Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This bare branch {blooming}

"In order to know and love God as He is,
we must have God dwelling in us in a new way, 
not only in His creative power but in His mercy,
not only in His greatness but in His littleness,
by which He empties Himself and comes down to us
to be empty in our emptiness,
and so fill us with His fullness."
~Thomas Merton~

My husband gently teases me about the name, lightly popping the alliterative b's as he says it.  I take it in stride, both because I love him, and because this name is the one that was gifted to me instead of one I chose.  The blooming that accompanied my own spiritual transformation, the rebirth of God in me, the resurrection and the abiding presence of the True Vine.

But I've never really explained it here, this name.  

I knew the name long before I started the blog or the shop.  I had been stripped down so fully from what I had been before: the layers of self-confidence laid over self-doubt; the crippling concern for what others thought of me; the heart of criticism and judgement for myself and others; my neat, boxed-in view of God; the black and white thinking and idolization of perfection.

My earlier blog, Fruit in Season, a place I loved and called home for nearly 6 years, was a celebration of faith and family and home and homeschooling.  It was a place that gifted me gold stars with every share, like, and comment, and a place that gave me a community to carry me through those days of baby-bearing.  Psalm 1:3 was the inspiration and it remains one of my favorite verses.

Yet there came a time when I didn't even feel I was bearing seasonal fruit, that I instead had been cut off from the flow of the stream and my roots had atrophied.  I felt dead and barren, and spent years struggling with post-partum depression after the birth of my fourth child.  I cried out to God to restore my faith, to drench me with grace, and bring me through.  And He did.  But it looked nothing like I expected.

He became the art within me and showed me how to pour it out.  I no longer thought of myself as a fruit-bearer, instead I became enamored with the image of a bare tree in winter.  I drew them, photographed them, and fully resonated with the outer-death-inner-life paradox they represented.  I knew then, that I could stop trying to bring forth fruit and instead simply rest.  There was nothing- nothing- I could do but abide.

This became my mantra, my prayer, my breath.  Jesus in me, grace upon grace.  Doctrine and the desire to be right had been my gods of the past, but with this new life much of that didn't matter.  I had my one thing and I no longer needed to either be right, or have others' approval.  Twenty years after Christ had become my savior, I was finally free of myself.

So you see, the blooming is all His.  This love that I can share, this new way of seeing, is pure gift to be received and then released.  All of my writing, my creating, my abiding, is a response to this.  I am empty of all but what He pours in.  And this place is now the vessel I use to collect and share the offerings He first gives to me.


"A {wo}man who is not stripped and poor and naked within {her} own soul
 will unconsciously tend to do the works {s}he has to do
 for {her} own sake rather than the glory of God....
But if He sends His own Love, Himself,
to act and love in {her} and in all that {she} does, 
then {she} shall be transformed."
~Thomas Merton~

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tools- Playing Card Stencils

It is a sad reality that money doesn't grow on trees.  So no amount of wishing I had unlimited funds for art supplies will make it so.  I certainly have a wonderful collection of materials, not to mention a wonderful husband who finds my creating valuable, but there will always be that something-I-don't-have out there on the horizon.

There is something satisfying, though, about making your own materials.  I have tried a number of techniques and enjoy experimenting on my own as well.  One tool that is both inexpensive and easy to make is a playing card stencil set.  I have a number of store bought stencils, but I love having a personalized set with images that are meaningful to me personally.

Playing Card Stencils Materials List:

  • Plastic coated playing cards- All playing cards are not created equal.  Newer ones, and ones with pop culture images on them, are often made with thinner cardstock.  Use older decks with missing cards that you have lying around your home, or ask around.  You probably have friends and family that would be more than happy to donate to the cause.
  • Sharp craft knife
  • Self healing cutting mat (or even paperboard from part of a cereal box will do in a pinch)
  • Sharpie or other permanent ink felt pen
  • Ideas for designs


  • You may want to design an idea on a piece of paper first, but once you're ready to go, draw your design directly on the playing card.  The cards are sturdy enough to support a relatively intricate design, so play around and use your imagination.
  • Carefully cut out the design (keep the cut-outs!) with the craft knife
  • Use your stencil with paint, spray ink, or pens and markers

Do not throw away the scraps!  They can be used to create a resist on an art journal page for a different effect.  I have a little collection pile of all of my cut pieces and love to mix them up and spray over them with inks.

Simple, right?  The possibilities are endless.  
Enjoy your creating!