Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Artist From Her Heart

This is an article I wrote as a contest entry. The painting on the background of this blog is the third one mentioned here. -- Jen

Peace embraced you as you entered Grandma’s home. Nearly every wall held one or two of her lovely oil paintings. A weathered gardener gazing at his prize roses. Salty spray rising from the azure waters of a Hawaiian sea. Cows drinking from a secluded river, purple mountains their backdrop.

Grandma was a self-taught artist. This didn’t seem to bother her. Her art was a gift she willingly shared, teaching others to paint with skill and grace.

Reading was another of Grandma’s passions. One room of her house was the “library,” with books from floor to ceiling on two walls. “These books are my friends,” she told me more than once. “I have read them again and again. You can learn anything you want from books.” It had to be true. Grandma was one of the smartest people I knew, and she’d only finished six grades.

Frequently Grandma said,” I don’t know how people get along in life without the Lord.” My Daddy, then a new believer, led her to the Lord when she was in her fifties. Her growing up years lacked any godly influence.

Grandma was born Viola Kelly in 1907. She and her younger brother, Benny, were raised by their dad after their mother was institutionalized for mental illness. Little Viola was six and Benny only three when their mother died, screaming out hatred towards her husband in her final lucid moment.

A widow with three children of her own became the children’s step-mother. She resented young Viola and Benny, treating them abysmally. When it came time for school, Viola’s step-mother took her and Benny to the dump for shoes and clothes. Viola often wore mismatched shoes. Many times the children left the supper table still hungry.

A photo I have of eight-year-old Viola shows her atop a pony cart, clutching a doll as if it were her only friend. Distrust and anguish escape from dark eyes. After Grandma passed, I learned that this photo was made near the time she was raped by her step-brother.

Yet in spite of her painful past, Grandma chose to dwell on her blessings. She was cheerful, generous, and kind. Loading the table at every meal, she’d say, “I was hungry too often as a child. No one in this house will ever leave my table hungry.” You never came to visit without a gift from her hands. Nor did you leave without leftovers in the trunk!

Refusing to judge others, Grandma always gave them the benefit of the doubt. She knew from experience, there was more to a person’s behavior than what can be seen. She allowed the Lord to take the broken pieces of her life and craft them into a sparkling, glorious mosaic of grace.

As I gaze at Grandma’s paintings, now on the walls of my home, I see in their master a true hero. Mine.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sermon Quotes from Kevin's message today

"God makes us righteous not through what we've done, but through what Jesus has done for us."

"The Holy Spirit is not loaned to us--- He's given. That is the testimony that God trusts us." (Wow!)

"Justification is only needed when something is crooked. We cannot justify-- make right and straight-- ourselves."

"The fun part of the Christian life is that God allows us to be involved in weaving the threads of our lives together."

"We don't get character by sitting in an armchair and doing nothing." (rats!)

"If you are relying on your own resources to get you through a test, you're no better off than you were before you were born again."

My personal fav: "One of the marks of being a king or queen is that you are able to give gifts to others. The reason we can do this is that God has more than enough to give to us, and extra, allowing us to share."


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You? Have a Bad Day?

When the kids were five and two, we began a traveling singing ministry. Our congregation didn’t meet on Sunday nights, so we were free then, as well as weeknights. We sang in churches, clubs, seniors’ groups, whoever would have us. I think the kids were the big drawing card, but people also seemed to like our music, most of it written by Kevin.

The day after a concert for a seniors’ club, the chairman called to tell us how much everyone enjoyed it.

“Oh, thank you!” I said. “I’ve had a lousy morning; it makes my day to hear a compliment.”

“Now, I can’t believe you would ever have a bad day!” he answered.

Oh, puleeeeze!

I wanted to shout, “You dummy! People in ministry have horrible, awful, very bad days, too! Maybe more than ‘normal’ people! We are constant targets for the devil’s traps and schemes.”

But, I didn’t. I just made fluffy little preacher’s wife comment #103 and politely thanked him again for calling.

I wonder why people think we are immune to grumpiness, misunderstandings, and bad attitudes? Just because our calling is to teach, preach, sing or write the gospel does not make us impervious to demonic grenades. We are all in a battle, but ministers and their families are on the front lines. Satan tries harder to take us down, because we are in positions to influence huge numbers believers. Non-believers watch us closely, too.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I like being in ministry. Most days. I just want people to be real, and allow me to be real, too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday quotes

Quotes from Kevins' sermon today:

"Wishes disappoint. Hope does not disappoint-- it is grounded in the love of God."

" The great power of the Holy Spirit is that He allows us to be like Jesus."

And my favorite: "We are people not bogged down by our past, but powered for our future."
-- Jen

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Critique Group

I am so excited! I travel to Normal, IL tomorrow for my first meeting with a writers' critique group. I was graciously invited by my new friend, Patti Lacy, a lovely Christian novelist.

My hope and prayer is that these ladies can help me hone my craft, and I will gain wisdom and encouragment for my journey.

It's a two-hour drive to Normal, although I wonder if I'll ever get there... if you know what I mean!

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Monkey Suit

A domestic goddess I am not. My dust bunnies long ago turned into kangaroos, with little dust joeys sproinging out of their pockets every few days to stir up some fun. The cobs on my ceiling have their own web sites. Cleaning for me is not a last resort; it isn’t even on my list of resorts!

I force myself to clean by inviting guests over. The only problem with this brilliant plan is that I race around the day of the dinner party, dusting, scrubbing, and cooking like a circus monkey in the center ring. My house sparkles and welcomes. The inside of the fridge is so clean you could eat from it!

After the guests leave, however, I am as exhausted as the muscles on both faces of a politician. “Why do I kill myself like this?” I moan, “what possessed me to invite all these people over? Well, at least the house is pretty. Let’s keep it this way forever!”

I know I am only fooling myself when I say this. It’s as realistic as saying, “I will never talk too much again.”

Jesus said we must deny ourselves to be His followers. For my personality, that means more than reading His Word, praying, and praising. My cross has the initials D.D. on it, for “Daily Discipline.” I follow Jesus by washing dishes as well as feet. When I cook a meal or mop a floor, I am denying myself the luxury of laziness. I am taking up my cross and following Jesus.

Don’t misunderstand me; I have not perfected the art of self-denial. Please don’t come to me for “D.D. lessons” any time soon. In fact, I really must scoot now--- I have to get my monkey suit cleaned. Company is coming tonight!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review: Of Two Minds About This Book!

For the Tough Times
By Max Lucado

Max Lucado has always been one of my favorite authors. In fact, I once asked the Lord to make me into the female Max Lucado of Christian writing. His reply? “Why don’t you just be the female Jeanette Levellie of Christian writing?” Oh, well. I tried.

In this 80 page book, Lucado addresses common questions such as, “Where is God when all that is good falls apart?” and “Is God really in control? If so, what is He thinking?”

Overall, this book was an encouragement to not blame God when things go wrong, to find His grace in the storm, and to find peace by forgiving those who have wronged us. The poignant word pictures Lucado paints are stirring and heartening.

I was, however, appalled by his chapter on how God “uses satan” to fulfill His purposes. In my Bible, satan is the accuser of the brethren and the father of lies. Although God is master at turning around satan’s schemes to destroy us, and bringing good ends from bad beginnings, they are in no way on the same team. Not even in the same league.

If you can overlook this chapter and not allow it to hurt your faith in a loving, good Father, you will find hope and comfort in the remainder of the book.

--- Jen

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


“What kind of award took so long to choose?” I asked Lila, who owns a trophy shop in the back of our office supply store. “That couple stood here deliberating for nearly an hour!”

“They needed trophies for their family reunion, where they’re having a garden tractor pull,” she answered.

“That’s all?”

“That’s nothing. I can order trophies for the hottest chili, the ugliest outfit, even the poorest sport--it’s a tantrum-throwing baby! You name it; there’s an award for it.”

I would enjoy awarding a few trophies of my own: Dumbest Movie in History (the screenplay writer was the cousin of the producer’s dog groomer, or they never would have made it); Worst Record Idea (Ethel Merman Goes Disco); Poorest Excuse for a Governor (take your pick)…

My husband and I once sang for some friends’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. Although the man was not what you’d call ornery, he was definitely “high-maintenance.” The couple’s children presented each parent with a trophy, accompanied by a lovely speech, saying how proud they were that they had stayed married so long. The husband’s trophy was barely six inches high and fit in his breast pocket. The wife’s had to ride home in the back of their pickup!

Jesus wasn’t big on trophies. He liked to heal, feed and deliver people, then warn them not to broadcast it. In Matthew 6: 1-18, He instructed His followers not to show off for the praise of people, but for God’s applause. That’s the best kind of trophy.

At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, I hope to see Ethel, and the screenplay writer who bombed. I even have a prayer for my fallen governor. But when the Father steps to the podium, His trophy and applause will go to only one Recipient.
--- Jen

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Measure of Love

Kevin preached about the Syrophoenecian Woman today. I’ve always loved this story, especially when Jesus says, “Woman, great is your faith! Be it unto you as you have believed.” I long for Jesus to say that to me. To impress the Master and King with my great faith in Him! Is this not a worthy goal? After discovering how her faith expressed itself, however, I wasn’t sure I possessed that kind of impressive faith.

When Jesus said, “I did not come to give bread to dogs, but to the children of Israel,” the woman did not wince or turn away, offended that Jesus had called her a dog. She persisted in her request, for the sake of her daughter. She didn’t care what Jesus called her, if she could only have a well child. My eyes were opened to her sacrifice of faith when Kevin concluded with this statement: “Real love shows itself in how much it is willing to be inconvenienced.”


Do I commit to pray for someone, and then lay it down if it is taking too long for the answer to come?
Am I persistent in prayer, even when it seems God is ignoring me, or passing over my request to give others what they want? Do I trust my feelings, or His character, proven to me again and again?
How much am I willing to be inconvenienced?
The question for me then becomes not “how great is my faith?” but, “how great is my love?”

God, forgive me.
--- Jen

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hidden Art

The painting in the background of our title was created by my late grandmother, Viola Tomson. She was a gifted artist. I have no doubt our son, Ron inherited her ability to create feelings and moods with pictures.

Grandma lived a tragic childhood, with her mother going into an asylum when grandma was three and her brother only one. When her mother died three years later, grandma's father married a widow with children of her own. It's a Cinderella story. Grandma and her brother were taken to the dump for clothes, often wearing mismatching shoes to school, while the step mother's children were treated with kindness. Grandma was even violated by her step brother when she was only eight.

When she was seventeen and granddad came along with his charming smile, it was a great escape from her painful home life.

Although she only had a sixth grade education, Grandma was very well read, and had a large library. She told me more than once, "These books are like friends to me."

In spite of her painful past, she was one of the most gracious, merciful people I've ever known. She willingly forgave all those who'd ruined her childhood, and kept in contact with them over the years.

When you walked into her well-kept home (I did not inherit her penchant for cleaning!), you could feel the peace of the Lord. She gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, and never talked "ugly" about anyone.

This is one of my favorite paintings of Grandma's. It hangs in my husband's den. The soft hues and peaceful scene remind me of one who looked for and loved the beauty in life. It is a lesson to me that God can overcome any obstacle in our past to paint a lovely now, if we'll only allow Him.