Man’s Best Friend – a Flying Dog!

Animals are so much fun to paint, especially a dog. Dogs have so much personality! They remind us of ourselves. Their antics are a relief and a laugh in our stressed out, high pressure world. Dogs come in so many shapes, sizes and colors and make us laugh and cry. They engage us with affection, protection and calmness. I’ve painted a few dogs and even a wolf in the last couple of years

But what makes dogs so special to me is the absolute love, loyalty, and joy they have for their owners.  The excitement a dog has for you when you come home just can’t be matched. Our kids, co-workers and spouses may take us for granted sometimes, but not our dogs! They have boundless love and enthusiasm.

So last year when we ran our free pet portrait contest, I got lucky. You read that correctly, yes the winner was picked by a machine and they soon will be the fortunate owners of a beautiful pastel of their dog, but truly I got lucky! Why?

When you are an artist, some commission photos are better than others and some are downright difficult. But when I saw the “machine picked” winner, I thanked the Lord!

Here’s a picture of Doc and as you can see, the photographer marvelously captured Doc with all four feet off the ground!

To give you an idea of this stunning feat, look at the size of Doc with his owners.

He is a BIG dog. Average weight for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is 132-154 pounds. You can read more about them here.

The prize was to be an 8 x 10 pastel, but I just couldn’t do it. To do Doc justice, I just had to use 14 x 11 painting grounds. Here is my start:

I reformatted the view of Doc to make him front and center, to show that amazing joy and love running right toward the viewer. Here he is with a start of some color

Now I’m gaining a bit more locomotion on his coloring and personality, but the tongue and details are yet to come

Here is Doc below finally finished in all his delightful glory. Such a magnificent creature designed by our Lord to give us joy and fellowship.

Dogs are often called “Man’s Best Friend”, and for many of us, that statement certainly rings true. But at the end of the day, a dog is still just a dog. What if there was a friend even better?

I believe the best friend we could ever have is Jesus. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

How magnificent that the Creator of the universe truly wants to be “Man’s Best Friend.”  Surely Job (Job 37:5) was right when he said, “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.”

Write and tell me about your pets or your relationship with God. Feel free to drop in a picture of your own furry friend! And if you don’t consider yourself to have Jesus as your friend, I’d love the chance to talk to you about that too!

 

Inside Out Peace

Most people know that one visual symbol for peace is the dove, but why?  According to Wikipedia, “The use of a dove as a symbol of peace originated with early Christians, who portrayed baptism accompanied by a dove, often on their sepulchres. The New Testament compared the dove to the Spirit of God that descended on Jesus during his baptism.” (see Matthew 3:16)

Other people equate peace to a river. You may have heard the old gospel song: “I’ve got peace like a river.”

You can’t find peace by watching television, talking on your cell phone, or playing video games.

But many people have a feeling of peace when they see nature in all its beauty. Gazing at God’s magnificent creation, whether it’s a peaceful stream, a river, a beautiful bird, or taking a walk at the ocean can sooth the cares and troubles of this world.

Walking on the beach is one of my favorite pastimes and gives me a clear channel to hear from God, which is why I created Seaside:

peace blog
© Laura Gabel, “Seaside”. Oil, 16×20. Private Collection

But I learned a long time ago, that no dove, no mountain view, no crashing waves, no painting or photograph can really give me peace. All the outside symbols are lovely and give me a sense of God’s greatness and creativity, but…

Peace is an inside job.

People search for it in other people, places or things, but the disciple John recounts Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27).

The inner peace that Christ gives is because He gives Himself to us.

True peace cannot be found outside His presence. It comes from Him and is never found where He is not.

I obtain this peace by opening my heart to His presence, calling upon Him, reading His word.

If peaceful times have not been yours lately, trying calling upon Jesus to soothe your soul with His presence.

 

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!

 

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

Emmanuel  – God with us! What an incredible thought! It’s that time of year again when our schedules seem more crowded than ever, our bank accounts lower than ever, bills mounting, “to do” lists staggering, stress rising. I know many of you will hear “Jesus is the reason for the season” so often that you will tune it out. Please don’t. This post isn’t meant to be guilt inducing or full of trite platitudes to get you to spend less and worship more.

Instead, I just want to share my favorite Christmas song with you, give you some beautiful art to enjoy, and ask for God to come and be with us in the midst of everything else clamoring for our attention.

You probably guessed from the title of this post that my favorite Christmas song is O Come O Come Emmanuel. The hymn was originally written in Latin, with the first published edition in the year 1710. However, there are paraphrases of the lyrics in existence as early as the year 800.  The music we currently associate with the hymn originated in France during the 1600s. There are so many versions of this hymn and of all the verses, some with three verses, others with as many as eight.

When I was in college, our advent chapel services were each crafted around a verse of this hymn, and I found that practice so helpful for shaping my outlook on advent. While I enjoy writing, I am not even in the same universe as the ancients who crafted this hymn, so indulge me as we just take a look at the lyrics and allow them to sink into our hearts and minds.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

botticelli nativity emmanuel 1
“Mystic Nativity”, Sando Botticelli. 108.6 x 74.9 cm, oil on canvas, 1500. The National Gallery, London.

 

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

Rembrandt Moses Emmanuel 2
“Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law”, Rembrandt, 168.5 x 136.5 cm, oil on canvas, 1659. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

chagall jesse tree emmanuel 3
“Tree of Jesse”, Marc Chagall. 81 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, 1975. Private collection.

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell They people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

“Adoration of the Shepherds”, El Greco. 319 x 180 cm, oil on canvas, 1614. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

 

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

GloriousForetaste emmanuel 5
© Laura Gabel, “Glorious Foretaste”. Pastel Private collection.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

wisdom of solomon emmanuel 5
“Dream of Solomon”, Luca Giordano. 245 x 361 cm, oil on canvas, 1693. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

crucifixion messina emmanuel 6
“Crucifixion,” Antonello da Messina. 42.5 x 59.7 cm, oil on panel, 1475. National Gallery, London.

 

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

 

Be our King of peace, cause us to go in the ways of wisdom and knowledge. Bring cheer in the midst of misery and gloom by the remembrance of your first coming and the anticipation of your second coming. Show us your power and might as we stand in awe of your works. Bring salvation and freedom. O Come O Come, Emmanuel.

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.

Eli Legacy blog 1

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.”

Eli legacy blog 3

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.

Eli legacy blog 4

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.

Eli legacy blog 5

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.

Eli legacy blog 6

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.

 

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.
gather blog 4
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!

Peace on Earth isn’t just for Christmas

“Peace on Earth”…no, I’m not starting to sing Christmas songs already. I’m a strict “not until after Thanksgiving” kind of girl. But in light of recent events there has been a lot of clamoring for peace.

America seems more and more divided lately – republicans vs. democrats, trump supporters vs. never trumpers, black vs. white, standers vs. kneelers. There seems to be no end to the disunity that clutters my newsfeed. Is there no peace to be found?

I want to introduce (or perhaps reacquaint) you with an artist who is famous for his depictions both of war and of peace.

peace and picasso 1

Peace and War

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881. His father was an artist, who happened to like painting pigeons or doves. Picasso’s early paintings were not necessarily political in nature, and he gained quite a following rather quickly. He is frequently referred to as the father of cubism.

Picasso’s approach to art began to change radically in 1937, when he painted one of his most famous paintings:

peace and picasso 2
“Guernica,” by Pablo Picasso. (1937)

This painting was in direct response to the Italian and German carpet bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica. Picasso began to see his art as more than just a unique decoration. He had a message and wasn’t afraid to speak it through his art.

“What do you think an artist is? …he is a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.” Picasso

Guernica came to symbolize the abject horrors of war and was used as a rallying cry for the Peace Movement of the 1940s. Picasso himself became an active participant in the movement and in speaking out against totalitarian regimes.

Peace and Picasso

In 1949, Picasso painted another watershed work.

peace and picasso 3
“La Colombe” (The Dove) by Picasso, 1949

Entitled simply “La Calombe” (the Dove), the lithograph was featured on posters celebrating the Paris Peace Conference. Picasso’s daughter was born that same year and he gave her the name Paloma, which is the Spanish word for dove. She is in her father’s arms in the family photograph above.

Since then, Picasso’s dove has been modified numerous times and used as personification of peace.

peace and picasso 4

Lasting Peace

For centuries, many different cultures have used a dove to symbolize peace.  Art and images have great power to shape the way in which we think. Sadly, true and lasting peace will require more than a lovely painting, a change in one’s profile picture, or a serene bird.

The Scriptures speak of a King who is coming who will “speak peace to the nations”. At His very birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” His peace did not come with political unity, but with His brutal death in the place of sinners.

There is a day coming when wars and divisions will cease. There is a time approaching when reports of mass shootings and natural disasters will not grace the news headlines. True peace will reign when our Prince of Peace returns. And oh what a glorious day that will be:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

Amen. Come and bring your peace, Lord Jesus.

 

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.

mesa verde end 1

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.

mesa verde end 2

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.

mesa verde end 3

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.

mesa verde 4

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.

mesa verde end 5

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 two) – Barren and Beautiful

As I continue to look through the pictures and remember all the beautiful sites we visited on our vacation, I am still struggling for a way to collect all my thoughts. I could easily do a post on each park we visited. But I don’t want to bore you with all the details. Of course, if you want all the info, I’m more than happy to oblige!

You can check out my preview post and my first installment if you’d like.

barren and beautiful capitol reef

So for Part Two of this series of undetermined length, I decided to group together a few parks that are still rolling around in my brain. On any given day, I’m not sure if I loved these parks, was intrigued by these parks, or was happy to move on from these parks. It’s not that I didn’t like the time we spent there, or that they weren’t beautiful. The parks were…well…different.

barren and beautiful canyonlands

Capitol Reef and Canyonlands are not generally on the top of anyone’s list of national parks. Particularly when you are looking at parks in the southwest. We all know the Grand Canyon, and most folks are familiar with Zion, Bryce and Arches as well. But we didn’t meet many people on our trip who were planning to visit Capitol Reef or Canyonlands. In my opinion, they missed out on some incredibly beautiful landscapes.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 2

Beautiful in the midst of barren

Capitol Reef was a study in contrasts. As soon as we entered the park, we were awestruck with the barren nature of the landscape. Towering red cliffs, expansive red vistas, deep crevices through the unforgiving rock – these were the sites by which we were greeted. We even joked that it looked like the setting of the movie The Martian.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 3

Yet, running through the middle of the park is the Fremont River and oh what a difference that makes. Instead of the wild and rocky landscape, you see green fields, lush orchards, and tall shade trees. In fact, in the early 1900s, a thriving agrarian community was nestled along the banks of the river and became known as Fruita, because of all the fruit trees that were grown there.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 4

Our campground was nestled in the middle of what used to be Fruita and it felt sometimes as if we were in a different world than the world in which we went hiking. My favorite time was at sunset when it seemed as if the mountains were on fire from within as they reflected the glow of the waning sun. Capitol Reef was definitely a study in contrasts.

barren and beautiful capitol reef 5

 

Barren becoming beautiful

Canyonlands is one big park that is subdivided into three sections – Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. We did not visit the Maze, since it is fairly inhospitable to family camping and hiking, being accessible only by 4 wheel drive on unpaved roads. Island in the Sky and the Needles are separated by the Green and Colorado Rivers. There are no roads connecting the three districts. We are tent campers, but not back country campers, so we did not camp in the park, but we did drive in to do some hiking in both Island in the Sky and the Needles.

barren and beautiful canyonlands 3

The rock formations were intimidating, the views stunning. Despite the high overlooks, we were barely able to see the rivers down below. On one day, it was so windy (upwards of 50 mph) that we found it difficult to walk and our small one was being pelted by sand. We didn’t do much hiking that day, but we were able to drive through the park and take some pictures of the wildness.

There is plenty of hiking to be done in the Needles, and the weather was much more amenable that day. However, because of the remote nature of the park, most of the hikes are in excess of five miles, which is pretty far to go when you’re six. So we kept to the few shorter trails.

barren and beautiful canyonlands 2

In many portions of the park, there is no soil in which is stick a trail marker post, so the rocky trail is marked by small piles of stones called cairns. Our girls had a delightful time running from cairn to cairn. On one such hike, we learned about “potholes.” No, not the ones you hate driving over! These potholes are small indentations in the rocks that fill with water when it rains. We visited in the dry season, so all the potholes were dormant. But in the monsoon season, these same holes team with life. There are species of shrimp who lay their eggs in the water, buried in the silt at the bottom of the potholes. The eggs lie dormant during the dry season, but when the rain comes, they tiny shrimp hatch and come to life.

barren and beautiful canyonlands 5

What I found fascinating was the black topped soil that was often found alongside the trails. This soil, called biological soil crust, is actually living dirt. It is filled with micro bacteria, algae, fungi, lichens and moss. The living soil helps prevent erosion and dust storms. When enough of the biological matter builds up, this seemingly barren landscape can support beautiful plants, shrubs, and flowering cacti.

barren and beautiful canon lands 4

A beautiful life

As I reflected on these two parks, I couldn’t help but see them as a picture of what my life so often resembles. I may feel barren, dry, empty. As a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit in me. Even when I can’t see Him, He is there. John 7:38 says that streams of living water will flow from me. The Holy Spirit will bring life in the midst of what seems dry  and barren. He is at work in my life. Oftentimes, He is unseen, his work too small for me to notice. Are you discouraged or in a desert season? Do you feel as though your life is barren? Take courage, pray and believe. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

I don’t often put extended Scripture quotes in my posts, but I pray this one will encourage your soul:

Isaiah 35

1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;

the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;

it shall blossom abundantly

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the LORD,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who have an anxious heart,

“Be strong; fear not!

Behold, your God

will come with vengeance,

with the recompense of God.

He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then shall the lame man leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

For waters break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;

the unclean shall not pass over it.

It shall belong to those who walk on the way;

even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain gladness and joy,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 

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.