Wednesday, June 30, 2010

But Time-Consuming

It's been over a week,  but I'm working on the rose tutorial that I mentioned last week. The tutorial writer described her technique as "easy, but time-consuming." She wasn't kidding!


I'm getting bored with the project, which is typical for me. But I'm going to complete it! Why? Because all creative arts require discipline...not just inspiration. I remember my writing teachers saying, "Poetry is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration." Unless you're one of those pseudo-poets that reads their free-verse creations to applauding audiences between shows on PBS, I guess. Or Jackson Pollack.

For those of us who care about art, however (whether it's written, visual or musical), pushing through the times when creating is sheer work does yield a reward. In my case, I'll get a rose that can decorate greeting cards, my computer desktop, or email. But, more importantly, I'll have a sense of achievement, knowing I persevered.  
 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At 57, A Babe

Unless I live past the age of 114 (a highly doubtful proposition for someone born with Cerebral Palsy), over half my life has taken place. I wonder if the teens who have befriended me on Facebook realize I'm old enough to be their grandmother?

I feel young, only eight years into my first marriage. (My only marriage, thank you very much!) For me, life is still fresh and exciting, full of potential and wonder. How could my younger sister be a grandmother when I'm still a newlywed? But then, there is that fluid body of memories, as well as this stiff body of hot flashes and sore muscles, both testifying that I'll turn 57 in three months.


So, in my "later years" I still appreciate the newness of life. Could this vibrancy come from marriage?

Partially, but I think it goes deeper than that wonderful circumstance. In the past year, things have happened in my relationship with Christ. I started coupling Bible Study with a consistent prayer time, and I've learned better Bible study habits. The Lord deserves the credit; He brought these disciplines into my life. And through them, He's opened up a whole new way of looking at life!

I find truths in Scripture and think, "Why didn't I understand that principle 30 years ago?" Indeed, why didn't I? Was I too caught up in wanting (okay, demanding) a husband, or in using "ministry" to bolster my reputation in my Christian social circles? That short-sightedness probably had quite a bit to do with my spiritual retardation. Inattention to sound doctrine also contributed to the problem. At any rate, now I'm drinking the pure milk of God's Word (2 Peter 2:2) and the solid food of Biblical doctrine (Hebrews 5:15), and I'm actually growing!


It may well, be, then, that this newlywed reaches for laxatives more than she used to, and has trouble understanding why Oldies 103.7 plays Elton John's music (isn't he a new recording artist?). But I'm seeing brand new things (new to me) about the Lord, and I'm just starting to taste my eternal life with Him!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Comfortable Tightropes

Lately, I've wondered if I spend too much time on Facebook, where conversations are for the most part shallow. I'm on the computer, regardless of what I do because my disability marginalizes me from face-to-face social situations, so most of my socialization will, by default, happen by means of my keyboard. I'm merely choosing the platform for my electronic communication.

As best I can, I want to reach out to others. This past month, I've chosen blogging over social media. I like sharing my thoughts, beliefs and experiences in a deeper way than Status Updates and Wall Posts allow. Really, I guess I should go back to emailing, or (gasp!) writing snail mail (although postage stamps cost so much these days). I should, but I'm not sure I will.

Don't look for a tidy resolution in this post. I'm just thinking aloud.

I am, this past month, enjoying this blog. Of course, I'm not sure who reads it, which makes it both strange and exciting. Like autobiographical writers in print mediums, I walk a tightrope between sharing intimate thoughts and withholding personal information. Sometimes, blogging (as opposed to the false security of Facebook) reminds me to stay guarded as I tap these keys.

And maybe I like that challenge. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Cozy?

Have I mentioned that I'm currently studying 1 Peter in my Quiet Time? It's a challenging epistle because its basic message is that Christians, being promised a heavenly inheritance, must avoid conforming to the culture of this world.

As I read this epistle, my first instinct is to judge other Christians whom I know are compromising with the standards of non-Christians. Now, there are times when making such judgments is good. If I'd been more discerning about the man I dated before I met John, for instance, I would have been spared unnecessary heartbreak. But I ignored his all-too-obvious sin, and almost got trapped in a marriage that would have destroyed my life.

I digress.

I think, rather than letting myself point fingers at others while I read 1 Peter, I need to examine myself. How cozy am I with worldly values? Am I willing to risk ridicule in order to live by the Lord's standards? And the real question: How convinced am I that the Kingdom that Christ will establish at His return deserves my allegiance?

I believe Peter, in the first 12 verses of Chapter 1, tries to show his readers how Christ's precious  gift of salvation, and an inheritance reserved in heaven, should motive us to live in distinction to those who expect to (as Joel Osteen puts it) "live their best life now." My "best life" has nothing to do with now, other than allowing trials to purify my faith in preparation for eternity with Him. So, I need to understand that I'm different from people who see no reason to invest in eternity.

God has a life for me beyond my mortal existence. All the attractions to this life, therefore, are potential distractions from my true life. Does a website lure me towards materialism so that I spend money on myself instead of giving to God? Am I using language that makes me sound more like a construction worker than a follower of Christ? Do people see integrity or hypocrisy in me? 

James 4:4 says that friendship with the world is hatred towards God. Peter's not as blunt, but he certainly makes me aware that I need to put my hope in heaven, even if doing so means I don't fit in with the world.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Be Careful, Little Eyes

During lunch most days, I put theRADIO.com on my computer. Sometimes, I set it to 60's music, Big Band or DooWop, but more often than not, I choose Contemporary Christian music. It helps me and John focus on the Lord.

Today, the channel I landed on had Chris Tomlin, Matt Redmon...all the usual fare, which was wonderful. The Lord used most of the songs to steer me to Him, reminding me that He's in control of circumstances, and that worshiping Him is all that matters. With both body and spirit abundantly fed, I returned to my desk, wondering what to post.

At that moment, theRADIO.com started playing Casting Crowns' song, "Slow Fade," which I hadn't heard since seeing the movie, Fireproof. Listen to the song, consider the lyrics, and then scroll down to see my comments.



Yes, the song is primarily about how adultery starts with little things. A second glance. Affirming words. A touch. And I don't want to diminish that message. Really, every marriage, no matter how Christian it seems, is vulnerable when people fail to guard their hearts. So often, Scripture warns us to stay focused on Jesus, filling our minds with Him. 


But there's a deeper application to this song than human adultery. So many things can drag Christians away from the Lord. A little drink here, a television show there. We tell ourselves we need to understand non-Christians, so we make little compromises, trying to let them see that we're really just like them. And, sadly, it's not very long before, just like them, we're ensnared in sin.

We are to love non-Christians, certainly, but we're different from them. The Lord has brought us to a new life as His sons and daughters, reflecting His values, His viewpoints and His priorities. Further, we live for His kingdom, which will arrive at His Second Coming, and consequently we are aliens to this present world. When we seek to blend in with this world by adapting to its standards, we commit spiritual adultery against the Lord.


I am guilty. Sometimes I let my little eyes see things that dishonor the Lord, or I let my little lips speak words that shame my Father. He is merciful and forgiving, thankfully, and He cleanses me. But Casting Crown's song reminds me that I owe Him my obedience. I need to keep being careful with my little eyes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finding Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was liberal in her theology, and a feminist. Yet her book, Little Women, captured my heart 42 years ago, and has never let go. And now that I live in the Greater Boston Area, I take delight in seeing places that are tied to her memory. So Monday, it was fun wheeling away from the J.F.K. Federal building at Government Center onto Cambridge Street to see an old church with a green domed steeple, and discovering that it was Old West Church, where Louisa May Alcott attended Sunday School as a little girl. I smiled, enjoying that momentary brush with literary history.
 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Often Than Not

If I didn't post anything more until July, the sun would still rise tomorrow. I may have an oversized ego...okay, it is oversized...but I doubt anyone wakes up thinking, "I've got to read DebbieLynne's blog today?" Actually, if that is your waking thought, let me humbly suggest that you have a conversation with the Lord about your priorities.

But a little over a month ago, I decided I needed the discipline of blogging more frequently. And working on my digital art more frequently. Until recently, I could legitimatize my haphazard approach to both endeavors because using my computer had grown physically difficult. I attributed the problem to aging with a disability.

About five months ago, I added a piece of foam eggcrate to my wheelchair's seating system. I had been increasingly uncomfortable in my chair since I got it five years ago, and I've felt that entire time that the rehab physical therapist and wheelchair technician did a really poor job of evaluating me (that could be an entire blog post, though). When I added the eggcrate, however, I noticed that typing became somewhat easier.

I still can't type as prolifically as I did 25 years ago (when I think of all those 8-page letters I used to write, it makes my head spin). Hey...I'm almost 57! I can't expect things to be as easy as they were in my 30's, when I had things like stamina and energy. But I am feeling better since modifying my chair than I have in years, which means I can do more with my computer than I had been doing.

Consequently, my excuses for frittering away my days on Facebook have diminished, and I want to hold myself accountable for exercising my creativity. You may not care how often I make blog posts or work on my art. A lot more important things are happening in the world, after all. But I need to use these abilities God has given me. So, I can't wait till July to blog again, even if the "muse" doesn't seem to be there. I expect myself to write blog posts more often than not.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Mexican Doll

A little more than a week before my 10th birthday, my father went to San Diego on a business trip. Since my grandmother had come for one of her extended visits, he decided to take mom on the trip. I don't think they had ever gone away together (alone) since having me and my sister (who was 7 1/2 at the time).

They stayed in San Diego an extra day or so after Daddy's conference, taking a side trip to Tijuana, Mexico. I'm unclear what all they did that day, except for buying a doll for each of us. Mom said Daddy bought the dolls, which sounds like him. He seemed to enjoy buying us feminine little gifts; just that previous Valentine's Day, he'd given us each a handkerchief with red borders and red hearts.

Mom and Daddy returned to the hotel that evening, and Daddy had a sudden heart attack. Mom told me years later that he was gone before the ambulance arrived. His funeral was on my birthday.

Over the years, I've cherished that Mexican doll. I never named her, and never played with her. But when I moved to Memphis, she came with me. She returned to California with me. Now she's with me in Boston, displayed behind glass in my living room. She reminds me that Daddy thought of me on the day he died...that he loved me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Boston's Wildlife

Okay, so yesterday's weather wasn't all that great. My morning Personal Care Assistant (PCA) needed a short day, so we were able to get into Boston  before noon. We'd packed sandwiches, dried fruit and water, so John suggested going to the Public Garden. We wanted to see Romeo and Juliet, the swans who are expecting babies sometime this summer.

We'd seen them a month ago, with Juliet already on her nest. Yesterday, they apparently had decided to do some home improvement, and we found Romeo industriously gathering willow branches, which Juliet carefully arranged around her.

It wasn't long before Romeo decided he was done with domestic chores. To my delight (as a California girl who had never seen live swans until a month ago), he stepped into the water and began to swim! What a marvelous sight!

He kept near to Juliet, mindful that he has fatherly obligations. While he swam, Juliet stood up briefly to rearrange herself. I could see three large, light green eggs! I wish John could have gotten a photo, but she was much too quick about the matter.

We were concerned about the weather, so we wanted to eat our lunch and then head home. We found a bench to rest our food on, and saw that some squirrels wanted to  keep us company. Or, more accurately, that they wanted a free lunch. One posed for a picture, as if he knew that cuteness would get him what he wanted.

Naturally, he was right; my sweet husband dutifully rewarded his cooperation with a dried cranberry. I wasn't sure he'd like such a thing, but after wolfing down the first one, he place himself right next to John's wheelchair to demand seconds!

John actually offered a third cranberry, but a pigeon spied it and chased the squirrel away. Then the selfish bird realized that cranberries are tart, so he spat it out with disdain. 

We spent a little time roaming about the Public Garden, and then made our way back to Boston Common, where we saw a young man convince a squirrel to eat out of his hand. He gave his permission for us to photograph him and put the picture on this blog.

So, we enjoyed a fun day in Boston, enjoying God's creatures. Who would think such a major city would offer a day filled with wildlife?

Something Better

As we left the Public Garden yesterday, I saw a rose better suited to the tutorial I mentioned the other day.



As pretty as the pink is, I want to draw it in lavender. After all, I could always change the color after-the-fact!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How Does A Rose Unfold

When I joined PSP Family last month (or was it April?), I found a tutorial on painting a rose. I have done another rose tutorial, years ago, and the results were...well, they weren't bad. See for yourself:




But I've never been really satisfied, either. The tutorial I found uses techniques similar to those I use in drawing portraits, though it has additional flourishes that I'm looking forward to trying. To see what I'll be doing, click: Vexal Rose Tutorial. I won't be using the rose offered by the tutorial's author, however. Rather, I'll use this photo that John took at the Public Garden last month.






I'm not sure how long this drawing, painting, or whatever it's supposed to be called will take, but I'll post the result when it's completed. I'm thinking lavender...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Flag Was Still There

This video is longer than most videos I post, but in honor of Flag Day, I believe it's appropriate to know the story behind our National Anthem. Below this video, I'll post all four verses of The Star Spangled Banner.



The Star Spangled Banner
1814
Words by Francis Scott Key, Music by John Stafford Smith

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep.
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the Star-Spangled Banner! O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the Star-Spangled Banner, in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust.”
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why Bostonians Disregard Crosswalks

Don't we all look to Law Enforcement for leadership? As examples of integrity and citizenship? Evidently Boston drivers do, and yesterday sure explained a lot!

 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

My younger niece spent the first eleven years of her life in Hawaii, so I saw her rarely. When she was three, she and her mom visited. At the time, I still wore my hair long:



After turning 40, however, I felt shorter hair would be more age-appropriate. Okay, maybe that's unfair to other mature women who choose to wear their hair long, but I still think long hair drags my face down, So when, at age five, my niece visited again, my hair was radically shorter:



For the first few days, my niece said nothing about my haircut. Although I was surprised by her silence (she was a very outspoken little kid), I felt it best not to bring up the topic.

At my sister's request, I bought her a Bible Story book during that visit. One day, we were looking at it together, and I began talking about Heaven. I said, "In Heaven, Jesus will make my legs work, and He'll make my hands straight, and He'll make my voice clear!"

Without missing a beat, my budding theologian added: "In Heaven, Jesus will make your hair grow!"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't Keep Me From Grace

Facebook can be an interesting place to gather ideas. Not everyone posts status updates about mundane, everyday tasks. Recently, it seems like more of my Christian friends have been quoting Scripture, and commenting on it. (I'm very encouraged by that trend.)

Today, one of my friends quoted Lamentations 2:14.

Your prophets have seen for you
      False and deceptive visions;
      They have not uncovered your iniquity,
      To bring back your captives,
      But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions
.
     

Then she asked if our pastors had the courage to address sin. Thankfully, mine do, but many churches don't. Just yesterday, I noticed a church in my town flying a gay pride banner. Looks to me like that church celebrates sin, rather than exposing it.

Christians shouldn't address sin for the purpose of basking in self-righteousness, however. The First Century Pharisees did so, and Jesus condemned them as hypocrites! Look back at Lamentations 2:14. Jeremiah mourned that the false prophets, in white-washing sin, actually  kept people in bondage to those sins. And I'm not singling out homosexual sin. What about selfishness? Greed? Worry? Anger? These are the sanitized sins that I struggle with daily.

"Oh, but Deb," you might say,"you're only human. Give yourself grace." I'll accept God's grace, certainly, and I'll praise Him for it! But I can't receive His grace until I accept my need for it! So I'm thankful for a church that addresses sin, both from the pulpit and in friendships. And even on Facebook threads.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Background Operations

Sometimes, things happen behind the scenes, and it makes onlookers wonder if anything is happening. Looking through this blog, people might conclude that I'm no longer doing much with Paint Shop Pro. Actually, I'm playing with it more lately than I do when I work on "serious projects."  I've been fiddling around with techniques, mostly creating textures and pattens to use for potential backgrounds.




I like them. I hope I can use them with some of my portraits. And yes, I do intend to do more portraits at some point in time. But for now, I'm learning more about my medium. Maybe, just maybe that's as important as "doing something."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Typically Different Day

I wanted pizza and a cannoli, and both John and I wanted a day in Boston yesterday. The weather promised a day off from thunder storms (thankfully, that promise was kept), so we caught the bus to Ashmont Station as usual and took the Red Line.

But we then deviated from our typical pattern of getting off at the Downtown Crossing Station, since our plan was to eat at Al Capone. The platform at South Station lined up surprisingly well with our subway car, and Al Capone is closer to that station than it is to Downtown Crossing. As our train pulled away, we saw a team of repairmen around the elevator that we're accustomed to taking, and wondered if we'd need to get the next train to Downtown Crossing. But the men directed us to the other elevator, causing us to look at each other in surprise and ask, "They have another elevator?"

When we got to street level (South Station is more complicated than Downtown Crossing, and the elevators we took yesterday weren't the ones we typically take), we ended up on the side of Summer Street that Al Capone is on. Although we normally eat after 1:00 (it was 12:30), we thought, Hey, we're right here...might as well!

So we drove our trusty power wheelchairs to Al Capone, as I eagerly anticipated pizza. I'm not sure how long it had been since we'd had pizza, but I'd been wanting a slice since late March! I fantasized about the huge slice I knew Al Capone would give us for $3.75, and I was certainly ready for it! 

But upon entering, we saw that both wheelchair accessible tables were taken, and there was a substantial line at the ordering counter. So we headed through Downtown Crossing. But instead of crossing to Boston Common as we almost invariably do, we turned left on Tremont because we knew a Sal's Pizza was about to go in there. It was interesting to look at the Common from that side of the street.



Alas, Sal's wasn't yet open. I'm not thrilled with Pizza Regina (the only pizza Quincy Market offers) because the veggies are raw, but I figured it would be the only pizza we could get without going into the North End (an unappealing proposition). So we headed up Washington Street, enjoying the familiar sights of Old South Meeting House and the Old Corner Bookstore. But as John passed Pi Alley, I glanced down its brick corridor.

"Stop." I said.

Of course, John was puzzled, since we always take Washington to State Street to Congress Street. But I saw a banner for Viga Italian Eatery. A nearby ad showed a mouth-watering slice of pizza, so we entered. Despite being quite busy, there were plenty of tables, and the lines were wheelchair-friendly. A generous slice of veggie pizza (actually cooked, mind you!) costs $2.85. The staff helped carry our food to a table, and made us feel more than welcome. And the pizza? Let's just say we'll be back! Often!







Sadly, Viga doesn't sell cannolis, so we went to Quincy Market. We ate outside, and then just sat and watched people (which we'd never done before). We had fun trying to determine who were tourists and who were locals, laughing because we look and act like tourists!


The day ended as it typically does. We wheeled back to South Station using the Rose Kennedy Greenway to catch the 3:38 Commuter Rail home. When the train conductor put us on our usual car, the young lady that we usually chat with between South Station and Quincy was in "her" corner seat, looking as if she half expected us. And that part of the routine was very nice!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fountain

For the past two or three years, they've been working on a fountain on the Park Street side of Boston Common. When we were there last week, John was delighted to see it completed and operational. Friday, I had fun transforming his photo of it using Paint Shop Pro's photo editing tools.



I've been thinking about fountains lately. If we are fountains, does the Living Water of the Holy Spirit bubble up from us? Is His praise always on our lips. Do we get excited about Scripture? 

Hillsong has a worship song that always reminds me of a fountain of joy. When we sing it at church, I think of His praise being on my lips because His Word lives in my heart. The more He fills my life, the more He bubbles over into  my thoughts, my writing, and my everyday conversation. And I hope He'll make me an even better fountain than the one in Boston Common.

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