I Love...Change {February, the Month of Love}

{this home girl hates changing her mind about things}

You can experience troubles or trials without change, but you can not experience true, lasting change without some trouble and trial. In fact, trials are God's means of enlarging you. They carry within them the seed of new horizons, of territories gained, of increase and inheritance.

The essence of repentance is simply to change your mind. If all your dearly-held opinions have brought you to a place of isolation or misery, why then, you have the distinct and incredible privilege...and even the pleasure of changing your mind.

Try it.

I have found it to be even kind of fun. A few years back, I found myself with some life-long views of God that were so far beneath who He really is, as to be an insult to His Finished Work, His kindness, and His nature. Changing my mind was a privilege. I was glad to do it.

Change is God's way of lifting up your head above your enemy. You literally think at a different level than before, and grow bigger and stronger on the inside, than the giant you face on the outside.

Dude. Goliath is so about to become my little sister.

God has so enlarged me, using trials and my willingness to let those dang things change me, my Goliath (and he is honking big, if you could see him with your eyes) may as well be wearing Mary Janes and licking a lollipop. I am about to feed him to the birds.

Change is good. I rather enjoy being increased and enlarged. The bigger the battle, the bigger the spoil.

I invite you...if all your thoughts have led you to a place of anxiety, bitterness, or a critical spirit...

...change your thoughts. Change your mind.

It is one of our greatest privileges as saints of God.

Written for you with love...
Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...Godliness {February, the Month of Love}

THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us...

( Hebrews)

Oh, lovely women of God...of every age...I invite you to love Godliness with me. There is so much more to this life than what some of us are living for. Our heritage as Kingdom Daughters is so much more than we are actively experiencing. Some indulgences are too expensive...because they cost us our cutting edge.

There is nothing worth more to me than the Gospel, nothing worth more to me than learning "the art of losing myself in bringing Him praise". No glass of wine, no country song, no man, no extravagance, no job, no promotion, nothing is worth being even ever-so-slightly weighted down, or even a little entangled.

And everyone knows I love me an occasional Merlot, I love my red lipstick (toned down with a little nude color) and a good Rascal Flatts song. I love me a spa massage, a designer handbag, and being invited to show my art in art shows held in exclusive locations. My theme song can sometimes be, "All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun" a la Sheryl Crowe.

But that is just a persona to compensate for the fact that I would toss it all overboard this moment, for one encounter with the Living God. There is an intensity in my spirit...a fire shut up in my bones...

I am all about leadership. Lead, follow wisely and well, or go sit down, out of the way. Some indulgences aren't worth my reputation as a leader.

I invite you to love Godliness. When you put it with contentment, you are a sloppy-rich woman.

Written for you with love...

Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...Process {February, the Month of Love}

So much going on, here at this cottage. Lots of letting go, where letting go is healthy. Lots of holding on, where holding on will make a difference.

Every once in awhile, I get a glimpse of a much bigger picture. I can clearly see, in these moments, how somany means are working themselves out towards a single end: that my life be an illustration of The Art of Bringing Him Praise.

No pain has been wasted...and no joy, either. Nothing wasted. All things truly do work together for good. I live my life at an unfair advantage, neck-deep in grace.

Not many strong or wise or even particularly, wildly beautiful are called.

And I revel in this fact. Me and my crazy-train family are vastly qualified to be His Ambassadors.

The process is the solution. Processes can be very long, and can seem to make nosense.

So often, we cannot find the forest...too many stinking trees. But there really is a greater, over-arching plan, right in front of our lovely faces. Problem is, it cannot, will never be found or discovered or discerned in any list of dos and don'ts anywhere. It is found in the daily monotony of process - when we, day after day, choose our point of reference according to the Gospel, and move forward, choosing to relate to God, people, and circumstances from that point of reference alone...no other perspective.

My point of reference these days is that of a cherished daughter, who, with open spiritual eyes, can see so clearly that "those that be with me are far greater, both in might and number, than those that be against me."

Written for you with love...

Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...Coffee {February, the Month of Love}

This is some of my original photography, available as a print, in my shop...

I love me a good cup of coffee.  I am also one of those women, whose husband delivers her a cup - in bed - each and every morning.  I sit, tousled hair and reading glasses, looking far less than lovely -  propped up on pillows, prying my eyes open so that I can begin my morning reading...and The Preacher makes my first cup and brings it to me.  Some mornings that might be six AM....most mornings it is seven, and some mornings eight.  Just whenever I wake up, he fires up the Keurig.

Don't be a hater.

He's a grace-man.  That's what you get, when you are blessed enough to be married to a man who "gets" the Gospel...who understands the grace of God.  He doesn't expect perfection from me...he loves me to perfection.


I Love...ANNOUNCING THE WINNER {February, the Month of Love}

True Random Number Generator  5Powered by RANDOM.ORG
I counted up the entries in our Jeanne Oliver Online Art Class Giveaway...carefully counting those who entered more than once, through Facebook and Twitter...and...you can check this below, yourself, in the comment section...the winner...via Random Number Generator is... NUMBER 5...MELISSA FINK, of Melissa Ellen's Loft!

I could not be more pleased unless it was my own daughter...(and one of my daughters did enter, by the way, and if the Random Number Generator had picked her comment, I was going to give it to her, fair and square!)...well, this sweet girl won the giveaway, and months ago, she grabbed a little piece of my heart as I got to know her.  She is quite good at mixed media art, has already taken the plunge and started an online business, and is fearless about her love for Christ, on her blog.  You.  Go.  Girl.

That makes us kindred spirits, right there.  So weary of women who are ashamed of their Christian faith, or too hung up on themselves, trying to break into certain circles in the online business/art world...or simply embarrassed to be a little bit radical or a tiny bit more bold.  This is NOT our spiritual heritage!  Think Sarah of old...think Deborah the judge...think of Ruth Graham or Corrie Ten Boom!  Come on, girlfriends...RISE UP.  I am continually sharing my faith, all the time.  So does Melissa Fink.  Being a good - technically good - artist, being a gifted business woman and fun friend, and a great woman to get to know...NONE of these things are incompatible with being a bold believer in Christ.

Oh dear.  I'll stop right there.   I promise the Random Number Generator picked her...but I do like Melissa Fink that much.  She and Shannan Garber Martin just tug at my spiritual mothering heart-strings.  Bold women.

This is besides the fact that I think Melissa's blog has the potential to be the next "up and coming" DIY blog out there...her projects are interesting, her photography is good, her taste impeccable.

Apparently, her heavenly Father wanted to bless her with a few art lessons - keep your eye on her, I think she'll amaze us all one day!

Congratulations, Melissa...and again, thank you Jeanne Oliver, of www.jeanneoliverdesigns.com

I Love Art Supplies {Happy Valentine's Day to Me}

This is what my Preacher got for me for Valentine's Day. Better than any several dozen roses...

...and just as expensive. I got the fifteen color set! These are just some of the colors, and the large blending stick...all oils.

The man saves his lunch money...he eats on the cheap, at home, or some days not at all...to get me little gifts like this. I would be unhappy if I weren't so happy.

I better post this, and shut the computer down, so I can go thank him properly.

Written for you with love...

Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...Little Monkeys {February, the Month of Love}

Warning: your cute-o-meter is going to peg waaaaay in the red. Alarms may go off.

My daughter Hannah went on a little Valentine's date with her little man today...these pictures stopped my heart.

For reals. I needed defib...too cute.

Don't forget the Jeanne Oliver Online Class Giveaway! To be entered to win, leave a comment here

Don't be intimidated...you do not have to be artistically inclined to enjoy these online classes...you will learn so much...and you will have so much fun....learning art techniques in your jammies should you so choose....

...class kicks off in April. You will have ~months~ to finish it.

A winner will be announced Friday!!

Written for you with love...
Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...My Daughters {February, The Month of Love}

8x10 on canvas, mixed media original, entitled "Her Daughters"

I am so proud of my identical twin, 25-year-old daughters. I love them beyond words can say.

In His Amazing Grace,

Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...The Preacher's Photography {February, the Month of Love}

So The Preacher loves DSLR photography. And he has gotten quite good at it...sometimes to my consternation. His composition is often better than mine. He always seems to grab the best shot. We are in an ongoing competition over who is the best...there are days I feel pretty good about my skills...

...then, there are days like today, when it seems God helps him win.

Wouldn't that be cheating???

Look what landed in our back yard, four feet from our (dirty) kitchen window:

A gorgeous, gorgeous young hawk.

Blessedly, Mr. Hawk was standing on a very special painted rock that only we own...otherwise you might think The Preacher stole the shot off the Internet somewhere.

"Whaddya lookin' at, preacher man?!?"

(The hawk wasn't really saying that...)

Who can compete with that? So not fair. Hawks never pose for me.

Written for you with love...

Sheila Atchley

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

One Thousandth Post, a JEANNE OLIVER GIVEAWAY, "I Love...Art" {February, The Month of Love}

Friends, this is a big day.

This post officially marks my one thousandth post. One thousand blah blah blabbety blabs...and I still have friends, and new "followers" (a term I am not fond of, but did not coin...we just have to roll with it, don't we? YOU know it is just a blog word...you are all leaders, not followers...say it with me: "We have minds of our own. We just like to win free stuff.")

I am beside myself to reveal that the sweet Jeanne Oliver, of Jeanne Oliver Designs- has graciously donated one spot in her upcoming ONLINE mixed media art class...her brand new class...the one entitled "Letting Go."

Here is where the good karma gets all weird and even better...I didn't plan that this would be my 1,000th post...I knew I wanted this post to be a special one!

Well, here at the cottage, the entire story of my life, in the last two years, has been a journey of "Letting Go"...wearing forgiveness like a crown...releasing my too-tight grip on situations and offended people and prodigal sons....none of it is under my jurisdiction anymore. I do not have to fix anything. Just let it go.  Guard my heart...keep relationships...let go of expectations.

Not only that, but wouldn't you know it, as I was planning this giveaway post, just this week, the whole "Letting Go" mojo has reached even newer levels in this house.

I am now a certified black belt ninja letter-go-girl.

So there is something of full circle-ness and fulsome sweetness and just rightness about this giveaway, as well as who the giveaway features, and our connection as mentor/mentee. (Jeanne teaches me online, I learn...)

Please visit Jeanne's website www.jeanneoliverdesigns.com - check out her shop, and once in her shop, check out her online classes. Take note of how amazing the "Letting Go" class is gonna be. Look at all the techniques you will learn, because Jeanne is a good teacher. You will learn. Promise.

To win the generous gift of a FREE spot in her class, please simply leave a comment on this post, first of all. Then, if you tweet about this giveaway (giving the blog address) - that is another chance to win...

...if you Facebook the giveaway or Pin it to Pinterest...same thing...as many chances to win as you can get the word out on social media, and come back here and leave a comment letting me know.

I am also opening this one up to my church ladies, but I promise to use a random computer generated number app, to pick the winner. I will in no way draw names or pick her myself. Everyone has as many chances to win, as they are willing to help promote the lovely Jeanne Oliver's class.

Honestly, if you had to pay her $58 or so fee, you are getting a product...a web workshop...worth over three times what you paid. I can direct you to online art classes all day long with a price tag of $149. Jeanne's classes are worth more than she charges. Homegirl is that good at her art classes.

Those of you who home school will want to win a spot for your student. Easily worth a semester's fine art (not just "crafts") credit.

I will announce the winner of this special giveaway (weeks of classes, tons of demonstration videos) on Friday of the upcoming week. So you have plenty of time to tweet, Facebook, Pin, and refer people to this blog to sign up. Those of you who bring referrals who follow this blog and sign up for the giveaway??? I will add your name yet again, as a "thank you" for the referral. Just make sure I am told that "so and so" sent them here!

FUN FUN!!! And thank you, thank you, Jeanne Oliver!

{www.jeanneoliverdesigns.com} Such a generous giveaway.

So get going, girls! Cannot wait to see who wins this one! Maybe we can take it together!

Letting Go What is His Burden, Not Mine...
Sheila Atchley

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

I Love...Pink and Tutus {February, the Month of Love}

(Post-edit:  This post was originally posted about February 2nd...I went in today to edit the title, and it is now posting for today, along with my "simple dresses" post, and I don't know how to fix it...sorry.)

I love...

...this baby girl. I know, right? You really want me to stop bragging and get on with my bad self. Is this not "hand on heart", gasp-and-squeal cute?!? I have the most beautiful granddaughter on God's earth. (Photo portrait by her artist daddy, Jonathan Howe, taken just one week ago...hard to believe we were having 70+ degree weather...today is frigid and snow...)

Look at that pouty mouth.

Homegirl is six months old today. Will someone please stop time for me? I want her to be all this cuteness a bit longer.

I Love...Simple Dresses {February, The Month of Love}

Oh, sweet, sweet goodness, I love me a pretty dress.  A simple, pretty dress.  Truly...they are hard to find.  The dresses in my mind are actually impossible to find, because they exist only {for now} in my imagination.

But here are a few that get close to my ideal...

Are you feeling the sheath-ey, A-line, simple sweetness?  Each of these styles would have to be adapted to my over-45-years-old age bracket...in each case, the mantra would have to be:

Lengthen the dress, shorten the heel.  Unless I am wearing that short dress as a long top, over jeans.  

Make the dress a tad bit longer.  Make the shoe heel a tad bit shorter.  No mini dresses and stilettos for this preacher's wife.  Not that I am against either of those things per se - I am just a huge fan of age appropriate dressing.  I'm pretty sure stilettos and short hemlines are for the under 30 crowd - and not even all of them can pull it off without looking a bit insecure.  Faith Hill might be the only exception...she's so country music.

Translate these designs above, into beautiful, heathered, solid colors in a medium weight linen or light wool or heavy weight knit...

{no prints or patterns, thank you, I am no longer a fan of them...and no more light-weight knits in either my shirts or my dresses...I am tired of flimsy fabrics.  I am a grown-up, after all.  I'm not a junior in college, and do not want to be...though I will still wear some of my patterned knit shirts.  Once in a blue moon.  Because it is what I have until I have what I want, or what I want to design - though it chafes my very soul to wear them, truly}

...add jewelry designs that are organic, a bit askew, unexpected - with mixed metals and always a scrap of leather here and there...

...add a chunky leather cuff with a word that feeds your spirit discreetly stamped on it - or boldly stamped...and no hint of a manicure, because you are an artist, and everyone knows a real artist cannot...cannot...keep a manicure looking good longer than one day.  If you think I am lying, ask a girl artist.

...add a patch pocket to the front left side of every dress, in the same fabric as the dress...

...with a word{like "grace" or "bliss"}  hand-embroidered on a tiny patch, and added to the  corner of the pocket...almost unnoticeable...it would have to be pointed out for someone to even see it...it exists for you, because you are "all that", and so worth the extra detail...

...with a tailored shoe, about two or three inches in the heel...preferably a lace-up 40's style, a flat spectator oxford style, or kitten heel pump...

...or a western boot, for that element of surprise...

...with one little layer, peeking from the hem of the dress, or a ruffle on the 3/4 sleeves - a petticoat, if you will, or a bell sleeve, but not both...

...throw in an unfinished seam or two {a la Alabama Chanin}...

...and a great bag - also in my head, not to be found anywhere, yet...

...and really, really cool bifocal readers...

...and medium to medium-long length hair - in a messy bun.  Buns are beautiful, no matter what your age or the shape of your face.  Say it with me:  buns are beautiful.

Put all the above in a drink mixer thingey, shake it, then pour it into a glass and pop an olive on the rim, and there you have my very own finished design.  My style.  My look.  Classic, not trendy {except in the jewelry - my jewelry is quirky sometimes and edgy other times} and good on any age, but great on a grandmother.

Smokin' hot on a grandmother.  No matter what size she wears.

Only, right now, I can't find dresses like that anywhere.  Such is the dilemma of having a designer brain.  Or...should that be a designer's brain??

Sooner than I think, longer than I wish.  I cannot wait to wear my own designs...someday.

I Love the Law {February, the Month of Love}

(My foyer vignette, with tiny original art)

I love the law more than any legalista. I love the law more than any woman who is convinced that she is "more blessed" if and when she keeps the law - whether that be Jewish ceremonial/celebratory laws, or the law etched in stone...I love the law more than even she.

Far more, in point of fact.

Legalists (and their legalista counterparts) do not truly love the law...they love their's and everyone else's perceived performance of it. If a legalist really loved the law, they would study harder in order to use it lawfully.

The old covenant is cancelled. The new has come. The law is to be used as a schoolmaster, to point inexorably to Christ.

No other use for it. None. It is no longer a source or conduit or channel of blessing.

Anyone who thinks that they are blessed to any degree by keeping the law has not studied the law in all its exacting and fierce force. The standard is a perfect standard, and only One has ever fulfilled the law....Christ.

All God's promises are "yes and amen" if you are in Christ. All God's promises are "no and maybe" in the law.

You choose. I choose Jesus.

I love the law for what it reveals to me of Grace. I may be the only person you know who has read the curses of the law (that must come upon your life if you seek to be justified by the law in any way) and wept with joy and excitement and passion.

Because of Christ, my experience in this life is one big fat "instead".

Blessing instead of cursing.
Instead of the thorn tree, up comes the myrtle tree...in full bloom. (Is. 55)
Instead of ashes...beauty.
Instead of sadness...the oil of joy.
Instead of broken relationships...restoration.

Not one curse can touch my life, because I have died to the law and am "married" to the Gospel...married to Christ. All that is His, is also mine.

Especially His righteousness. His righteousness belongs to me, as sheer gift.

Using the law lawfully has led me to utter fullness in Christ.

Written for you with love...
Sheila Atchley

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

"I Love...The Church" {February, The Month of Love}

In celebration of this "month of love", why not begin a short series titled, "I Love..."

Pretty open ended.  I like it.  I could go anywhere with this...

...but I will begin with the church.  I.  Love.  The.  Church.  Not just Harvest Church, where my husband is senior pastor - but THE church.  The bride of Christ.  The called-out, chosen ones.  The family of God, the people of God. 

I love the organized church. 
I love the disorganized church.
I love home churches.
I ~love~ small churches.
I love big churches.
I love mega churches.
I love interesting church buildings.
I love church history.
I love all things church.

So, I'm pretty much a church chick.  If you are not part of...and I do mean part of...a local church, I strongly suspect, nay am convinced that you are missing out on one of the biggest, most wonderful, most tedious, most awesome, most wrenching, most indescribably sweet blessings this side of heaven.  You likely think you are blessed without the local church - but that's only because you think the level of blessing you have experienced is all there is.

There is more.

Like...way, way more.

Yeah, it comes at a price.  Most worthwhile things do. 

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.