Open the Window {the art of cultivating sustainable delights...}

(beautiful little window, in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise - my own photography)

When I went to Paris, I was struck by how I never needed to go to Paris to feel amazed.

Don’t get me wrong, I was astonished by all of it:
the Seine river, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, and apricot crepes.  Especially apricot crepes.
But I already have my Smoky Mountains, my people, my garden, and my coffee with cream.

Cultivating your own sustainable delight
is an art form to be desired.

It’s sort of like the story of the woman who reached a point in her life where she was deeply unhappy.  She felt stifled.
She felt suffocated.
She lacked freshness.
She lacked light.

So she packed up all her belongings and sold the house, because she longed for those things:  freshness and light.

But the next house felt like more of the same.
So she sold it, too.

She sadly never figured out the secret to sustainable joy:

Don’t sell the house.  Just open the window.

This window speaks to me of a God who has richly
provided for me (the kingdom of heaven is "at hand") all that I need.

It is up to me to make the most of it.

My Trip To France {...I still can't believe I was there...}

If you follow me on IG , you may know that this past April I was gifted with a trip of a lifetime - to France!

This woman right here called me on a freezing cold rainy evening in late February and said, "Are you sitting down?"

She hastened to add, "It's good."

She knows me.

(Jeanne Oliver and me, on the last night of her "Living Studio - Seine River, France" art workshop)

Believe it or not, when she offered me an all expense paid spot in her workshop - which just so happened to include a luxury cruise, with excursions to Monet's gardens, a Picasso museum, and Van Gogh's attic apartment...

...I didn't say "yes" right away.  I really did pray.  And I talked to The Preacher.  And he prayed.

And God clearly said:

"Duh.  FRANCE.  Gift.  GO."

A few days later, the above luscious box arrived on my porch.

And it seemed only a few days after that, I was looking straight out at this...

...and fighting a panic attack.  If you know me, to say that "Sheila Atchley" and "travel" aren't good friends, would be an understatement.  I love a lot of things that most women do.  Great shoes, dark chocolate, a smokey merlot, and shirts from Anthropologie come immediately to mind.

But girlfriend, I will never be jealous of your trip.

(Truth be known, I'm not jealous of anything for the most part.  Your happiness is mine, and I'm pretty literal about that.)

I will be processing this trip to some degree for months to come, and for the rest of my life.  I still fight tears every time I look at the pictures.  I still get overwhelmed with the goodness of God when I think of the places He put under my feet in April of 2017.

And don't tell The Preacher, but I don't think I'm done traveling.  Please believe me when I say that the thought actually doesn't thrill me.  But I really do think that the Lord has asked me to be willing to travel to beautiful places to help see to it that women are supernaturally encouraged.  I need to be willing to travel on a plane, coach, and brave the bone-tiredness and gut-wrenching anxiety, so that women can be given art as a powerful tool in their toolkit.  I believe that art is just one tool in the maintenance of a well soul.

When I got back from my trip, this was on my desk:

It had come in the mail and someone had tossed it to my desk, not knowing that the moment I laid eyes on it, I would feel like someone had punched me in the croissant basket.

Paris marked a new season in my life.  Something begun.  Where it "ends" - my next "yes" - is totally up to me.  I'm asking the Lord to equip me for "my best yes".

Going back to about a month before I got on that giant Air France plane -

In mid-March, I had decided to offer my clients a chance to get an original painting from all the inspiration I knew I'd be receiving in France - not just images, but I knew the Lord was wanting to speak to me.  I was overwhelmed (in a good way) when more than a dozen people signed up to receive an original painting from that "Painting-A-Day, Paris" promotion!

Here are just a few pieces that have been completed, so far:

Inspired by the tiny fishing village of Hon Fleur.  Here is the inspiration photo:

Below, is an abstract of the chalk white cliffs of Normandy, with the steeple of a beautiful eglise in the foreground.

And its inspiration photo:

Above, is a dove I saw at the Medici fountain, inside the jardin du Luxembourg.

Lastly, I titled this one "Fullness of Time".  And here is my inspiration photo:

I have no doubt there will be many more blog posts that in some way involve this beautiful trip, something I saw, something I learned, something I heard the Lord say.  I will forever be grateful to Jesus for loving me so fiercely, and to my sweet friend Jeanne, for embodying His heart to love lavishly.