Can My Hopes and Dreams Come True?

I have been doing the online Bible study “Defiant Joy” by Candace Payne and doing the YouTube live videos on Monday nights with Mandisa, the singer. The online study began August 13 and will end September 24. It has been joyful for certain, but it has been thought provoking too. Yes, I could be doing this study by myself, and you could too, especially if you missed the window of dates it was offered online. But, I encourage you to do it with your ladies class, study group, or friends because just a little bit of discussion over things that are in the study guide make them become more real when talking or listening to other people. 

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I had one of these “more real” moments last night when we were discussing the homework, or “funwork” as Candace refers to it in the study guide. One of the things you could do was simply write down big hopes or dreams in the space provided because last week was about hope and how it is the anchor of joy. Mandisa asked for people to share their hopes and dreams if they did that section, and in the live comments feed became a blur with people writing down trips they wanted to take, places they wanted to see, things they wanted to do and things like that. A few people shared hopes they had written that had already come true with in that week, like hoping their house would sell and it did. 

I sheepishly wrote, “I did write down hopes and dreams, but sometimes I get worried that if I get hung up on my hopes and dreams, that I won’t follow God’s will. Anyone else?”

No one in the comments whizzing by really answered me, but Mandisa spoke wisdom that was a direct answer and it gave me a whole new perspective on my hopes and dreams. I’m not sure how it even started, because I don’t think she read my comment out loud or anything, but she said the verse that said God will give you the desires of your heart if you delight in him.

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart

The big thing was if you take delight in the Lord, or if you are seeking first the kingdom of God, another verse someone brought up quickly in the comments, your hopes and dreams can become your reality. It is so simple, yet so profound, that if we are putting God first, then our hopes will line up with God because we are desiring what God desires. Why had I never thought of it that way?

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you

She probably didn’t linger too long on that point, but it was long enough that I could just breath this sigh of relief. My hopes and dreams may not come to fruition in the way that I picture them today, in this very moment, but I shouldn’t be afraid to dream them. Right about then, someone brought up the song “Dream Small”, which is now echoing in my ears, so I’m going to share it here:

As I reevaluate my hopes and dreams and I can say with confidence, “None of these are against God’s kingdom, they are good things, and I am trying to figure out this life and what God intends, desires, and has planned already.” This is where free will comes in, and this is a turn the discussion didn’t take last night. The great part is, being part of the group chat and this discussion got me thinking of free will after realizing that beautiful truth about God fulfilling desires.

I have a lot of big hopes and dreams, but I know not all of them can happen all at once. Since I am chasing the kingdom of God, should a door open, it is up to me to choose whether or not to go through. God may open several doors, and I might have to figure out what my greatest desire is. Or God might make one door really big and obvious, but it will still be up to me to go through or not. That, to me, is kind of cool that we are given those choices. 

It is like when someone hires me to do their graduation photo’s for them. I know they will want portraits and some unique shots. Then I get to know them a little, and I take pictures or give up ideas that line up with their hobbies or personalities, things they hadn’t thought of. 

I actually just hired an artist to create a logo for me and my sculpture work. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and the message I wanted to get across. In the end, she is the one who is creating the work. Just like I am the one who takes the photographs during a senior shoot and edits them later. 

In either case, if the client decided to micro manage, you can bet it would probably hinder the artists abilities. If I had a teen telling me exactly the pictures they wanted, and never took my advice of trying a new angle, or letting me add a vignette to the photo, sure, they would get what they want, but they would miss out on even more options and ideas that would still have them at the center of it. If I micro managed the artist creating my logo, I might never get to see it with the options of different fonts or colors that ultimately might look better than what I had in mind. My idea would still be center, but it would be lacking the options and talent of the graphic designer whose specialty is to create something like that. 

If I try to micro manage God, because I am so set on my hopes and dreams, then I might miss out on doors he is opening for me because I have tunnel vision on the wall I have to knock down instead. It becomes a delicate balance of hoping and dreaming and keeping my eyes open for all the options God, the greatest artist of all, wants to give me as I am chasing after the kingdom.

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And by the way, here is a preview of my logo. What do you all think?

 

My Dog’s Beard

Between puppy naps I am trying to get some “to-do’s” done. Grizz is such a busy little puppy and it isn’t always the easiest keeping up with him with this bum knee. I am cautiously bending it now, but that doesn’t mean I am running. He had “bring” down by day five of being with us, bring meaning fetch, and he has sit mastered, because he has connected that when he does sit, he generally gets what he wants. I feel as though these pop up storms today are going to mess up our pattern of hanging out outside until I am absolutely certain he won’t make a mess on the carpet.

I have gotten some art projects done while I sit, babying my knee. With my dogs as inspiration, I created these fun images of a cartoon Drahthaar and German Wirehaired Pointer for merchandise. I know I am a dog person and love things having to do with my pets, so I figured others would probably enjoy my doodles of my pets as well. If you click on the image below, it will link you to my shop where you can purchase them in mug or t-shirt form and personalize it if you so choose. I know the cartoon image can also resemble a Griffon or Pudelpointer, so I made the breed text at the bottom changeable or removable.

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It has been fun learning how to work with this puppy. After frustrating moments, I try to not only refocus him, but myself and remind myself that this is a really smart breed, he just needs a job. So “sit” followed by “down” has been my next mission.

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A Deutsch Drahthaar is a very vermittle hunting dog whose native land is Germany and didn’t make an appearance in the United States until the 1920’s. They have wired hair and webbed feet because they do well in all terrains, including water. One thing Shane keeps reminding me of is that with this breed, when other dogs are getting tired, these tanks are just getting started.

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He will look a lot like Jagger, but they aren’t quite the same. Remember those sentences in English that made you think like “Every rose is a flower, but not every flower is a rose”? Well, Deutsch Drahthaars are considered German Wirehaired Pointers, but not all German Wirehaired Pointers are Deutsch Drahthaars. Jagger is just a German Wirehaired Pointer, Grizz’s breed is much more strict about breeding. When we got Grizz, the breeder explained how his color could only breed with a certain other color; forgetting what he had said, I looked it up when we got home with him and what I found about breeding them was a huge file with articles one through thirty-six with do’s and don’ts, exceptions and rules.

So that is a little background to our new furry member of the Elser household. To follow suit with Shane and Jagger, he is already working on a beard.

Discovering Radiance

Living starts in-between your ears. It was something like this that my hometown pastor said during Sundays message. He was saying how sometimes before a week even begins, the list of things that must be done can be overwhelming and make you feel far busier or more rushed than you even really are. With my last post being about devotions or meditating on God’s word, for me through sketching, reading various books and making connections, I had to share my thoughts on “living between your own ears”.

In the evening, after that morning message, I was reading “Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. I loved how she cited other artists and writers who, whether directly or not, seemed to have this call for the movement of Slow Art. We are surrounded by all these tools these days that are supposed to speed up processes of everything, from cooking to contacting people, but somewhere in that mindfulness has been lost.

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It has taken me twenty-eight years to sort of barely just figure out a little bit better how my own mind works. As an artist, introvert is often a blanket term tossed around, and I am comfortable with that term. Essentially, for me, it is being comfortable with solitude, being alone with out being lonely. In reading Claire’s book, I couldn’t help but connect my solitude, and working in it, with mindfulness. Taking the time to think through a project, a drawing, a painting, a series, gives me a chance to engage with it, sort things out beyond the project and get things sorted out between my ears. The author says something about the long amount of time it takes for her to regain concentration after engaging with external digital media, and I couldn’t agree more, as it can make me completely lose momentum in a drawing or painting.

Beyond my art, connecting more with the idea of lists or schedules like the pastor was pointing out, it can be so distracting to live fast. We can see twenty people’s opinion on a news story on Twitter in under twenty seconds, we can scroll through hundreds of pictures in less than a minute on Instagram, and we can start a group message with people all over the United States and get dozens of replies with in a matter of seconds. Actions that used to take a whole day, like to research or write to someone or about something now can be done in less than fifteen minutes. On this overload of media and images and messages, it can be hard to leave room to take things slow, to meditate on good things, or to be mindful.

Pslam 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This Psalm is how pastor finished his message, and I love it. In the context of today, we have all seen that person in distress from their hectic schedule, trying to keep up, they look exhausted. On the flip side, someone who has just taken the time to get a massage, or a weekend trip, or something, anything that is very deliberately un-rushed, always seem to glow, do they not? Well, what if every day, we took the time to meditate on Him, find that time to be mindful, make deliberate choices, wouldn’t we daily glow?

Start between your ears. Quiet your mind. Put the cellphone away. Pull out a pencil, a needle and thread, a paintbrush or a book and take it slow. You might just find yourself beaming!

 

Different Kind of Devotions

Daily devotions can elicit a feeling that “we forgot to do our homework” feeling can’t it? Never-mind forgetting it, when we hear daily devotions, sometimes we can even think, “I didn’t even bring my homework home to do.” We leave it at church or in the car when we turn off the ignition, stopping the flow of praise from the speakers, and walk into our homes completely disconnected from our Father.IMG_4145.JPG

I like to read, in fact, I have a really appetizing spring reading list I am picking through at the moment, and only one carry-over book from my December reading list, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. I just can’t fly through that particular book, after reading pages of really good truths, I find I need to sit back and think about it. I don’t want to finish that particular book just for the sake of finishing it.

I’m beginning to notice that that’s how devotions always come across to me. You have to do it to get it done. I even heard the analogy once about tuning your orchestra at the end of a performance, and you wouldn’t do that would you? So tune up before the day gets started! And though that is a great analogy, sometimes it sets in and sets me up to rush through the tuning because “I have to get it done”.

In reality, I really enjoy the time it takes me to get to work and devoting that car ride to a time for prayer. Prayer has been a topic I have been reading a lot about lately, and by lately, I mean beginning right before Shane and I were Shane and I till now. It began with “God Whispers” by Margaret Feinberg, “The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations” by Anne Graham Lotz, and “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas. Another book, “Why Keep Praying?: When You Don’t See Results” by Robert Morris is always floating around in my laptop bag, and I get it out from time to time for a quick “ah-ha” moment before it ends up hiding away again for weeks on end. Finally, I am slowly getting into the more devotionally minded “Before Amen” by Max Lucado, a book from my Grandma Hayes, a fan of Max Lucado.

Maybe I’ll get more into how my brain works in another post, but until then, as I was sketching this morning, listening to hymns picked with a banjo and strummed with a guitar, I realized how I get into my devotions is probably vastly different than half a dozen other people. While drawing, I was making connections with yesterday’s sermon, an art method book I was reading, and scripture that tied the two together. That is when I thought about how drawing can often bring me to a place of meditation and focus in a way not many other things can.

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I don’t have to follow someone else’s formula of waking up early, timing out a prayer that is sufficient enough before I read the next chapter in a book meant for devotions. I can do it my way, as long as I am doing it.

Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.

Our First New Years

Last New Years, Shane and I were going to leave a day later than my parents to head to Connecticut. I was excited to head up, and had an audio book at the ready for us. That morning, full of vim and vigor, we packed the car, but by the time we were thirty minutes on the road I was doubled over begging Shane to turn back. I had gotten the flu. So we spent New Years at my parents home, Shane kindly bringing me ginger ale and crackers and I really don’t remember much of the first day.

This year could not be the same! I doubled down on cinnamon and vitamin C and felt confident I would not be too sick to miss out on one of my favorite traditions of visiting my New England family. Family that could now be called our New England family.

So up we drove, listening to the audio book intended for last year, The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. We left a half an hour before my parents, but by the end of the journey, they were following us as I navigated around traffic and eventually landed us on 95, though not before we passed through the town of Bethel, Connecticut, where we passed three bookstores. Three. Also a library. So many books!

When we arrived, we nestled in to my aunts home and the first night enjoyed hot buttered rums. The next evening was our annual gift exchange. It is amazing that we still keep up this gift exchange despite all us cousins being grown, starting families, and new little ones running around.

I think it is less about the presents and more about the presence. We have one night we spend all together, we blame it on the gifts, but in the end it is the togetherness, the food, the laughs that seem to keep this good thing going.

Many of the gifts, at least on the woman’s end, are handmade. This year, an end table I refurbished was bought by one cousin and given to another, meanwhile I painted a sign that read “Merry Christmas” on one side, and “Count Your Blessings” on the other for my aunt. In previous years, my dad has handmade benches, each year giving one to another cousin of mine. One of my aunts is great at knitting, so her talent is often given as a gift. It is this giving of your own gift, ones creativity or talent, that makes the gift giving so unique in our family.

With the men not often making something, it is fun to see their thoughtfulness. Honestly, to date, a gift card has not entered the gift exchange. This year, my cousin Meg’s husband had Shane’s name and got him a throwing ax. His reasoning was simple, he likes sharp things and he likes throwing sharp things, so why wouldn’t Shane? Shane loved it and got to explain how he has thrown axes at competitions and this started a whole new level of stories to be shared.

We have no price cap. We have no limitations. We have no expectations. We just appreciate what is given, because it is so often given out of love and joy, it isn’t some obligatory act. The only rule, get something for your name gift, for the person Kim’s computer randomly lines you up with. And it works.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

While You Were Away

Okay, so it was me that was away for most of summer not writing, I just get so distracted with nice weather, places to go, things to do, I don’t take the time to sit in front of my laptop to write. You could say it is fall now, why the hiatus still, but it has been a really warm fall, so getting things done still keeps me from writing. Last weekend, while Shane road Scott’s four wheeler with friends in West Virginia, I stayed home and painted our dreary dining room.

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Our dining room is where I often sit and do things on my laptop, draw, and clearly cook and eat. With gold shag carpet, the unfinished dark red walls were feeling a little suffocating and enough was enough. With the dining room chairs that my mom had gotten refinished for Shane and I now in the dining room, I decided to paint the walls in a bright color that would compliment the Navajo design.

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So turquoise it was! Okay, so the paint sample says something like “Sailing Blue”, but it is a turquoise color, and I love it. To add to that, I had fun, a lot of fun, with texture. It was super simple too, just a little bit of paint on the wall, apply tissue paper, and paint over. Go big or go home they say, and being that I am home, I just went big then sat back and enjoyed my work, excited to show Shane when he got back.

The room is so much happier and I adore the texture. I ordered a southwestern valance, and soon we can check this room off our to-do list!

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Summer Flew By

Summer came and went before I knew it, sunflower decorations have been replaced with pumpkins, and pumpkin recipes are covering my table.

Summer left us with some good memories, a new closet that is oh-so-close to being finished and big ideas for a garage and addition. For now, I’ll leave you with photo’s of our new walk in closet that is still being organized and final touches are being installed.

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This idea of mixing trees into functional furniture always makes its way into Shane and I’s conversation when we are talking about remodeling and doing a DIY project. Of course our closet would have trunks be the focal point. These trees came off Shane’s brother’s property and we came up with all the measurements, or so we thought, for all the piping and set to work on turning the blue bedroom into our master walk-in closet.

The thing is, when we put together our plan for the lay out, we didn’t think about where the studs were. This is fairly important when you are attaching things to the wall. We honestly lucked out by starting with the corner you see pictured above. As we rounded the bend and realized our mistake, we had enough pipe to edit our design. Had we started on any other wall, that may not have been the case.

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We added shelves to the center of the room, and I have put in baskets that act as drawers. You can see Shane getting creative with some left over wood in this photo.

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On Labour Day Weekend, we got busy again with our closet and Shane’s dad helped us put in our very cool lighting. You can’t see it in this photo, but I promise, as soon as it is done, I can’t wait to show it off. It will tie together this whole mix of nature and industrial, or industrial plus nature look.