Gail

Beauty to the Praise of God

“A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.
– Francis A. Schaeffer. Art and the Bible

Doxology

The image in my email this morning took my breath away. It literally elicited an expression of praise to God—a doxology. My friend Linda Mullen sent this image of her latest watercolor painting to me, saying she had gotten up early to finish it.

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It Runs in the Family

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing about your righteousness. – Psalm 145: 4-7

Most doctors take a dim view of the self-diagnoses certain of us love to make with the help of the internet. When I’m afflicted with one thing or another, I usually get caught up in some late-night online symptom sleuthing. My findings are quite often hair-raising and only serve to add to my insomnia.

And when at last I do get in to see my doctor, I helpfully supply my own personal diagnosis of the ailment that has brought me to her office.

Problem is, most of the time I’m wrong.

The physical therapist I saw last week corrected my assessment of my current problem. The trouble was not the flare-up of plantar fasciitis I had so confidently advised him I had. He looked at an x-ray and let me know that the real reason every step I take feels like a demon is driving a nail into my heel is because I have a bone spur.

And, now that I think about it, it wasn’t actually shingles that other time, nor was it skin cancer the time before. Maybe I should just abandon my amateur practice of worst-case scenario medicine and leave the diagnosing to the professionals. ( I do love this advice from a sage friend regarding alarmist tendencies when facing ailments and disorders: when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras!).

A New Diagnosis

But this time it’s different. Todays’s web-surfing helped me with a self-diagnosis I am sure is 100% accurate.

I have thalassophilia.

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Butterfly Dresses: Sewing Lessons

She Works with Her Hands in Delight. – Proverbs 31:13

Mother’s Creativity

Dolly Parton’s mama made her a coat of many colors. Scarlett O’Hara made a dress from the drapes. My mother was equally creative and resourceful. In the lean years after the war, she used a bolt of rough wool tweed packing material from my father’s factory to dress us all for the winter. My father and little brother got matching sport jackets. For me, she brightened up the drab grey cloth by making a little flared coat with a big white Little Lord Fauntleroy collar trimmed in lace.

Mom sewed almost all of my dresses, even the ones I wore to my high school proms. She was a creative, talented seamstress so my clothes never looked homemade. In retrospect, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have—I wanted to have the same expensive name brands as the other girls at school. It was difficult for me to adjust as a high school junior when we moved to a new town in a more upscale area. Mom tried to help by working hard to make dresses and skirts that would look like the Villager outfits the other girl’s parents were able to buy them. Sometimes I fooled them, sometimes not. I’m glad she saved the special dresses—the pink velveteen and satin, the sapphire blue brocade, the embroidered velvet and organdy, the elegant appliquéd formals—so I can see and appreciate her artistry now in a way I did not then.

Sewing Lessons

High school sewing classes were mandatory in those days, so every girl in my 9th grade class had the same denim jumper. Wrap-around skirts were also a hot item. My friends and I discovered we could afford to have twice as many outfits if we learned to sew, so we embraced it wholeheartedly. We loved spending our Saturday afternoons selecting patterns and fabric and our Saturday nights at home cutting and stitching. The afternoon before a big date would often find me hand-sewing the buttons and hem for a dress I had made for the occasion. My final project senior year was a lined wool suit with bound button holes—definitely a varsity level undertaking.

Sewing eased my transition to college as well. During those hippie years, I already had the requisite skills to turn my jeans into batik-trimmed bell-bottoms. I embroidered muslin tunics with flowers and peace signs. I hemmed mini-skirts that were wider than they were long. I stitched maxi-skirts from tie-dyed cotton. I sewed curtains from Indian bedspreads.

It was years later that I married, and we moved with our two year old across the country for graduate school.

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The Gift of Music: A Glimpse of His Glory

Music is a Fair and Glorious Gift of God.” – Martin Luther

The Tennessee tots are in town! We have two little granddaughters who live nearby, but our other two little ones live across the country and we miss them terribly. We were delighted when our daughter asked us to babysit for the weekend so she and her husband could enjoy a much-needed getaway.

On Saturday morning, Jeff and I set out without too much of an agenda other than to wear these little ones out with fun. As we headed toward San Diego, I prayed for safety, protection, and divine appointments.

Then I added one more request: I asked our Father to give us eyes to see his glory on display in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.

Morning Songs

Our first stop was a visit to the magnificent new, nine-story central library. The children’s library, decorated with brightly colored Dr. Seuss characters—a nod to San Diego’s own Ted Geisel—was the setting for a morning concert. Given the location and time of day, we expected a kiddie concert that would likely feature sing-alongs of nursery rhymes or Raffi tunes by performers wearing primary colors and big smiles.

The smiles were the only part we got right.

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Friendships in Midlife: The Inevitable Fork in the Road

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” – Proverbs 27:9

I blame our girls.

Twenty eight years ago, when they were in third grade, Jenny and Emily plotted to spark a friendship between their parents so they could spend more time together.

The Winglers were transplants like we were. We’d moved to California from New Jersey a few years earlier for graduate school, while Kenny was a Navy physician newly stationed in San Diego. Jenny’s mom, Marta, had a rich Tennessee drawl, so I assumed they were Southerners. However, when Jeff and I later met Kenny, we were amazed to discover that not only had he grown up in New Jersey, too, but that he and I had lived in the same apartment complex as babies.

The Christmas Tradition Begins

That first Christmas I learned that Marta, like many other Navy wives, would be alone with her two kids, so I invited them to spend the day with us. That was the beginning of our tradition of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas (and other special occasions) together for almost every one of the past 28 years. Jenny and Emily each had a little brother, so we had the perfect combination for a family friendship. The kids were all creative and bright, played together well, and kept us entertained for hours with their hilarious skits and songs.

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The Weight of Words in the Heart of a Child

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken at the right time.” – Proverbs 25:11

Words seem more ephemeral, insubstantial these days. Although we all know on some level that any words sent out into cyberspace will remain there forever, there is something about a text, an email, or a social media post that makes us believe our words are no more lasting than letters in the sand.

I, for one, am glad to have come of age during a time when handwritten letters were still popular.

Unrecalled Treasures

Lately I’ve been deep into the mid-life purge that marks the transition from accumulation of goods to freeing ourselves from the pull of possessions. Yesterday I unearthed a box of childhood memorabilia that tore my attention from the task of sorting and tossing. I settled on the edge of my bed, eager to see what unrecalled treasures had been hidden away for decades.

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Victory in a Vineyard: 36 years of Marriage and Still Learning a Thing or Two

Remembering the heat and humidity of Nashville in the summer, we had packed for the tropics. But our first Sunday here, the last Sunday in June, was a complete surprise, a total gift. Blue skies, puffy clouds, moderate temperatures, glistening green hills all shouted of God’s glory. As San Diegans, we automatically think of heading to the ocean on such a day, but here in Nashville, Arrington Vineyards seems to have come to mind for hundreds of people wanting to be outside to enjoy the beauty of a summer day.

Overlooking verdant vineyards in the rolling hills of central Tennessee, the wide grassy slope was dotted with picnickers at rustic wooden tables under tall shade trees. Music and fragrance filled the air. A path through the woods led to a barn and another lush lawn seating area where a bluegrass band livened up the atmosphere. Back up the hill on the other side of the property was a wide tented pavilion for those who preferred jazz. Both styles seemed entirely appropriate for the setting and Jeff and I enjoyed spending time in each location. Since Nashville is a magnet for the most talented musicians in the world, it is impossible to have a bad listening experience here.

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Disappointed, Yes. Discouraged, No.

Disappointment is inevitable. But to become discouraged, there’s a choice I make. God would never discourage me. He would always point me to himself to trust him. Therefore, my discouragement is from Satan.” – Charles Stanley

But now don’t be discouraged, any of you. Do the work, for I am with you. – Haggai 2:4 GNB

The news about the project I’ve been pouring myself into for years now was challenging. Well—to be entirely candid—it was more than challenging. I was disappointed. I’d been feeling rather like a caterpillar inching its way from here to the ocean, and thought I was finally starting to hear the sound of the pounding surf dead ahead.

What I heard instead was: You aren’t there yet.

Or maybe it felt more like this (mixed metaphor advisory in effect throughout the rest of this post): I spent one whole summer when I was home with my little ones working on a patchwork quilt. I’d found a way to painstakingly combine scraps into an attractive pattern, pieced the top, added the batting and backing, and was now eager to take the last step of stitching the layers together.

As I spread the queen-sized quilt out on the bed and stood back to admire my handiwork, my eyes were drawn to a big, fat, unmistakeable mistake—an unintentional break

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Helping Others Transition: A Lesson in Leadership from the High Command

And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’ – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

This sweet-faced boy is my father at 17—the age at which he enlisted in the Navy and went off to boot camp to prepare to serve his country in World War II. Happily, the war ended the month before he was slated to ship out and so, by the age of 19, he was a veteran, back home with his relieved parents, and planning to start college with the aid of the GI bill.

He is now 90, and although his time in the Navy lasted just a few short years, his military experience has had a lasting positive effect on his character and identity. As one of America’s “greatest generation,” he has always viewed his service in the Navy with great pride. His love for both his country and the sea has never died, and he still wears a Navy ballcap as he heads off to the VFW meetings in his retirement community.

My brother recently found this treasure—one of the few letters my father has ever kept. Personally addressed to “My Dear Mr. Nelson”, it was signed by James Forrestal, the wartime Secretary of the Navy, and dated July 1946, the month after received his my honorable discharge.

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What Makes You Happy?

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” – Psalm 144:15

Browsing in a gift shop yesterday, I came upon a wall of rustic wood signs hand-painted with inspirational sayings. Trendy and very tempting, yes, but who among us hasn’t had this thought—why spend $25 when I could do that myself? I remembered I had some scrap wood laying about and even began dreaming up catchy names for an Etsy shop. As I took stock of my possibilities, however, I realized that I lacked paint, stain, the right brushes, hardware for hanging, workspace, time, and calligraphic skill.

Faced with my clearcut deficiencies, I sank back to earth and returned to reading the assorted clever sayings and cliches displayed before me. My attention was drawn to the message painted on one especially winsome square fashioned from rough-hewn pine planks—“Do what makes you happy.”

Now this was an arresting thought which gave rise to quite a few questions to ponder on the drive home. Was it true or false? Good advice or bad? Should I do what makes me happy? Does God want me to do what makes me happy? Do I usually do what makes me happy? What does make me happy?

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