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Nov 1, 16

14910479_10154643870071228_6186419323640866339_nToday, my oldest daughter Blakely turns 22. It’s hard to believe that I’m the mother of a 22 year-old, and even wilder to think that she and I have been on this journey together for more than two decades.

As any mother knows, parenthood is covered in doubt, anxiety, fear and questioning. Especially with your first, every day can feel like trial and error. In fact, as my children grow each year, I find myself longing to rewind the clock and experience their infancies and toddlerhoods again. My team members are celebrating their own milestones of those days, as I watch my communications director with her almost 2-year old and the growing bump of her second daughter coming in January, and my graphic designer who is experiencing kindergarten through her daughter’s eyes.

Together, Blakely and I have walked through mistakes, regrets, and ultimately, joys and triumphs. Being a mother is my greatest accomplishment, and one look at this beautiful, brilliant and confident woman overflows my heart and makes me eternally grateful for my Heavenly parent who loves me even more than I could possibly love my children. That thought is humbling.

I remember so clearly the day that we dropped Blakely off at boarding school. I cried and cried thinking of someone else watching her daily struggles and happiness and the guilt I felt that someone else was “raising” her. As I sat in my prayer chair on August 23, it was no coincidence that that day’s entry in Jesus Calling spoke directly to me.

“Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into my protective care. They are much safer with me than in your clinging hands… When you release loved ones to me, you are free to cling to my hand. As you entrust others to my care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.”

Wherever you are in your parenting journey… planning to start a family soon, in the middle of fertility treatments, reading this in the middle of the night with a tiny infant in your arms, or hoping for weekly phone calls from college to fill you in, remember that your divine Father designed you with everything your child needs. YOU are exactly who needs to be parenting THEM. Press into Him, and He will guide their paths.

To Blakely, thank you for walking this path with me. You are a delight and a joy. I am so proud of your tenacity, strength and poise. Thank you for teaching me, stretching me and giving me a front row seat into who you are becoming. I cannot wait for our adventures this week. I love you always.

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Costume Party

Oct 28, 16

A guest blog from our communications director Caroline Arey.

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Last year, my daughter Nora Beth made the most ideal Pillsbury Dough Girl.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

In the next few days, if you haven’t already, you’ll be seeing lots and lots of pictures of your friends’ and neighbors’ kids dressed up for Halloween. The costumes will range from cuddly to clever to creepy, and you may also find yourself sneaking more pieces of candy than you’re handing out to Trick-or-Treaters.

Halloween is a day that children and adults alike get to transform into someone else for the day – and have fun doing it. For many of us, though, especially for us women, too many of our days are spent like Halloween… trying on different “costumes” to see what fits us best.

It can be hard to live authentically and to feel completely comfortable and self-assured in the skin God created for us each of us, but that is exactly what He wants for us. In fact, He has already clothed us in the only outfit that we need: His own image.

No more trying to be the perfect housewife or most creative homeroom mom or has-it-all together entrepreneur. Costumes get uncomfortable quickly, but when we find freedom in who He created us to be, we can truly thrive in the various roles that we play.

In fact, the only “costumes” that Scripture encourages us to wear are the virtues of Christ, ranging from the Fruits of the Spirit to the Armor of God. He asks us only to wear what is already inside of us – His perfect creations.

This weekend as you find yourself unwrapping another fun-size Snickers bar or greeting an Elsa or vampire or monkey, praise God that He has unloaded the burden of dressing up and playing pretend from your shoulders. You have been perfectly cast – and clothed – in the role you play!

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More Precious

Oct 25, 16

Psalm 3:13-15
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 

Psalm 19:9-10
The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.

img_6837Each Monday morning our team gathers together to talk about business, pray together, and encourage one another in our various life stages. Yesterday was one of our happiest to date as we celebrated the weekend engagement of our associate sales director, Jessica. We popped champagne, ate strawberries and ooh’d and aah’d over her stunning new diamond (and took turns trying it on!). It was such a fun and festive morning for someone we love so much.

img_6830As I watched our team take turns admiring the diamond, my thoughts went to the Scripture in Psalm where David praises the laws of the Lord for being more precious than gemstones or gold. I know that I value the truth and encouragement that I find in the pages of the Bible, but I don’t know if I always consider His laws in quite the same way.
img_6836My youngest, Ford, just got his driver’s license late last week, and as scary as it is to have my last one out on the road, it makes me so thankful for the laws that protect him while he drives. It makes me value the rules that other drivers must also follow to keep him safe.

img_6803God’s laws are much the same way. While I’m sure there will be times that Ford will want to drive faster than the speed limit, the law is meant to keep him in a position to always arrive home safely. Similarly, there are times that my human urges want to push me beyond the boundaries that God has in place. But the beauty of His laws is that they aren’t meant to restrict me, but instead, to give me freedom to live my life to the fullest and always arrive home safely.
img_6802And as beautiful as I find Jessica’s ring, and as lovely as the encouragement of the Gospel, I will seek to find those laws just as precious as gemstones.

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A Weekend of Encouragement

Oct 23, 16

Weekends are meant to be a time to pause the daily hustle and bustle and find refreshment and nourishment for the soul through worship, playtime, family and friends. This weekend, I hope you can find extra refreshment in these simple words of truth found in Scripture.
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-11-22-21-pm“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-11-22-08-pm“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-11-21-49-pm“Bless the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.” – Psalm 103:20
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-11-21-32-pm “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

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With Courage

Oct 18, 16

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

inexpressible-joy-an-e1473366238610Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

In the world we’re living in these days, it’s so easy to let fear define us. Every time I launch a new product (like the brand new coffee table book Angels: The Collector’s Edition) I feel the fear of whether it will succeed or fail. Will customers see my heart and God’s glory through it?

Maybe, for you, fear looks like where your kids will go to school, choosing a fertility treatment, which new career path to take, beginning life again without a spouse by your side. It’s easy to fall into fear, but that isn’t what God wants for us. In fact, fear cannot exist in the presence of our mighty King. He is too strong, too powerful, too good for it to stand a chance.

We don’t have to try and muster up courage in order to fight fear. Instead we find the courage in the sheer knowledge that the Lord is beside us, walking with us, fighting for us. It’s that truth and that peace that is more important – and ultimately, more powerful – than the fear we face.

Friends, let’s let go of the fear together. Instead of holding the fear in the palm of your hand, release it and cling firmly to His hand instead to walk together through your season of worry and anxiety. He promises goodness and hope to all who walk with Him.

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Celebrate the Season

Oct 14, 16

2 Samuel 6:5
David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

Ellen Levine Dodd’s “If the Trees Could Dance.” Available at Anne Neilson Fine Art Gallery.

Undoubtedly we’re heading into the holiday season. Here in the South, temperatures seem to be finally be settling in below 80 (hooray!), and everywhere you look another store is putting their Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations on display. It seems like we’re always in a rush to get to our next favorite season, but it makes me wonder how often we take a minute to simple celebrate the season we’re currently in.

As my business grows and makes big plans for the future, the entire team is excited to take the next step. But I’m also reminded of the way David would pause and celebrate their battles, their victories, their next steps with the Lord. They would throw a party to honor the season they were in. What a beautiful picture!

When was the last time you paused, and rather than plan what you will do next, you simply celebrated and praised God the very moment He placed you in? Whether your children are in diapers, thinking about prom, graduation, careers, weddings… celebrate that they are exactly where they are in this moment! Whether your business is smaller than you would like or larger than you can possibly manage, throw a party for its season!

Our God loves to hear the hearts of His people, and He will so gently reach down and comfort and provide peace in the trials, but He is also so ready to celebrate in the victories and the here and now. Don’t miss the dancing because you’re ready for the next season. Celebrate the beauty of just this moment. The next will be here before you know it.

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Do Something

Oct 12, 16

We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. – Ronald Reagan

img_6677Monday marked World Homelessness Day. A day set aside to recognize those currently fighting poverty, hunger and life instability.

Homelessness is a cause that is so dear to my heart. Through volunteer work at Charlotte’s Harvest Center and mission trips with Samaritan’s Feet, “homelessness,” is no longer a nameless, faceless issue. Instead, my heart has been touched deeply and personally by the men, women and children surviving homelessness as well as the organizations committed to fighting on their behalf.
img_6678Monday also marked the pre-order launch of my newest book Angels: The Collector’s Edition, the net proceeds of which will be given to those organizations making a difference within the homeless community.

img_6676Our team commemorated the day by packing supply kits with personal hygiene items, water, snacks, socks and a list of resources. We’ll share these kits with our neighbors on the street and the ministries committed to them.

I’m so motivated by Ronald Reagan’s famous quote that reminds us that we can all reach someone. What someone is God placing in your path today?
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Angels: The Collector’s Edition

Oct 7, 16

Angels: The Collector’s Edition
1 Corinthians 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

the-collectors-edition-lucite-sleeveFourteen years ago, on a small canvas in my home studio, I painted my first angel, and as it turns out, my life song.

I can clearly remember the day not long after when I was serving at Charlotte’s Harvest Center. I felt so conflicted and wondered how I would be able to do it all… be a wife, a mom, an artist, and a philanthropist, giving back to those in need. I felt the Lord’s still, small voice speak to me and urge me to “paint and give back.” Those four simple words have launched years of partnership, birthed thousands of angels, and filled my heart.

Today in my studio I was painting and praising to some wonderful Christian music, the song below from Steven Curtis Chapman came on, and I was reminded to commit everything I do for the glory of God who made me. There is nothing like being dedicated to the sweet spot of gifts and passions, perfectly planned by God.

I remember when my kids were little, and there I was in the midst of the chaos, picking up toys, my hair thrown up in a ponytail with no makeup on my face except for the little bit of lipstick I’d put on on my way out the door. Those days seem so long ago (and honestly, with my kids 22, 21, 19, and 16 years old… they were longer ago than I want to admit!).

These days, I stand here painting or having product development meetings or marketing strategy sessions, and my hair is still in a ponytail, and I still just thrown on a little lipstick on my way out the door, and there are times that I can’t help but wonder if it matters. Another angel? Another bird? Another notecard? Will it make a difference at all? And then I’m reminded in so many different ways… the lyrics in a song or the stories we receive… that it does matter, and as long as I give God the glory, every little thing matters.

Wherever you’re sitting today… at a cluttered kitchen table with children running around, a conference room at the bank waiting for a meeting, in an art studio like me, please remember that the little stuff and the big stuff… it all matters!

Monday marks World Homelessness Day, and our team has been working diligently on a brand new coffee table book, Angels: The Collector’s Edition, which combines the most beloved content from Angels In Our Midst as well as more than 150 pages of new content, artwork and stories of faith. You’ll find inspiring words from some of the most talented musical artists today, like Steven Curtis Chapman, his organization Show Hope, and the way God brought us together.

This new book was created in honor of the organizations who are fighting to end homelessness and the negative cycle of poverty across the nation and worldwide. To commemorate these amazing organizations and the population of voiceless angels that they serve, 20% of net proceeds from the sale of Angels: The Collector’s Edition will be donated to our dear partners to aid their fight.

Our new books will be arriving the first week of December, just in time to secure a spot under your tree.

Our pre-ordering opens Monday, and you can choose your preferred package. We are offering three options:
The book
The book + fine art print of cover artwork
The book + original Angel oil painting (quantities are limited)

collectors-edition-cover_inside-mockupDo Everything – Steven Curtis Chapman

You’re picking up toys on the living room floor for the fifteenth time today

Matching up socks
Sweeping up lost cheerios that got away 

You put a baby on your hip
Color on your lips and head out the door 

While I may not know you,
I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all?

Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long 

As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause He made you,
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do 

Maybe you’re that guy with the suit and tie
Maybe your shirt says your name 

You may be hooking up mergers
Cooking up burgers
But at the end of the day

Little stuff
Big stuff
In between stuff
God sees it all the same 

While I may not know you
I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all?
Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause He made you
To do 

Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every thing you do 

Maybe you’re sitting in math class
Or maybe on a mission in the Congo
Or maybe you’re working at the office
Singing along with the radio

Maybe you’re a down and out rock star
Or feeding orphans in the Myanmar
Anywhere and everywhere that you are 

Whatever you do
It all matters
So do what you do
Don’t ever forget 

To do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause He made you
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace

As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause he made you
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do 

In every little thing you do
In every little thing you do

 

 

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All Access

Oct 4, 16
at-david-and-kurts-16x20

“At David and Kurt’s” by Eve Plumb. Available through Anne Neilson Fine Art Gallery.

Have you checked out the new Instagram Stories on Instagram? I love them. Essentially a live feed of my friends and loved ones lives right at my fingertips. I love the connections that social media allows us, but I can’t help but think that the ease of connection is also hurting our real, true, personal relationships with each other.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Scripture doesn’t mention that as Twitter sharpens Twitter, or as Facebook sharpens Facebook. No. It speaks of metal sharpening metal, which only happens when it comes into direct contact with another piece of metal… not just by scrolling through a newsfeed.

Sharpening each other happens in direct fellowship, in conversations, in small groups, in meals over the same table. I love the fun of social media but never want to take for granted the true identities of those behind the accounts. I want to be increasingly intentional about the relationships I’m building.

Just this morning I met a friend for coffee. We ran into each other three weeks ago at a restaurant and talked about how much we’d like to see each other and catch up. I reminded her (and myself!) that it’s never about being too busy… it’s about taking the time to put it on the calendar. We scheduled a date right then, and this morning was so lovely and refreshing for us both.

The Lord built us for community with one another. Not for community with a screen. He hand-selected each one of us to be sitting the unique position where we are now, surrounded by the people that are in our lives. And no amount of filters or shares will validate or steal that. My joy is my duty and my treasure to protect. I dress for an audience of One and am striving for real community with the divine appointments He arranges for me.

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The Trendsetter

Sep 30, 16

Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
harpers-bazaar-vintage-cover-2
Walking through the mall or dropping my son off at school, it’s clear that anything that was in style when I was young will come full circle again eventually. Currently, according to the fashion experts, trends from the ’90s are back in style. Granted my ’90s years were spent wearing the uniform of a mom-on-the-go, but ultimately trends are cyclical.

In interior design, through working with designers who come into the Gallery, we know that both mid-Century modern and minimalist styles with pops of color are on the “it” list. But nothing new is truly original.

Do you remember being young and flipping through magazines, begging your parents to take you out right then and there for the latest must-have outfit or hairstyle? Never mind whether you had the body type, coloring or hair texture to pull it off, it was all about imitating those all-knowing trendsetters.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve settled more fully into my own style and taste and stopped chasing the latest trends. And spiritually, I’m more comfortable now as well, as I’ve embraced what Ephesians calls us to do… be an imitator of Christ. No one else. No other trend. Just the timeless, boundless power and love of Christ.

Unlike Jennifer Aniston’s wildly popular Friends haircut or the puffy sleeves of the ’80s, His love for us, and what we are called to imitate of Him is one-size fits all. The Holy Spirit dwells in us all, and our job is to stop flipping the pages of what’s “in,” and instead reflect and focus on what is within, then copy and apply it for the world to see.

He is the ultimate Trendsetter, and He fearfully and wonderfully made us to walk out what is already in us. How encouraging and freeing!

Just for fun: what trend did you copy that you never should have? And, how are you imitating Christ to those around you?

 

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