Easter Adorableness

The grandson was sick today...and this Mimi stayed home with him on this Easter Sunday, so that his parents could go lead worship at our church. So no pictures of him in any Easter Glory or Finery.

But this....oh, this...

And this....

Apparently hair accessories taste good. Or help with teething. Or both.

Later, the grandson was taken to his house for a nap, The Preacher made it home from church, and he and I went to the granddaughter's house for Easter lunch.

This Mimi has been deep in the throes of First Art Show Preparation. Deep, deep. And sick with an evil headcold absolutely all of Holy Week, on top of it.

Let me tell you, it rocks to have daughters old enough to host holiday meals. I cooked a ham and took it. BAM. I did not one thing more.

After the Easter Swine was joyfully consumed (because I can) The Preacher played with his new professional level (something having to do with CMOS and sensors and stuff and things) Birthday Nikon, and grabbed this shot...

SOC. Straight Out of Camera. A little bit low light (rainy day) but a money shot! And guess who she was looking at?

Her Mimi. Me-me.

I know, right? You want me to stop my bragging and get on with my bad self.

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...

Introverts Are Different

Do you love being with people? Do you have a felt need to socialize? (We all need it, to varying degrees...we simply were not created to be alone...)

If you answered "yes", you are not an introvert. Introverts have a felt need for more solitude than an extrovert. Many extroverts almost never feel an intense, consistent need to be alone or quiet, thus they will never really understand it. And unfortunately, they will often try to force their introverted loved ones into their own extroverted perspective. Extroverts mistakenly assume that everyone should be just like them, and oooooh boy, do extroverts need people!

Typically, introverts are more creative than their extrovert friends...which is good, because we introverts need all the props we can get. The entire world, it seems, is trying to make us apologize for the way we were made.

Yes. God made us this way. And some of us (like yours truly) He has made to be quiet souls, and souls that need quiet...

...and then He called us into public ministry. This requires a near-daily dying to self, and a continual setting aside of our own, very legitimate, need for quiet time alone. Something an extrovert will never comprehend. Just know that you don't know. Compassion for your introverted loved one starts right there: opening your mind to the idea that you may actually not know what it is like to be "her". And you do not know what she needs, so let her tell you.

May I gently encourage you to tell your artsy, introverted, quiet friend that she is enough? That she is enough as a friend, as a daughter of God, as a mother, that she is loved exactly as she is?

I can almost promise you, she will go off by herself and weep with gratitude for being told one simple thing: that she is loved, lovely, and enough. Tell her you delight in her in spite of herself.

Endeavor to understand and encourage the introverts in your life.

There is a link to a Facebook fan page for your incredible introvert here

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...

The Preacher's 50th

The love of my life turned 50 today.

I have spent the better part of two days cleaning my house, shopping, decorating, and generally preparing for what for us is a small family gathering of 16.

That box...my gift to him..."brown paper packages, tied up with strings"...definitely had in it one of his favorite things!

Cards from friends...

I decorated the house in spring...

Having his grandchildren all around is definitely his favorite thing. (The granddaughter was napping during gift opening time...)

Surrounded and spoiled and adored and loved by his family. He rocked his 50th, for sure. Spent it exactly how he's always dreamed he would.

I am so honored to be the girl beside him and the one dearest to his heart. My beloved man of God, who has poured himself into all his relationships...thus has never had time for a mid-life crisis...he is too busy loving and being loved.

Happy birthday, Preacher!

You are the love of my life...

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...

The Evolution of an Art Studio

(a corner of my art studio...)

I had a conversation with a friend today, and it blessed me.  Just since I taught my first mixed media art class in February, she has acquired her very own art supplies, and even a cabinet to put her treasures in, out of reach of her small children.

It got me thinking about the evolution of my own space, and how important it is that a woman  have her own niche in the home...a place that is hers alone, to be able to create what she creates, and walk away from it, and come back to it...because a woman's life never seems to afford her long stretches of uninterrupted time, until her children are all grown.

Wait.  No, not even then.  I speak as One Who Knows.

What I really know is this:  I know what happens when you are truly content, and you make the most of what you have, instead of wishing for things to be different.

So I decided to dig around my archives, to share with you the evolution of one woman's art studio...mine.  I know what it means to have to "make do", and here's the amazing thing...

...it wasn't that long ago.  In fact, it was one year ago this week.  I checked the date on the blog post.

That.  gives.  me.  goosebumps.

To see what God has done in the space of one year.  One year.   How?  I'm not asking you.  I'm asking myself.  How?  One year ago this week, I had no idea what was coming.  Bigger art, bigger dreams, bigger goals, bigger things, and a much, much, much bigger art studio.

Here is how this all began...

...in my dining room.  My dining room.  Out of sheer determination to BOTH create AND be content with what I had available in terms of space, I cleared dishes out of a corner dining room hutch, and plunked my art supplies in it.  Every single art-thing I owned.  And then, on a whim and a prayer,  I made art to raise money so some kids from a single parent family could go on a mission trip.  I wanted so badly to give.  I wanted these kids to get on a plane for the very first time...

...I was stunned when I sold everything I painted.  I put half of it in the offering plate for the mission trip, the other half I put back into art supplies...simply because I felt strongly impressed that I was to keep painting.

So after the mission trip, I kept painting.

And people kept buying.  Then a local retail shop began to carry my art.  Then, on Mother's Day 2012, The Preacher bought me a tiny desk and we literally cleared out a corner of our bedroom, selling the treadmill (a girl has to keep her priorities in order!) and that corner then became my studio.

I was so proud of it.  The Preacher was so glad to eat at the table again.

 my tiny studio, in a corner of my bedroom...

It was exactly here, in this space,  that I found courage to dive into creating my W.E.L.L. Being videos..."Women Equipped To Love and Lead"...videos in which I attempt to bring encouragement to anyone who will listen.

And I kept painting.  And I started my business.  And I opened my online shop.  And started my business Facebook page.  (Like me?  Please?)

Long about August of this past year, the neighbor across the cul-de-sac offered to sell his house to my son-in-law and daughter, who had been living with us, along with our grandson Timothy (who is The Preacher's namesake).  They had been living with us so that Justin could finish his Master's, do his internship, work three jobs, and they could have their baby.  

With all those things checked off the list, and a nice savings built up, they were able to buy the house across the cul-de-sac from us.  That was a day I will never forget.  The Preacher and I wept for joy...and sadness...as this chapter of all our lives came to a close.  A couple of weeks after they moved next door, my tiny corner studio, once crammed in my bedroom became...

...a whole room.  With two rooms suddenly coming available, I had a studio! 

For the first time in 25+ years, I had a full-fledged art studio.  And guest room.

And my studio wasn't big enough.  It felt cramped.

I know, right?  I went from a dining room corner cabinet, containing all my art supplies (well, with a few more crammed into the dining room buffet) to a whole 10x12 room feeling too small.

In one year.  Here's the weirdness:  90% of all the art supplies that filled that room had just...come to me...over the course of about nine months.   

My family can bear witness to the truth of what I am telling you.  There is no explanation...tools and equipment and supplies have been...coming to me...since one year ago this week.  Non stop.  In the form of gifts, gift cards, loans (some equipment is on "indefinite loan").  It has come to me in the form of  Craigslist deals, hand-me-downs, The Preacher spending his lunch money on me...and me investing a little out of our budget, here and there, to fill in the edges of whatever this crazy-train thing is that God is up to in my life! 

Then, last month, I mentioned to the Preacher that our large guest room (the room Justin and Hannah vacated when they moved out) would sure make an awesome studio...because it has a tiny bath, and I could clean my brushes so much easier if my art studio had its own sink.  I truly wasn't even completely serious.

But it was all I had to say.

My Preacher picked up his phone and cancelled and rescheduled all his appointments that day.  (Nothing was life or death...no one was suicidal...that day.)  By the end of that very day, my studio became this:

TWO closets, tons of space, and my own bathroom. 

...and my first art show coming up in three weeks, in...of all places...art mecca of the south...Atlanta, Georgia!

Friends, where God guides, He provides.  Please do come with me on this crazy-train plan of His.

It is going to be one.  wild.  ride.

Oh.  By the way.  If you come stay with us....sorry.  Your room is smaller than my studio.  And your full bath is just across the hall, instead of in-suite.  But you won't mind, because I'll feed you so dang well.

And you would rather be able to crack your window and hear the pond waterfall, anyhow.

The Friendships of Women

I think of the old hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"...and that is the truest thing I know.

Yet, I have also been blessed with the friendships of women.

I have to say, I have the best, most beautiful friends.  Every single one of them, every gesture, every word, every sacrificial and small thing they do in and for my life...

...it is an unearned, undeserved grace.

I treasure them.

Real Women of God - Not Faux Females

We live in a day and time when a young woman's Big Ambition is to get a tattoo...in Jesus' name, of course. And is it any wonder? I have nothing against beautiful body art, and I cannot fault them, when my generation's Big Ambition is career advancement, or a newer luxury SUV, or to add one more pair of exotic chickens to the coop, as they advance to the next stage in their "call" to go off the grid...in Jesus' name, of course.

Because everyone knows, serving Jesus has to come by degrees...one must first get her tat, or a cute car and cowboy boots, or at least a live in boyfriend if she is young....or she needs to build her business and get a Lifestyle Lift, or get off the grid and milk cows if she is older. Preparation is key, right? One must prepare to eventually practice true religion.

And everyone knows that the local church and its people have little-to-nothing to do with the practice of true religion. Give us the organic church. Dude. We can do church while we hang out in Starbucks and the gym. The "organized church" is a hindrance to us girls, as we prepare to desire to eventually bring God great glory with our great bodies, our Jesus tats, our sweet cowgirl boots and cute cars. And for the over-40 crowd, Jesus is made beautiful by our statement necklaces, our weight loss, our beautiful home, our happiness, our connections, and our big bank accounts.

But sacrifice? True religion? Involvement with the children and families of the local church? So not cool. That stuff won't build my self esteem or my business or my future. A girl has to dream her dreams, and prepare to eventually want to practice True Religion.

Well. Last week was world-wide Women's Day. The following was published via the web, by World Vision - the story of the impact of a few women on the life of Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision (and a big shout out to my new friend Tessa Burns, for sharing this with me...)

...may our woman's heart become magnificently obsessed with Christ, may we love and value the Bride of Christ (the local church), and may we dispense with kidding ourselves about what a woman of God looks like...


"My father, Bob Pierce, first traveled to China in 1947 with Youth for Christ. World Vision wasn’t even a twinkle in his eye. But years later, he would write, “My own world vision from God was sparked on that first trip.” Among the people who ignited that spark were women who were determined to change the world in Jesus’ name.
* * *
Beth Albert: “The trigger of the vision God gave me for missions.” -Bob Pierce
My father met American missionary Beth Albert in a remote area of China called Kunming. Beth introduced Dad to a world he never knew existed.

In 1947, leprosy was still considered a death sentence. Beth had discovered more than 100 people struggling to survive in the only place they were allowed to live—a cemetery. They were starving, naked, and dying.

Most heartbreaking of all, their healthy babies died with them. Beth, a trained nurse, was determined to help.

“Beth had no help from the outside,” my dad would later recall. Until he began supporting her, she was dependent upon whatever the locals would give her. She scrounged for old cans and taught the people to fill them with mud to make bricks. With these, they managed to build small shelters.

Food, clothing, medicine, Bible studies … somehow one indomitable woman managed to bring life and hope to those whom the world had written off. And every one of the precious people she served came to know Jesus, not because she preached, but because she loved.

After she was forced to leave China when the communists took over, World Vision continued to support Beth Albert’s work with lepers and the poor in India, which included establishing 14 leprosy clinics.

My dad credited Beth as “the trigger of the vision God gave me for missions.”

* * *
Tena Holkeboer: “World Vision was born that day.” -Bob Pierce

Dad arrived on the island of Amoy for a week of Youth for Christ meetings.

Tena Holkeboer, a Reformed Church of America missionary and principal of the Iok Tek Girls’ Middle School, invited him to speak at their morning chapels. As a result, several of the girls accepted Christ.

What happened next has become a familiar World Vision story. At the end of the week, Dad went to Tena’s home to say goodbye. She met him at the door holding a little girl who had been beaten and abandoned by her family for becoming a Christian.

Shocked and feeling utterly helpless, my father asked, “You will take care of her, won’t you?”

“I am feeding as many children as I can,” Tena replied. “The question is, What are you going to do?”

It was a question my Dad had been asking himself ever since Kunming.
Overwhelmed, he had walked away from the needs of many. But now God was confronting him with the need of one child.

Dad gave Tena his last five dollars, promising to send more when he got home. He would later reflect, “I didn’t know it at the time, but in a real, practical sense, World Vision was born that day.”

* * *
Lillian Dickson: “Typhoon Lil” scooped out her bucketful

My dad was introduced to Lillian Dickson in 1953 on a visit to Taiwan (then called Formosa).

Her willingness to take on human need wherever she found it reaffirmed my father’s conviction that God will do impossible things when we don’t limit him.

Their lifelong partnership would bring thousands to Christ and become one of the enduring cornerstones of World Vision’s ministry.

Lillian came to Formosa in the 1920s as a missionary’s wife. Her husband, Jim Dickson, was the “official” missionary in the family while his bride devoted herself to their children and home. But when the kids got older, Lillian decided she wasn’t going to “sit out her life.”

With Jim’s blessing, she packed up her Bible and accordion, and began hiking with a team of medical missionaries into the most remote areas of Taiwan. They went where neither modern medicine nor the hope of the gospel had ever reached.
Over the next 30 years, “Typhoon Lil” walked thousands of miles, wading through rushing rivers, crossing dangling wooden bridges, and facing down angry witchdoctors and headhunters. She slept, ate, laughed, and cried with the tribal people she loved, and every day God trusted her with new needs and a bigger vision.

Asked why she worked so hard when people’s needs were like a great ocean of suffering that could never be emptied, Lillian responded, “I must scoop out my bucketful.”

Her bucketful included caring for street children, lepers, and abandoned babies. With support from World Vision and other partners, she built churches, schools, children’s homes, and clinics.

Her ministry continues today through Mustard Seed International.

* * *
Elizabeth Hunter: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” -Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

These three women are only a few of the legendary missionaries who influenced my father’s life and ministry. But there is one name that is not in the history books. I doubt she ever left the country. Still, her life helped change the world.

Her name was Elizabeth Hunter and she was my father’s high school Sunday school teacher. Every week, she brought Bible stories to life for a group of active teens, challenging them to make a difference in Jesus’ name.

Throughout his life, my father credited Miss Hunter with first challenging him to ministry. But I never realized how deep that challenge went until I discovered a small blue book among my father’s library a few years ago.

It was titled James Hudson Taylor, Pioneer Missionary of Inland China. On the first page, I found an inscription dated Christmas 1928: “To Bob from Miss Hunter. My prayer and deepest desire for you is Matthew 28:18-20. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

Your prayers were answered, Miss Hunter. "

Link can be found here.

shared with love...
Sheila Atchley

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

Mixed Media She-Art {Warrior Princess}...and a call to fight like girls...

Mixed media 5x5 original, entitled "Warrior Princess". Will be for sale in my Atlanta art show...

...inspired by the book Girls With Swords by Lisa Bevere...

Hi friends!

I don't know about each one of you, but I am certainly in a deep place...of birth...labor...transition...again. But this time? It feels good.

Oh, it hurts. Make no mistake about that. But whereas maybe five years ago, the pain felt like that of giving birth to a stillborn child, this pain comes with a deep knowing that I am pushing out the healthy life of many, many "babies". Multiple births. I am birthing relationally, creatively, spiritually, materially....manifesting grace on many levels.

So are so many of you.

For over a year now, I have been hearing The Lord calling out to our identity as warrior princesses in this day. Let me preface with this: I do not believe that in the natural realm, women should be put in combat roles. I do not. Okay??

You are free to disagree with me. (No hate mail, please. It makes me giggle, and that just makes you angrier. It's a waste of both our energy.) I do not think it bodes well for our nation, when we put our girls in combat.

But. At the same time, the natural reflects the spiritual. And it is a fact that in our nation, women have very recently been cleared for combat.


Calling all girls. I have a word from The Lord for you!

You are cleared for combat. Approved. Backed by the full resources of heaven, to fight....not as a man, but as who you are...a woman. You have been given legal authority to kick some serious donkey.

So where are you? Here am I, looking like Annie Oakley in the Spirit....armed to my teeth...fighting my butt off....and I am wondering where YOU are! I see a few of you beside me, but every single one of you better get your sweet selves up here to the front lines, because there is no neutrality. Take captive every thought, or any thought will take you captive. Fight. Engage. Live free or die...

It breaks my heart to see so many of us live for nothing greater than raising daughters (or sons) who make it through high school or college with their virginity intact. As vital as that is, and I am not saying it is unimportant, it does not constitute purpose or calling.

Some live for nothing greater than to have a goat to show at a 4-H show...again, a fine secondary or tertiary thing. Some live to "go off the grid"...that goal consumes their time and resources. It might at the very least be a distraction. It can even be a form of idolatry. It keeps you from the battles that matter.

Milking a goat is not tied to my destiny. Planting a rich garden is a practice of mine...but it has nothing to do with the call of God on my life. The call of God on my life and yours involves His favorite creation...not nature...not livestock...but people. If we are using our resources to minister to people, then we are engaged properly in the combat between darkness and light.

Some of us are finding ourselves facing situations that are unacceptable. Our spiritual enemy has attempted to get us to compromise...reconcile ourselves...avoid declaring war, because war is exhausting.

Well, fight tired, then! Fight injured, then! But for God's sake, stop settling for a sweet little isolated life when there is a battle to be won. Stop setting goals that are beneath you.

This is the season to give up your right to sympathy...your right to hold a grudge (which you never had that right to begin with)....your right to be entitled to this or that middle age indulgement ("I've earned the right to take a break...look at what I have been through!")

hmmmmm. A king named David took on that middle aged entitlement attitude, and ended up undoing his kingdom.

I say we get up and get on with the business of fighting. Whether or NOT the men in our lives are with us. I say this very carefully, only in a manner of speaking. I can speak this way because I am one of the more submitted women you may know. I deeply respect male authority, even flawed authority, and always have - that is one of my God given strengths. I do not mock, disregard, or ignore authority.

Fight. With the boys or without them. Never against them....but with them or without them.

Stop treating life's difficulties as though they shouldn't be happening. This is war. This is training for reigning.

How do we fight?

By our worship.

With high praise in our mouth.

By being an integral part of church life.

With a smile.

By our prayer.

By enduring.

By holding our ground with the tenacity that only a woman can have....there is a reason WE give birth. We can endure.

By not carrying over yesterday's struggles into today. Every day we get to fight fresh. We get to be relaxed and refreshed and loaded with new ammo.

Patience is your weapon of mass destruction. Possess your soul with it.

Everything in your life...your family situation...your marriage....your church and its unique season...your place as a children's minister, nursery worker, musician, multi media person, greeter, encourager, meeter of physical needs....all of it is meant to train you how to be excellent, passionate, distinctly and amazingly feminine. An overcomer.

So go be awesome.

I will be looking and listening for my fellow girls-in-combat. Show up fresh. Show up ready.

Be ready to receive twice what you expect...battle spoils.

But know this: two times nothing is....nothing. You better figure out what it is you expect. Because God only commits His warriors to winnable wars. What would a win in your present situation look like? Strategize accordingly.

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...

Rock, Paper,Scissors, Key {Hint: Pick the Key}

In all my art, every piece, you will find hidden within it the image of a tiny key - or several keys.

Three groups of people tend to do things without fully knowing exactly why they do them: artists, poets, and prophets. I happen to be a quirky mix of all three, therefore half the time I am saying or doing things of which I have no clue why I am saying or doing them.

The key would be one of those things.

If you asked me, last week, why the key - I would have vaguely told you that understanding the grace of God, and the utterly Finished Work of Christ is the key to understanding all of life and Scripture.

And that would be true.

However, I always knew there was more to it. Artists, poets and prophets are comfortable with waiting on their complete clarity. It doesn't all have to make sense right away before painting it, imaging it in words, or proclaiming it boldly.

But clarity does come, eventually.

Today, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the keys in my art. He said, in His own special way of speaking to me, "Are you ready to know what these mean?"

I said no.

Just kidding...I said, "A thousand times yes, Master!"

He said, "This is your season to find your keys. This year is your year to discover keys you never knew you had. Keys represent access to wealth and intimacy. Your keys represent the access granted to you, through the cross, to provision, favor, wisdom, authority, all that is Christ's is yours."

Then He said, "Let's play Rock, Paper, Scissors, Keys. Keys always win."

Suddenly...so suddenly...I got the download of revelation.

So you have a lot of cash.

I have the key to the whole vault.

So you have a rock. I have the key to the quarry.

So you have scissors. I have the key to...to JoAnn's Craft Store. ::cough::

So you have a gun. I have a key...to the armory.

So you have a book. I have a key to the Library of Congress.

So you have a cupcake. I own a key to the bakery, baby.

So you have the law. I have the key of David...blessed is she to whom The Lord does not impute sin. God has opened a door of salvation to me that no man can shut...let alone my puny attempts at sin or righteousness.

Keys win. Keys trump all.

I saw, in my spirit, The Lord with a large key ring, containing an unlimited number of keys. I sensed I was being asked...with a loving twinkle in His eye...

"Where would you like to go, and what would you like to see?"


Now I know why they are all over my canvases.

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...


Sheila Atchley

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

I Dwell in Possibility

I am working hard, these days, to be ready for my first art show. I will be in the north Atlanta area on April 13th and 14th...if you live in the area, and want to attend this great art show...

I would love to meet you!

In the grip of His great grace...

Sheila Atchley

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