Its Lent

IMG_0001It is lent–that church calendar time when we prepare for Easter. I am not giving up anything–well, I am trying to cut down on my sugar intake. Instead, I am adding–to my faith through study, art, and writing.   My relationship with God is more personal, deeper, more…dare I say fun.  

I feel closer to Jesus than ever.  And sharing that love, that relationship is uplifting.  He knew that it would be…that is why he encourages us to share!  I am sure of that now.  Not to preach and judge.  But to bring this super cool deep feeling of love and acceptance to ourselves and others.


Gratitude in Obedience


So this is the Part two to God’s top ten.  THIS is why we try.  This is why we stretch to be who God wants us to be.  This is why we learn more about His Word, to learn more of how to stretch.  And to be reminded constantly that we are rewarded for trying to be obedient.  Gold stars for us–in GRACE.

How amazing is it that God understands?How amazing is it that He still wants us and loves us?

That Jesus came, died, and rose again because He planned on us messing up and needing that grace? How can we not be absolutely Grateful for that??So amazingly cool.

What a crazy awesome gift, Grace.  I know I am grateful from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.  I know it makes me want to give a gift back to God.    And all He asks for in return is Faith.  Belief.  The least we can do is Obey.


God’s Top Ten


I found this kid friendly version of the ten commandments on Pinterest.  I loved the simplicity of the wording.  I am going to hang this in our homeschool room and go over it with the kids.  Have it up as a constant reminder for them.

But more importantly , I need it for me.

There is something about seeing it broken down into such simple words, don’t you think?  Really God wants us to follow some pretty simple guidelines.  All of these help us show others LOVE.

As I painted this I thought about it a lot.  And then I sat there and stared at this piece.  And I knew.  God wanted me to paint this for me, for adults, as well as for kids.  We all need to see this and be reminded.

We are HUMAN.  No matter how good we think we are, we all break ALL of these.  ALL the time.  We NEED God’s grace daily because we are human.  We can try as hard as we like, but we all break these consistently when we look at the basic premise behind each one.

I do not always put God first.  I let other committments get in the way.

I believe in One God, in Jesus Christ.  But do I let money get the best of me?

Ugh, naughty, mean, judgemental words slip out all the time.

I try to rest.  Really, really I do.  The world does not make it easy.

I know I have hurt my parents.

Hurt NO ONE.  Holy snow, I wish I could I say this is the one I haven’t committed, but when you put it that way…

I cheat, I don’t give things my all, I cut corners.

Even this one.  Have I stolen ideas?

I really try to tell the truth.

Jealousy.  This one is bad.  Pinterest can be such a great resource.  It also makes me want a more pulled together house, better art, healthier food, more exercise, artsy clothes and jewelry.  Material stuff.  Naughty.

How can I expect my kids to follow these perfectly when I don’t?

That is going to be part of our ongoing discussion.  That we can’t.  And that really, God doesn’t expect us too.  He wants us to try, but really, He knows.  We are Human.  Duh, that’s why he sent Jesus!  That is why He has grace.  That is why we need to believe in that amazing miracle of GRACE through Christ.

Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to follow these and be our best human selves.  To stretch and grow….more on that tomorrow.

For now, how well do you do with these rules?  How do you teach them?



IMG_0009Going a little personal here today.  Just warning ya’ll.  I have made a committment to myself to be open about my issues with depression.  I want to be there and be honest for other people struggling, they same way I found their words comforting on various blogs and websites.

I struggle with all of the above.  Depression has been taking over my brain since I was in fourth or fifth grade to be honest, and I have had several seriously bad bouts over the years.  And then there have been really good years.  It has its ups and downs.  (Haha…little depression joke there).  But seriously, it is a cycle.  Sometimes I am fine.  And sometimes the crazy cycle of doubt, guilt, shame, self criticism, and high expectations is overwhelming and crippling.

I am on some good medicine now.  Just like diabetics need insulin, I need help with serotonin and other brain chemicals.  And they are working.  I am beating this thing.  This winter has been so much better than others.  The whole year to be exact.  I was not created to live in a fog.  I was not meant to hide.  But to be out there.  Enjoying and sharing in life.   I was meant to be victorious.  I know that God created me to share my gifts–and I really feel like sharing the gift of being victorious over depression is one of them.

If you are at the top or the bottom of the spiral, I understand.  Whether you are finding help right now or not, I understand.  Just know, you are not alone.  I am praying for you and your victory.


Do what you do

IMG_0006This can be so hard.

I look at other artists blogs, artwork, and more.  I want to learn their techniques.  I want to learn how they blog.  I want to emulate their success (or at least what I believe them to have).

And then I realize.  They are not me.  I am.  God has created me to do something very special.

I went to a workshop years ago (pre-kids) in Detroit with  artist/teacher Peter London.  He wrote a book, No More Secondhand Art.  That workshop had a huge impact on me.  He helped us realize that no matter what every single person has a different viewpoint and voice.  We all see the world completely differently through the lens of our own eyes and brains.  NO ONE else sees and perceives the way anyone else does.  This was huge in my teaching.  I never made the kids all copy the same artwork, or follow exactly what I did.  I showed them HOW, but then they were expected to make it their own.

So why do should I expect myself to create artwork like anyone else?  Why should any of our homes look the same?  Wear the same outfits?  Create the same meal?  Parent the same?  Run a business the same?  Have the same faith relationship needs?  I tell the kids all the time how much I love how original they are.

It is time to start telling myself, again, and believe it.  For good.

How about you?  What is God inspiring YOU to do?


Right People

#3 in the Peach Keeper  series

IMG_0007Oh, buddy, isn’t that the truth???? I have struggled with this one.  I have moved a lot, lived in a lot of places, hoped for a lot of new friends.

I have met some doozies in my search for friends to talk to.  (Because ya’ll KNOW I love to talk.)   And moving can be lonely sometimes.  I have pursued people that really I had nothing in common with, but they seemed to be the ones I thought I was “supposed” to friend.  Sometimes I was just lazy, sometimes desperate, sometimes over confident about their ability to fit into my life.  I have opened myself up to people that I was completely unprepared for, some seriously quirky people that I had no idea what to do with them as things went along.  People that Jeff would not let me answer the phone if they called.  Stalker weird.

People that then I maybe didn’t do a good job unfriending or even friending in the first place. Bad Nicole.

But then there are the others.  The ones who have made me who I am today.  Who gave a piece of themselves to carry with me wherever I go to fill my heart with happiness.   All of the lovely people who have so many common interests and experiences, kindred spirits.  The ones that I am excited to see a message from or see their phone number pop up.  The ones that I wish all lived right next door.

(I have this silly dream that someday I will hold the “I Love Nicole” conference.  LOL  All my besties from each state and season will all join me for a weekend of goodness, because I know they would all love each other, too, of course.)

Those are the RIGHT people.  Those are the ones I hold dear to my heart.  Those are the ones who light up my day.  I am so blessed to have found so many of them, in so many places.  So incredibly thankful for you.

I hope that you, too, have a heart filled with the RIGHT friends.

I hope you have enjoyed this little series.  And I hope you pick up a copy of the book.  It really is quite delightful.


So good can enter

#2 in the Peach Keeper  series of journal entries.  This is the link to the author: Sarah Addison Allen  .

IMG_0010How true is that???????  Holy schmoly!  The truth in this, people, should rock some of our worlds.  Especially burnt out, over volunteered mamas/and papas.  If I leave an open spot in my home, in my heart, good things could fit in there!  I know I have things on my plate that I want to feed the dog under the table.  And I should!  Because if there is room on the plate, there is room for dessert!  GOOD things.  Yummy chocolate gooey-ness with whipped cream and butter and flaky pastry.  That, was a lot of metaphors.  But you get it.

If I give up things that are annoying, or I am doing just to please someone else, or out of a sense of duty, I can make room for time with my kids and husband, time to paint, time to read good books like The Peach Keeper.  Good things that fill me with joy, that  bring me closer to love, and ultimately make me a better person.  Far better than the one who fulfills obligations with dragging feet and mumbling under the breath.  There is someone else out there that will find joy in that duty.  LET THEM DO IT!

Make room for the good things.  Whether it is in your house, in your heart, in your mind, on your plate.  DO IT.  Today.


A good map

I recently read an excellent book.

There were several ideas/quotes that I really enjoyed amongst the prose, that really stuck with me.

I am a sucker for books set in the South (and secretly believe I was meant to live there) and this is set in North Carolina.  The book follows two women who are finding their place in their hometown, love, and friendship, all while uncovering a mystery that bonded  the families of both women together.  It was a lighthearted, easy read and thoroughly enjoyable.

I will share three journal entries this week I did based on the book.  Here is the first:
IMG_0012How true is that?  Sometimes we are circling in our sense of being lost.  Turning down every avenue trying every option.  When really we just need to stay on the straight path and get where we belong.  And sometimes we just have to listen to the right person to do that.

It may be a close loved one, it may be a friend, it may be a stranger, it may be God.

But a good map makes all the difference!


A cuppa

Today is in honor of friends, close and aquaintance, near and far.

IMG_0002No matter whether the cup is filled with water, juice, coffee, tea, or even wine, I love to sit and chat with my girlies.  I love that the British call it a cuppa (at least I think that is where it comes from).  Such a fun, gracious way to name it.  And it can be filled with anything–just like the conversation.  And those are my favorite talks and listens, the ones that veer off on tangents and include laughter, tears, insights, and goofiness.  All the things a good friend chat should have.  So here is a Valentine to all my friends, actually male and female, that I have ever shared a cuppa with, or at least should.


I am chaos

IMG_0004-001Love it. So me. I am chaos…my brain, my speech sometimes, my art.  But it shines bright.  And seems to be good most of the time.  I would rather be chaos and a dancing star personally than the alternatives.  And I have felt the alternatives.  Yes, happy shiny chaos is best.



A New Kind of Chameleon

IMG_0001-001Sometimes I have been the chameleon:  I used to think if I looked the part, that would make my talents shine more.  It has made for crazy fashion choices.

Some of my favorite things that I thought made me “look artsy”:  tall laced up boots, flowy skirts, flannel shirts, unitards, clogs, birkenstocks, hippie patterns, overalls, spiked hair.  Some have been successful looks, some not so much.  **Note: I also have attempted “trendy” looks with not great results also.

Other people’s perceptions have not always been “artsy” but:  little boy, Mennonite, homeless person.  Seriously.

Now, I go with what I like:  COLOR– love me some color, stuff that is warm–part of the reason I love the scarf trend and follow it religiously, shoes that do not make my legs ache, clothes that cover–I have always loved long skirts.

Sometimes my art has been the chameleon:  I thought if I drew like someone or copied their techniques or followed the scrapbooking trends that it would make my art better.

Now:  I go with what I like– COLOR, flowy, comfy, wordy.  Me.

I am no longer a chameleon trying to blend in, but a chameleon proud of my colors and talents and ready to stand on my own.




Holy Snow!

IMG_0006-001I say holy moly schmoly.  Sweet Niblets.  Cool Beans.  I do.  I say things like ooo, bad crashy crashy, bonkers, dude.  I know.  Can’t help myself.

This year I am saying HOLY SNOW!  I haven’t seen this much this often since our first year in Michigan.  At least with this much snow, I am feeling like the air is kind of cleaner and we can catch snowflakes on our tongues and not eat straight smog.


oooh, she exploded

IMG_0015I did this one this fall.  I keep revisiting her and couldn’t decide to let her out in public?  Yep, I decided, might as well.  This is my Truth.  This is me growing and stretching to know myself and understand my story.  This is what I journal.  Not just the happy, not just the inspirational.  Sometimes I draw my cyclops self with blue hair and three fingers.


the good the bad and the ugly

IMG_0002-001The ugly this week was my own frustration.  The weather, annoyances with trying to figure out the giveaway, some volunteer committments, and my attitude were not fun parts of the week.

The bad was just not being motivated to homeschool or take care of the house.  And not just me, but the whole family.  And I mean ZERO motivation.  We struggled every single day.  My B12 shot is wearing off and I was super tired and that didn’t help anything.

The good:  My cousin Doug Hollenbeck wins the calendar!   Yay!  He has been one of my super supporters and commenters from the beginning of posting my art on Facebook.  He seems to know just what to say a lot of times, so I am so glad he won.

The good:  I got to see my parents this week.  Always fun to have them come visit!  And they made it safely home in all the crazy weather.

The good:  I went to the art museum with the kids, out for breakfast with a dear friend, out for coffee with a new one, and out for dinner with the hubs.  Good times enjoying things I love with ones I love.

The good:  I finished three canvases with trains for my nephews, found a local printer I really like, and I had a good night painting after some inspiration time on Pinterest.

This is one I did that night, I was inspired by words from a sermon I heard recently, a layout I saw (although I changed it completely in the end), and my birthday which was good, bad and ugly).
IMGAnd I am going to put this out there, bring it up, because I am frustrated and have been processing this all week.

My own birthday is another holiday I struggle with right up there with Christmas, Halloween, anniversaries, Sweetest Day, National Hot Dog Day, you name it.  I just cannot align my thought perceptions and processes to those of popular culture, no matter how hard I try.  Some people have OCD, some are germophobes, some don’t like to travel or change, I dislike holidays.  I know, I know. Weird.  But very true.  And just like I know I am not expected to be OCD, germophobe or whatever with those people, I don’t expect anyone to agree with my holiday dislike, but please just let me be –just as if I were ironing my shoelaces or wearing rubber gloves.

For example, my birthday:  It is not that I am not thankful to be alive or for my birth.  I am.  I am proud of being 39 (heck yeah I have almost made it to 40!), so that is not it.  Actually we should get presents for my parents and husband and celebrate them because they have survived me and my drama!

 It is not that I am not thankful for good wishes, it means a lot to have my loved ones think of me.

(But not the check out girl at the grocery store ID’ing me for wine–that was strange, and not the person on Facebook who I may not even actually know–hence why it is not listed.  Creeps me out personally.  And not the dentist I haven’t visited for three years who sent me a coupon, or the Menards “birthday coupon” for a three in one screwdriver.  Double creepy.)

To me, my birthday is just another day to be thankful for like all the others all year.  Another day in my story, my truth, no more special than the one before or after, no more of an excuse to do or not to do.    No more special than any other person’s day.  No more special than the many people who are a part of my story each day.  No more or less important to celebrate than some random Wednesday because it is a good day to be happy and be me.

No need to make a fuss,  special dinner, presents, a hullaballoo, or anything.  Just let it be.

Many cultures don’t even keep track of birthdays (or many of the holidays here in the USA for that matter).  Some do, but few celebrate American style.  I am more aligned to those other cultures.  I struggle with the American version of holidays in general:  the excess, the agendas, what stores are selling to us as important.   I used to get so caught up in the expectations game:  it will be WONDERFUL, it will be the BEST, better than ever, you should do this, and this, and this, and this and expect this and that.  And THEN you will be happy.  And you know what, for me, that never added up.  I am not the person who can read the magazine letters from everyone on their best whatever or special tradition, because I am too critical of myself, “Nicole!  Why haven’t you done that!  Geesh!  Get on it girl!”  And then I realize, I don’t have any interest in that anyway!  DUH.

Maybe being a holiday disliker makes me a realist, maybe a pessimist.  I don’t know.  But I do know this as part of my truth and unfolding story:   I love God, I love my family–ALL of them, whether they like me or not,  I am learning to love myself,  and I am thankful for all of the above on all sorts of random days–whether it is a national holiday or personal day or just a day.

But, okay, I have to admit, I am thankful for the free chocolate, entree, and wine from Coopershawk Winery for my birthday.  Now that was a FREEBIE! —But the “happy birthday” waiter was creepy.


Looking Good Ahead

IMG_0012Life is looking good here.   What a glorious thing.  2008-2012 were rough.  Lots of changes, lots of dealing with my depression and health issues, then dealing with the past.  But, FINALLY I am looking ahead.  And  I can see the sun shining on me.  Thank you God!


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