We Gather Together for what?

How would you answer that question? We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing….so goes the old hymn. Was that your first response? If you know the hymn, it’s probably stuck in your head now, so perhaps that was your answer!

Many of us will gather with loved ones, friends, family, maybe even strangers, and celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But why do we gather? I’m not talking about historical or political underpinnings of the official “Thanksgiving” holiday. My hunch is that most of us have never thought much about why we gather. At the same time, most of us would not want to celebrate the holidays alone. There’s something about our need to celebrate that is most fully expressed as we gather.

I’ve written on Thanksgiving before, and this year, Laura is tasked with the official Thanksgiving Day blog post. So I was trying to come up with something unique and creative to commemorate the holiday. And for inspiration, I went to my trusty companion…google. Gatherings have been a frequent inspiration for many artists. In fact, I’ve already used one of the most famous works:

gather blog 1
Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Oil on canvas, 51 x 68, 1881. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Living in Florida, I found it interesting that many of the famous paintings of various gatherings depicted people enjoying a meal together outside.

gather blog 2
HIp, Hip, Hurrah! by Peder Severin Kroyer, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in, 1888. Gothenburg Museum of Art.

For most of my life, I have lived in climates where Thanksgiving weather necessitates eating indoors. What about you? Will you gather inside or enjoy the great outdoors while you dine?

I love this painting, which was new to me.

gather blog 3
Lunch on the field, Francisco Bayeu y Subias, oil on canvas, 37 x 56 cm, 1775, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

It is clearly a festive occasion – there are wine bottles nearby and a guitar off to the side. The participants are enjoying themselves, perhaps they sang prior to the meal, or maybe they will sing afterwards. It looks like the kind of gathering I would enjoy! Will you have music involved as you gather? Will you sing together?

I was entertained to see that two artists painted such similar paintings that they actually chose the same title.

gather blog 3
Luncheon on the Grass, Paul Cezanne. Oil on canvas, 81 x 60cm, 1869. Private Collection.
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Luncheon on the Grass, Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 248 x 217 cm, 1866. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

In both of these works, the participants in the luncheon seem at ease with one another. Some of the gentlemen have removed their hats, the ladies are reclining on picnic blankets. There is a level of comfort and familiarity to the scene. I certainly hope you gather with folks whom you enjoy. And that you are comfortable with those gathered around your table (or picnic blanket).

It is possible though that this holiday season finds you alone, the stranger. Who might you ask to welcome you? And for those of us who may be the host of a holiday gathering, who is the stranger who needs a welcoming table?

In our home, we will indeed gather to ask the Lord’s blessing. He has been very gracious to us this year. Enjoy this little clip from A Prairie Home Companion – may you smile, wonder at God’s blessings, and perhaps extend a bit more grace as you extend your table and gather together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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An unlikely partnership – revisited

partnership remixThe original post on our partnership went up almost exactly one year ago (July 14, 2016), but I thought an update and some reflections might be interesting. While Laura and I first “met” (via the magic of the internet) in the summer of 2013, we didn’t meet IRL (in real life) until the summer of 2016. This summer of 2017 marks another milestone for our partnership. My family has relocated to Florida, as my husband has accepted a new job at The Geneva School.

In the craziness of moving our family 1100 miles, and unpacking over 100 boxes, time to write a new blog post has been severely limited. I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane as I reflect on my partnership with Laura. 

A stay-at-home mom and a business executive walk into a bar… Okay, so maybe Laura and I wouldn’t walk into a bar together, but it is an odd pairing — an unlikely partnership indeed. Just what does a mom of two young children have in common with a retirement-age recruiting contractor? More than either of us might have thought, as we would soon find out.

Let me back up a few years to explain.

Summer 2013 – The Partnership Begins

My husband had just signed a contract to teach at a classical school outside of Philadelphia, and we were preparing to move from Richmond, Virginia, to a start this new adventure. The cost of living in South Jersey is definitely higher than in Richmond, and private schools aren’t known for their extravagant salaries, so I found myself looking at options for earning some extra money.

It just so happened that my lovely aunt contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in some part-time work-from-home hours. She had been working as a virtual assistant for Laura, but was transitioning to full-time employment. So she was searching for someone to replace her. After Laura and I spoke on the phone, I took the reins from my aunt. Since I am wired to enjoy administration, the job fit snugly with personality: answering email, scheduling appointments, managing her calendar, and partnering with her to assist her in executive recruiting.

Summer 2015 – The Partnership Evolves

In May, Laura called and told me that she wanted to take some time off from executive recruiting in order to focus more on her artwork. Little did I know how that shift in focus would transform our partnership! As we continued to talk and explore, “I want more time to paint” became questions about how to market and sell art online, the creation of a website, development of an e-store and selling on other e-commerce sites, a blog… Things have just been accelerating since then.

grateful partnership

I am a linear thinker and a Type-A personality — some might say I border on OCD (but in a good way, I’m sure). Laura… well… she’s an artist. When it comes to her art, she just creates. She inuits things; she emotes. I am the left brain while she is the right brain. While it might sometimes feel as though we are talking past each other, we’ve learned to accommodate each other. Laura endures my countless emails, complete with bulleted lists, enumerated questions, and attached spreadsheets. I’ve learned to be patient and flexible as she requests another color change or forgets to set a price for a piece of art. She makes me a better communicator. I think she would say the same of me.

The Partnership Continues

What is it that makes us work so well together? In fact, with just one of us, this art blogging adventure would look very different. Despite our differences, we share a common foundation and a common goal. Both our lives our anchored in Jesus Christ and His Word. Both of us love art, love people and want to encourage them. Because of the gospel, we are united, and because of Laura’s art and my writing, we have this blog.

I know the past few weeks have shown a lot of division in our society, and where we go seems unclear to so many people. But for those of us who follow Christ, we have a message of hope and of unity to give to a world that so desperately needs it. Who in your life needs to hear that? Who are the people in your life that are different from you, but enrich your life as a result? Tell them how grateful you are for your unlikely partnership.

I’m excited that this new chapter means we will be closer to one another, and I look forward to seeing her more often and enjoying the partnership in the Gospel that we share.

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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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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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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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