Judging a Book by Its Cover

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What a year it’s been. My blog has been quiet lately. I have had a lot to say, but I haven’t had the words to say them.

I am still in amazement of all that God is doing. I don’t understand it. I don’t even want to understand it…anymore. I want to enjoy it. Every minute of it. I have spent most of my life trying to figure things out. I get paid to help others figure things out.

But, when it comes to the creative process, there are things you just can’t figure out.

“Lizzie, the harder you try to figure out the magic, it disappears. The magic is where the Spirit is at work. Don’t suck the life out of it by trying to make it black and white. Some things you don’t need to understand…just enjoy them. Live them. Pause and breathe it all in.” A wise sister friend humbly shared this with me recently. Wow…

I am a self-confessed type A control freak. It is very hard for me to sit still. It is painful. I acquired it straight from the gene pool. My mind never shuts off. It is always working on ideas, chewing on new concepts, processing data, and chasing squirrels. Unfortunately, I have also passed this onto my oldest. Lord, help us.

Along with this disposition, I am also firm in my beliefs. However, I never try to force my beliefs onto others. I am open to sharing them when I am asked, but I will not try in any way to convert anyone to my Jesus loving, gluten-free eating, home school championing, bold colorful painting, working out often ways. I am okay with me being me and with you being you.

I aim to be curious instead of critical. I hope to be encouraging and not evasive. I dare to live a life where I am fully human living on the edge of an encounter with the Divine at any minute. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in being prepared to be amazed at any given moment. Astonished by Glory. Surprised by Joy. Satiated by Love. Marveled by Wonder.

And living on the edge between the present and my very real future, always allows for some intense scrutiny. Anytime you step out and step up, you will encounter those who want to step on you and your dreams.

During three different encounters this year (that I’m aware of!), I have been the topic of discussion regarding my choices and my calling. I have been called names. I have been accused of things. I have been misunderstood.

It has been a very difficult year in some ways. However, it has also been one of the best years of my life. I have learned more by living on the edge than I ever would have learned by backing down or choosing to live small.

I was deeply encouraged yesterday by this quote from Ann Voskamp: “When you disagree with someone — don’t dismiss them. Dialogue with them.”

If I could summarize my thoughts during the past 12 months, I would hope to increase awareness of dialoguing with others instead of judging a book by its cover. Dialogue to me is real conversation with real people. Here are a few things I’ve learned and hope you will aim for in all your relationships:

1. Seek first to understand.
2. Ask open questions that leave room for real and honest answers.
3. Listen without an agenda always expecting the best.
4. Aim to discover or learn more about the differences.
5. Accept the differences and the tension they present instead of trying to change them.
6. If it’s not yours don’t share it.
7. Speak with love when you share your story and your opinions.
8. 
Even if you disagree, choose love instead of hate. Love wins every single time. 

It’s not about political correctness, it’s about people awareness. Underneath our many varied skin colors and clothing choices, we all have a precious soul. So precious that no other person ever has or ever will be made like you.

In the playground of life, can’t we all just try to get along? There will always be differences, but they don’t have to destroy us and our relationships. Expect the best…I pray you are surprised by the possible outcomes.

Gluten Free Dressing for Thanksgiving — Yes! It’s possible!!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and great gluten free food, I wanted to share my tried and true gluten free recipe for dressing or stuffing. I LOVE stuffing SO much that I made a video for you to go along with the recipe. Here is the video on YouTube:

And here is the recipe. Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Dressing for Thanksgiving

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot diced
2 stalks celery diced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
4 cups gluten free cornbread diced into cubes
4 cups gluten free loaf bread diced into cubes
2 cups of gluten free chicken stock (may need more depending how much your bread soaks it up)
1 cup fresh cranberries that have been cooked with 1 cup of water and ¼ cup of sugar until softened     (this takes approximately 20 minutes)
2 tablespoons butter cut into 8 pieces (omit to make dairy free)

Cook onions, carrots, and celery in coconut oil until softened. Season with salt, pepper, and sage. Mix cooked, seasoned vegetables with the 8 cups total cornbread and GF bread. Add 2 cups of chicken stock. Add more if mixture seems too dry. Add cooked sweetened cranberries. Taste to see if you need to add more salt, pepper, or sage. Pour mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish that has been oiled. Place 8 pieces of butter on top of dressing mixture. Omit this step to make the dish dairy free as well as gluten free. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or longer if you desire a crunchier dressing on top. Hope you enjoy!

When you wonder if your words matter…

As a wife, mama, daughter, friend, life coach, artist, speaker, writer, I use a lot of words. I’ve always been told I have a lot to say. I wonder if that’s the positive twist on you talk too much.

As I’ve gotten older and maybe a little wiser, I talk a little less and listen better, with intentions. Not with an agenda, but with ears to hear what hearts are saying and needing. But you never arrive in the game of life. And I am continuing to learn.

I have a great teacher right now…a little boy in my life who has a powerful voice. He’s been in speech therapy since he was 3.5 years old. Two years ago this month, we started with our amazing speech therapist, Ms. Renee. Little did I know that she would become such an integral part of all of our lives. We love her like she is family. What we pay her will never be enough.

She has helped Sean in so many ways. I have learned a lot from her as well. Most importantly, I have learned that our words matter. All of them. All of the time.

Sean is a clutterer, meaning he talks so fast that all of his words clutter together. Not only did he get my phenotype when it comes to looks, but he also got my linguistic speeding tendencies.

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I remind Sean almost daily during our home school routine, “Slow down, buddy. Your words are important and I want to hear all of them.”

He smiles, shakes his head, and replies with, “I know mommy, I know!”

Not only does my sweet little speed talker have a powerful voice, he also has a powerful memory. He has absorbed so much this year in Kindergarten just being present and listening to what I am teaching to both him and Callie. One word: SPONGE!!

He lies in bed at night saying: “If you have 17 and you take away 9, you have 8. So, that means 9 plus 8 is 17.”

Eating his snack at the table while I’m wiping down counters in the kitchen he says: “If you have 10 batman people and you take away 7 batman people you only have 3 batman people left.”

Yes, he loves math. And for that I am grateful, but even more so, I am so humbled by his ability to use his words to speak love in a way that touches my soul.

On the way home from our mommy/son date this week, he said: “You know what makes me happy mommy? My family because we love each other so much…”

Yes, son. My sweet boy. My {now} child who will one day be a husband and daddy and amazing man of God. There’s power in our words. The power of life and death. I pray you will always use your God-given voice to give life and share love with all those around you.

Friends, your words matter. Every single one of them. People are always listening because we can all use more encouragement and less negativity. More courage and less comparing. More hope and less I told you so.

Who in your life could use some encouragement? Pick up the phone. Send them a text. Meet them for coffee. I can think of no better gift to give someone than the gift of your time and your words.

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman: Book Review

I could use a million words to tell you how many ways and list all the reasons why I LOVE Emily Freeman’s new book A Million Little Ways.

However, since I think you should read Emily’s amazing book and not waste your time reading my lengthy review, I will refrain and use a few powerfully persuasive paragraphs.

Let me start by saying, you have to read A Million Little Ways. If you don’t have the money to buy it, I will buy and give you a copy. That’s how serious I am. I have nothing to gain from Emily selling copies of her book. Yes, I did get a free copy for writing this honest review, but I have already also purchased about a dozen copies to give away as gifts.

Yes, friends, it’s that good.

This is why…because every single page is all about you!

Yes, you. You becoming more aware of who you are in Christ and how He created you to be who you are. That my friends is art. And the best kind of art is a life well lived.

Emily will walk you through 12 chapters as you sink deeper into the knowledge of who you are in Christ. You are a masterpiece! Did you know that?

Okay, I promised this would be short. But it’s already getting long. Here are my final thoughts on A Million Little Ways:

Emily uses her God-given writing ability in A Million Little Ways to share her art with us. Like Emily, I believe there are a million little ways to let Christ in you shine, create, and change the world. And you don’t have to wield a brush and a palette to do it.

Your life is your canvas. Every single second is a stroke of life and energy on the canvas of your life.

What does your canvas look like? Remember there are a million little ways to get started. The first step just might be clicking right here to go to Amazon and order your copy of A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman! When you read it, let me know what you think. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Random Acts of Art: Day 13 of 31 Days of 2013

I am always amazed by the generosity of artists. They love what they do and they want others to share in their joy.

Artists can be described as “ones who scatter JOY”!

Callie, Sean, and I scattered joy yesterday. We created a beautiful mixed media piece and gave it away with a little note on the back:

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The note said something like this:

“Take this art and enjoy it. It was made with love. The only thing we ask is that you pay it forward by creating a piece of art {any medium will do just fine} and giving it away. Please write a note on the back and explain to the recipient of your art what to do next.”

We prayed about whom we should give our creation to, and Callie’s piano teacher was the one. She was thrilled and so were we!

My dear friend, Andrea Noles, over at A Place to Land suggested this wonderful idea of randomly sharing art with others. I fell in love with the idea and joined her. You can read all about her Random Act of Art here!

Go and do what you were born to do today…CREATE!

You see art with your heart: Day 3 of 31 days

From day-to-day, I have no idea what I am writing for this series.

But, God does.

I took Branch Academy to the library today to stock up on books for the next two weeks. I had no idea God had a precious gift waiting for me.

I was helping Callie look for specific books when my eyes landed on this:

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I started reading it as soon as we got in the car and had to end up pulling off the road to park and finish it. Wow. Unbelievable.

How do you find the art in your heart? This is what I was supposed to write about today:

“You see, Avon, it all depends on you. If you want it to be different, it will be different. Don’t look at the world with your eyes, but with your heart.” (page 70)

Yes, my friends and fellow artists, art begins in your heart when you begin to see the world with your heart, not your eyes.

What is your heart saying to you? God’s word powerfully illuminates this for us in Proverbs 4:23:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

As followers of Jesus, our hearts are made of flesh, not of stone and we are exhorted to guard our hearts ABOVE ALL ELSE! Before anything else, not after you finish everything else.

Why? Because from our hearts, our HEARTS, friends, LIFE FLOWS!!!!!!

YES and AMEN!

Listen to your heart. Listen to what God is telling you. There you will find life flowing rich and free. I can only imagine all the amazing things He is whispering to you.

Go and create, my friends. I believe it’s fair to say your very life depends on it. Let that life flow right into the canvas of your life.

{{{Much love.}}} I am signing off to go paint at the studio. See you there very soon!

 

I am an ARTIST: Day 2 of 31 Days

art in your heart

“Creativity takes courage. ” Henri Matisse

How do you find the art in your heart, you might ask. Several years ago, I felt a stirring in my heart. Or more like an uneasiness in my spirit. Something was off kilter. Everything felt like work and fun was not a word in my vocabulary.

During this season of questioning,I was on the other end of a health crisis where I took deep inventory of my life. One of the questions I pondered was: if I were to die, what would I want to leave behind. My answer?

Beauty. Beautiful reminders and memories of a life well lived. 

Not the anxiety riddled to do lists and accomplishments that would go with me to the grave.

This stirring created a vast galaxy of new awareness for me. Forever.Life.Changing.

I now know that God was stirring my soul, causing me to become fully aware of a lie I believed since Kindergarten.

This lie wore many masks: I am not creative. I am not an artist. Artists are weird {okay, this one seemed to fit me already}. If I have fun with creativity, I will get in trouble.

Oh my, that last one. That’s how this lie started. I got in trouble for being creative. For playing with the entire box of 8 colorful crayons. And this lie stuck for 34 years.

I painted my first canvas at the age of 34:

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Yes, black and white. This canvas will forever remind me of a very timid and almost embarrassed artist who took a chance. Who leaped off the cliff. Who chose to be brave and put some paint on a canvas. It makes me tear up to think about all that has transpired in the past 3 years.

Fast forward to now. God planted a seed in my heart long ago to have a space to create, but I didn’t know it was buried there until recently. After many years of lying dormant, that seed is growing and bearing fruit.

Now, I am free. Free to play with paint and color and different mediums. Free to be me. Free to call myself an artist. And live in wide open spaces with room to grow and change!

I am an artist.

So are you.

What is lying dormant inside of you? Who has God called you to be and what lies are you believing about this calling? Are you ready to step into a new space, a place to land?

I encourage you to take some time to ponder these questions. Journal your answers. Paint your answers. Talk about someone in confidence about your ponderings. YOU have what it takes! Choose to believe the truth over the lies. YOU are an artist and capable of creating beauty. I know it. I want YOU to know it, too!

Chefs create. Moms and dads create. Engineers create. Cashiers create. Pastors create. Teachers create. Nurses create. Plumbers create. EVERYONE creates! You may not paint, but you may draw. You may not draw, but you may cook. You may not cook, but you may encourage creatively.

WE are made in the image of THE Creator. Therefore, we create.

I am praying for you. For me. For all of us as we journey to our hearts and discover the art that is already there.

The beginning to finding the art in your heart starts with you saying and believing:

I am an artist.

I believe in you. And I want to help you. This is what the studio is all about.

Let’s find the art in our hearts together! Stay tuned for more ways to find the art in our hearts tomorrow. Until then, create with every color in your box! I know I will!

 

What’s it like with two?

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Many people have asked me this question since we started homeschooling this year. We are also asked other questions that are fun to answer as well. I have so much to say that I feel they are deserving of their own blog post! Here are the questions and my answers, not in any particular order:

1. What is it like homeschooling two? Easier this year than last! Homeschooling a 3rd grader and a Kindergartener is actually easier for me than homeschooling a second grader. We are all in the same room doing the same things. Callie would get upset last year because Sean was playing while we were schooling. Not anymore!

2. Where do you homeschool? We started out with Callie and Sean at their desks in our homeschool room. After only 24 days in, we are all sitting at the large table together in the homeschool room. Callie is more independent than Sean. I work with him most of the time and with Callie when she needs my help.

3. How long does it take you to finish each day? We normally finish around lunchtime and then have most of our extracurricular activities in the afternoons. Art class is in the mornings, but piano, karate, volleyball, and t-ball are all in the afternoon/evening.

4. Do you belong to a co-op? We do not belong to a co-op. We thought about it, but decided not this year.

5. Do you get tired of doing it every day? I love love love watching my kids learn. It will never get old.

6. Do I get tired of them? Well, hmmm, how do I answer this question without getting 47 negative comments. I would say that we all need a break from each other from time to time. I have my kids involved in extracurricular activities where I am not their coach/teacher on purpose. They need to learn from and be with other people. So do I. My husband loves me and can tell when I need a time out or a trip to Starbucks. The better question is do they get tired of me?? Ask them! I think I know what they would say!

7. Do you regret pulling Callie out of her charter school? Never, not for one minute.

8. Will you still homeschool when you open your studio? Absolutely. Honestly couldn’t be a better fit for us. Who knew?

9. How long do you plan on homeschooling? Every year, we will pray about this as a family. Our desires right now are through middle school and enroll them in high school. But, who knows? God will lead the way.

I think that summarizes the questions I’ve been asked. Do you have any that you are dying to ask me? I will be happy to answer them!

**Disclaimer: Homeschooling is a personal choice. I believe in education and learning whatever the medium. We are all in this together and whether your children are in public, private, or homeschool environments, I believe we can agree that our choices are our own and we can choose to also respect the decisions of others. For the best of our children. Always.

What I learned in July 2013

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July was a doozy of a month. It started with one of the lowest times in my life and left me on a mountain top. Life has a way of surprising you. If I could summarize July with a hymn, I would say that “grace really is amazing”!

1. The power of prayer can move mountains and heal bones. It doesn’t take your problems away, but it reorients your focus. Sometimes that’s more than taking your problems away.

2. 5 year olds bounce back much faster than 37 year olds.

3. My kids say “holy cow” way too much. We practiced saying other things in July. I helped them understand that cows are really not holy as they imply with their words. The comment from the peanut gallery {dad} was “Cows are NOT holy…they are YUMMY!” And I wonder who the little ones get their humor from…

4. Alone time in the morning before the kids wake up is like gas in my engine. Most mornings in July were spent in silence on my screened in back porch. I didn’t do much of anything but sit, pray, and listen. I have been missing this fresh air in my life for a long time. I am grateful for fresh air this month.

5. Have you ever prayed for something and didn’t really think God would answer your prayers? Well, I am here to tell you not to give up. Dream BIG! God answered a dream in my life this week that was so small and hidden in my soul I didn’t even know it was there. But He did. And He used a soul sister to birth a soul dream. Prayer. It really does change things.

6. I am still jumpy from Sean’s accident, surgery, and 5 weeks with pins and a cast on his left arm. I think I have a better understanding of PTSD. I jump at noises that were never loud until now. I physically reach for my children when I see them do normal things that never worried me. I have been on edge for weeks since Sean fell. It is better than it was earlier in the month. I wonder how bad it would have been if I had not been practicing silence this month? I don’t think I want to know that answer.

7. I am stepping into my calling. The compulsion within me. You know what I’m talking about. You hear that voice inside of you, too. I am not the ONLY cuckoo bird in the house! I leave you with this:

when we stop seeking the approval of others, we begin to step into our calling. 
when we step into our calling, others will question us.
when others question us, we may begin to doubt our calling.
when we doubt our calling, we need to stop seeking the approval of others. 

Where are you in this cycle? You can jump off the merry-go-round of seeking approval from others right now!

I encourage you to leap into the Father’s arms. He is waiting. He has called you. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of “nothing” for Him to share “something” with you. July was a great teacher. I bid her farewell. Landing in August on two feet ready to leap off the cliff where I’ve been renting space! No more renting. Taking full ownership. Putting my stake down. What about you?

Linking up over at Emily Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. Hop on over and indulge yourself in a beautiful menagerie of colorful things learned in July.  

me{ology}

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I see the number on my caller ID and my left side tenses up. I let the call go to voice mail knowing I would have to deal with a mess later on. Or maybe not. Denial is a lot easier sometimes.

5 days later I pay an excellent professional to tell me in a round about way I have {anger and control} issues. My body told me first. I feel it deep in my core literally. Denial maybe easier, but admitting I have a problem is probably best. Best for, well, my health and my relationships.

I don’t like typing all this out. Makes it more real. Not that many people will even read it, but that’s not the point. The point is now I have to deal with it. Chase down the cat that escaped out of my bag.

So…

I make a simple albeit very significant choice to face it head on. And God in His perfect timing gives me several opportunities over the next few days to keep slamming my head against the proverbial brick wall. My body keeps whispering to me. Soon, the whispers get louder until I have no choice but to heed their wisdom. It wouldn’t cost me as much (and I am not referring to the financial aspect alone) if I would listen to the whispers.

What happens when things don’t go your way? Do you say harsh words? Throw things? Leave a trail of broken people in your wake? Buckle down and white knuckle everything in your life until you have it all together?

This is what I do and think when I can’t control the outcomes in life:

I get mad and react.

I want to hurt people.

My body tenses up.

I think people are incompetent idiots.

I have to do it all by myself.

LIE: IT’S ALL UP TO ME.

 I am a self-professed control freak. I don’t necessarily want to control other people, I want to control the outcomes in my life. But, there is a significant problem with this {me}ology. Since I don’t live on my own private island, other people are almost always involved in the outcomes in my life.

I guess that makes me a control freak and I don’t want to control other people unless it makes my desired outcome more likely.

Just typing out that profession makes me want to puke. It is ugly. Selfish. Prideful.

After two opportunities to practice this new recycled life changing information, the Whispers of the Holy Spirit leave me with this question: “what would be better for me and my health?”

To respond instead of react.

To wait for others to do their part.

To breathe, be patient, and pray.

To let go of the outcome.

Give it to God.

TRUTH: IT’S ALL UP TO HIM.

Wow. I practiced this new posture during a 50 minute phone call with my insurance company. I was transferred to 5 different people. None of them could even find me in the system. We have been insured with them for 13 years. Someone else’s name popped up when I gave them my member ID number and my date of birth. Talk about frustrated and incompetent. Normally I would have blown my top. My body would have reaped the consequences for days. I would need a team of professionals to help massage out all the knots.

Instead I wrote out the steps above. And I practiced them. I breathed. I prayed. I waited. I gave it to God. 50 minutes later, they still couldn’t find me in the system, but they approved my claim.

More happened during this phone call than the outcome I desired. I gained control. Not over anyone else. But over myself. Self-control. To control one’s self is a practice and skill worth honing.

Honestly, my anger and control issues are self-control issues. Or as a great life coach would say, “opportunities for future successes”.

Grateful the outcomes are not up to me anymore. I take full ownership of my responsibility and surrender the rest to Him. Raising the white flag has never been easier…I surrender.