Mixed Media Art {the development of one piece}

The beginning - blocking out 140lb cold press watercolor paper. This consists of choosing what size the piece will be, and making that perfectly square and straight, then taping it down really well, and giving it a coat of water...let it dry...

Then I applied various antique papers - these are not "downloads" (nothing wrong with downloads, I use them when I teach) rather, they are original items. I get them as gifts from friends, and from antique stores...

I work on this easel, set on top of this beautiful vintage storage piece:

It's heavy as the burden of sin; thankfully, it is on rollers. It is scuffed and dented has beautiful blue chippy paint. Perfection! The top drawer is a locking cash drawer. For now, it contains all my "dry" art supplies for sketching and Pan Pastel work, and a few "wet" supplies for mixed media and acrylic painting.

The drawers are full of vintage papers, Caran D'ache oil pastels (water soluble) and willow sticks and blending stumps, and utility knives for trimming away extra pieces of material. There are stamp carving supplies in one drawer, jewelry making supplies in another.

Every drawer is full to the brim with things interesting - challenging project supplies waiting to become something that will bless...

But this paper is a perfect example of something not found in those drawers. I get it out, I smooth its folds, and I simply admire this invoice written in 1892. I will use this beauty in one of my mixed media pieces, but not today. This, along with many antique French and Italian ephemera sit in a special box, separate from the other vintage pieces...I am saving them for a really special idea.

This is the {unfinished} version of what was sketched and painted on the watercolor paper above. This is what my worshipping heart wanted to communicate...a beautiful woman, who is deeply aware of her own need for grace- yet at the same time, has chosen to "let no one take (her) crown..." (Rev. 3:11). This woman is a leader - not because she thinks she is, not because she says she is, but because others actually follow her.  She lives by faith, and thereby makes the hard choices that few are willing to make.

She wanted to tell all of us that she is "in it to win it!" (I Cor. 9:25)

Summer's Heartache and Summer's Message

Sunflowers are the badge of summer...summer's calling card. They are my very favorite flower, now.

I used to love white tulips, until life spun out of control, and all my best efforts seemed as if they were for nothing...nothing at all. Then I fell in love with the sunflower, which symbolizes the idea, "I am proud of you..."

Sometimes we have to look hard to find reasons to be proud. When a child, or anyone you love, really, has failed again and again, when they reject your best love and brightest hopes, your counsel, your principles...maybe even your God...you have to look deeply past the surface of things, into the depths of the bottomless love of the Father, to find a reason to honestly (without duplicity or cheap sentimentality) say, "I delight in you, child."

Today is one of those days. Today is one of those days when I am so aware of the grief of a wayward son...grief that leaks from my soul, like a slow bleed-out, threatening to render me only borderline conscious...aware, but helpless and unproductive.

And so what can I do, but find the biggest bunch of sunflowers I can afford, and offer my heart-artery to God for a transfusion.

I wrestle the conundrum of serving a happy God, with serving a compassionate God, who is touched with the feeling of my heart's infirmity. If He feels my pain, if compassion does indeed mean "to feel pain with", how is He also happy?

Mere mortality, I can only feel one emotion at a time. The term "mixed emotions" is deceiving, because one emotion will always win. Always.

And so He means for it to be. "Roll your burden onto The Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous be shaken."

He is the only Being in all the universe who can simultaneously feel my pain, and be completely happy...because only He knows the end from the beginning. And beloved...He sings while He works.

I suffer over some of my works-in-progress, flawed artist that I am. Why? Because I fear the work of my hands is irredeemable. I fear I will have to throw my creation away, and start over.

God did that once...because His justice and holiness of His character had to be vividly and authentically illustrated, early in the history of man. He erased the world and started over, with that righteous man named Noah. But He swore in His great love never to do it again (Genesis 9:11).

From the first rainbow till the end of time as we know it, the cross is His mercy and grace, vividly and authentically illustrated. As the Original Artist, He is committed to complete what He began, to restore and even make beautiful all that has been lost.

And so He alone can bear this load of pain I feel...because He alone sees what I cannot see - what it looks like from His perspective: A Finished Work. All the beauty that is in His mind's eye, He has endless capacity and patience to execute it and bring it to pass...with joy.

See, He delights in His children.

Sunflowers. I feel my strength slowly returning.

Grace and Peace,
Sheila Atchley
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Modest Swimsuit, Anyone? anyone? {Calling All Girls-Who-Lead}

There is still time to purchase a super cute, yet modest swimsuit.

This online company specializes in modest swimwear, and can I tell you? They are doing quite well. Business is booming.

See, there is somewhat of a return to modesty happening right now...even in high fashion. I use Vogue magazine pages as models for sketching my art girls...I tear out pages that particularly feature tone and value, lights and shadows as they fall across a woman's face.

So I can tell you....the pages of the recent Vogue had an unusual amount of beautiful, modest swimwear. Yes. Vogue.

I think the day is coming, and could now be here, when a string bikini looks as silly as "mom jeans". One looks like you don't try hard enough...the other like you're trying too hard, sweetheart.

I mean really...we all know you're cute. You really...like, seriously don't have to look like you are trying that hard to show us. On your best day, it is more about you than anyone cares to know...and if anyone (but your husband, and in a different time and place) DOES care to know...

...well...how can I put this...

...he's a carnal Bubba at best (regardless of his age - young or old), or a creeper at worst.

Um...you can have him. No, really. He's all yours, honey. He sure does love ogling your cash and prizes. Be proud.


Meanwhile, girls and women who lead will be leaving a little mystery going on...and enjoying the attention of a man who is a whole three levels above Young Bubba....or Old Bubba...or Creeper.

And we'll still look smokin' hot.

I know, right? Haters gonna hate. Many many girls just hate a girl who gets to have it all...a rep as a virtuous woman, and mad leadership skills, and all that gorgeousness.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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Mixed Media Art {...from the studio...}

Some mixed media art, from my studio today...not yet finished, but she springs from such a deep place of brokenness and joy:

I accept the glory and grace I have been crowned with.

I have no righteousness of my own...I don't wear this crown because I keep the law of God.

The conclusion that I have it precisely because I have broken God's law is part of accepting the crown, see. The deep and profound revelation that I could never earn it...that I am a sinner...that I need His loving kindness and tender mercy as much or more than my prodigal sons or anyone else's prodigal daughter...

...this knowledge invites me to trust in His Finished Work...lets me wear forgiveness like a crown.

I am educated, cleaned up, churched, and living in a nice home by most standards...but that could never change the fact that on my best day my heart is trailer trash.

Yet...look at that crown!

I will lay it at His feet on that day. It is His, anyway. Christ's righteous reward, placed on my head - my heart bends in worship at the thought.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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A New Favorite

This week marks the first "official" day of summer. The summer solstice is June 21.

"No price can be set on the lavish summer;
June can be had by the poorest comer."
~James Russell Lowell

I can't believe it. No one who knows me well can believe it, either. Summer is now my favorite season.

I live an examined life, in the sense that I know things like what God is saying in this season of my life, that I strangely crave avocado when I rarely ate it a year ago, and what time of year is my favorite. I have always loved autumn best...until the last couple of years.

I think this is what changed my mind:

Long summer nights, driving with the top down, the Preacher and I listening to the rhythmic song of cicadas. Yes. That did it.

We miss our "Barbie Jeep" like we miss our kids sometimes...which is a LOT. (Our nest is now empty, which makes us long for the Barbie Jeep even more...). She gave up the ghost summer before last, may she rest in peace. It is our prayer and heart's desire to find another mint condition spam can. (The other loving nickname we gave to our red Geo Tracker with its tiny rag top.)

If you get the chance to buy one, grab it. It'll make you love summertime.

Between the sunflowers and my garden, the crickets chirping, and the birds singing...I am in love and over the moon about summer, in spite of our drippy southern humidity, which some deem to be that little taste of hell that makes you get religion.

Enjoy your summer, friends! Like another poet said, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date!"

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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This Belongs in My House...

You can find this sign for sale on Etsy, "Between You and Me Signs" by Tara on Etsy...if you do a search, you shall find.

If you know us well at all...if you know us even a little bit...you know this sign belongs in our home.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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That Still, Small Voice {Heed It}

That inner witness that all Christians have...the one that, sometimes without any words, comes as an impression or direction or conviction...

...it is a miracle.

The voice that reminds us to love our husband, to give a little extra tenderness to a friend, to respect authority...

...it is an other-worldly, incredible privilege that you, Christian, tend to treat as a commonplace thing.

...that inner witness that is grieved at selfishness, or disturbed by immodesty which always eventually becomes some form of immorality which New Covenant Gospel commands that we flee...that inner witness that twinges at gossip and disobedience...

...the voice of wisdom that used to cry out in the street, but now sounds more like the voice of our pastor or our mother...

...the ruminations of a renewing mind, that is all too slowly learning to comprehend what is the width and depth and height of the love of God...

...the conclusions of a sanctified thought life that decide that a God of all grace is a God worth knowing...

...and worth making known - which entails leadership, which entails the sacrifice - not of our money or our time as much as our preferences and personal freedoms and dearly held opinions and most cherished family relationships.

All these inner witnesses of all degrees and intensities, they are voiced and heard in the spirit of a Christian every day.

They are miraculous. They are what Christ died for us to have - our God, within! His voice, His ways, within!

Ignore them to your profound loss and harm. Hear God in your very midst...within...and you shall not be moved. A serene confidence leading to an incredibly rich lifestyle will be yours as a gift.

Today, if you hear His voice {and if you are His, you will} harden not your heart.

Grace and Peace,
Sheila Atchley

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When You've Lived Nine Lives in a Week

No one can know the week I have had...and I mean literally, no one can know.

Clergy confidentiality is alive and well.

I am fine with telling all my business, and each of my children have always understood and accepted our family's policy of transparency. Even the prodigals "get it"...they are okay with The Preacher and I keeping no secrets...we don't share details, but we don't keep secrets.

So if you want to know my business, just ask me.

But my family has another policy...the whole family. I am so proud (in that healthy-proud sort of way) that my family as a rule will not casually discuss other people, unless we are speaking well of them.

Like, seriously. We don't. We. Just. Don't.

Not because we are necessarily that holy. To tell you the truth, we simply take healthy pride in our service to the Bride. Honoring others is a fabulous lifestyle, one that works for us. God favors us because of it...not because we've earned His favor (no one but Christ has ever earned anything), but because it is His character and nature to honor those who love His bride enough to serve her...even behind closed doors, even in every day conversation.

If you haven't been living by the same culture of honor, I encourage you to try it. It is, if nothing else, just a lovely, low drama way to live.

There have been splashes of beauty, even in what has been a hellacious week...

...this boy...and this girl...our church's senior graduates...

....this day...

...business is good...

...meals like this...made from scratch...

...and this...I eat like this usually once every day, if not every meal. Don't be a hater. I am not a health food nazi...it's just so yummy!

...also once a day, most days...I promise it is so so good.

My Preacher cut a hole in his truck this week...

...which gave me great pause...

...but the man has mad skills...

...and can do anything g...

...and ain't nothin' hottern' that. Just sayin'. A lotta years of marriage, a little middle age spread, but he still makes me fan myself when he does any of the following: works with his hands - preaches - plays drums - plays with his grand babies - sings "hey, mamma rock me" to me.

...my peonies...

...and hydrangea...

Here's to a boatload of grace poured on my life this week, and even more hope for a much better week next week.

Glad this one's over, I won't lie.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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50th Anniversary

See those two kids up there? That's my parents, 50 years ago.

Tonight, my Preacher and I reserved an entire semi-private room of a restaurant, and treated the whole clan to dinner, to celebrate.

(chaperoning these kids to their own 50th anniversary celebration...)

Every member of the family came, all the way down to the littlest one:

I noticed during the course of the evening, as we laughed and ate and ate and ate...two complete strangers in the other room were observing. They even turned their chairs and leaned to be able to see everything!

When I made a little time to step out of our room to greet them, I noticed one lady had tears in her eyes.

She said, "I'm sorry to be so nosey, but your family is so special. We couldn't help but notice all the decorations, and the fact that those must be your parents and some of those young people must be your children. And those babies are beautiful."

The look in her eyes....well, I cannot quite explain it to you. Wistful, I think.

At that moment, my youngest son, who overheard our conversation, stepped out, put his arm around me, and said, "I am sure you wonder where I got my height. I am the tallest one in the room...and I am this beautiful woman's son. I got my height from the UPS man."


I expected the moment to be totally blown for these people...for the testimony of it all to be lost.

They. Ate. It. Up.

They thought my boy was the cutest thing they'd ever seen. They nearly rolled in the floor laughing.

Later, I saw them ask my daughter Sarah if they could hold my grand daughter! Who does that??! I was so tickled at these strangers and their longing to participate in the celebration. It truly did not offend me...it was the icing on the cupcake of a perfect night!

Sarah let them try to hold her...and of course, little Aidyn Esther howled in protest.

And my grandson practically had them eating out of his hand. Then my mother went out of our room to their table and showed them one of her gifts from the night...

...and we said goodbye to them as we left.

Yes. I have a goodly heritage.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad!

My family. Every relationship, intact and thriving, in spite of the tremendous strains that imperfect families experience.

Tonight was, for me, living a dream I have not earned and do not deserve.

My family. Trophies of grace, we are....and I can honestly say that even strangers can see something special there between us.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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The Beverage Station {Keeping House}

At the end of every year, I begin praying and meditating on what to name the following year. And every year, the year lives up to its name.

Just for the next little while, I am naming seasons within the year. This is a new practice, and one I don't expect to do a lot, but the leading of the Lord is clear, at least for the summer.

The year 2013 is my year of "Harvest". This summer season, is a season of Keeping House, in the context of my harvest.

It began, as all blessed things do, with the house of God.

My Preacher has never "dwelt in paneled houses while God's house suffers...". He has always made the building where our church gathers a priority, even above our own home, many times.

And I am so okay with that. Because My Father "makes it up to me" in beautiful ways.

Weeks and days and hours have been spent keeping house in the "house of God" recently. God has promised a "harvest" for everything we put our hand to this year, and into the next. We have a clear word.

But we have to be putting our hands TO something that is His Kingdom, not ours.
Then, "all these things" will be added. I am trusting God to bless my physical dwelling...my house...this summer. I am believing God will supply the means and the way to do some much needed home keeping here where the Preacher and I madly enjoy an empty nest...

That has a little something to do with coffee. See, we've upgraded to a Keurig Vue. Latest model, the V700.

Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. God loves His Preachers and their intrepid wives.

So I designed a Beverage Center...capital letters.

This is my first kitchen stop of the day, and the last at night. The whole family loves this spot.

Lemons and limes for water...peppermint sticks for hot chocolate...marshmallows too...fancy corkscrew, and a sparkling lemonade. Also raw sugar.

My juicer, for fresh orange juice, or making lemonade... and the Keurig Vue...which is the bomb dot com. It makes lattes, it froths the milk part. It makes hot cider, or iced tea or iced coffee or hot chocolate or Starbucks coffee. It dispenses anywhere from espresso size, to travel mug amounts, and you choose the temperature.

Now that we are no longer serving coffee to a daily crowd, the Preacher and I can afford (most of the time) to keep a stash of high-end K-cups (Vue cups) on hand.

The stash of coffees and teas and ciders and sugar substitute is in the drawer, at the Beverage Station. Help yourself. Have a glass of wine, too, if you are over 21.

One. Glass.

Mamma needs her grape juice, I ain't good at sharing. No, actually, the One Glass Rule is a personal boundary I keep, even privately. It's all anyone needs to enjoy with dinner.

Our mason jars (we drink our corn, here in Rocky Top. Just kidding.) and grand baby cups, my Mimi cup, our stemless and stemmed wine glasses, travel mugs, extra mugs, and our green dinner glasses, above the Beverage Center....again, capital B, capital C.

It's just a small thing, this Beverage Center, but it speaks to my season of home keeping as a special focus. It blesses my man, and makes our grown kids feel special, and it is that extra touch of hospitality that says, "We love it that you came here!"

And I actually do look forward to going to bed at night, because I know my Preacher will be making my coffee as soon as my eyes open, in the morning.

I also look forward to sharing with you all the ways I will be keeping house this summer. I am thinking God is going to open up His storehouse of blessing over this house...my house...because we make His house our first priority. We can't earn it, and don't deserve it...we just can't out-give Him.

Grace and Peace,
Sheila Atchley

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