A cold winter’s sky

One of my favorite things about winter is the clear night sky. While it’s more comfortable temperature-wise to skywatch in the summer, the winter sky seems clearer and sharper. Colder air is often less hazy, so it feels like I can see farther into the depths of space. And there are no bugs.

The next time you’re outside on a crisp winter’s evening, turn your gaze skyward fo a minute or two and consider that, while some of those tiny points of light are single stars, like our sun, some are many times larger than our sun and some are not even stars at all, but are entire galaxies, appearing to our eyes as a single speck of light.

From my own back yard…

Just tonight, as I looked out toward the south, I saw Orion. The distinctive 3-star belt makes the hunter one of the easiest constellations to spot.

The main figure of Orion is a large rectangle comprising four bright stars, including two of the brightest stars in the sky: Betelgeuse marks the hunter’s upper left shoulder, while Rigel anchors the lower right, representing his right knee.

A set of 1825 astronomy cards published in London c. 1825 featured a hand-colored etching of Orion the hunter.

Betelgeuse (pronounced, “Beetle-juice”) is a red supergiant. The star is more than 850 million miles across—that’s about 1,000 times wider than our sun. If you were to replace our sun with Betelgeuse, the red star’s surface would engulf the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and extend out even past the orbit of Mars.

Scientists speculate that earlier in its life, this stellar supergiant devoured a neighboring star about the size of our sun. Now, astronomers believe Betelgeuse will soon die in a supernova explosion.

Cosmic drama

That’s a lot of drama going on just in the left shoulder of Orion. Imagine what’s happening at this moment in every other corner of the universe.

I guess that’s why I really love the winter sky—it reminds me of the magnificently powerful God who created it. I’ve been drawn before to Psalm 19 in my work. This week, I returned to it to create the piece you see at the top of this post.

It opens with these two expansive verses:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”

It’s good to remember to look up every now and then. It helps put our trials, triumphs, and ourselves in perspective. If all of that cosmic drama is unfolding at one little red spot in the sky, surely we, along with the cosmos, were created by a being of unimaginable power.

The writer of Psalm 19 thought so. And he knew he was accountable to his Creator, so he closed that Psalm with this request and praise, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

A good prayer anytime, and certainly on a cold, clear winter’s night.

Photo by Rogelio Bernal Andreo, October 2010. The Orion constellation and surrounding nebulas of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex. Also shown is the red supergiant Betelgeuse (top left) and the famous belt of Orion composed of the OB stars Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. To the bottom right can be found the star Rigel. The red crescent shape is Barnard’s Loop.

A Psalm 19 Night is now available in the shop.

What’s your whale?

In the familiar account of Jonah in The Bible, we read that God assigned Jonah the unenviable task of traveling to Ninevah (modern-day Mosul in Iraq), to tell the Assyrians that they were about to be judged and obliterated by God unless they repented and turned from their wicked ways. Instead of obeying God and delivering the unpopular message to a vicious nation that many historians say was among the first superpowers of the ancient world, Jonah likely saw his assignment as a suicide mission. So he ran.

That decision wound him up in the belly of the “great fish” and then Jonah himself had to repent and realign himself with God.

Fast Foward

We all make bad decisions like Jonah at some point. A good friend of mine says “good judgment comes from experience … which usually comes from bad judgment.” But experience alone isn’t the ultimate teacher. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Our bad decisions probably won’t land us in the belly of an actual whale like Jonah, but they can entrap us just the same.

So, what’s your whale?

Do you feel trapped today—stuck in the belly of something? What’s your whale? Maybe it’s grief. Or self. It could be some form of addiction, or anger, or pride. It doesn’t really matter what it is. What matters is whether we want to get out and how we escape.

Once Jonah realized where he was, his response was to pray to God. He went straight to the source of wisdom and God heard him and answered him. As a result, he was released from his whale and was given a second chance to do what God wanted him to.

Available in the shop

I’ve explored the idea of Jonah through a sculpture that’s now available in the shop. Called simply Jonah, the salvaged wood sculpture is painted in acrylics and hand stamped with the text of Jonah 2:1-2. It reminds me that no matter how dire my situation, I can always turn to God, call out for help and He will hear me.

And as long as we’re on the subject of whales…

“No, you two go on and have fun. I’d just be a third whale.”

A new song

New Song sculpture by Stephen Rountree

A new year. A new decade.

100 years ago, our nation was entering what became known as the “Roaring Twenties.” It was a time of economic and cultural growth and prosperity.

As we ease into the 2020s, I’m wondering if these will be the “Roaring Twenties” for me creatively and spiritually. Will I see new growth in those areas of my life this year? I’d like to. Maybe you would, too.

A vision for 2020

Lately, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 96. It’s short—just 13 verses—but it’s packed with big ideas that make it worth dwelling on in these early days of the new year. I’m using it as a guide for my goals—my vision—for the year, maybe the rest of my life. Depending on how you might count them, there are around seven calls to specific actions in this Psalm.

• Sing a new song to the Lord
• Bless His name
• Tell others about His salvation
• Give God the credit He is due and tell others about His glory and marvelous works
• Praise the Lord and rejoice because of the Lord
• Fear the Lord (as in holding Him in proper reverence and awe)
• Worship the Lord with all your heart in reverence

You can read Psalm 96 for yourself here.

Inspired to create

This Psalm has inspired the first sculpture of 2020, which I’m calling New Song.

This piece is created from salvaged oak barn wood from a circa 1905 barn in Southwest Virginia. You can see the barn and read more about that here.

I’ve taken one of the old oak planks, cleaned it up, and cut off the parts I didn’t need. I sanded it, painted a landscape on it and hand-transferred the first verse of the Psalm onto it. It reads, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!”

In essence, I’ve given this old piece of oak a new song. It was part of a barn for many years—more years than I’ve been alive. Then it was part of a pile of scrap wood, destined for a landfill or a fire.

But now it will have a new life as a piece of art that carries the words of God on it. Its new life will be totally different than its old one. The old oak wood will be in someone’s warm home instead of exposed to the harsh mountain weather. It will be appreciated on a deeper level than it was before. And it will be able to inspire thoughts about God and life in ways that it never could before.

That’s a lot like what God does with people. He finds us, remakes us, and gives us a new purpose—His purpose. Our new lives, which are possible because of Jesus Christ’s work in us, are infinitely more satisfying than what we could have imagined before. As Jesus Himself says in John 10:10, “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Making it real

If I put into practice the calls of Psalm 96 this year, I believe this will be the start of the Roaring Twenties for both my creative and my spiritual life. So my goal is to offer God my creative projects (like this blog) in new ways this year—offering them for His purposes to share His works and His message. Exactly what that looks like, I can’t say at this point, but I want this year to be productive and full of praise for the ultimate Creator.

How about you? Would you like to start your own Roaring Twenties this year?

Why not join me in meditating on Psalm 96 this week and think about how you might put some of those calls into action. I’d love to hear your ideas! You can always reach me by email here. I’ll return to this topic in future posts to consider what some of the calls from Psalm 96 look like in practice. For instance, singing to the Lord sounds easy enough, but what does the “new song” refer to? How, exactly, do I give God the credit He’s due, or tell others about His marvelous works?

Stay tuned!

New Song is now in the Inspiring Handmade shop, ready to inspire in a new home.

New Song sculpture detail
Detail of New Song, by Stephen Rountree

Share your thoughts on Psalm 96. What would your year look like if you put some—or all—of those calls into action?

Walking on water in 2020?

Wood and wire sculpture

What do you want to do or become in 2020? For those who like to set goals, the new year inevitably brings with it the talk of resolutions. Some folks aim to lose weight, eat better, or get in shape. Others will strive to read more, or start—or finish—that book they want to write.

You’re reading Inspiring Handmade (thank you!), so perhaps you have a creative project in mind. Will 2020 be the year you try a new type of art? Or take what you’ve learned in the past to the next level? What could that look like? What will you create this year? What stories will you tell?

Chances are, if you play it safe, doing the very same things in the very same ways, you won’t meet your goals, create the art or stories you envision, or become what you want to be.

How can you stretch yourself this year? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself. I want this next year to be a productive one, especially in the area of creativity. I want to create new art, in new ways. I have new stories I want to tell through a variety of media. Maybe you can relate. This blog is all about being inspired through and for creativity—inspired to dwell on things that are good, excellent, and praiseworthy (see Philippians 4:8), inspired to create works that communicate those attributes, and inspired to surround ourselves and feed our minds and spirits with work that helps us focus on those things.

What we’re all pursuing is fulfillment, isn’t it? That’s what all the resolutions, goals, plans, and creative works are about if we boil it down.

The secret to fulfillment

And here’s the secret that’s become more clear to me over the years: We’re the most fulfilled when we’re fulfilling our created purpose. I believe that purpose is to glorify God and enjoy a relationship with Him forever.

With that big idea in place, a lot of other things start to make sense. We’re all created in the image of God, the master Creator. Is it any wonder that we also find joy in creating? My art is simply an extension of—and an avenue to fulfill—my purpose. Yours can be, too.

For me, then, it’s vital that I remain connected to my Creator. I can see a direct correlation between the time I spend in prayer and reading God’s Word and the volume and quality of my creative ideas and output. Quite simply, when I’m reading and meditating on the types of things described in Philippians 4:8, the ideas sometimes come in such a flood that I can’t capture them all.

But being in the presence of my Creator is risky. He loves me, but He’s also intent on changing me. I’ve shared about that in more detail in a previous post. It’s challenging and often uncomfortable. Part of me doesn’t like change. But that’s where the creativity comes from. The more closely I relate to my Creator, the more like Him I become and that certainly includes increased capacity for creativity.

A strange incident on a rough sea

The pastor and author, John Ortberg, entitled one of his books, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” The title is a reference to a passage found in the gospel of Matthew. Chapter 14:22-33 is a fascinating account of a strange event that occurs right after Jesus fed thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. After the crowd had eaten their fill, Jesus’ disciples collected 12 basketfuls of leftovers. Matthew continues his account this way, describing Jesus sending His disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee:

“Immediately He [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”

Dwelling on this passage inspired the last piece of art I’ve created in 2019, a work that casts an eye toward the new year. Pictured above, it’s called Water Walker, a sculpture in salvaged oak barn wood, hand-painted in acrylics, with wire, white pickling stain, and distressed, hand-transferred lettering.

Making it personal

There have been many lessons drawn from the account of Jesus helping Peter walk on the water. Personally, it challenges me to realize that if I really want to grow in any area of my life, I have to step out of my safe, comfortable place and old habits, and, most importantly, stay connected with and focused on my Creator.

When I do that, I find the creativity, the passion, the energy, and the fulfillment I’m looking for. I find myself walking on the water. How about you? Do you hear the invitation to step out of your boat in faith, trust, and expectation? What do you want to do in 2020 that might require stepping out of your boat?

Be inspired throughout 2020 and beyond

If you’d like more inspiration or would like to inspire someone special, Water Walker is waiting for you in the Inspiring Handmade shop. Give yourself—or someone else—the gift of original art to inspire new things in the new year.

Hand-painted wood and wire sculpture

Perfect love at Christmas

Christmas card cartoon

We’ve come to the final week of the Advent season. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can check them out now. I’ve written about hope, peace, and joy in the past three weeks.

This last week focuses on love. I’m sharing one more cartoon from my Christmas card archives. The one shown above pokes a little fun at all the trouble we go to in the name of love for our friends and family. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things just don’t work out as planned. And doesn’t that seem to be the case especially at Christmastime?

The best of intentions

We have the best of intentions of showing our loved ones how much we care. We’re going to get our cards out early. We’re going to find and buy that perfect gift and cook the perfect Christmas dinner. But sometimes—maybe it feels like most of the time— things happen to make it less than what we dreamed it would be.

But love isn’t about performing, buying, decorating, or any of those things—as good as they might be. Love is found simply in the offering.

The best of gifts

In the gospel of Luke, we read that the angels announced the good news of a Savior to shepherds out in the fields. It was God’s announcement of His gift—His offering of love to all mankind.

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

It was the announcement that the world had been waiting for—the gift of life and love from the Creator and sustainer of life had arrived. Everything wasn’t perfect. Far from it. The first Christmas must have been a difficult, inconvenient experience for nearly everyone involved. But the tiny gift that was delivered that night changed the world for all time.

Today, when we allow true love to enter our lives, it changes everything. My hope for everyone reading this is that you will experience the true love of your Creator this season.

Thank you for reading these Advent posts and for visiting with us here at Inspiring Handmade. Merry Christmas!

sketch
Sketch to final art

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What would you give for true joy?

cartoon of a traveling snowman

This week is the third in the season of Advent. My last two posts have looked at the hope and peace of Advent. This week, the theme is joy and I’m sharing another Christmas card from my archives. I did this one in 2006, before there was TSA Precheck. If you travel by air at all, it’s a safe bet you don’t associate airport security with joy. But at least you don’t have to remove your eyes and nose. Yet.

When we think of that original Christmas journey made by Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we might think more about the hardships they faced—a young, pregnant woman making the 70-to-80-mile journey with her husband, a journey that could have taken four or five days.

Someone once suggested that the account of Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem just goes to show that traveling during the holidays has always been difficult! I think they might be onto something.

What does true joy cost?

But as I’ve been thinking about joy this week, it struck me that as difficult as their journey may have been, and as many comforts as they may have left behind, Mary and Joseph suffered all of it for the joy of not only becoming parents, but becoming parents of the promised Messiah.
It seems to me, that in every case in Scripture, when people decided to pursue true joy, that is, the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, they had to leave something behind.

A pattern emerges

We see the same truth revealed in the life of the disciples, don’t we? The disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John exchanged a lifelong career of fishing for food for the joy of fishing for men on behalf of Christ. The apostle and gospel writer, Matthew, exchanged the lucrative job of collecting tax money for the joy of collecting souls for Christ.
And the pattern repeats throughout Scripture, but there’s no better example of this than Jesus Himself.

As a member of the Trinity, God the Son was and is always in perfect union with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. They’re always in perfect harmony and to be with them must be a deliriously wonderful place to be. Yet God the Son left it all. Why? For joy. Hebrews 12:1-2 says: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. There was joy in doing for His children what we could not do for ourselves.

Leaving heaven

Philippians 2:4-8 says it another way, “…Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Imagine leaving heaven, where you were constantly worshipped, to go to a place where you were constantly attacked, misunderstood, maligned, complained to, complained about, and ultimately tortured and executed in the most gruesome manner imaginable—all to rescue the very people who did all that to you.

And yet, that’s what our Savior did for us. He gave up all the majesty, glory, and comfort of heaven for the joy that was set before Him—the joy of rescuing us, His children from our slavery to sin and giving us a new, regenerated life in Himself.

What about us?

Today, He offers us that true joy of knowing Him and drawing true, everlasting life from Him. To accept that offer from Him, we’ll have to leave something behind. However, we don’t have to accept the offer. We can continue to cling to what we have, what we can do for ourselves—our own will and our own agenda. We can choose those things instead of joy if we want.

C.S. Lewis writes that there is always something some people insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy.

So we can cling to whatever we would rather have instead of joy. Or we can relax our grip, and follow Jesus’ example and experience the true joy of belonging to Christ.

Back to that snowman…

The poor snowman in my illustration had to part, if only briefly, with some rather personal and important things. But he did it for the joy of getting to wherever snowmen fly during the holidays.

Have you ever thought about letting go of whatever you’ve been clinging to and reaching out to grasp true joy—the waiting hand of Christ, who loves you more than anyone else ever could? There’s no better season to do it than this one.

Feel free to get in touch using the box below if you want to talk about it. It would be my joy!

sketch for snowman card
Snowman traveler sketch

Plastic peace?

Snowman family at dinner

Artificial, plastic trees. Artificial icicles and artificial snow. Maybe even artificial smiles amid the stress of the holiday season? And all of it with the goal of somehow generating genuine peace.

But all the plastic, and glitter, and presents in the world can’t conjure up peace at our dinner tables or in our own homes, much less for the whole earth. There is someone, though, who is able to bring real peace. Angles announced His birth more than 2,000 years ago with the proclamation, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).

This second week of Advent focuses on peace, but not the plastic, artificial peace we try to create for ourselves. The advent—the anticipated arrival—of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, changed everything and opened up the way for us to experience real, lasting peace.

Isaiah 9:6 from the King James Version says it the way most of us remember it: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

We can start the celebration of Christmas as early as we want to and drape our homes in enough lights to be visible to the crew in the space station, but until we know and trust in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the best we’ll have is plastic peace.

If plastic peace isn’t enough for you, hear the definitive words of Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That’s the real peace and praise of Christmas and the real reason we celebrate. With Christ’s arrival at Christmas and His death on the cross at Easter, which secured our forgiveness and tore down the wall between God and us, we have been offered a gift. Romans 6:23 describes it like this: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life—and peace—with God instead of eternal suffering separated from Him and His love and blessings—now that’s something to celebrate all year long.

If you’ve never trusted in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and you’re tired of artificial peace, drop me note using the contact below. I’d be happy to share with you how you can know genuine peace by knowing the Prince of Peace. What better Christmas gift to yourself?

A hippopotamus for Christmas?

Remember that song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”? It was a novelty song written by John Roxby. The version most of us know is the original recording by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, which climbed to number 24 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart in December of 1953. Through the years, the song has been covered by a wide range of entertainers, from The Three Stooges to Captain Kangaroo to the Jonas Brothers.

As I’ve been thinking about this first week of the season of Advent, a hippopotamus, of all things, has been on my mind. I’ve started sketching what I think she looks like. She’s not the one Gayla sang about, though. This hippo’s name is Hope. I’m calling her, “Hope, the Hopeful Hippo.” And she reminds me of the season of Advent because it’s a season of hope.
From children hoping for that special gift, to parents and grandparents hoping to gather far-flung family members home for a visit, hope is a central theme of Advent and the Christmas season.

But the deepest hope of Advent is not the common, sometimes vain, kind of hope that we experience every day, as in, “I hope it doesn’t rain before I get the grocery shopping done,” or “I hope this checkout line I’ve committed to will move quickly.”
No, it’s an expectant hope, anticipation rooted in trusting that something wonderful is about to happen. Do you know the kind of hope I mean?
The deepest hope of Advent is based on the promises of God. Bible scholars have identified more than 500 verses that refer directly to a promised personal Messiah. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains several references to Him. The promised arrival of a Savior, a Rescuer of God’s people is one of the primary themes of the Old Testament. The revelation of Jesus Christ as that Messiah—Emmanuel, God with us—and the invitation to trust Him for this life and life in eternity is the message of the New Testament.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Our Rescuer, in John 10:10

Through Jesus, God has rescued us from our rebellious natures. The guilt and shame of our past—every decision, action, and careless word that we regret—all those and more are no longer counted against us at the very moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our Rescuer. At that moment God declares us “not guilty!“ And at that moment, hope, the surest hope in the universe, comes rushing in.
Did you know that godly Hope also has a twin sister? Her name is Assurance. And they’re inseparable because wherever godly Hope is, you’ll find Assurance. So when Hope moves in at that moment of our renewal through Christ, Assurance is right there with her—Assurance of forgiveness; Assurance of eternal life; Assurance of God‘s power through the Holy Spirit to help us live the life He intends for us. Assurance that God loves us—so much.
And if you want proof of that love, look no further than a lowly manger where, more than 2,000 years ago, God sent his one and only gift of supreme love, special delivery, to light up a dark world. That’s the Hope—and Assurance—of Advent and the Christmas season.

Well, if you’ve got that hippopotamus song stuck in your head now, you might be interested to learn a little more about how it came to be, and what Gayla Peevey did after her big hit. You can do just that at her website (which may be in the running for the world’s longest URL): www.iwantahippopotamusforchristmas.net. You can also see 10-year-old (and the more current 73-year-old) Gayla performing the song in the video below.

Hope, the Hopeful Hippo just might break out of the sketchbook to become a carving in the same family as Percy the Perserving Rooster. Stay tuned!


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Art that connects with The Creator

Kristi Nash Harrison says she’s an attention deficit artist. “I jump from one thing to the next,” she told me when I caught up with her this week as she was preparing for what’s become known as “the most anticipated little craft show in Mechanicsville.” That would be The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House at my Inspiring Handmade partner in art, Patti Jones’ home and studio: 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. This year (the show’s 17th) the fun begins Friday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and continues Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

For years, Kristi and Patti have joined their friends and fellow makers to create and show original art and crafts. And while her interests may be many, Kristi, a long-time local artist, and art teacher, says clay and paint are her mainstays. “Over the years, my art has evolved,” she said and explained that it always reflects various facets of her life. The crabs and water themes, for instance, are inspired by her mother’s love of life on the water.

glazed pottery cup with a crab
A sculpted crab crawls among sand and grass on a glazed cup. All glazes are lead-free and safe for everyday use with food and drinks.
Wonderfully illustrated crabs congregate on glazed plates. Pile them high with Christmas cookies and even when the baked goods are gone, these plates look amazing.
Whimsical dragonflies dance along the top of a glazed tumbler. Who wouldn’t be inspired by taking a sip or using a pen kept in this work of art?
A dragonfly prepares to light on a flowered lilypad on this glazed bowl. Want to make someone feel special? Serve them their favorite ice cream in what will surely become known as “the dragonfly bowl!”

This year Kristi’s also showing one-of-a-kind glazed bowls illustrated with majestic night skies.
“When I take my dogs out, Kristi explains, I love to look at the heavens and the stars. The heavens declare the glory of God,” she says, quoting Psalm 19. As an artist, she’s drawn to the sky and thinks of the northern lights and the array of colors you see in a sunset.
“I’ve also been inspired by the works of artists Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse,” she says.

Glazed bowls illustrated with a gorgeous night sky.
A crescent moon rises through a wondrous night sky draped in the Aurora Borealis on this glazed bowl.

As important as the art is to this creator who holds a master’s in art from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristi’s work is about more than the image.
“I love sharing Scripture that’s a part of my life to help bring peace and inspiration to others,” she said. That’s one reason why her work has been so popular all these years. She said one woman who purchased a piece of her pottery told her she keeps her keys in it so that she’s inspired by it every time she leaves the house. “People have told me that they keep my work where they can see it every day and be reminded of God and their blessings. It helps them stay positive.”

You can see (and purchase) Kristi’s gorgeous pottery (all safe to use with food) and other work at this year’s The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House starting this Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and finishing Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. Long-time fans of the show will tell you to get there as soon as possible Friday to get your choice of the art, crafts, and delicious baked goods.


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True colors

I love autumn. It’s my favorite season. Most of our family birthdays, along with our wedding anniversary, are in the fall. But in addition to all that, one of the things I love the most is the changing of the leaves. And I’m not alone.

Every fall thousands of people trek up to the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains of Virginia, enjoying Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and other areas. When we go, we’re hoping for that perfect day, when the air is crisp, the clouds are few, and the sunlight is plentiful, so we can take in one of the most spectacular scenes in nature—gorgeous fall foliage.

Various species of trees change color at different times as we march toward winter. We might begin to see the first spots of red in the forest in September as the black gums announce that change is on its way. They’re quickly followed by the black walnut’s leaves turning yellow and the dogwood’s turning red. Soon the hickory begins to change to a deep yellow. By mid-late October, depending on the year, there’s a wash of color from the hills to the flat land, which we usually call the “peak season.” That’s when we see the brilliant oranges and reds of the sugar maples, reds, and yellows of the red maple, and all the colors of the oaks and other species. Finally, toward the end of the season, the last show of color is provided by the yellow poplar. Beyond mid-November, the forest is generally shades of browns and bronzes with a few remaining color splashes here and there.

… we pat ourselves on the back because we put men on the moon, but we can’t figure out precisely how God gets a green leaf to turn brilliant crimson in the third week of October.

According to the Virginia Department of Forestry and National Park service, color change in leaves is not fully understood and remains a mystery. Imagine that—we pat ourselves on the back because we put men on the moon, but we can’t figure out precisely how God gets a green leaf to turn brilliant crimson in the third week of October. The master Creator can humble us in many ways.

But we do know a few things about leaf color: Forestry professionals (of which my father was one during his career) tell us it involves sunlight, moisture, temperature, length of the day, chemicals, and hormones—not unlike teenagers.

A green leaf is green because of the presence of a group of pigments known as chlorophyll. Reaching back to high school biology, you may remember that chlorophyll absorbs light to provide energy for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is active during the summer growing season, capturing the sun’s energy and using water and carbon dioxide to make simple sugars. These simple sugars are a tree’s food. All during the summer, the chlorophyll is constantly being produced and broken down, creating food for the tree, and as a side-effect, keeping the leaves green.

But it turns out that all that green actually is masking the leaves’ true colors. As autumn approaches, weather changes somehow signal a slowdown in the production of chlorophyll. The green begins to fade and the masking effect disappears. Other colors that have been in the leaf all along begin to show through. Some pigments give us the yellows, browns, and oranges. Others give us reds and purples. Supposedly, the brighter the light (the fewer cloudy days) during this late summer period, the greater the production of these pigments and the more brilliant colors we see come Fall. Somehow that has to be balanced with enough rain to keep the trees healthy.

So we might sum up what we know about leaf color like this: During the growing season, chlorophyll production keeps the leaves looking green. As nights get longer in the autumn, chlorophyll decreases and eventually dies off completely. Only then are the pigments in the leaf unmasked to show their colors.

And so, what we realize is that all of us who travel every fall to the mountains are really going to see just one thing—a bunch of dying leaves.

We don’t go to the mountains in the summer just see the leaves when they’re full of their own life when they are supplying their own needs with their own chlorophyll. No, we go when they’ve run out of their own resources when they can no longer feed themselves when they have come to the end of their own leafy strength. No longer are they green and proud, supplying the food for their mighty oak, or majestic maple. Now they are dying. And it’s only now that they’re at their absolute most beautiful. Only now are they seen painted in the true colors their Creator designed them to show.

It’s only when the leaves are dying that they’re at their absolute most beautiful, painted in the true colors their Creator designed them to show.

And all that makes me think of God’s Word in Romans chapter 6. Here, Paul writes in verses 6-8: “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”

So each fall, I think of the many people drawn to see dying leaves. Leaves, which after a season of self-sufficiency, are finally showing their true, beautiful colors. And I’m reminded that God has designed me to die to my natural self-centered ways and to show my true colors as well—colors that are true of anyone who has new life in Christ. We see what a God-colored life looks like in Galatians 5:22. What shows through is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

But I can’t show those colors when I’m living for my own selfish desires, in my own strength. Those God-colors are only evident when I’m dying to those things and living for Christ.
A pretty inspiring lesson from a bunch of dying leaves, I think. Are your true colors showing? Are mine?

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