past my bedtime

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Do you stay up late reading?  Sometimes I can’t stop.  I need to know what is happening.  But I get tired eventually (you know around 1 am) and so I read the end.  Yes, I am a peeker.  Otherwise I would never get sleep, or anything else done.  I would just sit there and read and read and read.

The good thing about reading ahead is that then I can enjoy looking for literary devices (that would make my high school English teacher Mr. Sales happy I think).  I dig deeper for foreshadowing, symbolism, and how the author builds and resolves the conflict with different clues.  I love how an author can use history and context to shape the outline.  I have a tendency to relate a book to my own experiences, people I know, places I have been.  I am notorious for reading a book and then observing the people around me to try and “find” a character in real life.  And sometimes, I just  make up stories about people because they intrigue me.  And that is okay in books, because they end.

But that isn’t how real life works, is it?  I can’t look ahead to know how something is going to turn out.  That is only for God to know.  I laughed last week that meteorologists “predicted” huge storms, that never hit, and then they apologized for the havoc they reeked.  Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t like to play with us a little just to remind us:  we don’t get to look ahead in our own book, we are not in control, He is.  He is the ultimate author.  We can look back and maybe see His use of foreshadowing, symbolism,  and clues.  Otherwise, we will just have to learn when we get there.  We can stay awake and be ready for what is coming.  But we can’t peek.

And sometimes that is best.

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
2

Books Galore

In honor of the snowstorm in Chicago, and all of the other places for that matter, I am going to celebrate staying inside with a good book this week.  My kids will be outside a good chunk of the time, no doubt, reveling in the beautiful white world.  But, when I am not making art and working on assignments, I will be on the couch, with my quilt, my coffee, my dark chocolate covered cherries (Yay for Aldi), and a big old stack of books.IMGI own a lot of books.  I have sold a lot of books at garage sales and used book stores.  I have given a lot of books away.  I am in a book club that feeds my brain and my heart.   I am on Amazon ordering new ones all the time (a new set of states and regions are on their way).  Speaking of…did you know you can get used books on there for a penny?  Of course there is shipping, but a penny???  I love it.  My favorites tend to be brain candy romances, historical fiction, art books, ones on faith (devotions, histories, studies), and children’s books (love, love, love the poetry and illustrations).  And I am at the library a couple times a week, once we checked out 78 books (for a month of homeschooling).  One of my favorite things about homeschooling is not using textbooks, but raiding the library for every imaginable text on a subject, and using literature.

Right now I am reading four different books.  I have four different devotionals I choose from.  Plus, I am re-reading Little Women  with Phoebe and listening to Annika read Hoops.  You will always find stacks of books around our house, or as a friend called them, “nests.”

But the book that never leaves the pile is my Bible.  I have an Oxford Annotated, monster, red hardcover, from college religion classes that I prefer.  I like the fonts, the paper quality, the notes, and it is NRSV– so pretty easy to follow.  It is 7x9x3.  Seriously, it does not travel with me.  But I love the heftiness of it for at home.  It is so sturdy, and just….there.  It stands out, the way a Bible should.  My mom just got the girls beautiful leather bound versions and we have been reading them in the morning.  They are perfect first Bibles.  I still have my first Bible from my grandma, and I own three others.  But the Oxford is my favorite.  It sits there and it screams my name, “Nicole, look at me!  Open me!  Hear what God has for you today!”

And it always speaks to me.  I am a product of an endless supply of books, but the Bible is the one that has shaped who I am at my core.  As it should be.  There have been books that left their imprint on me, made me think, changed the way I think, influenced my everyday life, but none like the Bible.  Open yours.  Hear God’s word.  Let it soak into your very being.  And may it never leave your side.

 

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

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God gave His people a huge promise in Genesis:  that He would never ruin the earth again, that He would bring us closer to Him, that our faith would save us.  I can’t look at rainbows without thinking of His promises.  This piece is pretty scribbly, I must have been in a hurry with this one last summer for some reason, but it still speaks to me.  It makes me think of sunshine in the morning casting colorful shadows on the table as I pray for those I love, those I may not even know, as I ask for guidance, and as I thank Him for my blessings.  I might not be able to see the goodness at the moment some days, but it follows me around like that rainbow and those shadows.  It always catches up sooner or later.  Some days I need to use some of the overflow from the really good days to get through the bad.  But my cup always seems to refill and overflow again, even when I think it will always be empty.

Here’s to full cups of promises, and shadows filled with rainbows of color.  Have a good weekend.

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

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Short and simple today…God created us all, He loves us all, and He wants us to love all His kids.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  We might get annoyed with our siblings, but we still gotta love them.  All shapes, sizes, colors, opinions, cultures, ages.  Man, can that be hard sometimes!  Sometimes I understand why little kids bite and hit.  I want to, too!  But as an adult, I obviously realize why I cannot bite someone else.  But I also realize why little kids NEED so much touch and words of love, understanding, and guidance.  That is what makes all of us thrive.

So today, pray with me:

Lord,

Lead me.  Help me to love all your kids.  Fill my heart with love, grace, patience and strength.  Let it overflow to all those around me flooding out the sin in all of us.  Bring us closer to each other, and therefore closer to you.

Amen

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
1

harvest time

Oooh, shocks of wheat or corn blowing in the wind on a crisp autumn day.  Harvest time in rural areas is a special time of its own.  A time, hopefully, of celebration and thanksgiving.

Are you thinking, what?  Nicole…it’s January, that was months ago?

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Aahh, but as Jesus said, “The harvest is NOW.”

I find it interesting that many churches wait to find new members.  Often thinking, “Oh they will come to us.  We will get them at Christmas or Easter.” or “We’ll build up our current members later.”

Or how many Christians think, “I can wait to learn about the Bible.  Prayer can come later. I’ll make it to worship next time. I’ll give and support ministries when that bill is paid off.  I will be honest and open about my faith next time.”   I know, because I am guilty of those things.

During the harvest of plant crops, it needs completed NOW.  Before the rain or snows, before animals get it, before…whatever.  Farmers stay in the fields night and day to bring in those crops with an incredible sense of urgency.

Jesus is saying every day is a harvest for Christians.  Every day should have that sense of urgency to spend time with Him–in word, prayer or service. Or all three.  Now.  Now is the time to harvest our faith, to cultivate new members, and to store up the crops for His worship.  Now.

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

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Do you have a good concept of time?  I don’t, not really.  For example, today I sat on the couch reading a good book, nodded off, and before I knew it I woke up and it was dark outside and I had to rush to get dinner figured out.  Yesterday, I wrote down on two different calendars Annika’s basketball game was at one, only to arrive and find out it was at noon.  I can plan ahead one week at a time, but what is going on the next week?  Not sure.  I will undoubtedly be surprised with it when it arrives.  Other times, I am amazed at how much I accomplish and how little we miss or are late for considering how many commitments we have.

I was reading Unbroken this afternoon and time played a huge part:  first they floated with nothing for 47 days, then sat in silence in POW camps, then were forced to work 18 hour days.  It made me wonder, which was worse?  The waiting with nothing to do?  Or meaningless, endless, backbreaking work?   The thing that really stood out to me about Zamperini’s survival is how he piloted his time.  He made sure his mind was in use continually, and it is probably what helped save him.

It made me think about how I pilot my time.  Do I use it wisely? Am I using my mind?  Am I truly letting God guide me?  I can decide how my time here on earth is utilized each day.  Did I use it loving others?  Or, like the artwork above, was I a predator bearing down on prey?  Was I the prey and I hid?  Or was I wise enough to escape situations?

Before I let time fly this week, before I mess up our schedule, I am going to be prayerful about it.  I am going to make an honest attempt to use my time wisely this week.  And that does include sitting on the couch to finish my book.  🙂

How about you?

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
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Proverbs 31 Woman

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Proverbs 31 Woman:  it is a tagline we see often.  There are whole ministries surrounding these verses.  And they are good.  I see it mean a lot of different things to different people.

Today the part that is striking me is:  LAUGHS.  She laughs without fear.  At the future.  Because she knows that she is surrounded by God and has strength in Him.

She has HUMOR.  Such an incredibly important part of life.  And too often overlooked.  Too often poo-pooed as not serious enough, not deep enough, not intellectual enough.

Whatever.

I think it is the most important part of life.  If we can’t laugh at ourselves, at others, at the silly stuff we say and do, at the crazy things that just happen, at the future, what is our time worth?  Worrying?  Fear? I say it takes a crazy strong person to be able to LAUGH, to say I am not going to be mired down, that I am not going to take things too seriously, that I am backed by a God who has got this, now and forever.  Now, that is faith.

So here is a funny:  Tim Hawkins.  You need to youtube this guy.  My good friend introduced us to him this week.  He sings Bible Atheist songs.  He has a list of Christian cuss words, which my kids picked up on immediately.  They have been walking around the house all week saying, “Shove a crud muffin in your pie hole you fart knocker!”  all week and end up in fits of giggles on the floor.  What does that even mean?  Nothing.  All because those were the words they picked up on from the list.  My husband was appalled until I explained that they are playing with these words, and feel like they are getting away with something really big.  In reality, it is not big, but something to take strength in that our kids have found humor, that it is in something innocuous, that they can enjoy our language, that they can live in the moment without fear or worry.  That they can enjoy the laughter and endorphins God planned for us.

For they can laugh in the strength and dignity of their faith.

Shut the front door.

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
0

blessed beyond belief

Just a short note today…IMG_0006One of the parts of my goal for 2014 OBEY is to remember to be grateful.  Jesus commanded it.  So each week I am going to either look back for art that reminds me of all the good in my life, or to make a new piece.  This one has been around for awhile, but I keep it where I can see it.

Today I am going to make a list in my journal of all the little blessings from today.  I will share soon.  One blessing is you…thanks for visiting the blog and facebook and ordering from Etsy.  Thanks for sharing photos of where you have the art.

 

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

I think I like butterflies.  🙂  And I have this stencil that I like to use…so this particular shape has a tendency to land in my journal often.  IMG_0015IMG_0029

 

These are apropro for today.  It’s my birthday.  (The fact I am telling you is actually kind of crazy…I do NOT celebrate usually.)

It reminds me that even though as my husband reminded me, I am half way to dead (40, hahaha Jeffrey), I am still a work in progress.  These are good little reminders that when I allow myself to to soar and do what I am meant to do, it is lighter, better, freer, happier.   I am still becoming the person God created me to be.  He still has lots of plans for me on a long road.  I can change who I am:  whether I keep slowly progressing toward something better and better, or even if I slip and fall back into the pit sometimes, I can fly back out.  Everyday is a new opportunity to laugh and love at the good and the bad.

And that is what this birthday is, cathartic.  Opening the wings and coming out of a cocoon, allowing myself grace for the past and looking toward the future with antennae on high alert for the good stuff.

Two years ago, I was not in a good place head wise on this day so I decided to do something different:  I did a random acts of kindness day.  The kids and I spent any money they would have used for a present to buy flowers for people, hand mints out at Walmart, buy a kid a balloon and a lady some diapers and some guy some gas.  I encouraged my friends and family to do the same.  They let me know what they did and that was good stuff.  We are going to repeat today and do some RAKS.  Want to join me?  Let me know in the comments if you do.  It will make you feel lighter and brighter, I guarantee.

 

 

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
3

Progress at the rate of a Turtle

Sometimes, I feel like my artwork, this blog, and the Etsy shop are taking off and doing more than I ever expected.  And other days, I feel like it can’t move faster to my ultimate goal fast enough.  And I have to remind myself, that continuous progress is what really matters.

This is not one of the better art pieces, I sort of ran out of space.  But I still wanted to share it.
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Plato said that.  387 B.C. ish.  It sometimes amazes me to think that 2500 years ago they needed this reminder.  I think of how many times Jesus had to remind his disciples in the Bible.  (You can tell he really wanted to give some of them a V8 slap up side the head sometimes.  I love when He repeats Himself over and over and over.  I would LOVE to see His “teacher look”…you know He had one.)  I think of how I have to be reminded constantly.

During a discussion this weekend with my family (we love a good political, religious debate) we talked about the Israelites vs. everyone in the Old Testament.  Talk about slow progress and not getting it!  Humanity is SLOW.  So many times we just don’t get it.  Progress is like watching mold grow on the leftovers in the fridge.

We are not going to have fast progress all the time.  We are just not.  We are fighting fights that have been around for centuries.  Very little is truly new.  People have thought that they had it the hardest, newest, slowest, most violent, least faithful for centuries.

But does this mean we should give up?  Never.  We are all making progress, one day at a time through this life.  All of us.  We should never discourage ourselves or anyone who is trying to follow God’s path, anyone who is trying to do the right thing, anyone making the turtle steps toward the big goal.  Build one another up.  Encourage one another.

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

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Good morning!

There are a lot of races in life.  A lot of fights to get through.  Some are short but seem loooong:  my family has had the flu one at a time for the last two weeks, ending with me last Wednesday-Saturday.  I thought it would never end, despite the very short time period.

Some are years in the making.  My family came to visit this weekend from Iowa and Ohio, which was awesome because we only get to have everyone all together once or twice a year.  One of our celebrations marked my 40th year.    Soon we will celebrate my “little” guy’s 7th.

Some races are literal, I have a friend that ran in two Ironman races this fall.  She is awesome!  She has been training for years for this, what a huge accomplishment.

Maybe you are looking for a new job, waiting for a cure to an illness/disease, getting through college, waiting for a baby or an adoption, waiting for a vacation, a new home, a visit, a call, a drive through…..

Like my nephew asked all the way from Iowa, “Are we on the fast road?  When are we going to get there?  Shouldn’t we take a fast road?  Why are those cars going faster Daddy?  Which road do we need to take?”  Six hours worth of waiting.

We always want things Now.  But that isn’t always 1.  Possible  2.  In God’s Plan.  His master plan and timing are all up to HIM, our creator.  Our Savior will lead us eventually to HIM.  And that is what all things really lead to…the love and the grace that He gives us and teaches us to share.

In this verse Paul is in prison.  He is sitting and waiting and waiting and waiting.  But he can have a light heart, because he knows that he did what was needed.  He kept faith.  If we can do the same…even in times when it takes years of waiting, or the waiting is excruciating…we can turn to God.  He will help us fight this fight.  He will help us keep the faith.

And in the very end, we are all rewarded with Jesus.

 

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
0

Fly in a big way

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This is another piece from last summer, really, I paint more than I can keep up blogging.  Hence, why you get art almost every day  now.  This one was inspired by the barn swallows dive bombing my parent’s poor cat.  They are such a fun bird to watch, little dare devils they are, swooping and spinning up and down and all over.  And I heard Jamie Grace’s new song Do Life Big about the same time.  To me, it matched up.  I saw those birds taking all sorts of chances with grace and agility.  Their yellow bellies would flash in the sunlight and you could almost see a sparkle in their eyes.  It was just FUN.  Not halfway, but all out celebration in flight.

When was the last time you took a chance and did something just for the FUN of it?  It can be something simple…you wore that crazy outfit combo?  You stopped and got dessert in the middle of the day by yourself?  You bought a bouquet of flowers for your table?  You hung out in a book store and read all the old Calvin and Hobbes comics?  You went sledding if you are in the cold or surfing for our lucky warm friends?  Maybe it was just staying up extra late to watch a favorite movie.

Sometimes something fun and fresh can break up the monotony and bring that sparkle back–which can be so important this time of year.  Because at the same time, it awakens gratitude and grace.  All those wonderful endorphins wake up and start swooping through out veins.  It’s funny how God set that up, isn’t it?

How could you change your day by doing life big today?

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

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This is one of those pieces, that I cannot believe I have not shared yet from last summer.  I love this one.  It reminds me of my oldest daughter.  Every morning she is rolled up tight in her blanket like a caterpillar in a little cocoon, and I have to pry her wings out to help her wake up and fly.

A lot of us crawl along, inching our way toward goals, taking our time, being overly cautious too often.  When really, we just need to unfurl those gorgeous wings God attached to our backs and let loose on the breezes.  A beautiful thing.  He is ready for us to use our gifts to love on our neighbors, and ourselves.  He wants us to be ready.

A little business:  my hubs reminds me, I should really support my habit sometimes.  You know, paper, pens, the like.  SO:  have you stopped by the ETSY shop?  There is a nice little link above on the navigation bar under my banner that will take you right there!  There are over 100 different artworks available there as prints:  4×6, 5×7, 8×10, and  greeting card size.  Valentine’s day is coming—by the time you order and I ship, it will be perfect timing!  Plan your birthday, graduation, or religious event card needs now and stock up.  Or just find something to brighten someone’s day.  And there are journals:  use them to write love notes back and forth, prayers, lists, journaling.    Love ya’ll!

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

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I saw in a magazine recently, or a blog, or anyway..somewhere…a reminder to just call someone up to just CHAT.  Not a text, or email, or call that you hope reaches voicemail, but an honest to goodness LONG PHONE CALL.  One where you used to sit in a chair twirling a cord, one that other people would fight to get you off.  For me it’s a call that I can get all the windows and doors wiped down while I chat away –my ADD requires I do something with my hands.  (You can always tell at my house when I haven’t talked to my sister or mom enough just based on the filthiness of my windows).   Those calls are restorative to relationships and souls.

How about God?  When was the last time you called God up and had a long talk with him?  You will never get God’s voicemail.  Texts are okay, an occasional forwarded email.  But He loves when we TALK.  He is always listening, waiting for us to pour our hearts out to Him.  Sometimes it seems like we are on mute while He chats with someone else, or on hold even.  Sometimes it feels like our signal isn’t very strong.  But that is not true.  We all have a direct, speed dial, line to our Creator and Savior.

So, do two things today…call God and call someone special.  Take the time, and see how it helps you.

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

I am not a Star Wars fan, but I often find myself telling my kids, “Impressive young Skywalker.”

It is one of those rolling off the tongue things, I enjoy the way it sounds.  Plus it is fun.

But, are my kids actually being impressive?  Awesome?  Amazing?  Our culture tosses around those words like kids in a dodgeball game.  And just like in that game, sometimes they hit the mark, most of the time they are just thrown away.  I catch myself sometimes and try to use my vast vocabulary (ha!) to actually give them praise in a meaningful way, but not as often as I should.  I often get annoyed with over clapping, over trophy-ing, over rewarding, building people up to standards that are unreal.

Really, who I, and all of us, should be impressed by  is….

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Because, really?  Anything we do pales in comparison to the work of the Creator.

How would we change our perspective, and kid’s, if we said,

“Wow, you did a great job using the talents God gave you.”  “It is fantastic how you worked so hard.”  “I loved the way you put all you had into that.””I am really proud of the great choices you made.”

How would those statements affect all of us?  How would it affect us if we truly took a moment to remember to be impressed by all God has accomplished, willed, created, loved, and been amazingly awesome for eternity???

Find something truly impressive in your day, and I bet it has God’s hand all over it.

 

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