Suffering when there Isn’t a Happy Ending

I was deeply moved by my friend Pam Jarvis’ exploration of suffering as she pondered Christ’s death. My pastor has often said that we should carry the crucified Christ and His resurrection with us daily, not just once a year. I have put Pam’s article together with a series of paintings that seem to me to exemplify some of her thoughts. I look forward to your comments.

A Good Friday Reflection on Grief and Suffering

We had a huge disappointment this week in our family.  I cried bitter tears because I prayed and others prayed and we all thought it was going to turn our well.  Faithful effort and believing in God’s provision did not result in a real need being answered in a positive way.  It wasn’t as serious as someone dying or getting a terminal diagnosis, or a horrible car accident, a breakup of a marriage, or losing a child.  Looking at the horrible things people around the world are suffering, it doesn’t compare.  But it hurt.

JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID – La Muerte de Marat (Museos Reales de Bellas Artes de Bélgica, 1793. Óleo sobre lienzo, 165 x 128 cm

Where is Jesus when suffering happens?

I was pondering our response, as Christians, to suffering. In the American evangelical church, we are sorely lacking.  We avoid suffering, run from others who are feeling pain or loss, or try to say easy platitudes like “it will get better,” “God is sovereign”, “God works together all things for our good”.  These are all true, of course, but when we have a grave disappointment or are with people who are grieving or lost something important to them, what is our response? Let’s ponder this:

The kitchen maid, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 1738 – c.1740, oil, canvas, 37.5 x 46.2 cm

I started looking at the account of Jesus’s Crucifixion and I noticed different responses to His suffering and death.  Jesus’s mother Mary, and her sister Mary, and Mary Magdalene were near the cross.  John (the Scriptures don’t name this disciple), was present. Most scholars agree he was the best friend of Jesus,“the one he loved”. Jesus noticed them,  as he said, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

The other disciples all ran away. (Matt. 26:56)

His closest inner circle fled in fear of being arrested.

Most of us can identify with the difficulty of being with someone we love who is in pain; words don’t really help, sometimes they even make it worse, and we don’t know the right thing to say to fix it or make it better.  Some of us stuff or numb the pain, don’t acknowledge the hurt, or we just hide or run away, like the disciples. I have done all of these things.

Where does our comfort come from in times of loss and grief?  I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be Mary, seeing your son willingly go through unimaginable torture.

The Scream, Edvard Munch (Norwegian, Løten 1863–1944 Ekely), 1895, Lithograph, 20 1/4 x 15 5/8 in. (51.4 x 39.7 cm)

Yet, she stayed.  The two other Marys stayed. John stayed.

The New Testament has many references to the word stay, remain or abide (not a word we usually use). In the Greek, the word abide has these meanings: “To continue to be present, to be held continually, to last or endure, to wait for.”

We are shown in the book of John that the ones who treasured Jesus were present, staying with Him, abiding and enduring the pain and suffering they were witnessing. Even though there was not a happy ending that day, they waited and even, in their sorrow, prepared his body for burial.

We do know, for those of us who believe, that there is a promised victorious day coming because of the cross and resurrection. He is now alive to “abide” with us, to be present when there is overwhelming sorrow.  We are promised in Lamentations 3

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, Tempera on panel, 32 1/4 x 47 3/4″ (81.9 x 121.3 cm)

We belong to Him. He is with us in our pain, if we seek His presence and abide and wait with Him. When people we know are suffering, we can be present with them, just like Jesus is with us. He was a “man of sorrows familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3).  This Good Friday His presence is with us in our disappointment.  We do have hope as we wait; Our Resurrected King will wipe away every tear from our eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.” Rev 21:4

This song says it better than I can:

Blessing and Honor to the King of Kings!

Love,
Pam

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How Can All Things Be Made Beautiful?

He has made everything beautiful in its time,” the writer of Ecclesiastes confidently asserts. But sometimes, our lives don’t feel so beautiful and we find ourselves waiting for that day in which all things will be indeed beautiful. Perhaps you find yourself wondering how, when, or even if those things in your life can ever be made beautiful.

Christine Hoover has written a new book entitled, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. In her book, she utilizes the framework on Ecclesiastes 3 to frame both our seasons of waiting and our joyful hope of what is to come.

The Beautiful Story

I particularly appreciated the underlying structure of the book where Christine takes us through the whole story of redemptive history. She looks first at God’s creation (the definition of beautiful), the marring of that beauty in the fall, the beginning on the restoration of beauty through the redemption found in Christ, and finally, the largest part of the book is devoted to our anticipation of the time of restoration and consummation, when all things will again be made beautiful. Oftentimes, in books that talk about waiting, we can lose the forest for the trees when all we focus on is our waiting. By placing our waiting within the context of the larger biblical narrative, Christine helps us to have a Godward perspective instead of an inward, selfish approach. Her book is not a simple “hang in there, life is hard, it will get better” approach. Rather, she grounds all that she writes in the whole counsel of God.

New Life seasons and beautiful
© Laura Gabel, “New LIfe Ps. 92:14”. Acrylic on canvas, 29.25 x 23. $850.

When we think of all things being made beautiful, we each bring our own presuppositions and ideas to the table. And it is often the disconnect between our ideas and our reality that cause us to chafe in the seasons of waiting. Here again, Christine offers a helpful and gentle rebuke. “In our definition, beauty means no negativity, no suffering, no longing, and no waiting. Beauty is…instant and consumable. We must be careful what we call beautiful.” (p. 58, emphasis added). Because God is the creator of all that is, He is the One who gets to define what true beauty is, and His idea is often very different from ours.

The Not-So-Beautiful Waiting

But waiting is hard, and we don’t like it. We want quick resolution, easy answers that still take our pain seriously. We search anywhere and everywhere, but often not where we need to. “Displacing the whole counsel of God, we instead search for Instagram mantras that make us feel better for the moment.” (p.81). Christine is careful not to offer such thin hope. Rather, she takes us time and time again back to the Scriptures to see how God works in all things to craft a beauty unimaginable out of those “inconsolable things” that mar the beauty of our lives. Hard things will come, some will stay a long time. But there is a greater hope and a greater beauty that awaits those who trust in Christ.

Winter with My Lover beautiful
© Laura Gabel, “Winter with My Lover”. Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.

The Gospel is the ultimate story of beauty coming after waiting, pain, hurt, and death, for in it, Christ accomplished redemption for His people. Christine urges us to sink our anchor deep in that truth. “The Holy Spirit draws me back to the Word for sustenance, because in its pages are the words of life. I need the gospel of Jesus every day because I forget, because the world is noisy and distracting and, by it, my flesh is easily drawn away from joy.” (p. 166)

On the whole, I found the book to be a great reminder of how God is most often at work in the difficult places in my life, and in the lives of those around me. Yes, the waiting is hard. But it is but one piece of the greater story that God is writing. I need to be reminded of the bigger picture. Christine’s writing is honest, engaging, unpretentious and rooted in the Scriptures. I did, on occasion, find the chapter title and divisions to be a little bit unclear (in terms of matching with the content of the chapter), but what was written in the chapters was clear even if the connections were not always so obvious. I’ve known Christine for years, though we’ve never met in person. It felt as though we were having coffee together in her Virginia home while we waited very literally for Spring to begin creeping over the Blue Ridge. I appreciate her honesty, and her dogged commitment to bringing all things back to the sovereignty of God.

Beautiful Sovereignty

“God is sovereign over and active in the the unseen places—in your soul, in your relationships, in your future. God is able to make all things new and, with the broken pieces of your life, he can make something beautiful too. In face, that has been his plan all along.” (p. 41)

Catherine's Springtime beautiful

Perhaps you find yourself awash in a season of spiritual or emotional winter. You are waiting, but beauty seems out of reach. Pick up a copy of Christine’s book, read it alongside your Bible. Be encouraged to know that God is a work in your waiting. And He will, in His time, make all things beautiful.

 

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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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These goats mean business

Alas, I don’t! As some of you know I have a rooster and some chickens, but no goats.

juladame goat business

Just recently though, I learned how goats launched a business. I met Julie Wells a while back at an arts and crafts show. By chance and love, my dear husband bought me some of her all natural hand cream. I’m not the kind that goes out and buys hand cream for myself, but at the risk of sounding like a commercial, I couldn’t believe how wonderful that stuff was.

So, I’ve had it in my head to talk to Julie Wells, creator of Juladame, and find out what she might have to share with me and our readers. Her journey is quite interesting.

Here are a few important things I gleaned from my time spent with Julie.

juladame business

The business of being mindful
  • Creativity is not always due to natural talent. Julie said she just fell into it when someone gave her a few goats that needed milking. Chance and opportunity are good friends.
  • Julie paid attention. She said it just felt right. Pay attention when something feels right to you, when you are in the moment of being present and enjoying that time. That “still small voice” in all of us needs to be surfaced and acknowledged.
  • Decide if you’re really passionate. Julie was surprised to learn that some people consider her an artisan. If you enjoy any of Julie’s products, you easily see that she loves what she does and has developed quality soaps and creams. But Julie considers herself an educator. Why? Because in Julie’s heart, people should not have to settle for products that have a lot of harmful chemicals. She’s truly excited when people see the benefits of goat’s milk on their skin.

Juladame1 business

The business of perseverance
  • Be determined. While Julie fell into it, she kept on with it. In effect she kept falling forward. When she moved to Florida, her tried and true recipes from New York weren’t working. She didn’t throw up her hands here in Florida, and walk away from her business. She persisted.
  • Don’t think you’re too old! Julie started when she was 42 years old. As many of you know I started painting when I was around 59. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt when he was 80 years old, fearing the journey, yet trusting God. Fear at any age is our greatest enemy.

Juladame8 business

  • She cares. Julie named her business as a legacy for her 3 daughters. Listen to the interview here to learn how:

    One of her daughters is a dedicated mother and can see the benefits of working from home. Julie also considers her customers her friends. She gets to know them, their needs, and appreciates their feedback. So for her it’s all about family and friends.

Juladame7 business

Julie has some special words to share with those of you who may not believe you are creative. She’s encouraging, and her products make lovely gifts and are reasonably priced. Why not treat yourself or a friend? Go to Julie’s page and give her a call.

Let’s support our local artisans! Which brings me to a special request. Do you have an artist, artisan or friend that you think might make a great guest? Please let me know.

 

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Finding Your Voice

Alas our wonderful rooster Max died a couple of weeks back. I’m learning that chickens just do that, sometimes for no reason. At any rate, the ladies of our hen house, now number 6 (Trixie, Greta, Lucy, Ethel, Eenie, Meenie) and they needed a rooster! Enter Max II, a feisty all black rooster, that is a teenager.

As a teen, Max II had not yet crowed, so we waited. Then one morning about a week or so ago, I heard this feeble little crowing, and then again, and again, a little louder the next time. It was exciting, Max II was finding his voice! Finally, a real cock-a-doodle-do came out. It took effort.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop sponsored by the Nature Coast Art League. Our instructor was Christine Peloquin, an amazing artist and teacher.

Peloquin voice

Christine is generous, funny, outgoing and giving. She came prepared and guided us through an exciting artistic process that she has developed over time.

She’s made a wonderful video “Reflecting My Place In This World”  which describes her journey in finding her artistic style, philosophy, her voice.

Like all of us, Christine is an amalgam of her heritage, her family, and her life experiences. One of the things I really appreciated about Christine is how she began the workshop by telling us how she evolved as an artist. How she got to where she is today. (And in my mind, in preparation for tomorrow.) In effect, she talked about finding her voice in the art world.

voice Peloquin
“Story Seen in the Picture” by Christine Peloquin. 30″ x 24″ acrylic, charcoal, paper and fabric collage on wood panel
What’s Your Voice?

Now don’t tune out, you don’t have to be an artist, writer or musician to find your voice. Your voice is simply who you are and who you were created to be. It involves your mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Some folks develop their voice unconsciously. Others, very deliberately look to explore how their talents, skills, passions, and life experiences can be of value to others.

The idea behind finding your voice is important: “you are unique, an imprint of the Divine, there is no one on earth quite like you.” This is a very exhilarating and sobering idea.

If you pay attention, you often inherently know what you are good at, what you’re passionate about, what you love doing, often how you find yourself helping others.

Finding My Voice

In this workshop and all the others that I’ve participated in, I take a piece of that creative spark and absorb it, so that it becomes more me. It’s a process.

Laura, Star, voice blog

I’m curious by nature and I’m not trying to rush this journey, I’m trying to enjoy it!

It’s about discovery. “God gets glory from concealing things; kings get glory from investigating things.” Proverbs 25:2 CJB So don’t rush it, it will evolve.

“Revelation is never a straight road. It is Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz; it is Lucy’s story in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a series of events that form His story in you that changes your DNA and aligns you with His.” Shawn Bolz.

Stay tuned for an interview with Christine and learn how she has creatively developed ways to impact others and enhance her world and ours.

I’ve been learning a lot about “finding my voice”, how about you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

I hope you like Star as much as I do! You can find my work here.

© Laura Gabel, "Star". Acrylic and Mixed Media on Board, 16x12. $275.
© Laura Gabel, “Star”. Acrylic and Mixed Media on Board, 16×12. $275.
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Keen on Sadness

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Big Eyes” about the artist Margaret Keane and her Big Eyed Waif paintings. It is an amazing story of a woman who found her saving grace in painting out her feelings, often of sadness, grief and anger. While you may not know her name you will be able to recognize her paintings.

Keen on Sadness
IN THE GARDEN by Margaret Keane Fine art giclee print on canvas 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm)

Margaret gave up her identity as creator of the paintings. She painted in secret, allowing her husband to take credit for executing the works. For 15 years, her husband reaped accolades as the most popular painter of the time. Margaret spent hours fulfilling commissions and painting away. She was prolific and had a genuine, expressive style which her husband Walter capitalized on, making him famous and forcing her to live a life of lies, but as Margaret has mentioned…it was her choice. Which, no doubt, brought her great sadness.

close up of Margaret Keane’s eye paintings

Beside having big eyes in all of her paintings, her style carries an inherent sadness and often tells a story.  Especially her paintings before her divorce from Kean in 1965.

Sadness, is part of life. I have been dealing with some sadness in my own life. What I have discovered is that sadness can turn into self-pity.

I happen to think that self-pity “SP” weaves a very tight trap, a sort of fence around things like grief, sickness, loneliness, anger. Self-pity is clever, in that it seems “right”. It’s one of those “I DESERVE IT” emotions.  I deserve to be pitied, I deserve to spend my time thinking about poor pitiful me. It’s also one of those “I DON’T DESERVE IT” emotions.

Keen on Sadness
INDECISIVE by Margaret Keane, Fine art giclee print on canvas 5 x 7 in. (12.7 x 17.8 cm)
Sadness and Self Pity

Now I know that some folks aren’t going to like this post, because SP is a much vaunted and loved emotion for Americans. We have a right to SP! Don’t we? I guess it does make you feel better…or does it? Self pity is a self indulgent attitude concerning life’s hardships. While self pity is a big topic, here are a couple of things I’ve seen in my life and others about SP. Some are helpful and some will be bell ringers for you.

1. Don’t make a habit out of self-pity, it makes you unpopular. Self-pity is a choice.

2. Your drama life becomes boring to others; crying wolf too many times makes you a laughing stock behind your back.

3.  Find a way to shine, a creative outlet, a way of helping others.

4.  Start a gratitude list nightly; you may find this practice hard, but I promise it gets easier.

5. Remember that no matter how difficult, strengthen yourself with joy– the joy of the LORD is your strength.Neh. 8:10

6. Recognize your worth to God – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

7. Keep looking for the good of what you will learn and the strength of character you can develop out of this SP circumstance.

8. Remember you are not in total control, but you do have choices – He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deut. 32:4

Sadness to Joy….and you?

By the way Margaret is 87 and still painting! You can see her originals and prints displayed here. I would love to hear a story about how you have dealt with sadness and self pity in your life.

 

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Do you need an Epiphany?

“Happy Epiphany!” “Have a joyous Epiphany!” “Wishing you a blessed Epiphany” I’m guessing you’ve neither given nor received any such greetings this holiday season. It’s entirely possible you have no idea that January 6th is Epiphany. It’s also possible that you may not even know what Epiphany is, or why I’d be writing a blog post on it….

Epiphany is traditionally observed 12 days after Christmas to commemorate the arrival of the Magi to adore the Christ child. Now, the Bible provides scant details on their visit, but Christians throughout history have added in their own details, celebrations and observations.

In our home, about the only celebration we do for Epiphany is that we un-decorate from Christmas. Not actually on January 6th, but the closest Saturday to it. I like to run the Christmas season all the way through until then. So clearly, it’s not my grand observance of this event that spurs my blogging.

No, it’s actually a painting (convenient for an art related blog…) that spurs me to write this time. When I was in college, I was required to take an art appreciation class. I had never considered myself much of an appreciator of art, so I was more than bit intimidated.

I remember having to choose a painting and write a paper about it, specifically about what the artist might be trying to convey through their work. For reasons I do not remember I chose this painting by Sandro Botticelli.

 

 

epiphany

As I began studying the painting, called the Adoration of the Magi, I discovered that Botticelli had painted several different Adorations and as I studied them, I saw some interesting differences. The older paintings of the Magi seemed more formal, the Christ child more distant. The newer paintings were much more intimate. Seriously doubting myself, I timidly wrote a paper positing that Botticelli had undergone some type of spiritual journey as he painted.

I was pleasantly surprised when my professor returned my paper and validated my conclusions. For the first time, I felt like I “got” an artist – that I could look at someone’s art and really understand what was going on in the work; it was more than just “oh, that’s a nice painting.” In a way, it was my own personal “epiphany”.

Epiphany
Do you need an Epiphany?

Now, I’m not writing to encourage you to go take an art appreciation class, or hang a Botticellli print on your wall – though both of those would enrich your life, I’m sure. It’s the beginning of a new year, the time for reflecting on the year that is ending and making resolutions for the new year. What are those things that intimidate you? Are there topics/subjects that seem beyond your comprehension? Is there a skill that continually eludes you? Why not make this year the year to conquer those fears? What step can you take this week to climb that mountain? Share in the comments and we can all encourage each other!

Oh, and Happy Epiphany 🙂

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Joy for the Sad

There are some paintings you just can’t part with. The painting below, “I’ll Fly Away” was really my first pastel painting. 

© Laura Gabel, "I'll Fly Away". Pastel on art.
© Laura Gabel, “I’ll Fly Away”. Pastel on art.

I didn’t like pastel, I thought it was messy, dusty and difficult. I persevered somewhat, but my teacher Laurie McKelvie was so passionate and so encouraging I just had to plod on. Kudos to her; I ended up loving pastel, learned about the amazing history and longevity of pastel, and developed as a pastel painter. But this blog isn’t about that story, as wonderful as it is.

I wouldn’t sell this painting, not because it’s my first, but because it is somewhat autobiographical. It’s really about the story of how I saw myself.  I was determined to compose and design a painting that portrayed the old me. My art was born out of some very raw pain, sadness and hurt. If you are not familiar with how I came to art very late in my life, please do read my story

When you look at the painting you see a young, unhappy girl gazing at the bluebird, wishing and hoping she could fly away. Believing that beauty was somehow in her future, that freedom was right around the corner. Sadness and pain is on her face but the bluebird is her hope of transformation. 

Finding True Joy

We hear so much about “Joy to the World” during this season and the joy of our Savior’s arrival is real. But as the light of His birth grows brighter and brighter, as we draw nearer to Christmas day there are others, for whom the days grow darker. Sadness overtakes them, loneliness beckons, darkness tries to overtake the light. 

But a prophet (Isaiah 61:1-3) promised that Jesus would come to comfort all who mourn, to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. That promise is real! In fact often when people see this painting they can’t possibly believe that this was me! But it was.

Here are some things I learned during this transforming time:

  • Misery loves company and it’s usually the wrong kind of company! Choose to be with those that will feed your soul with joy, not your sadness.
  • Practice looking for beauty in nature. Peace can be found in the quiet contemplation of His creation.
  • Concentrate on what you have rather than what you don’t have. This is important! All advertising points to what you must have in order to make you happy. But as we all know, the happiness of a new phone, car, dress doesn’t last long. So as my good friend Pam says, “turn your wanter off!”
  • Focus on the Light of the world. 

joy to the world

I’d love to know what you think of my first painting. How have you learned to repaint your life?

 

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Chicken or Rooster – which one are you?

It’s ok to be chicken, or is it? Yes, I do have chickens, no I am not obsessed with them. But my blog today is about a workshop and a rooster. 

Hopefully, I’ve made you curious!

I admit to being chicken hearted when it comes to workshops, training sessions, classes and the like. In general, learning something new with people I don’t really know that well, can be a nerve wracking experience, but I am getting better at taking a deep breath and signing up. 

Still, it feels like jumping off a cliff. The closer the time gets for the workshop, the easier it is for me to lose my nerve; so thank heaven for “deposits”. A deposit just makes it a lot more difficult to get out of the workshop. I need nerves of steel and a deposit seems like a commitment to me; it keeps me from backing out. So I took a deep breath and signed up for a Lisa Whitener pallet knife class. What a joy it turned out to be! 

chicken or rooster

Workshops can be, but not always, pressure filled, inconvenient and uncomfortable because you and I know that everyone is making mental comparisons, or is it just me that does that? 

So WHY do I take them? Simply because I learn a lot. 

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”–Unknown I want to grow! Deep down I know everyone does, no one wants to stagnate. A pond with no circulation gets a lot of algae.  

We need the weeds to grow a beautiful garden. Gardens are messy and require work. Workshops are messy and they require work, but it moves my skill to a higher level, challenges me, allows me to see different approaches.

Fortunately for me, Lisa is all about fun, all about Florida and is the opposite of an “art instructor snob”. She was refreshingly helpful, down to earth and gave a lot of great demos. You can see some of her work below and here.

chicken or rooster

We had a great group of lovely ladies, some who finished several paintings, here they are holding up their favorite from the class:

chicken or rooster

I chose to do a rooster with a knife (that’s pallet knife), after all rooster are courageous aren’t they?chicken or rooster

Lisa and the other friendly folks last Saturday reaffirmed that it’s worth the risk, learning something new. We are advised in 2 Timothy 1:7 that the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. 

 

Oh, btw, here is my “pallet painted” rooster from the workshop:

chicken or rooster

Let me know what you think about workshops, training sessions, pallet painting and if you got a bit of encouragement learning something new lately.

 

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Hope, Hopelessness and Cancer

This is not the post I intended to write this week. I’ve been working on a post in my head about encouraging the imaginations of our children and ourselves. I did a little online research, listened to a podcast, saved a bunch of links and even had some pictures ready to plug in. Then I sat down to write and……nothing. So then I checked my email, partially from distraction and partially just out of habit. There were three emails in my inbox all from friends dealing with cancer – one needs a bone marrow transplant, one is undergoing experimental chemotherapy that (for the moment) seems to be working. One has been given a terminal diagnosis. I hate cancer. I. Hate. Cancer.

Earlier this year, a beloved former teacher at our school died. Cancer. It’s been just over year since a student at our school died. Cancer. My love for watching sports helps me see that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (I’m saddened that we even need such an awareness.); next month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My mom is a breast cancer survivor. Another teacher friend of mine is also a breast cancer survivor. So many lives touched by cancer. So many lives taken by cancer. If you’re reading this post, the chances are high that you too know or have lost someone to cancer. I hate cancer.

Yes, I know, this is an art blog. You come here to be encouraged, to look at beautiful art. You don’t come here to read about cancer or think about those who’ve been ravaged by this hateful disease. Don’t quit reading just yet!

Hope in Cancer

When I sat my girls down to tell them about our friends who are dealing with cancer, my sweet five year old immediately said, “but it’s ok Mom, because they can go to Heaven and be with Jesus.” Yes, yes they can. But we who remain will grieve and rightfully so. 1 Thessalonians instructs us not to grieve as those who “have no hope.” Why? how is our grief as Christians to be different? Because our hope is in Christ and His return, the promised resurrection, the future of an eternity reigning with Him. Notice that we are not instructed not to grieve. Grief over death and loss can be God honoring. Death remains the enemy.

I find myself going back to Laura’s painting and thinking about my daughter’s response.

© Laura Gabel, "Glorious Foretaste". Pastel.
© Laura Gabel, “Glorious Foretaste”. Pastel.

When we re-did our home page I wrote:

We don’t know where you stand on the idea of Heaven, but as Christians we believe there is a Heaven. The Bible describes Heaven as a place where there is no more death, sickness, pain, or even crying. Heaven is where all the wrongs and brokenness we experience here on earth are wiped away because Christ is seated on His rightful throne. 

Can you even imagine a place where there is no pain, no broken relationships, no sickness? A place of perfect love and perfect community. Here, it feels as though everything is a little off, a little out of focus. In Heaven life works the way it was meant to work, and we see things as they really are. And when community and relationships work here, despite the messiness and mistakes, we get a glorious foretaste of what it will be like there. There is real beauty, real goodness, real truth. We see dimly here, as through a veil. There we will see clearly, because we will see Christ face-to-face.

Hope of the Gospel

My friends may well see Christ earlier than I would like. But they will know no more pain, no more cancer, no more sadness. And one day, I will see them again, because of the hope of the Gospel.

So today, I will pray for them; I will remember that life is fleeting; I will hold my loved ones a bit tighter; and I will give thanks to the One who will one day wipe all those tears away. Reflecting on our mortality and holding on to the hope (and the Hope) of Heaven can be an encouraging thing after all.

In what do you find hope? How do you remind yourself of that hope? Maybe you find yourself desperately in need of some hope – leave us a comment or send us an email. I promise we will pray for you! And if you or someone you love is facing a cancer diagnosis, may these articles be an encouragement to you.

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