Friday, August 10, 2012

The Real Heaven...

I just read my daughter Alicia's blog post about Heaven.

Like Alicia, I like to speculate about Heaven.

Old wonderment Joe Beam, a fabulous fast-talking wildly emotional yet conservative Christian minister recently released his second book about Heaven (pretty much a rip-off re-write of an earlier edition he wrote several years ago but I guess he needed the cash) but I am tending to sort of disagree with old Joe this time, much as I hate to do that. His vision of Heaven seems to me to be a really dumbed-down Heaven.  It's just way too attainable... I don't mean getting there... I mean envisioning it.

I don't believe that Heaven is merely a spiffed-up version of what we've got now. I expect that more was compromised when we lost Eden than just perpetual sunshine and good crops. For one thing, Eve didn't think it strange when a serpent spoke to her. That leads me to conclude that the animals were  not initially created to be incommunicado with man.(After all, God DID first seek companionship for Adam among the animals. That tells me they COULD indeed speak; just maybe none could speak with the charming authority of a woman and so, viola, God made a woman.)

If the koala bears and sheep and wiener dogs lost some of their special abilities, it seems possible that maybe we did too. Certainly we lost the right to do some things we were going to be aloud to do. One thing still making me mad is having to wear clothes, especially as I get older and fatter. All the day, I am less happy about wearing underwear for hours and hours at a go. Except for some unfortunate house pets, animals haven't been punished in this way and except for some really unfortunate dogs who have had a lot of puppies over their lives, none of them seem to have to live with this excessive amount of cleavage that I have born now for almost four decades.  It's punishment for what stupid Eve did. I hate that stupid woman. When I meet her, I am rolling my eyes at her and I'm going to encourage all my big-breasted friends to do the same.

I'm just about doggone certain that one of the things God also took away from us was flight. And you know what I think he did with it? He gave it to the dadgum bumble bee.  They say that fat slouch has no scientific business flying. That fat pig is flying around and does nothing with it -- doesn't make honey like a bee should -- instead flies around and will sting you quick if you get in its way. That's OUR flying that bumblebee is doing. I think God thinks that is funny and I think God is mean about it. Those are my wings that fat fuzzy freak is wearing. When we get to Heaven, that fat freak won't have those wings, we will get them as we rightly deserve and the bumble bee will have to slump along on the ground like the little troll it is... okay... we don't deserve the wings either... but Heaven's not about what WE deserve... it's about what Jesus deserves... so I want my freaking fuzzy wings!

The Apostle Paul says the mind can't conceive of what God has prepared for those who love him. In deference to Alicia, I'm all for her little treehouse and I think that's a lovely concept for Heaven (well, for a camping overnight in Heaven, lets get real here). In that regard, I chose an overnight stay place for me too (see funky island castle, left).

But if all Heaven is, is a cleaned-up, sanitized, refreshed, colorized version of what we've already got down here... man, I don't think I'm very excited about it. Joe Beam talks about playing golf -- GOLF! up in Heaven -- in his book... if that's all there is in Heaven...

I want to see my Savior's face! I want to hide away beneath the shadow of our Father's wings and fly through the heaven's, feeling the terror and glory of his holy presence. I want to feel the lightning pass over this magnificent creation and begin to have an understanding of the depths of His mind. I want to grasp what love really is; what grace is. I want to see with eyes that aren't polluted by sin and suffering and with a clear mind not tormented or haunted with sadness, disappointments and failings from the past.To have no memory of loss or sadness, no concept of it. I want to live in a sacred place, a holy place, free from shame, sin and depravity. I want to be clean and free and in complete safety. I want to trust fully. To see and hear and feel and touch and smell and taste completely and perfectly. To experience life without fatigue, without the physical burden of pain.I want to know and be known and understand and be understood. To laugh without a sense of bitter-sweetness. To feel all of living without a bleakness, an anxiety, a worry, a fear, a torment, a sadness, a regret, a sense of loss, a shame, a self-consciousness, an ache, a pain, a grief, a mourning... To feel joy and love and acceptance without restraint or limit. 

I don't know what Heaven will look like and I don't know what we'll do. Of course, I can't wait to see my brother -- he's been gone so very very long now -- my grandma and grandpa. Other family members who have passed on, David's father, his grandparents... sweetest of friends like Donalie and Pat... we miss them all and wait in expectation for our reunion. But that reunion will come soon enough weather in fifty minutes or fifty years for all this life is fleeting.

It's a lovely evening. It's cooler than it's been in a million days. Blessings to all and may you dream of Heaven. 

And to you, Alicia, as you dream of Heaven... I can't wait to see you there among all our long-lost pets we've loved: Comet, Snickers, Butter-cats (of every second syllable), Jagger, Frannie Rose... the list is long (and I still think including Frannie Rose on that list is iffy). Thank you for your thought-provoking post. And, by the way, I DO NOT want some shabby treehouse up there... I kinda got that down here... I told you about the trees growing over the house again you know!  Love, your mom.

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him— Paul, I Corinthians 2:9 


Friday, May 25, 2012

The New Frame Shop Header - DOESN'T WORK!


Man-dog. Talk about being aggravated.

Here I am, still up at the crack of dawn (someplace... here it's 1:15 a.m., but that didn't sound as dramatic) and I am so ticked because I have wasted two-plus hours fiddling with a new header for our frame shop website and the dumb thing won't ftp correctly.

I have been having trouble with our hosting company. Right now our Chocolate Panache site is down, our Frame Shop Gallery site is down, Davesports is down, and now The Frame Shop Gallery Online won't post updates.

Makes me ticked.

However, look at my little mother and my little grand-daughter.

That's lovely.

So, extremely beautiful.

And who knows. I sent in a "help" ticket (oooooh, I hate to do that!), and they really are good about getting things fixed. But I wanted to see my mommy and my grammy-baby up there TONIGHT!

Poodles.

Love, d.

P.S. Now it's 1:23 a.m.  See: crack of dawn someplace else by now!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Organize: 101

Oh my goodness, I love art books and magazines and they just pile up around here.

This past week, when I was cleaning the ridiculous stack of books and magazines that seem to accumulate by the side of my bed, I ran across a couple of magazines that I didn't remember I had but, FUNNY-FUNNY-FUNNY, I also ran across two books about organizing.

Oh my goodness, that gets me to laughing.

I remember buying them now. I paid ONE PENNY for one of them (plus shipping, of course) and that's how much good it's done me. Not even a two-cents opinion.

The other book was about organizing home offices and stuff. I remember fanning through the pages of that and deciding it was a waste of time too. I paid about a dollar for that one.

You know what? The problem is not lack of organizational skills. I apparently am somewhat able to organize because I worked as a secretary for over 15 years and although they were probably pretty happy to get rid of me when I left, at least I wasn't fired for losing things.

The problem is... the crummy truth is... I am extremely lazy.

Lord, I must repent. But not quite yet.

I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg recently about being lazy and I knew he had me pegged. I am extremely lazy. I am capable of organizing something, but I'd rather just take a nap or watch a Frazier rerun. I am lazy-lazy-lazy.

So what's the point?

Only point is this: both those books are thrown in the Salvation Army pile. If you want a couple good books about organizing, look at the Salvation Army. But you'll have to just keep looking and looking and looking, because who knows when I'll get around to dropping them by there. Meanwhile, you're welcome to shuffle through the growing pile of junk-books I don't want anymore (by the bookshelf by the front door so I'll remember to take them some day far-far-far into the future).

Love to all you workers out there... and to the lazy ones like me, even more love and lots and lots of ata-boys. d.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trying to Move On: NOT Easy


When I got home from work today, I asked my wiener dog, Frankie, I said, "Frankie, why is it that no matter how hard you try, you can't shake some people out of your life?"

Frankie didn't know how to answer.

Here's the only thing I know:

In the last year I've tried my best to shake three different people out of my life. But as soon as I think I can stop holding my breath and that it's finally over for good, here they come again. (Why oh why oh why???)

My daughter said Frankie chased a big old horse and its rider all the way up the hill to our neighbors' last night about a half mile away. He is just downright an attack dog, old Frankie Bean.  He is fearless.

I wish I could be like Frankie when I don't like something and just raise my hackles and finally be DONE with these people. But I guess God has other ideas and that's why these, well, miserable associations keep popping up.

And I guess God agrees with me about Frankie too: he's perfection... and so he can chase those old horses' asses away! Far, far away. Never to return. Or Frankie will send them packing again.

Oh, what a wondrous delight that must be.

Love to my friends and family and all those who are not horses' asses. d.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What are you doing here, Elijah?


(Below is a short video showing a series of photos of a new mixed-media project I finished last weekend called, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" I like looking at works in progress done by artists, so I tried to sort of do that here. It's clumsy, but it's the first one I've done and I'm tired of it, ha! Above is the finished painting. We are framing it at the shop now and when we get finished, I will take a picture of it if I can remember. It's off to its new home mid-week so I'll have to get with it quick or it'll be too late!)

Who wouldn't be wild for Elijah: 

standing up to the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and tormenting all their prophets with his witty little diatribe about their fake gods.

But like so many of us, after the excitement of the moment was over and Elijah realized what he had done (and that Jezebel was after him to kill him dead), he simply just ran away.

Elijah, this man of tremendous faith and understanding, ran and ran and ran and ran. For forty days he peeled out across the desert. He didn't eat or drink unless the good Lord  delivered it to him with the same convenience and panache a pizza in a box is delivered to our front door, except Elijah didn't even bother to mutter, "much obliged, Lord." Poor old Elijah. I've never done anything great -- not one thing, not even close -- in my life... but I am simple and selfish enough to have felt discouraged enough to run and run and run and run.

Eventually, old human Elijah hid in a cave where he immersed himself in pity. That's when God presented himself to this incredible, faithful, frightened human. It's one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

The Lord Appears to Elijah

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”



Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.


13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This mixed-media piece, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" was made for a drama group in Florissant, Missouri, to present to their director. Their play is about the unseen work of angels, who are active all around us... but we are largely unaware of their presence or the miracles they provide for us right under our turned-up little self-important noses. (Okay, I added the turned-up little self-important noses part. I have no idea how humans are portrayed in this play. I only know how stupid I, myself, act.)


"What are you doing here, Elijah?"..........

"What are you doing here, Donna?" ...........


I have no earthly idea, Lord. Not even a single tiny clue. And I am so thankful for your gentle calling.

Love, d.

video


The painting process:

I started with just a  quick-quick rough sketch of Elijah  (If I spend too much time thinking about what to  do or how to begin, what ends up on the canvas is studied and stiff and self-conscious) and working as maniacally as possible with oil pastels and acrylics... (oh the glory of oil pastels and gel medium and paint-paint-paint!) 

I tried to figure out what sort of expression and feelings Elijah might have. 

Would Elijah simply be all worried and discouraged? That's kind of my default mode, but Elijah was ELIJAH, after all! not some dopey dim middle-aged house-wife. 

Would he be defensive and sort of half-mad? I mean, admit it, it's possible to feel that way, even toward God.

Would he feel betrayed and abandoned by God? I believe he did. Maybe he did and that's why God did what he did. He understands that stubborn, disquieting human nature so much better than we do.

He would have certainly been overwhelmed. 

Perhaps he was so depressed and exhausted that he simply  felt nothing. I don't know. I just don't know.

I went ahead and started on the background. 

I wanted to give a feeling conveyed by these powerful scriptures without being terribly trite and literal or worse, completely predictable. Within a couple hours,  I had used so many paintbrushes I had to stop and clean them... and I've been collecting brushes for 30+ years... I have over 100 brushes! 

Painting the fire was tremendous fun. Oh my goodness, I mean, I wanted to make that whole picture on firI loved it so much. Of course, maybe that's because I had my ka-billions of brushes all clean and ready to use again! 

I was uneasy about the lightning; how do you paint lightning that doesn't look cartoonish...? I've seen cartoonish lightning in paintings done by real artists. There's not even a laughable, remote hope for  my dumb lightning. But Elijah had to have his lightning. And so I hurried up and quickly quickly quickly streaked it in there.

Hardest of all:  how to portray the Lord as a gentle whisper??? 

What in the world does that look like? How in the world do I convey that feeling?

I set the painting on the easel and sat on the couch to look at it while I ate a snack. No ideas came to mind that seemed workable. I cleaned up my studio a little then went back to the couch and looked at Elijah again.

I figured out what I thought I might do after I took a picture of the painting with my flash on. It illuminated Elijah in a way that seemed like a possible solution to what I was hoping to render.  I thought maybe that was how I could signify the Lord: in a supernatural, pure, whispering breeze.

Once that was painted, I felt slightly more confident about Elijah's expression... a little bit better anyway... (although I am not an adept enough artist to convey all the things I wish I could. I'm actually just pleased I sort of know the correct layout of a face! ha ha!):
Renewed determination. 
Utter and stupefying wonderment. 
Devotion. 
Security.
Certainty. 
Even rest.
Even peace, maybe? 

"What are you doing here, Elijah?"



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tiny Houses

These little bitty houses are intriguing to me.

I've watched YouTube videos about little houses... downloaded lots of pictures of little houses... thought about how it'd be nice to simplify into a little bitty house... admired the little tiny house our friend Nick lived in before he joined the Navy. I just like those little houses and I like thinking about how luxurious you could make a small space simply because it is small.

Today we took Ashley, my older daughter, her husband Matt, friends Martha and James and baby Olive, and my mother and mother-in-law to Moreland's Restaurant for an overdue dinner celebration of Ashley's birthday. Moreland's is on the Gasconade River, across from where the old Highway 63 North bridge (past Vichy, before Vienna) was blown to bits decades ago after they built the new highway. Down the cliff from Moreland's, is my father- and mother-in-law's little place on the river.

My father-in-law, Alton Roberts, was a man who knew how to live and he did just that, everyday of his life, whether he was healthy enough to or not!... he never wasted a minute. Sadly, he passed away in the late winter this year. After dinner this evening we toured, probably for the last time (my mother-in-law is selling it), Alton's little cabin -- his own tiny little home.

When I first knew Alton, over 30 years ago, I remember him talking about wanting a place on the river one day. Alton worked for everything he ever had; nothing was given to him. He was a hard-working, hard-living  bulldog of a man and though it took years for him to achieve this dream, there was no doubt that he eventually would have his place: His cabin on the river.

Alton and Brenda with great-grandson Micah this past Christmas
Including today, I can count on one hand the number of times I visited his place at the river. Our girls stayed there with their granddaddy and grandmama for fishing trips and camping when they were younger, but mostly the place was Alton's. It was his little private world of sorts, I think. He had his river-life and his river-friends and his river-schedule and his river-ways. He had his own river-family too... Alton was beloved by the people who knew him and the river people likely knew him best.

Alton's little cabin is a lovely, simple place. Quiet but not too isolated. I believe he mostly would do his living out doors there: the porch is as big as the cabin. My mother-in-law said they had to have the mattresses special made to fit into the tiny bedrooms (smaller than a full, larger than a twin). Yet, there is everything a person could need. Could even want.

A tiny house for this big bulldog of a man. This strong man. This good and decent and kind and honest man.

We miss you, Alton. We know you don't have a small house anymore. Oh, but what a fine, fine home you have now.

It was an honor to know you. I love you dearly and can't wait to see you again.

d.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting for Lydia

We're waiting on a woman.

I like that Brad Paisley song, especially the video with Andy Griffith, where he is waiting for his wife in the mall.

Alicia waited for her second child, Lydia, for nine months. Well, maybe you could say Alicia waited for Lydia for twenty-five years. I don't know.

Alicia and husband Josh are packing up Lydia to bring her home (she's two days old now). My husband, David and I, along with my mother-in-law, Brenda, are at Josh and Alicia's with new big brother Micah, all waiting for little sister's arrival.

These days are fleeting for Alicia and Josh. Micah will be a year old tomorrow. Lydia is already two days old, though we thought the day would never actually come. My own baby is twenty-five. My other baby turns twenty-seven next week.

Geez.

There's a bitter sweetness to holding Lydia that I didn't feel with Micah, I suppose because he is a boy. I look earnestly into Lydia's face searching for my own little daughter in the turn of her chin and in the glint of her eye. Of course, at this stage, we all just see whatever we want to see in her.

My memories of Alicia at this age are sketchy at best. As someone who (apparently) has a strange, visual memory of literally thousands of intricate details from my childhood and past, this  is very odd for me. It's a gap in memory that haunts and saddens me.

I had left a horrible job and then started a brand new one just a week after giving birth. I had a two-year-old, a newborn baby, a home to take care of and seemingly endless amounts of work to do. I was twenty-three years old and exhausted beyond anything I've ever experienced since.

Yet, there was this little puddle of a baby with olive skin and beautiful, huge black eyes...

And a two-year-old that never stopped talking...

Those first months with Alicia barely exist in my mind except for a few isolated incidents and many of those are the negative experiences which, only God knows why, always seem to stay with us.

So, now, I look for my baby Alicia in baby Lydia and realize all over again that I can't remember my own Alicia very much.

Beautiful beautiful Lydia.

Beautiful beautiful Alicia.

Oh but it's a sad sad thing and it's a lovely thing, too.

And so it is.

With this little baby, I will remember these short days all the days of my life. This baby I will see clearly and strive to remember. I can't reclaim those lost days and weeks and months with Alicia, but I can remember this baby, this time, these days and these months. And so, Lord willing, I will.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Old Fence Ladder

For decades I've been taking pictures of this old ladder my Uncle Lloyd built over forty years ago for my cousins and all us neighborhood kids to climb over into his fields without breaking down his fence. He kept goats in that pasture that ate down the grass and shrubs. Once my brother ran down and caught a deer in that meadow while we all stood and watched him. He caught it because he could, I guess. He could do a lot of stuff, my brother.

I've taken pictures of this ladder in every season and I took many pictures of it with my children sitting on it when they were small. It's a historical landmark for us.

This old ladder was an access point to secret places way back when. To the old murky pond... to the itchy grasses all full of ticks and chiggers... to the animal dens hidden in the tangles of brush surrounding the lots-a-rain creek at the bottom of the hill. My sister and I remember a place we called only "Out There" that was, well, out there... but that was out there before the ladder was out there.


Now cattle keep watch in this same meadow that those goats cleared for them more than forty years ago. They totter past that same old ladder without any thought in their minds of what came before them and surely none of what will come after. Sometimes I'm not so sure how many of us are any wiser than those cows.


Old cedars and scrubby useless trees shove their way through my Uncle Lloyd's fences... (these fences don't belong to him anymore... now they belong to my Uncle Lowell whose not really my Uncle at all, but is my mother's cousin.  I don't know what that makes him to me. My cousin Harold would know... my cousin Harold whose not my cousin... but he would know what he is... Hi Harold!) These old trees are cut out of there and burned out of there and hacked out of there religiously but they always worm their way back in a season or two. Same thing happens in every area of my life, it seems. I hack something away only to find I've let it seep right back in. Aggravates to no end. Messes up the landscape. Ruins things. And it adds character too.


Across the way is another ancient bystander. This old peach tree's doom is predicted every summer. And each spring it thrills us by blooming anew. It's older than the ladder. Older than me. My father planted peach trees here almost 55 years ago.... ? Last year, this old tree which has been beaten by every assortment of blight and torment produced a beautiful crop of peaches. "Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:19-20 That's a good tree. That's a good fruit-bearing tree.


The old lilac bush is ancient too. It's filled with blooms this year because the Lord has been so kind. Each spring it is filled with butterflies but this year, it bloomed so early, we were three full days in bloom before the butterflies arrived... then they arrived en mass along with the big burly bumblebees. It was magnificent! Glorious!  Dangerous to take these pictures because of falling into the ditches when you're not watching what you're doing and bumblebees looking up close at you while you're trying to get your close up of them! How I'd love to get a picture of a bumblebee but, as you can tell, it's more than I can do to take even a poor shot of one of the much larger and much slower butterflies.


It's been a long day. I failed to complete something that was due for work today but at least I made  progress on something that has stumped me for several weeks. I knocked down a roadblock anyway but it took hours and hours longer than I thought and I'm tired and discouraged and sick of it all.

Above is the sunset from last night... tonight's is not so vibrant. The sun is setting again and the house is quiet except for the fan blowing the dust of a passing motorcycle and several small gnats in through the screen.

Old Tickles, our one million year old cat, is stretched onto the rocker on the porch and when he sees me see him he twitches his tail. Over the winter, he destroyed the rocker with his stretching and clawing. I suppose it's his now.

At my feet Lucy, our million year old wiener dog, is snoring. If I move my feet too much she will wake and and lick my toe.

Out the window, I just saw a big redbone hound trot up the road. Frankie, our other wiener dog, must have not seen him or he would be acting all hysterical and brave and his awesome hackles would be standing on end like a new Navy recruit's hair (hey, Nick! thinking about you! We love you, son! We're praying for you, son! We're laughing about your plight, son!)

Oh! Here's Frankie now! He's in here at my feet too! That's HIM licking my toes! Thought that was kind of unusual for Lucy! That lazy fat dog! How can I depend on him to be a guard dog when he lets a great big redbone hound trot by without even a small yip.

Hope you get to see a redbone today too. If you do, say a prayer for it to live a long, happy life. I did.

Love you all so much. d.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

These glorious spring storms


Why anyone would ever want to move to some boring temperate zone is beyond me. I love these wild weather changes.

This morning was all glorious sunshine and breezes. I did three loads of laundry before I even should have been out of bed on a Saturday morning and had them all hanging on the line to dry. It was just blankets and old towels airing out and looking beautiful as the sun bleached the winter from their folds.

Before my fourth load had finished it was pouring and I stood at the back door watching it puddle onto the patio. The Forsythia is in bloom already and I could smell the Lilac from the front yard.

When the next load finished it wasn't raining anymore so I hung those blankets and sheets out as well.

It hailed on that load, along with the others. Pea-sized. Dime-sized. I watched that from the back door too. Hailed quite a while.

The laundry's still out on the line and it's dark now. Every thing's sopping wet.



I walked into the yard and looked at the clothes line; nothing was on the ground. I can remember my mom's clothes on the line in the rain when I was a kid... I would run my face through it and smell...

Far to the east, lightning filled the sky, but try as I might I couldn't capture it in a picture. It's so beautiful and destructive and powerful and illusive and I used over thirty shots but got nothing but out of focus shots of the trees.

Coming back into the house with nothing in my basket and nothing on my camera, I stopped short for a final picture.


There's something lonely about being outside your home when it's getting dark. It's always an interesting perspective to me and sometimes I go outside at night just to look into my windows and see what I can see. But I always just end up feeling excluded... I can see the light but I'm excluded from that light.

Thank you, God, that you will take us Home where we will never be excluded. And thank you for this tremendous weather experiment today!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Drawing the Apostle Paul


1974.

I can still remember receiving my first first set of oil paints on my tenth birthday. They were contained in a plastic box: small tubes along with linseed oil for thinning the paints and cleaning the brushes, and two small (very inadequate) brushes. My dad had bought them at the Western Auto store and my mom couldn't imagine why I needed something so extravagent when I'd surely have that all over my clothes and it would never come out in the wash.

Oh my goodness... that smell, when you opened that little plastic box.

The importance.

The grown-upness.

That delightful sense of urgency I felt to paint something worthwhile and lasting.

Painting on paper, of course, didn't work, but I didn't know that until after I had tried it. My dad hadn't known it wouldn't work either and paper was all we had. When he learned that I should be using a canvas, he ripped apart an old sheet and stretched it over cardboard for me to paint on, attaching it with masking tape on the back to hold it in place. It wasn't ideal. The oils in the paints seeped through into the cardboard and made it soggy, but for an exuberant ten year old, it was sufficient.

I couldn't paint anything worthwhile.

I tried a horse but it was too hard. Faces were too hard too and always looked wrong. The paints were too heavy and sticky and wouldn't dry. I never knew about mixing colors but used them straight from the tube. I felt confused that there was no "skin" color when it seemed such an obvious need. When my dad eventually surmised my problem and suggested I try to mix the colors, I thought about his suggestion but ultimately concluded I couldn't risk it. I was afraid to squeeze out the paint and waste it in an unsuccessful attempt. It seemed likely I could mix all day and never come up with a "skin" color!  Eventually, I painted a flag and that was the most successful thing I'd managed to do but I didn't feel very proud of it because there wasn't much life to it: just something I'd copied from a puzzle box.

At church this past Sunday, with the help of my two very patient and gifted daughters, I worked with our class of third and fourth graders who were using oil pastel crayons to create depictions of the Apostle Paul at different stages in his life. Each student had chosen one time in Paul's life to portray. We tutored them in the finer points (okay, finer for eight and nine year olds) of portrait drawing and assisted them in achieving works of art they could be proud of. At the end of the three hour session, six children had a sense of accomplishment with their work that made me feel a longing for those days when I could still be so surprised by how a few quality art tools could transform an empty page. Oh, that magic of the first decent portrait you draw after you learn that there is a method that really works. Learning where the eyes really belong on a face, how big ears really are, that our shoulders actually are wider than our heads... then seeing that if you put these rules into use, voila, you can make something that is better than you thought you could do! We watched these children experience that wonderful moment as we held each child's piece a few feet away and they began to discover their artwork coming into focus.

While I haven't yet photographed the children's artwork, when I do, if I can remember, I'll post their  drawings. Meanwhile, here's what I used as a sample (my own Paul drawing created with oil pastel crayon), which depicts Paul after he has been beheaded by Nero and is being whisked away, transforming in a twinkling of an eye, to receive his own crown of righteousness. God bless those children and each of us who day make this majestic journey. 

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8