Catch and Release {Why I Love Instagram}

One of the most important spiritual exercises we can do, is to practice a conscious gratitude for momentary gifts, without the need to "own" or hold onto those gifts.

If our sense of God and of life is one of scarcity, then we feel jealous of others gifts. We compete, because deep down we feel there is a limited supply of happy, and if someone else has more, that means we have less, and we are driven to prove our own value. Scarcity mentality motivates us to cling to people, things, and experiences as though that little bit of joy might be the last we are allowed to experience until next week...or next year.

An abundance mindset blesses us with the feeling that, at any moment, the little floater of our awareness, bobbing on the surface of our consciousness, is going to tell us that we are getting a nibble of joy...

...and the tug of the nibble often means that there is a big fat benediction on the hook...a Great Grace...this Present Moment...and we get to reel it right in.

And when we land it, when we pull it in, alive and gyrating, we don't have to kill the Present Moment by hanging onto it forever, trying to make it last and last.

On the contrary. Like all good fisherman, we can catch, kiss, and gently release. Because there are many, many more precious and present moments in this ocean of life.

Because the sweetness is in the catching, not the keeping.

This is why history's most joyful saints didn't have big houses or well wadded bank accounts. They didn't live lavishly. Their awareness of true riches made them gather wild flowers, good books, and good friends. They needed no tangible memento - they could catch and release, knowing they would pick flowers, read, and have coffee again with a friend tomorrow. Their God daily loaded them with benefits, and they lived like this is true.

I think those old saints and monks would have loved my iPhone.

I use my iPhone as my fishing pole - my tool for my catch and release lifestyle of joy. When something touches me, I reel that moment right in, "kiss" it, and release it with each push of the "share" button. Some days there are just. so. many. fish. (Hypothetically.) Other days, I might reel in only one or two. But you can be certain I am taking joy just watching for the first nibble of beauty.

You may have a practice of mindful catch-and-release gratitude like mine. I love to invite Jesus Christ to walk with me, from the beginning of the day to my present moment in a chronological meander...picture by picture by picture. Or I may find Christ inviting me to linger with him over specific moments or feelings or thoughts from the day.

These images were the special moments in the day when I felt His smile in some small thing, or felt a twinge of something that made me catch the Present Moment and reel it in for closer examination.

I find it such an art, to catch and release those milliseconds of grace, knowing...trusting...that this life of mine is brim-ful of benefit. I exist, drenched in His overflow. I have His life in me, and that life is exuberant and knows but one way: "increase - no end."

And so yes, I grab my phone and snap the image and release it back into the ocean of His grace. I then cast my hook and wait to feel the next nibble of happiness.

This whole spinning earth is full of His glory. I need not cling or claim ownership of any experience, person, or thing. There is way more where that bit of joy came from, and heaven is forever.

Visit me over on Instagram (user name is SheilaAtchleyDesigns)? Join me in my daily meditation practice of "catch and release"? (See live Instagram Invitation link to the right sidebar.)

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

You Might Be a Narcissist If {...our generation's journey away from self absorption...}

So I have done hours of hard research into this subject, partly to be equipped to deal with things in my personal life, partly to be equipped in the ministry.


Narcissus, in Greek mythology, fell in love with his own reflection.

Narcissism, in real life, is more rampant than we think.

In fact, a couple of years back, my research became uncomfortable for me at times. My own areas of woundedness and humanity began to be revealed to me.

I fell out of love with my reflection. It was a wonderful, bountiful dealing for my soul.

I remember once, being in a room with several women. There were items displayed on a table, and we were all looking. I noticed that a few of us were blocking another woman's line of sight. I murmured, "Let me get out of your way."

Someone else, I am not sure who, said, "Oops. My artistic side is showing. I am always
in my own world."
I remember my instant, inner, very quiet reaction. Without turning to see who spoke, I remember disagreeing, in that moment. And I still disagree. When I am being truly artistic, I am very aware of details and nuance. Far from being oblivious to subtleties, I am actually tuned into the smallest of lines and shadows.

So you might be a narcissist if:

~You lack a true awareness of others.

~If you are always feeling left out, or like you don't belong.

~if you experience being offended more than once or twice a year

~You manage to turn the conversation to yourself. Even someone else's prayer request can turn into your own bid for attention.

~If anyone in your life is made to feel as if they are not "enough" - cannot do enough, care enough, give enough...

~You genuinely believe you are "different" or "special". (This is where Christians can be the most guilty of veiled narcissism - God is respecter of persons.)

~You are an over-spender, or overly aware of the spending of others

~You are generous (yes! Many narcissists are givers...for the relational leverage, for the boost in self esteem, for an excuse to buy themselves what they want)

~If you routinely find fault in others

~Collect a large number of friends on Facebook.

~Put stock in Facebook "likes", and worse, compare them to those of someone else

~avoid Facebook entirely, denigrating it as not worth your time (!!). Healthy people are characterized by having no extremes.

~are hyper-spiritual about peripheral issues (God says this and that to you, always aboutyou), but you are easily offended, and lack true depth where it counts

~if you personalize almost everything

~if you pay undue attention to compliments

~if you take criticism personally

~if you are easily angered

~if you are jealous, always competing and comparing

~if you manipulate or punish with your emotions

~over-use of sarcasm

~if you gravitate to leadership positions (yep....many narcissists are leaders, but not all leaders are narcissists - or at least they are aware of the tendency and guard against it)

~if you have soft personal boundaries, becoming enmeshed in others drama

~if your own life generates drama, you are definitely a narcissist

For a very brief overview, go here

Or here

To be better equipped to battle narcissism in yourself, or set strong boundaries for more healthy relationships with the narcissists in your life, you can go deeper here

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 Lenten Meditation {Why We Must Think Right About Others}

The Proverbs say "All the days of the afflicted are evil, but (s)he who has a merry heart has a continual feast."

This applies to everything. We often hear this verse applied to our attitude, but it also applies to our relationships. Even mind-science has a term for it...and it is a very real, measurable phenomenon...

...called confirmation bias. On a harmless level, if you begin to consider purchasing a Prius, you will suddenly see them everywhere. On a very harmful level, the negative things you choose to entertain about a spouse, friend, father or mother, you will easily find in them. Confirmation Bias. It is proven and measurable and we all have it.

If I tell myself my husband is a Witless Wonder, my mind will search for confirmation, and will find it.

If I tell myself my husband is wise, my mind will search for confirmation and will find it.                    

What you tell yourself directly affects your emotional well being.

What you tell yourself about others directly affects your relationships...which directly affects your well being.

All but the very least discerning in your circle knows if you are entertaining negativity about them. They can sense it.

Do you have a conscience? At all? Most Christians do. If you have a conscience, that is another big reason to think well of others. Your mind watches you. Your own mind registers every inner attitude, then measures it against what you say and do. When you demean someone with your words, and then you smile at them the next time you see them... are at odds, deep inside, if you have any conscience. Something will feel disingenuous. The worst thing you can do is blame the other person. They are not responsible for your perspective...or your emotions.

It is best to choose a perspective of respect at every opportunity - on the inside first. Let the hidden man of the heart begin to look for the praiseworthy in others. Your mouth will eventually speak life, from the overflow of your heart. That positive, happy, upbeat attitude of yours will make all your relationships feel like a Saturday morning...

...light. Sweet. Easy.

Confirmation Bias is a Biblical concept. Confirmation Bias exists in you, no matter what. Why not make it work FOR you, not against you?

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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

Spring Decorating {Lent = He Gives Beauty For Ashes}

Every day is a celebration of grace.

But there is something so precious to me about the season leading up to Easter.

The season some recognize as "Lent".

Come on in, and let me try to show you how we celebrate this Holy Season.

The upper hooks are for mine and the Preacher's scarves and hats and such...

...the lower are for the G-babies' little things.

Winter evergreens are replaced by green grass, in the rusty metal bucket.

And the binoculars aren't for show. The Preacher is a rabid bird watcher.

{and the number 10 needs to be replaced by an 11. I just haven't carved the stamp.


::smile::More on that later.}

Fresh spring flowers are always to be enjoyed this time of year.

A table centerpiece of moss and candles, nestled in an antique drawer....

...celebrating spring, the Finished Work of the Cross,

and Him whose Life was the light of men (John chapter 1).

Pussywillow branches, an antique book whose title rejoices in

every new season, whatever it is. And original art. And light.

The new hallway Gallery Wall - full of original art by my son-in- well as yours truly.

This is a time for Christians to rejoice in Jesus,

{In Christ Alone My Hope is Found}

This is a time to observe the inauguration of the dispensation of

His grace;

 not a time to be wan and sad, not a time to look inward,

where perfection is never to be found.

He gives beauty for ashes.

Why not fill your home, heart, and relationships with beauty?

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

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