Anne Neilson Home | Blog

My Refuge and Fortress

Sep 13, 18

A few years ago, I participated in an amazing art show in Ocean Reef, FL, hosted by my dear friend Kathie Lee Gifford. It was an amazing time, and her home was just gorgeous. I was able to spend time journaling and reflecting on the way God was revealing Himself to me.

One early morning (5:00 a.m. yikes) I began journaling in the middle of a powerful storm. All around me the rain was pouring, the thunder was pounding, and the lightning was striking disconcertingly close to home. Between the flashes and claps, however, there were pauses of peace and calm.

As I was journaling about my recent time in Israel, I wrote about the cleansing and purifying power of water. It was a precious life source to the Israelites. As the rains came down, and I thought back to what I had learned about the water cleansing God’s people in the desert, I meditated on my desire to live a pure, cleansed life, free from storms.

Unfortunately, though, storms do happen, and more often than not, they pop up suddenly and without warning. The night before this strong gale, I stood on the water’s edge of Kathie’s home absorbing the most brilliant sunset, painted with God’s brushstrokes dipped in magnificent shades of pink, watching in awe as the sun dipped into the horizon. Not a thought was in our minds as we went to bed that we may wake up to the chaos of a scary storm.

How equipped am I to weather these storms? How prepared am I for the onslaught or winds and rain that is surely coming without warning? Certainly there are little squalls that cross our path – soaking showers that give way to rainbows and brilliant sunlight. There are also those slow, gray drizzles that seem to settle in and saturate our spirits longer than they’re welcome. There are still others that erode our hearts with their vicious violence and ferocity. In any case, I want to be prepared and equipped… I want to fortify the banks of my heart, so that it will stay planted and not washed away.

God promised me and you, just as He promised Noah, that undoubtedly, no matter the intensity of the storm, He will cause the sun to appear. He will stop the rain and silence the thunderous claps. He will push the clouds apart and reveal His peace and assurance over my life, if only I will cling to the hope He gives us in Jesus, and the hope He spells out for us in His word. When I cling, He quiets. The storms are momentary, but His love and grace for me are eternal.

Our prayers go out to everyone that will be affected by Florence.

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The Path

Aug 28, 18

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I completed a meaningful bible study on the names of God many years ago. I believe that all His names are powerful and should be called upon daily. During the study, I had a vivid image of Jehovah Rohi, which translated means: The Lord Our Shepherd. As we studied about the Lord as our shepherd, I had an image of God guiding us along HIS path, and it is not your typical path. 

Nine years ago our family hiked the towns of Cinque Terre (Five Lands) in Italy, which is the rugged portion of coastline on the Italian Riveria. It is comprised of five villages. We were ambitious as a family, and set out early one morning to hike all five lands. The hotel manager took one look at us (especially me wearing sandals that were not made for hiking) and told us to take the train to the first two towns, skipping the hardest part and then hiking the rest. We all (as a family) agreed that we were up for hiking all five lands and set out on our way. 

The beginning of the hike was steep and rocky. My husband and I (stopping every few steps to catch our breath) did not think that we were going to make it, and that was only five minutes into this journey! We finally rallied our spirits, got our act together, and said: We can do this! 

When the path leveled, it also narrowed. The kids led the way in front, but it was pretty scary because there was a steep drop-off on the side. There was not much to see in front of us because of the green brush surrounding the path, but we kept moving: putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what. 

I think that is much like our walk with the Lord as He guides us through life. Sometimes is may be steep and hard and rocky, and you are not sure you can make it. Most always the path is narrow, for God’s Word tells us in Matthew 7:13: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” 

Being on the hike with the steep rocky parts and the narrow path, putting one foot in front of the other, we eventually rounded the bend to see the most breathtaking view that you can imagine.

We need to know that we have a God who loves us and will guide us through anything that life brings our way. Life may be hard, steep and rocky, whether it is with your marriage, your finances, your children, or your health. But hold fast to God’s word and His Character – the Good Shepherd – putting one foot in front of the other that is faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.

God is the Good Shepherd and He will guide you through all the paths in our lives and the best is yet to come.  I especially pray this for my all four of my children, that they would constantly be reminded of this truth and remember the climb!  It was worth it!

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Deep Waters: Hope for Texas

Aug 30, 17

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 10.43.05 AMThis week my heart and prayers have been with the people of Texas! Anne Neilson Home has several stores in Texas that carry our products. I have friends and even daughters living in Dallas. My girls are not in the heart of the damage, thankfully, but I do have close friends who are affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Watching the coverage has given many of us, including me, flashbacks to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans on August 23, 2005. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in church with my family, at the time my children were 9, 8, 6 and 3. There was a group of people sitting next to me, who were visiting from out of town. As we worshiped I noticed that their eyes were closed and their hands were raised high. That expression of worship is not one that you witness frequently in a Presbyterian church (The phrase that I often heard that makes me laugh is that Presbyterians were the ‘frozen chosen’). For some reason tears welled up inside me as I witnessed these three just praising, and then I watched as the offering plate passed by, dig deep in their pockets and pull out a few dollars. Later that morning after the service, I introduced myself and realized that they were part of the storm. They were homeless.They lost everything in New Orleans and had moved to Charlotte looking to restore and rebuild their lives.

A friend had invited them to church that day and was helping them find new places to live. In our conversation, I asked what they missed most and how we could help. Darren Nelson, one of the hurricane victims, said that he missed the Cajun food, and he missed cooking. He loved to cook and wanted to get his hands back in a kitchen. He promised that he could make a mean jambalaya. We all agreed that we would host a dinner at my house and set the date. Our family took them shopping, not only for food, but we surprised each of them and took them on a huge shopping spree for clothes.

We invited members of the congregation to bring items to outfit a new apartment for them: Vacuums, coffee makers, new towels, new sheets, utensils… Everything that someone would need to set up a brand new home. When our new friends showed up to cook they were also greeted with gifts for their new beginnings! It was a magical night watching these three in the kitchen having the time of their lives. We ate. We laughed. We cried. We loved. We gave hope. But even more than that — after dinner, Darren sat down at the piano and began to play (and sing!) Little did we know that he was a gifted gospel singer that would bring us all to tears. As we gathered our crowd around the piano, we all broke out in worship.

We stood in community praising God for the storm, knowing He would take us safely through the storm and deliver us on the other side. Darren taught me a valuable lesson that night (and that morning in church). No matter what we are faced by the storms of life…we have a choice. We can lift our arms high to a living God giving Him thanks and praise no matter what our circumstances are. We can trust that our God will carry us through the storm.

We didn’t have smart phones back then to capture every moment, and as much as I wish I had captured them, they are burned into my heart forever. The love and the joy despite the loss. As I turn on the TV today, I am reminded of the love from years ago. I am encouraged that there are countless volunteers. There are the Darren’s in the midst of Texas, and there are others reaching out and offering HOPE. We are releasing a small 5”x5” limited edition print entitled HOPE. 100% of the proceeds will go back to help offer relief for Harvey Hurricane victims. I am encouraged once again that we have a GOD who will carry each one affected by the storm. You can purchase your ‘angel’ here. Keep it as a reminder our God our Hope! Join me as we continue to pray for Texas!

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To Wendy

Jul 26, 17

The other day I was sitting on my side porch just watching the birds come and go to the bird feeder. Matthew 6:26-27 sprung to my mind, as I watched them:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

It was such a wonderful reminder that God can and will take care of everything. I was overcome with a sense of divine peace as I sat there praying for friends in need, my family and my company’s future. Whatever circumstance arrives, I love the assurance that God has already taken care of it for me.

The next morning, I got to work, and I received news that my right hand person, my first employee, my confidant, my visionary, my dear employee Wendy Wilson, was leaving at the end of the month.
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While I was shocked by the news, I was also overcome with the peace that God already knew, and He has plans to care for our company, for me, and for Wendy’s next season. My heart is so sad, but I am content in that Promise, and I am trusting Him with these next steps.

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Wendy stepped into Anne Neilson Home in June 2013, and her role was simply to ship out books. For 10 hours a week, Wendy would come in and help ship. A month later, we were at Atlanta Market together showcasing Angels In Our Midst, and suddenly everything escalated. Several retailers and several connections sent us nationwide and into a new level of success.

These last 4 years wouldn’t have looked the same without Wendy. I know I will never forget the experiences we have shared together, that include brilliantly high, low and poignant moments.

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Wendy,

Words cannot begin to express how much you have meant to Anne Neilson Home! There are way too many memories we have shared that I will cherish for a lifetime. I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do moving forward. I just want you to know that I will be praying for you as you embark on this next journey. I pray for PEACE that passes all understanding in all that you do: remodeling your new home, parenting tweens and teens, being a wife and taking care of YOU. You are an amazing person and an amazing friend. You have had an amazing vision for ANH. I pray that you will find the JOY in cooking for your family, that you will find the time for more tennis matches, that you will enjoy the times with your family! I hope you will know that you will be deeply missed!

Anne

 

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Life Is Short

Jul 6, 17
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Painting angels has become my ministry, and I meet so many people who share countless stories that reflect the theme that “life is short.”

Recently, I have had several friends lose friends and family members at an early age. Walking down memory lane on social media, I came across a family whose daughter became very close to our family. This sweet girl passed away at just 8 years old. Whether 8, 54, or even 80, life is short.

Each of us has been given the gift of life, and when we are handed that gift, we are also entrusted with the responsibility to love. We are given a choice every day of how to define our days. Scriptures tell us that we are not even promised tomorrow and that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6).

We will all face challenges throughout our days and our lives, and when I was talking to a friend in the middle of a challenging season, she told me, “I don’t question God about the Why. I just ask Him to give me strength through it all.” I hope to always keep this perspective in front of me in the midst of trials and not question His “why,” but instead focus on glorifying Him in all circumstances.

I certainly do not ever want to belittle or minimize the sadness or pain that accompanies loss. I do, however, want to encourage you along the way to grab hold of the God who will equip and strengthen you. Make it a point to wake up each morning with eyes fixed on Jesus and a heart filled with gratitude, because even when your days seem long, our lives are so short in relation to the eternity that awaits us in the Kingdom!

Life is short… live it.
Love is rare… grab it.
Anger is bad… dump it.
Fear is awful… face it.
Memories are sweet… cherish them.
Friends are precious… embrace them.
God is good… praise Him.

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A Broken World

Jun 26, 17

Just a few weeks ago, I spent a glorious few days in London with my second daughter. She is going to be studying abroad and doing an internship there this summer. I was thrilled to be spending some rare one-on-one time with her before being separated by an ocean.

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The second night we were there, we learned that there had been a stabbing on the London Bridge. Our plans changed, and of course, our excitement was replaced with anxiety and worry.

Of course I tuned into the news, and the horrific scene from London Bridge was being broadcast everywhere. Naturally, I panicked. How in the world could I let my daughter live here in the midst of so much uncertainty, unrest and fear?

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But in an instant, the Lord touched my heart and gave me a sense of His divine peace and serenity as I prayed Psalm 91 over Catherine, the city of London, and our broken world.

It seems so simple to say, but when we really ponder it in our hearts, it’s profound: God is with us… ALWAYS. He challenges us to not only live in but to engage with a broken and hostile world. He did the very same thing when He sent His Son, Jesus, to step into the brokenness as a man and deliver grace and truth to the hurting and seeking.

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The next morning, I stepped into the streets of London armed with a warm Southern smile and a fervent prayer that people would know me by my actions, and in turn, that they would know the Lord because of my actions. I yearn for people I encounter to see my love for others, my peace in the middle of stressful situations, my willingness to extend grace, a merciful spirit… I don’t want them to see me. Instead, I want them to see Him through me.

Each day we are given choices. We can choose to live in fear: Fear of the unknown, be it fear of singleness, closed spaces, random acts of violence, or a medical diagnosis. Or we can choose each day to lift our hands, hearts and concerns to a God who is ever-present and ready to engage with us and provide us with wholeness in the brokenness.

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Running Aground

Mar 22, 17

I am a true Florida native. I LOVE the water and grew up boating on the St. John’s River. My childhood was dotted with trips to the Keys and the Bahamas. There is something so healing about being on the water. Whether digging your toes in the sand or dipping in the refreshing, crystal water, there is a healing power in those bodies of water. For me, I feel like the Lord speaks His gentle whispers when I am near water. His gentle breezes speak loudly to my heart.50911051-1072-4DAB-A9E5-F0B985C2D34AOn a sailing trip during one of my daughter’s senior year, I talked with her and her friends about anchoring their faith, and how anchors don’t weigh your faith down, but rather secure your heart so that you have the freedom to explore the place where God has set you.

Just recently, we took our son to Exuma, Bahamas. What an incredible place to witness the full glory of God’s Creation! We rented a little 18 foot Boston whaler, which gave us the ability to explore multiple little cays and an incredible, huge sandbar. A few times, while running around in these beautiful waters, our little boat would hit the bottom of the shallows. We’d trim the motor and somehow work our way back out of these precarious positions and into deeper waters behind us.

One afternoon when the tide was almost out, my husband and I took the boat to explore a little spot on the island. We anchored in knee deep water, but I wanted to get a little closer. Clark hopped out of the boat to pull us closer to shore, when all of a sudden we came to a dead stop. We were beached. We strenuously and furiously pushed and shoved, trying to nudge the boat into the deeper, safer waters, but we were stuck and not budging. And frustrated. And grumbling. And blaming. All in a matter of minutes.IMG_1528.JPGFinally (it felt much longer than it actually was!) someone in a dingy came to our rescue, and with his help we made our way to the safety of the depths. Even in the midst of the frustration of this scenario (as beautiful as it was, it was a little scary to think we might have to wait hours for the tide to make its way back in).

There are days that leave me feeling stuck in the shallows. Whether I’m stuck on a painting that needs finishing, stuck in a rut where I pray for the same thing over and over without seeing results. Sometimes aren’t we all a little stuck? Thankfully, we have a Mighty Helper who comes to our rescue anytime we call upon Him. He doesn’t just happen to wander by in a dingy when we’re in trouble. No, He is aware of our every move and is available when He call His name. No matter what our circumstance or how stranded we may feel, He is waiting to pull us further into deep waters and into a deeper relationship with Him.

If you’re feeling stuck today, maybe you need to realize that you aren’t floundering where it’s deep, but instead you’re beached where it’s shallow. Call His name, push away, and be held.
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An Introduction to Shabbat

Mar 15, 17

Last week I shared a post about simplifying and trusting God. A few friends that know me well asked if everything was OK. Let me assure you, I’m celebrating with joy the journey that the Lord has me on right now. However, I want to use this space to always be real and transparent about the frustrations, trials and tribulations that we all encounter. We all need moments of time to refocus and set our sights back in line with the King of Kings.

Last March, Clark (my husband) and my oldest daughter Blakely went to Israel with Kathie Lee Gifford and about 40 of her co-workers, family members, and friends. It was truly a trip of a lifetime, and I blogged about a few highlights. On February 23rd our Israel group reunited in Ocean Reef, Florida for a weekend reunion. What a joy to be reunited with this group that really started to feel like family across the ocean!

During our reunion celebration, we practiced the Jewish custom of Shabbat, led by Rabbi Jason Sobel. Friends, put simply: It was amazing and a life changing practice for me. Shabbat is a designated day of the week to shut out the burdens, discouragements, distractions and chaos of the previous 6 days. It’s a time to come together, celebrate and bless with your family. For our Shabbat, we gathered on Friday night at Kathie Lee’s house to walk through the 4 blessings of Shabbat with Rabbi Sobel. He shared with us that the purpose of the custom is:
C28EB218-4BD3-4224-80C8-E4B6178761931. To be reminded of Eden and embark on a foretaste of our future. 
When you think about it, the beginning of our time on Earth began in the Garden of Eden… the purest example of God’s intention for our lives. When we observe the Sabbath and rest and commune with the Lord, we are reconnecting with that original design, a taste of those days in the paradise of Eden. And because we have faith that Christ is returning to restore paradise on Earth, observing a Sabbath is also providing us a glimpse of the future as believers. By engaging with God’s design for rest and worship through Shabbat, we are positioning our hearts for hope and anticipation.

2. To be postured for thankfulness.
Shabbat creates a space for us to fulfill the very purpose for which we were created – to worship our Creator. When we celebrate the Sabbath, we remember what God has done for us, and when we remember, we also thank Him for His eternal goodness. Shabbat gives us the opportunity to set the tone of our hearts to worship God with gratitude through the week ahead.

3. To be refreshed and rejuvenated.
All too often, we find ourselves feeling like we don’t have time to take to rest and observe the Sabbath. Unfortunately, our constant busyness frequently leads to burnout and strained relationships. Shabbat is intended to be an oasis of time to be refreshed and rejuvenated both in our bodies and our souls. Even God rested on the Sabbath, setting an example for us to follow.

4. To be led into a more connected life.
The purpose of creation has always been about connection. A blessed, meaningful life is one that is full of connections and relationships. The Sabbath helps us connect more deeply to God, His Word, and others around us, increasing the meaning and depth of our lives. When we observe Shabbat, we are submitting to God’s original design for us, honoring Him and creating the necessary space to embrace the connections He intends to bring peace, joy and wholeness into our lives.
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At dinner it really hit me that we do not spend enough intentional time with our families. Sure, we find ourselves together as we hustle and bustle back and forth to sporting events, school events, church, even time spent hanging out watching football or golfing. However, in our culture, we really do not take the time to come together for a solid 24 hours to bless one another (in a very literal sense. During our Shabbat supper, we had the husbands bless the children then the wives then the husbands). There is a lot of singing and dancing, laughing and eating, and oh yes, drinking some fine wine!

But why don’t we exercise more intentionality? More reflecting, relaxing, and rejoicing in a God who is ever present at all times in our lives. Shabbat enforced in me the need to rejoice in the middle of all circumstances. There is something powerful that occurs when you come together as a family or a close group of loved ones and intentionally celebrate a meal together. Jesus modeled this perfectly for us, when He gathered His disciples around Him to break bread and celebrate despite the cross that was looming before Him.

What a powerful art to begin to put into practice! I’m excited to share more about Shabbat in the future, including a handy guide to host your own Shabbat supper club. Stay tuned!

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Simplify and Trust

Mar 6, 17

AnneNeilson_August2016_Finals_BSP-105I am ever so grateful for the gift that God has given me, but as my businesses have grown, it seems that the passion to paint gets in the way of the busy details of running a business and managing employees. The daily details of payroll, maintaining excellent customer service, finding new artists and developing new products… it can be chaotic and messy from time to time.

It sometimes seems so complicated. Just the daily details of life can be so fraught and complex. Recently, I was reminded it was GOD who equipped me in the first place and set my feet on this path, and it will be GOD who will continue to guide me along the steep rocky steps as I navigate through this journey.

Just the other week, orders went out to all our wholesale accounts, and our fulfillment warehouse triple shipped their scripture card orders. As I got so frustrated and tried to figure out the best way to deal with issues (computer glitches, human glitches, mail glitches), I was reminded that I need to stop and rest in HIM.

He is a mystery to our human minds, but His commands to us throughout Scripture are so simple. It’s our human nature that clutters them up. I challenge you today to evaluate the thoughts, emotions, and habits that you need to simplify in order to get back to the root of your trust in Him. Our lives our chaotic, but our Lord is calm.

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Among the Dust and Dirt

Feb 1, 17

16265762_1935700416658137_64882121648028615_nThe new year is starting out at a breakneck pace for our team. We just wrapped a major construction project and move from our Southend art gallery and Home showroom to a huge, gorgeous space in the Southpark area of Charlotte (the Shops at Morrison, for local readers… come see us!).

As exciting as being settled in a new space is, the process of moving and construction is not nearly as fun or glamorous. Sorting through possessions, choosing what to keep, what to throw away, packing, unpacking, organizing, and then remembering where everything is… whew. Add in, dust, dirt, erecting walls, refinishing floors, and navigating around the dust and dirt… It’s overwhelming!

12E48B7C-747D-4505-BC7F-C9AD4CEC9023Entering into a new relationship with Christ is a lot like the construction process and the act of moving. The end result is beautiful, refreshing and incredible, but the process can be a little messy. As we come to know Jesus more intimately, we are required to sort through all of our junk and make decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Each move is the opportunity to move forward to your next destination a little bit lighter, and a little bit less cluttered. A move toward God gives us the same opportunity… a chance to shed the burdens we’ve been carrying way too long, and a chance to let Him cleanse our messes. Moving toward Him means being dusted off, cleansed, and pulled out of the direct that announces that we are a work in progress.

30AA08AF-1C69-4AC2-8D31-8420B497BB52There are great reminders from each past season to take with us mementos. Tokens to remind us of what we’ve cherished, what we’ve overcome and what He’s seen us through.

This week, as we open the doors of our new space, I have so much joy in my heart as I unpack those reminders of where He and I have walked together, and look around me at the new walls ready to see the journey He is leading me on next.

I would love to hear from you! What is among your boxes? What signs of life are pulled out of the dust and dirt?
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