Sunday, January 29, 2012

Daily Grace

Today I saw a video discussing the Jordan River in Israel. It was one of the fastest rivers in the world before it was dammed in modern times to provide water for the population. At the time of Moses and the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, it would have been a formidable barrier to entering the Promised Land. But that's where God called his people to go.

God's people crossed the Jordan River on dry land, but they didn't get a clear path across the Jordan until AFTER they stepped into the over-your-head-deep rushing waters. The waters didn't part until the priests' toes touched the water. They had to exhibit 100% faith first. They had to trust God with everything they were. They had to obey God and take that scary leap into the chaos.

Life is like that every day. The adoption of our youngest child was very much a leap-into-the-Jordan action. My husband and I had only been married for just over a year; we were enjoying life together. All of our children were on their own, and we had several grandchildren. One day we received a phone call from a social worker saying that one of them was in need of a foster home, and possibly of a permanent adoptive home. We were shocked to realize that this child was in this situation; we had no idea! And we (well, actually I) were surprised to think of becoming any kind of parents again! I was quite happy with our empty nest.

My husband listened to my concerns, and then pointed out that we needed to pray before we made any decision. We also asked a few close friends to pray for clarity in this. I could think of a bazillion reasons why this was a bad idea... but I prayed earnestly for God to change my heart if it was what He wanted.

Just like those Israelites facing the raging Jordan River, I was afraid. I had raised this child's birthfather, and it was NOT an easy task.  I didn't want to repeat that part of my life. I was tired after a day of teaching; I wouldn't have enough energy for a two-year-old.  I LIKED my life; it was quiet and simple (and quite self-centered, I began to realize as I prayed). But God told the Israelites to GO. And God was clearly calling us to say YES. So I jumped.

And just like God astounded the Israelites by providing dry ground for them to cross the Jordan, God provided energy, strength, understanding, and reassurance for us as we took in our grandchild, first as a foster child, then as an adopted child. And exactly like the Promised Land's milk-and-honey, our "new" family was exactly right. I can't imagine NOT parenting this beloved child.

Sometimes people say, "Oh, what a good thing you are doing by adopting your grandchild!" To which I say, "Oh, no. That's not it at all! What a good thing GOD is doing in us and for us and with us in creating this family. It's an amazing blessing in every, single way."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Every Feather: Blue, Too!

I told the story of this red feather, entitled "Every Feather," a few days ago. It was a frustrating piece to create, but well worth it! I love the detail and the textures of all the red glass pieces. This was one of three pieces that I shared at an art show in late 2011. It was my first art show, and I loved it, too! Here's a picture of the wonderful display that my mom and dad helped me build to show the glass best.
Prior to this art show, I had never put my glass for sale commercially. I usually made pieces for friends or family. I have occasionally created something for someone who paid me, but it's never been even enough to pay for materials, let alone my time. The reaction from the public during this art show made me realize that my beloved hobby could become a money-maker. I set about learning about how to make sales legally, paying my taxes, etc.

This month, January 2012, I officially registered my business name, A Glimpse of Grace. I also got my federal and state ID numbers. I'm opening a business checking account. It's been a little overwhelming in many ways, but I am excited to be able to share my glass more widely.

I am continuing to make my own artistic series framed in found window frames, but I'm also trying to make some pieces that are less expensive. My Valentine's Day piece, highlighted in my last blog entry, is the first of my holiday specials. I originally made three pieces and posted them on my facebook page. I sold those three in about a week. Then yesterday, when I was in my studio making another "One Great Love" for someone, my phone received three messages ordering "One Great Love."

I was excited, but UGH! I didn't want my glass-making to turn into drudgery. I wanted to make my next piece! Then, as I was building "One Great Love" again, I realized that I had a unique opportunity: I could pray for the person(s) I was creating for. Instead of feeling pressured, I began to feel blessed. Another good lesson from "One Great Love!"

Here is my finished "Every Feather: Blue." This one has even more textured glass than the red version. I love it! The glass itself measures 20x16 inches. The frame makes it about 22x19 inches. The price is $275.00. I'm hoping that it stays with me long enough to show at an art show! I plan on doing THAT again. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One Great Love: Two Stories

 These three glass pieces are obviously all made with the same design. They are three distinct pieces, though, and they have two stories. The first is fairly simple: I have succeeded in starting a business for my glass. I have had consistent interest from many in purchasing my glass pieces, and I finally decided to take the plunge and start a business.

 "One Great Love" is my first "commercial" undertaking... and it's gone very well. I do still have some of these 8x8 in pieces left, and I can make you one if you'd like to special order certain colors or styles of glass. The cost is $30.00 if it's pre-made and $40.00 if you special order one. I am experimenting with shipping and have shipped my first order to a friend. She will report to me if it arrives in good condition.

That's the first story of "One Great Love."
The second story is much more important for me. A couple of weeks ago, when I decided to try "going commercial," I was given this design almost instantly. I sketched it, then discarded it because I thought it wouldn't sell as easily as a heart without a cross. I felt a little bad about it, but I wanted to make some sales. I also thought the long, skinny cross pieces would be hard to cut and not break when I built the pieces.

I designed a very nice heart with a series of glass blocks on one edge; it was simple and not too difficult to cut or build. I created my duplicate design, chose glass, cut glass, and started to build the piece... EVERYTHING went wrong! I broke a couple of pieces cutting. I couldn't get the pieces to set right when building. There were gaps everywhere! And when I tried to solder... it was NOT pretty! I had piles of solder; solder wouldn't stick to the zinc; and I had trouble regulating the temperature of my soldering iron. It took forever to create, and it looked like it was my very first piece of stained glass.

I sat back, after finishing it, and thought about what made it so hard. Clearly, I wasn't supposed to ditch God's inspired design! Clearly, "commercial" wasn't to mean that I left behind my focus on faith in my art.

I then finished designing the inspired piece you see pictures of above. I designed, chose glass, cut glass, and built the first one is less than two hours. To contrast, the wrong piece took around 7 hours total. "One Great Love" built like a dream. There were no struggles. No gaps. No frustrations.

I'd love to say I learned my lesson. Unfortunately, I know I am human, and that means I have a long way to go. But I moved a bit in the right direction through "One Great Love."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Every Feather

"Every Feather" started with a basement window frame that a friend found in a garage. I took it, and didn't have to wait long for inspiration. This feather was certainly the most intricate piece I had  attempted up till then. It has around 50 pieces in the feather alone. Making it was difficult and tedious! I had to rebuild it entirely once, carefully placing the pieces on a board in the same order in which they had to be reinserted. Add to that, meeting my husband, getting married, and moving during the time I was building this piece.

 It should have all added up to a heap of frustration, but instead God used this process to build my "trustation." I stopped trying to control everything that could go wrong and started trusting that God would provide the insight and ability I needed to complete the piece. I just needed to trust Him.

Of course, the lesson from "Every Feather" didn't apply to just glass work. God was working on me for my LIFE, not just my art. Getting married again was NOT on my radar. After two divorces (Yes, really. And I'm incredibly embarrassed by it, but refuse to hide my failures.) and a few "serious" dating relationships, I had decided that I would be happy living on my own. That's part of why the challenge of "Every Feather" was welcome.

God had different plans. I like to say God "dropped Brad in my lap," it was so unexpected. Here was a man of faith. Here was a good man. But my fears were almost overwhelming. In my first marriage, my husband had "pulled the wool over my eyes" for more than 15 years! How could I possibly trust that Brad was who he seemed to be?!  My second marriage's failure was much quicker and should have been foreseeable, at least in hindsight. How could I trust my own judgment??!!

I confided my fears to Brad, and he suggested we pray about them together. (I know he also prayed about them for me; that's just who he is.) In the process of prayer, over a period of days, my fears disappeared. Our relationship was totally, completely, absolutely different from any I'd ever had. We talked early and often about the kind of marriage we wanted. I realized I needed to stop trying to control everything that could go wrong and start trusting that God would provide the insight and ability to create a good and solid relationship. I just needed to trust Him.  Luke 12:24 brought me full circle, back to my glass. If God provides so richly for the birds, how much more will he provide for me. If Brad and I would just trust God to lead us, He would provide whatever we needed to fulfill our marriage vows. And He has. (Even as life has led us into some interesting places.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Inspired Glass

After my initial inspired piece, "God's Garden," I didn't really expect to receive inspiration ever again, let alone regularly! Instead, God has given me guidance for my glass designs each and every time.

Another of my early pieces is unnamed. I created it for my mother, a dear woman who was named "Grandma Heart" by some of her grandchildren. She is a woman of faith, so I juxtaposed hearts with a cross. This piece remains installed in the home she lived in when I made it for her.

When my parents moved into a condo, I made them this piece for above their entry door:
The word is Hebrew for Jesus. All who enter their home view it as they arrive.

This piece was a wedding gift for my husband, Brad. I was teaching when we got engaged, and I asked him for an outline of his hand one day, telling him it was for a class project. Then I used that (and an outline of my hand) to design "What God Has Joined." The green/blue of the hands is one of my favorite glasses. It's a hand-made glass with lots of texture and color.

When my husband and I married four+ years ago, we had a window in our house that was crying out for stained glass. It's a half-bath in the front of the house; the window is alongside our front door. My inspiration came all at once, like "God's Garden." This time, I envisioned flowing water and blazing fire come through the hand of God: "In His Hands" is the result.
I will share a few more completed windows in my next blog. It amazes me that God gives me inspiration and the ability to build these beautiful window panels. I am blessed by each one, and I can't wait to see what He has in mind next!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

An Adventure in Glass

My husband started a blog several months ago and has been writing in it regularly. It is exciting to watch him process and write about theology and God, and it's exciting to listen to others' responses to his writing. I was never tempted to join him...really!

Of course there's a "But..." to that statement because here I am! Jumping into a world of writing that I barely visit, let alone participate in. So the question is: Why? Partly because I have a friend who asked for a link to my artist's blog (which didn't exist until now). Partly because I have watched my husband working with such purpose and joy. Partly because I love to write. Partly because I'm curious. Partly because I'm about to venture into the world of "real" business; for me, that's selling art that I create.

It took me almost a decade to claim "artist" as my own. I actually started my first piece of stained glass at the age of 17. I loved the process, but before I could finish, I graduated from high school! So the pieces sat in a box for several years until I finally threw them out to make room for my children's keepsakes. Many years went by; my children grew; my husband went to jail and I divorced him; and eventually I needed something positive to occupy my time. That's when I saw an advertisement for a stained glass class at a local glass store.

I attended the class, made a few "canned" pieces, then was seized by a vision of a piece in its entirety. It was, for me, a completely unexpected event. I had picked up an old window frame from a friend. It was from a 105 year old barn, and it oozed character. In contemplating what to do with it, I considered painting it, using it to frame a painting, hanging pictures of my then-teenage children in it... and then, in a moment, I knew it had to frame a stained glass piece. And not just any piece, a piece titled, "God's Garden" that took me many weeks to design and build. From that inspiration to now, my art has been self-designed, frequently framed in found window frames, and 100% inspired by God.