Snow In the South


I admit it...

It's true.

Everything you've heard.

I am living a dream I have not earned.

And do not deserve.

Yes... sort of rocks to be me.

And it is all...

...every moment...

...every little bit of it...

...extravagant grace.

{Hope you enjoyed our little snow angel...}

Stealing Like An Artist {Or Like Robin Hood}

In April of last year, I downloaded and read the book Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.  

It liberated me to be who I have always been...all along...

...a Thief.

As I prepare to speak next weekend to the beautiful women of Franklin Covenant Church in the artsy town of Franklin, NC - also at Trinity Community Church, later in the spring - and maybe even Scotland (me...the one who hates traveling)...

As I think of my art that has been flung as far as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, California, and Acworth Alabama...

It humbles and delights me to confess how very much of who I am has been purposely, thoughtfully, even meticulously stolen from others.  All.  My.  Life.  

Please note I did not say "copied" or "plagiarized".  Let me explain.

Nah, get the book.  Then you will understand.  Or read this post for clarification of what I mean.  The post is proof that I read the book last early-April, and my mention of it is not a mere or slavish copying on my part of beautiful blondes who have read it and are more recently talking about it.  

{I am taking Jeanne's lovely course, Studying Under the Masters:  Becoming An Apprentice}

I have always been a voracious reader.  I sit in front of books the way some women sit in front of social media:  all the dang time.

I hear the Lord so clearly in the bathtub.  As I was soaking this night, both in water and in Word, God was speaking to me about what I will be speaking to the women of Franklin NC.  The context that will be framing my teaching has been ripped right out of Eugene Peterson's book entitled Eat This Book.  (Note:  I said the book is the context that will frame what is actually my own personal story and revelation into the ways and wisdom of God.  I will not be quoting words from the book and pretending they are my own words.)

And the Father affectionately said to me, "You are my Robin Hood.  I love that about you."

Yeah.  That's me.  Robin Hood.  I have only a very few thoughts that I would consider to be entirely originally my own - and maybe not even those few.  The rest have been stolen from those who I consider to have way more wisdom and talent than me - and I turn right around and immediately give away what I stole to those who need it desperately.  I do it in my art and in my ministry.  Or, wait.  They are one in the same.   In my art ministry, in this weird thing I do, I rob from the rich and give to the poor in spirit.

And I like to think of my Harvest Women as my Merry ("Mighty") Band.  They sneak me chocolate and red wine when I need it, they watch out for enemies, and if someone tries to hurt me they fall upon them without mercy.  Me n' my gang.  They believe in me and this thievery I do, to their core.  Were I to land in a dungeon, a wild hairy plot to rescue me would be forthwith in the making.  

And they know I'd hurt people for them, too, because I already steal for them.

So be set free in your own practice, whatever it is, to steal.  Not plagiarize, not copy what someone else is doing...but steal it and then repurpose it and keep it just long enough to make it your own.  Eminent Domain and all that sort of thing.

The funny thing is?  What is then given away is uniquely yours.  

I thought I was "Stealing Like An Artist", and come to find out, all this time, this stealing thing has been who I am for a long, long time...I was probably stealing magnificent ideas when Austin Kleon was in grade school.

Robin Hood had a sweet gig, and ended up making quite a name for himself.

Stand on the shoulders of giants with me, won't you?

13-21 Year Old Girls {This Post Is For You}

{Girls and moms, please feel free to click on, and save the above image, pin it to Pinterest, and share it across your social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or Vine.}

I am 47 years old. I am a pastor's wife. I have pudge around my middle-aged middle.

Three strikes against me, you'd think, when it comes to all these super cool, super cute highschool and college girls....three strikes, so you'd think I'd be out. But I'm in!

For whatever reason, y'all like me.

That may be because I adore you.

I do. I haven't met a young girl but what I didn't feel the urge to coach or mother her into her identity in Christ. I told my last girl I mentored, straight up, "I love you, and I am here to grab you by your arm, and DRAG you as FAST AS YOU CAN RUN to meet up with your destiny, because you are behind the time of your development!"

And that's what we did.

I have a new burden about others of you. I want those of you with more than one social media identity (on Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, or even Facebook) I want you to delete every other identity/account you have, and keep only the one you wouldn't mind your daddy or momma to see.

Will the "real you" please stand up?

Can you stand up courageously, by declaring to your entire social media platform that there is #onlyoneme. Ask all your friends: Will the real you please #standup ?

If you are REALLY brave, let everyone who follows you know that you have #deletedmyotherselves

If you have only one social media identity, across all platforms, and your parents are welcome to see most of what is there...please speak up, and challenge your peers to the same policy.

Why? Because these multiple technology personalities are hurting your friends. Like...really damaging them, psychologically and emotionally. When I was your age,I lied about who I was calling on that phone that was tethered to the wall in the family kitchen. A very low tech,low investment lie.

Today, you guys can lie elaborately, and with a single deleting swipe of a finger,an entire ungodly persona can be an instant.

Join me, if you will, in starting a movement. A bold move towards a genuine honest undisguised YOU. Delete those other "selves" if you are one of the many who has them:

{again, please feel free to share the above, square #onlyoneme collage banner. Share the hashtag and banner across all your social media platforms.}

Join me, girls, and let's create a movement of young women who are willing to be genuinely and conspicuously THEMSELVES.

Please share this post with your highschool and college age girlfriends - leave me a comment below if you are ready to join me in starting a movement.


Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

Are My Experiences "Happy" or "Meaningful"

You can feel happy, in brief flashes and chance encounters, when everything is perfect, and you can feel that ethereal sense of happiness unconnected to any real meaning. The happiness comes, you get that new car, and then that happy feeling leaves, because of the law of diminishing returns. Your next encounter with feeling happy is contingent upon the next new thing you are sure you want, and how "perfect" the conditions are when you receive it.

But you can't pursue a deep sense of meaning in your life, and not feel a consistent, measurable happiness....eventually.

That girl up there, running...she is not "happy" at that precise moment. It's early and it's cold. The happiness comes from becoming clear on her "why" - the reasons that drive her to run pavement....perhaps to pray...or get uninterrupted time to sort out tangled be alone with God...or to inspire her at-risk girlfriends to improve their strength and stamina.

In short, she must find meaning OUTSIDE HERSELF in her choice to run, a meaning that goes beyond being able to wear a pair of jeans that are a size smaller than her friend. If her "why" is deeply meaningful, the follow-through will bring a reliable happiness that comes with achieving a meaningful goal.

No cheap happies stick around, I'm afraid.

A happy life is different from a meaningful life; and a meaningful life is scientifically proven to be the only consistently happy lifestyle - because, paradoxically, those seeking true meaning are willing to delay the gratification of happiness...

...and they ultimately end up with happiness.

Imagine that.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

My New Year's Resolution { #onlyGospeltunesin2014 }

Earnest Hemingway said,"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

And that is why I made a New Year's Resolution to actively listen to only Christian music, all of 2014.

I, who have never made a single resolution since I was 19 years old. And I still don't believe in them, generally speaking.

I didn't make this decision because other kinds of music are wrong. I didn't make this decision because I think it is a spiritual thing to do. I didn't make this decision because I have a weakness for country music - even though I do.

I made the choice, because it will make me a better writer, and God has been calling me back to the typewriter, inviting me to bleed fresh, and bleed like never before.

See, last week I was tooling around my town in the Moxie Mobile - my little gold PT Cruiser, which I adore because it is 1940's reminiscent; I love that it sort of pegs me as a grandmother. I'm so cool with that.

My radio was tuned to the only decent Christian music station available - the syndicated KLOVE station. This fact was weird all by itself, since I am typically perpetually either tuned to my local country music station, or enjoying 1940's music on Pandora.

Suddenly, a certain song began to play. A song of failure and God and grace. The tears that sprang, unbidden and unwanted, reminded me of the reason I love country music: it is how I take a break from my own fervent intensity.

The song was lyrically rich and musically excellent...

...and the singer sounded almost exactly like my son.

And my heart yearns for my son to write those songs. I want him to sing like that again. He has it in him to write theologically and passionately. He has it in him to bring many, many to saving grace. He is called to be a Psalmist.

As a mother, my very nature intercedes for my children. I pray for them all like I breathe. Naturally. Easily. Constantly.

In that moment, my soul instantly stretched out, taut and vulnerable, to bridge the gap between my son and his calling; prayerful intercession and tears flowed abruptly - quick as thought and tender as a bruise.

My instinctive reaction was to....

...reach out and touch the country music button.

To escape my own intensity. To avoid the pain.

To not bleed.

Sweetly, God's voice halted fingers from changing channels. All at once, I knew that I have gained enough strength to lose some blood again - to feel this pain, yet not be destroyed by it, like I was back when my prodigals first began to squander their inheritance. All at once, I knew it was time to welcome a new leg of this journey... is safe, now, to examine the aches. It is safe to explore the weakness of pain, and the way it makes me need salvation for my soul and new mercy with every sunrise.

It is now safe to bleed at the typewriter, so to speak.

Because I have this "all clear", I have consciously sealed all the exit doors I've typically used to run away, back when avoiding hurt was essential to healing (and initially, avoiding pain is very essential to healing).

And I will write hard, and I will write clear about what hurts.

And I will worship, leaning on my staff, favoring this hip put out of joint one very long night of my soul.

So that's why I am dialed in to Gospel music, and Gospel music only, not just for 30 days, but for all of 2014.

I want to be a better writer, and to do that, I have to feel joy, and I also have to linger with pain long enough to know how to speak healing words.

Sure, there is a lot of cheesy, low quality Christian music. My radio will annoy me from time to time this year. But there is a lotta-lotta cheesy, low quality country music (as well as rock, R&B, indie, etc.) and my radio has often annoyed me before now.

The only difference will be that my spirit will be forced into a continual posture of worship; my mind will be fed by words that turn my thoughts to things not of this earth; my heart will be challenged to feel again.

Join me, if you dare.

It won't be fun all the time. I will arrive at grocery stores and art supply stores and post offices in various states of emotional undone-ness, I am sure. And I hate that. You don't know how bad I hate that part.

His love makes it worth it. His love makes it worth it all.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

I Hear Voices {...and so do you...}

Happy New Year!

If there is one thing that will have defined your 2014, this next late-December, after the gifts have all been opened, and all has been said and done and 2015 is what comes next...

...if there is only one thing I could tell you for sure will have been the single most important factor in your experiencing a stable 2014, that one thing will be which voice you decided to hear this year.

Because we all hear voices. In fact, it's all about the voices . All of human history - mine, yours, tribes and nations - can be boiled down to whose voice is heard, valued and followed.

"In the beginning", the voice of God generated the cosmos. In the garden, the voice of the adversary generated the chaos that has characterized every moment of every day since the first man and woman were cursed for heeding the wrong voice.

At the end of Scripture, we hear the voice of Christ promising "Surely I am coming soon", and it still boils down to whether we will heed that voice and stake our lives on what He said...

...and is still saying. The Holy Spirit is active and very real in His distinct personhood, and is constantly speaking to us today.

One of the most confusing things in all of life is to be torn between many voices, each one saying something different about something that matters. This will be our plight - yours and mine - in 2014,
if we don't decide today to bow our knees, plant our faces on the ground, and desperately search the Scriptures for a "now" word for our situation - His voice, as it addresses our circumstance.

See, I have this nagging fear that is trying to set the atmosphere...based on a few heartbreaks we've experienced with our sons, one in particular, in 2013.  What happened in the past is making it very hard to look forward with hope, and resist all unholy forboding.

Most do not know the painful year we have endured - others only see the happy, thriving art business,
 or our joy in our calling, or our passionate and respectful marriage, and can't imagine fear almost
incapacitating my days.

There is another fear-based-voice that intimidates me about my husband's health, and what could happen if something went wrong while he is in hot and humid Haiti this February. As I read my Bible today, I saw these words: "Do not be afraid of sudden fear, or of the ruin of the wicked one when it comes. For The Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being taken."

If I am wise, I will plant my feet on that verse. That word is a promised land as real as any acreage - living fearlessly is a way of life given to me as sheer gift. Fearlessness will define my 2014, because the voice of God can be radically trusted.

There are more examples I could share. I am a vessel in whom The Holy Spirit is pouring a fearless spirit in 2014, and promised me that my Father will be speaking clearly to me this year, and that His generous abundance can handle everything that will happen tomorrow, next week,next summer, next New Year's Eve.

So whose voice will it be? A colleague you admire in your business? A book written by someone who doesn't even acknowledge God in the face of Jesus Christ? The accusations of your very.personal.adversary.?   Trust me, the accuser knows all it takes to take you down is to inject a few cc's of cynicism into your thought-stream, and that cynical, sarcastic voice in your head will then mentor you right out of the inner circle of involvement, and into the peripheral.

Those who hear and value and pant after the voice of God will be the steady ones in 2014. They will be the joy-girls who are so confident in what God has said through His word and their spiritual advisors and authorities, the resulting happiness and serene trust will draw others to their brand of beauty - to that true beauty never asks for attention.  (Their brand of beauty gets noticed because true beauty is composed...peaceful...)

Which voices will you hear? If it brings positive change and challenge, if it places the emphasis on Christ, if it imparts faith and a desire to serve others and a will to win - listen. Value what you hear.

If another voice brings any sort of anxiety or fear - don't listen. You can't have a conversation with fear or cynicism or lies, and not come out of the exchange tweaked and affected, and not in a good way.

Guard your heart's counselors, and your 2014 will be a safe and sweet one.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

Year in Review

January was art, art, and more art...preparing for my first art show in Atlanta in April...

February was art, art, and more art...

March brought the Preacher's 50th birthday, and some livingroom redecorating...

In April we planted gardens...

In May, the Preacher installed his own sunroof into the top of his truck...

June was so very special - my parents' 50th anniversary!

July brought sunflowers, and my twin daughters' birthday...

In August, my Aidyn Esther turned one...

In September, my art and jewelry began to be carried in a local shop!

October blessed us with a family trip to the beach...grandbabies and all!

November spoiled me with birthday presents and fall beauty...

December was achingly many memories created, with intentionality.

And here we are, just now, with "faithful friends who are dear to us, drawing near to us once more..."

Looking forward to what 2014 has in store! A ministry trip to Franklin NC and a mission trip to Haiti, and hosting our dear friend Joe Ewen is allllll awaiting us in January alone! It is going to be a blessed, blessed year of His favor.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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