In Awe of the Creator: Art, Life, and Beautiful Strength

I have loved art since I was a little girl.

I remember being maybe eight and standing in front of just one panel of “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum and feeling like I might begin to understand the Bigness of God. I would imagine jumping in the painting and then falling through to the water, but God lifting me up, sitting me firmly in the center of a lily pad and asking me my thoughts on life and the day.

This is the Creator I always wanted to know more about, who fascinated me to no end.

When I met Kati Kleimola I was instantly struck by the air of creativity that surrounds her. Kati is a professional artist, wife, and mom of five. She has a home studio, exhibits in juried shows, and teaches classes at local galleries.  Her Instagram is a bevy of vibrant color. Every time I look at it, I am struck with that same intimate, yet bursting-at-the-seams, feeling I experienced with Monet’s “Water Lilies.” In Kati’s work, I see Life and that is no mistake.

She tells me,

“I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and come from a family of makers and fixers. Art has always been a part of my life. Even as a child I was always painting and drawing. Capturing the world on paper has always helped
me see it better. Having a rhythmic relationship with my Creator is something that I need to function as an artist, wife, and mother. The fact that God has blessed me with so much that I don’t deserve or couldn’t imagine keeps me humble and keeps me wanting to share His beauty with the world around me.”

Kati and I have dreamed for a while now of a study that helps people learn of a Creator that isn’t far off from His creation:

One who redeems.

One who loves fully, vibrantly.

One who shows us His own handiwork in both light and dark, sunshine and shadow.

Then, when I wrote Altogether Beautiful, all I could see was imagery everywhere. Two words kept rolling in my head:

Strength & Beauty

Kati saw it too and calls it,

“The give and take of things from one extreme to another.”

How do you capture that with words on a page alone?

When I met with the team at Concordia Publishing House to dream about a vision for the study I kept trying to describe things that look like strength and beauty to me-

Pride and Prejudice, the field, ridiculously large coats, dawn, birds, cat tails, slightly unkept hair, fog, sunlight, striding toward

the pillars and steps of the St. Louis Art Museum on a sunny day, a pond and paddle-boats at its base

dark chocolate, melted, strawberries, and the taste buds to enjoy it

and Kati’s artwork.

Flowers could be just flowers on a canvas, yes, but an artist brings strength and life to them with a bold pallet, brush strokes, fine details, and the Creator working in them.

Our God brings strength and life to His world and His Word through his own large strokes of time, plans, and space. He gives color and meaning to the grey and mundane. Even the very dark is cloaked in the velvet of His purposes.

He reaches us with His Word by sharing the glory of all He has made, in order for us to understand all that He is.

Here’s just one example in Song of Songs 5:1 –

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
    I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
    I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
    I drank my wine with my milk.

What of a world without honey, a world without sweet, without spicy? We don’t have to know that world, because He gives all of it to us in plenty.

Art helps us to see this, to capture this.

Concordia Publishing saw the same thing in Kati’s art: an opportunity for us to connect to the Creator visually, while we tarried in the Word; a way for the ripeness of God’s descriptions in the Song of Songs to come off the text rather than be trapped in my words and descriptions alone.

Kati recently told me, “When I read the Song of Songs I see really stark contrasting images…Luscious life, spring time, deep colors, flowers all over the pages, animals, seasons, shapes, colors, and land features. The contrast within the descriptions is so poetic and at the same time reflects what artists have to do in shaping images with light and dark.”

Here are some pieces of her inspiration when she was working through the Song. What do you see? What stands out to you in the Biblical narrative and in Kati’s flat lay below?

So, we did it! We created a book, a Bible study that not only uses words, but uses Kati’s art alongside Scripture’s rich language and Truth to help us connect and understand a Creator who would be connected enough to Redeem us.

In Altogether Beautiful, my hope is that you’ll see vibrant life on each page, I hope. Because of God’s Word. He shines brightest, as He should. I also think you’ll see the Life He gives a little bit clearer because Kati Kleimola put brush to canvas and let us include her work.

Wait until you see the finished product.

Check out more information and get a free sample of Altogether Beautiful here.

Connect with Kati and see her pieces available here.

Where do you see strength and beauty around you in His Creation? Where do you see Life in His Word? Who helps you to see it? Share with us in the comments.

Strength, beauty, art, and Life – altogether beautiful.

Three Things I Can Learn from My 8-Year-Old

This is Jyeva. (Pronounced Yay-Vuh.)

If you look up the definition of “free spirit” in the dictionary, you will likely find her picture.

Jyeva has a fresh way about her, a caring and affectionate nature, and can offer up intercessory prayer with the best of them.

Jyeva teaches me something new every day, but there are three lessons that God weaves continually in my heart as I parent this precious girl.

Be yourself.

Jyeva has her own sense of fashion and style. You say rainbow butterfly leggings, lacy shirts, athletic socks, and Converse do not go together? Jyeva says, “Why yes they do, kind sir.” The year that Jyeva was 3-years-old we called her Boca because she insisted on wearing only bedazzled velour track suits everywhere she went. She had no taste for dresses, especially for church. She believed then and still does today that Jesus was meant to be honored in converse with purple stars.

Another year, I battled that girl to try on an Easter Sunday dress to match her sister’s. All three of us huddled into a dressing room, the light bulb finally went off, when Jyeva looked at me, eyes wide open, “Why would I want to wear a dress to match Macee’s? I’m not Macee, am I?” She intended no disrespect, her tender tone cut right to my heart, “Nope, you’re not Macee and I love you just the way you are.”

How often have I needed to set aside the expectations around me and embrace who God made me to be? Who am I trying to be most days anyway? Someone who could pass for having it all together? I’d rather be the broken but beautiful me, a living masterpiece declaring a Savior who has fully redeemed me, and continues to put all my pieces together into His masterpiece, each and every day.

Embrace life.

Jyeva runs at life on full throttle. You ask her to give you two laps, she does four. You ask her to give it her all, she gives it 150%. But the lesson she teaches me isn’t about giving it my all and being bold. Jyeva’s lesson is simpler.

When Jyeva was 5-years-old, we almost lost her sweet self. I remember very clearly rushing her down the side of a mountain in Haiti to get her to the medical care she needed in America. Seven days later, lying in a hospital bed, the nurse tentatively took all of the needles and tubes out of her little body. Jyeva looked a me, smiled, and said, “Look, Mom, it’s Jyeva… Unplugged!”

She knows full well that life is short and your time here is like a blink, a half second, the length of a dandelion flower in a strong breeze. Jyeva’s passion is to end homelessness. To have a passion, at age 8? She’s my hero.

I want to be Jyeva when I grow up.

How often are we uncomfortable diving into something passionately? How often do we take for granted the day that God has given us today to do His work and love His people?

Allow others the same – to be themselves, to embrace life.

As is also evident from Jyeva’s outfits, she highly values creativity. But more than her outfits, Jyeva thinks outside the box. The best way she expresses this is in the way she regards other people. Jyeva honors each and every person as a full unique individual in the Body of Christ, in the world around us. She expects no one to look like her, speak like her, think like her. In this, she is always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. She’s always willing to ask a question, instead of jump to an assumption. God created each of us unique, with a unique path to walk. We are all on the same Emmaus road, trying to understand the Word and the work of Christ in our lives, but we may all do that in very different ways.

So often I am quick to judge, quick to assume. Praise God for a Savior who is quick to forgive. Quick to love.

I wonder if these lessons are useful at all in your family, in your life, or even in your church. The more I look around me, I wonder if we fully accept the Jyeva’s of the world in our spheres. Do we greet those who dress a little different from us at church with the same comfort we offer those who look like us? Do we invite people to share their joy and passion and ideas openly and wholeheartedly in our families and our churches? Are we careful enough with people’s testimonies, honoring their walk as valuable and interesting, worthy of sharing, even when it doesn’t look like ours?

Matthew 16:18 has one of my favorite nuggets of Scripture that can easily be skipped over because of the depth of the rest of the passage (emphasis added below):

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…

You are Jyeva.

You are you.

God gives each of us personalities and ideas. I’m so thankful for the unique journey God gives us. I’m so thankful when these journeys cross and our lives are made better by one another. Let us honor who he made us to be today, by being ourselves, embracing the life that He’s given us, and allowing that same precious gift for one another.

40 Date Night Ideas to Spice It Up

Recently I wrote a blog for the Everyday Faith blog, over at Concordia Publishing House – 

Spicing Up Date Night (check it out here!)

Here I’d like to offer the list of fun and spicy date nights contributed by young and old alike at our friend’s Sammi and Craig’s wedding. Here they are… #seriouslyadorable*

So, are you ready to Spice Up your date nights this summer? Dave and I are planning on using at least one of these ideas a month for the coming months. Which ones would you choose? What ideas would you add? 

                  40 DATE NIGHT IDEAS
  1. Rent a limo or car just for fun
  2. Paintball or laser tag
  3. Dance at a country hoedown & eat BBQ
  4. Take a mime class together
  5. Date night at home
    1. Grill pizzas, it tastes like wood oven pizza
    2. Have a bottle of wine
    3. A good movie or a card game
  6. Make homemade ice cream & watch a Disney movie
  7. Go to the farmer’s market & cook with your finds
  8. Go back to high school
    1. Go out for ice cream
    2. Go putt putting
    3. Go to a PG13 movie
  9. Drive In
  10. Take a sleigh ride & drink hot cocoa
  11. Roll in the hay #literally
  12. Muddin with an awesome off-road vehicle
  13. Make a dish from a cooking show together
  14. Zip line together
  15. Do a factory tour, especially any place with samples
  16. Try new candy bars and walk them off together
  17. Create your own cheese of the month club – buy 3 new and creative cheeses to share together each month…enjoy with wine! 
  18. Board games & local microbrews
  19. Go to a coffee shop one morning & get a beverage to share
  20. Ride a tandem bike & eat ethnic foods
  21. Go camping & eat s’mores
  22. Explore hiking areas or metroparks
  23. Recreate the first date you had together
  24. Go to a museum
  25. Pottery/painting or stained glass class- create something together!
  26. Sushi rolling class, followed by dessert at a restaraunt
  27. Breakfast Date
  28. Beach day on Lake Huron (or your nearest body of water)
  29. Taco Night with homemade sangria
  30. Shop for ingredients and build your own creative martini bar
  31. Build a birdhouse together
  32. Do a progressive dinner, try a few new restaurants
    1. Do one restaurant for appetizers
    2. Another restaurant for a meal
    3. Another restaurant for dessert
    4. Lastly a different restaurant for drinks
  33. Go fishing
  34. Go for a moonlight (or daytime!) canoe ride
  35. Go to the theater & watch a movie with popcorn, candy, and a giant pop! Try doing a double feature.
  36. Go to a concert & don’t leave until your feet hurt from dancing
  37. Find a magazine with the best restaurant list, see how many you can visit in a year
  38. Get some pillows, blankets and snacks for a midnight picnic & watch the stars
  39. Get a green screen & take pictures of yourselves in front of it. Then Photoshop really cool stuff in behind you. Like the Eiffel Tower, the sinking of the Titanic, a car crash, or prehistoric dinosaurs
  40. Create a Chopped basket for each other and get creative in the kitchen
 *photo credit to Melissa Sue Photo and Design