Monthly Archives: September 2016

Are You Living Life “Full Out”?

full-out-movieSpeaking of persevering in your dreams against all odds, we recently watched an incredibly inspirational movie, Full Out, based on the life of Ariana Berlin. Ariana was just fourteen and a budding Olympic-quality gymnast whose dreams were smashed in 2001 when she and her mom were hit by a speeding car on a freeway in San Diego. Ariana spent 5 days in an induced coma at the ICU: Both her lungs were collapsed and both legs broken as well as one wrist, a collar bone, and cracked ribs. Her injuries were so severe and her therapy so protracted that Ariana gave up her dream of becoming a world-class gymnast, although she eventually joined a troupe of hip hop dancers who were working at Sea World.  full-outFull Out is the fascinating story of Ariana Berlin’s recovery and all she went through to fulfill her gymnastic dreams. She made a tremendous comeback, graduating from UCLA with the rank of #4 in the nation! adriana-berlin-and-ana-goljaOne of the most exciting things to me is that Ariana actually served as her own stunt double! So, making the movie took Ariana’s dreams to a new level. At 26, Ariana decided to “go for it” and train again so she could impersonate what she’d been like at 18, even doing the “Full Out,” which she hadn’t been able to do for over 5 years. (A “Full Out” is a double somersault with a full twist done during the second somersault.)

full-out-ariana-berlinIf you’re looking for a family-friendly video that will motivate you
to persevere despite setbacks, try Full Out. It’s really awesome!

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.
(Luke 18:27)

Are You Backlit?

shineshine-and-autumn-leavesDo you ever have revelations during the night? Since ArtPrize started, I’ve been sleeping so hard I don’t even wake once up during the night, but I still have semi-conscious moments of thought. I woke up this morning thinking, “I know what’s going on!” Okay, so maybe I don’t really, but no fewer than twenty people, while viewing my mural, have asked me, “Are you using back lighting on your photos?”

“No,” I respond a bit sheepishly, “but I wish I could figure out how to do that!”

“Well, they look like they’re backlit!”

I’ve puzzled over that response, because one of my frustrations has been lighting. I installed LED bulbs with more lumens in the Holiday Inn’s ceiling fixtures above the mural, and the curator graciously allowed me to put footlights on the first half, “January to June,” which is in the alcove of the front lobby. However, fire codes and respect for traffic flow made it impossible to install footlights for the “June through December of Life” half of the mural, which is in the only softly lighted south entrance hallway. I’ve been worried that the colors don’t pop the way they need to, so it’s always a surprise when people ask if the mural is somehow backlit.

Here’s my thought: Maybe they’re seeing the radiance of God emanating from the photos. Could that even be possible? Are they picking up on something spiritual? Now I wish I could go back and ask each of them where they’re at on their spiritual journey. Because, in fact, the mural is named “From the Rising of the Sun” and is all about the beauty of God’s creation and his love for us, as demonstrated by this glorious planet that He’s given us. Backlit? No. Radiant? Well…maybe! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

Similarly, we’re just “jars of clay,” and I find myself frustrated that I’m not more luminescent. Perhaps, despite our own frustrations, others can see the radiance of God shining out through us, even in the shadowy hallways where we live. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

“Shine on Us” (—Phillips, Craig, and Dean)

“Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

“That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way
In the darkest night
Let your light shine on us.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

How Much Does it Cost to Vote?

trump-and-clinton-at-first-presidential-debateHow much does it cost to vote? Well, that depends on what you’re voting on. For instance, it doesn’t cost anything to vote for your favorite ArtPrize entries, although you do have to be in downtown Grand Rapids and take the time to register on line. But, what about something huge, like a presidential election? In our country, the “cost” is about the same: you have to be a citizen of America and take the time to register. However, to vote wisely is a different story! At ArtPrize, right now you can vote for anything you like, so you can cast 1—1,453 votes. If you like it, you can vote for it, and that’s fun! Unfortunately, just the opposite is true in this year’s presidential race.

Did you watch the presidential debate last night? Trump and Clinton were introduced as the least-liked presidential hopefuls in the history of our country, and sadly, that reflects my personal opinion as well. Whether it’s a matter of voting for which one I “like” better, or even which one I like less, I just feel like throwing up my hands in despair. I believe this election will test each of our individual priorities and beliefs more severely than any previous race. I don’t have the slightest confidence that either of them is an altruistic statesman with the integrity and wisdom to stop our country’s sled ride into moral and financial bankruptcy. However, I don’t believe any of the 20± independent candidates—if elected—could do better (not to mention I don’t think any of them has a ghost of a chance of being elected). Bottom line: Are we sunk? I’d like to think not, but I’m fearful.

However, just when I’m feeling pessimistic about our country’s future (like last night), I remember that we can all choose to be part of the Kingdom of God. (“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” [Psalm 56:3].) This opportunity is open to anyone, not just in Grand Rapids or in America, but anyone who lives anywhere in the world. Like ArtPrize or the U.S. election, it doesn’t cost us a penny to vote! Like the U.S. presidential campaign, there are basically two choices on the ballot, and the “vote” concerns whom you’ll choose to be your personal sovereign: The Prince of this World, or Jesus, who is “The Prince of Peace.” I choose Jesus, because He alone brings peace to my heart, and I know someday He will bring peace and healing to our entire world.

Thank you, Lord, that despite the unrest and difficulties we all face now, we can have the peace that passes understanding in our hearts, knowing that we belong to You, that there’s a spiritual kingdom greater than any kingdom here on earth, and that someday evil will be overcome by good.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Is it True that “Everything is Possible”?

everything-is-possible“A life without fear is a life without limits” (Jen Bricker). Have you ever heard of Nick Vujicic or Jen Bricker? I’d never heard of Jen Bricker before I read her book, Everything is Possible, which was just released last week, but she really does give me the feeling that with God, everything is possible…at least everything that God calls us to!  jen-bricker-with-her-adopted-brothersBorn without legs, Jen was abandoned by her parents at birth. Thankfully, an incredibly nurturing family adopted her and brought her up to love God and embrace her life and her body, learning to overcome what most of us would consider impossible barriers to become what she is today: an aerialist, a motivational speaker, an author, and best of all, a joyful, healthy individual who has turned her liability into an asset and lives an incredibly rich, fascinating, and fruitful life! jen-bricker-performingEverything is Possible has made me re-evaluate the way I look at challenges. If Jen could overcome huge physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles without legs, it makes me realize that I’m a wimp by comparison. If you’re down in the dumps about your life problems, take a break to be inspired by Jen’s life story, then get to work realizing your dreams. As Jesus taught us:  “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).   jen-brickerA few of my favorite quotes from Jen’s book:

“As we try new things, we discover how strong we are and realize the only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.”

“Our physical presence is only part of who we are as human beings. What’s inside is just as important, and maybe more so.”

“You too have talents, gifts, and abilities (I like to think of them as your personal superpowers) you were born with that are unique to you…The beauty of how God made us it that we don’t have to be jealous of someone else’s superpowers, because they weren’t meant for us. This one thing I would tell you to keep in your back pocket at all times: know that you are significant, you do matter, and what you have to offer is powerful.”

“God shows us the opportunities and puts them in our path, but we have to be strong enough to grab them and then hold on for all our worth.”

“I’ve learned that the more I surrender and let God take care of things, the better off I am. I get out of my own way, I get out of His way, and then I let Him do His work….My dreams are laughable when compared with God’s plans for my life! His gifts, ideas, and blessings are so much bigger and better than anything I could possible imagine!”

“CAN’T is a 4-letter word.”

“I finally realized something: God didn’t owe me an explanation. Sometimes He’s simply protecting us, and we have to trust that there is a lesson to be learned.”

“Sometimes you have to be your own hero. What I mean by that is that you have to fight for what you believe in and for what you want to happen.”

Anyway, Everything is Possible has a treasury of inspirational ideas on how to overcome what appear to be tragic circumstances. It also gave me many insights into how to interact with those who have body shapes different from the norm.  Baker Book House has graciously given me an extra copy to give away, so if you’re interested in reading the book, I’ll give it to the first person to contact me via this blog, email, or Facebook. If you have a story to share about yourself or someone you know that might benefit us, please add it in the comment box. Thanks!!

Rise Up, My Love (205): Clear as the Sun

i-want-to-walk-in-the-light-as-he-is-in-the-light-please-pray-for-me-and-if-youll-tell-me-i-will-pray-for-you-tooSong of Solomon 6:10 “Clear as the sun.” What a challenge! As I study this magnificent book, I am acutely aware of two things: first, Solomon is writing about a real person; and second, in a deeper sense, the Lord is picturing his bride. For my part, I am striving to become like this treasure of a wife to my earthly husband and like the beloved bride to my heavenly Lord. When I come to a description like this one, I stand in awe. How could anyone truly have a countenance “clear as the sun?” …even granted that the sun isn’t perfectly pure in God’s sight? sun-behind-kids-at-ludington-state-park Think of the sun. To the naked eye, it looks like a perfectly round, perfectly pure, golden globe. The sun is the monarch of the sky; it has been commonly worshiped around the world by heathen as “queen of the heavens” because its energy is the source of heat and light for our whole earth, and without that amazing radiance, we are told that life could not exist. hot-sun-setting-on-mediterranean-seaThe sun shines with an intensity that will blind anyone who dares to meet her gaze or attempts to stare her down. The sun appears to be perfectly clear and perfectly constant. Since time began, the sun has been rising and setting with perfect regularity, marking the times and seasons. Let’s take all these characteristics of the sun and imagine what Solomon might have meant when he described his wife as “clear as the sun.”sunshine-in-alaska-fjord To have a countenance like the sun would be to have a countenance that is transparent, pure, constant, brilliant, and life giving. “Clear”…transparent—a woman who has nothing to hide…who is without guile, deceit, or hypocrisy…who has no hidden agenda and no secret plans to manipulate her husband or those around her. What a worthy goal for women (and all of us who are believers)! winter-sun-on-rose-hipsPure—no taint of sin…no tarnish of covetousness…of wishing for what is someone else’s…be it husband, personal qualities, or possessions. No heart of envy or propensity for idolatry, rebellion, or dishonesty. What wouldn’t a husband give to have such a virtuous, trustworthy wife? Constant—steady as the sun…always warm (hot!), always bright, always clear, always there. sun-burst-behind-cloudsThe sun doesn’t run away and hide; it never refuses to shine; it is not fickle….here today and gone tomorrow. No, it is the weather changing on the earth that makes us unable to receive the sunlight when clouds arise and the world turns; it is not the sun that changes her mood! chestnut-trees-in-bloom-at-kensington-park-londonOh, that as women we (and all of people) might be as constant as the sun, always there, always steady, always burning with incredible heat. Brilliant—not just existent…not just there…not only constant but brilliant…beautiful, full of wisdom, understanding, compassion, and the incredible heat of unfailing love—the reflection of the Lord’s glory. Does such a woman exist? But, wouldn’t you like to be such a woman? I would!

Asian Stir Fry (Stephen’s “Best Effort”)

asian-stir-fryMaking Asian cuisine is a true art form, and my son Stephen has mastered it way better than I have. In fact, his dishes rival any I’ve eaten at P.F. Chang’s or anywhere else. Much of the secret is in the sauce (which Stephen always makes from scratch), but if you don’t have several hours to prep, there are some excellent commercial sauces, and never underestimate the value of sesame oil and soy sauce in a pinch.

I’ve learned a lot from watching Stephen, and I notice that he: #1. Makes the sauce first (often marinating the meat in part of it for a few hours), #2 Chops all the veggies, #3. Starts the stir fry in a hot wok with sesame oil by cooking the meat until done. He totally removes the meat at that point and then #4. Begins stir-frying all the vegetables, starting with the most dense and gradually adding those that require less cooking to become tender, which is how his vegetables end up cooked to perfection and still colorful. Last of all, he #5. Adds the meat back in, just to reheat it, along with any seeds or nuts. This way everything is hot but has great texture.

You’ve probably been to Asian restaurants where you can pick your own meat, vegetables and nuts, and sauces. If you’ve not added any Asian dishes to your home cuisine yet, here are a few of the most commonly used options to get you started:

Meats: beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, tofu

Vegetables: pea pods, onions, garlic, carrots, green onions, mushrooms, peppers, bok choy, bean sprouts, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, string beans, asparagus,  miniature corn on the cobs, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts (last three found canned in Asian section of stores)

Nuts: cashews, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds

Spices: ginger root (peeled and sliced very thin), basil, lemongrass, garlic, cloves, tumeric, cinnamon, cilantro, hot chilies, cumin, coriander, curry 

Sauces: Hoisin, soy, plum, curry, peanut, brown, coconut, oyster, fish, etc.  (I buy prepared sauces from the store, although I sometimes add a can of coconut milk or a few tablespoons of peanut butter because I love the peanut and coconut taste points.)

The real joy in making stir-fries for yourself is that you can develop recipes from scratch that will often mimic your favorite restaurant meals for a fraction of the cost. Also, if you’re trying to lose (or maintain) weight, you can skip the rice or other starches without depriving yourself of fantastic flavor. And, once you’ve experimented for a while, you might get to the point where you actually prefer your own cooking! I’m not that good yet when it comes to Asian cuisine, but I’d take Stephen’s “best effort” (so named from an old family joke) over P.F. Chang’s any day!  (Ya, but what about the Great Wall of Chocolate???  Well…I’m on a diet!)

All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” Proverbs 15:15-16).

ArtPrize 8: Just Where is the Rising of the Sun?

the-more-you-sweat-in-practice-the-less-you-bleed-in-battle-artprize-8-kathryn-w-armstrongArtPrize 8 is off and running! I’ve had several friends wander into the Holiday Inn without realizing that my mural is there, so let me give you the details in case you’re in GR and planning to go to ArtPrize, because I’d love to see you and I’d hate to miss you! My entry is titled “From the Rising of the Sun” and is being displayed at the Holiday Inn at 310 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

gerald-r-ford-museumIt’s opposite the Gerald Ford Museum, van-andel-museum-center-jpgacross the street from the Van Andel (Grand Rapids Public Museum), devos-learning-centerand kitty corner from Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

grand-riverIt’s just across the river (0.2 miles) from the Amway Grand, so it’s at the cross roads to some of the best art in town. It’s also just 0.4 miles from Grand Rapids Art Museum, 0.5 miles from the B.O.B. (Grand Rapids’ “Big Old Building), and 0.6 miles from DeVos Place, so it’s super convenient for the most popular venues! arriving-at-the-holiday-inn     Whether you go in the front or back entrance,  you’ll see half the mural.artprize-8-front-lobby-mural-at-holiday-inn “January through June” is at the front entrance, and “June through December” is at the back entrance. Using 400 of my favorite  photographs from around the world, I’ve created a collage trying to tell the story of life on Planet Earth through the seasons of one year and one lifetime. artprize-mural-summer-to-winterHere’s my “Artist Statement: “The top row reminds us of the universal constants we all experience: the glorious sun and moon, rising and setting with comforting precision. Row two showcases another global experience, the beauty of flowers, which can be found everywhere around the globe. Row three highlights the experience of fauna through the seasons. Row four looks more closely at how the flora and individual homes are affected by seasonal changes, using photographs from our cozy “Tanglewood Cottage” here in Grand Rapids. Row five takes an intimate look into one person and one family (mine) through the seasons of one year and one lifetime, but my hope is that it resonates with the emotions and cultural experiences of everyone who views it: birth, growth, adulthood, marriage (or family life; I know some never marry), new life and enjoying grandchildren, growing older, and finally, in the December of life, walking into a sea of clouds on the mountain top, looking hopefully to a glorious future life after we leave Planet Earth.january-of-the-year-artprize-8The lower half of the mural is arranged in ten collages, each comprised of twenty photographs from around the world on a particular theme that compliments the season above.”   artprize-8-from-the-rising-of-the-sunThis is my hope and prayer for the mural: “From the rising of the sun on the day we take our first breath until we walk into life’s sunset, I hope the beauty of our world lifts our hearts to praise the One who created us and provided such a glorious home.” friends-stopping-by-to-see-from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-artprize-8I have a booklet with notes on each photograph for anybody who comes and would like to know more detail, although if I’m there when you come, I can answer questions! I’d really love to see you if you come, and if you leave me a message in the comment box or on Facebook (message works too), I’ll try to make sure I’m there when you come! I’ve been going about 10:00-5:00 Monday-Friday every day, but I’ll be less regular on weekends due to family responsibilities and fun, although I’ll still be there at times, so please don’t be shy! It’s a real highlight of my day when friends drop by!

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-artprize-8“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,
the Lord’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).