3 Steps To Greater Faith {So Simple}

A pastel and charcoal sketch I did tonight...
(...practicing tone and value. The expensive drawing lessons are finally paying off!) 

 Three steps to a greater faith...when you find that your faith is too small...when you are "of little faith"...

 1. Begin to consider how much you are loved by God.

 2. Multiply that by infinity.

 3. Be completely persuaded that He loves you.

 Then repeat those three steps, again and again, every day of your life. You will become a woman of great faith.

  "Faith works by love..."

Hey, Soul Sister! {I Adore You}

At my first art show, I was approached by a dark skinned beauty.  Long hair, very confident and so, so pretty.  She took her time, looking at each canvas, as her husband patiently waited, making small talk with my Preacher.

Then, she matter-of-factly rocked my world.  She said, "I want this painting, but I want her to have dark skin.  And I want her hair to be long and straight."

Then she said, "And I want this painting.  But I want her to have dark skin.  And her hair needs to be short, like this painting, but also curly."

Then (you guessed it), she said, "And I want this one - Soul Restoration.  But I want her to have dark skin.  And I want her to have this hair over here..."  (and she showed me an entirely other canvas....)

My head was spinning, as I wrote down her every wish.  This beautiful woman's wish was my command, and I heard the heart of God talking to me in her wishes...

"...I want her to have dark skin."

Now, I had tried to paint dark skin before, and I have long wanted to paint dark skinned beauties in my she-art, but I never could get it quite right.  So I'd quit.  In spite of that inner knowing that was admonishing me to keep trying, I would quit, and set the whole thing aside for "another day".   

So this is for all my dark skinned beautiful friends...my soul sisters...with whom I share a special bond.

You wanted her to have dark skin.

I've worked so hard...but I think I got it.

8x8 print available in my shop

Depression, Self Harm, Thoughts of Ending The Pain {There Is An Answer}

I don't have a tat. (That's hip-speak for "tattoo"...because I am a hip kinda girl. Kind of.)

But if I did have a tat, it would be this one. That's me, up there, drawing on myself with a Sharpie. I am forty-some-odd years old, and still had the feeling that I wanted to look over my shoulder, afraid my momma was going to catch me writing on myself.

That was a big no-no in my house, growing up. I am absolutely certain I got spanked for writing on myself, at some point in my childhood.

(No phone calls, mom, please. I wrote on myself. Get over it.)

Wow. That was better than therapy. That felt good.

(And my mother is reading this and laughing, I promise...)

The message portrayed here is just this - the semicolon represents the writer's decision not to end a sentence, but rather to add to the story.

The cross represents the message of the mighty grace of God. It is your only source of healing. It is the Word that must come after your semicolon. The cross represents the rest of the story. The part of your story where life comes out of death, and He gives you beauty for ashes.

My mother chose a semicolon, over forty years ago, and I am so glad she did. There was so much left of her story to tell, so much beauty waiting to be discovered.

My mother, with a handful of sleeping pills, and a hopeless heart, had an encounter with the Living God one night. Not long after that, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and set free from her torment.

Ask me again why I am a firm believer in what the old saints called The Second Experience.

Fast forward a few decades, and you will find me...a preacher's wife...fighting for my joy, against the formidable giant of clinical depression.

It was a howling in my soul that would. not. stop. A desert-place is more than just dry. Being dry was the easy part. A desert-place is howling and empty. Desolate.

I don't know how else to describe it. If that sounds like melodrama to you, then you haven't been clinically ill. You've had a bout with the blues, not a pitch black night of the soul.

The Gospel saved me again. It saved me as a six year old girl. And it saved me again, not so many years ago.

The Preacher began to revisit the doctrines of Grace in January of 2009. I will never forget the exact Month and year. Not even he knew the depths of my despair at that time. I have always refused to make him responsible for my well being. I did not want to burden him or frighten him, that is the simple truth.

But he began to preach the scandalous grace of God as though that was all there was in all the world to preach. He preached grace courageously...even dogmatically...as though he sensed that lives depended on it.

Little did he know, back then. One of the lives was mine. I was listening, and I was investigating everything he taught.

I was set free from loving and serving the law of God, and I began to simply love God because He first loved me. I discovered for the first time that God no longer blesses those who keep the law...He blesses those who are in Christ Jesus, who depend on a righteousness that is not...not...not one whit...not their own.

The real Jesus took your sin and your sorrows and bore that burden to Calvary. The punishment that paid for your peace and total well-being was placed upon Him. By His stripes, you are healed of all manner...all manner...of sickness and dis-ease.

Don't put an end to your story. Choose the semicolon.

And come to the cross. Lay your heavy burden down.

I would love to pray for you. Simply slip me an email, with your first name, and I promise I will pray for you.

How The Lord loves you!

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...

Part 2 - Are Your Friendships Sacred? {They Should Be}

Now, the flip-side of the coin, and the other-side-of-the-moon-side of my heart.

Part 1 of this two-parter fell along the lines of autonomy in healthy relationships. No one should be allowed to write their name on your foot. (Um...Toy Story? Get it? Never mind.)

In other words, I don't own you.

And yes, the less I "need" you, the healthier my relationship to Christ must be.

But there will come a day when I will need you. So much. There will come a day when, no matter how deeply and well I honor my marriage, nothing can substitute for the love and compassion another woman can lavish on my heart. Home girl needs her homies.


Okay, I'll stop. I'm so white. I shouldn't even try, but I keep on trying.

The fact that we live in a broken world doesn't escape me. Sure, if you are married, that man is designed to be your Most Significant Other. But what if you are divorced? Let's be real. June Cleaver would creep me out a little, if she lived next door. Leave It To Beaver families don't populate our cities...or our churches.

Under normal (and even sub-normal) circumstances, no one can replace a mother or father, and if someone attempts to be more important in your life than your family, you should be suspect of motive.

But more often than we care to know, circumstances are not normal. Sometimes, a relationship is broken beyond repair, and spiritual mothers and fathers must step in to give a love and sense of identity and yes, necessary correction, that would otherwise be entirely non-existent. The family of God is a very real entity, and urgently important.

My neighbors to one side are raising their grandchildren, because their daughter keeps needing to detox, and can't take care of her own babies.

Down the street, a mom sent her young son to us, to ask if he could shoot basketball on the goal in our front yard...because, he said, his parents were fighting that afternoon, and might get a divorce.

Across the street, her elderly husband just died. And her grown (wealthy) son is stealing all her dead husband's tools.

These aren't ordinary times we are living in. It is more vital than ever to have a support system of relationships...people willing to go the distance.

I also think its wonderful to have girlfriends who are willing to put on a ball cap and dark sunglasses and go threaten someone who has hurt you.

I feel sorry for those not part of a local church. They got no people to threaten people for them.

Not that any of my home girls have done that for me. Yet. Prank phone calls? Maybe. As of now, though, no one has actually threatened my enemies.

But at least they want to. And if anyone hurts them?

Hold. Me. Back.

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...

Of Men "Like" Sons, and of Grandsons

The Preacher's namesake...my grand...on the left. A friend, who is more "like" a son, on the right.

See previous post.

Almost couldn't love him more, had I raised him. But his parents did a better job than I could have done.

See previous post.

Is that baby boy on the left not the cutest? The most expressive little boy I have ever seen. And all mine, in that grandchild sort of way.

This is why grand parenting is the bomb dot com. The best. Awesome.

You get to enjoy this up close, when you want, and from a distance if you get a headache.

He is already a gifted drummer, not even lying. His poor parents.

Earplugs, anyone??

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...

Part 1: Are Your Friendships Sacred? {They Should Be}

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.
 ~C.S. Lewis

 My attitude towards my friendships is just this: once I am "in", I am all in.
 You would have to leave me, because I ain't leavin' you. I am happy to be stuck with you.

 Were you to deny the infallibility of Scripture or the diety of Christ, we'd have issues - simply because I am not a closet Christian. We would end up "having it out". Even then, I would work hard to salvage the relationship, to whatever degree I could.

 Now, if you run off and leave me...well, I'll leave the porch light on for you. You prefer your friends to be witty and good looking, so I figure you'll be back. And I will miss you, too, because I have a weakness for witty, good looking, interesting people myself. I sort of collect them as friends. But I won't chase you and attempt to tie you down, because that wouldn't work. If you are the one who cut the ties, you have be the one to bring your half of the rope back to where you cut it - that's just scientific fact, and its also good for your soul.

 I have a strong belief in autonomy and interdependence, when it comes to friendship. I know, that seems awkward and impossible, but it actually makes for the most healthy relationship. I am a "boundaries" kind of girl. I won't seek to be anyone's "bestie"(gah), nor would I ever try to take the place of what should be a significant relationship in your life. Jurisdiction, jurisdiction, jurisdiction. God loves boundary lines - He created them.

 You have a momma. You have a blood-sister. Bond with them, however you can! Under any sort of normal circumstances, they are infinitely important, and should be given honor - no matter how flawed the person and how tedious the relationship may be. I refuse to allow you to put me in what should rightfully (and Biblically) be their place. I don't like for my affirmation to come that way.

Let me be "just" your friend - that means the most. Then, if I have earned the right (versus being merely sentimental,and cheaply sentimental, at that!) you can call me a mentor, someone who is "like" a mother to you, or your sister in Christ.

 Lots of people call me those things - interestingly, the ones I permit to call me "mentor" and "mom" usually have, or strongly pursue, healthy relationships with their parents and/or spouse.  Maybe that's  because I won't have it any other way.  If those relationships are fractured, I see it as my job as a true mentor or an actual spiritual mother to stand in the gap and build up that breach, doing all I can to bring healing.

 I get the whole "family of God" thing. I live it, breathe it, and love it. I "get" that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I am a "mother in Zion".

And I understand the Holy Spirit's use of metaphor. Very important.

See, the whole reason that metaphor works, and the way that metaphor works best, is when we understand and cherish and pursue healthy relationships with our blood family, our blood kin....as well as our blood-bought family in our local church.

 The less you need me, the healthier our friendship will be. Because that means your most important relationships - Christ, your spouse, and your family - are your first line of defense.  Then, when you do need me, I know I can make a difference by doing something doable. Something small.

There, I said it.

 Where have we gotten the idea that all our gestures and all our doings towards one another must be grand or heroic? I don't need to have to feel as if I must give my body to be burned - because the ante and definition of "true friendship" has been upped past what is reasonable. Because you don't turn first to me...because you turn first to Christ to get your needs met, I am under no pressure to perform. All is grace.

 Besides, it is the small and the ordinary that defines our lives. Big acts of love have no context without being able to deeply value the small graces. Every gesture - every prayer - every thought a girlfriend offers for me is a gift unearned and undeserved.

 Oh - and let's not forget your husband. He is designed from the garden of Eden to be a primary relationship in your life. Your "bestie", if you can bring yourself to use that word. Let him be your...best friend.

 When those two relationships with God and with your husband are solid and functioning, that's when I come in. When I am in my proper place, accepting my jurisdiction in our friendship, and you are content with healthy boundaries....oh, then I get to shine! I can help you bear a few of your burdens, and show you a good, good time.

 Lord knows, I dearly love to have fun.

On Spike TV {My First Art Show Got a Little Crazy}

Have you ever heard of Joey Tattoo?

Me neither, until Saturday, when two very large video cameras, and a mic on the end of a very long stick, and Joey Tattoo and his entourage came to my booth at the art show...

...for a quick interview...

...on television...for TV...

...the "angle" of the show is to be about art and small business.

I'm thinkin' they should let me license my images to them for the purposes of body art.

I'm pretty sure I said something about markets and shows and how, if you are considering doing them, you should shoot yourself in the foot.  Give yourself every excuse not to do it.

Just kidding.  But I feel like I've been whipped like a rented mule, and so does my Preacher.  Art shows are hard work.  If you go to one, please, please, please buy something from each and every artist.

Just sayin'.

My TV interview, and meeting Coretta and her momma from Texas were two of the highlights of the weekend - as well as discovering what an incredible team The Preacher and I make...in every way.  Not just in the church, baby.  Not just...other places.  We make an incredible team/duo of artists.  Dynamic Duo, for sure.

Or something.

And make no mistake - preaching...good preaching...is an art form.  A nearly-lost one.  My Preacher has got it going on, though.  And he is becoming a seasoned photographer, with a discerning eye for composition.

Here's me, in my booth, scratching my nose, I think...

And here's a look at the incredible crowd...tens of thousands...that walked the main street of Acworth, Georgia (juuuust north of Atlanta)...

Incredible fun I had.  (Gosh...I sound like Yoda in Star Wars...."Very tired, I am.")

And that darn Preacher is insisting I get off this computer and come to bed.  Something about him being exhausted from the entire weekend and needing sleep.  He's so demanding.  Cute...but demanding.

My First Art Show {What I Know}

I know I've been up since 4:30 a.m.

I know I've already had six tons of fun, and this rodeo is only halfway done. There is still tomorrow.

I know people are paying me for my art. I know, right? It's a mad, mad world.

I know I've been up since 4:30 a.m.

I know I will never forget the little 13 year old girl who shyly stalked my booth, and asked her momma for two (expensive) paintings...of girls in pretty dresses. That little girl read every one of my paintings (all my art has words...can't...stop...talking...evenwhenIpaint). She stole my heart.

I know I will never be the same after a 40-something year old woman left my booth, weeping. She choked out the words, "You have touched me. Thank you so much." She didn't buy a thing, but she could not have affirmed my calling more had she bought me out.

I know I've been up since 4:30 a.m.

There's so much more I know from this experience so far....but I don't remember what it is.

Goodnight, moon...

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 Mighty, Wonderful, Powerful, Sweetest Name {Jesus}

Can I ask you to bear with me...to grant a little grace...cut me some slack...

...because I am such a jacked-up Jesus Freak.

I just love the Name. I believe "God" has a mighty name. I believe that this name...all by itself...has power. And the fact that a few fearful souls won't say the Name, for fear of offending or losing art clients or blog followers or hurting their networking opportunities...it all serves to make me more passionate about shouting this name from the housetops...


Truly, "the Name that has heard my cry/and seen my tears and wiped them dry" (lyrics from the Margaret Becker song, "Say the Name") is a person, with whom I share an intimate, spiritual relationship, worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth.
I know Someone who has carried my griefs and sorrows, who has delivered me from my fears, who has set my feet upon a rock, who is my best friend.

Why would I not tell you His name?

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...

{Originality} What Is It...and What It Is

“Originality doesn’t mean making something that’s completely new;  nothing is completely new.  Originality means bending and shaping what’s come before until it belongs to you.” 

- Robert Hunt

Nothing...nothing at all is completely new.  "There is nothing new under the sun", the Bible says.  The only truly original Artist is The Original Artist - God.  So feel relieved...bathed in grace...free to be originally yourself in every way...the way you dress, the way you express your gifts, the things you love {and don't love} to do...the art you create.  Take what you see in someone else, deconstruct it, find out what you love and don't love about what you see, take what you love, leave out what you don't, and remix the whole darn thing.  Put your heart into it.  

What comes out, will be yours alone.  Who cares that you first saw it somewhere else? 

Obviously, this doesn't mean that we slavishly and sloppily copy others.  That constitutes a true lack of self respect on the part of the person copying...not to mention it could constitute stealing and plagiarism and copyright infringement and all sorts of unpleasant and illegal things.  

But no one...no one at all...pulls a style or a philosophy or a creative idea out of thin air.  Each of us is the sum total of our input.

So let your input be  mighty fine.  Mighty fine, indeed.