2017 Here I Come

Is February too late for new year’s resolutions?

Life was still a little on the wild and crazy side back in January. Thankfully, I’m finally catching my breath. Now it’s time to start catching up with my hopes and dreams for 2017.

I rarely pick a word for the year, but it is glaringly obvious to me that my word is OBEY. You see, I tend to be an information gatherer. You know… reading all the books and blogs, listening to all the podcasts, watching the webinars, taking the classes all before taking that next step. Lots of information going in, but not a lot of action going out.

The thing is, I already know the assignment I’ve been given. My job is to make beautiful things using the gifts I’ve been given for the good of the world and the glory of God. In order for that to happen, I need to show up and do the work of creating, one painting at a time. I don’t need to go looking for more assurance. I don’t need to learn how every single other artist on the planet does it. I also, believe it or not, don’t need all the answers to all the questions. I am done searching for the perfect road map because when does God ever provide that in advance?!

I’m not a fan of the word resolution. I prefer to set intentions. So this is my intention for 2017:

I commit to obediently walk through every door that God opens for me in 2017, confident in His plan, trusting His purpose, supplied by His provision, equipped by His Spirit, and resting in His love.

 

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Sorrow is Good for the Soul

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If there ever was a day that could be the exact definition of the word bittersweet, this is that day.

Sweet because 19 years ago today my dreams came true when I gave birth to one of my life’s greatest gifts and joys, a baby girl.

Bitter because I had to bury my Mom and Dad on the day that I turned 19.

So today while I see my 19 year old baby girl flourishing in her first year of college, dreaming big dreams, and taking big steps on the path God has prepared for her, I also remember me at 19, living through the hardest days of my life as everything about who I was and who I thought I would be unraveled in the blink of an eye.

It’s true that the consequence of tragedy never ends. I knew this chapter of parenthood would be hard for me to navigate and it is. I took preventative measures and started counseling long before the waves of this new season would start crashing. I’m so glad I did. I feel prepared and equipped to handle days like today. But that doesn’t keep the tears away, and maybe that’s not the point.

I’m grieving. Of course I am. And I must.

 

But that grief in no way negates from my gratefulness. I cry tears of sadness, yes I do, but deeper still is a sense of wonder and gratitude for all that God has provided for me, His daughter. I was orphaned, but never alone. He held me then and holds me now. I look at my life today and stand in awe of a life He planned, prepared, and provided for me. I see how He built up a new life from scratch, one I surely didn’t plan and didn’t see coming. It’s been hard. I wouldn’t have chosen “hard” for myself, but I’m grateful He chose it for me. I can’t help but believe that the hard has actually made everything that is good in my life even better. My heart and soul have grown larger through suffering, making room to experience greater joy, strength, peace, and love.

So while I still wrestle with all the “what’s” and the “why’s” that come alongside me on days like today, I am deeply and profoundly grateful that I get to be TO BE HERE FOR MY GIRL on her 19th birthday. This is no ordinary birthday. This is a beautiful second chance. The roles are different, but the love is the same. I get to BE the Mom I didn’t have, and it’s a precious, precious privilege that I do not take for granted. I get to love my kids, celebrate them, support them, encourage them, help them, and Lord willing, continue to watch them become the beautiful adults that I know they will be.

But IF I can’t, if God were to suddenly and unexpectedly call me home, I know firsthand that they are always in good hands–God’s hands.

He’s the one thing they can never lose and the only thing they’ll ever need.

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Nothing Too Small

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I’d like you to meet my friend, Shannan Martin. I call her my friend, even though we’ve only met in person once (which was the craziest sleepover party I will probably ever experience in my life.) She might not recognize me if we ever met in the salsa isle of the grocery store, which is fine because I would probably get all sweaty and nervous and embarrassed that I hadn’t showered yet. But then again, she is the realest deal around, so I’m guessing I’d find her still in her sweats too.

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Shannan just wrote a book, Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted. You absolutely must read it when it comes out. Do like me and preorder a copy on Amazon. I started following Shannan’s blog, Flower Patch Farmgirl, back when she was living the dream life in a picture perfect farmhouse down a tree lined lane. I’m not going to give the story away, but she and her husband had a hunch that God had better ideas for them than a comfy cozy life on the farm, so they let go of what they thought was their dream come true and traded it in for an unmapped adventure with God. It has been quite the ride.

Who doesn’t love an inspirational story? I think we all do.

But let’s be honest. Big stories make me feel small sometimes. Like a drop in a bucket.

Ker-plink. Ker-plunk.

It’s tempting to think bigger is better. It’s tempting to think the best story wins. I know in my head it’s not true, but in my heart I tend to feel otherwise. Why hasn’t God asked me to do something bigger and better? Something radical? Something important?

I’m about to get real here when I say I might even be jealous of other people’s stories. It’s the ugly truth. Inspiring stories make me wish my own story had a little more glamour and flash. How’s that for dirty laundry? (aka sinful nature?) But seriously, how often have you heard the phrase, “tell your story” or “your story matters” and thought your own “story” wasn’t good enough?

The world needs big radical Jesus loving world changers. I know I need them. I learn from them. I read their blogs, buy their books, and follow their feeds. They inspire me. They open my eyes and break open my heart and move me to act. They point me to Jesus.

But here’s the thing I need to remember:

The world needs the everyday ordinary Jesus loving world changers too.

You know what that means?

That means I get to do that thing that God whispers in MY ear today.

It’s a very simple two step process. 1. Listen. 2. Obey.

While it’s true that nothing is too big with God,

it’s also true that nothing is too small.

Because if God asks me to do it,

it IS important.

*linking up with Lori Harris for her series #onethingrightnow

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Make Beautiful Things

 

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Make beautiful things.

It’s what I try to do everyday. Not a bad job description.

I especially like making beautiful things out of not-so-beautiful things.

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That’s how this “chalkboard” started out. I found this Dega-ish painting at a thrift store. (Love it when I can nab a framed canvas for less than five dollars!) I sure hope the original artist of this painting is not reading. Sorry Mr. or Mrs. Ford! I paint over my old paintings all the time! Don’t feel bad!

Here’s how the transformation took place.

I like to make these projects as effortless as possible. Why take the whole thing apart? I just left the frame on and painted the canvas with black gesso. Why black gesso? Because I was out of the black acrylic craft paint I had planned to use. Roll with it, baby. I actually think the gesso ended up the better choice because it is naturally flat and chalky.

Lettering is next! I recommend working from an image on Pinterest that has a phrase or style that you like. Use a white charcoal pencil or white chalk to try a few layouts, drawing out the words right onto the black canvas. The charcoal pencil or chalk wipes off with a damp cloth so no worries. Just keep trying until you like it.

I then freehand painted the letters. I know, I know, you think you can’t do that. I think you can. Try it. If you can write in cursive, you can do this. Study some good examples and look at where they make the lines thicker and thinner. That’s the secret!  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful! I used white acrylic paint with a narrow round brush, but a white paint pen will do the trick too!

To finish it off and make it look more authenticly chalkboard-ish, I rubbed white chalk in the gaps between the words. It’s very convincing!

Now I have a daily reminder to do my work.

Make beautiful things…the laundry can wait.

 

 

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January Resolutions

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It’s January, the month of fresh starts, new beginnings, and resolutions for a new and improved whatever.

I could quickly come up with a mile long list of things that I think need improving, but that’s not the way I want to roll anymore. I’ve chased “a better future” for far too long. Let me tell you, running into the future is a race that is never won.

Instead, I’m working really hard on contentment and joy in the right here, the right now, and the as is. It’s easy some days. Other days it’s a battle. Who am I kidding? Most days it’s a battle. Why? Because I’m a fixer and a do-er. If I go too long without any “fixing” or “doing” I get reeeeeeally cranky. Just ask my husband. Productivity and progress are two of my favorite words. Unfortunately, this make me quick to lose sight of two other valuable “p” words: patience and presence.

I think it is natural as an artist and creator to imagine “what could be,” and to desire to create it. The problem is when the “what could be” becomes more important and worthy of my attention and affection than the “what is.”

So no big glamorous inspirational resolutions for me this year.  I’m simply going to keep on keeping on with the already good, good gifts I’ve been given. Or maybe I do have a resolution–to be present, to be grateful, to do the work of today, and to leave the outcome up to God.

Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received. ~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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Resist the Resistance

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“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” ~Steven Pressfield. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

It’s been hard to call myself an artist these days because there’s not a whole lot of art making going on around here. I’ve got resistance coming from every direction. No time…no space…no quiet…more important things to do…things that need fixing…mini-emergencies…places to be…mom jobs…you name it. That kind of thinking tempts a girl to hang up her apron and retire the brushes because life just keeps getting in the way.

But then I remember.

I remember making 100 Faces.

I remember how just a few minutes a day and a few scraps of paper and the corner of a desk was all it took to make a little art. I remember how a little art = lots of happy.

I remember how day after day, a little art grew into a lot of art, and then that art landed itself on a gallery wall, and now that art is heading for Art Prize with over 1,500 other works of art, where it could potentially be seen by tens of thousands of people over the course of the next three weeks.

Wow. Just wow.

I don’t think I’m ready to retire quite yet. Nope, not even close. Hopefully not ever.

God wrote this story, and all the resistance in the world isn’t going to change who He made me to be…

an artist.

I have to go now. My brushes are calling.

What’s calling you?

 

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The Grad

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Everyone tells you they grow up fast. Well, guess what? It’s true.

I remember when she was born like it was yesterday. Mommies don’t forget these things.

But just look at her now! I couldn’t be more proud of my girl.

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The graduation open house will go down as one of my favorite memories and a milestone we will never forget.

It was a beautiful night.  Not just the weather, but the whole shebang.

I tried to soak it all in…and my heart was full.

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 I’m still feeling the love, all these weeks later.

It’s just such a wonderful thing to gather all the people who have been a part of one growing up girl’s life.

 God has used those relationships to bless, to lead, to mold, to encourage, to teach, and to grow my girl into the beautiful person that she is.

Leaves me speechless. And teary. And grateful.

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It’s best I stop talking before I get all weepy and mushy on you. I tend to do that these days.

My ever so talented photographer niece was kind enough to record the special night with pictures.

 Enjoy…

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Wow! You made it to the end of the post! Good job!

And to my daughter…good job! You made it!

And to all of the people who have been part of Hanna’s life…good job!

Thank you from the bottom of my grateful mamma heart.

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It’s Mother’s Day and I’m Sorry

img327I don’t have a mom anymore. Well I do, but she’s been in heaven for most of my life. That makes Mother’s Day a little difficult. Actually, it makes life difficult. Ask anyone without a momma and they’ll tell you it’s true. Or maybe go a day, a week, or a month without talking to, calling, texting, or seeing your mom. I take that back. Don’t ever do that. I’d feel terrible if you did that. In fact, you can stop reading right now and go hang out with your mom or call her up just to chat because this letter is not for you.

This letter is for the motherless. I wrote it to myself actually, but if you’re motherless I invite you to read on. I know it can be lonely being a motherless mom. I want you to know that you’re not alone. I want you to know that I know some of what YOU know and feel some of what YOU feel. I’m cracking open my heart here because I’m sorry for our loss. I’m writing to me, but please know I’m writing to you too. My situation is not yours. My experience is not yours. My words are not yours. But my heart? I think it might ache a little bit like yours.

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Dear Motherless Mom,

Today is hard. I’m sorry that you’re heart aches a little or maybe a whole lot. I’m sorry that today you are thinking about what could have been and what should have been. I’m sorry that today you’ll see other moms celebrating with their mothers and their children celebrating with their grandmothers. I’m sorry you can only imagine how wonderful that must be. I’m sorry that most of the time it seems like everyone has a momma and everyone assumes that you have one too. But you don’t. And it hurts. I’m sorry you feel like it’s not fair. It isn’t.  

I’m sorry that you still want your mom and need your mom and miss your mom. I’m sorry she’s not there to support you and encourage you and hold your hand on your hard days. I’m sorry she’s not there to share laughter and joy and hugs on your happy days. I’m sorry she cannot call and see how you’re doing and ask to talk to the kids for awhile. I’m sorry there no skyping to heaven because I know how you would do anything just to hear her voice and see her smiling at you again. I’m sorry that you sometimes wonder if anyone is praying for you and your family like your mother would. I’m sorry that it  sometimes it feels like no one really cares about your lives like your mother would. I’m sorry it can make you very sad and lonely some days. I’m sorry there isn’t an adoption agency that specializes in adoptions of moms for orphaned adults. I’m sorry that even if there where such a thing, you know it wouldn’t be the same. Your mother is irreplaceable. No one and nothing can ever take her place. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

You have every right and reason to cry today. It’s okay. Go ahead and cry. You miss your mom. You always will. That means you loved her and she loved you. Without her, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. You wouldn’t be the mom that you are, the wife that you are, the sister that you are, the friend that you are. You had an amazing person for a mother. In the years that you had with her, she gave you enough love to last the rest of your lifetime without her. How? She pointed you to God. Not everybody can say that about their mom and not everybody could do what you’ve had to do. It’s hard, so hard, but God has helped you, as He promised He would. Your mom was right. God is always there for you and you’re always going to need Him.

I’m sorry you cannot turn to your mom for help anymore, but she was right. God helps you. I’m sorry you cannot go to your mom for wisdom and advice anymore, but she was right. God guides you. I’m sorry you cannot go to your mom for comfort anymore, but she was right. God comforts you. I’m sorry you cannot go to your mom to be loved unconditionally anymore, but she was right. God loves you. I’m sorry you cannot turn to your mom for anything you need, but she was right. God provides for you.

Yes, it’s still really hard without your momma, but you are not alone. You have help. God’s taking good care of your mom, and He’s taking good care of you. So today, when you are done with your well-deserved crying, dig down deep and find your joy. Find something to be grateful for. Be mindful of your blessings. Believe it or not, even a hole in your heart can be a blessing if you let it. 

“What a wonderful God we have-he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more he will shower us with his comfort and encouragement.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 The Living Bible

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Always Be A Dreamer

Watercolor by Kristi LYnn Studio

Me having a blog is such a terrible idea. Really.

In fact, you could consider me an expert on how to have an unsuccessful blog. Here’s my expert advice:

#1. Never post anything.

#2. Post so infrequently that you forget your own username and password. (everysingletime.)

#3. Write all blog posts in your head where nobody can read them.

Maybe this blog is an exercise in futility, but I feel like I need to finish telling my story.

Last time I wrote I left you hanging…for a very long time.

I’m alive and well, so you know everything turns out in the end, but it was a dark time. God was performing open heart surgery on my life and it hurt. I was angry. I had fought hard for my dreams and letting go felt an awful lot like giving up. Letting go felt like losing. Letting go felt like failure. So I believed the lies and the constant nagging voice inside my war torn head. I believed I had somehow failed. Or worse yet, God had failed me. I threw in the towel. I was so done. Done with dreams, done with faith, done with giving a rip about anything.

You know what’s weird? I was clearly deeply depressed, but in some strange and unexpected way I felt free. The burden of constantly trying to figure things out was gone. Instead of filling my head with plans for some future dream life that was the apparent key to my happiness, I saw no choice but to accept that this, right here, right now, was it. This was my life. I had better learn to live it.

Something shifts inside when you start to live your life right here, right now, as is. It doesn’t happen over night, but gradually you start to appreciate what you have and wonder how you could have missed it. With time and practice, this new thing called contentment settles in and you realize that the life you have going on might actually be pretty darn good. I love the saying, “Gratitude turns what you have into enough.” Let me tell you, this is such a better place to be.

I’m not trying to say that dreams and ambitions are bad. They aren’t! But they can be if we let them take us to a place of discontent and ingratitude like I did. I’ll always be a dreamer. I’m just holding those dreams loosely now, knowing that my dreams, no matter how good or godly I think they are, might need a little remodeling from the Creator and Ruler of the universe from time to time.  Don’t believe for a second that suddenly my life is now just a bowl of cherries and I spend my days in a state of blissful gratitude and acceptance. Nope. Life is hard and I am human. I’m also one of those humans that is wired for perfection and control, who thinks thoughts 24/7, and feels ALL the feelings. I will always struggle to let God take the wheel. Which is actually quite ironic because I hate to drive and will sleep in the car every chance I get. Go figure

I’m rambling. I was telling you a story and then got all preachy on you. Let me be concise:

I had big dreams that would fix everything I thought needed fixing.

God said something along the lines of “Sorry, we aren’t going that route.”

I said, “What?! Are you kidding me?! Why not?!”

I let go, but not without an ugy fight.

He forgave me for that ugly fight.

I no longer felt the soul crushing desperation to fix my life. It didn’t need fixing.

I started making art.

I can hear what you are thinking.

“What the heck does art have to do with anything?”

Well, friends, it has everything to do with everything, but you are just going to have to be patient until I have the time and mental fortitude to tell you why. Apparently the writing part of my brain shuts down after about an hour and the perfectionst in me will need to spend the next three hours picking apart every word. I promise I will be back (even if it breaks rules #1-3) and I will tell you how God started to move when I finally got out of the way.

 

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Misplaced Hope

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Our moving story starts with moves to two different houses in Grand Rapids and then our big move to Fremont 14 years ago. We left Grand Rapids gladly, wanting a small town lifestyle for our family. It was a scary and brave thing to do at the time, considering we had no family or jobs here, just a dream and my roots. We decided to buy a house in town, not the country, hoping it would help us get to know the people and places in this small town. We were right. It didn’t take long and we found wonderful friends and neighbors here. But it also didn’t take long for us to start dreaming of the country.

Year after year went by and the vision stayed the same: a few acres just outside of town with room for an art studio, gardens, and a barn for a little hobby farm. Dreamy, right? We pursued several opportunities and even put our house on the market twice, but nothing was working out. Though it was discouraging, we never gave up believing we would make the move someday.

Then I found it: a big old four square farmhouse, close to town, with fields and woods on 18 acres, and a beautiful red barn. We toured it and walked the property several times as I imagined barn parties, a barn studio, barn sales, and barn cats. We loved it completely. It was everything and more. After some time of prayer and thinking we decided that we would go for it. Sadly, the day we called the realtor to make an offer, we learned that another offer had been accepted and the house was sold.

We felt compelled to at least keep trying for that country living life. It would be our one last leap of faith towards the dream. But after many months, the stress of having our house for sale by owner and not knowing where we might move or when became too much weight. It was a source of tension for both of us. We were no longer on the same page with the same vision. Out of frustration, disappointment, and anger, I stomped out of the house one day when everyone was gone and took down the house for sale sign.  It brought my man relief to come home from work and see the sign gone. It brought me into a pit.

Please understand that this came on the heels of several other heavy hitting disappointments. It was part of a bigger picture. I was still reeling from a failed adoption. Our years of homeschooling were clearly coming to an end. Now another hope was crumbling and my heart was breaking right along with it. Mostly, I felt completely baffled at what I was supposed to be doing with my life if the things I had built my hopes on for so long were not meant to be. I truly believed that these hopes were part of God’s plan for my life and when those doors closed, I was angry and confused.

I’m going to skip ahead and spare you the gory details of my journey through the valley of fear and doubt. But what you need to know is that in letting go of my plans (even if it was kicking and screaming), God was able to walk me though that darkness and into a whole new understanding of what really matters…not WHERE I live, but HOW I live. I learned a lot about myself and my faith and my misplaced hopes. It wasn’t easy, but I slowly let go of the too tight grip on my dreams and opened my heart and life to whatever God was up to. I didn’t know it at the time, but something new was on the horizon…something I had often prayed for and deep down longed for, but never truly dared to believe.

Do Not Let Your Heart be Troubled

 

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