We made it friends, it has ended in Tiers, Tier 3 to be precise but we're still standing...ok, leaning! Let's start this newsletter with a deep exhale and a high five, or maybe a soft back rub depending on how you're feeling. Our year began with my ice skating accident (pic in gallery) and prolonged concussion, followed quickly by hubby's Covid then broken nose and now ongoing head issues, throw in some income unknowns, house move and keeping everyone's mental health happy, It's been a bumpy ride at times. I don't know about you but I can swing between having it all together and teetering on the edge of lunacy. Cabin fever anyone? Despite all the challenges I can't help but circle back to hope, for in the midst of it all goodness is to be found, a twinkle lights of hope that darkness has never overcome.
Shall we turn our eyes away from headlines and laundry piles and look instead to some beautiful things?
1. Still Life: Inspired to create my very own Christmas Still Life I hopped online and searched for 'Christmas Still Life Oil' and researched which composition jumped out at me. I fell in love with the image below and set about my endeavour. I didn't do any further research at the time as to the artist or era etc, I only went by appearances. Now as I come to share my own work and the image which inspired it I am thrilled to know more of it's origins. Artist Eloise Harriet Stannard (1829-1925) was one of only a couple of renowned female painters of her time, and was born and lived in Norfolk, UK. Can you guess her greatest influence? None other than my No.1 art-crush Jan Van Huysum, it's no wonder I was drawn to her! Check out this only photo of Eloise, amazing. I feel like God gave me a little kiss and surprise from heaven with Eloise this month. Instagram has some fabulous examples of her work too.
I wanted to keep my composition simple this month, it's been a complex and demanding year in so many ways so stripping it back seemed a good approach. Clementines always remind me of Christmas, now you can eat them all year round but back in the day they would make their festive appearance every December. We grew up pretty stretched financially so to me they really were a sweet treat and Eloise's inclusion of them resonated with my childhood memories. I hope you like it.
I've made up a bit of a Christmas Stocking for you this month:
2. The Chosen: Christmas With The Chosen, what a worshipful feast! This could be good for Christmas Eve or over the holiday sometime. I have goosebumps upon goosebumps watching this, they show snippets from the new Season 2 currently in production plus the short film The Shepherd which got this all started. If you're yet to see the series of The Chosen I highly recommend, I about cried on each episode, never have I seen Jesus portrayed so beautifully in His humanity as well as divinity. There is also an app for The Chosen which is free and streams to your phone. 3. Story time: Jamin Still is a wonderful artist and author. Make yourself a cup of something warm and enjoy having Ellen And The Winter Wolves read to you along with his beautiful illustrations. My favourite illustrator, poet and author is Charles Van Sandwyk. I am enthralled by his work methods. Mr Rabbit's Symphony of Nature is too delightful.
4. Podcast: Sally Clarkson's annual declutter podcasts are always worth a listen heading into a new year. Episode 14, 230 and 355 will set you up for 2021. It was back in 2015 that I first heard of Sally through this declutter podcast, I never could have dreamed I'd be working in Mum Heart ministry all these years later.
5. Craft: I am in awe of this embroidery work! If sewing is your thing and you have deep pockets or looking for a special heirloom type gift Crewel Work Company have stunning kits. I am adoring their Insta page. Enjoy a short talk on how they create their designs.
6. Movies: Something different and surprising in a couple of ways is the family film Over The Moon. Don't be fooled by the childlike animation, this is a story full of heart, dealing with real life issues and if you research the back story behind the writer you'll see why. Beautiful. An oldie but worth a mention in case you missed it is The Odd Life Of Timothy Green (spot a Hamilton genius in the cast).
8. Baking: Oh oh oh, these cookies are so good and so easy! I only added 1 1/2 cups choc chips and also did a mix of dark and milk. Let them sit for a couple of mins to sink then say goodbye to will power!
10. Carols & Music: For King & Country live in Phoenix AZ has been on in our home, so lively and creative in their performance and presentation. If you don't know who The Katinas are you're in for a Christmas vocal treat, and yes they are all family. I don't think I'd know of them if it wasn't for my Samoan friend who first introduced me, their vocal harmonies are on point and they're beautiful people. If you just want peace and a good use for your TV try this or this. Maybe you'd like a Narnai woodland or, Harry Potter's winter? Failing all of those, let's go traditional. The Future of Forestry's Advent Christmas EP Vol 2 has been on repeat here this month. The Provence Work Music playlist is wonderful when I'm on a shoot. Scroll to the top track Lighten Our Darkness by Joel Clarkson, harmonies by his sister Joy, The Two Benedictions, turn it up! On repeat Miserere.
11. Christmas Bonus: And buried in the bottom of the stocking, in case you need some extra Christmas sparkle this staple needs sharing every year. 5 funny adverts (although the Sainsbury's at the end made me well up!) and a Christmas song I wrote back in the day called Star, (lyrics here) this is my gift to you today. I'm currently finishing up a course I'm writing about our device use but this isn't quite what I have in mind. It's old and the quality not great but it's still so funny. Oh oh oh one more entry!
Friends, I hope wherever this finds you that no matter what the situation looks like, no matter how bumpy or how overcast with shadows, that you know you're not alone. It has been one heck of a journey and I for one am tired to my bone marrow. It really is ok to not be ok. It's ok to feel battered and broken, it's normal to feel grief and a sense of loss. For some that loss is very real as we've said goodbye to loved ones this year. Can I remind you today that God is with you and for you and understands our pain, even the everyday craziness. His own Son was brought into a world in turmoil, under occupation, tyranny and exploitation. Born into a dirty stall for animals, His parents isolated and alone, He really does 'get' our struggles. He stooped to meet us in the muck and madness, He came down to our reality and walked with us to show us His love. Emmanuel, God moved into the neighbourhood. Peace friends and blessings to you this Christmas, see you on the other side. I leave you with a more realistic Christmas scene, painted by artist Gari Melchers (ca 1891) The Nativity.
Snapshots from December
Cookies (see recipe) 2. Oxford door 3. Chalk board 4. The village Clemtentine model 5. Fresh biscuits from my bible study pals delivered to my doo 6. Elizabeth & Mr Darcy 7. Lone tree 8. Crime scene Dec 30th 2019 9. Muddy winter walk with my dear friend who brought us a picnic, Italian coffee!