Art Therapy

If you’ve been around Mama T and me for any length of time, you know that we are always up for a good trip, good food, good shopping, and a good home remodel. Well, over the summer, all of those things came together in an overnight pilgrimage to Laurel, Mississippi, the “home” of the HGTV show Home Town.

One of the many amazing murals in Laurel.

We shopped at Laurel Mercantile and saw the Scotsman Woodshop. We stuffed ourselves at The Loft on “that good gulf shrimp” as Mama says, and we had the most amazing cake/cupcakes at Sweet Somethings.

Mama T at Laurel Mercantile.
Scotsman Woodshop and General Store
Sweet Somethings Bakery

We also drove up and down the streets of the historic district reliving our favorite memories from the show. Mom would try to recap the entire episode in the ten seconds it would take to drive in front of a house, barely leaving her enough time to catch her breath before starting all over again on the next house. Just imagine Mama T calling out things like “Spanish tile, fully restored hardwoods, Italianate brick home, MULLIONS!!!” Her sweet Southern drawl was working overtime to try to keep up with the sheer volume of words per minute.

However, of all the fun I KNEW was in store while spending time with Mom, it was an unexpected moment in an antique store that blew me away.

Southern Antique

I love art…not in an “I’m an artist” sort of way (just ask my students about my sad little stick figures on the white board). I’m not a collector either – at my house you are just as likely to find a painting from Paris as a cute farmhouse wall hanging from Target. But when I stood in front of the painting in the upstairs room of that shop, I cried!

They say that art can move you, and, y’all, I had CHURCH standing there in front of an oil painting of a little white country church. The more I looked at it, the more tears slid down my face.

Mama walked up to me to see what was going on, and I could barely choke out the answer to her question about what I liked about it.

“It’s the perspective, Mom. Anyone else would have painted that church as the focal point of the painting, but here, it’s off to the side down a hill showing the back and side of the church. Instead of staring at the front doors of this quaint, little church, the painting focuses on the journey to get there.”

As I stared at that grassy hill and old barbed wire fence in the foreground, I explained to Mom how I knew just how that grass feels under my bare feet. I know what all those evergreens smell like on a hot summer day, and staring at the hole in the fence, I feel like I’ve climbed that hill a million times, knowing just where to find that opening and run down the hill toward the church.

I was transported!

Then, walking through the store, I started talking to God about why that painting was so powerful (other than my connection to growing up in the country). Then, I got it. It was all back to perspective again – the journey depicted in that painting wasn’t about putting on your finest dress to walk through the front doors of the church on Sunday. It was about being so intimately familiar with God that you were just as welcome at His backdoor on a Tuesday afternoon as you would be at His front door on a Sunday morning.

More tears.

That painting was my journey with Jesus.

It’s not just about the Instagram-worthy Bible journaling pages. It’s about those smudged pages with words scrawled across the page, emptying my heart and my brain as fast as my hand will allow.

It’s not just about those beautiful hymns in three-part harmony. It’s for times when the words and the notes can’t make it past the giant lump in my throat.

It’s not just about the feel of my back against an old wooden pew. It’s for the feel of the carpet in my bedroom against my knees when I pray the hardest of prayers.

So, of all of the memories we made in Laurel, one of my favorites will be falling in love with the Jesus whose arms are open just as wide at the front doors on Sunday morning as they are at the backdoor any other day of the week. And that little country church in that painting did this country girl’s heart a world of good…my very own art therapy.

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Saturday night as my husband and I were getting ready for bed, he said something that always melts my heart. No, it wasn’t how much he loved me or even how cute I must have looked in my comfy fuzzy PJs (LOL). What he said was, “I had fun with you today.”

That day, we had tried a new restaurant in the morning and then (for the first time that I can ever remember in our relationship), we watched 3 movies back to back! While my husband enjoys unwinding with some screen time, I can hardly ever sit still long enough to get through an entire movie unless I’m doing like three other things at the same time. But Saturday, we just enjoyed being together…on purpose instead of just as background noise in our relationship. We didn’t wake up that morning with epic movie-watching plans; it just happened, and it turned out to be such a great day. So, of course, I said, “I had fun with you today, too.”

Then, I realized how often we actually say this to each other. I think, without realizing it, I stumbled upon one of the core values in our marriage – to have fun together! And it’s something we really are intentional about – we ride motorcycles together, go on trips together, try out new restaurants together, and enjoy having a million inside jokes together.

But standing in the kitchen this morning, I started digging deeper, wondering if there were any other lessons to uncover. Then I began thinking about my relationship with God and if there might be any connections. I almost laughed out loud imagining God telling me during my evening prayers that He had fun with me that day…then, it became the most beautiful picture of complete surrender to God.

I stood there imagining all the ways that God and I have had fun during a day. I thought of beautiful sunrises and sunsets my Artist Friend has painted. I thought about all the little “God winks” throughout the day that let me know He cares. I thought about all the times I’ve felt that tug on my heart to say something to someone and felt the joy of actually doing so. And I thought about all those big belly laughs – the laughing until you cry (or snort) and start laughing all over again!

Then I thought, what if I’m crazy?!? I mean, imagining God giving me a virtual spiritual fist bump at the end of a fun day together…I know how that sounds. So, just as I began talking myself out of it, a verse came to mind. “Delight in the Lord…”

Ha! I was onto something, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the rest of the verse, even though I was sure it was one I knew by heart. I headed downstairs to my computer, the whole time repeating the same phrase, “Delight in the Lord…” “Delight in the Lord…” No luck – I couldn’t come up with the rest of the verse.

I searched it up online, and almost had a literal face palm moment…

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

You see, every time I thought of that verse, I had focused in on the second half about God giving us the desires of our heart. Sometimes it was as part of a prayer asking God to fulfill a dream I had for my life or answer a big prayer request, and other times, it was surrendering my dreams in exchange for His will. But either way, I’d focused way too much on the second half, because there in black and white was the part that I’d been dreaming up in my kitchen – having fun with God, truly delighting in Him.

So, now, I plan on being even more intentional about seeing all the ways I can delight in the Lord – more belting out Toby Mac lyrics on my way to work, more impromptu solo dance parties in the kitchen, and more opening my eyes to the God of joy who asks me to delight in Him!

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More

While updating the website this morning, I was drawn back to a blog post I wrote over a year ago entitled “Joy Unspeakable.” As I read back over that post, I was almost in tears. Not because it is any less true today, but because it rings truer than ever!

For so many reasons, the last year has been the hardest one I’ve ever faced, but as I was thinking about the year in terms of that old blog post, one word came to mind: more.

There were more phone calls that made me instantly sick to my stomach, more hospital rooms, more tearful prayers, more pleading with God, and more questions than answers.

But for each of those “more” moments that broke my heart, there was more of God, more of knowing new facets of Him that I had never known to that depth, more light in the darkness, more laughter through tears, and more stretching of my faith.

I wouldn’t wish those phone calls and hospital visits on anyone! But what I do hope for is that you are blessed with knowing the abundant more that our Sweet Savior has to offer. He has met me and held my hand through each of these struggles, and He promises to do the same for you, dear friend!

Most importantly, what I have learned through walking through the impossible is that each time that “joy [came] in the morning,” a little bit of muscle memory was added to my faith. The next time I faced something hard, I could lean not just on God’s beautiful promises, but also on the divinely specific and nuanced details of how He walked me through the last valley. And, friend, that muscle memory of faith is priceless! Because, as promised, “in this world you will have trouble.” But do you know what the rest of that verse says?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Friend, our Heavenly Father, our ever-present help in times of trouble gives us this guarantee: He has overcome the world! So, we can STILL say that even in the darkest of nights, JOY comes in the morning because it is the great Overcomer of the world that holds our hands, hears our prayers, and catches every tear we cry until the day when those tears of sorrow are exchanged for tears of joy unspeakable!

Joy Comes in the Morning
Psalm 30:5 “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

We Won an Award

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk grading papers and making lesson plans when we got an email notifying us that we won a “Best of Gallatin” award!

I would love to tell you that I played it cool, but I immediately started crying! I couldn’t believe that someone outside of our little homeschool circle even knew that we existed, much less thought that we were doing a good job. It was surreal!

I think it was so hard to believe because I’m still in shock that we get to do what we do every week. Recently, I was telling someone the following story about how I still can’t believe it myself:

Every day when I pull up at school, I grab my 3,000 bags of books and random lab supplies and such and walk to the front door of our little school. I fumble through my keychain until I find the right key, and I slide it into the key hole. Now, this is where it gets silly, because after almost three years, I still hold my breath! I start turning the key to the right, and when it unlocks, I can finally breathe again. It worked, I think!

When I finished sharing this story, I asked my friend, how absolutely ridiculous does that sound? And she said, “Do you know what it sounds like to me? Gratitude.”

So in this season of Thanksgiving, on my long list of things to be grateful for, our little school is definitely on the short list, and I am also incredibly grateful for all of the prayers, encouragement, and support that have gotten us this far. Thank you!

Cultivating Culture

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The concept of culture is a hot topic in businesses, schools, and churches, and rightfully so. We’ve managed to take this beautiful word that covers cultivated behavior, accumulated experiences, and a collection of patterns both explicit and implicit and use it to describe, as my students might say… the “vibe” of a group of people.

This idea of identifying our values and intentionally living them out is so woven into our culture, it even affects our art. How many of us have a cute farmhouse painting declaring that “In this house, we…” or “In this family, we…”? What follows those statements is usually a list of verbs declaring what “we” do… forgive each other, love one another, give second chances, etc.

While I’ve always been drawn to these, my students and I have never really taken time to create a list like that for HPA, but what happened yesterday was more beautiful than any list we could have written as a beginning-of-the-year icebreaker exercise. But first, I need to give you a little linguistics lesson so you can fully understand how amazed I was at what took place yesterday.

While studying linguistics in college, I learned about the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism. Precriptivism prescribes a set of rules for grammar and mechanics that should be followed to the letter. Descriptivism looks at how we communicate naturally, then uses the tools of grammar and mechanics to describe that communication. I find myself using this analogy for so much of what we face in life, and yesterday was no exception.

Yesterday, in one of the most authentic conversations I’ve ever been a part of in a school setting, something AMAZING happened. My students started describing our school culture. One by one they listed the values that we hold dear and the way those values benefit our school culture. They spoke about a lack of bullying, the need for quick and genuine forgiveness, the importance of humility, and the profound impact of being in relationship with people who come alongside you and encourage you.

It was BEAUTIFUL!

They said that coming to school just feels like coming to another home, and that it truly feels like we are a family, complete with a bonus mom/cool aunt, grandmother, and a giant list of brothers and sisters that would fill up about five of those classic home school vans. 😉

When asked why they thought it was like this, their answers left me speechless! One mentioned the fact that it just felt like the Holy Spirit was present in class every day, making it almost impossible to bully, gossip, and lie. But what surprised me most is that they said that it was just the culture we’ve created here at HPA.

And though my heart was bursting with pride at all I was hearing, all I could think is that

THIS is what it looks like to put God at the center.

THIS is what it looks like when teenagers choose to love others the way that Christ loves us, and

THIS is what it looks like to be in relationship with people who cheer each other along, walk with you through the hard times, and have your back day in and day out.

Because…

In this family, that’s just what we do!