The Art of Living? A Reflection and Resolution

“The art of living, isn’t that a funny expression?”  ~ Anne Frank

                New Years is upon us.  The dying of one year and the birth of a new one.  2015 has ended, there will never be another.  That chapter of our lives has closed; the next one is about to begin.  So on this, the last day of a dying year, I share my reflections on life (at least the short one I have lived).

‘The art of living’ as Anne observed does seem a strange expression.  After all what is there to life?  We all have one don’t we?  Is it not what some 7 Billion people spend all their time doing?  Where is the ‘art’ in that?  Can life itself really be an art?

My answer to that would be yes, life is an art.  For what is art?  Art is a work of skill and creativity.  An image or creation.  Created to be appreciated for the beauty of the work and the skill of the artist.  A message to the world from its Creator.

By that definition are we not ourselves a work of art?   Beautiful and intricate works of God the Master artist. Masterpieces, and His messages to the world. Just as scribbles, lines, and dabs of paint make up a piece of art.  So also the everyday events of our lives are used by the Master Artist to make and shape us.

New Years is not only a time of reflection but also of resolve.  Every year thousands of people resolve to lose weight, read more, and worry less.  Each year we resolve anew to weed out ‘faults’ and become at last that perfect ideal we all create for ourselves.  I have done this myself many times.  Every year I resolve to lose those extra pounds, to take more risks, and to finally become that trim, attractive, and oh so successful person I have created in mind. And while there is nothing wrong with setting goals and forming good habits that is not what I resolve this year.  This year I resolve to live artfully.

I resolve to read, laugh, and sing. To stop and smell the flowers, look up at the sky, and thank the Lord for His bounty, His blessings. To notice and remember the little things.  For often when we look back we find that they were the big things. I resolve to find joy in each thing He puts in each day; each person, each problem, each pleasure. To smile more.  We must never underestimate the power in a smile, a kind word, or thoughtful action.  They may mean more than we will ever know.  To borrow a line from The Hobbit, “It is the everyday actions of ordinary people. Small acts of kindness and love that keep the darkness at bay.”

I resolve to learn to live as His Masterpiece. To live artfully is to live with intent.  It is to live with a goal in mind. It is to live in a way that reflects the beauty and purpose of our Creator, the Master Artist. There is such joy and fulfillment in just being what he intended us to be.  In just doing what we were meant to do; glorify our Creator and enjoy the good gifts He has given us. The good things and the bad. Easy and hard.

This year I ask that God help us all to remember what we are.  His workmanship, created for good works.  That we would all remember who we are; masterpieces of the Creator.  Beautiful, living, works of art.  Sent to enjoy the world we live in and bring glory to God who made it.  This year let’s forget about all the self-improvement. Instead let’s remember the Masterpieces we are and live like it.


After A Fashion: A Reflection on Beauty

Big. Big heart. Big girl.  Big dreams. Big as in fill the whole space. Big as in large.  Big as in strong. I am and always will be a big girl.  But does big not mean beautiful?  All my life I have wondered that. I looked around, and noticed. Noticed that I was big. Big as in fat?  Big as in slow? Big as in ugly?  Sometimes I used to think so. Sometimes I feel big, awkward, and ugly. But can’t big also be beautiful? Let me tell you a story.

A while ago my sisters and I were invited to be in a vintage fashion show at our church.  My sisters were very excited.  After all a vintage fashion show, what fun!  And it is.  A great deal of fun. But at that time.  I was cringing.  Why?  Because I knew.  I have always known.  I’m fat, much too fat to be a model.   I didn’t voice any of this of course.  I knew what would happen if I did.  They would simply assure me, “Oh, no! You’re not fat!”  I had heard it all before; plenty of times, but I had never believed it.

Well, against my better judgement I went along with it, I agreed to model for the show.  We went and tried things on and it was fun! Fun to play dress up with the pretty hats, gloves, and other fancy things.  I went home happy but that night I cried myself to sleep.  Cried because I still knew.  I was too ‘fat’ to model.  I still remember trying to squeeze into my sisters dress.  Pressing myself in, holding my breath, willing the fat away.  But it was of no use.  It would never fit.  Not in a million years.

When the day of the fashion show finally did arrive, I dusted off an old vintage hat from my closet and placed it on my head.  I was determined to enjoy some of the gala too. Even if I was ‘fat’.  I remember when the fashion show began.  I joined the long line of models, all lined out in their pretty vintage frocks.  I tucked my arms behind my back and stared down at the floor.  I felt ugly and ridiculous. I wanted to slip away, and pretend that just today at least I was not ‘too big’.  One by one the models stepped out.  One by one the line diminished until it got to me.  I leaned against the wall, and bit my lip.  I did not go out.  I just wanted to disappear.

There was a slight intermission in the show.  The models all come back stage and I tried to put a smile on. Tried to act happy and careless.  But inside I ached.  The dear sweet lady who had arranged the show called me over and handed me a gray suit on a hanger.

“Why don’t you model this for us?”  She said.  Every inch of my body cringed.  I couldn’t. I was ‘too big’.  I finally managed to murmur. “I don’t think it will fit.”  “Why don’t you try it and see.”

I went into the bathroom and slipped the suit off the hanger.  It was gray wool with rabbit fur lining on the sleeves. I began to put it on.  Praying that it would fit.  My sister pulled up the zipper and sure enough! It fit! I come back out in the gray suit.  The lady placed a matching little hat on my head and handed me some gloves.  I felt so glamorous! I joined the line of models and this time went strutting out and twirled, a smile beaming on my face.

That may have seemed like a very long story to you.  And maybe it was.  But then you don’t know the courage it took to write it. I have modeled several times since then.  Each time, I still cringe a little.  Each time, I think to myself ‘Why are you doing this?  You’re fat remember.’  But when I slip into those beautiful vintage clothes I don’t feel fat anymore.

I’m still not a size 2.  I’m still not a gorgeous blond with a dazzling smile. I’m still big. I guess to some I’m still ‘fat’. But that is not what matters.  That’s not what beauty really is.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; these things are beautiful.  As St. Peter puts it “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” The hidden person of the heart.  The heart within the shell. That is where beauty comes from.

There’s a word in Russian ‘Krasivaya’. It means beautiful, but strong. Unique. I believe that it is the unique qualities, their strength of character, which makes a person beautiful.

My favorite thing to draw is people.  I love to study people’s unique qualities.  Their individual beauty.  I love to find it and bring it out. I love to discover their Krasivaya. For there is beauty everywhere. In the big things and the little. The tiny flower, or the strong tree.  Everything has a unique beauty; if you only learn to find it.

So yes, I’m big!  Big as in ample.  Big as in considerable.  Big as in beautiful.


A couple of weeks ago I came across some of the most amazing artwork I had ever seen.   It was a delightful scene of a mill, with a waterwheel busily turning water, and a small fisherman trying his luck in the mill pond.  The picture itself was good, but upon closer inspection both the work and the artist became incredible.

The picture had been typed by an artist named Paul Smith. I say ‘typed’ because the entire picture, mill, wheel, and fisherman, had been created using only a typewriter.  Why would someone ‘draw’ with a typewriter?

Well, for Paul Smith, it was the only way.  Mr. Smith was born with severe Cerebral Palsy. Because of this he was unable to even hold a pencil, much less draw.  But that did not stop him.  He taught himself how to draw by using the symbol keys such as # ! @ * _ – on a typewriter.  The typewriter, a thing that must people use to communicate with words, he used to express himself through art.

Mr. Smith passed away June 25th 2007 at his home, Rose Haven Nursing Home.  He was 85 years old and had created over 400 works of art.

I was truly touched by the story of this inspiring man and the beautiful images he was able to create. Perhaps what made it more amazing was the fact that it was because of his ‘disability’ that he had learned this new and unique way of drawing with a typewriter.

This got me thinking.  Often times it seems that those who have ‘disabilities’ in our world are viewed as being disadvantaged, or pitiable.  In fact the very word ‘disability’ seems to entail a less than status. But this is clearly not the cause.

There is dignity in all that carries the gift of life. God does not make mistakes.  Everything He makes is beautiful and perfect, just the way He made it.  Every leaf, every star, every single person: is a masterpiece.

To watch the video I saw of Mr. Smith click the link.

Featured Image of Paul Smith “The Typewriter Artist” Image from

Drawing Upside Down

Recently I came across a drawing exercise I had never tried before. This exercise required that you draw upside down.  That’s right, upside down.

How do you do that?  First, you turn the reference for what you are drawing upside down. Then you try to copy the shapes just as you see them.

I decided to give this exercise a try. I turned my reference picture over and started drawing.  I concentrated on one small section at a time, covering the rest of the picture up so that I wouldn’t be distracted. I wondered how this was ever going to turn out right! But to my great surprise and pleasure when I was finished and turned the drawing over it resembled fairly closely the cat that I was trying to draw.

                The reason for this exercise was to teach me to draw better by seeing better.  I turned the picture upside down so that it wouldn’t look like a cat. That way instead of trying to draw a cat, I would be drawing what I saw. Instead of a cat I was drawing a collection of shapes; an assortment of lines and squiggles that when arranged correctly resembled a cat!

Life is like that.  Sometimes it seems that my life isn’t going anywhere.  It looks as though I am getting nowhere and I wonder how things will ever turn out right.  But that’s just the way I see it.  There is nothing wrong with my life, only the way that I am looking at it. I can’t see the whole the picture.

But God is sovereign.  Not only can He see the whole picture, He is also the one drawing it! He is directing every line, every shape.  He is making my life into the masterpiece that He has planned it to be! He is using me to declare His glory and power. Even when I can’t see it.

So if the world is looking a little topsy turvey. Remember, that is just the way we see things. God is still in control and He knows what He is doing.  All that we can do is concentrate on the little lines and shapes in front of us. Then trust Him with the rest.