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.

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How about that wacky artist?

Are artists wacky? Most artists have a style. They perfect that style and challenge themselves by working in a series. It might be a series of dog portraits, angels, bug-eyed children, pretty ladies, marsh landscapes, etc. You get the idea. Do it well, do what sells, do what you like; but many times it’s theme based. It’s a great way to create.

Other artists are often spectacularly diverse. One of my favorite pastel artists is Robert Carsten.   I’ve actually been fortunate enough to take a workshop with him.  The range of his subject matter and technical virtuosity is admirable. As you can see here, his exploration of still life and landscape show his ability to enjoy the outside and inside world.

Wacky 1
Spring’s Splendor by Robert Carsten
wacky artist 2
Reflecting Pool by Robert Carsten

I can’t speak for Mr. Carsten, but I can say that art is an exploration of the inner and outer world which mostly exists in the artist’s mind.

We artists and other creative folk are no more internally tormented than any other person. Some artists, like Beethoven or Van Gogh, led such fascinating lives that they have inspired many good stories and interesting films.

I personally like having multiple art personalities that develop through growth, boredom, passion, and excitement.  I am not a better or worse artist because of it, I just like exploration! Personally, I just admire different types of art and different artists.

When I look at the finished portrait of Emma, I find myself wondering at my own exploration.

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© Laura Gabel, “Emma”. 8 x 10, soft pastel. Private collection.

As you can see, she is detailed, right down to her Harley Davidson cap.

On the other hand, when I created Delightful:

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© Laura Gabel, “Delightful”. 6 x 12, acrylic. Private collection.

I was drawing on my feelings about a special person in my life. She is lively, sociable, and bright. The colors were a reflection of her personality at the moment.

So am I wacky? No, but often my paintings reflect the character of the collector, myself, or the subject.

Indeed, variety is the spice of life in art, that’s why it’s great to paint differently and why museums have visitors!

What do you think when you see different styles coming from the same artist? Do you think they’re a bit wacky? You might find they just like to explore in a unique and different way.

 

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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!

habitat myth 1

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.

habitat myth 2

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.

habitat myth 3

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

habitat myth 4

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.

Habitat myth 5

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:

habitat myth 7

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.

habitat myth 8

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?????

 

 

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Small but Memorable

Art museums may not be high on your list of places to visit with small children. I can understand that. We’ve heard an annoyed “shhhhh” from more than one art museum docent in our years with small ones in tow. But sometimes, small children and small art museums make for big memories!

We are Bank of America card holders, so we have the opportunity to enjoy a free museum on the first weekend of every month as part of their “Museums on Us” program. Being new to Orlando, we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out a new museum. This month, we selected the Mennello Museum of American Art.

The museum itself is small, only one floor with a few carefully chosen exhibits, both permanent and rotating. However, it sits on a beautiful expanse of land along the shores of Lake Formosa in downtown Orlando. We were also able to wander through its well manicured gardens which are amply supplied with comfy adirondack chairs for lounging, and engaging sculptures to enjoy.

small 1

No small sculptures

Currently, they are featuring the sculptures of Alice Aycock – Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes. These sculptures are anything but small. My daughters were fascinated just by walking around them and noting all the various details. As they viewed the sculptures from different angles, they pointed out different features and had lively discussions about what the sculptor was creating.

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There are a variety of other sculptures to view along the pathways in the garden. My family was particularly delighted with the larger than life crayon sculpture.

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No small impact

Inside the museum, we noticed that we had arrived on the final weekend of the visiting exhibit The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William EgglestonEggleston’s photographs have shaped many in the art world beyond just photographers. American novelist Megan Abbott said, “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch…When you look long enough at his photographs, [like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images] you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

Indeed, even our small children were in another place as they walked slowly and quietly through the exhibit. Ordinary moments in time become extraordinary works of art. In ways that I cannot quite explain, Eggleston’s works were remarkable in their power to capture my attention and my imagination with scenes as pedestrian as laundry hanging on a clothesline.

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

My girls were full of big questions about the photos and why they were so powerful. They began creating whole stories around the snapshot moments captured and displayed on the walls of this small exhibit. Unfortunately, the exhibit has moved on, but I would encourage you to check out the works of this groundbreaking artist.

The Mennello Museum also has permanent exhibits featuring self-taught landscape artist Earl Cunningham, and a fascinating sculpture by Albert Paley, entitled Hector. 

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art credit: Albert Paley (b. Philadelphia, PA 1944), Hector, 1990, steel with red paint. Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art, purchased by Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, 2016, from Paley Studios Archive, Rochester, NY

This towering steel sculpture calls to mind the character of Hector from Homer’s Iliad. My husband has had the pleasure of teaching the Iliad and my daughter has read a children’s version of it as well. We had a rather interesting and engaging discussion about Hector the Greek hero and the sculpture.

No small stories

We spent not quite two hours exploring the Mennello museum, both inside and out. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to visit. I have no doubt that we will return. The museum offers multiple opportunities to engage with the art they celebrate. They offer free docent led tours on the first Friday of every month, a monthly free day for families (where your small ones can create their own art), a monthly documentary movie screening, and even a puppet led story time for toddlers.

I was thrilled to find a museum that was accessible, engaging, and thought provoking to enjoy with my whole family. Even my six year old has asked if we can return! But you don’t have to be small to appreciate the Mennello. My husband and I were grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to some new-to-us artists and look forward to our next visit.

If you’re in the Orlando area, I would encourage you to check out the Mennello Museum. If you’re not, I have a hunch that you have your own small museum in town. Maybe you’ve always overlooked it because of it’s size. You may just find something there you never expected. What’s your favorite small museum you’ve explored? Share your experiences in the comments, I’m always looking for new places to see!

 

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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.

vacation part one

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!

vacation part one

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!

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The Most Dreaded Question

Just a warning. I’m going to do a little fist pounding in today’s blog! It’s about the most common question I get. Can you guess what that might be?

Is it: when did you first start drawing, painting, etc?

Or how about: why did you decide to paint that?

Maybe: what is that – oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor?

How about: why do you work in pastel so often?

Perhaps it’s: why are paintings so expensive?

dreaded question

NO, IT IS NONE OF THE ABOVE. The question I get most often is “how long did it take you to paint that“? I’m going to say that this question drives me crazy. For so many reasons.

First, I don’t punch in and punch out with a time clock when I paint.

I sometimes paint in my dreams.  Creative ideas and thoughts come to me when I wake up or before I go to sleep, or perhaps driving somewhere. I pray over my paintings, cry over my paintings, get mad at my paintings, ask God for inspiration with my paintings.

Often, I may write the approach down, sketch it, redraw it, put things in different places and put it in little thumbnail sketches.

dreaded question 2

I may decide I dislike the idea and throw it away. Sometimes, I may want to combine certain media and need to research them to make sure the elements are stable. All too often, I may start the painting one way, scrape it down and finish it another way. Then I may spend countless hours doing a painting then dislike what I’ve done and relegate it to a closet.

But I don’t hate that closeted painting. Instead, I treasure what I’ve learned.

I know one thing. All the thumbnails, sketches, difficulties, failures are part of what makes my art me. My artistic endeavors fuse, making for better art each and every time.

Right now I am working on 4 paintings. One is an oil portrait of a man I call Harry. One is a pastel portrait of a Boston Terrier. Another is a mixed media of water lilies which is a preliminary painting of a much larger 2 ft x 4 ft painting I have been commissioned to do and one is a large still life of flowers in acrylic. Only one of them is working out the way I want it to. I guess you could say I am working on 5 because I’m thinking about one in my head too.

When working on a painting, you can encounter many problems, that truly is the “agony and ecstasy” of art. It doesn’t go as well or as easy as people think and if it does go really well, really easy, it’s probably not my best work.  Recently, I was working on a painting for client’s bedroom:

 

I was working on a deadline and I was close to being done. But I didn’t like one whole section. So I painted totally over it. My husband and brother-in-law were aghast. They thought it was fine. I didn’t!

One of my favorite artists, Everett Raymond Kinstler, a highly accomplished portraitist, states in his book Painting Faces, Figures, and Landscapes of a watercolor portrait: “The final watercolor portrait was my fifth attempt, after tearing up the previous four because I failed to get a likeness or because the painting had lost its freshness.”

Kinstler inspires me and gives me hope. He states he is reluctant to give demonstrations. He calls them “stunts and ego trips”, “speed of execution mean[s] nothing”.

“Spontaneous painting is the result of years of experience.” Everett Raymond Kinstler

While, I’m no Picasso, perhaps this story will give you a flavor of what I’m try to say:

Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer went up to him and asked if he would do a quick sketch for him on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, did a quick sketch  and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather large amount of money.  The admirer was horrified: “How can you ask so much? It only took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”.

I’m not sure why people like to ask this question to artists but as of yet I haven’t thought of a glib, quick answer, but I’d sure like to hear your thoughts.

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My daughter the unwitting celebrity

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

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

daughter art 2

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

daughter art

Proud daughter, proud mama

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

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

daughter art 1

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

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In Search of Some Good News

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

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

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

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

Good news at church

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

good news

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

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

good news 2

Good news in families

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Rest and Recharge to Charge Ahead!

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

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

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

Grace sunrise rest

Sunrise at Grace rest

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

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

Sunrise Grace progress 7

Sunrise at Grace progress 8

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

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

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

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

First, a couple of questions for you about rest:

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

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

Rest is fruitful

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

Rest is an activity

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

Rest is a choice

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

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

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

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Procrastination, Ponderings, and Perfection?

I am a serious fan of procrastination. I probably shouldn’t admit that – and I certainly wouldn’t advocate procrastination as a way of life for my children or my students. But alas, procrastination has been my pattern for decades; you can ask my thesis advisor how that worked out for me in seminary!

On my neat and tidy editorial calendar, Tuesday afternoon is blocked off for “blog writing,” and that is normally how the week goes. Yet this week, it is now Wednesday afternoon and I’m just now putting words on paper. Sometimes, my procrastination is due to writer’s block. But not this week.

In fact, I’ve had this blog post in my draft folder for almost a year. It’s been started at least three times, but never finished. The original working title was “Work hard. Have fun.” My daughter has taken ballet for three years now, and that was what we would encourage her to do when she danced – work hard and have fun.

procrastination blog

Since I was intending to write about ballet, I wanted to include some artwork of ballet dancers.

Who better to feature in a ballet blog post than Degas?

Dancers in Pink, Edgar Degas
Procrastination wins round one

In just a matter of minutes, I found myself lost in literally hundreds of beautiful paintings in stunning pastel colors, the rich hues perfectly capturing the grace, elegance and poise of the dancers.

Four Dancers, Edgar Degas

And so the post didn’t get written. Take two on writing, take two on browsing through masterpieces. Procrastination wins again.

Now it’s the third attempt, and this time, I decided to follow advice I often get from Laura (which is oddly similar to what my thesis advisor said when I captured by procrastination in seminary) – “just write something!” So I started thinking, “maybe getting sidetracked by Degas’s art isn’t a problem; maybe it’s not simple procrastination.” What if my eye is captivated by beauty and that beauty is more interesting to me in the moment than using the beauty as an illustration?

Can we enjoy beauty just for the sake of beauty? Since this is an art blog, you may guess that my answer would be “yes!” And indeed, it is – an emphatic YES! Of course! Beauty is meant to be enjoyed! We were meant to love that which is beautiful. What beauty captivates you?

Oh, and my little ballet dancer? Well, Degas never painted her, but I sure have enjoyed watching her dance. And I think she’d make a great painting subject!

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