Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Soundtrack of Christmas (...and a Giveaway!)

For some reason, it just doesn't feel like Christmas until I've listened to these albums:

(click on the album titles to preview songs on Amazon.com)

The Carpenters' "Christmas Portrait"
I love the whole album--all 21 songs!--but a few favorites would have to be "Christ Is born," "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays," and "Little Altar Boy."  I grew up listening to this album at Christmas time and I still consider it one of my top choices.

Jim Brickman's "Peace"
A beautiful, mostly instrumental collection.  Many lovely renditions throughout, but hands-down favorite would be "Rejoice (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)."  I think it's my all-time favorite version of this song.

Another album I've been listening to for years--with just the first notes of the very first song, I know it's Christmas.  Nothing like a little saxophone to jazz up the holidays.  Favorites would be "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger."

I'm not much of a Point of Grace fan, but I really enjoy this album, especially "When Love Comes Down,"  "Emmanuel, God With Us," and "Not That Far from Bethlehem."  They are welcome additions to the traditional songs.

Love, love, love this album.  If you haven't seen it performed in concert, you're missing out!  It's referred to as "rock opera," and it's pretty amazing.  Hard to pick favorites here, but I'd have to go with the opening song, "An Angel Came Down," which sets the stage for the entire story.  Also, "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" and the most well-known track from the album, "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24."  I've been listening to this album a lot the past few weeks, and it lifts my spirits every time I turn it on.

This is a more recent addition to my playlist, but it has quickly become a favorite.  What I appreciate most about this album is that it stays true to MercyMe's style throughout, and they've done a nice job of altering some of the classics by adding great worshipful choruses.  Favorite songs would be "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Gloria," "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," and of course, "Joseph's Lullaby."

Another recent addition, this album has such a warm, jazzy feel--staying very true to Ginny's style.  Being a big fan of Ginny Owens, I was thrilled to bring this into my collection and she certainly didn't disappoint.  Top songs would be the originals, "Christmas All the Time," "Miracle," and "This Is Christmas."  Also the beautiful and haunting rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" to close out the set.

I have about 30 albums in my Christmas collection right now, and really, I love them all for different reasons.  But these are certainly some of the favorites--and ones you should try if you haven't heard them.  In fact, I think I might know a way for you to try a couple of them....

I'm giving away two Christmas CDs!

The first one is a copy of MercyMe's "The Christmas Sessions" that I found at the Goodwill.  The case has a little wear, but the disk is in pristine condition and plays perfectly.

The second one is a copy of Ginny Owen's "Bring Us Peace," brand new and still shrink wrapped.  I think I bought it on clearance last year for far less than I paid for my own copy!

All you have to do is leave a comment here or on Facebook and tell me one (or several!) of your favorite albums to listen to this time of year.  I'll be doing two separate drawings, so you can indicate in your comment which album you'd like to enter for--or write "both" if you'd like to be included in both drawings.  Leave your comment before midnight on Sunday, December 5, 2010.

I can't wait to hear what you are listening to....I'm always open to adding new music to my playlist!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Growing Is Beautiful: The Collage, Part 3

If you missed Part 2 of this post from last week, click here to catch up.

If you missed Part 1 of this post from last year, click here to find out how this all began.

If you're all caught up and ready for the next installment, you're in the right place!

When I was in the 8th grade, my language arts teacher gave us an assignment to cut words out of magazines and create some form of poetic art piece with them.  I loved that experience so much that I saved the leftover words in a Ziploc baggie, anxious to use them in another project.

14 years later, I still had that collection of words.  I hadn't forgotten them.  I just hadn't figured out a way to incorporate them into something that was both beautiful and meaningful to me.

But then.

At the beginning of last year, when I wanted to use art as a means of processing my grief and redefining my life, I realized that these cut-out words would be the perfect thing.  And I was ecstatic.

So ecstatic, in fact, that I started this blog just to tell you about my project.

As I wrote last week in Part 2, I couldn't have imagined that it would take me 18 months to complete this art piece that I had begun with such gusto and excitement.  But during that year and a half, I had the chance to play around with the collage medium a bit and discover exactly what I wanted my "Growing Is Beautiful" collage to be.

My first two collages ("Love At First Sail" and "Heritage of Hope"), which I created one right after the other, were mostly photography based with a few background colors and textures thrown in.  And although the words were a significant part of each project, they weren't the main attraction.  The end results felt more like scrapbook pages than art pieces to me:
"Love At First Sail"  (Click photo to enlarge)
"Heritage of Hope"  (Click photo to enlarge)

Don't get me wrong--I liked them both and they were very fitting for their intended recipients. But I wanted to play around a little more to find something that would let the words take center stage.

A few months later, I tried again with my "Spring Is Now" collage.  I didn't use any photographs this time, instead utilizing acrylic paint to create the colors and mood I wanted for the piece.  And it worked beautifully:
"Spring Is Now"  (Click photo to enlarge)

When I finally sat down to finish the infamous and long-awaited "Growing Is Beautiful" collage, I knew I wanted something similar to "Spring Is Now" but I was interested in trying larger swathes of color as a background.  I also wanted the colors to support my theme of "growth" and the messy, painful, and beautiful process of "becoming."  For this reason, I wanted both warmth and coolness, light and dark--but all the colors needed to have some depth in order to reflect the complicated, powerful, and rich nature of this journey.  I first painted this color test:

Believe it or not, it was completely by accident (on my part, at least) that the colors moved in a diagonal warm-to-cool progression from the top left to the bottom right.  But accident or not, I knew it was perfect as soon as I painted the last section.

I had already picked out all the phrases I wanted for the collage way back when I first began the process last year, so once I settled on the color palette and design, I was ready to put it all together.  And miracle of all miracles, it turned out exactly as I hoped it would.

My cut-out words, inspired by an 8th grade assignment, had finally found their perfect home after all these years.

Here is the final piece with the frame I chose (with my mom's help!):
"Growing Is Beautiful"  (Click to enlarge)

And believe it or not, I'm going to be writing yet another installment in this saga to tell you the significance of the phrases I chose for this collage.  I had intended to fit all of that here in Part 3, but alas, my wordiness has gotten the better of me...again!

Come back for Part 4!

And let's hope I reach the end of this series in the not-too-distant future.

(Click here to read the end of the story in Part 4)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Growing Is Beautiful: The Collage, Part 2

In the interest of being honest here, I wanted to title this post--Shocking News!  Art Project Finally Reaches Completion After 18 Months.

But I quickly realized that such a title was much too long to be useful.  Not to mention the fact that Part 1 of this post has been waiting a year and a half for its conclusion.  It just seemed highly unfair to title it anything other than "Part 2" under the circumstances.

You may recall (or you may not!) that when I started my blog in the Spring of 2009, I chose the name "Growing Is Beautiful" based on the art project I was working on at the time.  It was a collage that I hoped would help me process my grief and my struggles as I worked to form new views about God, about myself, and about life in general.

Of course, I had no idea that my journey of loss had only begun, that my heart had much more breaking left to do, that my process of moving forward and rebuilding would extend far beyond the road I could see in front of me.

And let me just say here how grateful I am.  Grateful that I didn't know what awaited me.  Grateful that I don't have to go back and do it all again.  Oh, I know.  I know there will be many more stretches of grief in this life.  But I don't know the when, the why, or the how.  And this not knowing--it's what gives me the freedom to live, here in this moment, without fear of what lies ahead.  Because I know the One Who Knows.

As loss after loss unfolded last year, the beginnings of my collage project went into a box along with most of my possessions, and I turned my attention to the matters at hand.  I packed, I uprooted, I grieved.  And I moved forward into a life I hadn't planned.  A life I wasn't sure I wanted.  A life I didn't quite know what to do with.

And my unfinished collage remained hidden and untouched.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered what God had known all along.  It wasn't this collage that was going to help me find hope again.  Rather, it was the telling of my story that would open the path for me to heal.  And that telling happened here, on this blog entitled Growing Is Beautiful.  A blog I started only to share my "art projects."

Instead, it's become a place where the Author of Life shares His art projects.  And let me tell you, He's a far better Artist than I could ever hope to be.

Now, without further delay, let me present to you the collage that inspired this blog and, thus, started me on a journey I never expected but deeply needed:

(Click photo to enlarge)

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this post to learn more about the process of making this collage and the significance of the phrases I chose.

And let's hope 18 months won't pass before I get that post written.

(Click here to continue the story in Part 3)

Friday, November 19, 2010

And The Winners Are...

For a minute there I was afraid most of you didn't love Christmas nearly as much as I do.

But then I posted a "last call" on Facebook yesterday and discovered that many of you were just too busy with other things to notice I was doing a fun giveaway.

I'm happy to know I'm not the only one who enjoys this season with abandon.  And I'd like to point out that my love of Christmas is clearly genetic.  I think my grandmother's 86 Christmas movies tops my 26 pairs of Christmas socks any day of the week.

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for.....

After throwing names in a hat and pulling two of them out, I am pleased to announce the winners of this Christmas mug giveaway:

Winner #1:  Kim--author of my little corner and my only Canadian friend!

Winner #2:  Nellie--my sweet friend and fellow worship-team member!

Congrats, Ladies!  Kim, as winner #1, you can choose your cup (red or green) and send me your choice along with your mailing address to any of my emails--Facebook, personal, or blog.  And Nellie, I will hand deliver your cup next time I see you.

As for everyone who didn't win--don't despair!  I'll be doing another Christmas-themed giveaway right after Thanksgiving.  And since many of you mentioned music as one of the things you love about this season, I think you'll like my next giveaway.

Happy Christmas Season!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Believe it or not, there are only 43 days left until Christmas.

What? You didn't want to know that?


Well, while you are busy panicking about all that needs to be accomplished in the next 6 weeks, I'm going to be celebrating some of the little things that make this my most favorite time of year.

First, I pulled out my Christmas mugs this week.  Festive, aren't they?

And then, just today, I started wearing Christmas socks.  Yes, it's true.  Thanks to my mom, I am the proud owner of 26 pairs of Christmas socks.  I'll have to extend my wearing of these socks until after New Year's just so I can wear each pair more than once!

And let's not forget the "sounds of the season"--most of my CD cases are packed away in storage somewhere, but here are the ones I could scrounge up for you:

And last, but not least, this is the perfect time of year for another giveaway!  Yes, that's right.  I'm giving away TWO festive Christmas mugs.  These ones, to be exact:

Oh, don't worry.  I'm not giving away my Christmas mugs.  These are duplicates of ones I already have and I want to share the fun with you.  As with 99% of my mugs, I found them at the Goodwill, but they are original Starbucks mugs and both are in excellent condition.

And in case you can't already tell how awesome they are, consider what's inside them:

And underneath them:

And on their saucers:

And if you're into stats, these cups are 3 inches tall, 4-1/4 inches wide at the rim, and hold 12 ounces.

Now, don't you just want one?

To enter the drawing, all you have to do is a leave a comment--either here or on Facebook--and tell me something you enjoy about the holiday season.  It could be one of the things I mentioned above or something completely different.  Eggnog lattes?  Pumpkin pie?  Five-course meals with 37 extended family members?  Decorating the tree?  Pulling your cat out of the Christmas tree before he tips it over?  The choices are endless, in my opinion.  But then again, I do think this is the most wonderful time of the year!

Leave your comment before midnight Pacific time on Thursday, November 18, 2010.  I will draw 2 winners, one for each cup.

Now go enjoy the next 43 days--and start listening to Christmas music already!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Remember the Light, the Color, the Beauty

About 6 weeks ago, I spent a couple afternoons in one of my favorite places:  The Washington Park Arboretum.  I took advantage of the unseasonably beautiful weather to enjoy the last of the summer blooms and the beginnings of the fall colors.  And of course, I took many, many pictures.

I had wanted to post these pictures quite a while ago, but the whole organize-my-life thing got in the way.  I was lamenting that fact until I pulled up my photos last week on a rather dark and dreary day.  Looking through the pictures lifted my spirits immensely.  The sunlight, the blue sky, the brilliant colors--all of it reminded me of the beauty that is Autumn.

I often joke about Seattle having two seasons:  Rainy and Summer.  The rainy season, of course, is 9 months long.  And there are certainly years when that isn't even an exaggeration.  I know all of you Pacific Northwesterners know what I'm talking about.

But we were blessed these last couple months with more sun than we saw for much of the summer.  And even though this was kind of an anomaly weather wise, the beauty of this season wasn't an anomaly.  It's just that sometimes we miss it amidst the clouds and the rain.  And sometimes we simply forget it as soon as the darker days roll in.

Every time I look through this set of pictures, I remember the light, the color, the beauty of Autumn.  Of the created world around us.  Of the One who made it so.

And when I remember, my heart nearly bursts with Hope.

Maybe yours will, too.


Here are a few of my favorites from this set...

Many pictures of Witch Hazel trees (but then, you already knew about that obsession, didn't you?) like these:

The lighting on this photo of the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) gives it a sense of mystery that I love:

The ever-beautiful Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) looking splendidly colorful here:

I discovered a couple of Nyssa sylvatica trees out in the grass fields on the west side of the Arboretum, and they were spectacular:

Something about the sunlight and the color of these dogwood leaves makes me happy.  Who said pink can't be a fall color?

Two perfect sun flares in one picture?  Love, love, love:

You can see the whole set by watching the slideshow embedded below or you can view the slideshow full size by clicking HERE.

 (All pictures taken with the Nikon D50 camera and the Tamron 90 mm macro lens)