Two Questions To Ask Yourself {...they will transform your day...which in turn will transform your life...}

...some days are all about a special way... 

Today has been spent in the most lovely way.  The Preacher and I treated our hard-working daughters and their hard-working husbands to a day off, on us.  We all loaded up, two-vehicle-caravan-style, and first had breakfast at "The Crack".  After that, we took off to the mountains, and when we reached a certain spot in our Smoky Mountains National Park, the kids and grandkids unloaded from their van, and set up camp- chairs in the back of "PopPop's twuck".  (That is what Timothy calls the Preacher's truck...)

We drove this way through Cades Cove three times, and had a fabulous day.  At one point, the Preacher and I just looked at each other (over the tops of two little heads - grandson and granddaughter) and smiled.  Both babies were in the cab of the truck with us, while their parents all four were laughing and cutting up in the bed of the truck.  The babies were madly vying for their PopPop's undivided attention, and it was....heaven.

Then we went to a secret spot, location of which shall remain in the family, otherwise it isn't a secret.  Photo ops galore.  There was no place on exotic waterfall, no seven wonders of the world, no seashore, no castle in place we would have rather been, than right where we were...breathing in the fragrance of literally thousands of flowers, and enjoying the company of these like-minded children of ours.

We ended the day (frazzled babies - the grandson was so punch drunk, he made us laugh till we hurt) at a nice "sit-down" restaurant, where we treated these beautiful adult-children to dinner.  They have labored with us day and night for weeks, now - they have worked long and hard to bless the people of God with a fabulous, usable basement space at the church building.  As parents, we wanted to say "thank you".  Not as "pastor and wife"....we wanted to say thank you as "mom and dad".

Which brings me to two questions that have been changing my life this year.  (I always walk in something a very long time before I teach about it or chirp about it or act like I know a thing about it...)

There are two questions I have come up with, that, if you ask them, and act on the answers your heart gives you, they will change your life.

1.  Where can I create beauty?

...sometimes this can be as simple as "fold that pile of laundry"...other times, as fulfilling as "make a charcoal drawing and collage and painting and title it "Achsah"...and then, question number two:

2.  Who can I love better?

...this question carries no guilt, no obligation.  This is not a guilt-driven question.  This question involves infusing beauty into just one relationship, that day.  Who could use some little extra loving from you today?  Who needs you?  How can you love that person a little bit better than ever?  Most of the time, the answers are very simple.

I have been asking myself these questions every single day, for a long time now.  The answer to that question for today was for the Preacher and I to do just what we did.  He and I created beauty - in that we created a memory that will last a lifetime.  And he and I loved some people just a little better.

And just for today.

And I will do it again tomorrow, I promise you.

I also promise you, if you ask yourself these two questions, your days will gain a clarity and a beauty to them that perhaps you haven't experienced in quite that way, ever before.

Where've I Been {...of Church Renovations and Gardening}

Where have I been this week? Doing my work and my Preacher's work, while he does God's work, which in this case includes a whole lot of manual labor...

We have been deep in the throes of renovations for a year now, downstairs at our church building. A kitchen was demo'ed, relocated across the hall in what used to be nearly unusable space. That space is now the most beautiful church kitchen!

Three new nurseries were added, to keep up with our population explosion...

That was phase one.

Phase two was to add a cafe to the whole south end of the basement. Well...a large, multipurpose room, with a counter, bar stools, tables and chairs and a multimedia wall...

...okay, really just a place to hang. We Harvesters are hanger-outers. And coffee fiends, the whole lot of us.

Here is a before shot:

You had to step up into the space. By the time this shot was taken, there was already a sense of improvement and expansion, because a part of a wall had been blown out, there to the left.

Another before. By this time, another wall had been blown out (hence the two temporary poles) and two smaller rooms were one large room. The raised floor had been demo'ed, and the old oak floor donated to our son-in-lawJonathan Howe for his artisan-frame making...since he (and the other son-in-love) have given, and are giving, many hours of hard labor towards this blessing!

And if you buy one of J-Howe's landscapes in the future, it just might come to you framed in an old oaken Harvest Church beautifully cool is that?

Here is a shot from about mid-way into this project...

And now, we are almost done! This shot only shows you 1/4th of this huge new space. New wood floors...lots of beautiful light...just a huge room...which will see many conversations, small gatherings, Bible classes, English-as-a-second language classes, lots of celebrations...and art workshops!

Compare the first shot with this one, above, for a small sense of the big change in this space! is always the unintended but inevitable result of my Preacher having to work 65 hour weeks (maybe more? I truly am probably being conservative...) I have to do, here at home, everything he would otherwise do for me. plant the entire garden. The raised beds weren't hard...(I have Kentucky Wonder pole beans, lettuce, and lavender in mine...when I open my bedroom door, which opens onto a deck, right next to the raised beds, you can smell the lavender, and the tea olive bush. Heaven...)

This was hard, I won't lie. I couldn't get the whole space in the frame properly, but I sort of singlehandedly weeded, planted, mulched, and treated (organically) the entire garden this year, as well as worked a fine layer of bone meal into the whole thing. I also created (weed mat, stakes) and mulched the path that goes through the center of it, and another small path leading to the raised beds.

And planted up all my containers (this shot is obviously very garden boots are where I left them yesterday, as well as my little sit-n-scoot wagon I use for the sit-down jobs)

We have patio tomatoes, strawberries, ferns, and even an azalea topiary back here. We had a storm, just before this picture was taken. So add "sweep away and pick up storm debris" to my chore list. Sigh.

And the butterfly garden still needs weeding and mulching...

But first, I will stop here...with my Bible and a cup of coffee...I will stop long enough to thank God for the health and strength to do my work, and what would ordinarily be the Preacher's work... that God's people can have the blessing of a newly renovated church basement!

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

A Special Week {In Pictures}

Beginning with last weekend, Mother's Day...

Took my mother to Bravo's for a special lunch, followed by a long visit to a local art gallery...

Me and my gang...daughters and granddaughter...had breakfast together, and then went on a major shopping trip to art supply stores and the mall...

Playing with a new iPhone app called "A Beautiful Mess". Go get it!

More Beautiful Mess app going on up much fun...

A special Mother's Day card....

Coming forward...I got 24 plants into the ground or into our new raised beds this past week!

Breakfast with a friend...

Working on my next-in-line commission...this is the background.

Hung out with this sweetheart, at her big brother's high school graduation...

So proud of this one! (The one with the "high honors" addition to his robe!)

And now, this morning, I have to get going. It's the Lord's Day, and it is my privilege to be with the family of God today! Looking forward to it...

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

MORE "New in the Shop" {Sheila Atchley Designs}

Just a sampling of what I got photographed and posted today, in my shop...

6.5x6.5 framed mixed media original...

16x20 framed mixed media original...

8x8 mixed media original, gallery-wrap style, ready to hang on the wall, finished with wire and beadwork...

5x10 mixed media original, gallery-wrap style, ready to hang on the wall...

And I still have a bit of product left, to shoot and post.  Keep an eye out:  I have two of my leather cuff-watch designs going up soon, as well as yet more cards and prints...(I had three watches, but one is on its way to Chicago, Illinois.)

But for now, my back hurts, and I'm tired after putting in a nearly 12 hour day, which started with getting said watch out to the post office, followed by a long product shoot, an even longer stint at this computer doing post-process work, some laundry, a prayer appointment, followed by a second trip to the post office to mail off a print someone ordered today.    

So my back is killing me.  No matter...I feel so lucky and blessed and favored to get to be doing what I do!

Brand New In The Shop { much goodness...}

...choose from this...

or this...

or this...

or this...

...there are cards for you...

...and prints for you...

(the actual print does not have the edges cut off...Blogger is playing games with this photo, for some reason...)

I hope you enjoy browsing!  And again...thank you so much for the outpouring of support I have received...all the new clients who have or are becoming friends...

"If we encourage the women, we encourage the world!"  ...that is the idea and the ministry you are supporting when you purchase a little piece of my art... 

Depression, Self Harm, Thoughts of Ending the Pain {Part 2}

A few weeks ago, I shared my own very personal and painful experience with depression and suicide. What I did not tell you, is the other way that suicide has directly affected our family...

...I do not have a father-in-law, and never have. Because The Preacher's father committed suicide when he was eleven years old.

So we have been deeply touched by these things. When we speak to the issues, we aren't speaking from borrowed experience. The pain is first-hand.

After I hit "publish" on that post, I did get emails with just first names, taking me up on my offer to mention those names to the Lord. I received Facebook messages from more women than I expected...each one telling me in her own quiet way that she, too, has fought a battle for joy.

But here is, by far, the most moving story I have ever heard:

A mother and her son read my blog post, and decided to tattoo the semicolon and cross on their wrists...and do it together.

Only, they improved on my version, by adding the Scripture reference "Jeremiah 29:11" underneath.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord. Thoughts to prosper and not harm you, so that you may have a future and a hope."

See, I have known my friend...and she is my friend...for over ten years. Yet, when she shared her story with me, I was stunned by the magnitude of the Finished Work of Christ in the life of this quiet, beautiful lady and her son. And I never knew. No one knew.

She had attempted suicide many years ago, and had never even told her husband until recently. Back then, after her attempt at suicide, she spent some days in a psych hospital, and there heard God speak to her, very real and personally. She made the decision to never again try to end her life.

But she has lived in such shame over the fact that she tried...she has never told a soul about that powerful part of her story.

Her son grew up, not knowing how his mother had fought and won. He also made several attempts on his own life.

She has kept her story hidden, buried in shame, until now.

Until today.

She took the blog post, a few weeks ago, and showed it to her son, and shared her story. They made the choice to get tattooed together...a promise to one another and The Lord that they will forever value their one precious life.

When I got this picture-text today (the "deed was done" in time for Mother's Day), tears filled my eyes, at the power that this one woman's story is going to have...the Spirit of God is going to use her courage to set others free...

...our stories matter to God, and when we can overcome shame and tell our stories, the grace of God can touch lives in supernatural ways.

Grace and Peace,
Sheila Atchley

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

Already Part of the "In Crowd" {Accepted in the Beloved}

I knew a woman who was part of our church years ago (she has been gone for many years now) who used to tell me...all the time..."I don't have any friends in this church."

But what she was really saying was, "I don't consider myself close to certain, specific women."

And what she really meant, truthfully, was, "I want to be on what I consider to be the inside track. I think the pastor's wife needs to make me her BFF."

(she later admitted to this, that is how I know...)

Meanwhile, I knew of at least two other women in our church that had reached out to her, who were quite available for her, who cared a lot about her. This woman's blatant disregard for her friendships made me angry. I asked her, point blank, "Who is __(name)___________ , then, chopped liver??!"

I had a way with words, in those days.

Today, more than a decade later, I might be a little more gentle. I said might.

Because I see today, more clearly than I saw back then, that everyone...everyone...wants to be beloved. They want to be special to someone who they consider special.

Today, I would be gentle...but not permissive. I still do not respect a woman who does not treasure her own beautiful life...her own friends...her own husband...her own children....her own home (whatever its size or and making the best of four walls makes every home a beautiful place)...

...I do not get along for very long with women who devalue what they have been given, because what they have been given is not what they want. They want what someone else has...maybe what I have, maybe someone else and what they have...someone else's success, their gifts and talents, their friendships, their whatever.

Celebrate who you are!

Never let who you are not, cancel out the beauty of who you are!

Your friends are the most lovely, your life is the most blessed, your children the most special of all, your home is the sweetest, your work the most meaningful, your church the most precious.

And when your child is a dedicated prodigal, your job stressful, your marriage lacking passion, your friendships not "meeting your needs"....

...that is when it is urgent that you begin to see your own life and your own dear ones as infinitely more beautiful than anyone else's.

If you do not consider your own friends to be the very best ones you could ever have, the most lovely, perfect women in the world... if you don't see your husband as the most attractive, your children as the most amazing, your grandchildren as the most beautiful...your mother as the greatest, your father as the most strong and wise...your sister as the most fabulous...

...maybe that's because you don't
treatany of your beloveds that way. Maybe they are not worth the effort in your estimation?

Or maybe they don't treat you with celebrity status, so you treat them likewise.

How lacking in grace and creativity. I am sad for you. Only because I see the same tendencies in me, and I sadden my own selfish-self.

I have come to the conclusion that I want to be the first one to celebrate you. Or I want to be the only one of the two of us who celebrates anything...that is okay by me.

I don't always celebrate first (or even at all) but at least I know for sure I would rather beat you to it. I will smoke you, in fact, if you give me half a chance.

Do you see? It's all in how you choose to see and celebrate your one, gorgeous life, and all who are part of it.

You don't have to be accepted into the inner circle of "those" certain women. You don't have to be one of their "beloveds" to BE beloved...the King is your Friend. God has accepted you into His heart...His inner circle...through Christ. He will relate to you as warmly and intimately and affirmingly as you believe Him to be towards you.

He sets your boundaries...those lines have fallen to you in pleasant places, the Bible says. If you cannot see the beauty of your very own life, it is your thinking towards it that is your problem. You don't need someone else's gift, personality, friends, money, or lifestyle.

You need to treasure what you have already been given.

Celebrating who you are frees you to do the same for others. You become free (truly) to celebrate who they are, without hoping they crown you their "BFF" in exchange for the favor. are doing unto others the way you wish they'd do unto you.

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

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

Way Too Much Fun {This Whole Artist Thing}

So today I got the last of my art show commissions plus two more prints (ordered over the weekend from my shop) off in the mail. My head is brimming and happy with a hundred new-to-me techniques, and two hundred original ideas.

I am having so much fun, I almost can't stand it myself. "Artist" is who I am, and "Artist-Teacher" is my sweet spot.

When you toss in two darling grand next two minutes away...just watch me lay down and die from sheer joy, resurrect, die, and resurrect.

I am living a dream I have not earned and do not deserve. I have been made rich in a few ways money can buy...yet I am sloppy-rich in all ways money could never buy.

God has been so very good to me.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

Art For Sale {An Original Mixed Media Canvas, Entitled "Achsah"}

(Post-edit: this painting has sold)

I have loved every mixed media girl I have ever painted...truly. But this woman has always had my heart...she is my favorite woman of Scripture.  Her name was Achsah.  She was Caleb's daughter, and this painting was inspired from the verse found in Judges 1:15.

She asked for what she should not have.  She asked for something that was against Jewish law (the law of God!) for any woman to have.

And she got it, baby.  Why?  Love trumps law.  Every time.

There are no words to describe the feeling I had today as I finished see her come out of the Scripture, and out of my imagination, and into the light of day...

I have learned so much from this woman, who is only mentioned in Scripture so very briefly.

 She has taught me, over many years, to ask be fully persuaded of my heavenly Father's love for me, and His willingness to lavish me with gifts I have not earned and do not deserve.

 If any life is a testimony to that truth, it is mine.

 "Achsah" is available for sale. She is a 16x20 mixed media original, rendered in willow stick, vine stick, charcoal, pastel, acrylics, inks and even collage...all on a beautiful, textural background of antique book and hymnal pages - many of which, the words peek through to surprise and bless you.

If she needs to come to your home to bless you...or to the home of a me via email.


I know, right? They sort of favor one another. This was a completely uncoached, unplanned, spontaneous shot...

...oh, how I love.

PS. They were watching the television version of the Maurice Sendak's children's book
Little Bear.

If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can watch it for free here...

PPS. My blog is one of the few
notmonetized. That doesn't mean I never will monetize...that just means right now I don't get anything from Amazon if you click on the link, which I hope you do, because Little Bear comes highly recommended by this PopPop and Mimi.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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