Tending The Fires {...random thoughts, on the eve of our trip to SC to see our son graduate from Marine boot camp...}

I can remember when my love for Tim had that breathless, almost heartsick quality. 

(And this is not a lead-in to a guilt trip about spiritual "first love for God", I promise!  Seriously, almost everyone thinks that's where I am going, when I touch on this subject, just because I'm a preacher's wife.) 

I'm thinking purely of old fashioned romance...boy meets girl....you know.

Certain moments with him would overwhelm my heart, because it was all so very, very good! Tears would inevitably spring to my eyes, unbidden; sometimes I'd hide them, other times I would let them slightly spill. Sweetness. Being with him was sweet.

No one pretends that marriage should, or even could, maintain that heightened mountaintop experience, day in and day out, for twenty...thirty...fifty years. I recently read, and hoo boy, is it true, that romance is the ideal, marriage the real.

Our marriage has been really, really real. You won't weather twins, then two more, church planting, bivocational ministry, then full time ministry, financial lack, home schooling,  a home renovation, betrayal, grandchildren, prodigal sons, and lots of 12 hour workdays (for both of us) and not end up with a marriage as real as nicely worn oak floors. 

I love my old wood floors. They are nicked and scuffed, and as hospitable and low maintenance as their owners....go on, drop your keys, wear your shoes, put a dent in this wood..see if we so much as blink an eye.

That's also a great description of a healthy marriage. By now, we don't sweat the small stuff, and baby...it's all small stuff.

Then, there are those moments that catch us by surprise. Those moments that teach us that being married means so much more than just "not being divorced". Like an old song, familiar and well loved, like a bonfire that burns, then ebbs, then burns again, like a fine wine...need I go on? Our eyes meet, and though it sounds sappy, the sparks fly...

....then our middle-aged lives, with their middle-aged stress, and middle aged time constraints, middle aged perspectives, middle-aged spread, and middle-aged responsibilities.....middle age itself melts away, in the moment, and I am breathless and teary-eyed once again. 

It happens, now and then. 

And simple songs, serindipitously played on a kitchen radio are a vastly underrated aphrodisiac.

Hey have you ever tried,
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But, baby here goes.

Dreams they're for those who sleep,
Life is for us to keep,
And if youre wond'ring
What this song is leading to

I want to make it with you.
I really think that we can make it girl....

A Life of Inevitable Artfulness {...finding my sweet spot...}

So here I am.  I need to share a cup of coffee with you, and just savor this.  I mean it.

Just.  Savor.

The practice of naming my years, has actually made me a practitioner of bliss.  I am finally living the sort of ordinary, every day-ish life that makes me understand the words of one of my favorite artists - this is the artist to whom I would apprentice myself, if I could:

“The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” 
― Robert Henri

Friends, art is any little thing you do, when you put something of yourself into it, and you do it with great love.  Get yourself into this wonderful state.  Discover the art of soup making, the art of taking a walk, the art of the Sunday Drive.  

It is a holy state of mind.

I'm Good With Urban-Suburbia

Now...don't get me wrong.  My Preacher and I have been doing our version of "urban homesteading" for many years now. We plant gardens.  We've planted berry bushes - they didn't make it.  We tried again.  (One made it.  We will plant more this spring...)

We have an apple tree.  Well, it is our neighbor's apple tree, but trust me...it's ours. We have peach trees (plural).  Well, they belong to the neighbor across the street, but trust me...they're ours.  Same with a cherry tree.  This is the beauty of urban living at its best, see.  You get to know your neighbors and actually love them.  You end up sharing apple trees and hydrangea blossoms.  We have a tiny fish pond.  We burn outdoor fires in our firepit almost twelve months of the year.  The amount of square footage of our porches and decks equal (if not surpass) the square footage inside our house.  We are lovers of the outdoors, here at the cottage.

We expand the garden a little each year.  This past summer, our raised beds gave us enough green beans and tomatoes to last us through winter.  We even drive a truck.  We have friends with beautiful suburban acreage (a couple after my own heart!  They are far more involved with people than vegetables or animals, though they do have lots of dogs) they grow an incredible garden, right in the middle of a subdivision...and they have very, very green thumbs.  We can grow stuff there, if we had to, if we needed even more planting space - and then swim in their pool.  They live minutes away.

But we don't need to plant another garden bed at our friends' house yet.  I want to experiment further with our own urban gardening - the kind that weaves the vegetables in with the flowers in with the landscaping...whole books written about this, and there's big possibilities here yet to be explored. 

We were considering building a story-book cute, tiny coop and run for three laying hens...just for fun and grandkids.  But then we remembered that God often calls us to travel and minister to people.  I love chickens, but in my world, people win every time.  (People are God's favorite, too.)  Still...if we can find responsible chicken sitters...we may....we could...our pastor friend Bo from Virginia has some way cool breeds and has offered us chicks and his decades of expertise for free.  We could even get a milking goat.  Same reason.  Fun and grandchildren.  Same way...free from a friend.

We might.  We might not.  

One thing is for sure.  As you can tell, we are good...really good...with urban living.  Things are good in this declining, urban 'hood, what with a grandson next door and two grand daughters a mile's walking distance away. See, as much as we think livestock and acreage are fun ideas, we value time.  Time for people. 

My good friend Wendy and I were talking a couple years back about the whole yuppie farming/simple living movement that has been going on for YEARS.  (In other words, this is nothing new.  This post isn't a reaction to anyone who just so happens to have suddenly taken up farming in the last five years...apocolyptic end-timers, politically-charged off-the-gridders, and home schoolers have migrated to the countryside and taken up farming for decades now.  I know a bunch of 'em.)

She said something I thought was so wise.  She said, "There's many ways to live simply.  I don't want to get up and have to tend chickens every day.  It is simpler for me to go to Food City and get free range eggs for three bucks."  Like me, she has pretty much rejected the idea that you must live in the country to be earthy, wise, or even to eat "from farm to table".  

Here at the cottage, my Preacher and I already live beautifully and simply, we eat healthily, and we enjoy not smelling the poop.  We enjoy time for grandkids.  We enjoy being able to leave at the drop of a hat - brazen, romantic empty nesters that we are.

God bless Mary Jane Butters...but I don't want to live like her.  She's beautiful and wears cute hats, and I can take and adapt some of her ideas, making them work for me right where I live...

...but I am content to live in what's known as a neighborhood, and I tend to think a modicum of close-neighborly dealings is necessary and healthy for our emotional and spiritual balance, even when the dealings are a bit uncomfortable.  The teenage boys who used to live on this street challenged our patience and even our Christian faith.  We've had to take strong stands instead of move to the country.  Our neighborhood is densely populated with real people, some drug addicted, some Godly, some who keep up appearances, some who don't keep anything up, but all keep me well rounded and grounded.

It's a very simple and satisfying life, mine.  My lettuces will get planted in a couple of months, and I can make a killer chicken soup from the thighs of free ranged chickens bought cheap.  Not a big deal.

I don't need views or solitude or chickens to feel creative.  I don't need to kill my own cows to have meat.  I don't have time to raise and sell livestock - and I am supremely grateful for those who do that for a living.  But my priority is to build up lives - to invest into God's favorite thing - human beings.

I see the same sunrise and sunset, the same cloud formations, and constellations as anyone on any farm.  Don't need the busy-ness of poultry or pastures to be busy doing what, in my opinion, is most important in the Kingdom of God.

I'm glad for those Real Farmers (like the Voskamps over at Holy Experience) who integrate their country life with a life of missions and faithful attendance to local church.  I know so many of you who rock that kind of lifestyle, and you don't use your acreage and animals as an excuse for escaping the joy and heartache of consistently, year in and year out, dealing with both the delightful and the very difficult people.  But for this Preacher's Wife, more than three chickens, and I might look like an older version of that picture up there.  Gah. 

Besides.  I sort of like putting on yoga pants, a cute T-shirt, and colorful Nikes when I decide to take a walk.  No dungarees and boots, thanks.

A {free} Project Video...{...why of course it's free - it's crap...}

Recently, after being invited to be one of the teachers in Jeanne Oliver's new online course, "Becoming | The Unfolding of You", I made my first real project video...for that class.

Now, I've made one art video. But it was just a time lapse video, set to music. I didn't have to talk or teach or do anything but do my thing. At the time, even that was well out of my comfort zone!

That little video has gotten so much love...I've had several emails from people who say they watched it and cried. Then, they asked me to make more. And I sort of never did.

Because y'all...videos are hard work.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on both the videos I created for Jeanne's online class. Mainly, it took so much time because I have been too lazy to surf the learning curve before she asked me to participate in "Becoming". I simply did not/do not understand the work flow involved - and there is a definite process. There are steps. And then, once you master the basic steps, there are beautiful things like intro's and tags and music you can add.

Today, I decided that it was way past time for me to master the workflow and surf the curve - the goal being to be able to create quality art project videos, and know exactly what I am doing, every step of the way.

But, just like podcasting, I first have to be willing to do some things badly. Lucky you.

Wait for it....wait for it....waaaaaaaaait for it.....okay, here it is:

...I guess I am asking you to hang in there with me.  Better days are coming, friends.  Better days are coming....

Bifocal Reader Love {...problem meets solution...}

I swear, the day I turned 40, I could no longer read the print in my books. And if you know me at all, you know reading is an addiction   ...a passion of mine.

So I bought the requisite readers...no, I did not purchase people to read for me, how could you think such a thing?  Rather, I bought those reading glasses you find in the drugstore...super-cute ones, the kind that perch on the tip of your nose.

But I kept losing them. And losing them. And I found I didn't like the look of having to tilt my face "just so" to see through or over them, depending on whether I was reading or speaking. I can't walk and chew gum simultaneously...

...so this was a problem. All of this was a problem.

It was then that I discovered bifocal readers. Saints, I am telling you, my life was revolutionized.

See, I don't need "glasses-glasses". I don't need prescription glasses (I know - I got the eye exam...and I continue to have my eyes checked) but I needneedneed readers.

But I couldn't choose between losing my readers, or putting them on a chain around my neck like a granny. Even though I am a granny, but that's beside the point.

I want my grandkids to sport T-shirts like this:

And if I wear my glasses like a necklace, that can't happen, see. (You do see, don't you?)

Not long ago, a few of my friends who wear glasses-glasses began to
flaunt wear these beautiful Tom Ford glasses.  Now, far be it from me to be a Tom-Ford-eyeglasses-curmudgeon.  If you can afford them, by all means, enjoy them!

Then, at least two of my friends (one online, another "IRL" - in real life) bought more than one pair! As in...three, four pairs...so they could get the look they wanted, when they wanted it.

As if that weren't enough to incite glasses envy, they purchased these gorgeous wood and leather boxes....like jewelry boxes, only for those Tom Fords. I was over the moon...I have such fashionable friends...so inspirational, I'm not even lying.  I don't get jealous...that is just not my thing.  Trust me, I have other faults.  But I don't get jealous, because I am too busy taking notes on the women I admire.

Lightbulb moment. I realized my bifocal readers, since I do wear them almost all the time, are a fashion statement. I, too, could do with several pairs of them! I have various "looks" I need to sport too, ya know.

And I wanted a pretty box of my own, like a jewelry box, in which to house my facial-fashion acessories. I wanted to "respect the spectacles" like my fashionable friends, only I could not afford the price tag of a used car to do it.

This was literally months ago. I let the whole thing simmer on the back burner, as I am prone to do, waiting for the solution to present itself.

The week of Christmas, I found the bifocal readers I had been searching for, in every style I had been searching for, and all in one place! These babies are total Tom Ford knock-offs. You better believe I splurged! I bought four pair! I splurged to the tune of $40, because I also received a 40% holiday discount.

I got these, for my inner hipster...

These for my inner geek....

These for my no-nonsense inner business woman and Bible teacher:

And these for my inner sexy librarian:

Those last ones are The Preacher's favorites. Just sayin'.

And here are the bifocal-reader-Aviator-sunglasses that I already had:

Recently, for my birthday, my daughter Hannah bought me a wood display case. She meant it to be a display for my artisan cuffs, when I have art shows. And that is what I was going to do. But suddenly this past week, after my TF knock-off spectacles arrived, I knew it was meant to be...

...it was meant to be my facial-jewelry box. (Are those words "facial-jewelry" creeping you out, too? Or is it only me? But I can't stop saying it.)

So I took a hammer to the cubbies inside, chipping off part of each divider, and then gluing a piece of soft leather to what was left, with fabric glue:

And now all my inner persona Tom Ford knock-offs have a place to be respected. (Is that too much metaphor to make sense? I thought so, too, but there it is.)

The price of four TF glasses frames: $1,200
The price of a beautiful wooden case for said frames: $75

Doing almost the same thing, but doing it preacher's-wife-style (Victoria Osteen, if you are reading this, then present company excepted): $40

And here is my facial-jewelry box, in its real home, in my messy home office:

"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good."

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The Year of Grace {...happy new year, friends...}

The photograph above is so appropriate...because it was one of my very first "official" creative projects that someone actually purchased from me.  I worked so hard to learn how to watermark...and I put that silly watermark on the actual picture...the one that sold...not just the digital copy.  That's how bad of a newbie I was.  The year was 2012.

Seriously.  In 2012, I had no art studio, no website (just a blog), no online store, no clients, no small business, no Facebook business page, no Instagram account, no mailing list, and no idea what God was about to do...

...He was about to wreak His incredible goodness all up in this place.

And it couldn't have come at a more appointed time.

See, a little over a year before, in 2010, because I was so stuck in the middle of great pain,  I started "naming" my year.  Sure, that's become very old news here in 2015.  Everyone has done it and blogged about it, and almost no one does it anymore.  But then it was pretty cool and revolutionary, and now I will never stop naming the years.

I named 2010 "Create" - and with that, I began to create intentionally and have not stopped since.  That naming thing was the end of life as I had known it up to that point.  Naming carries with it some incredibly good juju, dating all the way back to the book of Genesis.

I named 2011 "Sow!"  {with the exclamation point...because I felt such urgency in it.  I could not have been more spot-on.}  In 2011, I kept creating...and I also began a very intentional mentoring of the next generation - finally taking it outside my own household, and in a structured way.

My own daughters, whether they knew it or valued it or not (and they did, and they do) had been on the receiving end of years of my mentoring while they lived at home.  It was (and is) their time to put action to all they had received.  My nest was emptying, and I clearly heard the Lord that I was to sow into young lives "not my own".  So...I did.  Later that same year, I realized that the results of the simple decision to sow and mentor intentionally just...well, the results rocked my world.  God's smile was all over me, as I "sowed" with all my heart.

2012 received its christening as "Cultivate".  As I re-read that last blog post, I get goose bumps, because I see this in the final paragraph:

I'm beyond excited at the prospects for the coming year.  I know I will be working even harder than last year, because I will be creating the environment for the growth of what ever else sprouts from 2011. What if every bit of it sprouts?  Oh.  Mah.  Werd.  I'll be working twelve hour days.  Cultivation is a bit more involved than sowing, but the rewards are...

...a flourishing harvest.

Um...yeah.  I sort of have been working a lotta lotta 12 hour days in the last two years.

2013 was "Harvest".  That was also the year I took up the "31 Days October Challenge" and wrote for 31 days straight on the topic of celebrating middle age.  I still get emails about it - massive fruit still coming from that project, which will become a book - dare I say this year?

2014 was "Lavish", but I was too busy working those 12 hour days to write much about it.  God has lavished me with His goodness this past year.  But even more than that, 2014 was a year {...and I still can't believe the whole thing is in the rear view mirror...} when I really worked to renew my mind with the truth of God's abundance.  2014 was a year to leave all the old mindsets behind - getting tuned in to a brand new spiritual frequency of "increase".  That is hard for this die-hard anti-prosperity-gospel girl.  I will always see the "prosperity gospel" as a false gospel - but that does not mean that my God is not a God of lavish abundance.

I feel I am still working on this, in some ways.  But then again, the lessons of each and every year have always been carried into the next.  

2014 has been a year of massive, yet quiet, G-R-O-W-T-H.  I began podcasting...became a CLC (certified life coach)...did many hours of live coaching...developed my own coaching materials...got published in a Stampington art magazine, (still a future issue)...

...was juried into two art shows (one of which I opted out of, to exhibit in the other show, which was local), and experienced a breakthrough, technically speaking,  in my artistic style.  My art is showing a more fine-art, impressionistic leaning, a leaning that was not there before, and I am not sure where it came from, to be honest.   

God lavished me, and I lavished my work with time and sweat and blood (literally) and tears.

2015 has been freshly christened:


I know, right?  I'm at it again.  Christ-centric and grace-besotted.  I will never leave the doctrines of grace.  

Besides - I have a feeling that in the coming year I will need unearned, undeserved favor from God...favor from strangers and friends...and will even get favor from enemies.  Unearned, undeserved, unexplainable, freaky favor.  

I'm not above admitting that I need favor to succeed in anything.  I need supernatural favor.

It's on its way.

Becoming - A Free Online Class {...when "it doth not yet appear what we shall be"...}

I never picked up the first paintbrush until my heart broke.  Then...just like that...I became.  I became an artist.

That was about 5 years ago, but it wasn't art that restored me.  It wasn't art that fueled my "becoming"...it was worship.

The Bible says that ..."By faith Jacob...worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. "  

Jacob felt it before I ever did.  He felt the pain of his own jacked-up-edness (that is a word in my house), he felt the misery of his own inability...and he glimpsed something of the grace of God when he saw that ladder that connected earth to heaven and heaven to earth.

 And He worshiped, leaning on his staff, favoring that hip put out of joint after his long wrestling in a black night of the soul.  Jacob wrestled for his identity, and I remember wrestling for mine.

See, I never expected to have not one, but two prodigal sons.  

(And yes...they are fine with me telling my story, and their part in it - past, present, and future.  We have good relationships, my boys and me and their dad.  I think the reason why they don't mind me telling you any of this is that - first of all, they still believe.  Not one of them has denied a solid belief in a supernatural God;  both would fight you over the truth of the deity of Jesus Christ...perhaps physically.  Ahem.   

I also think my young men know that their days in the pig pen are numbered.)

So I ended up with prodigal times two.  And it broke my heart, and it broke my identity as "The Homeschooling Preacher's Wife To Whom Such Things Should Never Happen."

I was going to write a book on child training.  Then, I had teenaged boys.  Then, they grew up.  Then, I needed therapy.  (Which I never got...)

Worship has fueled my becoming, from the time I was a little girl who wet the bed every night, through my early-married years when I gave birth to identical honeymoon twins (two beautiful daughters, who are mine and the Preacher's right arms today), and it fueled my becoming when middle age came calling...it fuels me at this moment, as a grandmother.

I am that "older woman", now, to whom the Great Apostle gave the admonition to "teach the younger women".

Teach them to love. That's the gist of what Paul told the older women to teach the younger women....teach them to love.  

With all my own becoming, it still "doth not yet appear what I shall be".  I believe - with all my heart - that my best days are right in front.

Having said all that, I am so thrilled to share with you that I have been invited by Jeanne Oliver to take part in an online course entitled, "Becoming - The Unfolding of You":

This course is FREE.  There is no cost to join Jeanne's creative community, and there is NO COST to join the 8 week course, "Becoming - The Unfolding of You".

Here is the trailer:

Here is the link to join the study directly.

Here is the course description, and instructions about how to join:

Course description:
This January join 20 women for an 8 week study all about finding your true identity in Christ.  Each week you will hear unfolding stories from the women in this study.  We will be sharing truths about who the Lord says we are and our personal journeys to accepting those truths.

We will also have fun creative videos that follow the study where the women will share one of their gifts. Think guitar playing, bread making, painting, entertaining and more.  You know I can't have a course without sharing how the Lord uses our creativity! My hope is that the study will give you fresh eyes for the Lord and yourself.  When we know who we are in Christ it changes everything and opens our paths and gifts in incredible new ways.
Some of us are carrying around "truths" about ourselves that are flat out lies and it time to lay them down

This study will be open and honest, real, Bible based and a bit of creativity too.  We hope you will join us January 6, 2015 for this free online study!

Directions to register:To join this free study you just need to be registered at jeanneoliver.ning.com (registering is free).

Once you are on the site you will find this study, free videos (business and art), my Creativity Takes Courage series and new online courses along the left hand side of the page.

You will find all of our courses/videos under the COURSES heading.

To register for Becoming | The Unfolding of You

1) Go to COURSES along the left hand side of the page

2) Go to the bottom of the course and click “view all” to find Becoming | The Unfolding of You

4) Click on Becoming | The Unfolding of You

3) Click the +join button on the upper right hand side

4) All of the details are on the page and you are all set for the study to begin on January 6, 2015

I cannot WAIT to see you in class.  Please tell your friends...share this blog post...help me spread the love and the good news of the grace of God, in the face of Jesus Christ...