Sunday, October 29, 2017

Super Sunday: Let's Focus on Growing

The other day, while showering, I realized that someone had flushed the toilet because the water pressure changed a bit. I was grateful that the temperature didn't change.

Just like that, I was back in Fern Smith Hall at Northwestern College.

I remembered how our RA stressed the importance of yelling "Flush!" before we flushed the toilet so the girl in the shower could jump out of the stream of water before it scalded off a patch of skin.

Well, I was a very timid, insecure young woman as a freshman. I didn't talk very much until I got to know someone. My friends teased me because I didn't even laugh out loud. I just shook with silent laughter.

So I distinctly remember being too shy to yell "Flush!" Instead, I flushed and rushed out of the bathroom as quickly as possible and scurried back to my room, hoping the girl showering wouldn't figure out who had subjected her to third degree burns.

Isn't that pitiful?
Does this look like the face of someone who would cruelly torture another human being?
I was transported back in time again when this blast from the past showed up in my Facebook feed one day. It's me, ten years ago.

I joked about not remembering this woman, because I hardly do. My hair was short and permed, now it's longer and straight. I'm smiling here, but I was still pretty reserved and insecure much of the time.

Those two events got me thinking about growing this week.

I've grown physically over the years:
Here I am in March, 1966 (fifty-one years ago)
Me in 6th grade in 1977
I've grown taller (and a little bit wider) as I've gotten older.

Even more important are the changes I've gone through inside.

I'm no longer that timid freshman in Orange City who was more worried about hearing the sound of her own voice than the welfare of her wingmates.

I'm no longer that insecure twenty-four-year-old who didn't say a word during Bible Study in Rock Rapids because she was afraid and then berated herself the rest of the day wondering if the rest of the group thought she was stupid.

I'm no longer that thirty-four-year-old in Orange City who stayed very busy but struggled with depression.

I'm no longer that forty-year-old in Chandler who smiled a lot, but was afraid to voice her opinions most of the time.

I'm not even that fifty-year-old in Allison who finally dealt with her depression and learned to feel more comfortable making her needs and wants known.

I thank God because I keep growing.

As frustrated as I get with areas where I fall short, this week I've also been reminded of how much I've grown over the years.

I like who I was at every age, but I'm glad I didn't get stuck back there. I'm glad God has been helping me grow physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. 

I'm a different person now than I was before.
Gary and I after we hiked the Grand Canyon in December, 2016.
I'm fifty-one years old...and growing.

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV)

Can you look back and see how you've grown over the years? How can focusing on God help you to be thankful for who you've been and look forward to future growth?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Perspective

Back in September, Gary and I hiked at the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. We had an awesome time enjoying the beauty of God's creation and challenging ourselves with some difficult trails. You can see some normal pictures of Angels Landing at Zion here, but today I'd like to show you a different perspective. 

If you type "Angels Landing Zion" into Google maps, you'll get an image like the one above. The trail begins down at the bottom, right next to the river. It goes North and then turns and goes South until you reach the top of Angels Landing. 

It doesn't look too difficult, does it?

After we were home, Gary decided to look at the trail in satellite view.

All of a sudden we realized what an extreme trail we had been on.

It was scary enough the day we hiked it, but seeing the satellite images reminded us of just how narrow the trail was in places. Just how high the top of Angels Landing was. Just how crazy we were.

Maybe it's good that we didn't see these images before we hiked. We just put one foot in front of the other and kept going until we got to the top. 

We hung on tight to the chains along the trail and stopped once in a while to enjoy the view.

It's a little bit like that in our daily lives. We are all on a lifelong journey. We can't even see what the basic trail looks like, let alone the "satellite view" of God.

Our perspective is so limited.

We might be terrified if we saw all of the twists and turns, high mountains, and deep valleys ahead of us in life.

God's perspective is limitless.

He knows all of the ups and downs, the good times and bad times in our lives. He is with us on the journey.

We don't have to see the whole trail before us. We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust God until we get to the end.

Hang on tight to Him, but look around once in a while and enjoy the view.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

Aren't you glad you can't see all that life has in store for you? How can focusing on God help you to keep moving forward, holding tight to Him and enjoying the journey?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on The Artist

Last Thursday I went to ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan while I was there for the fabulous Breathe Christian Writers Conference. My dad and I took in just a small portion of the many works of art spread out around the city.

We saw this detailed quilt in the Ford Museum:

"Kirsten" by Carolyn Zinn
The funny thing was, it wasn't quite as clear when we looked at the quilt on the wall. Through my phone camera, the face really showed up.

"Owl" by YanFang Inlow
In another venue, we leaned in close to see the fine embroidery stitches over the top of this amazing painting of an owl.

There were so many beautiful, interesting, and sometimes bizarre pieces of art. I loved it.

I was even more impressed when I realized that the actual artist was sometimes present. 

This painting of 9/11 was sobering, but it took on even more meaning as the artist pointed out that each of the windows in the twin towers was actually a candle in memory of the 2977 innocent souls lost that day.
"9/11" by Mher Khachatryan

As we walked up Monroe Center, an origami display caught my eye. Thousands of tiny paper cranes made up three beautiful mobiles. A sign in the window invited people to come inside and see the artist at work.

I won't win any awards for my photography - sorry Stacie!
It was so interesting to talk with Stacie Tamaki and hear about the inspiration for her art.
She pointed out details of the mobiles that I would have missed, such as the teeny, tiny heart tucked into each crane on the mobile called "Filled with Love." 

 As we talked she was busily folding and before we left she added this little crane to her business card and gave it to us.

At another venue I admired a painting obviously set in Mexico. The artist was sitting close by, so I asked him about his work. I found out that Jim Starkey and his wife live in Sayulita, Mexico part of the year. The frame for "The Committee" is made up of tiles he bought in Mexico for sixty cents each.
"The Committee" by Jim Starkey

It was so neat to be able to talk to the artists about their work. I could ask questions, express my admiration, and learn more as the artist pointed out little details I hadn't seen before.

As I left ArtPrize, I couldn't help but think about how we see God's art all around us. Of course I saw it recently at the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, but His handiwork is also visible in an Iowa sunset and the great variety of human beings we see every day.

We can admire nature and all of the incredible things God has made, but it's even better when we remember that The Artist himself is right here. 

We can ask questions, express our admiration, and learn more as the Artist points out little details we otherwise might have missed.
"A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter
The Grand Prize for ArtPrize this year went to "A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter (see description below). Dad and I didn't see this one, but we enjoyed lots of awesome art.

I'm going to keep my eyes open for exhibits of God's workmanship in the days ahead. I'm so glad I know The Artist.

"Through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3 NIV)

Do you love art? Do you know any artists? Do you know The Artist? How can focusing on God help you to appreciate His art and see the beauty in all that He has created?

*Here is the description of A. Lincoln by Richard Schlatter from the website:

Over 24,000 Lincoln pennies were used to create a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Included are the use of 1,681 1943 steel pennies (for the shirt). Every year from 1909, the first year of the Lincoln cents, through 2017 is represented in the piece, which measures 8 feet wide by 12 feet high—a total of 96 square feet. It took about 315 hours to complete. The image changes as the viewer moves from side to side and views the piece from different angles and distances.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Magnificent Monday: Let's Focus on Taking...Our...Time

Ironically, this post on taking our time will be one of my hastier undertakings. It's getting close to "Terrific Tuesday" but I'm just neurotic enough that I don't want to let another day slip by without updating this blog.

I attended the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past weekend. My head is still swimming with all of the things I experienced there, but one thought has been bobbing to the surface often enough that I need to explore it here.

On Friday evening, our keynote speaker Leslie Leyland Fields shared this thought:

"When we throw our work out there too quickly, we're hoping the truth of our message will redeem the artlessness of our art. (It won't.)"

I kept pondering that as I thought about my blog. 

Was I throwing my work out there too quickly? 

Most of you know that I normally write on Friday evenings. I've been thinking about my topic before I write, but I just sit down and write it in one sitting and post it when I'm done.

I've had a good response most weeks. I think I've even been kind of proud of the fact that I can just whip up a blog post in a couple of hours.

Leslie got me thinking. Would it be better to spend more time on my blog posts? Could they encourage and inspire people even more if I wrote them "patiently and artfully" (in Leslie's words)?

I'm going to try that in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned to see if it makes a difference in the quality of my posts.

This idea can transfer to all areas of our life, can't it?

A meal prepared patiently and artfully can nourish the bodies and souls of those we feed.

A Sunday School lesson prepared patiently and artfully can do all kinds of work in our own heart and make us more effective as we teach it to our class.

A job done patiently and artfully can help us feel a sense of accomplishment and healthy pride in a job well done and it can be a witness to those we work with.

In this world of rush and hurry, it would do us all a world of good if we would slow down and take...our...time. 

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

Do you rush through life and all of its many tasks and projects? How can focusing on God help you to slow down and do things patiently and artfully?