Category: Joy

Crying rocks

Our raison d’être

Artists, crafters, writers, and appreciators of the arts know that nothing is created without some purpose. The purpose may seem insignificant, but it’s there, as a thing’s reason for existence.

Our Presbyterian friends, among others, are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a series of questions and answers that teach truths from the Scripture. The very first question is, “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what’s our grand purpose—why are we here? The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

That’s as good an answer to the question as I’ve heard. And it’s a good way to gauge how we’re doing with fulfilling that purpose. Because we’re created by God, made in His image, brought to life with His very breath, loved deeply by Him and blessed by Him in countless ways, we’re supposed to glorify God in everything we do. Even in the most mundane aspects of life, we’re called to glorify Him. 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Not everyone’s into glorifying the Creator of everything

The earth and all creation are faithful to testify to the glory of God. Psalm 19:1-2: “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.” But, sadly, in all of creation there are two kinds of creatures that refuse to give glory to God. The first is Satan and the other fallen angels, whom he led in rebellion against God. The second is mankind—you and me. We’re not exactly keeping great company there, are we?

But that brings me to the title of this post. In Luke 19, we find Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The following Friday will see Him crucified and buried. As Jesus enters Jerusalem, riding a donkey colt, the crowds are ecstatic.

Luke 19:37 picks up the account: “As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of The Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'”

One woman’s creative way to glorify God

A good friend of mine lost her mother nearly two years ago. Her mother, Betty Wood, collected souvenir rocks from wherever she and her husband traveled.

Besides being a rock collector, Mrs. Wood believed passionately in her reason for being, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So she put her collection to use in encouraging others to glorify God. She wrote “Luke 19:40” on one side of her rocks and on the other side, she imagined a quote from the rock—”If you won’t praise Him I will!”—inspired by that verse. Mrs. Wood gave the rocks to many people over the years, including the ladies in her Sunday School class at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia.

Betty Wood’s inspiration lives on

It’s impossible to say how many folks have one of those special rocks on a shelf somewhere or how many have been inspired to find new, creative ways to glorify God after seeing those stones. Betty Wood inspires me to ask myself, “How am I doing with my grand purpose? Am I using my gifts, and whatever God has given me, to glorify Him? Or am I too often content to let a rock do my job for me?”

THE ORIGINALS
Betty Wood’s rocks carry her legacy of glorifying God to new generations. Photos courtesy of her daughter, Joy DeNoon

A rocky chorus

A crowd of rocks cries out to glorify God. Most of them have found homes with my friends at Mattaponi Baptist Church, where I was privileged to speak on a recent Sunday.

Check out the Inspiring Handmade shop for original art & craft that helps you praise God and enjoy your own Philippians 4:8 moments

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

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

Shining as the Sun

image of "Shining as the Sun" sculpture

It’s finished! Back in September, I shared a new work in progress. You can read that post here. I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the piece, Shining as the Sun.

As I wrote last month, this is the first in a series of sculptures inspired by the verses of “Amazing Grace,” the beloved 1779 hymn by John Newton. However, I’m starting at the end because I’ve always loved the imagery of what we know as the last verse of the hymn:

“When we’ve been there
ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days
to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.”

But that verse was not written by John Newton. It was first recorded in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The verse was originally one of between 50 and 70 verses of a song titled “Jerusalem, My Happy Home,” which was published in a 1790 book called A Collection of Sacred Ballads.

Today, though, it’s sung as the closing verse of the hymn in congregations all over the world.

Detail from Shining as the Sun

I’ll be doing a very limited, yet-to-be-determined number of these sculptures. This first in the series is now available. Visit the shop to learn more.

Now I’ll move to the beginning and work my way through the hymn. First up will be the most well-known verse:
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.

I’ll share the process with you as I go along and we’ll see how it takes shape together.

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As always, you can drop us a line in the box below and share your thoughts.

Inner beauty

image of a Geode exterior
image of interior of a geode rock
Use the slider to see inside the geode.

The rock you see above is a geode. Geodes are hollow formations, often roughly spherical, that become filled with mineral deposits through water flow and other natural processes. This geode was given to me by a good friend of mine from California. He and his family used to camp out west where they collected these rocks, which don’t look like much on the outside. But once he was back home, he would cut them open to reveal the amazing crystals or other mineral deposits inside.

Sometimes, we can be a little like a backward geode. In our beauty- and youth-obsessed culture, outward appearances are paramount. Instagram feeds are full of photos carefully staged to show off perfect appearances, while beauty video bloggers, or vloggers, crank out countless hours of YouTube tutorials on how to look your best—i.e. youngest and most beautiful. And did you know Americans spent $16.5 billion on 17.7 million elective cosmetic surgeries in 2018 alone? So says the American Society of Plastic Surgeons®. Today, the U.S. beauty industry is valued at $80 billion and expected to reach $90 billion by 2020. But all that money and effort is spent only on the outside.

In the twenty-third chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we find Jesus calling out the hypocrisy of the backward geode religious leaders of His day, saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (verses 27-28, ESV).

God is more concerned about our inward beauty than what’s on the outside. Maybe He even created geodes to give us a simple picture of what we should be. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look our best, but if the outside always demands more time and effort than the inside, it might be time to re-evaluate.

Want to try seeing yourself and those around you like God does? Look for inner beauty. What is special, amazing, fun, inspiring, sweet, or wonderful about someone that has nothing whatsoever to do with the outside? And when you see it in yourself, let it express itself through your creative work and everything you do. “For The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but The Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b, ESV)

Who are the geodes in your life? They may also be beautiful on the outside, and that’s great, but what’s special about them on the inside? Drop us a line in the form below and share your thoughts with us.

Fall & fairs

Image of Girl with Balloons, a sculpture in wire and cut paper on driftwood.

The State Fair of Virginia is underway as I write this. The Fair, maybe as much as anything, is a metaphor for life. Along its avenues and amongst its attractions you can find emotions from across the spectrum. Joy. What child hasn’t thrilled to win a prize at one of the carnival games? Patti Jones’ “Girl with Balloons” recalls the simple joy of things like balloons. Wonder. The sights of the Fair from the top of the ferris wheel. Disappointment. The missed toss that loses the prize, the final stop of the ferris wheel. Curiosity. Touching a goat, a pig, or milking a cow for the first time. Hunger. The array of deep fried everything—from bananas to Oreo cookies—stirs the appetite after hours of walking. Sleepy satisfaction. Finally resting after a full day of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.
Life, like the Fair, is so easy to rush through. But it only lasts for a season. Savor the Joy, the wonder, even the disappointment, the curiosity, the hunger, the sleepy satisfaction of a day well spent.

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A precious gift

Photo of a hand-woven pine needle basket that Emmaline gifted to Patti.

Recently I was given a very precious gift. My dear friend, Mrs. Emmaline Davis, gifted me with a handmade pine needle basket given to her many, many years ago. Knowing that I make pine needle baskets, she knew I would appreciate the workmanship and love that went into making that little treasure. It is so delicately constructed with just single needles and thread! I was so touched. I love Mrs. Emmaline and cherish her friendship, and I know this is a special basket that she has given to me. My “thank you” seems so insufficient.

Photo of Patti Jones and our good friend, Emmaline.
Patti and our good friend, Emmaline, during a recent visit. Emmaline shares a deep appreciation of the creative arts and a good story.
Photo of a hand-woven pine needle basket that Emmaline gifted to Patti.
The delightful hand-woven pine needle basket that Emmaline gifted to Patti. Shown with the top in place.

Maybe creativity and the arts are put to the noblest use when they serve to encourage others and deepen the relationships that bless our lives. In our world of plastic and prefabricated assembly line creations, a gift of creativity, time, and vision is increasingly rare and that much more to be appreciated.

For our readers in a sharing mood this week, drop us a note about a gift that has meant something special to you. It can be something you made and gave, or something someone else gave to you. Just use the box below. And let us know if we can share it with the rest of the Inspiring Handmade family!

Dandelions for Mom

Image of Dandelions for Mom, a sculpture in wire and cut paper on driftwood.

Our moms have sacrificed for us, believed in us, and loved us unconditionally. When we were little, we tried to return that love as best we could with small hands offering small gifts from big hearts full from a mother’s love. That’s the inspiration for Patti’s sculpture, “Dandelions for Mom.”

Patti says, “I wish I had a dollar for every dandelion I gave my mom. I would be a very rich lady! What is it about a dandelion that a child cannot walk by it without picking it? I remember picking dandelions for my mom every spring. The best and biggest ones were in the back yard. Not sure why, but they were such beauties. Naturally, mom always acted like I had just given her a dozen roses when I would offer my pitiful little crumpled bouquet. She would then put them in a small jelly glass of water and set them in the window or in the center of the kitchen table. There they would stay until they totally withered away only to be replaced with another—a never-ending cycle of dandelion love.”

A single day is not nearly enough, but it’s your special day nonetheless. And so, to all mothers everywhere—and especially our moms, Inspiring Handmade wishes you a very happy Mother’s Day. We love you more than a fistful of dandelions! And that’s a lot.

Wire People sculptures recall childhood, celebrate life’s singular moments

The first set of WirePeople is the Childhood Memories collection

Do you fight the tendency to overdo it? Many of us do! We over-eat, over-work, over-drink, over-stare-at-our-phones. Whatever it is, if one is good, two must be better! And we live in a consumer culture that has grown to glorify getting more and more stuff. So much so that now one of the most popular shows on television is all about getting rid of your things.

Sometimes, as the cliché goes, less really is more.

That has proven to be true for me as I’ve been exploring wire sculpture these past several months.

The “Wire People,” as I call these pieces, have become a major creative focus. I love how movement and emotion can be conveyed using only a few simple materials — scrap paper, wire, glue, and wood. The real power of the medium lies in the ability to “sketch” in 3D, so to speak. The wire is the line and the sculptures are essentially quick gesture drawings that capture a singular moment in time with an energy and joy that draws you in.

This first series has taken me back to my 1960s childhood on a farm in Southwest Virginia. Growing in the rich soil along with the corn and beans were faith, patriotism, sportsmanship, appreciation of nature and animals, and love. Those themes sprout and grow throughout these works just as they have grown in me.

So the Wire People in this series are autobiographical in many ways. The little girl on the tree swing is me. My grandfather built that swing for me in my back yard. It hung from a big old black cherry tree that faced the garden. I spent hours there every summer swinging and watching my grandfather work in the garden. Looking back, I’ll bet he chose that tree so he’d have a little company while he worked.

A tree, some rope, and a wooden seat. Simple, simple. Even most kids today could probably find thrills and contentment with those simple materials. We haven’t changed all that much, I suspect; it just takes more work now to keep it simple. It takes effort to stay focused on the important things in life and not allow ourselves to become distracted by one more thing. My Wire People remind me to keep it simple and focus on what’s true. What helps you keep your eyes on the things of real value?

Image of Girl on a Tree Swing, a sculpture in wire and cut paper on driftwood.
In Girl on a Tree Swing, Patti Jones recalls the simpler days of childhood on her grandfather’s farm where he made a tree swing for her. Wire and cut paper on driftwood.

New life

Several of these smaller sculpture/signs are under way at the moment. I like these pieces because they’re a simple metaphor for the work God does in rescuing everyone who trusts in Christ to take the punishment for their sin. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross enables God’s forgiveness and mercy toward those who trust in Him as Savior. Instead of tossing us aside, Jesus salvages us, reclaims us, and puts His word in our hearts. As pieces of unique original art, sculptures in the Salvaged Messengers series remind me of this truth. The “Joy” sculpture is created from a piece of barn wood, originally destined for the rubbish heap. It’s been rescued from destruction, cleaned up, and imprinted with God’s word. Now it serves as a witness and a reminder of the power of God to give us joy in every circumstance. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what we, as believers, are called to do? What verses inspire you?