All posts by Stephen Rountree

Persevering bookmarks

These days, we could all use a little more encouragement than usual, perhaps. So I’m revisiting our barnyard friend, Percy the Persevering Rooster. I’m working on a few more of the sculptures, which will be in the shop soon (so if you missed the last one, stay tuned). Percy was one of the most popular pieces I’ve made recently. You can read my original post here.

The sculptures take a little time, so I decided to make something that everyone can get immediately (who doesn’t like a little instant gratification every now and then?).

So… here are the totally free, downloadable, and printable Percy the Persevering Rooster bookmarks!

Grab your copy and print your own bookmarks. The printable has three bookmarks on a letter-sized PDF. Use them all yourself if you’re like me and have at least three books going at any given time, or pass some along to inspire your friends. Makes a great surprise to include in a notecard. Print as many as you like.

Download them using the button below and print them on any color paper. Regular printer paper will work fine, and thicker, card stock paper works especially well. 

Enjoy your next book with Percy!

Not growing weary

Waiting to Reap (pictured above), by Stephen Rountree, is an original painting in acrylic on salvaged, early 1900s barn wood, lightly coated in white pickling stain. The encouraging words of Galatians 6:9 are hand-transferred onto the wood in distressed lettering. Waiting to Reap is available in the shop today.

Are you tired yet? You might have immediately thought I was referring to the pandemic and the social distancing, and all that has changed in such a short time. I know we’re tired of those things. But that’s not what’s on my mind today.

I’m talking about getting tired of doing good. As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, many people have shown the best of humanity in trying times (one thing I’m really tired of is the use of the word “unprecedented,” so I’ve banned it from this blog). But we are finite creatures with limited bandwidth, energy, and stamina. At some point, we reach the end of our resources and ability to meet the needs of our families, friends, and neighbors. We just get tired.

Maybe you’re at that place today. Maybe you’ve been at that place for a while. Maybe you’re still going like gangbusters. Whatever your status, the New Testament book of Galatians has some words of wisdom and encouragement for us all regarding doing good.

Encouragement from God

In Galatians chapter 6, the apostle Paul gives the church instructions on how they are to treat one another. He talks about the need to “bear one another’s burdens” and says that by doing that, we will fulfill the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ?

In Matthew 22, Jesus answers a similar question from a religious leader of the day: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)

Later, in the book of John, Jesus tells His disciple that His commandment is to love one another. In fact, He says that their love for one another would be one of the ways people would identify them as His followers.

If you had to put it on a bumper sticker, you might boil it down to say, “Love God, love people.”

Doing good the right way

Fast forward to Galatians where Paul encourages followers of Christ to keep the main thing the main thing—to love God and love the people around them. Consider these words from chapter 6:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV)

Here Paul is like the person along the marathon route who hands out water to the exhausted runners. He’s telling us, “Keep it up! Stay on the right course. Invest in your spiritual life with God and love Him and the people around you. Pour yourselves into this race! It’s worth it; there’s a payoff at the end if you just don’t give up!”

Don’t give up

When we’re tired of doing good, let’s allow God’s words from Galatians to spur us on another mile. We don’t want to waste time and energy on things that won’t matter tomorrow, let alone for eternity. And we don’t want to do the work in our power. God never intended for us to accomplish His work in our strength. He wants to work through us by His Holy Spirit, who gives us the strength to do whatever He calls us to do. Let’s sow good things by spending our time with God in prayer and reading His word and doing good to all people. Even when we feel like neither one is getting us anywhere, God says they are.

If we take the time to invest ourselves in the spiritual and physical parts of our lives by “doing good” in both, we will reap a harvest.

Be encouraged and inspired, and until then, keep sowing!

Inspire your creativity: five steps to better spaces for productivity and relaxation

Guest bloggers share secrets of decluttering

As promised last week, I’m delighted to present this guest post from my friends, Gretchen Moen and Lynda Reider, decluttering and organizing geniuses. Together they are Cut the Clutter RVA, serving clients throughout the Richmond, Virginia region and sometimes beyond. If, like me, you could use a little more organization and a little less clutter, especially during these days of staying closer to home, then read on. And if you’d like to contact Lynda and Gretchen to ask a question they didn’t answer in this post, please drop us a note in the box at the end of this post. We’ll make sure they get it. Now, without further delay, here is this week’s…

Guest post by Lynda Reider & Gretchen Moen, Chief Clutter Cutters with Cut the Clutter RVA

Time to create a great space

We’re grateful for this opportunity to share some decluttering and organizing techniques with you! 

Many people are struggling to find balance and joy with their belongings, especially now that we’re spending so much time at home. 

God has put many things on pause right now. Your calendar is now open to so many new opportunities for you to explore within your home. During this pause, we would encourage you to spend time making intentional choices about what you need and don’t need in your home. 

And here’s why: we often see a major transformation in people who start living a more organized life. When your physical space is clear, your mind is more clear. Making decisions about your belongings and deciding what to keep and what to part with allows for easier organization. You are creating physical and mental spaces ripe for both productivity and relaxation. 

So, how do you start? Here it is in five steps:

1. Start easy

We all have belongings with strong emotional ties – maybe you have boxes of heirlooms from your Grandma’s farmhouse or files with letters from your parents when they first met. We recommend that you work up to whichever categories are most emotional for you. Decluttering is like a train leaving the station—you’ll start slowly and then gain momentum once you experience the calm and clarity it brings. So, choose a small area to start in. We’ll use Lynda’s desk as an example.

2. Take everything out

Begin by taking everything out of your small space. In the case of Lynda’s desk, she removed all of the pens, paper clips, papers, gum and more. 

3. Sort and categorize

To really see what you have, group like items together. As you’re sorting, you will come across things you no longer want. These easy decisions can be thrown away, recycled or set aside in a “go” pile. More on that in the next step.

For Lynda’s desk project, she sorted items into piles on the floor. To save your back, you may want to use a table or other raised surface for your sorting. 

We also encourage you to incorporate like items from other parts of the room into your sort. For example, Lynda had a coffee cup of pens on a bookcase and some pens in a backpack in her office. She sorted those with the pens from her desk. Think of it as a mini scavenger hunt—once you know what items are in your desk, search the rest of the space for like items. Gathering all of the like items will significantly help with the next step! 

4. Purge and re-home

Once Lynda saw that she had 14 red pens (before the sort, she thought she only had three!), it made the decision to keep, donate, or trash much easier.

The more you purge, the easier it is to keep organized. If you’re not a huge fan of organizing projects, that’s okay; think of it this way—the more you remove from the space, the less frequently you’ll have to spend future time on this kind of project! 

Three key questions

So, how do you make the decision to let something go? Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do I remember when I last used this item?
  2. Do I like this item?
  3. Would I buy it again?

In general, if the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it’s time to let go of the item.

And, what should you do with the items in that “go” pile that you created? Keeping things out of the landfill is a great goal. Whenever possible, try to recycle or re-home them. 

There are so many people in need, especially right now. Once you know what items you have to donate, do some research to see who needs them. In the case of Lynda’s desk items, she can offer them to a teacher friend to use in her classroom. Or drop them off at SCRAP RVA (https://richmond.scrapcreativereuse.org/), a Richmond-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire creative reuse by providing educational programs and affordable materials to the community. Many nonprofits aren’t currently accepting donations, but they will need them once the pandemic passes. Consider holding onto your donations in a guest room or other storage space for now.

5. Reload and enjoy

And now for the fun part! It’s time to reload your items back into the space. Think about which items you use most frequently and place those in easy-to-reach spaces. We are big fans of using what you have—in the case of Lynda’s desk, she used that same coffee cup to organize pens on her desktop. If you have bins, baskets or dividers, use them to help keep your items in their distinct categories. Now, sit back and admire your work. You did it! And doesn’t that feel good?

We’re here to help!

Still not sure what to do next? Stuck on one of the steps above? That’s okay. We’d love to provide you with advice on how to organize your space. We are happy to listen, and we never judge!  We help you find solutions to simplify your life. Drop us a note to this blog via the comment box below with your questions and we’ll follow up with you.

Pandemic creations

Keeping a good frame of mind

How are you staying sane during the pandemic? Faithful Inspiring Handmade reader, Emmaline, sent me a packet of wonderful drawings last week. She tells me she’s been making more of these lately and says they help keep her walking in the light!
To create something beautiful or encouraging, as I’ve said before, is to reflect the image of our Creator. It’s part of why we’re here in the first place, so it’s no wonder that so many find great satisfaction and fulfillment in making things.
And especially now, creating things that lift our spirits and those of others is vitally important. Emmaline graciously allowed me to share these with the Inspiring Handmade family. Enjoy and if anyone else has a “pandemic creation” they’d like to share, please drop me a line at stephen@inspiringhandmade.com. Let’s encourage one another all we can.

At the top, Wake Me When It’s Over. Above, Zinnias to Come, by Emmaline, colored pencil on paper, Spring, 2020

Standing closer apart

Salvaged wood, wire and hand-stamped sculpture with Philippians 1:3

Crazy quotes for crazy times

Other than Yogi Berra (“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” and “It ain’t over till it’s over”, among others), few people are as famous for uttering as many malapropisms as Hollywood movie producer, Samuel Goldwyn, who was the “G” in MGM. There’s debate over some of the quotes attributed to him, but he’s reported to have said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” and “I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.”

But the Goldwyn quote that I’m reminded of these days is his direction to two actors on the set of one of his films: “Tell them to stand closer apart.” Say what?

It’s a sign of these crazy times that a nonsensical quote like that pretty much sums up our mission at the moment. We must stand apart, yet we must be closer than ever.

By now the term “social distancing” is commonplace. Someone has even reserved the dotcom site for socialdistancing, though there’s nothing on it as of this writing. But we’re all impacted and countless people are doing their best to flatten the infection rate curve and bring this pandemic to as rapid an end as possible. So we’re standing apart.

But we’re also trying to stand closer. In times of trouble, people tend to move closer, in spirit at least, to each other and to faith. In the midst of bad news and more bad news, people become desperate for hope. One small Bible sales business in California saw a sales jump of 143 percent compared to this time last year. People want to be close to things that bring hope.

A simple way to encourage

One way we can “stand closer apart” is to remember each other. Many folks are doing this and doing it well. Remember those in your sphere who need a call, a card, a prayer lifted on their behalf. We can do this for each other. We can make a real difference by picking up the phone or sending that email or text just to say, “Hey, I remember you, and I’m thankful to God for you. You’re a blessing to me. How are you?

We want to help give you something to share with others. So we’ve created a free downloadable version of the image in this post that you can attach to any email or text to share some art with them and let them know that you’re remembering them and you’re thankful for them. Just click the black button below to download it. Then right-click or option-click on the image and select “save image as” to save the image to your computer. Or just copy and paste into your email. It’s yours to share.

After you read this, don’t wait. Reach out to someone who needs to be reached and stand a little closer apart.

Stuck in the belly… or safe in the belly?

Further thoughts on Jonah and the finished sculpture

In last week’s post, I shared a new Jonah sculpture in progress on the workbench. This week, I’m happy to share the finished piece. It’s now waiting in the shop, ready for a good home.

As I was putting the finishing touches on this, a new perspective on the account of Jonah occurred to me. I titled last week’s post “Stuck in the belly.” Of course, that’s how we usually see Jonah—stuck in the belly of the whale. But there’s another way to see it. Without the whale, Jonah would likely have drowned. It’s probably what he anticipated when he had his shipmates toss him overboard in the storm. But God still had plans and a job for Jonah to do. So He kept him safe—not stuck—in the belly of the whale.

A fresh perspective

Why am I returning to the account of Jonah again for the second week in a row (other than to share the finished sculpture)? Because in following the Coronavirus news like everyone else, I came across a refreshing perspective. Someone wrote that instead of seeing this as being stuck at home, we should see it as being safe at home. That’s a big difference. How many times have we been out somewhere in some sort of distress and wishing we were home—safe at home?

Now, with the entire world in distress, many of us are, indeed, safe at home. We can be grateful for that and pray for those who are truly stuck somewhere they don’t want to be or those that can’t stay home—like our medical teams, grocery store workers, and delivery folks—because they’re out every day taking care of the rest of us.

This week, when I start to dwell on what I’m missing, where I can’t go, and who I can’t see, I’m going to try to remind myself that in spite of all of that, I’m blessed to be safe at home. And it’s a lot more comfortable—and better smelling—than a whale’s belly!


Here’s something else that’s good to do while keeping your physical distance: share the Inspiring Handmade blog with a friend or anyone who could use an encouraging message.

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Stuck in the belly

A first-series Jonah sculpture is currently available in the shop.


A fish story

I haven’t seen any statistics, but I believe there’s a lot of praying going on in our country—and the world—at the moment. And that’s a good thing. The microscopic coronavirus might do for us what the fish (or whale) did for Jonah in the Old Testament.

Jonah, of course, is famous for being swallowed by a large, unspecified sea creature and, after three days of intense social distancing, was heaved up and spewed out onto the shore, a changed, and no doubt rank-smelling man. For some folks, that’s about all of the story they remember.

It’s worth noting, though, that the reason Jonah ended up in the creature’s belly was that he was running away from God. The first few lines of the account explain it: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3 ESV)

It took being swallowed by a large sea creature to cause Jonah enough distress that he stopped running from God and calling his own shots. He finally acknowledged God and became obedient to his Creator.

Stuck in the creature’s belly for three days and three nights (sushi, anyone?), Jonah realized his error, humbled himself and prayed to The Lord. Jonah 2:1-2 records that God heard his cry: “I called out to The Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”

From massive to microscopic

Today, our society may be in a similar situation. Instead of facing a great sea creature, we’re finding our economy, societal structures, schedules, employment and in some cases, our lives, swallowed by a microscopic virus.

It would be easy to write a post that simply called out the many ways our modern culture has turned its collective back on God and run the other way. It certainly has. But better writers than I have already tackled that in numerous articles and commentaries.

What’s my decision?

Instead, today, I’m wondering about myself as an individual. And maybe you’ll take a moment and ask yourself the same questions: Will I learn the lesson that Jonah did—that I’m accountable to the Creator of the universe? Will I use this time isolated from others without my usual comforts and routines to reflect on my relationship with God? Will I decide to truly seek and follow His plan instead of my own? Will I decide to whole-heartedly serve Him and do what He calls me to do instead of chasing after my own enrichment, pleasure, and comfort?

I can’t make that decision for our whole society. I can only make it for myself. But after I make it (and, really, I have to make it anew every single day), I can model it for my family and friends. And that’s how communities and countries change—one person at a time, influencing another person. Read the rest of the short account of Jonah here to see how it played out in his day.

We may be in the belly of the virus for a while. And this may be a rough ride and we may not be smelling great by the end, but we can experience the closeness and blessings of God like never before if we choose to respond like Jonah.

Drop me a line in the comment box below to share how you’re using this season of isolation and social distancing.

Amazing Grace sculpture series update

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
   That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779

From the sketchbook

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to this hymn—one of the most venerable ever written. Former British slave trader, John Newton, penned the words in the late 18th century.

I decided to create a series of sculptures to illustrate each verse of the hymn. I began with the last stanza because its visuals struck me almost immediately. I was able to create three pieces based on that verse. You can see the latest one here.

The first verse’s imagery has eluded me until recently. I was meditating on the words and was suddenly struck by the feeling of complete helplessness expressed by Newton in these opening lines: “That saved a wretch…”

The dictionary defines a “wretch” as someone in such a bad situation that a sense of pity typically goes along with the word. Thus, you’ll often see the terms “poor wretch” or “unfortunate wretch.” Digging a little deeper, we learn that “wretch” traces back to the Old English word “wrecca,” meaning “banished person.” This is very appropriate. As sinners, we, like Adam and Eve, have been banished from the presence of a pure and holy God. As a former slave trader, it’s little wonder the writer identified himself as a wretch.

Timeless truth

When I sing the hymn, I, too, identify myself as a wretch. Which I most certainly am without the grace of God. But that’s the power of this hymn. While we acknowledge and own our wretchedness, our sinfulness, our rebellion against God, the focus of this hymn is on the power and grace of God. Because, praise God, He does not leave us as wretches. In fact, we’re not even wretches for the duration of that first verse. Before it ends, Newton writes the comforting words that we’ve been found. What’s more, he tells us that while we were blind, now we see.

At the heart of this first verse is the idea that we are not in control, and we can do nothing to save ourselves. And that is true. All the saving is accomplished by God. We’re the lost and blind ones. He’s the one who finds us and gives us sight. God does all the work. We reap the benefits.

As the country and the world reels from the effects of the Coronavirus, we may all feel like things are out of control. Certainly, we can and should take all preventative measures. But if you’re like me, you may feel stressed and anxious. I created the sketch you see in this post weeks before the virus outbreak, but it seems especially appropriate now.

Choose your perspective

The sketch can be viewed in two ways. We can choose to focus on the darkness surrounding the figure. The darkness seems to overwhelm the figure, much as current events seem to overwhelm our nation, states, and communities.

However, we can also focus on the light. Although there is surrounding darkness, the figure in the sketch stands in the light. Light drives away darkness. It enables sight. It’s comforting. In John 8:12, we read, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells all who follow Him, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Those who have experienced the amazing grace of God in their lives can choose to focus not on the darkness, but on the light. We have been equipped by a loving God to be lights for others, encouragers, even—especially—in these difficult days.

I’ll share more as this piece of art continues to develop. Stay tuned, stay well, and stay in The Light.


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Still waters

There’s something special about still water. A quiet pond or lake, a lazily moving stream—they seem to radiate peace and at the same time almost absorb any stress or anxiety that comes near their shores.

King David knew the power of God, who created the still waters that brought comfort and calm. David appreciated the waters, and he praised the Creator of those waters in the well-known 23rd Psalm:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (ESV)

Patti Jones’ newest work is gorgeously peaceful. We call it Still Waters and it’s ready to lend its serenity to any room in your home. Gaze at its shimmering blues and greens and you might even imagine the reflection of a young shepherd boy lingering nearby.

Give peace a chance

Protesting the war—on ourselves

If you’ve been reading us for a while, (or if you’ve read our welcome post) you know the vision behind Inspiring Handmade is found in Philippians 4:8, where the apostle Paul writes, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Inspiring Handmade celebrates original art and craft, writing, and other creations and offers you a break from the things in the world that drag you down—a chance to dwell on the true, pure, and praiseworthy things. Through the art and craft works as well as the blog posts, Inspiring Handmade invites you into your own Philippians 4:8 moment. We want to create work on which you can feast your eyes and feed your soul.

Genuine peace is possible if we engage our minds

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we dwell on. We are surrounded by negativity, temptations, and all sorts of other influences that, if allowed to occupy our minds, will do us serious harm.

Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” It’s a picturesque acknowledgment that, even though we may be bombarded by harmful thoughts and temptations, it’s the dwelling on them that’s the problem. We can’t help what thoughts may creep into our minds, but we can decide what to do next. Do we allow them to remain—to build a nest— as Luther would say? Or do we immediately give them the boot? In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul tells us that it is possible to overcome temptations and harmful thoughts. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” he wrote to the church in Corinth. And one of the best ways to do this is to choose to dwell on what’s good and pure.

Truth meets art

We all know it’s true. Giving in to temptation, feeding negative thoughts about ourselves and others, thinking on things that are impure, and untrue always results in turmoil, guilt, shame, anger, depression, and more. There’s no peace when we head down that path and when we do, we find ourselves in a vicious, self-defeating cycle from which it’s difficult to break free.

But there’s a positive, life-giving cycle we can experience when we dwell on the good things. To illustrate this truth, I’ve created the sculpture, Dwell. One one side is a reminder of what Philippians 4:8 encourages us to dwell on. Spin the sculpture around, and you see the result of dwelling on those things: peace (see Philippians 4:9)! Dwell shows the connection between what we dwell on and the peace of mind and life we enjoy. Dwelling on the good brings peace, which comes from dwelling on the good. And repeat. Original art picturing life the way The Creator designed it to be.