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.

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Love, True Love…

Admit it, you love to quote that famous scene from The Princess Bride, don’t you?! If by any chance, I’ve lost you, head over here to enjoy it.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is coming, and it seems as though signs and symbols of love are everywhere. Love sculpture

Strangely enough, I’m not really writing this as a Valentine’s Day post, despite the title.

Did you read Laura’s post from last week? I was challenged by her experience about being spoiled by her sister. I think most of us would love to be on the receiving end of such a fun and lavish experience. But how many of us love to be the giver in such situations? Or do we find ourselves serving out of obligation? I realize that many of us do not have the discretionary income to spend lavishly on those we love, but does the spoiling have to be expensive to be lavish?

My husband’s birthday is this week, but we find ourselves in a position of needing to pay taxes, school tuition, some medical bills, car repairs etc (I’m sure you have your own list). While an overnight away with just the two of us sounds fabulous, it’s not an option at this time.

So I had to put on my creative hat. I’m not really crafty, so making him something seemed like a bit of a stretch. However, one of his great loves is pecan pie – so I make him one for his birthday every year

true love pie

I’m also making his favorite meal for dinner, and I’m ensuring that all my work is done before he gets home, so we can just enjoy the time together as a family. Both my girls made him cards, and we’ll just be with Daddy tonight.  When you love someone, spoiling them is easy.

And isn’t that the beauty of true love? It’s not based on your financial situation or your daily circumstances. It’s about being present, really present – no phone, no television, no endless “to do” lists. Just a good meal, good conversation and each other.

Who do you love?

Is there someone in your life that could use a little extra love? Maybe it’s time to put on your creative hat and make their world a little bit brighter today. As for me, I’ve got meatloaf , macaroni and cheese , green beans and pecan pie waiting.

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Let Me Count the What?

Count the stitches! Are you confused yet? I’m writing about a total, absolute surprise that my husband and I received from a lovely friend.

count the love

Peg Hoobler spent a year and thousands of stitches and in a way, saying, “I love you, you are special, I’ve dedicated my time and thoughts to our friendship by designing and making this quilt especially for you both.” At least that’s how I felt when she gave us this beautiful work of art.

count the love

We have a king size bed. It’s big, and higher off the floor than normal and the quilt is perfect. There are thousands, yes, thousands of tiny “in-out” stitches, beautifully hand done. The design was created just for us, as we love bamboo (especially Ken) so there are special bamboo sections that she collected over time. Wow!

count the love

Better yet, this quilt is Peggy’s 147th quilting gift! Imagine receiving one of Peg’s special designs. She said what she enjoys the most is when people say, “You made it just for me.”

count the love

What? Yes, she has made a lifestyle of giving, surprising and delighting those around her with her quilts and really with her love.

Truly it is the “Art of Encouragement” in action! …and love in action.

Are you awestruck yet? I am.  You probably know the poem, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Imagine the love, the stitches and the difficulty it takes to create and then to give it away.

count the love

What can you count?

You may be writing, sewing, painting, care-taking, but in whatever you are doing, do it with love and gratitude in your heart. Giving of yourself, your talents, your time, is, in many ways, honoring the gifts God has given you.

During this Thanksgiving weekend, where everything seems “over the top” and everyone is making a special point to give thanks, think about how you can develop a lifestyle of love, giving and gratitude every day.

Stop and spend a minute in silence, tell the Father that You do love Him and take time to count the ways. I’d love to hear if you’ve had a special person who honored you in your life.

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Show me your fake books….

And I’ll show you my fake art…..ok, so I don’t have any fake books on my bookshelves, and I’m guessing most of you don’t either. But how many of us have “fake” art hanging on our walls? We’re not talking about art your kids made or that tasteful collage of family photos. I’m talking about that print you own – you know the one, it’s your favorite painting, it hangs in a museum and so you bought the print and it now hangs in your home. I’m not embarrassed to save I have several of those in my home – and they’ve been the inspiration for many a blog post. Here’s the rub though, while those prints are nice, the reason I like them is not because of any aesthetic beauty they contain in themselves. It’s because they remind me of an amazing work of art, a museum worthy work of art. They are not actual art, so in that sense, they are fake.

I’m also fortunate enough to own two pieces of original art in my home. One, my husband and I picked up years ago while on a wine-tasting vacation. show me your fake booksI don’t know the artist or even the painting’s name. I do know that when I look at it, I’m reminded of a host of memories we’ve made over trips to wineries together. When others see it, they know a little something about us. 

We also own a piece of Laura’s art. show me your fake booksIn this case, the piece reminds me of her and my friendship with her. When I look at it, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I have to work with her and the gift that she shares through her art. On a more artistic note, the painting makes me think – where is that church building? Is it Spain? Is it Italy? I like to imagine it in either place. I can let my imagination run a bit wild as I gaze at the scene. There is a depth to that painting that is absent in my prints.

In a previous post, I remarked (with my tongue firmly in cheek) that you should not own or display any artwork if you wanted to raise an art-less child. That point got me to thinking about what is displayed in my own home, and then later I read a post a friend of mine had shared on Facebook that further got me to thinking. Do we value owning original art?

I know, my immediate response it “art is too expensive, I could never afford any.” I will grant that that objection may be true for most of us, if we’re talking about a Monet or Picasso or a Warhol. But what about that little art shop downtown? You know the one you always walk past, maybe you’ve even stopped in a few times. Or that booth at the craft fair you went to – the one where you saw all those amazing paintings of you local scenery. Why don’t we buy them? We don’t buy fake books, we stock our shelves with the real thing.

Fake Art vs. Real Art

What is the value to filling our walls with the real thing over fake art? I could easily do another list post on that, as there are many reasons why I am becoming convinced that real art is worth it.For this post, I’ll just limit myself to a few.

First having something handmade in our home brings a depth, a warmth, a “homey”ness that mass manufactured goods and prints simply cannot. Original art is by definition handmade – someone had to actual put brush or pen or pencil to canvas or paper. Someone had to sculpt clay or metal or wood into that object. And in so doing, their art then brings that craft into your home and sets the mood, the tone for your space in a deeply personal way. 

Secondly, displaying original artwork in our homes affords us a unique opportunity of personal self-expression. Why that piece? Why that artist? There is always a reason. If we’re going to take the time to select a piece of art, and invest the money in purchasing it, that decision will not be random or haphazard. The final result will be an expression of who you are, the things you enjoy, the person you are.

Third, having original art in your home stimulates conversation, imagination and creativity. Visitors in your home will undoubtedly ask about the work, or you can ask their thoughts on it. You can spark some rather interesting discussions as people talk about what they like (or don’t like) about the art. Original art can push us to use our imaginations, to think outside of the normal mundaneness of our daily lives. Our brains need to be active. Having the creations of others around us inspires us to be creative in our own ways. When our space is less sterile, so are we.

What about you?

I want to encourage you to linger a bit longer the next time you wander past that art shop or that booth at the craft fair. Or stop by the gallery and store here on our website. Yes, original art can be expensive. But I do think it’s worth it. What do you think? What other reasons might you add to the list of the benefits of owning original art? Do you currently have any in your home? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Chickens and Brothers??

chickens and brothers collageWhat do my Rhode Island Red chickens in Florida have in common with a fabulous art exhibition about brothers at the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth?

During my recent visit to Texas, I discovered that Pam, my hostess and good friend had a surprise excursion planned:  TicketKimbell

The featured exhibit was devoted to a rare collection of 44 paintings by the Le Nain Brothers. These 3 French painting brothers were well known in the 1630’s and 1640’s. You can see some of their remarkable works here.

So where is the commonality and what is the mystery? Our, “Le Chicks” are pretty impossible to tell apart and art historians have had an almost impossible time trying to figure which of the brothers painted which paintings. In fact all 3 brothers worked together, apparently in harmony and signed all the paintings with just “Le Nain.”

Le Nain Brothers

Antoine, Louis and Mathieu have had the art world scratching their collective heads for a long time. A detailed chart at the Kimbell tried to ferret out the differences in signature painting styles, etc. But the fact remains that this art “who done it” will remain a mystery. Apparently the Le Nain brothers didn’t care who got credit.  La Nativite a la Torche was one of my favorites, solid, sculptural, sensitively composed with the light focused on mother and child. As you can see from this Nativity scene, they were in synch!

Le Nain Brothers - Nativity with the Torch

Very little is known about them, but they shared a studio, remained unmarried and seemed to be utterly devoted to their work. How did they do it?

Who figured out the compositions? The works are seamless. Did all three stand there and paint? Did they work in shifts? Was there discord?  They must have enjoyed it or they wouldn’t have worked together for such a long period of time. And finally, how in the world did they subordinate their egos?

Le Nain brothers

In a “me first” world, this is a rare picture of brotherly love.  Romans 12:10 (TLB) instructs us to “Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.” But I think 1 Peter 3:8-12 (MSG) puts it in perspective for me, “Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing”

Do you know any other painters that paint together to create one work? How would you characterize the Le Nain’s approach to harmony? Have you experienced that kind of collaboration with your siblings? I know I have, but I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. BTW, the exhibit concludes on September 11th, so if you’re in the Dallas area and you have a chance, don’t miss it!

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

But I’m not a writer…..

“I’d like you to write for the blog.” That one sentence, so small, so seemingly ordinary… It rocked my world. My first (and for awhile my ONLY) response was, “I’m not a writer.” I’m a mom, a wife, a virtual assistant. I’m in the background. My many and varied roles all work to make others shine. I’m a helper; I make your life easier, better, more efficient. What I don’t do is take center stage. So how did we get here, to this place where I’m writing, where I’m putting myself out there for all the world to see and read?

Let’s back up several months to the summer of 2015. As Laura has done more paintings and received more exposure, she has needed more time to create those beautiful pieces of art we so enjoy. As she created more beauty, she wanted a place to display (and hopefully sell!) her pieces to others. She asked me to create a blog where she could write about her creative process, showcase her artwork, and eventually sell her work. But over weeks and months, what started as a mere blog turned into a full blown website, complete with multiple pages, a blog, and an e-commerce store. Many thanks to WordPress and sites such as this one for holding this novice’s hand as I learned to develop a website. Although I’m nowhere near hiring myself out to develop and design website, and I still have a tremendous amount to learn, it was less painful than I thought it would be. And the site is up and running, and you are reading it.

But then Laura dropped that bomb on me: “I’d like you to write for the blog.” What?! Why? I’m not an artist, and I didn’t think I knew much about art. Laura graciously and lovingly challenged me on those perceptions. After all, our blog is called “The Art of Encouragement,” not “Here’s how to do art” or “The Art Blog” or something similar. As we talked further, a different image of what we want this site to be began to emerge. We want this site to be a place where anyone can come and find a place of beauty and encouragement for their day. We all face challenges and difficulties, and we can all benefit from a gentle, positive “push” in the right direction. 

So Laura finds her inspiration in her own artwork and the situations that brought that artwork into being. She draws from her own life and her own creative process. I, too, draw inspiration from my own life and my own creative processes (such as they are). At the heart of my life is my faith and my family. That’s why I write about those things so much. Who am I? I’m a child of God, a disciple of Jesus, a wife to an amazing man, and a mom to two incredible little girls. Those hats alone provide countless ideas and nuggets of thought than turn into these posts. And guess what?  I LOVE to write. Writing for this blog is my favorite part of the job Laura pays me to do. Sitting with my laptop, letting thoughts flow out onto the page that later get edited into more coherent thoughts. These posts are my art. This is where I create.

renoir woman with child

This painting by Renoir hangs in my daughters’ room. They are the “two sisters” who inspire me. It’s no surprise then, that I often use portrait paintings to illustrate my blog posts – people are the source of so much of my writing. I hope you enjoy the art as much as the blog posts!

What about you? Where do you find inspiration? Where do you create? All of us are created in the image of God. And God is a Creator. One of the ways we reflect His likeness is through our own creativity. What’s holding you back? To what creative opportunities do you object by saying “but…”? My challenge for you today is to take just ten minutes to go for a walk and think about it. Find that place in your life where you want to be creative, and then go do it. Then come back here and let us know how you create! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Where is home?

georgia-o-keeffe-31-638

“Home is where the heart is.” “Bloom where you are planted.” “Wherever you are, be all there.” All of these phrases have been oft quoted to me as our family has faced multiple moves. We have moved seven times in our twelve years of marriage, and this despite not being a military family. And though we want to put down roots, the day will likely come when we will move again.

So where is home? How do I be all there? How do we flourish?

Currently, our home is in Georgetown, Texas, the Red Poppy capital of Texas, a suburb north of Austin, and one of the fastest growing cities in the country. We moved here in July for my husband’s job and have been learning and finding our way since then. I doubt Georgia O’Keeffe had Central Texas in mind when she painted these beautiful poppies, but they capture the wild loveliness we have found in our new home state.

Moving to a new home isn’t just about finding a new doctor, grocery store, church, and school. It isn’t about finding the best shortcut from home to work, or where to put the dishes in the new kitchen. In many ways, those are some of the easier parts of moving. And when you’ve moved as much as we have, those sorts of details seem to fall into place fairly quickly. 

How do you make this new place feel like home? That is often the greater challenge. What is it that makes a place feel like home? Knowing your neighbors? Attending community activities or school functions? Sharing a cup of coffee with a friend at your kitchen table? All those things are part of making the new feel familiar, and we are working diligently on all those fronts.

But I think a place really begins to feel like home when I gather with friends and no longer feel the need to share my “back story” in every conversation, the scenes in our family narrative that we take for granted with those who know us well — When did you move here? Where did you move from? What brought you here? And when my friends no longer feel the need to ask how I’m settling into a new place.

I feel at home when I can just be. 

For some of us, we may have lived in the same place for years, and it still doesn’t feel like home. You don’t have folks with whom you can be without masks, pretenses, qualifiers, and explanations. Social media too often does not help (and yes, I see the irony here). So much of our communication today is reduced to tweets, tags, and texts. How then can we truly be at home with one another?

We need to cultivate a sense of home. Let me encourage you today to make the first move. Whether you’re an old-timer or newcomer in town. Take a plate of cookies to a neighbor. Brew a pot of coffee and call someone up. But most importantly, be you. Be who you are: Take the mask off, drop the pretense, take a risk to share yourself. Yes, it’s feels frightening, but the rewards are incalculable. 

And remember that there is a God who took on flesh and made His home among us, who took the initiative with us that through faith in Him we might drop our pretenses, discover forgiveness, and dwell forever at home with Him. 

So is Georgetown “home” for us? It’s getting there. And I’m headed over to a friend’s house even today. 🙂

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Who is at your table?

boating party

It’s November, so I guess that officially puts us in the “holiday season.” Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and there are only 43 shopping days left until Christmas!  Although this is supposed to be a time of celebration, it seems that what I hear more often is how busy everyone is – parties, shopping, school activities, recitals, dinners, decorating… The list goes on.  In my home, we have no shortage of those events, either.

But I want to challenge us all with something this holiday season: Are we focused on ourselves, or can we make room for others and invite them in? Into our homes, our celebrations, our lives.

This delightful painting by Pierre August Renoir is called Luncheon of the Boating Party. I have a rather large framed print hanging in my dining room. It was a housewarming gift to me many, many seasons ago from some dear friends when I graduated from seminary. Since that time, it has graced the wall in my dining room in seven different homes. It is one of the first pictures to be hung once we move into a new home. Why? Because it portrays the type of home I want to create. 

Look closely – all kinds of folks are gathered together enjoying what I imagine to be delicious food and drink. From those most lavishly dressed to those most humbly attired, all are together talking and enjoying one another. I just feel happy when I look at this painting. 

I want my table to be a place where folks of all types gather, where good food is savored, conversation enjoyed, and memories made. My home doesn’t need to be large; its walls need not be ornately decorated; the furniture does not need to pass a white-glove inspection. It just needs to be welcoming. My food doesn’t need to be fussed over for days. It just needs to be presented with affection.

As we enter into a time of celebrating all for which we are thankful and the birth of the One who gave us everything, who will be at your table? Look beyond those with whom you always gather; see those there that might be forgotten, for whom there is no boating party, no welcoming spread. Set a place for them at your table; invite them in; be the aroma of Christ to them. Then tell me about the joy that filled your home as a result.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

 

Go ahead...share the encouragement
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone