Doodles to Live By

Recently, I shared my experience making stickers with my Silhouette Cameo from an Illustrated Faith digital file.  Below I share how those stickers worked out in my Bible together with Elaine Davis’s Doodles to Live By Devotion Kit.

The first page of the devotional focused on 1 John 5:10:  “Whoever believes in the son of God has the testimony inside himself.”  In the daily devotional, Elaine Davis asked us to title the story of our life as a movie.  I recently discovered that the story of my life was made into a movie (Who knew it could be movie material?).  The movie is called “I Don’t Know How She Does It” and Sarah Jessica Parker plays a lady who works in the investment business and has two children.  The details are a little different, some are exaggerated and others romanticized, but it’s a pretty good snapshot of what my life looks like today.  Its a secular movie and doesn’t cover the topic of faith.  If the movie were more true to me, it would be titled:  “She Does It All through the One who Gives her Strength.”

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One thing I’ve discovered is that I have journaled many of the passages that pop up in devotionals.  What I’ve started to do is find another verse with a similar message.  I decided to pair 1 Peter 4:10 with Psalm 100….

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The tip-in lifts up to reveal a more active inside.  The outside of my life is pretty normal, but I have a rich interior life, always.

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Below is my favorite page inspired by the cheerful color palate.  I would never have thought of using pink and light orange with honey comb.  This verse is definitely a good doodle to live by!

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I turned to Psalm 143 as I reflected on my morning practices.  It’s always best to start the day with Jesus!

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I loved Elaine Davis’s thoughts on “rest.”  It’s helpful to know that there’s another person in the world who finds resting to be a challenge!  I’m definitely guilty of wanting to “Go, Go, Go.”  And I’ve learned that even my resting is more active.  (My mother tells me I’m an only child because I never would take a nap!)  Nothing has been more helpful to me in term of finding time to rest and play than Bible Journaling, which always rejuvenates my soul.

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Here’s a passage from the Bible that I fell in love with as a result of this devotional:  “My people will abide in peaceful habitation.”  God wants us to have safe places to live.  My home is not just a place where I rest.  Most days, I work from home and workout at home.  We prepare and eat our meals here.  I get involved in all kinds of crafty messes and welcome all the neighborhood children.  We occasionally have brave grown-up guests, too.  Our home rarely feels like a sanctuary, but its the perfect place for us, and I’m grateful for wonderful neighbors and a safe place to live!IMG_6656 (2)Proverbs 3:7-8:  Be not wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing for your flesh and medicine for you bones.

I would love to explore this idea further:  Our pastor mentioned in a sermon that the use of the word “bones” in the Bible refers not just to our physical bones, but to the core of who we are, what gives us our framework for living.  Every passage that I’ve read with the word “bones” in it makes more sense to me now.

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The next passage from the devotional was Colossians 3:16.  I love the encouragement that Paul gives us to “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  For me, this is what Bible Journaling is all about!  Colossians is heavily journaled in my Bible, so I put the verse next to Psalm 33 and it took on enriched meaning for me.  The page reminds me of Elaine’s message that when we gather to sing, it’s a happy occasion, like singing “Happy Birthday” at a party or singing with friends around a campfire.  Singing at church can have the same joyful feeling.IMG_6658 (2)

The next passage is: “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”  If I were reading this passage on my own, I would have interpreted this way:  Figuring out what truly motivates a person can be a challenge, but it’s possible with a little wisdom to discover true motives.  I think Elaine Davis takes a different approach.  She boldly starts out knowing our purpose:  “Getting out there & serving is our purpose.  It is our purpose to use our hands to serve our communities and our feet to walk alongside those in need.”  The passage could also be read:  A man of understanding draws out this true purpose and helps others know how to serve best.

For me, at least, a desire to serve others is something that motivates me strongly, so it all work outs just fine!

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Elaine shares that one Bible verse that hit her like a bolt of lightning and gave her strength during a tough time in her life was:  “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  She asked us to think of our own lightning bolt verses.  Here’s a few that come to mind:

For everyday circumstances:

  • I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
  • Love is patient and kind.

For scary moments:

  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

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I happened to work on the next passage on the day that it was youth Sunday at my church.  Seeing the high school students tell their faith stories brought back memories for me of preaching at Youth Sunday in the church where I grew up.  Everyone thought I was going to grow up to be a minister, but life has brought other changes.  Hearing the young men and women talk was a good reminder that the Jesus I knew when I was their age is still the same.  God keeps taking care of me!

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I like to make other people happy.  That’s just the way I am wired:  I can feel what others are feeling very easily and I’d just rather feel happy along with those around me!  It’s easy for me to cry with others, too.  I’ve grown to see this as a strength, but others are quick to turn it into a weakness:  “Oh, you are a people pleaser!” Here’s how I see the difference:  My self-worth is not tied up in making others happy.  I find my worth in Christ, because I know that Jesus died to bring me to God.

I recently went through a time in my life where I couldn’t do anything right.  Nothing I did made anyone happy!  It was just a season, but it was still hard on me.  Through that season, I learned to focus on discerning God’s will for my life and simply doing my best.

In general, I think that the very qualities for which we receive the most comments and criticism are clues to our greatest strengths.  There’s a positive flipside to every perceived weakness.  We are each created in unique way.  Our individuality is a gift, and God makes no mistakes.  God’s approval is the one that counts.

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I have journaled this passage from Romans many times, but there’s always room for some wordstrips!  I think this passage below is the ultimate doodle to live by.

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I had so much fun with this devotional!  I appreciated the stamps, the stickers, the digital supplements, and most of all the heart-felt message!  Happy doodling!

The Margins of Melinda Ransdell’s Garden…From the Edge of Her Bible to the Edge of Her Yard

Melinda Ransdell loves scripture and inviting others to engage the Bible through formative practices like Bible journaling.  She and her husband use the practices at their church in the bulletin (what, doodle in the margins of the Sunday order of worship!?  Yes!), with new members and in leadership development, as well as in  confirmation class.

I am inspired to know that one ordinary day Melinda looked at her yard and the neighborhood and realized there was a wonderful ‘margin’ there.  With her scriptural imagination, Melinda began to conceive a peace and prayer garden.  I loved seeing her garden come to life with photos posted on Instagram and Facebook.  I can just see her with coffee in hand, on her back deck, studying scripture, wondering what God might have her do in her ‘margins’ of life.

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Here is the story, in Melinda’s own words, of how she in-scripted the margins of her back yard.  Melinda explains,

“It’s all about finding peace in the chaos of this busy world we live in.

Very fitting, our garden is situated right off the busiest road in town. We don’t live in a big town but we are a main thorough fare for those heading West out of the capital Dover, DE.

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Our town Wyoming, DE, is a very quaint little place. All along the main street are beautiful properties with some nice landscaping. When we moved in we had a blank slate so I started thinking about what we could do.

So, like every normal person, I looked on pinterest for inspiration.

My husband and I definitely wanted a sitting area because our front porch is too small for sitting and getting to know our neighbors.

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That’s what we really wanted to do, get to know the town of Wyoming. A couple years ago we learned from our church district about a ministry called I-neighborhood. It is all about sharing the love of God with the people who live right next door and down the street or work at the local market. We’ve adopted such crazy and busy lifestyles in our society, that sometimes we forget to just take a second to look up and smile at the person ringing up our groceries. Let alone, take the time to intentionally form relationships with those who live right next to us. It’s all about being aware and looking for those opportunities to share God’s love with others. I want to do that by offering a place to sit. That’s how a restful, prayerful, meditative garden came to be. So I began to sketch:

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I’ve seen lots of Prayer labyrinths before. My church in college had a traveling one visit and the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington has a huge permanent outdoor one. A prayer labyrinth offers a place to slow down, walk, reflect, dwell with God and offer up prayers. Prayer Labyrinths have been used for thousands of years and can be found in some of the oldest Cathedrals. I wanted to offer people the opportunity to quiet their minds, take a rest from the craziness and experience some peace.

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There is also a popular practice I first discovered whole visiting some of the amazing gardens of Charleston, SC, it’s called a Peace Pole. On it reads, “May peace prevail on Earth” in several languages. I love the idea of promoting peace of Earth, especially through a faith that should be all about it.

On pinterest I stumbled upon a couple pictures of community prayer boxes. I love this idea! Giving an opportunity to have someone else offer prayer up for you, too, is supportive and builds community.
Hopefully the town of Wyoming, DE will come and take a rest. Take a moment to still their minds. To see someone cares. And just maybe they’ll also feel the great love God has for them.”

Local metal artist Graydie designed this “At Peace” sculpture.

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I have no doubt Melinda’s neighbors will definitely find peace the next time they find themselves on the edge!

When I took a glimpse at Melinda’s posts – the ‘resurrection’ story of her Garden’s margins became perfectly clear.  She started with a Bible study in Lent – check out this photo of her garden tablescape…

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…and look at what it transformed into after Easter:

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How could she not share this good news in her garden?

Creating Stickers with the Silhouette Cameo

The Silhouette Cameo

What is it?  It’s a software-driven cutting machine that lets you cut your own stickers and die cuts for Bible Journaling (among countless other applications!).

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Can I just say that the people at Illustrated Faith keep getting me deeper into the craft world?!?  Last summer, I heard Shanna Noel talking about printing and cutting images from the Revival Camp digital bible journaling kit with her Silhouette Cameo.  She showed off some adorable, perfectly cut feathers.

My husband surprised me with one for my birthday in August.  It’s a pretty incredible machine.  The only trouble:  Every time I use it, I have to revisit the instructions to remember how it all works!  I’ve written the following tutorial for myself as much as anyone!!!  I was inspired to use the machine again by the “Doodles to Live by Supplement.”

Here’s a step by step guide:

Step 1:  The very first step is to get an image.  Go to the Illustrated Faith Print and Pray Shop (or your favorite spot for digital art) and place an order.  Download the file to your computer.

Step 2:  The Illustrated Faith downloads are often PDFs, which don’t work with the free version of the Silhouette Studio software.  It’s pretty easy to convert a PDF to JPEG.  There are any number of free online image converters that you can find with a simple search.

The Silhouette software can be upgraded to the “Design Edition” for $50.  My understanding is that this edition of the software can handle PDF files.  I haven’t tried it yet.

It’s worth noting that the basic Silhouette software is free regardless of whether you have a Silhouette Cameo or not.  If you don’t have a Silhouette Cameo, it might be worth downloading the software to see how you like it before buying the machine since the software is a huge part of the overall experience.  There’s a bit of a learning curve to the software, but it’s powerful yet relatively simple and easy to use.

Step 3:  Once you have your images and they are in the right format, you can create a new file in Silhouette Studio.  As soon as you open a new file, set the page width to the size of your sticker paper under design page settings…

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Step 4:  Then open the image in your software.  The particular image I am using was designed to be printed landscape on a regular piece of paper, but when cutting, it helps to leave space for the registration marks. I decided to work with these as two separate portrait pages:  The doodles and the word strips.

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Step 5:  The next step is to add registration marks to the page.  These are marks on the page that help the cutter know that your page is aligned correctly.  Your image should fit within these marks.  Mine still clearly does not!  I uses the Type 1 registration marks with the default orientation.

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Step 6:  Now that all the key pieces are in place, it is time to cut off part of the image (all the word strips).  Curiously, the Silhouette Studio does not give you the option to crop a picture.  It does have a knife tool, however.  The knife tool works just like a knife:  You drag it across the image and the image is separated at the knife line.  If you hold the “shift” key as you use the knife, you get a nice straight line parallel to the side of your screen.  At first, it’s hard to see that anything changed.  Don’t worry.

As soon as you make the cut, you have to switch back to using the pointer.  (Don’t keep making more cuts!  If you make more cuts by accident, just “undo.”) You will be able to pick up and move part of the image to the side and delete it.  You can move the main image to the middle of the page.

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Step 7:  Next go to the “Trace” dialogue box; the icon looks a little like a slice of bread with jam.  (See the green arrow.)  First you select the trace area.  Then you choose “Trace Outer Edge.”  Orange lines will appear on the outside edge of the individual pictures.  The orange lines sit on top of the image as a layer, and do not appear when you print the documcent.  The cut lines tell the machine where to cut relative to the registration marks.

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Step 8:  Next you simply print your project.  I have a Brother color inkjet printer.  I used some matte white sticker paper that I picked up at Staples.

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Step 9:  Place the printed sticker paper onto the cutting mat, which is slightly sticky.

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Step 10:  Then it’s time to get ready to cut.  Go to the “cut settings” dialogue box and select “cut edge” and “white sticker paper.”

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Step 11:  Once you’ve set the type of paper you are using, the software tells you how to set the Silhouette Ratchet Blade.  There’s a little grey tool that comes with the machine that helps you set the depth of cut.

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Step 12:  After you put the cutting blade securely back in its spot, you load your mat into the machine.  Make sure that your Cameo is connected to your computer with the USB cable and plugged in.

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Step 13:  Then the fun begins.  If I were a better blogger, I would take a video of the next step!  It is seriously cool to watch the Silhouette Cameo cut.  One tip:  Leave plenty of room behind the cutter for the mat to come through!

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And that’s all there is to it!  It’s amazing that the machine can cut through the top layer without going through the sticker backing.  And the best part is that once you’ve gone through the set-up, you can save the project and keep printing stickers again and again.

One more tip:  I also wanted to make stickers from the word strips.  I found that the tracing tool did not work well with this project.  It picked up on the black font, but not the edges of the colorful rectangles.  Not to fear!  There is a solution.  There are drawing tools along the side, which allow you to freehand draw the cut lines.  It’s a little bit tedious to do, but it worked great.  I used a rectangle around the whole thing.  Then I drew one horizontal line and copied and pasted it down the blocks.  Then I drew the smaller vertical lines, sometimes copying and pasting, sometimes just drawing more little lines.  There may be an easier way but this got the job done.

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I have the new “Doodles to Live by” devotional kit, the supplemental materials, and some paints.  I can’t wait to get started!!!

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If you are new to the Silhouette Cameo, I hope this quick tutorial helps.  If you have any tips for me, please comment!

 

 

From Crisis to Healing and Wholeness

I had a difficult conversation this past week, I had trouble sleeping for three nights turning it over in my head.  After the third night, I finally drifted to sleep with this Psalm on my mind.

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Have you ever had one of those times in your life where everything that happens to you seems deeply significant and imbued with meaning?

In the morning, I woke up early and travelled to Ellicot City, MD, with some fellow deacons from church. We went to a training session about Stephen’s ministries and learned about help others through seasons of grief.  The presentation was wonderful, but what impressed me most was just the feeling of being in a room filled with over 100 people who wanted to learn how to come along side others who are hurting.

We were given a list of about 30 or so problems that people face in life.  Then we listed how many people we could think of from our church facing these issues.  The keeper of the prayer list at church was in my group, so he had a fairly good idea of identifiable needs.  We counted over 140 for a church with 500 members.  When it hit me that one quarter of the congregation is facing a big challenge in their life, it gives me great compassion for our ministers!  How can they possibly meet such big a need!?!

We learned that when people are in a crisis situation, they stand at a fork in the road:  one path leads to a downward spiral and the other path leads to wholeness and healing.  Companionship is essential in times of crisis so that we don’t lose our way.  A Christian friend comes along side a person in crisis and doesn’t leave.  The purpose of the friendship is to wait with the person in a non-judgmental way and simply listen, just to be there until the situation resolves.  Most of what a person goes through as they weep is personal to them, only the griever can know the pain.  We were told its ok to cry along with a person in crisis:  “Jesus wept.”  The speaker told us that sometimes these situations create a lot of anger within the person and sometimes it gets directed at the caring friend, not to be surprised if it happens.

Getting back to my sleepless nights:  One of the people in the room was a Catholic priest.  A friend told me once that Catholic priests are accustomed to random people coming up to them needing to confess something, after three sleepless nights I felt the need to confess a lack of forgiveness regarding a situation in my life.  It’s a little awkward for me as Presbyterian to do something like this.  I just went and sat near him during a five minute break.  A lady was sitting beside him sharing about the loss of her daughter.  I wasn’t about to interrupt that, so I sat just prayed silently as I sat beside him, and my heart started to burn inside me.  I started to feel better and decided that if he didn’t have time to talk with me it was enough to pray beside him.

But once the lady got up, he turned to me with a gentle and inquisitive glance.  I said that I was have having some trouble with forgiveness.  He put his hand on my shoulder and prayed as if he knew everything that I’d been through.  The words were just what I needed to hear.  He prayed into the start of the next presentation.  And he looked at me with tremendous compassion and love and asked me to repeat after him:  In the name of Jesus, I renounce anger; in the name of Jesus, I renounce unforgiveness; in the name of Jesus, I renounce resentment; in the name of Jesus, I renounce fear; and in the name of Jesus, I renounce control.  And I felt a burden lifted.  I felt closure to a chapter in my life.

In five minutes (plus about two!), the priest comforted a grieving mother and lifted a burden from me, but he didn’t get a stretch break.  How did he do it?

I went home and slept well.

When I went to church today, our minister preached on the passage about the disciples and how they met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, but didn’t recognize him.  They asked:  “Were not our hearts burning insides us?”  I thought about the feeling I had as I sat beside the priest the day before.  The pastor shared his own experiences of meeting Christ as he interacted with others.  He shared how a veteran reached out to him and grabbed his hand firmly saying:  “We need help” and how my minister felt Christ’s call to serve veterans with post traumatic stress disorder at that moment.  He shared how we all have moments where we meet Christ in unexpected ways on the road to Emmaus.

In the afternoon, I went to Gettysburg to cheer on a friend who serves as a marshal in the Face of America bike ride from DC to Gettysburg.  Over 140 veterans participate in the ride in bicycles designed for their lost limbs.  I took time to appreciate both the conflict that took place in Gettysburg and also the battles the veterans have fought and continue to fight.  But mostly, I felt energized and inspired by the veterans.  I saw firsthand that its possible for a battlefield to be transformed to a place of camaraderie and for personal crisis to resolve into healing and wholeness.

I am grateful for caring people:  ministers and priests, friends who come along side other in crisis, and a good guy who pushes wounded warriors up the big hills!  Christ is alive!

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From the Margins of her Bible…to the Margins in America: On the Road with Peggy Buckley Thibodeau

If you follow Peggy Buckley Thibodeau on Instagram (Instagram address: @peggythibodea) or (Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/peggy.thibodeau), then you know she took her love for journaling on a road trip across the southern half of the United States this spring.  I am so inspired by how her love for God in the margins of her Bible – took her across America to our far corners meeting folks along the way!  We loved sharing a bit of her story earlier this year, now, here is an exciting update! Listen to her story in her own words……

Here is the inspiration for the trip. A while back, I joined Home Exchange in hopes of traveling to Europe to paint plein air (outdoor). It hasn’t worked out yet, but certainly ignited major wanderlust in my soul. I would talk about my dreams with my husband. He encouraged me. I figured it would be more practical to start with a US trip. I dreamed of touring the US with my watercolors. He said, “Just do it, honey. Go do what you want to do!” I HAVE THE BEST HUSBAND! I started thinking about how to do it cheaply, and found lots of folks on Youtube that live or vacation in their vans. I did lots of research, bought a good mattress, and some other supplies, and took off with no itinerary. My inner voice was telling me to live out the phrase, “I am a feather on the breath of God.”

 

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The Lord was my constant companion on my trip. I felt His presence everywhere I went, everything I did, every choice I made, every painting I created. The river of living water flows through me! It does not come and go. He is always there. I had times when I would become aware of the guidance I was receiving. I had an experience in Shreveport, La that was a turning point for me. Here is an excerpt from my travel journal on that day: “When I came out of the library, there was a brochure on the ground for the Walter B Jacobs Memorial Nature Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was on Trip Advisor, but I had decided I was in a hurry to get to Edward and Leigh-Ann’s in Fort Worth. When I saw the brochure, I decided to go. I knew it was the Lord’s encouragement to slow down and enjoy nature. I’m so glad I did. On the way there, I kept seeing signs that said “bridge out ahead.” I turned into the nature center about 100 feet before the crashed bridge. I couldn’t believe it! I went off on a short hike through the wildest, greenest, mossiest forest I’ve ever seen. It had a scent different from what I’m accustomed to – earthier and less “green.” You can sense the effects of the swampland. The Louisiana humidity clung to my skin. The afternoon light trickled through the trees in patches. The forest was primordial and dense and wild and I walked through its core. It pulled at me as if I was walking through a web. My breathing slowed and everything got still. I had a revelation that I was rushing my trip, feeling I had to “earn” it by producing paintings. In that forest, I felt my soul relax into a place of rest. I walked out of the forest and back into the world the way one walks out of a cathedral onto the street, knowing the air will be different, and bolstered for whatever may lie ahead.
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On Good Friday, I was hiking next to a river in Pueblo, Colorado. It was early in the morning and I was all alone. I looked down at the rocks on the riverbank, and one of them jumped out at me. I picked it up, and it was a pink rock with a white cross on it. It was a gift from the Giver on an important day.
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From before I left until the I got home, everyone I met or told about my trip was calling me brave. I credit my mom, who raised me with the “I am woman, hear me roar” mentality. I also had a promise from my heavenly father that I created this painting to reflect what became my theme verse for the week from the book of Joshua.
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 visited 14 states in 29 days, drove 6462 miles, did 64 pages of art, and spent a total of $1571.57 (this includes everything from fixing up the van to arriving home yesterday). I went to these fun places:
Savannah, GA
Valdosta, Ga
Tallahassee, FL
Destin, FL
Pensacola, FL
New Orleans, LA
Lafitte, LA
Baton Rouge, LA
Shreveport, LA
Fort Worth, TX
Granbury, TX
Fredericksburg, TX
Bee Cave, TX
Austin, TX
Lockhart, TX
San Antonio, TX
Corpus Christi, TX
Marfa, TX
Albuquerque, NM
Santa Fe, NM
Taos, NM
Pueblo, CO
Colorado Springs, CO
Garden City, KS
Lawrence, KS
Nashville, TN
I learned some stuff, had grand adventures, met interesting people, and had fun making art while seeing part of this amazing and gorgeous country.
One of my favorite places was New Mexico – and I love the paintings I enjoyed doing in the landscape there!
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People have asked me my favorite places, and I have a couple that stand out. One of them is the state park surrounding the St. Mark’s Lighthouse in Crawfordsville, Florida. I sat on a bench under huge palm trees sketching the lighthouse. Three crows perched in the fronds above my head, talking to me as I painted. I was totally alone on thousands of acres of pristine swampland. There were white water lilies dotting the water surrounding me as far as I could see. It was magical in a way that is hard to describe.
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When you sit out in nature, painting a reflection of what the Creator has made, it forces you to take the time to truly appreciate where you are in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise, For each painting I created, I remember the weather, the scents, the animals, the colors – the whole experience is cemented down in my innermost being.
I also loved the River Walk in San Antonio… who doesn’t?!
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Another favorite place was Twin Falls in Austin, TX. I walked through the woods and fields of yellow wildflowers and bluebonnets and butterflies to arrive at Twin Falls. If it sounds idyllic, well… ummm…. that’s because it is. All this is right in the middle of the city on Austin’s greenbelt, a system of trails that winds through the city next to the river. When you see cars parked on the frontage road, there’s a trailhead nearby. That’s me jumping into the river! The water felt wonderful. It reminded me of the Mountain Dew commercial from the 70’s.
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Here’s my depiction of the falls in my journal:
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The most important tool for me is the waterbrush. I use the aquash by Pentel. Don’t be seduced by cheaper brands, as they suction dirty water back into the well. But the thing I most appreciated was my toolbag from Harbor Freight Tools, gifted to me by Connie Denninger. It was a lifesaver! Here it is in use as 3 young artists got a quick lesson from me.
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And of course, the main supply I needed for this trip was my van:
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I took my love for journaling – which I enjoy in my Bible and in my artwork – out on the road.  This allowed conversations and prayers with amazing folks like this woman Patricia from San Antonio for whom I prayed.  The best part of my trip?  Patricia found peace and healing from that prayer.
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When I got home, this is how I felt:
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A Heart that Receives

It feels like forever since I’ve done a post!  I’ve been happily absorbed for a few weeks in Illustrated Faith Devotional called “A Heart that Receives.”  I love working with a devotional.  I find in the midst of a busy life, it’s nice to be given a verse and some thoughts along with the verse to get me started.  The Illustrated Faith devotionals come with art supplies and a color scheme (even better!).  My Bible always feels changed in a positive way, once I’ve completed one.  This has been my favorite Illustrated Faith devotional kit.  I love Bible stories and find every time I revisit them I glean something new.  I probably should have shared the pages one-by-one, but here’s the whole thing…

This devotional began with the story of Noah.  Kim Marquette, the author of the devotional asks:  “If God gave me an assignment with great detail that would take years and involved something I have never seen before, would I have the faith to follow through?”  As I ponder the question:  Through the unfolding of the Bible,we are given instruction in how to love God and each other; we are invited into a lifetime of love to prepare us for a heaven we have yet to see, but can only imagine.  May we trust God like Noah and do all that God commands us to do, most of all to love one another as Jesus loves.

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The next page of the devotion turns to the story of Abraham.  God gave this man instructions to go, promising him offspring, land, and that he would be blessed to be a blessing to others.  But 25 years passed before Abraham and Sarah had a son and named him Isaac.  Kim writes:  “Waiting can be discouraging.  Sometimes the promises of God unfold quickly and sometime’s its 25 years.  The waiting years are fertile ground for an intimate relation with God to grow.”

On the day that I read this page of the devotional, I looked out my kitchen window to see our two children playing with neighborhood children on the swingset in our backyard.  I was so filled with overwhelming gratitude that the scene made it into my Bible!  When we first moved into our home 15 years ago, I planted some pine tress and envisioned the spot where the swingset sits now.  It took another 5 years of waiting and hoping for my son to arrive.  The wait was hard on me, but it was a time to grow closer to God.   I suppose the best thing about the long wait is that I appreciate so much more the little moments that make motherhood a joy.

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Speaking of dreams, Joseph, the dreamer is the subject of the next day’s devotion.  Joseph is a wonderful example of a man with a heart of receivership.  Kim writes:

He receives the dreams and believes them.  He receives assignments in the home of Pharaoh, he receives a prison sentence, he receives the opportunity to interpret another’s dream, and then he receives the mantle of leadership that eventually saves his people and all of Egypt from a famine.

Through all these events, God’s favor rested upon Joseph and everything he experienced, the good and the bad served a purpose.  I had a pastor who was fond of saying:  “Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.”

As I reread the story of Joseph, my imagination was captured by the story of Potiphar’s wife.  I found myself wondering:  When the wife could see that what Joseph did was successful and that her husband had nothing to worry about, but what to eat:  Why would she cause trouble for him?  That doesn’t seem particularly in her own self-interest.  Still, wherever Joseph went, things ran smoothly.  The keeper of the jail put him in charge, and whatever he did, the lord made it to succeed.  Joseph rises strong from every setback.  His life story is testimony to the truth that all things work together for good for those who are called according to God’s purpose.

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By way of contrast, Kim shares Moses as an example of a person reluctant to receive.  When God calls him and asks him to go talk to Pharoah, he has all kinds of excuses as to why he can’t.  He claims that he’s not eloquent and that he’s slow of speech and tongue.  He begs God to please just send someone else.  I always appreciate that in the Bible, the heroes of faith all have their weaknesses.  As I reread this passage, I asked myself what advice I would give to Moses in this situation and I thought of verses from Hebrew 13:20-21:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant equip you with everything good that you may do his will working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory for ever and ever.

As I read the passage again, the language that St. Paul used brought to mind parts of the Exodus story.  I reflected on how much passed between what Moses saw and accomplished until Jesus and how every moment, even the weak moments like this culminated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Moses will grow, receive, wait on God, become strong and courageous, learn to say “yes, Lord” and see that God works for the good.

(I think I used all the word stamps from the Devotional kit on one page!  And the flowers, too.)

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Up next:  Joshua!  The name Jesus comes from a Greek translation of the Aramaic short form of Yeshua  (in English Joshua). In the Bible, its common to see parallels between people of the same name.  The name Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation”. Its Joshua who leads the Hebrews into the promised land.

Kim notes that the phrase “Be strong and courageous” appears four times in the first 18 verses of Joshua.  The first three “Be Strongs” are spoken by God and are followed by the promise of an inheritance, an exhortation to be careful to do all the law that Moses commanded, and an assurance that the Lord God is with His people wherever they go.  The fourth “Be strong” is the people of Israel telling Joshua to be strong and courageous after they answer Joshua:  “Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever your command him, shall be put to death.”

Jesus was put to death, even though he was perfectly obedient, so that we might have an inheritance in heaven, that his righteousness may be ours, and that we may be with God for eternity.

I illustrated this page before, so I just took time to write out the Lord’s instructions to Joshua on a tip-in.  I used Faber-Castell brush pens on the flower stamps.

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The instructions took up both sides of the tip-in.  It was a pleasant surprise that the “Be Strong and Courageous” tip-in that came with the kit coordinated with the colors I already had on the page!

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I really got absorbed in the story of Esther, in part because it’s not a Bible story that’s as familiar to me as many others.  I watched the story of Esther on Netflix and read the book of Esther several times.  To the extent that I’m familiar with the story, I’ve heard it told as a story of courage and civil disobedience just as Kim told the story:

In Esther’s day no one approached the king unless summoned.  This one act could cost Ether her life.  However, not asking for mercy could cost many their lives.  Esther asks all the local Jews to fast for three day. Then she starts the process of asking for mercy from the King for her people.

As I read it and reread it, it struck me odd that Esther is known for her one act of disobedience, but this seems to be an exceptional event in the life of a woman who was willing to take instruction and easily won the grace and favor of the king.  The story took on new meaning for me as I read it the story of a bride preparing to meet her king.

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I am not sure why, but I was really struck by the words:  six months oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women.  Esther spent a long time preparing to meet her king!  (The Netflix movie glosses over this point!)

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This next page just had me singing…”Don’t you be afraid of giants in your way.  With God you know that anythings possible!”

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The devotional took me on a quick visit to the book of Job.  I appreciated this quote from Kim:  “Learning to receive, preparing to receive happens long before the presentation of something, someone, or situation.  A heart of receivership is cultivated through and intimate relationship with God.”

As I worked on the page below, I was reminded that those moments in life, where what we hold dear is stripped away we encounter God more directly, particularly when we have lived a blameless and upright life and feared God and turned away from evil.  Job declares:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.”  All the things of this earth will pass away, but God is eternal. In Christ we can be assured that we will be with God forever.  Blessed be God’s name!

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Our true hope is not found in the things of the world, but in Christ…

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The page of the devotional had me singing again…

And pondering this question from Kim in the “A Heart that Receives” devotional:  What if your life lived with a heart of receivership changed the lives of others? Causing many to worship your God?  (Like Daniel).

It’s an honor to think about inspiring others to worship God in new ways.  I was looking for a definition of worship.  Connie Denninger of Vintage Grace supplied me with a long list of definitions for just about any Christian term.  Worship was defined this way:

To adore, obey, revere, and focus positive attention on.  Any action or attitude that expresses praise, love, and appreciation for God.  Can be expressed through obedience, the way we treat people, can be private or public.

Bible Journaling is such an important part of my private worship of God and helps me to make worship and prayer apart of my life throughout my day in all that I do.

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As I reflected on the life of Nehemiah, I just thought what a blessing that God brings restoration and allows us to be part of His restoration work….

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Regarding Mary, Kim asks in the devotional:  “Is God asking you the impossible?  Do you consider yourself the Lord’s servant?”

Like Mary, may I say, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you will.”

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The following passage is one I illustrated simply many months ago.  I love Kim’s view of John as a waymaker for Jesus.  Kim writes, “it’s not easy for anyone to be second.  To fully understand and receive the role as one who is making the way for the one who is the Way!  Bot John received his assignment and set an example.”  As I pondered this, I could think of so many people who make way for others:  parents, teachers, mentors, pastors, and coaches.  I think being part of another person’s success, even a small part, can be deeply gratifying.  I can think of many who relate to John’s words:  “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”

As I read through the whole passage, I was struck by a verse that I’ve never noticed before:  “A person can not receive one thing unless it is given to him by heaven.”  This seemed to fit with the theme of the devotional!

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I’ve been using the “Yes, Lord” stamp quite often as I worked through this devotional.  I admit to tearing up a bit when I read the words “Yes, Lord” as Peter’s response to Jesus after Peter was asked if he loved Jesus.  I always associate keys with Peter.  As I looked at this passage, I thought to myself:  “The keys to the kingdom:  take care of one another!”  To bring God’s kingdom to earth we simply need to live in love and serve willingly as called.

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The final page of the devotional took me to the garden where Jesus prayed:  “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”  This has always been a hard passage for me to read.  I hate the thought of Jesus alone and in agony.

I wasn’t sure how to illustrate this page.  I looked online for inspiration and saw many familiar pictures of Jesus alone and praying, but then I saw the picture of the angel comforting Jesus a painting by Carl Bloch.  I couldn’t see anything else.  I imagine the angel whispered the words that the Lord spoke to Joshua:  “Be strong and courageous.”

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Thanks for joining me on this journey through the devotional!  Blessings!

Art, Education and Spiritual Formation…for Artists like YOU!

This month the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators newsletter is featuring the theme: “The Educator as Artist.”  Since so many of you connected to this “Journaling the Bible” blog are educators and artists, I wanted to share this great resource with you.

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This newsletter “The Educator as Artist”  features articles by Sybil MacBeth author of “Praying in Color” (check out the new version of her classic – one that includes coloring pages!), Lisa Nichols Hickman author of “Writing in the Margins”, Allison Wehrung, Theresa Cho and Carmel Tinnes.  You might find of particular interest Lisa’s article on the blog “Making Art in Your Bible.”

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Enjoy these resources – and let us know how they inspire your work, your life, your worship, your reading of scripture!

GIVE TO THE LORD THE BEST OF THE BEST

This week Pat Nygren Davis’ Bible journaling caught my eye with her colorful poppies.

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She explained that in her study of Numbers 18:28-29 she learned the Israelites were commanded to give their best to the Levites. The Levites in turn were instructed to give their best. Only the best of the best was a worthy gift to the Lord. Her prayer after reading?  “How I can give the best of my best to the Lord?”  (Pat said she modeled this page after watching a periscope by Ashley Haake (aka @magmagandme)).

I reached out to her to learn a bit more about her.  She said she was a self-professed “math nerd” who got hooked on Bible journaling.  I asked her how she got into Bible journaling.  Here’s what she had to say:

I have always learned through writing/jotting/doodling.  I can’t use the calendar on my phone because appointments don’t register in my brain unless I write it in my paper calendar.  Books I own are all marked up and full of underlining and notes. Here is one of my first Bible Art Journaling pages – “He is Risen!”

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I don’t know how I came to buy a book titled  Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible It gave me permission to jot, note and underline in my Bible.  What?!?! I began by drawing a little heart in the margin every time Scripture mentioned God’s love for me – WOW!  There’s a bunch!

That led to buying a wide margin Bible and I started doodling through Psalms and my CBS study in Matthew.  It is still the Bible I take to church and use for my Bible studies.  I can find Matthew 15:27 “Yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” easily because I remember doodling a little dog in the corner of that page!

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My supplies at that time included crayola twistable pencils, a few chalk pastels, gel bible highlighters and a black sharpie no-bleed pen (through trial and error on what could be used without bleeding through).

Then I saw a Facebook post of an acquaintance who had journaled a tree for Psalm 1.  I was so excited!  She mentioned Illustrated Faith and Bible Journaling, so I began my research online and found Facebook groups and Instagram feeds!  I ordered a journaling Bible right away.  My first entry was for Easter 2016 and was done with chalk pastels and a black chalk marker I had. Then I was hooked!

I am so thankful for the Instagram and Facebook communities of Bible Art Journalers!  (I haven’t found very many in my city.)  I have learned so much and they are a great encouragement.  I have not seen anyone else’s Journaling Bible in real life!

My favorite part about BAJ is the time spent reading and mulling over the Word and then figuring out how to put my thoughts and feelings in art form (AND be something I can actually do! Let’s just say I have troubles with faces and hands!).  It’s using creativity to make the Word of God alive to me in a personal way.

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Right now I am working through the end of Deuteronomy as part of trying to read the Bible in a year.  Trying to see beyond the OT laws and sacrifices to what the scripture says about God has helped me grow in understanding of our great God. He is the same today, yesterday and always!

Lately I’ve enjoyed doing “Tiny Scripture Doodles.”

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A friend named Nichole got me hooked.   Her Instagram name is (at)goosekeeperdesigns. She has an etsy store where she sells travelers notebooks etc. She sells a monthly undated calendar with 1″x2″ blocks that works great but one could just draw out their own blocks if desired.

The above picture is one of the months I did while going through Psalms. Check out #tinyscripturedoodles on Instagram and see the variety of styles. I enjoyed doing them as it kept me in the Word each day. Most days I would read the Psalm in the morning, reflect on it through the day, and then do a quick doodle on the calendar in the evening.

Some of my favorite supplies now include Watercolors and Pigma Micron Pens, though I started with Crayola Twistable Pencils, gel highlighters, chalk pastels, and a Sharpie no-bleed black pen. My medium of choice now is watercolor and I’m trying acrylic paint.  I have played with NeoColor IIs and watercolor pencils.  I own a set of Prismacolor pencils and use them in my regular (non-journaling Bible).   I also like the Tombow Kuretake Fude pen for lettering and the Pigma Micron black pens. My current favorite watercolors are Pelikan and Windsor-Newton Cotman.  I’ll usually try anything once!

I would not call myself an artist (before BAJ I had not touched a paintbrush since junior high art class!), but I LOVE the journey of learning new things.  I have used internet images to trace (not so much anymore), to copy, and to be inspired.  I study other people’s work and check out periscopes and YouTube tutorials on Bible Art Journaling, watercolor, lettering, and any other kind of art that might find its way into my Bible.

My prayer is that my pages reflect our Lord God and give God glory and honor and praise.

Happy Mail

I received some happy mail yesterday:  Some We R Memory Keepers Envelope Wraps from my Bible Journaling friend Connie Denninger, author of Vintage Grace.  She discovered that these stickers, designed for dressing up an envelope, are just the right width for our Bible margins.  They are a great option for covering up bleedthrough.

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Earlier in the day, I was sorting through some papers hoping to find the physical form I needed for my daughter’s kindergarten registration, when I came across a coloring page that I received when I attended an awesome Visual Faith event at Connie’s church.

The coloring page led me to the perfect verse for one of the stickers that Connie sent me and the Psalm prove to be just exactly where I needed to be spending some time in the Word.  I felt blessed!

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Psalm 37 is a good reminder to wait on God and keep His way.  And the bicycle reminds me of what it means to follow God:  You have to stay well-balanced, keep going, and look to the road ahead!

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My husband and I were both brought up to believe if you do well in school and work hard, you will do well.  We have three jobs between us and are often up past midnight doing work.  There are times when it can be discouraging.  Our parents never worked quite this hard and some things they took for granted are a struggle for us.  We see other people doing just as well or better by not doing the right things in life.  Psalm 37 reminds me that this problem is as old as time, but also it provides this assurance:  God does not forsake His saints.  God provides for us as we do our best to walk in the way our parents taught us and God shows us in His Word.

 

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It was so nice to receive some fun mail, which randomly turned into a bit of needed encouragement.

One, two, whatever you do, start it well and carry it through.

Try, try, never say die.

Things will come right, you know, by and by.

PEACE AND LIGHT – Playing in prayer and scripture with Suzanne Stovall Vinson

Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.

I am beyond excited to introduce you to Suzanne Stovall Vinson owner of Silver Tree Art.  Below, in her poetic voice, you’ll hear how she fell in love with praying in color.  And, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of her favorite artistic tools!

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When I see photos of her studio space pop up on my Facebook feed, I want to transport myself from snowy western Pennsylvania to her light-filled art and gathering room in Richmond,Virginia.

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Suzanne’s work is beyond the margins of scripture, but in every image she exudes what it means to “pray in color.”  Take a look!  I think you’ll fall in love immediately.  Here’s what Suzanne had to say about her practice of painting and praying…

Somehow, I got into journaling and praying with paint and color when my hands met my heart, and my head and my health poured forth.

I started reading and experimenting with a mixed media art journaling approach to my devotional time through the great work of books like “Wild Surrender” and “Create for the One Who Made me” by  Mindy Lacefield.

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My daily practice is distilled into the essence of listening. Reading Krista Tippet speaks of “generous listening” which I find to be luxurious – wrapped in silk and lace – at some point listening becomes a conversation, too, once you’ve listened long enough.

I am inspired by the shapes and colors in nature, and by the interweaving color stories in my imagination as brush moves across paper. I love, love moss and seed pods. Lichen and leaves and ferns. I love blooms and trees. I love rusty things and barn wood.

I process life through my paintbrush. So when I’ve had a trail run or a walk in the neighborhood, the joy of that experience enters the page. When I am feeling fatigued and worn out, I find energy in painting. When I am in a dark space, painting brings me into the light.

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Somehow, I meet the right people at the right time. friendships are foundational in my path to wholeness and healing. friendships help me to survive the fatiguing moments of motherhood and life. near my 20’s i was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. i’ve learned in the last 20 years that i need a different pace, a rhythm of work and life that needs to shift according to my body’s needs. i’m reminded again and again through health and wellness ((or the lack thereof)) what i need to maintain a healthy course. most of the time, i want to pretend that fatigue isn’t there, that i’m fine. then i over-do the work-flow and under-do the self care practices. i skip lunch or work through half the night. while my work gives me energy, avoiding meals and sleep isn’t sustainable for any of us.

And I love to dream big. i dream often, setting those hopes and dreams to paper, object, word, art. i put them into flames and let the smoke carry them to the grandmothers. i ask for help. dreaming big these days, i’m aiming to spread the word about the work i do in the world and tell others why i do what i do and what i believe it can do for the world. i make art to care for my sacred soul. i make art that is made to care for others through rituals of healing, receiving care and love, and to release what is carried that no longer needs to be. my wisdom cards are shared from me to you through social media and in my wee etsy shop and Silver Tree Art studio in Ginter Park. those soul seeds of wisdom cards are then carried to our tribes in times of loss, celebration, when cancer shows up, and when we need to be reminded we are beautiful and so, so very loved. my candles and sacred strikes are shared in much the same ways. my prints aim to add delight.

When I started moving from purely abstract into integrating the wisdom I was hearing, I found my art rooted in a place of growth. My art began to grow as I gave myself permission to use the materials I loved the most, watercolors.

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The art went deeper as I gave myself permission to trust my intuition and combine ink and pencil into my work. If I did all this in secret, i would be fed. I’ve chosen to share through my blog(s) and social media over the years. Sharing helps me to expand my heart and my art. I love hearing the stories of others who tell me that I made the piece for them, that the message or image spoke to them in a particular way. I believe that’s part of the art-making. The art is something and the sharing and seeing is another art form.

i am an artist, mother, and minister living an intentional life toward wholeness, kindhearted listening, and compassionate care. when i listen to myself and those i trust in the tribe that encircles me, i hear that i am a loving mother who has banked really good times and when i am the too-tired-to-say-the-right-thing-first mama, i slow down and show some forgiveness where needed, asking forgiveness when necessary. i am a mother of two very sweet souls whose lives i’m thrilled to witness unfold. one is 10.75 and the other 3.5. each adds wonder, delight, and levity on the best days. my partner in life is my one-and-only-true-love who i’ve been married to for 13 years. he’s my grounding and my joy. my love for my love deepens in our growing together. as an artist, i create soul wisdom art, which is art that is meant to deepen your experience of life, delight and connection. as a minister, i gather women around the table in circles, mini-retreats, and retreats where we experience ritual, healing, rest, and the creative flow as kindred spirits. my gatherings are said to be “life giving” where “you leave more rested than you walked in” and you experience synchronicity, self care, and a deep soul exhale. i also love the opportunities i am given speak and facilitate retreats, conferences, and gatherings.

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I’ve always been a creator from my earliest days of mudpies, and grass and blooming soups in rain water. I’d paint or color and play, play play. I loved 4H as an avenue of exploring through travel, conversation, and the work of my hands. My education was at a private liberal arts school in MS in business education and a master of education in guidance and counseling, then a master of divinity studies and post grad coursework in bereavement care and chaplaincy. I was a minister in the church in some form from the time I was in my early 20’s. Before that, I babysat for families and sold plants at a nursery, which carried me through college. during my first masters and undergrad, I worked within the laboratory preschool at the college – cooking and teaching in the afternoons. I loved gathering the art supplies and creating projects for the 3, 4, 5 year olds to create. I loved it all.

My calling expanded from the time I was 16 until now. Before selling art, I ministered in church, facilitated bereavement groups before moving more into chaplaincy. Then my call reached for a space of my own, and I moved into the studio space so I could welcome groups into my own space rather than relying solely for contract work. I’ve always had a short-term contract outside the studio space to work with folks in group facilitation or chaplaincy. Now I am relying upon the intersection of art and spirituality, the healing work of gathering women together, and showing up for speaking engagements, retreats, and groups and believing something wonderful happens when we’re sharing the same air and space for a period of time.

my business is silver tree art where i make art, lead mini-retreats and gatherings in the studio, as well as travel to lead retreats for organizations, non-profits, and churches. i specialize in working with groups who seek healing, wholeness, and slowing down.

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my studio is painted “reflection pool” blue with accents of red, brown, and black. there are 5 large windows and windowed closets. you feel like you’re in a tree house, looking out among trees and rooftops. Within the walls of the studio, there are turquoise ball jars filled with buttons, baskets upon baskets of rik rak, ribbon, paper, paints, and fabrics. the studio functions as retail space, gathering space, and in-action-artist-studio space. after moving into the space, I had 12 or so women gathered around the studio tables for a studio blessing. since then the birthday celebrations and mini retreats continue to bless the space. when you walk in, it’s a wonderland of creativity and visual delight. it’s an artist’s treasure box.

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in my studio i hold an evening creativity circle mini-retreat where women gather around the table for a small fee ($40) for just over 2 hours. we have a light snack, a 10-12 minute guided meditation of my creation, a creative project, and conversation woven with poetry and readings. each gathering is unique in theme.

walking you through a mini-retreat :: when you gather at the table, you are greeted with opening words from a poem, a time to light candle(s), and a time to pause and consider what you hope for. we begin with deep breathing and guided meditation as we move into our time of retreat. deepening the relaxation, we create together, with a project suzanne leads us into from the guided meditation. everyone, at every comfort level of creativity from none to great, feels comfortable diving into the creative play. conversation, readings, and poetry and questions are interwoven during our creative play. what is shared is sacred and just right for the evening gathering. you’ll leave more relaxed than you entered, with more energy and care to share with those in your world. there’s magic, too, along with the mystery and soul work that is best experienced than explained.

i also offer private gather your tribe mini-retreats, birthday celebrations, and day long or overnight retreats for groups. i’m available for speaking engagements and workshops as well. my art is made available through silvertreeart.etsy.com.

Micah 6:8 has been especially close to my heart for many years, and I have finally made it art that I keep near.

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Growing into a woman, Proverbs 3:5-6 was always in my pocket. So many verses have been underlined and written over the years.

I especially love stories from the Hebrew Bible. There is such rich imagery and lessons throughout – and humor. I love the humor infused in Scripture as much as I love the Wisdom throughout.

My favorite materials include:

Medium Rollerball Pens
Koi Pens
Fluid 100 cold press watercolor paper
no 2 round princeton select brush
escoda prado watercolor brushes

oil pastels

Bristol Strathmore Smooth

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Tombow pens from Japan

 

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Schmincke Watercolors

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