Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blogging Friends Forever Award

I have received an award from one of my best blogging friends, Vee at A Haven for Vee. She is such an encouragement to me and has been a faithful and frequent commenter here for quite some time. I am humbled and grateful to receive this from her. Here are the rules:

1. You may only choose 5 people/blogs to give the award to...

2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog...

3. One has to be a new follower of your blog or live in another part of the world...

It's tough to only pick five, but I am going to play by the rules this time. I am awarding this to four of the bloggers who have been with me the longest and are still around to read and encourage. They followed me from my original Charm & Grace Blog to this wonderful and much more user friendly Blogger Cottage. And I am awarding it to one newer friend whose blog I fell in love with earlier this year and have been following.

1. Lorrie at Fabric, Paper, Thread has been a blog friend almost since I began blogging in April of 2007. She is a kindred spirit in so many ways, and she never fails to lift my spirits with her comments. I love to read about her creativity whether through writing, sewing, scrapbooking, decorating, or creating from paper.

2. Bebe's Peaches~and~Dreams blog is so beautiful and filled with such fun. Bebe is a fellow southerner and really understands some of my quirky "southern-ness." She has been such a sweetheart to stick with me for so long.

3. Barb from The French Elements is a wonderful blogger who has just given me tremendous encouragement all along the way. (I would have to say that encouragement is definitely her spiritual gift!) She is a wonderfully creative person with a heart of gold, and I am honored that she has stuck with me so long.

4. Ruth from Artful Creations is a very talented artist who also has a fantastic eye for photography. (If you haven't seen her pictures from the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah, you must get over there now!) It means so much to have a fellow artist friend take the time to encourage me by reading and commenting.

Thanks to all you ladies for following me over here from over there, for taking time to read my posts, and for leaving your beautiful and cherished words of encouragement!

5. If you haven't visited The Dutchess, then you don't know what you're missing. It is always a showcase for beautiful artwork and classic literature. And just so we're following the spirit of the rules, she just happens to live in another part of the world in the beautiful Netherlands. She has definitely become a BFF over these past months.

And I am giving Strider a "notable mention" (as I am not sure he would appreciate the whole Blogging Friends Forever thing.) He never fails to encourage and exhort us in our walk with the Lord, and his comments always mean a lot.

Best blogging blessings to you all!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some real encouragement for these troubling days

In my current study of the Psalms of ascent, one activity that I love is that once we have thoroughly studied the Psalm, we then write it our own words. I wanted to share the first two with you and hope that it will somehow encourage you.

Psalm 120

LORD, I feel that our nation and world have been taken over by deceitful liars.
I want Your Name to be honored here and everywhere.
Yet, it seems that all people do is lift up themselves by using any means necessary, including lies and deceit.
Show Yourself strong; reveal who You are to Your people and then through Your people.
Help us to remain faithful to You whatever the cost.

Psalm 121

My gaze begins to lift; I look up to Your creation -- to the beauty of the mountains --
Knowing the One who created them and all their grandeur is the only One in Whom I can find help!
My Covenant Keeper has promised that He will not allow my foot to slip because He will be watching out for me every moment of every day,
And He never sleeps.
My Covenant Keeper protects me because He is always with me... right by my side... to ward off danger and evil.
Even the sun or moon cannot harm me because He is in charge, and He has promised to protect me.
My Covenant Keeper will protect me wherever I go -- from this day until tomorrow and every day after that.

Wishing you all a blessed day!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You are all so wonderful...

I so appreciate all of the thoughtful and truly encouraging comments you all left on the last post. I have really prayed about what to do and I am still putting one foot in front of the other. I appreciate your exhortation to get into the Word, and you were right. So, I have also begun a new Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent. It's a Beth Moore study... I wonder if any of you have done this. It begins by having you commit to really getting facedown before the Lord. Well, it was just the kick in the seat that I needed. I have found it hard to stay focused in my time in the Word over these past months. So this should help keep me focused for a while.

Since we're on the subject, I wanted to give a little bit of testimony. I have made no secret of my spiritual leaning here on my blog, but I haven't really told much of the story. But I am celebrating my 25th birthday in the Lord this fall, and I do feel like truly celebrating. As I was leading worship at my church this past Sunday morning and we were singing "At the Cross," it dawned on me that it was just this time of year as a freshman in college that I first really came to know the Lord. I don't mean know about Him, but really know Him. I didn't know it was possible. But someone shared THIS with me, and it made all the difference. I can remember walking across that campus and how the sky seemed bluer, the trees even more beautiful than ever, and my steps so much lighter. Since that day, I know that God has been with me every single day for twenty-five years! My relationship with Him has grown closer and stronger... much of that in direct proportion to how much time I have spent in His word.

Over the years I have studied and even led a number of small group studies (most all the Beth Moore studies as well as some of Kay Arthur's and others.) I have always said that I must have that firm foundation of His word under my feet, prepared in advance so that when the storms come I will be ready... even if all of the of the ground around me crumbles except for what is directly under my feet. I love the Word; it is the roadmap I cling to for direction in this life. It is the light that shines in front of me, lighting just enough of the path for me to keep moving forward one step at a time. It shows me who God is, who I am, and how much He loves me. I want those things cemented in my heart because I know that it is the ONLY way on this earth that I will find true peace and joy.

One of my dear friends and fellow church members found out today that she would be losing her job. It was a complete shock; she had no inkling it was coming. We went right over to their home (taking a pie with us, of course, because in times like these we must have comfort food.) But what a joy it is to be able to help shoulder and share in the burdens of our brothers and sisters. She was totally taken by surprise, yet she and her husband were not shaken. Why? They know Who holds their future and that His plan is the best plan. Does it present a problem for them right now? Sure, she wasn't planning on having to change jobs again because she would retire in 2 years. Is she happy about not seeing all her friends and coworkers that she's been used to seeing these past years? Of course not. But she knows Who is holding her and her future in His hands. What a blessing to pray with her and share in her grief.

Another friend and fellow church member didn't make it to church Sunday because of severe back pain and actually passed out from the pain later in the day. They rushed him to the ER and were able to get enough pain medication in him that he was able to function. We went by the hospital to see him Sunday night but they didn't know anything. We all prayed together, and I also prayed for him again yesterday morning as I was doing my Bible study. He has been struggling with this nagging back problem for a while and has seen several doctors. They did an MRI and found that there is a little piece of his spine pushing on a nerve. They will be able to do an epidural block Wednesday which should relieve the pressure of the spine on the nerve. He is giving God the glory and praise for answering many prayers on his behalf that he would not have to have back surgery. What a blessing to be able to share in this burden.

And I suppose I am saying all this to let you all know how special you are to me. Thank you for sharing MY burden with me and for taking time to write and give me pearls of wisdom. One of these days we'll meet face to face... and we'll know how special it is that we are really just all part of one family.

"Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2 NLT

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sorting things out... many questions

I really enjoyed the break from blogging, but I missed all my blogging friends immensely. There are so many wonderful blogs out there that I could never possibly get to them all, but some of you (and I hope you know who you are) are truly special.

I did a lot of thinking during my hiatus, about life and art and the state of our world (and particularly economy.) It seems that for most people/collectors, art is one of those things that seems necessary until funds get squeezed ... and then it becomes a major luxury. I was pondering that and the fact that I truly believe that my artwork is a gift from God. I really want my artwork to be a reflection of the fact that He has put something unique and valuable within me... whether a skill, or the ability to see beauty and capture it, or the ability to weave words together in a pleasing way. I want it to please Him and also please those who are viewing it. Can I have both? I think that is truly a dilemma for me.

I have meditated and wondered "Why now?" ...Why in my early 40s have I had the opportunity ... (and dare I say it... affirmation) to return to doing the artwork after basically neglecting that gift for a number of years? And if I am truly an artist, would I have allowed that gift to lie fallow for those years? In this current economy, can I afford to take the chance on the instability of income that this type of thing brings with it? Will people still be buying artwork with all that is going on... (after all, it isn't necessary to sustain life)? How do I price a piece that my heart and soul goes into? (Despite the state of the economy, I can't give it away... I must use my time and resources wisely.) Why would anyone want to buy something I have done... (there are so many much more talented artists out there)? Is it wiser for me to try to look for a "stable" job or to follow the confirmation of my family, friends, and even strangers who are telling me that my artwork is valuable? (It seems that every time I consider just going out and finding a job, He sends some sort of encouragement about the artwork my way... sometimes in the form of a commissioned piece, or in the form of an e-mail about my work, or a phone call from a friend, etc.)

I suppose in sharing all this, I am really asking for your prayers. Along with so many in our current economy, these are very serious issues with which I am wrestling. I admire and appreciate so many of you, and I would be honored if you have any words of wisdom or if you would simply pray that I would hear clearly from the Lord about this. For now, I will continue to do as much artwork as I can while keeping balance in my life. But for the long run I want to do what is best for my family, and above all what He would have me do. Thanks for letting me ramble.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back from Blogging Break...

I am so happy to return to blogging after a much needed break. I have been very busy since my last post with all kinds of things including a terrific family vacation that lasted most of two weeks. This was not a restful vacation, but it was extremely enjoyable and a diversion. It included both my mother and also my hubby's parents and was a challenge to plan, but it was a very special time for us.

Since returning, I have been busy washing clothes and getting back into a normal (what is normal, anyway?) routine. Our oldest son had his 17th birthday while we were away, and he is in his senior year of high school. I can hardly believe my baby will be going off to college next year. We have spent the last week trying to get things together in order for him to make application to the colleges he has interest in attending. These are wonderful milestones, but they also make mom a little sad. I am so proud of the young man he has become.

"Apple Pickin" - watercolor on cold press

As you can see, I have also been busy with artwork since our return home. The watercolor above was one I had begun earlier in August (see this post) along with the EPCOT sketch below. I have continued to work on it since returning, but it's not quite finished.

The watercolor below was such fun to work on. The colors really inspired me, and I love the balance of the heaviness of the grapes amidst the papery fragility of the grape leaves. It is called "Abundance."

"Abundance" - watercolor on cold press

I must say a big thank you to those who stopped here and asked about me during my absence... you are all precious to me. I am looking forward to making all my blog rounds again... I will probably ease back into this process so please be patient with me. I am happy to be back in the cozy cottage.