Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year, Same Old World

The New Year looms ahead like a shiny new journal with all empty pages. Yet, even yesterday as I sat on my sofa enjoying time with my family, contemplating the peace and quiet of the next few days, planning a 21 day prayer journey for my business, and generally looking ahead to the coming year... there was a phone call from friends that their 38 year-old son/brother had passed away suddenly and tragically yesterday afternoon.

We quickly made our way to their home, and we tried to give as much comfort and encouragement as you can in a time like this.  This is a fallen, fallen place in which we reside.  The great, true joy of Christmas is balanced by the devastation of separation and death.

What comfort can we give in a time like this? The only real comfort is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He knows the situation, He loves them all, He loved the one who died, He cares deeply for His children and offers to carry our burdens -- even the heaviest ones -- for us. So, we embrace them as He would, love them as He loves, bear this burden with them. He is Emmanuel even in this, guiding through the darkest night with His light and His hand.

(As always, you are free to use this graphic.)

There is so much I do not understand about this world.  But, I am just simple enough to trust God's promise that He will never leave or forsake me and His promise that HE is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.  Whatever this world sends my way, I am thankful for what I have today, now.  I choose to not live in the past (while being thankful for it) and not live in the future (while looking forward to eternity with the Lord and its reuniting with those I love). I am thankful for my family, for my friends -- even ones I have never met. I am thankful for home, for safety, for life, for love, for enough -- you know, the "this day our daily bread."  I know that we are not even promised one more breath, so I am choosing to thank God for now. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Art Show

Today is a day of LUXURY!  Why luxury, you ask?  I have the LUXURY of sitting on my couch and having time to visit and catch up with all my blog friends.  I cannot wait to catch up with what all of you have been doing over these past couple of weeks.  I plan to read and read and read...  (HUGE smiling, contented sigh)!

Here are a few photos from our two week art show... a wonderful time for our art association and so much beautiful art.  I am so proud of all the artists. 

The show was held in a wonderful retail space in a local mall that just happened to be empty. The space faced the main thoroughfare of the mall with a large window across the busiest part. The mall was happy to have us filling this space during the holiday season, and we were happy to have such a visible location for our art show.  We had over 70 artists of all kinds from extreme realism to abstract to whimsical and everything in between.  And it is all 2-dimensional art... no sculpture, no jewelry, no crafts... only paintings and drawings on traditional 2-d mediums.

We donated 10% of our sales to a local organization, Hand-in-Paw, which is an organization of therapy dogs.  There were a number of these amazing animals at our opening reception, a Schnauzer, a Great Dane, a Pekingese, a Spaniel, and many more. The photos are all from our opening reception, which could hardly have gone better.

 I am very thankful that on the year that I happened to be president, the show turned out this well.  I also did a few commissioned pieces over the holidays, one of them for a friend who was in our wedding 30 years ago, and one of them for someone who picked up my card at this show.  I will wait to post those here until I am sure they have been gifted.  For the the 8th year, I am thanking God for another wonderful year of allowing me to do something I love so much!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

All is calm, all is bright...

After a very busy month with the art show (which I will post more about in a later post), emergency wisdom tooth removal after the discovery of a 5th wisdom tooth (yes, this really is possible, and yes, you can still have to have your wisdom teeth out at 50+), and this week a lovely stomach bug (NOT!)...

today was such a WONDERFUL day beginning with celebrating our Lord at church this morning, then lunch with my mom and step-dad, then opening gifts with our children, and then more gifts with my mother- and father-in-law... then playing with gifts and enjoying one another's company.  And now we're sitting -- feet propped up -- watching Little Women.  All is calm and all is bright... peaceful and joyful deep down. 

Thankful for what Christmas really means... 
it means in spite of my nerves in a dentist's chair about wisdom teeth removal, 
or my nerves about painting live in a mall window with people watching me the entire time (for the first time), 
or my heart's ache for my step-father who lost his 43 year-old son this summer
(who left four beautiful boys 13 and under and a beautiful wife behind),
or the fact that the eldest of those four beautiful boys is battling cancer himself,
or the fact that my bout with a four day stomach virus or food poisoning fog these last five days has derailed my best laid plans for Christmas...

Jesus has me right where He wants me.  He knows His plans for me, and He knows His plans for my step-father's family, and He knows His plans for my children, and He knows His plans for you, too.  I don't have to know HIS plan, I just have to trust HIS hand.

I wrote this in 2012 and it still applies even more today.  

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Hail the incarnate Deity! Jesus, our Emmanuel... Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the King of kings!" (This last line is how Wesley wrote it originally; it was later revised by George Whitfield.) As I look at the many blessings of life, including my precious family, I am struck that even as precious and wonderful as our family times are, and as much as I treasure EACH and EVERY memory we make… even family is not what Christmas is all about. It is about One thing and One thing only: Jesus desired so much to bring my sinful self back into relationship with Himself that He was willing to lay aside the glory of heaven and His right to stay there, to put on the flesh of a helpless babe and later walk as a man, and then to be the sacrifice necessary to pay the penalty for my sin. It is with wonder that I think about this and all it means. And because of His sacrifice, I receive all the benefits: peace that passes understanding in a world riddled with anxiety and fear, contentment in a world that would sell me dissatisfaction, joy in a world that offers great sadness, love in a world filled with hate… and on top of all that the promise of eternity with Him. Christmas is not feelings or faith or even family … Christmas is Emmanuel, the God Who is with us… and that is Everything.

Monday, December 5, 2016

'Tis the (busy) season...

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we have rapidly moved into busy season!  I have finally gotten all my inside decor up and am very thankful to have all the boxes back in the attic.  I have also been working on a two week art show for the association of which I am serving as president and have several commissioned pieces lined up.  So, I am really thankful to have the decorations up.  Although we have two trees, here is a peek at "my tree" as my children like to refer to it.  I am sharing this first photo because I loved the effect that the lights made. 

However, as I continued taking photos I realized after three or four tries with this same result that my lens was smudged. 😉 So, here is the entire tree without a smudged lens...

This is "my tree" for many reasons... one reason is that it was inspired by my grandmother ~ a beautiful gracious southern belle of a lady ~ who always had a special way of decorating her own tree by using only white, silver, crystal, and gold ornaments.  I have taken this tradition as my own and used only those items (with a couple of exceptions for ornaments with burgundy and red ribbon hangers) on it.  While I have used only those colors, the ornaments are not "designer ornaments" purchased from a store just for the purpose of decorating.  Rather, they are primarily either heirlooms or gifts from family and friends... like the beautiful Gorham angel on top of the tree that was a wedding gift.

The above photo captures several ornaments from my grandmother. The white fireplace and stockings at the bottom was a gift to hubby and me from her early in our marriage, the blown glass ornament top right, the small glass frosted pine cone at top left, and the crystal icicles are heirlooms from her very own tree after she passed on.

 The bottom left gold glass ball wishing us a frosted "Merry Christmas" was my husband's as a child.  The two Lenox snowflakes at the top, one crystal and one white, were gifts from precious friends.

The brass bear with a photo of my oldest son was a gift from my aunt when my son was a baby, and it sits beside a white glass ball with a Currier and Ives scene that was also an heirloom from my grandmother.

The two Precious Moments ornaments, the Little Drummer Boy and the bell, in the photo above were baby gifts from friends when my now adult sons were born.  There is another white glass ball with gold stars and the small frosted pine cone in the photo that were heirlooms from my grandmother's tree.

These two twin brass ornaments are also heirlooms... the one on the left belonged to my grandparents long before I ever thought of marrying and the one on the right belonged to my husband when he was a child.  I just love that.

You couldn't have looked at all these photos without noticing the round cross-stitched, gold and white Chrismon ornaments. (If you're not sure what a Chrismon is, it is an ornament that is a Christ Monogram... a symbol of Christ: and a little more info here: 

These Chrismons were lovingly made by my mother-in-law's mother.  She was a precious woman who was severely handicapped by rheumatoid arthritis. Rather than sulk in her suffering, she chose to be joyful and to be as productive as she could.  Though her hands were so bent by the disease that her fingers were permanently curled so that she could hardly hold a needle, she insisted that we should all have a set of these beautiful ornaments.  She tried her best to get a set for each grandchild and even great grandchild before she died.  She was a treasure, and I am so thankful for these ornaments but even more thankful that our children got to spend a great amount of time with her when they were small.   
I am thankful for all the ways these ornaments remind me of those who have loved me and my family well... so many have gone on to be with the Lord, and what a glorious reunion we'll have someday!