Saturday, 29 October 2016

Request by Susan L.

 The worship team leader approached me earlier this week to do something special for Advent. She asked if I'd like to do a drawing as well as writing something appropriate to each Sunday's yet-to-be-revealed theme. My first reaction was panic. It's a big commitment.
  Then I laughed.
  I'd asked the Lord to help me find a way to keep the art going once Inktober was over because I've truly enjoyed everything about it. I've enjoyed stretching my artistic skills. I've enjoyed taking the moments of quiet time to sit and draw. Most of all I've enjoyed having the Lord plant His vision for each of the prompts into my mind. He's been faithful, even for today's yet to be drawn image.
  "Surprise" is the prompt. There's been several ideas float past but those were me trying to force an idea. It happens all the time. Just as I sat down at the laptop, having given up trying to make it on my own, I imagined Moses parting the Red Sea. Wasn't that a surprise to all involved?! When I'm done here, I'll go and fulfill the request.
  The team leader and I discussed options for Advent after last night's rehearsal. It started to get complicated as possibilities were tossed back and forth. Too many choices are not a good thing. I asked her to talk with our pastor and give me a single idea for each of the four Sundays. I know the Lord will be there for me.
  He would have been there if there were choices to be made as well. I didn't want to get buzzing brain panicky about it because it's terribly hard to hear His voice when that happens. So this will be an exercise of absolute trust that there will be pictures as well as some form of writing be it a poem, a small play...something unique each week's theme. I firmly place this call to create in His hands. He is, after all, the Great Creator.
  "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Gen 1:2

Friday, 28 October 2016

The Forge by Susan L.

  I created something similar to this Inktober drawing when I first became a Christian. It's an idea which has brought me comfort time and again through all the trials I had yet to face when it was originally set down on paper. This drawing is much better. My art skills have grown over the years through much practice. It would seem they, too, have been refined and forged by a walk of faith.
  I've learned a lot about how blacksmiths use the science of heat and water. It's amazing what a master of the forge can make. Everything from pick axes, to weapons, to cooking tools, to fine, ornamental filigree can be created through fire and water.
  Even though a hammer is the main tool used to mold the heated metal, it cannot be forced but has to be carefully shaped. A hard blow at the wrong time, at the wrong temperature could shatter hours or even days of work.
  There's ways of tempering the metal to make it extra hard and durable. If I remember correctly, it needs to be heated to a glowing yellow red before being plunged into cool water.  A blacksmith knows when to douse it simply by the intensity and colour of the glowing metal. It does kick up a fuss in the water as it hisses and steams and boils the water around it.
 The best part is the end result because tempered metal has a shimmering gold colour to it.
  Maybe that's why I like the idea of Jesus being at the forge, shaping our spirits, our souls, through fiery trials and the cooling bath of living water. I like the idea because even before coming to the forge, we are purified like metal is extracted and refined from hunks of ore bearing, worldly stone. That too, is a process of fire.
  And acceptance, and worthiness.
  As the picture says,
  "We went through fire and water, but You brought us out to rich fulfillment." Ps 66:12

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Prayer of Art by Susan L.

  I am feeling so incredibly blessed. Each day of doing the Inktober challenge has brought me closer to God. Each day He has proven so faithful in granting me an image to draw. Each day He has whispered in my ear the message behind each picture. It is my message, not anyone else's and has enabled me to grow as a Christian.
  That's the joy of art. It speaks to everyone in their own special way.
  Art and faith have been companions for a long time. Art and faith have been inseparable since I became a Christian. It's where my walk started: at the drafting table where He taught me how to listen. He showed me how to put my heart on paper.
  God knew there would come a point where I was unable to articulate the pain in my life. God knew I'd need pictures to breach the swirling horror of the Black River.
  It's wonderful to come into a place where I am able to share this month's journey with others. It has been a journey. The discomfort felt at "tooting my own horn" has mostly faded away although I can occasionally feel it nipping at my heels. In it's place is the growing joy of knowing that God has used the pictures for His glory. And that's all what it's about anyways.
  Thank You, Lord, a gazillion times over for setting me free of my own box. Thank You for showing me I never have to get back into it ever again.
  There's only five days left. Already I am sad it's going to be over.
  I've been musing about starting a group to encourage other artists to explore faith through image creation. It would be more like an art jam as opposed to me teaching others how to draw. It's only been whispers up to now so perhaps, sometime soon, the opportunity will arise. Your will be done, my Lord. I will need a bigger space than my own tiny kitchen!
  Hmmm, that was a prayer. Guide me, Lord, through the steps that need to be taken to make this happen. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
  "Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day." Ps 25:4-5

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Light Challenges by Susan L.

  I have an art question. How do you make something look like it's glowing when drawn in pen and ink? This is a serious question. While I like the effect of the gold ink that was carefully painted to outline the angel, only the original glimmers and shines. It doesn't photograph well.
 The angel's only adornment is the shimmering gold. I didn't want to clothe a being that is made of light. At least, that's how I imagine them to be and what I attempted to do with worldly tools.
  I know there are warrior angels, comforting angels, and those who protect us. Does an eternal being even need armor?
  All I know is I have been thankful for their presence on more than one occasion.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Round and Round by Susan L.

  And round again. Our church is following the Meeting House series called "Love, Lust and Loyalty". It's about relationships between men and women in Christ. It challenges the traditional religious take on a patriarchal society. I want to go, to learn, to have my own false understandings changed...I don't know if I can continue going. 
  Sometimes I wish I could get off the memory merry-go-round. Sometimes I wish I could just "get over it".
  And I get angry. At myself. At the way I have to live simply to get by.
  It's been over a decade since my marriage thankfully ended. But then, I live with PTSD and chronic anxiety mostly because of that often horrible relationship. I am reminded every day how bad it was even though there were good times, even though there's much to be thankful for. I am reminded every day even if there is no particular memory that comes to mind. The problem is that ugly has a way of leaping out of the memory banks and tromping all over everything that is good and right with muddy boots.
  Even writing about it and I have to write about it because trying to contain it is the path to despair. I've been there. I don't want to end up in that terrible and dark place. I have to write about it because the writing is lifting it all up to the Lord in prayer. 
  Writing about it, thinking about it rewires the brain. It's like switching on the safety of a loaded gun.
  And God whispers His truth into my mind and heart.
   I've had a few people lately who, in their own brokenness, have subtly and not so subtly tried to get me to supress fundamental aspects of my identity. It makes them uncomfortable because of their own life experiences. I've had others who feel it is their place to "push" me into doing something I don't want to at this point in my life. Both of these situations are centred around my creativity, the artistic expression that is as much a part of my life as breathing. (Thank You, Lord, for the creative spirit You so generously blessed me with!)
  I don't want to be in someone else's box. I don't belong there. It isn't who I am.
  And there is the trigger that fed into and ignited yesterday's avalanche of memories. There is the twisted lesson so often drilled home. "You are not allowed to be who you are. You have to be and act according to how I say.. If you do not, then you will be punished or abandoned."
  Ha, I ended up "abandoned" anyways when my ex stepped out of the marriage. Praise God! That selfish act set me free and opened my heart to Christ.
  Okay. I am much better now. The memories stirred up yesterday have lost their sting.
  Lord, I need Your help in standing secure in the knowledge of my identity in You and the path You have laid out for my life. Grant me the words of love for others when they try and convince me that it isn't who or where I should be. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Eph 6:10-11

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Debriefing by Susan L.

  I couldn't bear the TV that normally fills the place with noise. My ticking watch seemed excessively loud. Anxiety pricked at my skin like pins and needles. It had been a couple of demanding days at work. I'd been triggered badly so ghosts of the past were nipping at my heels. A warm bath, a fleece hoodie, flannel jammies, snuggling up with my own teddy bear usually help me deescalate but seasoned with the uncontainable thoughts and emotions shared last night...I needed to hear another person.
  Some days living alone can be lonely.
  I called a friend who listened while I began to pick apart the ghosts. There's something wonderful about speaking the lies that swirl around inside. It diffuses their power. It chases them out of their hidey holes in the darkness and exposes them to the Light. Lies can't handle the Light. They disintegrate like mist.
  Still, it's left me feeling raw and vulnerable. Wounds re-opened take time to close up again even if Jesus has wrapped them in healing balm.
  There's a meeting today at the local Catholic church regarding human trafficking in our area. I won't be going. Knowing this goes on only adds to the sorrow for the little ones shared last night. Knowing that a young girl was nearly kidnapped off the side of the road earlier this week adds more.
  I am feeling less than a miniscule fraction of the pain Jesus must feel for us. To feel more would break my mind. How it must grieve His heart to see the callous disregard we have for each other.  
  Forgive me, Lord, for my own callous indifference. Help me forgive those who have treated me likewise. Help me, Lord, forgive those who have twisted Your Word, Your message of love, into a cruel weapon of abuse and power. Help me, Lord, forgive myself for the mistakes I've made as a parent, as a person. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
  "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Eph 6:4

Friday, 21 October 2016

InkTober challenge: Little

  Warning: The contents of this post may be disturbing to some readers.

  There will be no picture for this prompt. 

  I'd thought to do a lovely drawing of a little child with a teddy bear. In a few moments before work, I searched online for suitable inspiration. "Toddlers with teddy bears". How cute!! There were lots to choose from: delightful poses of children with their beloved, fuzzy companions. As I scrolled down, a pair of pictures of a little, middle-Eastern boy came up.

  A flag of ISIS hung on wall the behind him. He was dressed as a soldier and held a huge knife in the air with a delighted smile on his face.

  This was not a Halloween costume.

  The second image of this little boy was him taking the knife and beheading his big, fluffy, white teddy bear.

  These images showed up multiple times having been shown in British newspapers and various other media platforms. It was the first time I had seen them. I had to ask, "What had this child seen or been taught that he would know to do this?"

  Many years ago, I watched a movie about the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. In this movie was a clip from a parade. It doesn't matter if the parade was Catholic or Protestant. What matters was the image of a little, cute-as-a-button, black haired girl, standing on the sidelines. I have never forgotten her because her face was a mask of fury as she screamed hate-filled words at those who were walking past.

  What do I do in a world that teaches its children to hate?
  What do I do with the sorrow seeing these images and remembering the movie brings to my heart?

  What do I do with the knowledge that there's a staggering number of grownups who have lived a childhood of sexual, emotional and physical abuse? What do I do with the knowledge that abusers, 99.9% of the time, had been victims themselves? They are rarely strangers. They are people we love, and trust.

  What do I do for these broken, little boys and little girls in an adult's body?

  What can I do to create compassion for the victim-abuser? While I don't condone the choices they've made, I cannot condemn them either. It's fine to say they should know better but did anyone ever think that maybe they don't? Did anyone ever think that maybe, just maybe, there wasn't a grownup in their lives who cherished them, encouraged them, loved them? Chances are, there wasn't someone who taught them what "better" could be.

  Maybe they were hoping to get caught because maybe then someone would save them from the nightmares of childhood. Instead, they are hated even more.

  What do I do for the victims? What do I do for the victimizers? What do I do to help heal terrible wounds? What can I do to give them the gift of hope?
  Oh, Lord, I am so sad.

  We are taught to hate. We are not born with hate in us.

  I once was a mom with little ones. A lifetime ago it seems now. Those little ones now have little ones of their own.

  Thank You, Abba, for telling me what I can do. Help me be the best grandmother I can to all the little ones, big bodied and small, You bring into my life. In Jesus' name I pray, as tears finally spill over my cheek.


Another Perspective by Susan L.

  There's a joke that made the rounds a while ago.
  The police knocked at a man's door, advising him to evacuate because of potential floods. He refused, saying, "God will take care of me."
  Several hours later, the waters had forced him onto the second floor of his home. A rescue worker in a boat offered to take him to safety. He refused, saying, "God will take care of me."
  Eventually, he was stranded on the roof. A helicopter offered to lift him to higher ground. He refused, saying, "God will take care of me."
  He drowned.
  Arriving in heaven, he asked God, "Why didn't You take care of me?"
  God answered, "I sent the police, a boat, and a helicopter. What more would you have me do?"
  I think of my own struggles in finally admitting the inability to work because of damaged mental health and how hard it was to apply for disability assistance. At the time, the paperwork was overwhelming but there was help breaking it down into manageable pieces. It took several months. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done.
  Most of all, I needed help to change my prejudices about "those kinds of people" who lived on social assistance and recognize that, if accepted, this was the Lord taking care of me. This was my lifeboat when I was drowning.
  The Lord wasn't going to toss a lottery win my way since I don't buy tickets. There wasn't some connection to an obscure prince in a tiny European country that would miraculously make me a princess and therefore rich. I wasn't going to rob a bank.
  Thankful for God's provision and knowing there was enough to live on if I was careful, I was able to take steps towards recovering from PTSD and depression. Call it physiotherapy for the mind. I am now able to return to work in a rewarding job albeit with limited hours.
  Saying "can't" goes against the grain. It goes against worldly philosophies, "Never say can't. Only losers use that kind of language."" It's a culturally driven drive for accomplishments regardless of the financial or emotional cost.
  The moment I said, "I can't", God moved into my life and assured me, "But I can."
  "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:32

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Beautiful by Susan L.

  The little Goldfinch is picking away at what's left of the sunflowers. They must be rather bare by now. Between inspections, it looks like he is sipping the heavy dew that's gathered on the wilting leaves. A few moments are spent sitting, enjoying the unusually warm morning, having a scratch and a preen. What a blessing to have a National Geographic Special Presentation right outside my window!
  Coming home from church small group (aka Bible study) last night afforded me an amazing view of the moon. It was massive! I was sorry I hadn't taken my phone with me to snap a picture but then, sometimes, sights are simply meant to be enjoyed and remembered.
  It's also wonderful that I am feeling much better this morning. Hip, hip, hooray!!
  My artistic abilities received an affirmation this morning as well although the subject for today's InkTober challenge should have been "flight", not "escape". I've shared about my challenges drawing women and while my first attempt in a while hasn't created the prettiest of ladies, when I uploaded it, the tag option on Facebook zeroed in on the drawn face. I smiled because at least it was recognized as a face!
  Hmmm, there's some Triple T's in there. (Thinking Things Through.)
  Why does she have to even be beautiful? By what standards? Why do I feel an "ugly" woman shouldn't be displayed?
   If Michelangelo can put unattractive, rather muscle-bound women on the Cistine Chapel ceiling, I am in good company! His paintings of women were rarely slender, fragile beauties. He liked his women to be strong looking. (Rumour has it he only painted men then anatomically corrected them which is why they are usually rather buff and there's something not quite right about them.) But then, women of substance were once considered the epitome of beauty. Imagine! Beauty was once about curves that are curvy!
  Not that I am any where near a Michelangelo! (I am having a huge laugh at my own audacity this morning!) Maybe I am challenged by drawing the female figure like I am challenged by drawing birds. Bird muscles are covered by feathers. The lack of visible musculature makes it hard for me to define their form.
  Maybe I should practice drawing ballet dancers to get away from the body building buff that is the normal foundation of my people drawings. Or maybe I could look in the mirror if I want to study how softness (read: fat) folds and falls.
  Nope. I don't think so. That's too much truth for me. (And an even bigger laugh erupts.)
  Lord, thank You for a sense of humour. Thank You for starting this day with so much joy. Thank You for beauty in all its shapes and sizes!
  "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Gal 6:14

Monday, 17 October 2016

Inktober Challenge: Battle by Susan L.

  Of the drawings done so far, this one is my favorite. I am humbled by what emerged from the end of my pen. I am humbled by the One who provided the inspiration for this picture while at the same time smiling a bit because it's American football season. It's the only sport I watch.
  A few times during yesterday's games, the camera looked down on the offensive team's pre-play huddle. This God's eye view of what the human figure looks like from above came in handy. It also explains why my male figures tend to be rather buff. And my drawings of women, too, which is why I don't often draw them. Somehow they end up rather masculine.
  I did pray for help in getting it right because it was challenging putting what was in my mind down on paper. A pencil drawing is created first before using ink. The evidence is erased once the ink has set. For this one, I used a compass to lay out the circle the figures were in.
  It's been a joy for me taking part in InkTober. It's pushed the envelope of ability. It's pushed the envelope of trust. It's been an envelope pushing exercise of living a life in faith that can extend to all aspects of my day. It's put me at ease by reminding me I don't have to have all the answers. Most of all, it's shown me that it's okay to share these images with others because they are meant to be shared.
  At the base of all these drawings is an exercise in grace. It takes the help of different tools to create a finished image. It takes gentle and careful erasing of the pencil lines that aren't quite right. It takes a good foundation drawing to make a good pen and ink drawing. It takes even more grace to ignore the imperfections that this artist's eye sees so clearly.
  Grace...Thank You. Lord, for allowing me to understand Your heart even more.
  Help me make the gift of grace a fundamental part of my life.
  "And I (Jesus) will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." Jn 14:16-17

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Redemption by Susan L.

  This piece for the InkTober challenge was inspired by a waterfall in Cape Breton. It had a lovely, natural pool to swim in behind where I stood to take photos. It isn't exactly like this, I drew the waterfall much bigger than it was.
  Lovely as the pool, the falls, the quietness of the place was, it was exceptionally dirty. Plastic water bottles, chip bags, forgotten shoes, t-shirts, and a host of other garbage littered the entire area. Our guide had never been there before but her boss wanted her to check it out as a potential stop for other tours. It was the first and last time she'd bring people to see the falls.
  It was rather sad that such a beautiful place should be so abused. Yet, here it is in black and white. Redeemed. Made into something more than it was. A testimony to God's grace and ability to take anything and use it for His glory.
  It's something to keep in mind. All the time. No matter how much garbage our lives contain, it doesn't matter because He sees beyond it. He sees the hidden beauty beneath the pain, the trials, the suffering, the sin.
  He sees us for who we truly are.
  If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus, I invite you to welcome Him into your life. I challenge you to let go of whatever is stopping you and believe in Him. He is the way, the truth and the life.
  "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Jn 3:17

Saturday, 15 October 2016

And I Weep by Susan L.

  After yesterday's blog, I realized I need to put my money where my mouth is so I went on line to research some charities. What I have to give is only a drop in the bucket but perhaps in the future, more can be done. Lord, I trust Your guidance on what that may be.
  The main focus of my search was finding out which charity has the most of each donated dollar actually going to those in need. Because they are registered charities, this info must be readily accessible to anyone. If it isn't, then something is amiss.
  I searched for those helping the Syrian refugees but came across one that also does work in Canada.
  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves that there is even the need, that one in four aboriginal children are living in conditions worse than those of the third world.

  Last night's news contained the terrible story that there were three teen suicides over two weeks at one reserve. One of the girls wasn't even a teen. She was twelve. A baby.
  What nightmare was this little girl's life that she believed this was her only option?

  There are issues far beyond money within aboriginal communities, but without having the basic needs of life met like food, clean water, and having a decent place to live, moving beyond survival, or being freed of addictions into actually living life cannot happen.
  It will take tremendous healing to recover from the wounds inflicted through the generations. It will take much to empower a people so long subjugated.
  Yes, there are churches who do mission trips up north and throughout the globe, taking basic necessities and creating a fun time for children. I question the damage they do. Well meaning people with the best of intentions come in bearing gifts, create a wonderful for time for a week or two then leave to go back to a life of wealth.
  And we are wealthy.
  I wonder if those left behind only feel their want even more once they've gone. What I am about to say may upset some people but personally, I think the practice of mission trips is cruel unless they are for a long period of time or are part of an extended commitment to make a difference.
  Jesus doesn't pour out His love on us then abandon us.
  Yet, because of my own work in the mental health field, I know change cannot happen unless a person wants that change. Which brings me back to the hopelessness of a twelve year old, baby girl. Change is born of hope. When hope doesn't exist...

  My choice ended up being "Save the Children", a charity that has been around since 1919. A whopping 92.5% of each donated dollar goes to help children around the globe including Syrian refugees, or those who are displaced by natural disasters like the hurricane that recently swept through Haiti and yes, they work in Canada.  
  While I don't have all the answers to complex problems and am at a loss about what else can be done for now, I can make sure that a few children have enough to eat, clean water to drink and have access to medical care. Again, Lord, I lift all this up to you.  
  Thank You for awakening a social conscience in me and reminding me that one voice can make a difference. Help me be that difference.
  "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Heb 6:10-11

Friday, 14 October 2016

World View by Susan L.

  I printed a map of the world a while ago and have been highlighting the various countries where blog readers have hooked into this site. (I may have mentioned this before.) Blogger only lists the top ten countries at any time so it's been fun to highlight the various places that only one or two hits have come from. It truly is a global village. Perhaps, in the not so distant future, every single country in the world will be checked off. That would be really cool but because of the abject poverty, illiteracy, the wars, the oppression in many of the places in this world, chances are, it won't.
  It's easy to get bogged down in not feeling well but I've been watching some documentaries regarding the refugees that have been pouring out of the middle east. Normally, when any reference is made to their struggles, I simply change the channel rather than think about the horrific lives these people face every day.
  It's easy to get bogged down in my day to day routine of work, home and extra curricular activities and forget that there are still those who live under the threat of death every day. And not just in countries across the ocean but our own aboriginal peoples are as well.
  It's easy to forget there are still tens of thousands of people living in conditions most of us wouldn't allow our pets to suffer. There's moms and dads and grandmothers and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters starving to death or being sold into slavery, or the sex trade or being held hostage.
  Children are dying of starvation and disease.
  There is something seriously wrong here. One day, those of us in one of the wealthiest countries in the world will be held accountable.
  It's easy to forget that I am safe to come and go as I please. I've a car to get me there. It's easy to take popping into the grocery store, or the doctor's, or a friend's house for granted. It's easy to take filling a glass of water from the tap for granted or peering into an overflowing pantry only to complain that there's "nothing to eat".
  In 2015, the US, UK and Canada, had a combined population of 420,556,922 people. If even half of those individuals gave two dollars, the price of a coffee, the funds to help those most in need would be there. If only a fraction of the $6.5 BILLION a year spent on pets went to people in need, the world would be a far better place.
  When I pick up my map, I am holding the world in my hand...
  God forgive me for my complacency.
  Guide me, Lord, to where I can make even a small difference in someone's life.
  "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." Jn 15:16-17

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Feeling Blue by Susan L.

  I am rather downhearted today. Not feeling well. Another trip to the doc's. Another dose of antibiotics for a bug that just won't quit. I am thankful, though, for the doc and for the pills. Hopefully this time will kick this thing to the curb once and for all.
  That's it for today. I don't feel much like writing.
  "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Phil 4:6

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Turkey Soup for the Soul by Susan L.

  I could have crawled into the massive vat of turkey soup that was simmered to perfection yesterday. Chock full of meat and roasted veggies it sure tasted good. A bowl was even heated up for my bedtime snack. Seeing as I am not overly fond of soup, it's a sure fire sign of just how ill I am.
  I was able to get caught up on the InkTober challenges because it's easy to put the TV on for company, plunk myself down on the couch and draw away between snivelling sneezes and sea lion barks.
  It's a beautiful, sunlit morning. Looking out the kitchen window, there's what appears to be a juvenile Goldfinch having itself a delicious sunflower seed breakfast. I had no idea they could eat so much! My identification might be wrong because there's quite a few small songbirds in the area who have yellow in their plumage. Goldfinches also travel in flocks. This little one is on its own. It's a delightful sight because between nibbles, there's a unhurried moments spent basking in the morning sun, its feathers puffed out against the autumn chill.
  (Several minutes later after hauling out the camera and snapping some pictures.)
  Nope, I got the bird's ID right. A pair of Goldfinches joined the first who is definitely juvenile because its tail is still a wee bit short.
  Lord, I feel so blessed by this delightful sight. Thank You. It raised my spirits just like the turkey soup did. Gotta love the simple pleasures.
  Maybe Noah is meant to be an example of how we are to care for God's creatures. Today's InkTober challenge was transport but it fits today's post as well.
  There are no coincidences.
  I definitely have to plant more sunflowers in the garden next year and perhaps some milkweed for the Monarch butterflies that are struggling due to loss of habitat. Lord, let my garden be an ark. Help me plant it accordingly so the wild things may come in Jesus' name I pray.
  "Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided." Gen 8:1

Monday, 10 October 2016

Art Triple T by Susan L.

  There is an idea growing regarding the art. It is related to that rather vague idea about the possibility of perhaps at some future date thinking about actually selling my art that I blogged about earlier this week. (Talk about dancing around commitment!)
  I am rather wary about thinking about everything it would take to reach that goal. It could get overwhelming rather quickly. Yes, vague as it is, it is a goal. Shhhh! It's a secret! Don't tell anyone I've actually set a goal! Or at least, I am willing to embrace the possibilities. It's a first step.
  First of all, there's the how. How do I market my stuff? How do I produce enough stuff to market in the first place? Perhaps this Inktober challenge is a good way to learn how to dedicate a few hours of each day to art. There are other prompt lists available on line. Maybe come November, I could utilize them to keep up the routine.
  When I started writing this blog, it quickly became part of the fabric of each day. There really isn't any reason why art can't be the same.
  What is stopping me? I think that's more of the question. This is bogeyman territory (one of the anxiety monsters who made itself known last Thursday in art therapy).
  "It's not good enough! How conceited..." it whispers. Hmmm. Now why do I think selling my art is arrogance? Maybe it's because even sharing the pieces I've done online has left me squirming and feeling guilty that I'd toot my own horn to such a degree.
  So, why am I even sharing them in the first place? It's part of the requirements of the challenge. I'd hoped for it to be an opportunity to share my faith.
  Because it's good.  Far from perfect but good nonetheless. The essence of the mood or idea comes through loud and clear. Because I want to share the joy creating art brings into my life. I want to inspire and encourage others. Because this is a gift meant for sharing.
  Why, then, do I choke at the idea of having someone pay me for something that touches their life?
  I remember in grade two or three having to do a drawing using only straight lines. I had drawn a horse using a ruler. The tail was a series of straight lines that formed the curvy hair. The teacher held it up for everyone to see as an example of excellence. I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat, ashamed and embarrassed.
  This particular bogeyman has been with me a long time.
  I thank You, Lord, for helping me realize this is symptomatic of a much larger issue. Help me find my way into truth and life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Eph 1:17-18

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Thanksgiving by Susan L.

  The leaves are dressing in their autumn glory. The nights grow cooler. The days shorter. The last of the tomatoes beside the house are ready.
  The sunflower in the front yard has been picked clean by the various songbirds who think sunflower seeds are fine dining. It has produced over eighty red and yellow blooms providing plenty to eat and plenty to share. I managed to cut off one bloom with half the small, black seeds remaining so they can be planted next year for my feathered friends.
  It hasn't been the greatest year as far as health is concerned but I'll give thanks anyways that this cold will be the only illness I suffer this coming winter! I got the only cough medicine I can take on sale!
  I'll give thanks for my tiny kitchen even though it made cooking an eight kilo turkey extremely challenging yesterday. It pretty much took up all the counter space but it got done. The stuffing and gravy was made, bones roasted as well as some vegies for the pot of stock that sits in the fridge. My house still smells scrumptious! All that remains is to heat everything up at my mom's for a family gathering today. Except the soup. That's mine. Best cure for a cold!
  I'll give thanks that no one will catch it from me.
  This post could go on forever. There's so much to be thankful for: where I live and work, the gifts, God's provision, family, quiet times and busy days, Pumpkin, solitude and company, fresh air, clean water, as well as all the things Jesus brings into my life. Things like forgiveness, redemption, healing, restoration, and grace. Most of all He gives me a heart of gratitude so that no matter how tough things are, I can always find something to be thankful for.
  "Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God." 2 Cor 9:10-11

Saturday, 8 October 2016

InkTober 2016 Week 1 by Susan L.

  This has been most enjoyable, taking the InkTober challenge. I am honoured to be in such talented company but, I discovered, after checking out on line what other artists are doing, that black ink lends itself to creating dark images. After catching up, which was done in this triple panel, I decided to use the provided prompts as a faith outreach opportunity; to shed a little light in the darkness.
  It's a good exercise for practicing listening as well. I lift the prompt word up in prayer, God is faithful to provide the inspiration.
  It's a nice way to shake off the monsters that appeared in art therapy.
  The cross was inspired by "hungry". Then came "sad" and "lost". The sea scene was created from the word "hidden". I don't know if using the fish symbol for Jesus to draw actual fish is perhaps the most respectful of ideas...I am glad the Lord has a sense of humour.
  The portrait of Peter, was prompted by "rock". It was the only image I used reference for. It was astounding how many online pictures there are of Jewish men. The only reason I looked was because different nationalities have different traits in their appearance.
  Being aware of using a photographed portrait that is someone else's work, I used the face of a young man with penetrating eyes as a starting point. By aging him and putting on the beard. It doesn't look anything like the original picture.
  I confess to cheating a bit by leaning the paper back before taking a photo of the drawing. It shortened his nose that for some reason seems to be an area I always end up drawing too long no matter whose portrait I am drawing!
  They say that most portrait artists include some aspect of their own face in the finished piece. I guess it's because it is the face we are most familiar with that it can't help creeping in. While my own nose isn't particularly long, it is rather slender (the only thing about me that is).
  Lord, thank You for Your inspiration as I have embarked on this journey. Thank You for providing the time to do each piece and the time I have had to practice and hone my skills.
  Mostly I thank You for the gift of art that is so much a part of who I am.
  "But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand." Is 64:8

Friday, 7 October 2016

Exploration by Susan L.

  Last night in art therapy I drew a bunch of monsters trying to put faces on the various anxieties that plague me. At first I thought it would be fun and decided to do them like baseball cards with images and stats regarding each "player". By the time I reached card number ten, it wasn't much fun anymore. By the time I reached number ten, I didn't need to do a pencil under-drawing because the image of the next one became clear as a bell before I'd even finished the one I was working on.
 They ranged from performance anxiety to the anxieties born in childhood like having actual monsters under the bed and being afraid of the dark. There was a ghost who whispered words of shame and self doubt. A judge added its opinions. There was one that corroded confidence...
  As Forest Gump says, "That's all I am going to say about that."
  I needed another team. "The Good Guys."
  The team Captain is Jesus. There are only five members on His team but they are tremendously powerful: Determination, Wisdom, Vulnerability, Hope and Grace.
  All of this came about because of last week's realization about how much of my time is spent resting and recharging in order to do what is generally considered "a normal day". "Normal" days exact a high price in energy for me. Most of what I do needs an equal time spent in refresh mode.
  Taking on anything new requires careful thought about the physical and emotional cost it will have. 
  It's hard to be okay with that.
  Lord, I need more grace in my life. I need help forgiving those who established the "rules" lives are to be lived by. I need help forgiving the what's and the who's who feed the anxiety crew. Most of all, I need help forgiving myself for being so darn hard on myself all the time.
  These things I pray in Jesus' Name. Amen.
  "Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility." Zeph 2:3

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Pity Party by Susan L.

  Pity parties always come with whine and cheese. So here goes. I am sick again. (Waaah!) Full of a cold that has taken over my head, chest, and patience. (Sniff. Pout.) I am beginning to wonder if it isn't something environmental. Should I get the air quality tested in the house? Could there be mould hidden somewhere that is causing so many respiratory issues?
  That's a scary thought. It's just as scary facing the idea I'll have another winter of ill health like last season. Lord, help me not be so sick!!
  Perhaps purchasing an air filter system might be a good idea. I'd already thought about buying one of the Himalayan salt lamps which cleanse the air of impurities. It's only a matter of finding one because I noticed a huge difference breathing the salt air of Nova Scotia.
  This is so frustrating!! (Snivel.) I have been eating better although the exercise fell by the wayside. I was too tired most days. I guess the body was trying to fight off this latest interloper. (Boo-hoo!)
  Meanwhile, I am going to try and do things a bit differently by taking double doses of vitamin C.
  A peppercorn a day swallowed like a pill apparently boots the immune system. My step dad is a copious pepper eater and rarely gets a cold. My co-worker is the same. I don't like pepper so simply swallowing a peppercorn works for me. That's one of the easier home remedies I've heard about. (Maybe I ought to cheer for that. Okay. Woohoo!)
  I think I should double up the multi-vitamin as well for a bit.
  I will pray for a healing miracle too!
  Oh well. It is what it is. Thanks for listening to me rant.
  A dose of cough medicine and I'll be as right as rain.
  "And those who heard it said, "Who then can be saved?" But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."" Lk 18:26-27

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Challenge Taken by Susan L.

  I've decided to take the InkTober challenge. It means doing one pen and ink drawing a day for the entire month of October. When I Googled the challenge to find out more about it, I discovered it came with a list of prompts which makes it a bit easier trying to think about what to draw. Or maybe it's more challenging. How do you draw "hungry"? Hmmm. I'll be musing about that one because it's today's prompt.
  I'm thinking too, it will be a good way to explore all that ink can do. The tools used can create effect. I particularly enjoy using a sharpened twig dipped in India ink. It creates a lovely organic feel ideal for drawing images from the natural world. A paintbrush also adds texture to lines. I wonder what using the soft end of a feather would do?
  There's dollar store gel pens which are my tool of choice. I have an art pen that has a flattened nib like a calligraphy pen. Calligraphy is also ink art. I've also got another pen and ink set with a variety of nibs that has yet to be explored.
  Then there's shading. Cross hatching, where lines of the same thickness are overlaid in different directions, builds the shadows that define an object. Bold graphic shadows can be effective as well. There's a stipple technique that uses dots placed far apart or close together to create shading although it is rather time consuming.
  Using ink like watercolours is effective as well. The more water added, the ink becomes a lighter gray.
  And this is only black and white! I've also got coloured inks which could add a whole new dimension to the prompted subject.
  My goodness! All these ways to connect with one art tool. It's got me thinking about all the ways I connect to God or to find Him in my life.
  He is in all things.
  That means He is in every single thing that is done, or said, or thought, or drawn, or made, or hoped for, or mourned, or celebrated, or breathed, or laughed about, or cried over...He's in the quiet moments as much as being present in the joyful noise of worship. And so much more!
  He's a great big God after all.
  "Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name." Ps 97:12

Monday, 3 October 2016

Believing is Seeing by Susan L.

  In one of my posts about the trip, I'd mentioned how, by the end of the day, it felt like my brain was going to explode from visual overload. While waiting for the electrician to do his stuff at work, I picked up an old Guinness Book of World Records to pass the time. Having no hydro really limits what you can do but at least there was enough light coming in the windows to read by. The book contained a brief section about vision; that the human eye can see 10,000,000 colours under optimal conditions.
  No wonder I felt overloaded!
  I love it when the Lord validates my feelings and affirms the authenticity of them.
  My son and his wife were over on Saturday. He mentioned it's "Inktober", an artist's challenge to do one pen and ink drawing a day for the month of October. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or big. Small drawings are as acceptable as larger pieces. Phone call doodles, Zen tangles, stipple drawings, ink washes, studies...something...anything is good.
  I'd asked the Lord to help me get more art into my life. Taking on this challenge in a media I love working in...answered prayers. I am a couple of days behind so need to catch up. Which is okay seeing as I only heard about it on Saturday.
  I've a special sketchpad for it as well. It was given to me a couple Christmases ago. The paper has a stone coating. Ideal for receiving ink. I'd thought about taking it down east but it was rather heavy to be toting around in a back pack. It's what I will use for the challenge.
  Lord, help me find the time to do this challenge. Grant me ideas about what to draw. Help me not get too upset if I miss a day. In Jesus, name I pray. Amen!
  "He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me." Ps 55:18

Saturday, 1 October 2016

God's Provision by Susan L.

  The last couple of days has been crazy hectic. Because my boss was away and I was working alone, things happen. Around one thirty, the power went out at the centre. It was only us. No one else in the building had been affected. There aren't that many windows so it was rather dark inside despite being the middle of the day.
  God's hand 1: We usually get some sort of small gift to give out at the Annual Information Meeting. This year it was a pen light on a cord. I'd tossed a left over one into my purse, not really needing a flashlight but unable to resist a freebie! Am I ever glad because it meant being able to go into the creepy, cobweb filled, damp and musty, stone basement by myself. All that was missing was a horror movie soundtrack playing in the background. My imagination was playing all sorts of tricks as I looked down the steep, railing free, creaky steps into the inky blackness beyond the light.
  I wasn't able to figure out which breaker might have tripped. I tried the main one but it didn't work. (Turns out I hadn't been firm enough with it. But then, anything electrical is better left to the professionals.)
  The centre had to be closed early for health and safety reasons.
  God's hand 2: We have an old, corded phone that hooks into the fax line so I was able to call my boss's boss, and the property manager to let them know what was going on. They sent an electrician to check out the situation.
  God's hand 3: The main breaker that shuts power off from the street to the panel was the problem. It had corroded over time being in the creepy, cobweb filled, damp and musty, stone basement at the bottom of the creaky steps. I am so thankful the place hadn't burnt down!
  God's hand 4: By shutting down all unnecessary equipment, we were able to get the power to stay on so Art Therapy wasn't cancelled.
  God's hand 5: The electrician was back yesterday to replace the damaged switch. I had to be there at 7:30 AM to meet him. (A nice young man who even bought me a coffee while we were waiting for hydro to come and cut off the power from the street.) Once the switch was switched, we had to wait for the electrical inspector, then hydro to come back and turn us back on. We were only an hour late opening.
  God's hand 6: Which has nothing to do with work. I pulled a brown envelope out of my mailbox. The kind that only comes from the government. Rarely do they contain good news especially if they come at an unusual time. My stomach dropped. Reluctantly opening it, and once past the first few lines, I realized this was actually good news! They'd done some recalculations so I was entitled to a generous lump sum payment to cover the shortages of the past four years.
  I had to smile. Not only had God been on the trip down east with me, He'd paid His way, too!
  He really is the God of all things.
  "So He (Jesus) said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."" Lk 18:29-30