All his names

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Do you have a nickname?

Annika and I just finished reading Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  Little Jeffrey is nicknamed Maniac because, well, he is pretty manic about a lot of things.  At the end of the book we discussed what significance his nickname had to him, to the other characters, and to the book as a whole.  I have a lot of nicknames for Miss Annika:  koala, tree frog, monkey, Miss A, Annika bonika, and more.  They all have something to do with her personality, they are all special to her, they all endear her to me.  Even though she scowls at me, I know that she likes them.  They are something special between the two of us.

I love that Jesus has many names.  That we can call on him using a moniker that defines the moment and the need.  That can define our relationship with him.

In Talledega Nights Will Ferrell has a silly scene where he talks about praying to the baby Jesus, the teenage Jesus, the bearded Jesus.  It is silly.  But actually I like the point it brings up.

Jesus is who He is to each of us.  He just wants to have a relationship with you.  He will answer no matter how you call.  When we believe, He will bless us with grace and love that knows no bounds.   He is God.  He hears us, he listens, he knows.  He will call you HIS.

I like that.

Emmanuel is my favorite by the way.  🙂  And I prefer the teacher Jesus.

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Keeping perspective this holiday

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And then there is this piece.  I had to do one silly one.  But, really, this is the one I might need in poster size on my mirror every morning.

I love the Christian part of Christmas.  I am not a gifts and Santa kind of person.  I dread it…starting NOW I break into a sweat anytime I consider having to find something for someone else.  I put too much pressure on myself.  Writing about it is giving me the heebie jeebies.  My weird mental block with gifts is a whole lifetime with a psychiatrist worth of story, let alone in a blog post.

I usually get all worked up, end up on a soapbox, or hiding in a corner, and really just want to stay in my room for the season.

So this is my mantra this year…don’t get your tinsel in a tangle Nicole.  Keep it cool.  Keep it loose.  Focus on the love.  Untangle my thoughts, my emotions, my hot buttons.

Instead let the tinsel shine…let it sparkle…let it be the love/the icing on the tree.  Let it shine in the front window to let everyone see the celebration of love and Jesus.

How about you?  Does your tinsel get tangled?  Will you join me in trying to enjoy this season this year?

Or, are you one of the lucky ones who has always enjoyed it?

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Mary at Christmas

IMG_0010She sure did!

Talk about a huge leap of faith, pushing yourself to your own limits, inspiring others by persevering.

She is literally the mother of all motivation.

She gave herself over, let go of it all, let God work in her.  She let Him turn her life upside down so that He could turn ours right side up through Jesus.

I wish I could  give her a fist bump.

Now, it is our turn to believe.  To believe that we CAN.  That we can believe, that we can go past our limits, that we can inspire others, that we can believe in love and Christ, that we can give it up, let it go, turn upside down to share the truest love ever.

She did.  You do.

 

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Christmas previews

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I tend not to be inspired for Christmas.  I have a hard time coming up with images I like usually.  Actually, Christmas is not one of my favorite holidays…I let the stress get to me.  I prefer Easter.  But I knew that for Christmas Crossroads I should really have some holiday merchandise. (So yes, this will be for sale soon in Etsy as well.)

But this year, I am kind of looking forward to Christmas.  I am in a better place inside my head, I have let a lot of things go that bugged me about the holiday season, and I have a new plan for coping, a new plan to focus on faith and not the secular reasons for the celebration.  And so, the images came much easier.

I found words that were not as used, a little off the beaten path, fresh to me–with no connections to past stresses.  I was able to consider Christmas in a whole new way, and it came out in my journals and the artwork.

love this idea.  True love was born in a stable.  The purest, most sacrificial, deepest, most profound love ever.  It came in the purest and newest form.  I like to think of the love radiating from that stable that most precious of nights.  O holy night, the stars were brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.  Can you see the love reflecting from the stars?  God sent Jesus that night for each of us.  The best gift ever.  The  strongest proof ever of his enduring promises for us.

Yes, true love was born in a stable.

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Autumn Trails

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Hopefully we have had a beautiful drive through autumn trees.

Maybe not, probably mostly interstate.  But you know, a girl can always look hard for the beautiful.  Right?

I loved this quote when I saw it.  Straight paths can be so boring.  I walk the same sidewalk path every day with Belle.  Sometimes, when I am singing I go ahead and close my eyes and dance along and let Belle lead me along because I trust it will be the same old safe path as always.  Only once have I ran into a bush.

But you  know what is the best?  When you go hiking someplace new.  Or walking in a new city.  And you go around a bend/over a hill/through a tunnel and BLAMMO something new is there.  And it is the best thing ever.  I mean, like ,ever.

Ever feel like your life is that way?  Ever feel like being a Christian is that way?  You think you know what is up ahead.  Then God proves you wrong.  Sometimes its good, sometimes it hurts a lot more than running into a bush.  But Jesus always leads us to Him, salvation, heaven. LOVE, eventually, and the most amazing view,  EVER

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I am, You are

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I am writing ahead of time again, because we are on the road, again.  This time we are headed to Virginia/Washington D.C to stay with dear framily–friends from Jeff’s GMAC days who, over all the moves and years, we have managed to stay close to.  Plus, I decided to take advantage of their current location for some excellent Civil War homeschooling opportunities.  And Jeff tends to be a war buff.

This week’s posts will be short and sweet.

Something to enjoy looking at, with just a bit to ponder.  Hopefully.

So in this month of thanksgiving, did you give thanks for yourself yet?  Because you are pretty stinking awesome.  And a lot of people are thankful for you.  Jesus is thank-full for you.

Make a list of why you should be thankful for YOU.

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More of the same

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Happy Halloween!  I don’t really have a good piece of artwork for the holiday.  I actually did a piece based on “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe for a show and that really pushed me.  I don’t really have much of a dark side.

But I do love costumes and candy!

I did read an article from Kirk Cameron (my favorite hottie as a teenager, be still my heart) who is now a steadfast Christian.  He was encouraging Christians to celebrate Halloween–since really it is a celebration of life over death.  A party to remember those who have gone ahead of us to heaven.  And a chance to party like rockstars that we get to go, too.

Looking for how I am going to tie all this together?               Wait for it…………….

So even though we are all different human beings, dressed up all different, celebrating in different ways, we are all alike that we are God’s babies and that He celebrates our birth and our death when we return to Him.

That is cause for chocolate people!

 

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Family music

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Music is pretty important to me, can you tell?  I grew up in a family of musicians and singers.  One of my favorite all time memories is my mom’s side –sometimes as many as 30 of us–all singing the prayer before meals in four part harmonies and then singing carols at Christmas to the piano.  We had many music majors in college, some trained voices, some just beautiful in their own right.  We have had people remark on the wealth of talent among us and how the family blends to create such beautiful sounds.  Such a gift from God for each of us, to His glory.

(This is a choir singing “Be Present at Our Table Lord”…we sound pretty close to this when we sing it, for real.  We sing a few different lyrics.  click here)

And each time we sing together I remember how God has created us all as individuals, blood relations, but all so different.  The music overlooks all those differences to bring us together and make us one in the song.

Every family has its issues.  Some days my kids hate each other and are having knock down drag out punching fights.  Others they are rolling on the floor, hugging, giggling, tickling and loving on each other.

I know families that spend every waking moment together.  And others who do not even speak to each other.  There are families that have caused damage and pain.  There are families that the love they share is almost surreal.  Some families are the same DNA, some are friends who feel like family.  Some we choose, some not.

Because, really most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle, some low notes, some high notes, lots of harmonies among the melodies.  Lots of orchestral pieces.  Some heavy metal drum and electric guitar riffs.  Some lullabies.  Some dirges.  Some off key in the shower karaoke tunes from the 80’s.  Some Grammy winners.

ALL beautiful.

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Pandora Play list

Pandora gave me the best play list on Thursday October 23.  I was walking Belle, singing and dancing like usual, but even more so because of the powerful music they gave me that morning.  I came home and wrote down the songs and decided I needed to share. I shared the first song the other day.  The second one was “Strong God” by Desperation Band.  I found this link about when he wrote it and it came from this same verse:

 

Here is the link to the story behind the song which is pretty stinking cool:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGT1lrsIgmo

Which made me think about the last post and looking for who God wants us to see.  And about proclaiming how Good is Our Savior.  Especially to those who are in need.  Some of who we can see have physical needs.  Some may have emotional needs that aren’t readily visible.  But Jesus knows, and He sends us to do His work.

The chorus:

“Sing out, lift your voice and cry out.  Awesome is our strong God, mighty is our God.

Sing out , raise your hands and shout out.  Awesome is our God!

There is no higher, NO, there is no greater, NO, there is no stronger, than our God!”

He IS awesome.  I will sing, I will raise my hands, I will do His work.  I think you will too.  Am I right?

So here is the song:  Desperation Band:  Strong God

 

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a Look and listen ATTItUDE

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Attitude really is everything isn’t it?  When we decide to LOOK for GOOD in people we see it.

For example:

the tattoo artist/owner who :  one of the kindest men I know, donates money to charity and is trying to build his town up.

the bartender who:  will drop everything to talk to a friend and help, and shows up for every single one of his son’s games…and some of my daughter’s.

the mailman who:  is the crankiest man alive and I FINALLY got him to smile and crack a joke the other day.

To look for the good, to listen for the good, to feel the extraordinary in every day –the amazing gift of life and love, and then to share it with EVERY SINGLE PERSON.

 

 

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unstoppable

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This is how I am feeling!  God is filling my heart and overflowing into every crevice of my life.

Every time I give something over to Him, I feel lighter.  I feel unstoppable and unsinkable.

Whether it is art; homeschooling a first grade wiggly boy; driving through traffic to dance and football and and and; coming up with yet another meal; the giant mountain of laundry; finding a dress that fits; not eating that piece of candy; finding the missing hat; whatever it is.

I can do it.  Because Christ gives me strength!

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Saved for Moi

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Such sage advice, it is so easy to give all of my heart.  I am enjoying my year long sabbatical from volunteering.  I needed to pull back that piece of my heart for ME.

But you know what is kind of crazy?  I am giving away more than ever.  Just in a different way.  Through my art, which is my special time, and my therapy in a way, and my heart– but it  is for all of you as well.

It has been funny how, I thought I was pulling back for me.

But really I was pulling back for God.  Let me explain:  I was discussing Moses with a friend this afternoon.  (She is in a BSF study on him).  She talked about how God had to really teach Moses about doing things not in Moses time, but God time.  And how that is true for us as well.  I finally gave into God time.  I am doing what He has created me to do, right now, and it is an amazing trip so far!  I can’t wait to see where else He takes us!  By pulling back and saving a piece of my heart and time for myself, I opened a whole other piece of me to do God’s ministry and work.

In conversations with other friends lately, I have one who had not painted for YEARS.  She closed that part of her heart.  And she reopened it…and the most amazing artwork is flowing out of her…and you can see it in her face; the peace, happiness, and joy.  Another friend is building an amazing ministry around childbirth education and new mamas.  The same thing happens when she talks about it.  And the same with so many other women.  And then I talk to a few others, who right now have not opened that self heart, or they have had to close it off for awhile during different seasons with children, or new marriages, or moves.

They are all working on God’s time.  Sometimes our special part of our heart is devoted to other things.

Sometimes, that special self part is getting it’s season.

So back to how God is using my special self…As you saw, I have been working with Caris for Dyan who has brain cancer.  (complete strangers to me, until they found me on Etsy).  I am working with Renee to decorate a children’s wing in a church.

I am getting ready for a super big craft show!  One that I have always, sort of hoped, in the back of my heart, that I might be good enough to do.  One that scares me a little bit (10,000 people go through in two days, 40 years of tradition).  I live right across from this high school, so I have people parking in front of my house every year for this show.  I will get the chance to share my artwork, my work for God, with all of them!  Holy moly schmoly kaboly!

AND I have been working on a calendar.  It is almost complete.  I had to make special, horizontal artwork for it.  I decided to make them all faith based.  I will let you know when it is up on Zazzle.

Every day I am amazed at how God is expanding my heart for me, for you, for His work.

 

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One more for the dancers

IMG_0008This is so true.  All of the dancers I know even when they are just standing still you can tell they want to dance.  My daughter tap dances in the kitchen.  Her friend does plies at the couch.  My sister swivels while she talks on the phone.  My niece does not walk but shimmies.  And each time it makes me smile.  How can  it not?  How can one worry when one is dancing?

 

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urgent prayer for Dyan

God does amazing things.  He is listening to prayers.

 

 Just yesterday a special friend of Dyan’s contacted me.  She wrote to me that this verse is very special to this young woman who was very recently diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer….I think within this month.  She was interested in possibly having me do some artwork for it.

I went to Dyan’s facebook page.  I found photos of a beautiful young woman who is super at basketball.  With brown hair and soulful brown eyes.  Someone you can tell is spiritual.  Someone who looks like she is probably a tomboy.

I also got an email yesterday with good news:  about MY brown haired, soulful brown eyed, spiritual, tomboy who is super at basketball that she is going to play up two grades for the local basketball program.  My Annika.

All morning as I sat homeschooling Annika, I could not get Dyan out of my mind.  I finally pulled out my journal and this came out…

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Dyan’s favorite color is yellow…Annika’s orange.  So the sun had to have both…it had to be slightly basketball ish.  There had to be X kisses on her for boo boos–but not be girly or stand out.  She had to have my Annika’s crazy long arms that are so stingy with hugs, but so affectionate when you do get one.  The arms had to reach to heaven.  She had to have Dyan’s long hair.  The legs had to go off the page and stand taller than we will ever know.  The heart wasn’t orginally on…but showed up on my desk, probably from some other project and it slid under all my flotsam, and it begged to be added.

People, I immediately sent a photo to Caris, who at the EXACT SAME MOMENT messaged me to move forward.  Last night Dyan’s family posted the brain cancer is now Stage 4.  It is more aggressive.

Friends, God knew this is urgent.  He knew this one was not about me, not about my timeline, not about business.

We have been messaging back and forth all morning working out more details of how to share this artwork.  I knew I needed to share it with you immediately as well.  My eyes are overflowing with prayers as I am typing.

Please pray for her and all near her.

Thank you for supporting me, my art,the blog, facebook, etsy, everything.  You are making it possible for God to touch me.  You are making it possible for me, and you, to share HIS LOVE…and to let that love shine on a lot of other people.  I never dreamed this is where my art would take me.  But God did. And He is using every one of you to encourage me to keep creating and sharing.

 

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Books anyone?

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This comes from Sarah Addison Allen ( one of my fave new authors)…in one of her books the character has a book that will just “show up”.  And sometimes they are disconcerting, sometimes they are a comfort.

How about you?  Do you live with books?  I had another friend call them her “nests.”  She had piles of reading material all over.  Phoebe and I are book nesters.  I like knowing I have all sorts of options around.  And nothing brings me more comfort and relaxation than a good story and a cup of hot liquid.

Some books I actually pat.  You know, just pat them gently, let my fingers run across the spine or pages, as I walk by, or just hold them.  So comforting.

Favorite stories.

The Bible.

Photo albums. Journals.

Books are escapes, promises, and thought provoking.  How can you not hoard books?  I quote them, return to them, dream about them, give them.  The librarians know me.  The kids know that Amazon package is most likely books.  I usually have one in my purse or bag.

Ahhh.  Books.

 

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
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