Faith

All Is Calm - Art Video and De-stressing At Christmas

Would you like to de-stress a little this Christmas?  

I can't wave a magic wand but I CAN share some tips/ideas that help me to manage my stress levels at this crazy time of year and of course, art always slows us down.  The girl is holding some 'fairy lights' - you can never have too many fairy lights, right?! ;)

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Art Video

I'm also showing you the full process (starting at about 8 mins) for creating the portrait above entitled All Is Calm.  I've sped the recording up, so you'll see the whole project in just over 20 minutes. 

I used willow charcoal, warm white soft pastel, charcoal pencils and compressed charcoal on toned paper.  Here is the link to the reference photo I used. 

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I hope you enjoy this video and please share with your friends. 

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The Darkness, The Light and Charcoal

It can seem that there is darkness everywhere...

So many events happening in our world (and personal lives) are just heartbreaking.  There's pain, tragedy, evil and brokenness all around.  Take for instance, war torn Syria, starving Yemen, North Korea, the Middle East and closer to home, here in the UK, so much unrest due to the Brexit negotiations.  

Do you ever feel like you could be swallowed up by the pain and devastation that seems evident everywhere you turn?

Yes, me too.  When I feel saddened with global news, family difficulties, friends who are struggling; I turn to drawing, creativity and there I meet The One.

Below is a charcoal portrait that I actually finished in the dark (almost) because I hadn't realised the time.  I can't tell you how much I needed to just lose myself and find myself again.

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If you’re feeling a heavy burden, I want you to know that yes, the darkness can threaten to engulf you but remember it’s when the night sky is at it’s darkest, that a simple candle flame can have the biggest impact... 
— Jane Hinchliffe

So, Sweet One, take a little time out from the hustle and bustle of Christmas organising and prepations and grab those knitting needles, that favourite baking pan along with the edible glitter you've had stashed at the back of your cupboard, that new art supply you've been aching to use, your art journal, or simply take that bath you've been meaning to, along with adding a few drops of lavender oil, some soothing music and then ENJOY this simple act, FULLY... 

Then give thanks because there's always something to be grateful for...  

Remember, you're not alone... 

and...

You never will be...  

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Children & Cooking: Let them shine

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Cooking and Children - do those words when put together, bring you out in hives?

Cooking with children can push your patience and reserves to the max but really the rewards are many both for you and your child.

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

- Harriet Van Horne

cooking

Our boys have always helped now and again with cooking but it's only lately that they are taking more responsibility in the kitchen with mealtime choices, food preparation, self-expression and wanting to have an understanding of what they are eating and how their diet can potentially impact their health (for good or bad).

The other big aspect of preparing food is of course, the communal act of eating together.  This has always been extremely problematic for our family since both our boys have High Functioning Autism and mealtimes have been stressful to the say the least - largely due to their over sensitivity to texture, taste, smell and anxiety.

We're only just beginning to enjoy eating together (on occasion) as a family and making progress with helping our boys appreciate the actual sacredness and love that goes into the food preparation along with the very gift of the food itself.

Anyway, my husband and I were to take our turn at serving tea/coffee and cakes at our church service on Sunday (as it happened, Robert hurt his back :( and couldn't come to church).  Time was marching on and I was struggling to find a time slot to cook the required baking items.

Eventually, it was down to necessity - the day before was the only day that the baking could be accomplished.  I was dreading how the day would turn out and how our children would occupy their time whilst I was cooking as they can really struggle if their day isn't 'set out' for them in a predictable way.

After thinking it over, I decided that I would ask them to bake one item each and to see how it went and that if I needed to 'take over' I would.

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The upshot?  I was really glad that I gave them the opportunity to do some cooking a little more independently.  I watched over and assisted where necessary but really I was just overseeing and making sure they were safe.

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Tips for cooking with children

  • If more than one child will be cooking, maybe oversee them separately.
  • Personally, I found it easier to get all the equipment and ingredients together first so that stress levels didn't escalate or boredom set in before they even got started.  This can be tweaked obviously as time goes on.
  • Have them read the recipe or watch a video demo first, so they already have an idea of what's ahead.
  • Talk with your children about where the food has come from and how it's arrived in your kitchen.  This is so important I feel.
  • Give them some room to express their creativity and self-expression ie. cake filling choice, icing colour, meat or fish that's chosen, plates/crockery for the table, pizza toppings.
  • Cooking for the family is wonderful.  However also encourage cooking for others too ie.  a neighbour, local church, school, charity events etc.
  • Make sure that you choose a day that is reasonably uncluttered so that you can be as calm and patient as possible.
  • If things go 'pear shape', try to laugh it off and keep your cool.  Perfectionism isn't welcome here!
  • Of course, all of this is age appropriate and if your child isn't ready for a full-on recipe, let them make fun concoctions that are not for eating.

One of the gifts with doing anything with children is that if you can 'get out of your own head', their excitement of discovery is infectious and their pleasure in what we might call the 'ordinary' has a lesson in there for us all.  Children are sponges and the more you can share with them, the more they blossom (as do you).  They give you 'new eyes' to see.

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things.

- Psalm 119:18 NIV

cooking

Above is the result of Joseph's cooking - some gorgeous Gooey Chocolate and Cherry Cookies.  Let me tell you, they were gorgeous and were flying off the plate at church!

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Benjamin made the Coffee Cream and Walnut Cupcakes above.  He did a great job and particularly liked icing the buns.  We kept a few back for them to pop in with their school packed lunch.

In fact, they both enjoyed cooking so much, that they helped with dinner too - we had stir fry (see below).

cooking

Of course, I don't know why I was surprised at how much they enjoyed the cooking experience.  My eldest son loves maths and enjoys the precision required for the measuring out of ingredients, following a recipe, and then the 'miracle' of the end result etc. all fascinate him.

Our youngest son, loves science and 'inventing' as he calls it.  Isn't that what cooking is after all - inventing?

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I'm convinced that if we share our time/passions/gifts/talents with our children, it opens up so much in their lives too (as well as ours).  Who knows, where moments such as these may lead?

So, why not invite your child, a friend's or perhaps a niece or nephew to cook with you - just watch them shine!

 

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Our Unique Voice

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Sometimes we can fall into the trap of comparison and forget our own unique voice.

Finding (and then retaining) our unique voice as a solo creative entrepreneur (and well, just as a human being), is very challenging.

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I was walking Mia (our little dog) this morning and had a heavy heart.  You know that sinking feeling?  That feeling where you get a little scared and wonder if you're good enough, talented enough, clever enough, everything enough?  Well, that was me this morning until...

...I heard bird song.

I literally stood for a few minutes in the middle of the footpath (with Mia staring up at me) and just listened.

I paused and listened to what God might want to tell me.

And you know what, looking up I realised each bird had a unique voice.

Their unique song and it got me thinking...

Firstly, this realisation was a gift from my heavenly Father and I slowly let it drip down into my waiting, aching heart.

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We all have our unique song and no one else can sing it for us.  Yours will look and sound different to mine and that's okay.  We can all be heard - just as I listened to the very different voices of the crazy geese, the tiny wren and the beautiful blue tit.  It was a beautiful moment of realisation.  It's okay.  It's okay to be different - in fact, we're made to be.

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So my message to you dearest is this...

It's okay to have a quiet voice.  A voice that doesn't make too much noise over everyone else because there's still Someone (and someone) who's always listening.

unique voice

You don't have to have it all planned out.  You don't have to rehearse because your voice is just that - YOUR voice.  Your unique creativity will pour out of you come what may, also long as you let it.

Be kind to yourself.

Be gentle.

Be loving.

Hold your unique voice carefully to your heart and let it sing.

unique song

Your creativity/soul is just like that tiny little wren - making exquisite music and singing it's little heart out and once I tuned in, there was no mistaking it.

Embrace your unique voice and don't give in to the cacophony, all around you.

Stay open.

Stay true and remember to listen to Him.

 

 

 

 

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The Story Of My Unfolding Faith

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My faith is my greatest blessing and I'm just so grateful for His unending love, mercy and grace...

I grew up attending a Catholic church and schools throughout my childhood but it wasn't until I was nearly 40 years-old and desperate, that I truly found Him and my faith.

Love note from God

Love note from God

I'm telling you this story, my faith story, in order to share my heart with you from one ordinary woman (friend, mother, daughter, sister etc) to another...

It's not an 'easy' story to share but often it's these very experiences that can be so helpful to others.  I don't have all the answers on this journey of faith and life and of course I'm still on this journey, just like you.

My faith story opens up all sorts of vulnerabilities, potential judgement and criticism from others but share I must because if it encourages just one other person, then it's worth it.

To go back to the beginning - my parents were (and are) very loving and together with my Granny, Aunt and Uncle, my childhood felt secure and content for the most part.  However, when I became a teenager and hormones filled my body, I started to change imperceptibly (at first) and after I had given birth to my first son in my late 20's (he is now 21), I spiralled rapidly into post-natal depression and re-visited this state on and off until I turned nearly 40.

I think all of us have a defining moment(s) of heartache, struggle or insight in our lives, whether it be relating to a deep hurt, profound grief, abuse, illness, depression, divorce, addiction etc. 

For me, as mentioned above, it was crushing depression, tackling a phobia and the accompany anxiety, the break-up of my first marriage, together with hard, painful emotions and situations that had plagued me for several years and inevitably caught up with me - everything was leading to this moment...

Additionally, you may have read in previous posts regarding my first-born son who was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was just two...  My heart had broken and I was a mess.  I felt I would never to recover - this was the sum total of my life.

I found myself on the kitchen floor crying with our two little ones playing in the corner oblivious of my pain (I hoped) as I tried to pull myself together, once again...

Apart from a few people and of course my husband, most people would have thought my life was near perfect.

I was able to dress myself each morning, care for our children, walk around in a detached fog without many people realising, cook meals - 'act the part', all with a fake smile upon my face but inside my heart was shrinking - I was living a facade.  Maybe you know what I mean? 

That moment on the floor, in the kitchen, brought everything to a head and I prayed to God for His help!  I'd had it, I was broken, wounded and wrung out.  My children and husband deserved better.

Whilst on the floor, I can't say that thunder clapped above my head or I audibly heard God speak to me but I do know that I felt changed somehow...

Like, there. was. finally. hope.  

Like I was being held.  

Like I was heard.  

Like there was a glimmer of light in the distance.

Like .... maybe, just maybe, I was loved.

That, maybe I could break out of the hell hole I was in and feel His tender, loving arms wrapped around me like the patchwork quilt of my Granny's that enveloped me with love as a child.

As I said, it wasn't an immediate healing of depression but for the first time, it was finally clear to me that I needed to seek help and bit by bit I began to see the Light in places I could never have dreamt of.

my unfolding faith

my unfolding faith

It sounds weird, but as I became 're-acquainted' with myself, the 'real' Jane that had  always been there but had just been buried beneath the surface, began to blossom and my faith grew stronger and my healing went deeper and deeper.  I began to see the world in technicolour instead of grey tainting everything.  This is when art began to play a part in my healing.

Fast forward approx. ten years and it was when I started to go to a mother and toddler group at our local church, coupled with me seeking help from the doctor, that bit by bit I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and my heart was renewed.  I found me again, my family had me back and I felt infinitely loved and accepted.

A little while after, I had to have some surgery and my husband and I were amazed to find women appearing on our doorstep with meals they had cooked for us as they knew it was going to be tough for me.  I hadn't asked, they merely had seen the need and acted accordingly.  I was amazed and warmed by their kindness.  After all, relative strangers don't often act this way in life.

Hope original watercolour

Hope original watercolour

We started going to the church regularly after that and gradually became more and more comfortable being there.  I started going to the women's group attached to our church and learning about what's in the bible and applying it to my life today.  Ever since then, I've belonged to a bible study group because it's a wonderful way to learn more about God and discern what He might be putting on my heart.  Also, it's a fantastic way to hear from other folks who have the same challenges and to encourage each other.

So, I'd just like to encourage you and if you're going through a challenging time to just remember that you're not alone and that He cares for you because He created you.

He knows how many hairs are on your head.

He breathed life into you.

He loves you.

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Video: Art + Devotion - Life Purpose

Life Purpose.  Big words eh but for me and I'm guessing you, it's really important to discern what our life purpose from God is because the alternative, is that unsettled feeling which kind of ebbs away at our hearts bit by bit.

Life purpose for us all...

We are here to fulfil our God given purpose and how wonderful is that - little 'ole me that gets it wrong over and over.  That God should even give us an individual purpose I find amazing. art and devotion life purpose

I think we all have these deep seated questions about why we are here and what we are to do with our time on earth.  Yes, we can live our lives as a blur and flurry of activity but somewhere deep down I feel we all want to find and then attempt to fulfil our life purpose as best we can.

I refer to Holley Gerth's website and her book called You're Made for a God-Sized Dream.  If you are struggling on this topic, I would encourage you to read her book (and Holley's blog).  There are lots of journal questions to ponder and it really gets to the heart of the matter in a focused and gentle way.

Some life purpose questions to ponder:

  • What did you love to do as a child?  There is usually some kind of clue that can be applied when thinking of our life purpose.
  • Ask a family member or dear friend what your strengths are?  
  • What activity makes time fly by for you?  
  • If you could do anything (and money not be a issue), what would you do - even if you didn't get paid?  
  • How can you use these gifts, interests and strengths to help others?

life purpose

Below is a video I've created which helps us explore this topic for ourselves using art, scripture and prayer.  I create a very loose watercolour sketch/painting and then the video shows me adding the written bible verse (see below) that inspired this post together with me chatting a little of what life purpose means to me and perhaps to you.

The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. 

Proverbs 20:5

I hope this is useful to you in some small (or big) way.  If you'd like to share any thoughts or insights, please leave a comment below.

 

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