Smart Choices Equal a Better Life Story

17 Nov

This is a break from our Religious Narcia series, but it will continue later in the week.

Each of our lives are a story we are living out every day. I believe the goal for all ACONs is to not only survive, but to thrive so here is the story of a girl who thrived.

Ashley Wood Picco’s  short life of 30 years was marked by serving others. As a young woman, she went to New York in 2002 to help with cleanup efforts after 911. She finished her mission and met a young musician Chris Picco who was from Canada and fell in love.

Even though it would be a few years before they married, they would eventually be married for seven years, have a dog and thrive in community with other young adults. Ashley wanted to be a nurse so she worked hard to get through school and eventually became one. One of her biggest dreams was to become a mother.

As I listened to the stories about Ashley’s life, I heard how she lived a life of empathy for other people–as a teacher of little ones, as a nurse, as a mentor and friend to other young women. I was reminded how God created us to thrive and live in community with other people.

One of Ashley’s favorite sayings was, “Make smart choices” and it seems one of the smartest choices Ashley made was loving God and loving people. Some of us ACONs who have experienced too many Thanksgiving dinners without love, might find it incredible that Ashley embraced both Canadian and American Thanksgiving. She obviously celebrated the life she’d been given.

Ashley was six months pregnant when she died. According to the youtube video, she died in her sleep and the reason is still pending. Her child was delivered by an emergency c-section and he lived for several days, but died in his father’s arms. The YouTube of Chris singing Blackbird to his baby boy, Lennon went viral.

From either a Christian or non-Christian perspective, the deaths of two precious and innocent people leaving a husband and father to grieve alone seems like a horrible mistake. It feels like God dropped the ball. Even though I didn’t know them, I stopped when I heard the news and wept. I had to ask God where He was when this tragedy happened.

Many people are probably still asking how could this ever be God’s will? And we assume it was God’s will because God did not stop it. But perhaps God’s will was not carried out.  Jesus said to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is one of those times when it feels like God’s enemy has won –until I heard Chris Picco singing at the end of the memorial service where he sang my favorite hymn, “This is My Father’s World.”

Chris Picco testifies:

“I know that God did not compose this, God had nothing to do with this, but I can see Him, tears streaming down his face, beginning to compose one note at a time the most beautiful melody that anyone has ever heard. And I don’t know what that sounds like, but that’s the God that I believe in.” -Chris Picco

You might not have time to watch the memorial of a person you’ve never met. I almost didn’t, but I am so glad I did. I am more grateful for the dirty dishes I washed this morning and the sunlight filtering through the last of the Autumn leaves outside my window. Despite all the pain in our own lives, we all have hope for eternity and we too can sing with Chris Picco:

“This is my Father’s World,
Oh let me ne’er forget–
that though the wrong
seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

“This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done–
Jesus who died
Shall be satisfied.
And Earth and heaven be one.”

Thank you Chris Picco for shining through the darkest days of your life. May God continue to fill you with peace.

Stand Tall in Your Truth

30 Oct

It’s been a busy fall and while I have been focusing on my book, I have not been blogging or painting as much. As we approach the holidays, my heart goes out to all the ACONs who are struggling with family drama. I think the most difficult thing to do is stand up for yourself when people disrespect you, but the truth is the only way to gain self respect and the respect of others is to stand in your truth.

Giraffe-in-Pink-Clean-WM

It won’t be easy to do, but having good boundaries will help you realize when someone is pushing your buttons and you have the right to say thus far and no more. That might look like leaving the building, or not calling or refusing to attend family gatherings. Chances are the people who do not respect you at holiday dinners will also not respect your choice to spend this time with people who do respect you.

When your family doesn’t respect you, the best thing you can do stand up for yourself. Respect is the foundation for every relationship and even if others treat you with disrespect, you can still respect yourself. Sometimes it takes this for others to realize that you deserve respect, but you have the right to treat yourself kindly even when they don’t.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

When you realize how much you are worth,
you’ll stop giving people discounts.
-Unknown

I made this art especially for a reader named “One Escaping Goat” and hope it is a blessing to her and all of you who deserve to stand in your truth. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say I am worthy of relationship and if you do not respect me, I will go where I am celebrated.

I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season standing in your truth.

Why I Support Women’s Ordination

14 Oct

The church I am a member of and grew up in is discussing women’s ordination today and hopefully they will vote on it next year at the General Conference. Even if this doesn’t happen, I am not planning on leaving the church, but I do feel it’s important to discuss this and let our voices be known to stand up for not only women pastors, but for women everywhere because the way the church treats women sets a precedence for the rest of the world. I believe this is a human rights issue.

This blog has always been about freedom from dysfunctional families and religious abuse. I believe the way women are treated in church influences the way women are treated everywhere else, but don’t take my word for it, listen to Jimmy Carter and the Elders from all over the world:

“The justification of discrimination against women and girls
on grounds of religion or tradition,

as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority,
is unacceptable.”
-Jimmy Carter and the Elders

 

Annointed-WO

Little Red 23rd–He Anoints My Head With Oil

I believe God created man and woman in his image. Some argue Adam was created first so that means that he should lord over Eve, but the animals were created before Adam, does that mean they should be in charge of Adam?

I believe male headship is a result of the fall. Because of sin, someone had to take charge or they would both fight to lead, but when Jesus came and lived among us, He showed us how a true leader leads by serving others.

Jesus came to set all captives free and restore what was broken in the fall. Despite living in a patriarchal society, Jesus loved and called women.

It was a woman who announced the coming of the Messiah and carried Him in her body for nine months. It was a woman who raised Jesus and taught Him from the Scriptures. The woman at the well was the first missionary. Jesus defended Mary’s right to sit at His feet like a student learning from a rabbi. It was Mary who anointed Jesus before He completed His most difficult task and Mary was the first to announce to the world that Jesus had risen from the dead.

If Jesus allowed women to sit at His feet and proclaim His most important announcements, who are we today to stop women from following His call? If we are truly Christ’s followers will we not treat all women as Jesus does?

Having said all this, I don’t believe women’s ordination should be forced on everyone, but that each conference should be able to decide for themselves what will best meet their local needs to spread the gospel.

I believe women’s ordination is more than church politics. The way the church treats women sets the bar around the world for the value of every woman and girl. Because there are still societies where women are abused and treated as nothing, the church as Christ’s representative on earth should set the standard and proclaim to the world that a woman in the eyes of God is just as important as a man.

When church leaders follow Christ, it brings hope and sets the standard for every woman and girl that someone in this world represents Christ and values her as much as her male counterparts.

Losing My Religion for Equality by Jimmy Carter

Andrews University Statement The Unique Headship of Christ

Here is a great book I just read that answers many questions about Women’s Ordination:

2014-10-06-QA_WomenOrdination

Make Art, Not War

9 Sep

There are two kinds of people in this world–those who make art and critics. Making art is more than just putting paint on a canvas; it’s the way we choose to live our lives.

Artists put flowers from the garden on the table, an extra little gift on a gift and fresh herbs and care into making a meal. Life is art and it’s up to each of us how we will use the tools we’ve been given.

Critics, on the other hand are not as concerned with building life as they are judging what others have created. Critics always find a problem with someone else’s design. They can’t tolerate the freedom of other people to create. They feel they need to correct their theology, adjust the table decorations and tell other people what to wear.

Critics have no time to contribute to the world because they’re too busy complaining about how the art of others should be corrected. Criticism brings pain, discord and ultimately death into this world, while art brings hope, resilience and life.

Peace-WM

Some critics question how can we sit around playing with colors on paper when terrible things are happening in this world. They are concerned about starving children, Ebola virus and terrorists who chop off children’s heads. For a moment I listen to such critics because I too am appalled by the terrible things happening in this world, then I remember how the Nazis plundered art during World War II.

Adolf Hilter was once an artist or at least an artist wanna-be. He applied and was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, but somewhere Hilter stopped making art and became a critic of the arts. When he became chancellor of Germany in 1933, he began to call art that did not pass his approval “degenerate art.”

Degenerate art included most art that was not from the old German masters. In Hitler’s quest to purify a nation, he started by stealing the freedom of artists to express themselves and eventually stole life from those who did not meet his standards. Perhaps history would have been different if Hitler had focused on making art, instead of trying to sculpt an entire race.

Art represents freedom and individuality. Most critics are not interested in the freedom of others, they simply want to control the outcome of someone else’s art. Whether the art is on canvas, or artful patterns of living, critics feel they need to adjust the freedom of others. We can follow the critical and destructive path of Hilter, or we can offer the beauty of freedom and hope to a world filled with despair.

So what business do we have enjoying life, painting pictures while such horrible atrocities are happening to our fellow humans? The truth is we are not on the position to stop every terrible thing from happening, but we can do something in our own neighborhood. We can express hope through color and individual expression and bring beauty to the lives around us. Making art is a form of resilience to the pain of living in a broken world.

God didn’t create selfishness or sickness. All of this pain is the result of God’s enemy. If this world still operated the way God intended, we would all be making art of some kind. It would be the norm to be designing, decorating, singing and playing. We would craft amazing gardens and compose beautiful symphonies because the pinnacle of our existence is to reflect our Creator. We were designed to add beauty to the universe with our individuality for God’s glory.

Our lives can be summed up by the way we contribute to the world around us–we either do this artfully, or we do it critically. Art is what we do with the tools we’ve been given. Art is what we create out of the chaos of our lives. We might temporarily live in a crippled and dying world, but as long as there is a God and life, we can make art and live artful lives and this is how we honor Him.

Thank you to everyone who participated in my Birthday Week Contest.

Here are the winners of the drawings:

For sharing on Facebook:

Jered Kostenko

For commenting on my blog:

One Escaping Goat

And for leaving a comment on Etsy:

Deborah Stevens

Please comment below or email me at CherilynClough.com with your address and I will put your art in the mail.

To read more about Nazi plunder during WWII:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_plunder

What it Takes to be Brave

5 Sep

This piece of art was inspired by my brave friends. Those who are dealing with relationship problems or a rough diagnosis or struggling to make a living or those who wonder if they will ever find love in this broken world. Whatever our trials, they never seem small when we are going through them. Living and acting on the life we have is an act of courage and defiance to the evil in this world.

Brave-Soul-WM-Etsy

Here’s to the many brave people who get up every morning when they’d rather pull the covers over their head. Here’s to those who walk with pain or carry a painful heart as they go about their work, church and school. These brave souls realize the secret to being brave is not how we feel, but the action we take in response to life’s trials. Whatever happens, brave souls never give up or give in, they keep on looking up for the silver lining.

I especially want to dedicate this to all my friends who have had to deal with cancer this year. I send healing wishes and prayers for all of you! Bravo for fighting a good fight! And sometimes the fight is not about having a longer life, but having a better quality of the life we have today. Today is all any of us really have so let’s make it a good one.

I didn’t use any fancy techniques on this picture, I just painted a brave girl’s face and wrote the truth, but she caught the eye of a therapist friend who just opened a new practice near Seattle, Washington. Congrats to my friend and favorite therapist Lisa Boyl-Davis who will be putting this in her new office!

Talk about therapy–Jason Mraz has a great song that describes what it takes to be brave. Three things to do when your life falls apart. Enjoy!


EXTRA FOR MY ARTIST FRIENDS:

Here is how I package my art. When you sell online, it is all about the buyer’s anticipation. They have to wait to receive it, so it’s nice to make it worth their wait by dazzling them a little. You can do this by wrapping it cheerfully and adding an extra surprise for them.

1. Start with a business card. (These came from Moo. I punched a hole in them and added a string of hemp and a bauble for fun.)

photo (48)

2. Add an extra surprise–I think a greeting card is perfect because it adds very little weight, is valuable for them and shows the great quality in case they might like to purchase some.

photo (47)

3. Write the recipient’s name on the back of the picture and sign it (be sure to ask if it is for them or a gift).

4. Then I lay all of these inside the back of the picture and wrap it in tissue paper.

5. I write a personal thank you on a postcard and attach to the package with curling ribbon.

photo (49)

6. The last step is to wrap it in bubble wrap before slipping it into a US Postal Service Mailer.

photo (45)

Note: By charging $12 for mailing, I can afford the USPS mailer and tissue and insure it for up to fifty dollars.

Feast In Front of My Enemies

4 Sep

When Rose discovered a more loving picture of God, she rejected her parents’ harsh religious views, but her narcissistic mother did everything she could to get Rose to agree as she had been raised. Rose had seen the light and for her there was no going back. After many lengthy arguments, her mother packed up Roses’ belongings and kicked her out of the house.

Shut out and with very little money she had no choice but to rent a studio apartment in a questionable part of town. Rose’s first supper was a can of green beans eaten out of the can with some plastic silverware she bought at a local convenience store. Rose had never dreamed she would be put in this situation and as she ate her green beans, tears rolled down her cheeks. She was lonely and scared and thought of all the things she needed to survive.

A-Table-in-Front-of-My-Enemies-WM

Little Red 23rd–A Feast in Front of My Enemies

Rose had a job, but no iron or ironing board to iron her uniform for work. She had no glasses or dishes or curtains. Her only transportation was a bike and she wondered how she would be able to carry the stuff she needed to outfit an apartment without a car. Exhausted, she said a prayer and went to sleep on the drop down bed in her new home.

The next day her brother showed up at her work. She hadn’t seen him in years because her mother had told him to stay away from the family home. He gave her a ride to the store and helped her buy the things she needed to live on her own.

Once again, the Good Shepherd not only supplied Rose’s needs, but prepared a feast for her in front of her enemies. This feast was not a physical meal; it was spiritual nutrition as her new understanding of the Good Shepherd nourished her soul and soothed her fears.

Rose is not alone. I have experienced such a feast myself and many other people who have been under all kinds of persecution and pain have discovered they can survive on less than green beans when they are fully awake and aware of the Good Shepherd’s protection and provision.

This happened many years ago. When Rose told me her story, she added throughout the decades, the Good Shepherd has never let her down. Even when we feel all alone and the cupboards are bare, we can endure such circumstances because the Good Shepherd has never abandoned us–He always protects, always plans for us and always prepares a feast for us even in front of our enemies.

Be a Giraffe

4 Sep

Many AcoNs* have been awake and aware long before the rest of their family. This causes them to be ostracized and scorned for speaking the truth and trying to help the rest of their family find healing. Often the one who sees the dysfunction first is labeled as the scapegoat, but there is good news for the designated scapegoats.

You might not be a goat at all, you might just be a giraffe. Listen to the video at the bottom where Dr. Karyl McBride explains how giraffes stick out their necks and see the world through possibility and move forward while they can observe the past and the future. This piece of art was inspired by the short video below. Thank you Dr. McBride.

PS If you think you might be the daughter of a narcissistic parent, Dr. McBride’s book Will I Ever be Good Enough–Healing the Daughter of Narcissistic Mothers is a must read.

*ACoNs-Adult Children of Narcissists

UPDATE: This picture sold as soon as it was posted, but if you want a giraffe picture of your own just let me know and I can make you one and give you the sale price of thirty bucks–which is a good price for an original handmade piece of art.

Giraffe-WM-Etsy

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