Chronicling 40: Days 197-200

MFAsign

I’ve been making art since I was a child, it’s a part of the very fabric of how God created me.  However, it is also very vulnerable and personal.  I’ve kept it to myself for a very long time. Sure, I’ve sold pieces here and there or posted pictures of things I have worked on for my own home or family members.  I’ve just never gone the route of a public showing.  The past few months I prepared to take that leap, fearless in 2018.  This weekend was the culmination of all that work.  So much anxiety and anticipation has now been replaced with relief.  It is over.  What next?

I was fortunate to have sold a few small pieces.  In speaking with many of the artists in at the event, it was a very dry event.  Most didn’t sell anything, those who did sold smaller pieces, and even the most experienced artists didn’t recuperate their expenses to be at the show.   (Some traveled in to the area = travel and lodging expenses).  You could feel it walking through the space as it seemed so many had just given up.

I try to be optimistic in life.  To see the good through the bad.  In this case, where many others were facing disappointment…

I was thankful for the opportunity to show.  Not everyone was excepted into the show.

I was proud of myself for actually overcoming the anxiety and nerves, and putting out my work for the public to see.

I was grateful for the positive comments and encouraging feedback, even from those who never bought a thing.

My eyes were open to appreciate the uniqueness of my pieces, as there were not others even in the same ballpark.  Great artists, but none like me.

From my own space, I was able to create a list of things I would do differently next time around.

From others, I was a willing student to listen to their wisdom and experience.  Those who were kind enough to share their tips invested in me, and that doesn’t go unnoticed.  I bought a piece or took their card for a future purchase.

I was even able to learn more about who my ideal customer and market is, and that in and of itself is beyond putting a value on.

Things don’t always work out like we think, for the better or worse.  However, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow.  Never take that for granted.

 

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Chronicling 40: Day 181 or 365

Gratitude(1)

What a beautiful word, gratitude.  I love that it can have the accompanying word of contentment.

Gratitude is a positive force, focusing on what is going well and good vs. bad and harrowing.  Choosing gratitude leads to contentment with what we have been blessed.  It means that we feel satisfaction in our lives, despite the things that didn’t go according to plan.  Gratitude and contentment are not mutually exclusive of success and ambition, but partner with it… keeping us from wallowing in our failure and instead moving forward.

Gratitude is a choice.  I’ve seen gratitude in the humbled faces of those with extraordinary wealth and opportunity.  I’ve seen gratitude in the hopeful faces of those struggling to make ends meet.

I admit, even though it is a choice, it isn’t always an easy one.  It can be hard to see the good in the midst of the storm.  During hurricane season, we panel up our homes to protect ourselves from the winds and flying debris.  We can’t see anything, locked up, until the storm passes.  Only then can we venture out and see what has been done.  The noise of the storm can convince you that you are walking out into a war zone.  The doors open, sunny skies great you.  You assess the damage.  In the worst cases, news reports will vary from those who are processing losing everything & those who are simply grateful to be alive.

It isn’t easy to choose to be grateful when you have lost everything, when the storms are brewing and threatening everything you love… own… and your way of life.  Therefore it is good to have reminders in place so that when gratitude is hard to find, you have something tangible that serves as a reminder.

The Israelites would set up standing stones as a remembrance of what the Lord had done on their behalf, it was a standing monument so that they wouldn’t forget and the world would know.  Future generations would ask about the stones and the elders would tell them of what God had done.

Several years ago I started the practice of setting up my own standing stones.  First was the creation of a “God Box” which is basically a memory box.  Exclusively this box is used to keep documentation of the times and places where God intervened in our lives.  I could sit down with this box and walk you through my testimony, as my fingers pass from one article to another.  Cards.  Pictures.  Items.  Everything covered in the fingerprints of God.

Later, I expanded the practice to daily gratitude.  I purchased a monthly calendar from the dollar store.  Every day, I would jot down 3 things that I was grateful for.  Now, I fill out the whole box.  Sometimes it is a person’s name or something very specific that I’m thankful for that day.  Other times it is more general, such as being thankful for a home or life.  What is interesting is that over the years I have also learned to be grateful for the difficult things.

This week, for example, I am sick.  I’ve been sick since Sunday.  On Sunday’s entry I wrote:

Pizza.  Rest.  Hot Water.  Ice packs.  Feeling.  Life.  Medicine.

I was grateful that I could send someone out to pick up premade food, so that I didn’t have to cook.  I was grateful that in doing so, I could rest.  I was grateful that I had hot water at an instant for my tea, shower, and hot water bottle.  I was grateful that I had a freezer full of icepacks ready for immediate use.  I was grateful that I could literally feel.  Feeling sick meant that I could recognize my body needed care, and do what needed to be done.  I was grateful that this was an illness that would pass, that I had life to live… even if it was on hold for a few days.  And, of course, grateful for modern medicine that in conjunction with my home remedies would get me back on my feet again soon.

Perspective about things change when you learn to not only be grateful for the good, but grateful through the bad.  It helps you to endure the trial knowing it is only temporary.  A record of this through a memory box or gratitude journal/list reminds us of the good times and becomes building blocks to get us out of the pit.

Chronicling 40: Day 160-164 of 365

LetThem

My family just returned from a trip to Disney.  Let me set the final scene.

It was freezing cold.  The temps were about 43*.  While my Northern friends may scoff at 43* weather being labeled as “freezing”, you have to understand that when FL gets cold… it’s a different type of cold.  This is due to our humidity level.  We are not a “dry cold” but a “wet cold”.  It was 43* with humidity in the 80% level.

It was dark, we were waiting for the tram to take us back to our car, among many others waiting in the cold.  A man was there, with his wife, his mother in law, and their four children… I’m guessing ages 5 and below.  He was sitting on the concrete wall, drinking hot chocolate.  The 5 year old was pretending to sneeze on him, spraying his arm and face with spit.  The 2 year old kept running and bumping into him, also trying to be funny.  At one point, the two year old knocked into his arm, spilling the Dad’s hot chocolate all over his hand.

I don’t think I have ever witnessed a scenario like this go down and the person remain so calm.  He didn’t say a word.  He wiped down his hand on his pants, tossing the cup into a nearby trash can.  The 5 year old walked behind him as he headed toward his wife.  He handed her the 2 year old, and pointed the 5 year old to stand with her.  He simply said:

“I need a break for a few minutes.”

That was it.  He knew the kids were just being kids, after a long… cold… day.  They were not being bad kids, just kids.  So, there was no scolding.  There wasn’t even a word spoken as hot cocoa covered his bare hand.  He was calm, but recognized he needed a moment to himself.

In this moment, is there any one of us who couldn’t understand what this guy was feeling?

As he walked away from his family, the wife trailed after him asking what was wrong and where he was going.

He calmly repeated his intentions:

“I just need a break for a minutes.”

She couldn’t let it go.  Kept after him, pressing for an answer.

She couldn’t just let him be.  She couldn’t just let him walk.

If there is anything that I have learned in 20 years of marriage, is that sometimes we just need to let the other person be.  We need to let them walk or blow off steam.  We can get our answers afterwards.

I remember one night, I was really upset.  My husband asked what was wrong, I asked to be left alone… and he pressed.  I responded:  “I am upset right now, but I really don’t know if I am overreacting or have the right to be upset.  So just let me be.”

And, he did.

And, in the end, I was overreacting.

There was a speaker I listened to who suggested that when we encounter confrontation with our spouse, that we go at with the mindset of “this is a good willed person”.  If I approach any confrontation with my spouse believing he is a good willed person, not out to harm me… or hurt me… then I know he is for me and not against me.  Knowing this, if he passes the kids over to me & asks for a break… I know that he is doing this from his goodness.  He recognized he was being pushed to his limits, and needs a moment to take a break and regroup.

The same is offered to me.  If he comes home from work, and I let him know that I need to run to the store because I just need a break… he doesn’t question it.  He may ask a few questions about the status of things (like dinner, homework, etc), but otherwise he sends me on my way.

Marriage.  Parenting.  These are not always easy, pinterest worthy, book authoring, seasons.  They are often hard work, emotionally grueling at times, and some times just exhausting.  Extend some grace to your spouse, and when s/he needs a moment to just be, to walk, to find peace…

Let them be.

Let them walk.

Chronicling 40: Days 106-109 of 365

hope

I have so many words today.  It has been a busy few days, we had company visiting … which meant prepping the house, then we were taking a day out of town ourselves for some family time.   So many things have happened in those days, so much I want to speak about.

I had so many things to do, that I literally made a spreadsheet to keep track of everything.  My days were scheduled to the second.  There was no margin.  Normal things (like posting daily) were cast aside for no other reason than the fact that I could without the world ending.

I was trying to decided if I was really going to try and recap all of my thoughts over these last 4 days into one post.  Would it make any sense?  Would it be all over the place?  Would I write one single piece or make 4 dated journal entries?  I created a graphic on canva to us for the post.  No matter how many times I tried to upload it into wordpress, it wouldn’t.  Error.  Error.  Error.   Was the enemy trying to thwart my words today?

Bound and determined, I was not giving up and decided to scroll through the graphics I’ve used in the past which sit in the wordpress media library.  It caught my eye…

HOPE.

All of these things I felt compelled to talk about are scenarios I have no control over, I can’t comprehend them, I can’t explain them.  From my own short temperedness to the shooting at a small church in Texas.  I could throw words at this screen, but what would they mean … how would they help?  They don’t.  You don’t need my words, you need the words of Hope.

1 Timothy 1:1 tells us that Christ is our hope, and hope is an anchor to our soul (Hebrews 6:19).

Matthew 12:21 tells us that we put our hope and trust in Christ, because he is a better hope than anything else (Hebrews 7:19)

2 Thessalonians 2:16 tells us that we have been given hope through grace, and purified by that hope (1 John 3:3).

1 Timothy 4:10 tells us that our hope is fixed on God, and is in God (1 Peter 1:21).

Titus 1:2 encourages us that it is an eternal hope, and we hold to that hope (Hebrews 6:18).

1 Timothy 5:5 tells us of the widow, who despite her circumstances is fixed on her hope in God… praying day and night.  Hope is active pursuit of Him.

Yes, we are in trying times.  Life is difficult.  Sometimes we feel like Job.  Our calling isn’t comfortable.  We may feel more like Jonah.  Shame weighs us down.  We connect with the Samaritan Woman.  The word is fallen, and we feel like the Israelites calling out to God to save us from our own messes.

The days are hard…

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians  5:8)

And people will look to us, because we have hope and wonder how we can find peace in the midst of chaos…

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)

We will praise Him in the storms, because we have hope…

to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:12)

Will not act as the world expects, but we will be…

rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, (Romans 12:12)

So that we can find peace for today, and days to come…

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

Chronicling 40: Day 101 of 365

Failure

I remember as a child, my mother only saw my grades twice per 9 weeks.  The first was the mid term progress report, the second was the end of term report card.  Other than that, unless a teacher called her for some reason, she had no idea what my grades looked like.  She had no clue if I had homework that night, nor if I had remembered to complete projects and turn them in on time.  Today, I can log onto my kids’ school site and pull up their grades in a matter of seconds.  I know every test score, every missed assignment, and even some of the ones coming down the road.

Because of this, it is nearly impossible for my kids to every fail a subject. If I was a parent who didn’t care, I could avoid looking at the site.  I could just let cards fall where they may.  As a parent who cares, I can now see the impending failure and begin negotiations.  Do we need to hire a tutor?  Should we ground our child from electronics until grades are up?  Shall I contact the teacher to create some sort of extra credit assignment to make up for missing grades, or find a way to turn in forgotten work even for partial credits?

As far back as I can recall, failure has not been cast in a positive light.  If our children fail at school, we ground them until they can become “more responsible” or hire in tutors to fill in education gaps.  If our children fail at a sport, we tell them to increase their practice times and dissect their plays to find out where improvements can be made.  We do things for them without even asking them to try because we determined what they can and can’t do.  And, we reward them for simply trying versus letting them feel the sting of defeat.

We tell kids when they fall to get back up and try again, focusing on continuing to work for success.  What about talking about what we learned from failure?  Why do we not allow our children to learn the consequences of failing a grade or subject?  Why do we take away the magnitude of lessons learned by making mistakes or failing to achieve their goal versus being content to walk away with a participation grade or trophy?

I have learned far more in the moments when I failed at something than when I hit gold right out the gate.  When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I must engage my critical thinking skills.  Why didn’t this work?  What was missing?  Did I make a mistake?  Was I using the wrong materials or did I miss a step in the process?  Or, is there simply a better way?  The more I engage my critical thinking skills the better off my next endeavors will turn out.  I’ll take those answers and apply them not just to the current project at hand but also in the future.

Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

When it comes to my children, I would much prefer their failures and mistakes to happen while they are in my home and I can help them grow from it.  Too many handle everything for their kids, send them off to college or out into the real world and they don’t understand how to cope with failure.  A failed class will result in teaching your children how to better prioritize their time.  A failing grade that pulls your child off of the team teaches them about consequences and how to be mindful of the requirements of participation.  A repeated grade teaches your children that mom and dad can’t fix everything, and sometimes they have to go through it to grow from it.   And, instead of coming to their rescue, it can help our children learn to navigate these issues on their own.  My asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities is a lot different than if my kids come up with the idea on their own.

In life failure teaches us what not to do again.  It teaches us processes and ways of thoughts that don’t work.  It helps us find our way to success.

If I am not failing, I’m not trying enough.

Failure can be a beautiful gift.

Chronicling 40: Day 98 of 365

DP1

One of the questions I get asked often is about Bible Study recommendations, particularly related to Women’s Ministry programs.  I personally ascribe to a pathway that puts women on a good start to picking out good materials and eventually leading small groups themselves.  Here is my recommended pathway, click on any of the photos to purchase.  I do not make any money off of these purchases, or have affiliation with these companies.

One to One Discipling by Multiplication Ministries

121wThanks to my friend Jenny Andrews, this material landed in my lap.  I’m a huge fan.  I love this as a starting place because I believe it makes sure that those who go through the material end with a basic understanding of the fundamentals of Christianity.  Jenny’s church uses this as the first step after Baptism.  It could also be a great step for starting off a Discipleship Pathway in your Women’s Ministry.

 

Seamless by Angie Smith

seamlessAfter making sure the women in your group, or ministry, have the fundamentals in place… I like to move to an overview of the Scriptures.  Angie Smith’s Seamless moves from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  You will have a good overview of the entirety of the Bible, how God’s narrative is woven through the Old to the New Testament.

A great second stop on the pathway of Discipleship for yourself, your small group, or the women in the church.

 

Praying the Bible by Don Whitney

ptb

After the women have the fundamentals, and the basics of the Scriptures, then ensuring our owmen understand the why and how of prayer is next on the pathway.  Praying the Bible, written by Don Whitney, is a short and direct book on using the Scriptures to prompt our prayers.  How long you want to spend on this book is up to you, but it is one you could walk through very quickly (great Summer book) or spend time wading through and putting into practice.

 

 

 

Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin

wowNow that your women have these fundamentals into place (basics of Christianity, over view of the Bible as a whole, and prayer life), my next path is about being a good Berean.  I love Jen Wilkin’s book because she walks you through the WHY and VALUE of being able to study the Scriptures for yourself.  Then, she walks you through the practical application of her study method.  Finally, you get a chance to put it into practice with the book of James.

The final chapter is about how to lead a study group.  Which is also why I save this book for the last spot in the pathway.  Not because it is less important, but rather because you have now been not only prepared for your own good habits of prayer and study but also to teach others.  By the end of these four books, you are ready to step up as a Small Group leader.  You will be able to vet materials based off of what you have learned, as well as lead confidently.

The Great Commission

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20

We have been called, as disciples, to go out and make disciples.  Once baptized, we are commissioned to teach them to obey the Lord’s Word.  Once they have become disciples, they share this commission.  The Discipleship Pathway is meant to be taught by disciples, to make disciples, who will go out and make more disciples.  It is a multiplication process that not only brings people to the loving arms of God at baptism, but prepares them to be leaders within their church.

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 95 of 365

foodwine Back and recovered from Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, can I just say I long to go back already.

If you have never been, here’s the gist of it.  Throughout the “countries” area of Epcot are special booths set up that represent countries around the globe.  For every 1 country that is normal represented in Epcot, 2 more are added.  You travel from one end to another, sampling foods from these various countries.  Either brands they are known for, or recipes that are from the country.  There are also a few booths that are sponsored by certain companies that had menu items that exclusively used their products in the recipes.

To be clear, you pay the admission to the park, and then you pay for all of the food/drink you select from the booths.  There are so many booths and foods, it would be impossible to eat them all in one day.  So, if you want to try everything or even at least 1 item from every country, plan to attend the event for a few days.  Even with walking time, taking a few bathroom breaks, and going on just 2 rides… we probably didn’t even try half of the booths.

That all said, overall the food was amazing.  Each country booth would have 3-4 food offerings, 1-2 dessert offerings, and then 3-5 beverages options.  While it is the food and wine festival, each booth had water and some offered non-alcoholic beverages that were from the country.  Also there were options of beer, wine, cocktails, champagne.  Each booth would give you a suggested food/beverage pairing.  Because each booth had just a few offerings, you really never had to wait long for anything.  And the lines at the booths never seemed to be overwhelming.

Most booth offerings were a good sized sampling, but nothing you’d qualify as a meal.  Leaving plenty of room to move on to the next booth.  But occasionally you might get a larger portion, a richer food item, or something a bit heartier that filled you up faster.  We used the few rides we went on as a break between these food items.  Overall, the quantities are small enough and with it being more of a grazing your way through the park… you don’t really end up overeating.

My Favorites:

Canada’s Soup and Steak.   Ireland’s Warm Chocolate Cake.

It’s open through November 13th.  If you are planning on going, save some money and head into the Festival Center, at one of the gift shops you can purchase a lanyard for $67+ tax that has “tickets” you can redeem for food/drinks at the booths.  There are 8 tickets.  We determined that the best value was to use the tickets for anything that cost $8 or more.  Otherwise we paid cash for anything under $8.  Many of the items on the menu were $3-$5.  I took advantage of this buy always pairing 1 high price item with 1 low price item per booth.  If the food item was over $8, I’d pick a lower price item.  Get a bottle of water at one of the first booths and refill it at water fountains along the way, and you’ll save a bit more.  We spent the entire day and evening there, and I think my total cost for food/beverages was $90-$100.

When you consider what it would normally cost to eat while traveling, breakfast/lunch/dinner… and for all the variety of food we ate… I think it was a good deal.

Would I bring my kids?  No.  My eldest who is 18, would probably find plenty to eat… but the younger two are too picky for these booths.  Also, the food is already “assembled”, so you are not going to be able to ask for special requests for kids.  For example, one booth had crispy chicken, cornbread, with red eye gravy.  The chicken was stacked on the cornbread with the gravy drizzled over the top.  You can’t ask to “hold the gravy”.  So, picky kids can’t have it their way.  And there were not very many booths that offered kid friendly fare.  You also spend a lot of time eating, and if they want to go on more rides… someone has to give. However, if your kid is an adventurous eater/foodie and could care less about the rides… you might have better luck.  They do have the normal food places in the various countries open as well, so you could choose to let your kids eat off those menus… but expect longer lines, and higher prices.

Personally, I see this as a great girls trip, or couples trip.