Thursday, July 23, 2015

You're Always "Just You" - Until You're Not {...how I became a jewelry designer to a rock star...}

"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..."  ~Romans 12
"Do you see a (wo)man skilled in (her) work?
(She) will stand before kings;
(She) will not stand before obscure men."  ~Proverbs 22

"Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!"  ~Proverbs 18

For months, now, this little shred of snatched, torn paper has been taped beside my bathroom mirror:




I taped it there, because it is just one way I challenge myself to use the gifts God has given me.  A gift is not a gift until it is given - and you always have to start right where you are in the giving.

God has gifted me to encourage, exhort, and "prophesy" destiny into the hearts of people - and just one vehicle I employ to use that gift, is through my art and jewelry designs.

Pour yourself a cup of whatever blows your dress up, because I have quite a story to tell you.

I really am a jewelry designer to a rock star...and not just any rock star...the biggest rock star alive today.

And that all began with two other women who chose to use their gifts.

The first woman is my friend (truly, my friend)  Jeanne Oliver.


She could have, at one time, decided her gifts weren't "enough".  She could have sat on her talents...because she started out like anyone else.  No one begins at the end...we all begin at the beginning.

But Jeanne began by making stuff.  At first (by her own account) she sometimes made stuff badly.  However, as time went by (and it always will) she discovered she had a gift.  And she believed it was given to her by God.

Today, she has created one of the most thriving, lovely online (and "in real life") creative communities you can find.

I discovered Jeanne and her gifts about 4 years ago, and I am so grateful to her for using them.  It was in the safety of her (then small) online creative community that I took my first online art lessons...then jewelry making classes...

...I painted my first paintings to raise money to send some teenagers on a mission trip.  I made my first jewelry designs for my own daughters.  Then, I made jewelry for my friends.

I am sure some people wondered why I even bothered.

After all...you are always "just you"....until you're not.

Any artist is "just ordinary"...until they're not.  (Hint:  support the artists that speak to your soul...they may be struggling today...and they will be struggling for recognition...until they're not.)

So, in using my gifts to bless those in my immediate sphere,  I exploded.  I exploded, artistically, and even spiritually.  Did I ever explode.  The explosion was God's doing.  I was an explosion waiting to happen - as most women in mid-life are!  But I will always be grateful to Jeanne for playing her part in what was my creative "Becoming".

The other friend I want to tell you about is a new friend.  Her name is Amy Crews



And she is, hands down, the best "natural realism" artist I have ever seen.  Do check out her oil paintings of flowers, bird's nests, eggs...and more.  The detail, and near photo-realism she gives to her subjects will leave you breathless, if you are at all a lover of great art.

Amy has, obviously, used her gifts for a very long time.  She has worked very hard for many years, and Amy didn't quit.  But she is just like anyone else in the sense that she began at the beginning.

Yet she kept going.  And she got really, really skilled at what she does.

And this is where it gets good, because she and I met through Jeanne Oliver's FREE online class entitled "Becoming || The Unfolding of You", where I was a featured presenter.

See the ripple effect?  See the pollination, and cross-pollination of dreams that can happen when women stop competing and comparing, and start celebrating one another?

A few months ago, Amy asked me to participate with her...to collaborate...first on one jewelry design (still available - but they are a limited edition, and more than half gone, so hurry!)

...and then she got the wild idea to take one of her iris paintings and create a necklace for Bono.

As in the Bono.  Of U2.

Only the biggest rock star alive today...for reals.

And I said, "Why not?"

Because I'm weird like that.  I am Charisbyterian, see, and I kind of live in this atmosphere of heaven...where anything is possible, and God really...like, really does speak to me, sometimes.  Is that weird?  It shouldn't be.  Hearing the voice of God is a believer's birthright.  It is the normal Christian life.

And when Amy asked me what I thought, God said to my heart, "Do it."

So we did.  We didn't have time to second-guess ourselves, or over-think it, or get all twisted up about it.  I had to bust out my best design in a matter of days, using Amy's beautiful painting of an iris.

Here is the result:







I realize the picture gets a little strange, right where you see my box with my business logo on it...but in case you wonder if it was doctored - which it definitely was not - here you go:



I took Amy's iris painting, and resized it, digitally, and designed an entire necklace around it.  I mailed it to Amy, just Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, and she took it and flew to NYC where she had tickets to see Bono and U2 in concert.

And God totally rocked both our socks off, and opened the door for her to personally deliver our collaboration to Bono himself.


And he removed his hat...and put on Amy's painting, and my jewelry design...




And that's what can happen when women dream big, work hard, use their gifts, and collaborate.




In terms of social currency, it could not have been any bigger or better had President Obama put on one of my designs, or hung an Amy Crews original in the Oval Office.  People care more about what Bono wears or what Bono likes!

And yes...this design will be available for anyone who needs to be reminded to use their gifts.  So stay tuned.

To hear Amy Crews tell the whole story from her perspective, click here.  You'll hear lots of details I purposefully have left out, because I'd love for you to hear them from her.

In case I haven't been clear, please allow me to end this story with the same Scripture I began it with:

"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..."






Start today.  Start in your immediate sphere.  Go use your unique gift to love someone.  You never know where it may lead!


(I'm pretty sure I'm still "just me"...but it is fun to imagine I'm not.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sandbag House in Haiti {...Bethanie Missions of Haiti...}

I'm proud of my Preacher tonight.

Over the past few months, he has helped to spearhead a collaboration with Youth With a Mission and Bethanie Missions of Haiti (where he serves as President) to get a sandbag house built for one of Bethanie Missions pastors in Coteaux, Haiti.

We got word yesterday that the project is actually ahead of schedule and going very well.






My preacher and I, along with Bethanie Missions, hope to partner with YWAM to build many more of this kind of inexpensive, sustainable housing in Haiti.  (When it is finished, you do not see the sandbags...this is a home that any Haitian would be proud to live in, when it is complete.)

If you would like to come alongside us in this endeavor, please click here

Note:  neither my preacher (Tim Atchley) or I, nor any member of the board receives any gifts or salary for our efforts.  Every penny you contribute goes directly to this ministry on the ground in Haiti.  Thanks!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wear Your Praise Wednesday {...the lace slip extender, 3 ways...}

Welcome to the third installment in my new series, "Wear Your Praise Wednesday".  

{For an explanation of how it was that wearing cute clothes became a tool for me, in healing from clinical depression...to learn why I "Wear My Praise", you  can click here for the very first "Wear Your Praise Wednesday" - or here for the second installment.}



This blog post will seem counter intuitive to those girls who have, all their lives, felt a sense of shame if their slip happened to show.  But I am here with a liberating word:

Those days are gone!

It is now hereby cool and awesome to let your slip show.  If it is a pretty slip.  To be very, very precise - it is now hereby cool and awesome to let your slip show if it is trimmed in the most beautiful lace or tulle imaginable.

Why is this?  I've been telling you and telling you:  layers are our friends.  That pretty peek of lace just adds another layer to your look.

And, in my opinion, that petticoat also serves a practical purpose...it serves to lengthen an otherwise too-short hem.

Is it me, or have you also noticed that some girls (and women) just did not get the memo that if you wonder if a garment is a short dress or a long top...

it's a shirt.  Girlfriend - trust me on this.  If you have to wonder....it's a shirt.

Suffice it to say, as edgy as I am in most of my life choices, I simply can't wear a dress I can't worship in safely.

Please tell me you can relate.  I can't be the only Charisbyterian in the crowd, whose wardrobe choices revolve around whether she can lift a grand baby onto her hip while keeping one arm high in the air, or jump up and down, or do a hitch-kick, or drop to her knees in worship.

Or maybe that's just me.  And just kidding about the hitch-kick.  But the rest is the gospel truth.

For those reasons plus a few more, if a dress is more than an inch or so above my kneecap, I tend to feel twitchy.

It might be hemline semantics, but when I put a petticoat under it, that extra inch or so of layer puts my mind at a little more ease.  Visually, I feel I look more like I am comfortable with my age, and less like I'm trying too hard.  Mini skirts and short dresses belong to the under-30 crowd, not the pushing 50 crowd.




I was asked to share sources.
The shoes were $8.59 clearance at The Shoe Show {don't hate}
dress:  Marshalls, this year
necklace:  my design 
the slip:  a Target slip that I sewed lace onto

This little linen dress is one of my favorites, simply because on a hot summer day, it literally floats on me - it breathes and is so airy and comfortable.


This is another dress I absolutely adore, but can't wear without a little hemline semantics.  I have to have my petticoat/slip extender on, both for the look of the layer (in my mind, no outfit is complete without at least two layers) and for the false comfort it gives me in bringing the length of this dress down, visually, to just above the kneecap.



sources:
shoes:  Shoe Show, clearance
dress:  Jeanne Oliver
bifocal readers:  readers.com
slip:  plain Target slip, embellished with lace by yours truly

For our last look, the "petticoat" goes up-top and casual....



On any given day, I am never without my bifocal readers, so here is how I actually wear this top:




sources:

shoes:  Shoe Show, clearance
jeans:  "modern straight cropped stretch jean" by Denizen at Target
top:  Target
military-style cropped jacket:  "Lucky Brand Clothing" - Marshalls

Now.  Lest you think that "slip extender" is some silly term made up by yours truly, allow me to share with you a young woman who created a major online business around this very concept...

Meet "Grace and Lace".  I discovered them years ago, and instantly fell in love, back when all they had to offer was a few socks and slips.  Since then, they have appeared on the hit show "Shark Tank", and have grown their business beyond their dreams, I am sure.

It is a new day for the petticoat, and I am glad.  Looking back, I remember one of my dearest friends, who happens to be an elderly lady, came up to me in church with what I could see was an urgent message.  She pulled me aside, and whispered, "It.  is.  snowing.  down.  south."

Which was code for, "Your slip is showing.  Get your act together."

I smiled and explained to her that it was supposed to show.

She shook her head in disbelief as she walked away.  I was 40-something years old, but on that day I felt like an edgy young whippersnapper.




Friday, July 3, 2015

50% Off All UNFRAMED Prints - a Once a Year Sale

Every July 4th, I love to run a half-off sale on every unframed print in my shop.  This is the only time of year I do this, so get in on this sale quickly, as it will go away on July 6th.

I  have been hard at work adding new prints to the shop, in order to give  my friends and clients a wide assortment to choose from, such as:


"She Chose to Believe"



Or...

      "Possibility"

Or....



                     "Stand in the Rain of Your Blessings..."

Or...


               
   "Double Portion"




Or...

"Wings To Fly - Soul Sisters"

Or...




"Soul Restoration"



...and many, many more.

Here is the link - and please be sure to type in this coupon code when you check out:

Freedom.

That's it.  Just type "freedom" in the coupon code box, and you will receive HALF OFF of every single one of my unframed prints.

{...framed prints are not included in the discount...I reserve the right to refund any framed print accidentally ordered at the discount price...)

I encourage you to stock up for gift giving later in the year.  Enjoy shopping my prints, and have a blessed, safe, and happy 4th!

Flashback Friday - a post from the archives about "Simple Joys"

I hope this little piece from my archives is a blessing to you today...enjoy...


 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~




If you, like me, have ever struggled with actually doing the little things each day that bring you joy, if you have ever wondered if you were being selfish...can I speak some love over your life?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Taking joy...every day...will make you a better wife, mother, boss, employee, entrepreneur, preacher's wife, you-name-it.

All I will remind you, in your quest for deep joy and sustainable pleasure, is this:

" 'tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free. "

Keep your joys as simple as a wood fire; as satisfying as a glass of Merlot; as sustainable as making roasted rosemary chicken for you and your love for dinner. Keep your joys free from comparison and competition. Leave comparison and competition to the unimaginative souls who must utilize those mindsets to be motivated.

You and I? We are so rich in Christ. All things are ours, indeed. A bouquet of sunflowers is our gold, and the stars twinkling above on a winter's night-walk are our diamonds. Holding the hand of the man of our dreams, grown deliciously and delightfully mature, is the stuff of fanciful girl-talk.

Daily, our God loads us with benefits. Rarely do they strain our budgets. Souls of artists, down through time, have discovered the tiny treasures tucked into the travel-trunk of each new day....and have written or sculpted or painted about them.

Take joy. Simple joy.



All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wear Your Praise Wednesday {...Wear Your Words - The Printed T-Shirt, 3 Ways...}

Words are my defining passion, my art form...and lately, I find myself wearing them.

As in, it would take you 19 minutes just to read me.




So I wanted to share with you 3 ways you can rock the printed T.

Yes, even in middle age.  I am a grandma.  Fifty is a year and a few away.  And I wear words with impunity.

The first way I want to show you the printed T, is with "joggers".  I thought these were just sweat pants with a band around the ankles, but when I was recently in (of all things) my Lowe's store, I walked past a cute college-age girl with her grandma.

I was wearing these sweat pants joggers, and she, a complete stranger, said to me, "I like your joggers."  Then, as I thanked her and kept walking, I heard her remark, "Grandma, see, those pants are called joggers.  I really like them.  I want a pair."

I think she was hitting grandma up for a trip to Target.


I wear my joggers with the legs pulled up, and my smart phone in the pocket...a fact which annoys me from time to time (slippage and bulk, respectively) but there you have it.

I love this little T - it says, "One Life...and then all of eternity".

It is a cheerful message if you are a Jesus Freak...kind of a buzz kill if you aren't.  But I'm fine with that.



My all-time favorite printed T.  Here, I layer it with a camisole, and pair it with boyfriend jeans and a heeled peep toe (I swear, my fingers just typed "poop toe"...where does that come from?).

This T says, "Mimi's Kitchen - Open Late".  I love it because of the font, the color, and the fact that I am a closet foodie who does not believe in dietary restrictions of any kind.  I even created my own hashtag this year { #mimiskitchen } and I invite you to check it out.

I am an avid cook on some days.  I'm all about whole foods and healthy and cake and bread and stuff and wonderful things.


Here is the same T, dressed for when you go to see that Minion movie this month.  Am I the only one who freezes in movie theaters?  If I were going to the movies, I'd likely trade out that poop peep toe for some Chucks.

That long sweater was another Marshall's score last winter.  I saved it for summer, because, believe it or not, it is the perfect summer layer.  It is whisper-thin, and lengthens and leans out your look like nobody's business.  I wish I had bought one in every color they had.

Next, here is the printed T all dressed up with nowhere to go.

This is a brave look, and not for everyone.  But I've rocked it before...




...and if you don't have a black and white striped skirt yet...well...you don't Pinterest, do you?

{roll up the sleeve on your little T, when you are dressing her up...and put on a statement necklace.}

This one confuses the hound out of everyone I meet.  (That's southern-talk for people don't know what my T-shirt is saying.)

It simply says, "OHDARLINGLETSBEADVENTURERS".

Oh.  Darling.  Let's.  Be.  Adventurers.

Come on, now.  It ain't that hard.  I love this shirt.  I'm determined to wear it every time The Preacher and I go bike riding this summer.

Now - here is the same look, with a denim jacket, for when you are in a freezing cold restaurant:




And by the way.  Denim with black and white stripes?  Getouttahere.  It's perfection.



...that's just me, fooling with the shutter-clicky-thingy.

The things I do for you.

Go forth and wear words.  I don't care how old you are.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

From the 2011 Archives {...for "Throw Back Thursday" - a post entitled "You Won't Find Perfection Here"...}


In honor of "Throw Back Thursday" { #TBT } I dusted off this gem
from the archives.  As much joy as I experienced then, in 2011, and in spite
of all the imperfection...little did I know that things were 
about to get even harder.
CRAZY-harder.
And things were also about to get even better.
CRAZY-better.
 I hope you enjoy...

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~



You won't find perfection here...

...because, to begin with, I have been fighting a stomach bug for two days. So I am in no mood to ply you with perfectly staged pictures of my sweet little life.


And I've just about had enough of some of the "Fundamentalista-blogs" out there, portraying life as though it were one big bubble blowing "we love Jesus, that's why everything's perfect" party. I've read through a couple tonight, and off the cuff...well, they are beginning to irk me. If I ever retract that statement, I shall blame my current state of nausea. I won't name names, though I could. I am half sorry I've recommended a couple of them in years past. I wasn't "onto" their game, then.


All those homemade dresses. And cooking. And knitting. And perfect children, both grown and not quite grown. And (here is the shame): no mention of even one struggle...I'm serious. Now that I have the luxury of looking over the body of work on these couple of blogs - I lie not - not a single struggle is mentioned beyond the death of loved ones.


Meanwhile, here at The Cottage, you've heard me talk about how Waltonesque we are here - with three generations under one (small, middle income, not-hip-or-architecturally-interesting) roof. But how did I put it?

"We are so Waltonesque....only Mama takes her half-an-Ambien at bedtime, and John Boy chews tobacco and can be mean sometimes."


We are trophies of grace - not a trophy family. And I am so daggum okay with that. Yes. I said daggum. Yes, I take a half an Ambien to get to sleep. If you had a crying grand baby in your house, if you had a less than perfect, sometimes noisy teenage son, and a husband who snored like a bulldog with a sinus issue, with no extra bedrooms to spare in your ordinary 60's tract home, you'd need a half an Ambien too. Deal with it.


We are in full time ministry. We home schooled each and every child from birth through high school graduation. (The youngest graduates this spring.) We never sewed our own dresses, we wore jeans. We did and we do bake bread, but only because we enjoy it. I knit because it keeps me sane.


We read CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Semus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. We listen to classical music, worship music, and a bit of Eric Clapton. Everyone (but me) sings and plays a musical instrument, and plays it skillfully. What is my point?  My point is this:

I have enough material to pretend with.

I have enough good going on, I could only tell you the good parts, and conveniently leave out the struggle.


I could. But why would I?


Both daughters married well, saved themselves for marriage, and married strong Christian men. One of my daughters gave us our first grandson in December of last year. She and her husband and our grandson live with us, because my daughter's husband was in graduate school getting his Master's, interning at a local high school for free, and working part time when they found out she was pregnant.


To take a small bit of the pressure off of them, they chose to move in with us for a season. They are now at the point at which they are scouring the papers, looking for the perfect house on a teacher's meager salary. They'll move back out next year.


Our other daughter married an artist, and they spend all their time developing his art business, and helping out with various ministries in our church.


And our oldest son is no longer in the Marines. He is the tobacco chewer - a habit the whole family fervently prays he soon outgrows. And he will. I don't doubt that. He is back in town, attempting to get a fresh start. As a family, we are trying to help him do that...help him just enough, but not too much.


Our youngest son is also a work-in-progress. He left home last year, and after a great deal of heartbreak and prayer, willingly came back home. He repented and asked for a fresh start, and we gave that to him. Do we know how it will all turn out? Not really.


All I know is that grace will accomplish what the law could never do. The law can't make anything righteous, but the bringing of a better hope most certainly HAS and most certainly WILL.


Does that all seem so...so...so blue collar? So not-fundamentalist-homeschooler? So much less than perfect?


Thank you. Thank you, thank you for saying so. Somebody has to live this life honestly, and embrace it with true joy. Because the last thing I want you to find, when you visit me here, is the same old bubble blowing perfectly-faked-life crap.


Here's the point: I'm okay! I lived through the turmoil! I survived finding out that my family is less than perfect. Yet. Yet, there is so much beauty in my life these days, it often overwhelms me.


I am overflowing with joy. After wrestling through law and gospel issues, and actually applying the gospel to my private world (THUS "ordering it") I discovered that the good news is actually good news. And it brings health and beauty into lives. It mends people and hearts and relationships. I'm living proof.


Note: "beauty" and "perfection" have never been synonymous.