What if your Christmas isn’t Merry and Bright?

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad! Joyeaux Noel! Frohe Weinachten! It’s a festive time of year with holiday greetings everywhere you turn. Local radio stations are proclaiming that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and Hallmark Christmas movies are trending high in the news.

But what if you find yourself a little distant from all the holiday cheer? Maybe this is your first Christmas with an empty chair at the table. Perhaps you find yourself away from family and friends, and not feeling much like celebrating this year. Maybe your home has been fractured by loss, illness, divorce. For any number of reasons, many folks find themselves on the outside looking in this Christmas season.

The Census at Bethlehem (The Numbering at Bethlehem), 1566
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Oil paint on wood panel
115.5 x 164.5 cm
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

I know it can be hard to “get in the Christmas spirit” when your heart is broken. Can I suggest a helpful resource? I enjoy doing special devotions during the advent season and have happened upon a fabulous resource from Biola University . The Advent Project is a series of meditations on Scripture, accentuated with music, art, and poetry. I found have the daily emails to be a tremendous help in refocusing my attitude – both turning me towards gratitude for Christ’s first coming, and in creating a real longing for His second advent when He will put all that is wrong right. You can access all the devotions for the month here.

© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.

Two of my favorite websites also have helpful articles for those facing a deep sadness this Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart suggests three strategies for walking through this season. What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas provides some useful insight and tips for those of us walking with you in this time.  Both those articles are well worth your time to read.

Nativity (2 views), 2006
Brian T. Kershisnik
Oil on canvas
17 x 7‘
Utah Museum of Fine Art

Laura and I will be taking some time off over the holidays, and we hope you will too. In the midst of all the busyness of the time, take time to stop, breathe, rest, and remember. He has come, and He will come again!

 

Who doesn’t love a happy ending?

I love a happy ending, don’t you? Right now you may be thinking of a movie or a book that gives you a warm feeling that all is right and perfect in the universe. I call it the “TaDa” moment.

I’m fortunate, I get a “TaDa” moment when I finish a painting. But it’s not really a happy ending yet.

My ending is just the beginning of enjoyment for others! My true happy ending is watching a collector’s eyes sparkle with delight and wonder when they get their painting.

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Even though I may be commissioned to do a work, I am giving my whole heart to apply all my God given creative abilities in translating a flat photo into art that is alive with emotion so it jumps right off the canvas.

The Bible says that it is so much more blessed to give than to receive. Perhaps in this time of holiday frenzy the phrase is overused and misunderstood. Nevertheless, it is true that delight comes from a gift that is meaningful, original and thoughtful.

Over the years that I’ve been painting, I’ve had the privilege of doing many commissioned works. I love seeing the photographs that loved ones provide and hearing their stories of why they want that particular image painted. But even more, I love seeing the fantastic joy and delight when the painting is finally in the hands of the recipient.

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You can read the stories from these collectors and more on our website.

Perhaps you’d like to experience the joy of giving someone an original piece of art. It’s not too late for a Christmas gift certificate. I’d love to consult with you over what you might have in mind! Contact me to co-create with me a one of a kind gift that really is a happy ending for all involved.

 

Thankful for the Lasting Legacy

Webster defines a legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Several years ago a young couple, who had recently gotten married, began attending our church. Jeremy was starting a new life. And his new wife loved the Lord, and supported and strengthened him. So when she got pregnant and we had a baby shower for her, I decided to give them a gift certificate for a portrait of their new baby boy, Eli.

Eli arrived, healthy and full of energy. I mean full of laughter, love, smiles, and ACTION! That baby loved being held by everyone at church and brought us all so much joy! But getting a photo of the growing Eli, was practically impossible–this little fellow moved fast!! Finally, after many attempts, I was able to capture his zest for life. But alas, it was a lousy cell phone shot.

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I moved ahead anyway, trying to capture him in my preliminary sketch.

But in the back of my mind I had a deep admiration for his mom, Freisia and dad, Jeremy. They were raising two sons, Joshua, Freisia’s first son, and now Eli. They made a commitment to raise a godly family, to leave a godly legacy. In Proverbs 22:6 it states: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

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Just taking pictures of Eli, I realized how challenging it is to make a firm decision in a crooked and difficult world. Parents have a hard task to raise spiritually healthy children who know and love the Lord.

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What does all this have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, to raise kids in a world hostile to Christian values is a struggle. It takes time, energy, and the ability to dedicate yourself and your children into His care and hands.

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There will be lots of families gathered today for Thanksgiving, but I am especially thankful for those parents and grandparents who are raising kids who will learn to love Jesus. I am thankful for the thousands of youth workers, like my friend Joy, who have dedicated their time, attention, and love on the young people who will one day lead our nation. Today, I am especially thankful for all the Michelles, Justins, Jeremys, Freisias, Yvonnes, and countless others who are raising a new group of godly children that will turn into God worshiping adults. We give God all the glory for helping them.

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Thank you Lord for parents, grandparents, church leaders, and teachers that strengthen the true fabric and meaning of love embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ. Empower them as they diligently endeavor to leave a lasting legacy of godly principles and embedding them into our children.

Perhaps you share my admiration for godly shepherds, do tell me about it! If you’d like to leave a lasting legacy in a portrait, it’s not too late to order a gift certificate for that special loved one as a Christmas gift. Email me and we can talk about it.

 

Myth, Fairy Tale, or Dream?

Have you ever had a myth shattered? Some crazy idea that crumbled apart when confronted by the truth? Let me tell you my story. I know this sounds crazy but I decided to donate a painting to Habitat for Humanity. Why is it crazy? Because, I didn’t know a thing about them. I hadn’t looked at their website; I just saw a resale store as we were passing by a strip mall in Brooksville, FL, and I felt compelled to give a painting to a homeowner. I walked in, spoke with a most gracious lady, Carmela Manno and started painting!

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My ideas about Habitat for Humanity were made up, just myths. I made up things in my mind about them, like: they just build houses in inner cities and plunk people in them..that it was started by Jimmy Carter…that all homeowners are on welfare. I had no idea of the dynamic outreach and effectiveness of this organization.

A myth is a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation. I had a myth in my mind and didn’t have the facts, but something kept driving me forward to paint and everyday, I found myself praying and dedicating this painting to it’s new homeowner.

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I had no idea that this organization had already built 65,000 homes. Nor was I aware that Habitat’s real story is a dramatic testimony of one man, Millard Fuller, a self made millionaire, and his wife, who decided to sell all of their possessions, give the money to the poor and begin searching for a new focus for their lives. Millard remembers about that time, “I wanted to make money, buy big cars, have a big house. My business was first. Everything else was second, my wife and our kids. I worked all day, came home had supper, and went back to work. My marriage suffered, our relationship suffered, while my business grew.” Finally, recalls Millard, “We wanted to make our lives count. We tried to figure out, ‘what does God want us to do with our lives?”

I’ve often found in my own life that a spark occurs when I ask a question, Millard and his wife Linda asked and God answered, mega-big. But only after many small journeys, to Koinonia Farm and Zaire, the Fuller’s developed a model for Habitat. A partnership model, based on truth and the good news of helping others help themselves in a grassroots fashion. You can read all about their approach to affordable partnership, no-profit loan housing, built by volunteers and homeowners here.

Wow! Totally different than my myth, but I was about to experience just how Habitat does make dreams come true with lots of loving volunteers, sweat equity and desire. The painting was done.

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It was time to dedicate the house! It was exciting to read their mission:

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Lots of preparation and excitement. You can see the painting on the left covered up with a blue sheet, as a surprise for new homeowner Michele Wyckoff who had spent many, many hours working on her new home. So many sponsors and volunteers gathered.

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The home was lovely! The new homeowner Michele and I posed in her new living room area.

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After a wonderful prayer dedication was completed, the unveiling of the painting was made by Richard P. Massa Jr – Executive Director of Hernando County:

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It was an exciting time for all involved. Jesus was certainly right, when you lose your life you will gain it, when you give, you receive so much more.

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I have a card in my studio by Mary Oliver, that I look at often. It’s a question you need to ask yourself today:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Well?????

 

 

Cluck, Cluck, Collecting

I love pallet knife painting and I love chickens! Fortunately for me I have a friend who loves collecting and appreciates both! Sunny, is the third rooster I’ve completed and she was fun. Sometimes it’s just a good idea to focus on something fun.

collecting 1

If you’ve been listening to the news lately, it’s easy to get down, the woes of the world are many. So I’m going to recommend one of the little pleasures in life, collecting.

The joy of collecting

It’s funny when you talk to some people about collecting things, often he or she will just say, “I don’t know how I started collecting x,y,z, but it just grew. I started to see paintings, ceramics, drawings all around me. Friends started to bring me items and my collection just kept expanding.”

When you start to notice something, it does seem like it’s all around you. Everywhere you turn. If you decide you want to buy a RAM truck then all you start to see on the road are those trucks! There’s even a name for it – the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Half the fun of collecting is displaying all your treasures. Sunny, my latest rooster will be displayed with the other two roosters, I’ve done. If you haven’t seen them, take a look, on my collectors page. I think you’ll agree that Sunny will be a fitting addition to the group. Additionally, I was able to customize Sunny, so to speak, by highlighting the blues and yellows, colors in my friend’s kitchen where she has the other two rooster paintings featured.

Perhaps it’s time for you to start something fun and a collection might be right up your alley! My husband is now collecting Red Pandas!

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What are you collecting?

How about a collecting various 8 x 10 sunsets or a series of sunflowers? Or maybe peppers for someone in your family that likes “hot and spicy”. A collection of paintings as your grandchild grows up, there are many possibilities. If you like roosters then you can always get a few prints  or a mug to kick off your collection. Even better, I’ll be happy to create a custom rooster for you!

It’s good to focus on that which makes us happy, something Sunny! Something to take your mind off tragedy, disasters, disease. I’m not minimizing those things, but we can enjoy the temporary, while keeping our eyes on the eternal too.

Jesus said that we would have trouble, but He is our Overcomer. So enjoy all that His hand has given and set your mind on things above where He is seated in the heavenlies.

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What are you collecting? Are you interested in starting a new collection? Let me know your thoughts.

 

The end…or is it the beginning?

The End. No, I’m not writing the blog post in reverse this week. But we have reached the end of my postings about my recent vacation of a lifetime. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can catch up with my preview post, part one, part two, and part three. I am writing an “epilogue” post in a few weeks, but it’s a bit of a different take. So I’m calling this post the official end.

I could write so, so much more on what we saw and all that we experienced. I’m more than happy to share pictures and details to anyone who’s interested. We had an incredible adventure. I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to share so much beauty with our kids.

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I could write an entirely different blog series on camping with a family, but that one might be more a comedy of errors! All good things must come to an end, and so did our vacation.

The end of a civilization

The last park we visited was Mesa Verde in Colorado. Unlike the other parks we visited, Mesa Verde isn’t so much about the wildness of the landscape, the immensity of canyons, or the breathtaking vistas. The spotlight of Mesa Verde shines brightly on the ruins of the ancient puebloan peoples who made their home among these imposing cliffs.

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Sometimes referred to as the “Anasazi”, the ancient puebloan people were hunter gatherers, and later, farmers. They built thriving civilizations in areas where few of us would dare to attempt living today. In Mesa Verde, many of these dwellings have been painstakingly restored and preserved for us to enjoy.

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The highlight of our time in the park was the tour we took of the Cliff Palace. My girls were excited to take on a steep climb, complete with narrow passages and vertical ladder climbs. By this point in our trip, they were pretty accomplished hikers.

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To protect the ancient architecture, you can only tour the cliff dwellings with a national park service guide. As we walked along, our guide did a fantastic job of telling us the journey these ancient peoples took.

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Mystery still surrounds the story of their demise. We had some interesting conversations with my inquisitive children as they suggested possible reasons for the end of these civilizations.

Not the end, but the beginning

Exploring ruins of a people who have long since faded away reminds me that I am only one part in a much larger story. It is all too easy to think that I am the center of my universe, the be all and end all of my little world. My problems are bigger than others, my successes more worth celebrating, my failures more cataclysmic. And yet, people lived, thrived, and died, long before I existed. No doubt people will continue doing so long after my story has come to an end. I am part of something much bigger.

I believe there is an Author who is writing a great cosmic story. An author who is Himself both the beginning and the end. As I reflect on a past civilization at Mesa Verde, I am reminded of this Author who alone determines the times and places for people to live. While I may be a small piece of the story, He still knows my name. I am not lost to Him.

“And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle 

So if today finds you a little too focused on your own story, remember that you are but one piece in much larger story. Not an insignificant piece, a valuable, important, loved piece. Take comfort in knowing that the One who set the stars and planets in place is writing your story as well. And His story has no end.

The Vacation of a Lifetime – part one

Vacations are what summers are all about! I mentioned earlier that my family planned to take an extended camping trip vacation exploring our national parks. Today, I finally sit down to try to collect my thoughts on some of our amazing journey.

I thought about doing a post for every week we were gone, but there was just too much to cover. So, this will be the first installment of “several” posts about our summer vacation. I hope these posts will inspire you to get out and explore some of the amazing sites in your locale!

Vacation Camp #1

Our first campsite was at Mather campground inside Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim. We had done a few, shorter, camping trips with our girls to get them used to the idea of camping, but this vacation was by far our longest endeavor. Our mantra is “when camping, everybody helps.” The girls were fantastic helpers and we had camp set up, dinner made, enjoyed, and cleaned up all in two hours time. Not a bad start.

Obviously though, the highlight of our vacation was not the speed with which we set up camp, but the sites we explored. I had to laugh when our six year old commented on our first night, “are you sure there’s a canyon here? Because all I see are trees.” She would not be disappointed.

Our first glimpse of the canyon came as we rounded the bend on a hiking trail. The girls had been looking for animal tracks and filling out their junior ranger booklets and suddenly, our oldest looked up and simply said, “wow.”

vacation part one

Honestly, we took loads of pictures, and it is impossible to capture the beauty, the grandeur, the majesty of the canyon. We stayed at that overlook for some time, while our girls sketched their perspective of the vista in their junior ranger booklets. They weren’t wondering about the canyon’s existence any longer!

vacation part one

Our family spent three nights at Mather and hiked many miles during the day. We saw two spectacular sunsets, one at Yaki Point and one at Yavapai Point, and saw glimpses of the Colorado River from the canyon’s rim. We even saw some endangered California condors flying overhead. I can’t help but have an overwhelming sense of my own smallness when surrounded by such vastness.

vacation part one

Vacation Camp #2

We moved on to our second campground in the Kaibab National Forest just outside of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I am happy to declare the north rim as my favorite park of our trip. We had wanted to stay within the park itself, but it’s one campground was already full when we attempted to make reservations in late November of 2016, so we settled for the lesser known national forest campground.

The North Rim is the forgotten rim of the Grand Canyon. It is closed from October through May due to the 10-12 feet of snow they receive each winter. We arrived just two weeks after the park opened for the season. It takes 5 hours to reach it from the south rim, and it is not located near any major cities. I was already predisposed to like this park on those reasons alone. I think the north rim offers views every bit as remarkable as the south rim, despite its less touristy nature. You will just have to visit both rims yourself and make your own determination.

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As I looked around at the Ponderosa Pine and Aspen forests, I was reminded that I was no longer in the desert. At almost 9000 feet, our campground was significantly colder than anything we’d experienced earlier in our trip. We even had frost on our final morning!

Our first morning there was the only time we experienced any rain on our entire vacation. So we opted for the scenic drive instead. We stopped at several overlooks to just bask in the scenery. We were even able to do some shorter hikes in the afternoon when the weather cleared.

vacation part one

One of the highlights of the north rim was our short, but challenging, hike into the canyon itself. No, we didn’t even attempt a “rim to rim” journey but we did take a tiny portion of that same trek. We descended only about 3/4 of a mile down into the canyon, but it was spectacular. Coming back up was less exciting, but we were all proud of ourselves nonetheless. And we were all reminded that we are used to living much closer to sea level!

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The Vacation Continues

We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our vacation. Exposing the girls to the Grand Canyon was the perfect way to kick off our grand adventure. But don’t take my word for it! Add a trip to the Grand Canyon to your bucket list. And if you can only make one rim, go for the north!

I’ll be blogging more about some of the other stops on our vacation. If you want to know any of the specific hikes we did or any of the logistics of our plan, feel free to leave me a comment below!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!