Mindless Scratching

It’s tempting to scratch that itch, isn’t it? What’s more tempting is to keep scratching that itch over and over again, as if it’s going to make it better. In fact, it makes it worse. In my family we call that “picking” at something, which generally leads to an open scab or sore.

At this point you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like your typical New Year’s resolution blog. It isn’t. But I think it will motivate you none the less.

If you’ve ever watched free range chickens, you may have noticed that they keep their heads down for the most part, looking and foraging for food. In many cases they keep trotting with their heads down, pecking away.

chicken scratch

If you are not familiar with chicken behavior, take a quick look here.

They don’t even look where they are going. Their pecking could lead them right up to the base of the Empire State building as long as a trail of chicken scratch led them to it!

So what is chicken scratch and what does that have to do with you, me and 2017? Ok, scratch is a mix of cracked grains. It usually consists of wheat, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, millet. etc. It is NOT complete nutrition. 

So basically chicken scratch is not all that good for chickens, but they like it. I can tell you they love it and would keep eating all day if we threw it out there all day. It keeps them busy and in motion.

Are you eating chicken scratch?

Chicken scratch comes in many forms for humans: 

  • Worry is tasty treat for all of us; yet has no nutritional value for our minds.
  • Busyness keeps us running in circles, thinking that activity is accomplishment.
  • Pecking, poking and chattering about others deflects the need to work on our own issues.

My latest pallet knife painting “Mad Max with Poppies” encourages us to look at these things with a careful eye:

© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.
© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.

So what “human chicken scratch” did you entertain last year? I encourage you to write down one area that:

  • Is mindless, but makes you feel better. You love it.
  • Often keeps you busy but isn’t good for you. You love it and hate it.
  • Leads you in circles, keeping you from God’s desire for you.

For me the most damaging thing about “human chicken scratch” is it keeps my head down. It keeps me in the world racing in circles. I don’t have the perspective that God wants me to have. I am learning to step away from my “tasty treats” and frame a new life that keeps me looking up! Framing things God’s way makes things look and work better!  “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV

chicken scratch

So for 2017, I hope you’ll join me in not living like a foolish chicken!

chicken scratch
photo credit www.crossrivermedia.com

 

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9 Ways to Raise an Art-less Child

Recently, I was listening to a podcast with Anthony Esolen, the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child. While I have not read the book (my husband has informed me that it is on our bookshelf), it has generated a plethora of reviews, critiques, responses and agreement that have certainly piqued my interest.

Then I got to thinking about what else suffers as we notice the collective shrinking of our imagination. Is a love of and appreciation for art next in line for extinction? 

So, in my own nod to Esolen, here is my non-exhaustive list on how to raise an art-less child:

  1. Schedule every moment for the children in your life, at home and at school. We would not want our children to have free, unstructured time. They might accidentally create something, or even worse, might find that they LIKE to create. That will not do. art-less child
  2. Ensure that your home, office, school space is a “mess free” zone. We     can’t have any residuals of the creative process lying around cluttering things up. Neat and tidy, tidy and neat. Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness.
  3. In fact, you really should just eliminate any type of crafting or art supplies altogether. If they have no tools, they can’t create make a mess. art-less child
  4. On the off chance that children gain access to art supplies and actually make something, do not display it. Instead, it’s probably best to point out the deficiencies of their work lest they be encouraged to continue along these lines.
  5. To be fair then, you really shouldn’t display any art in your home, school, or office. No sense in playing favorites – no child’s art, no art from anyone. 
  6. There’s no need to stop just at the home, school, or office. It’s best not to take your children to any museums. Those places are really too stuffy, too quiet, and not really appropriate for children. Besides, since you’ve eliminated free time, there’s no opportunity to go to museums anyway. art-less child
  7. It’s probably best then to not encourage your children to read very much.  They might stumble on dangerous works such as this book or this one.art-less child
  8. Instead of exposing them to good books, be sure then to substitute technology and banal programming. Just to be safe, avoid any shows or games where they could be creative; you want mind-numbing, not mind-enriching, so take no chances. 
  9. Do not expose them to or point out ANY beauty in nature. Goodness, if you’ve managed to keep them away from human-created beauty, don’t slip and let them appreciate God-created beauty. art-less child 

If you are able to adhere to these nine guidelines, you should be successful at killing any love for or joy in art and beauty in your own child and those of others you love. 🙂

art-less child

Just in case one of our wonderful readers has not picked up the tongue-in-cheek nature of this post and is scrambling to send my poor children a box of art goodies (don’t let me stop you…), the pictures in this post are my own children, the books listed in #7 are well-worn due to being read so many times in our home, we frequently visit natural parks and museums, I cannot store all their art supplies, and we have numerous works of art hanging in our home (Laura’s art, famous art, and my children’s art). 

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What makes a work of art great?

Name the greatest works of art of all time… Where do you even start? You could try googling it, and you’ll get a variety of answers. Some even overlap on the works selected. How do you determine what goes on such a list? Is it simply works of art people are most likely to recognize? But wouldn’t that make the list one of popularity and not necessarily of greatness? Great works of art

Or perhaps it’s impossible to even talk meaningfully about which works of art are great. After all, isn’t “beauty in the eye of the beholder,” so that what I think is great, you may not find great at all? So who’s to judge what is great and what is ordinary? Shouldn’t we just learn to appreciate “art for art’s sake”? 

great works of art
© Laura Gabel, various works in acrylic

I mentioned previously that I recently read Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible which has me thinking a lot about how we view and appreciate art. Schaeffer argues that art has value in itself, which sounds suspiciously like “art for art’s sake.” But he is careful to explain that he does NOT mean that art cannot and should not be evaluated apart from any message it might convey. Nor does he maintain that works of art can be reduced solely to the message the artist wishes to communicate. Artists such as DaVinci, Picasso, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and countless others were all trying to communicate something through their art, but their art was also more than just the message.

Great works of art
© Laura Gabel, various works in watercolor and charcoal

Art has value because it is a reflection and product of human creativity. Humans are created in the image of a Creator God, and when we create art, we reflect His creativity. But that does not mean all art is equally valuable. Certainly skill sets of artists differ. My five-year old’s drawings do not have the same value as the Mona Lisa. Additionally, not everything we humans create is morally or ethically true, good, or beautiful. We live in a broken world, and too often, the expressions of our creativity are broken as well. 

Great works of art
© Laura Gabel, various portraits in pastel

Several years ago, my then-four-year-old daughter wanted desperately to attend an art camp. Funds were tight for our family, so I decided to create our own art camp at home using some online materials. One thing I really appreciated about the curriculum is that we considered not just individual pieces of art, but also artists and their bodies of work. We learned why Picasso used different colors in different periods, or how Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings developed over time, or why Michelangelo gravitated towards sculpture. Knowing artists helped us understand why they created what they created, which in turn helped us appreciate and understand their artwork. The artwork was valuable as art, but we valued it more appropriately when we understood what the artist was doing. 

Great works of art
© Laura Gabel, various works in pastel

So what are some of your favorite works of art? Who would you consider a “great” artist? As interested as I am in the who, I’m even more interested in the why. What criteria would you use to label something as great? How might your perspective change if you were looking at an isolated work rather than an entire body of work? Browse through Laura’s gallery. What do you learn about her and her perspective from looking at her collected works? We read every comment, so we would love to read your thoughts!

 

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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!

 

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Beauty in Organization – an oxymoron?

Is there beauty in organizing? Super-organized people are often chided for being “uptight” or “OCD,” but I want to suggest that they see art and beauty in things others might miss. If you tend to be a bit less structured, hang in there with me for a moment.

One of my favorite times of the year is fast approaching: Back to School! It’s okay to cheer if you’re a parent longing for a bit more quiet in your day. It’s also ok to be sad if you’re in denial about how much earlier everyone needs to get out of bed, or if you’re a teacher still planning. beauty of organizationThe coming of a new school year brings with it the requisite purchasing of clothes, shoes, supplies, lunch boxes, and all the other goodies necessary to ensure our children hit their classrooms ready to absorb all the knowledge their teachers can dispense. Our school offers parents the opportunity to skip the endless running around for school supplies by purchasing a complete packet through our Parent Council. GENIUS. We’ve got a bit of time yet before school starts, but I’m ready to go as you can see — uniforms sized and hung, socks bleached (who am I kidding? new socks purchased!), lunch boxes, bags and shoes upgraded. It’s beautiful. Seriously.

Maybe the beauty of organizing is easier to see in my summer bucket list. My older daughter tends to be a bit more routine-and-schedule-focused, like me. So instead of a list of things we wanted to do over the summer, we created daily themes for the week and used multi-colored popsicle sticks to keep track of the days.

beauty of organizationNot only did we have all kinds of fun things to do over the summer, but we had a handy countdown at the same time. I find beauty in that.

I just finished up a webinar course to help me as I manage this website and blog. The course was specifically geared for artists who want to be more creative with their online presence and marketing. One of my favorite sessions was the discussion of editorial calendars — how to organize your blog posts, newsletters, and social media marketing. I spent a whole afternoon looking at options to find just the right one I wanted to use. And you know what? Yes, it’s beautiful. Not in a vibrant, colorful, thought provoking way, but in a simple, clean, organized way — think mid-century modern rather than baroque. Not to mention that it makes my life immeasurably easier!

Why do we need beauty?

Once we’re old enough to assume responsibility for something, all of us make attempts to be organized. Why not make it beautiful? Bring art and beauty into your life wherever you can. Arrange your closet by colors, use pretty dishes when serving a meal, rearrange your books on the shelf to be visually interesting. 

Basil the Great said that we all desire beauty. I would suggest that we desire beauty because the One who made us is supremely beautiful and we are made in His image. C.S. Lewis asked, “The Order of the Divine mind, embodied in the Divine Law, is beautiful. What should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life?” Where will you find beauty in your daily life? Where will you image your Creator? Leave us a comment or a picture and display that beauty.

 

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Art in Our Worship Gatherings?

Worship and art: What comes to your mind when you see those two words together? I’m not sure we think much about how art and worship relate to one another, but all of us are affected those two words. I’m hoping we can engage in some fruitful discussions on the subject – are you with me?

I recently finished reading Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer which got me thinking about what place art should have in our worship gatherings as well as how we view and appreciate art. This past weekend, my family and I visited the Painted Churches of Schulenburg, Texas, which led to some great discussions about the role and function of art in our worship gatherings.

Differing views on art and worship

Art and Worship - St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist

The first four buildings we visited were all Roman Catholic churches. The buildings are a century or more old, but services are still held at them.

Art and Worship, St. Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church

They were built by German and Czech settlers who wanted to recreate the beautiful and lavish cathedrals they remembered from their homeland.

Art and Worship - St. Mary's of the Assumption
St Mary’s church of the Assumption

Not having access to vast quantities of marble and precious metals, they painted the interior of the buildings to resemble those more ornate materials. They are breathtaking. The colors, the details, the texture that has been created is astonishing.

Art and Worship - Nativity of Mary
Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church

My pictures really don’t do them justice — if you’re ever in central Texas, I highly recommend a visit.

 

We also visited a Lutheran church building and a Methodist church building, similarly old, and also still used for services. The contrast was stark. Gone were the elaborately painted walls and ceilings, as well as much of the stained glass.

art and worship - methodist church
Methodist Church

But also missing were the fences and rails designed to restrict entry to portions of the Catholic churches. Gone as well were statues of saints, multiple altars, and candles for the dead. Even my five-year-old noticed the dramatic differences, and my nine-year-old wanted to know why. While we appreciated the more extravagant interiors in the Roman Catholic buildings, there was a sweet simplicity, beautiful in its own right, to the interiors of the Protestant buildings.

art and worship - Lutheran church
Lutheran church

My children were not hesitant to walk around and explore in the Lutheran and Methodist buildings — my youngest even walked up in the pulpit. Those buildings felt more accessible; the Roman Catholic ones felt more ornamental.

I have no intention of summarizing the Reformation here, but it should suffice to say that the Reformers disagreed with the way in which Roman Catholic leaders structured corporate worship. It follows, then, that those differences in theology would play out in differences in architecture. Protestants do not pray to saints — thus the absence of statues and multiple altars. Protestants believe that salvation comes by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. They believe in the priesthood of all believers, so differences regarding the altar and the pulpit make sense. In many ways, the unadorned Protestant buildings were a response to the embellishment prevalent in Roman Catholic buildings.

The church of which we are members currently meets in a movie theater. Not really any embellishment or extravagance there. I love my church; the preaching, the music, the people all point me to the God we meet in the Scriptures and I am better for it. But sometimes the movie theater is a distraction when we gather for worship. We sit in big comfy chairs with separate arm rest, theater-style. We look at a big movie screen with notes for the sermon and words for the songs. There is no pulpit, no special communion table, not even any windows (to say nothing of stained glass). But none of those things is essential to worship. In fact, the earliest of church meetings were generally held in private homes, a far cry from elaborately decorated cathedrals.

But we also know from passages such as Exodus 25 and 2 Chronicles 3 that both the tabernacle and the temple of Solomon were beautiful, ornate structures, down to the exquisite detail on each candlestick. Clearly God loves beauty when it comes to places of worship. 

Your view on art and worship?

How are we as Christians to think about art, beauty, and worship? I would suggest that Schaeffer gives us some helpful guidelines, and I’m thinking about doing a blog series to discuss those a bit more. What are your thoughts? What does the place where you worship look like? In what ways does it beauty (or lack thereof) contribute to or distract from your worship? How do you think your religious beliefs inform your views of art, beauty and worship? Feel free to include a picture with your comments and let’s keep the conversation going!

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Need an energy boost?

I gain energy by creating and I am in the thick of painting as you can see below. I’ve still got a ways to go because this one is a doozie – large, exciting and acrylic! I’ll be sure to post a picture when it’s all completed!

Painting energy 

Sometimes, I get so involved in the creative process of painting that I even forget to eat (the cereal boxes are purely props!) As my energy started to flag, a thought popped into my head and I was reminded of Ft. Worth, TX. I’ll be sharing lots with you about the marvelous trip my good friend Pam treated me to in later blog posts.

energy boostBut for now, I want to share a dynamite energy booster that we had as we tooled through the streets of Ft. Worth. Yummy and nutritious, a super snack that was fully of healthy goodies. It kept us going, night and day, in the car and in my purse.  I had never had it before. It was so good that I had to take a picture of it! It really made a difference and helped us to “hold the line” when we were too busy to eat a meal.

A different kind of energy

There is another Sustainer that I recommend and He is so much better than trail mix! He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother—Jesus. 

The Bible describes Him magnificently in Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (emphasis added)

Jesus sustains our world and our lives. May I suggest you get an a true energy boost by getting to better know the One who loves and sustains you.

Where do you turn when you need an energy boost?

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Inspired by a business card

“Tell us how you met Laura…” 

I recently sat in a room where over a dozen women shared how they knew Laura and how she had inspired them. She had encouraged them, challenged them, motivated them, comforted them, helped them to be better women. Yet this same Laura confided to me earlier that afternoon that she was uncomfortable opening up her life to others. That made for two very different perspectives on the same person, but think it’s precisely her hesitancy to share that enables her to inspire others.

I’ve known Laura for over two years, but only last week met her in person. (That might sound crazy, but explaining it will take another blog post.) We sat down to talk “business,” and I was sharing with her some of the things I am learning through an online training course. I mentioned to her that she needs to have business cards to share her art more effectively. She smiled: “I just had some printed up; I hope you’ll like them.”

inspired by a business card

Like them? I LOVE them!!!  I love her creativity in displaying different paintings on the front, while on the back including not only her contact info, but also her picture. The cards are amazing. I encouraged her, “You should hand them out tonight.” Laura was going to give a talk later that night to women’s group about our identity in Christ. 

But then came the hesitation. As we talked further, she continued to deflect the notion of putting herself “out there” for others.

But as I listened to the women in that room talk, it was abundantly clear that she had put herself out there for each and every one of those ladies in a myriad of ways over the years — in person, over the phone, via email. She had laughed, cried, prayed, talked, rejoiced, and mourned with them. She had offered wise counsel in times of confusion. She had poured herself into them, and they were changed as a result of their friendship with her.

Even now, as she’s reading this, I’m certain she feels uncomfortable with it. Laura doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. She’s quick to call herself a private person. But I want to suggest that what she is is a humble person; someone who sees her own frailty but recognizes that it is Christ in her that brings about change through their relationship with her. 

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Laura is a successful business woman as well as a talented artist. But what I love most about her is her humility. She doesn’t try to pretend to be something she’s not. She is open to correction; she invites and welcomes honest critique of her work. She knows the depths from which she has come and where her real hope is found. She is quick to say “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” when reflecting on her own struggles.

So often in our culture, we idolize celebrity. But how many celebrities have a meaningful, substantial, positive effect on our lives? How much better to be inspired by genuine humility! So who inspires you? Who has touched your life in such a way that you are no longer the same? What is it about them that draws you in? Tell them: Send an email or pick up the phone. If they’re anything like Laura, they will no doubt squirm a bit under the attention, but that’s what makes them so remarkable.

So, Laura, thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on someone you’d never met. Thank you for giving me a voice on this blog. Thank you for enduring my countless questions and emails. Thank you for pointing me always back to our Savior.

And what about those business cards? Well, she was still hesitant, so I owned my role as her assistant and spread them out on a table in the back of the room. I then mentioned casually that ladies could take one as they left. And you know what? They all did.

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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.

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Too busy to be still?

Have you noticed that “busy” has become the normal response to “how are you?” No longer do we brush folks off with a “fine” response, but now we sigh and say “busy” or a variation on it (crazy, barely making it, running wild, tired out). We wear our tag of “busy” like a badge of honor,  almost as though it were a contest to see who can be the busiest. Why are we so busy? Or are we not as busy as we think? Do we just feel busy? Do we just want others to believe we are busy? And what would happen if we suddenly stopped being busy? Is that even possible?

Some recent health problems have meant that I have been housebound, and at times couchbound, for the past three weeks. No housework, no cooking, no laundry, no errands, no activities, no driving. I know — some of you are thinking, “That sounds AMAZING! What I’d give to have some down time when I couldn’t do anything.” To be honest, the first two days were pretty amazing. I slept whenever I felt like it, checked email, wasted time on Facebook and binge watched HGTV. But by the third day, I was restless and cranky, and I took it out on those around me. The real issue wasn’t so much that I was bored with nothing to do. I work from home on the computer, which was still very doable. I was able to complete some larger projects that had previously been left undone, and I certainly do enjoy my share of Fixer Upper

As I stopped to think about it, the real issue was that I wasn’t doing the things that earn me the “busy” tag. I wasn’t busy doing stuff around the house. I wasn’t busy being doing mom stuff. I wasn’t busy cooking delicious meals. I wasn’t busy being a chauffeur for various activities. I wasn’t busy running errands. The reality was that if I wasn’t “busy,” I felt useless. In the stillness of a forced time of rest, I felt as if I had lost my sense of identity. My usefulness was tied to my busyness which was tied to my self-worth. 

I think we like to be busy, and have others know we are busy, because we are afraid of what we might find out about ourselves if we weren’t busy. But here’s the reality: My worth does not come from my work. My worth comes from my Creator whose eyes saw my unformed body when I was still in my mother’s womb. My worth comes from the Sovereign ruler of the universe who has made me in His image. It comes from the Redeemer who loved me and gave Himself for me. It is in those moments of stillness that I can see my own frailty. I can run from that, or I can let that direct me to the One whose power is made perfect in my weakness.

water lillies

My challenge for you this week is to be still. I know some of you will immediately object “but I’m too busy.” Yes. That’s all the more reason to do it. Take a look at this painting from Monet; it is one of my favorites. The Water Lillies is just a slice of a collection of paintings by Monet. While the largest collection is in France, you can also see several panels in New York. The paintings are displayed all along the walls of an oval room, so that the viewer can sit in the midst and be engulfed by the painting. Have you ever noticed that art museums have benches everywhere? The idea is to sit, to be still in order to look closely.

What is stopping you? It’s not your schedule. We make time for the things that are important to us. Can you take time to be still? Will you? Your worth does not come from your work. In your stillness, remember the One who made you, the One who loves you, the One who rules the universe. All your busy activity does not keep the planets in orbit. He’s got that. He’s got you. Be still and know that He is God.

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