“Wow. I can barely draw stick figures.”

As an artist, If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I think I might have my student loans paid off by now.

Let me tell you a secret… I couldn’t always paint/draw/(insert whatever craft you have never tried or haven’t tried since middle school here) like this. In fact, I am STILL learning how to be a better artist and teacher.

Want to know some things I can’t do? I can’t play the piano. I can’t play sports. I can’t do certain artistic things, like blowing glass and carving wood. But that’s only half true. It’s not really that I CAN’T do those things, it’s that I choose not to spend the time doing them. It doesn’t really matter if I’m not “gifted” in a certain area – if I spend enough time working on that skill, chances are I’m going to improve. I might want to do certain things, but do I really want to take the time to learn them? I wish I could play the violin… but not really. What I want is for the violin fairy to visit me and sprinkle me with Juilliard-worthy skills – with absolutely no practice what so ever on my part.

Do you know how many hours it takes to be an expert in your field? 10,000 hours. HOLY guac. That’s 20 hours a week, for 10 years. I’m just guessing that I’ve spent 2,000-2,500 hours painting, drawing, and doing other arts. I might have spent a little more or less time, but I’m just estimating here. To put it into perspective, one of my favorite paintings series of 6 pieces took me about 150 hours to complete. That’s a lot of time, a lot of learning, a lot of messing up. It’s a lot of critiques, a lot of late nights, a HECK of a lot of coffee.

On top of all this time, did I also mention that I PAID to receive quality instruction to teach me how to become a better artist? What if you visited your dentist and told him, “Wow, you did a great job on my cleaning. I can barely brush my teeth.” It sounds silly, right? You expect them to be good at their job. They went to school for 8 years, so they’d better know what they’re doing. Sure, you could be a dentist. But do you really want to be a dentist?

What is something that you have you spent 1,000 hours practicing? Do you feel qualified to teach others about this topic? Do you still feel like you have more to learn?

You don’t need to downplay your own skills when you compliment others. It doesn’t make me feel better when you tell me that you aren’t good at things, and it won’t make you feel better either. It’s okay to not be good at something. That’s why we’re gifted in different areas, because no one can truly excel at everything. But if you have a desire to get better at something, practice.

How many hours have you spent drawing and painting? Would you like to spend more? Then do it! What’s stopping you? I’d love to teach you.

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Zaanse Schans – Windmills Galore!

I was so excited to visit the small town of Zaanse Schans – a community just outside of Amsterdam with working windmills! I had been there as a child and I have very vague flashbacks of seeing these huge windmills and thinking they were the most beautiful things that I had ever seen. 18 years later, I was not disappointed at our return!

My dad was visiting us at this time, and so he and I took the opportunity to scope out various windmills and snap a few pictures, while we left Jason to take his time with the “real pictures.” Although, I have to say I am pleased with the shots that I got, even on my rinky dink phone 🙂 It started out a little bit dark, but by the time we left the sun was shinning and it was the most beautiful day ever!

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Tips for those wanting to visit Zaanse Schans:

– Some windmills are free, others are around 4 euro to enter and tour.
– Parking is 9 euro for the day – you pay as you are leaving.
– You could spend at least a half day here, more if you went into all the windmills, shopped around, and had a meal.
– Stroller and Wheel Chair friendly, but you won’t be able to climb the windmills.
– There are several restaurants and shops with food for a fairly inexpensive price.
– If this is your only trip in the area, splurge and buy some hard cheese. If you are going to be traveling around in other places, there are much cheaper cheese shops that you can buy from.
– You can also buy pigment from the paint mill, and spices from the spice mill. Other popular purchases include wooden shoes, chocolate, and you can’t miss out on a slice of apple pie with a cappuccino! 😀

Burg Eltz – Now THIS is a Castle

After our trip to Burg Eltz today, I think it has moved up to my #1 favorite castle, followed very shortly by Reichsburg Cochem. I still haven’t been to Neuschwanstein, so maybe after that trip my rating will change again! I hear she is quite a looker too. Since my dad is here visiting Jason and I this week, we are making it a point to go to a few new places.

For anyone who wants to visit, Burg Eltz was pretty easy to get to. We used Apple Maps to get to it, and that takes you straight to the parking area. Parking is 2 euro per car, and from there you can either walk down to the castle (fairly easy and short 10-15 minute walk, and gorgeous view of the castle on the way down) or take a shuttle bus (2 euro per person each way). The castle itself costs 9 euro for adults for the tour (they have both English and German tours), which lasts about 30-45 minutes. There are also 2 restaurants at the castle, and free restrooms. One drawback for anyone with disabilities is that it’s not very wheel chair accessible, and I don’t really think there is any way that you could get a wheel chair on the tour because of all the stairs.

I really loved the walk to the castle, and I would love to come back when it’s a little warmer outside and hike some more. There were a few other trails around the castle that you could take, and we just took the shortest route because of the weather. The castle was quite lovely, looking at the outside was my favorite part. The inside was pretty interesting too and the tour ticket also includes entrance to the treasury – a small museum filled with interesting artifacts from the family that owns the castle.

For more information, this is the website for the castle: http://burg-eltz.de/

Here are a few pictures to enjoy!

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Here’s one of Jason and me, and one of dad and me! So glad he is here to share this with us!

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Right inside the castle gate – dad was getting camera happy!

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The view of Burg Elz as you walk up to it from the road.

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Another view looking up at the castle.

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One view from inside the courtyard looking up at the buildings.

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There is tons of lovely wrought iron in a variety of designs all over the castle, this is just one example.

IMG_5427Looking down at the castle from the road as we were walking down from the parking lot. So beautiful, even on this cloudy and rainy day.

My Thoughts on Raising a Gender Neutral Child

Yep, I’m going there. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the issue of raising a child without gender bias has been steadily growing over the past several years. Basically, it means that you allow your child to be what they want to be – whether that is a girl or a boy. For instance, there are some schools that allow children to go to whichever bathroom they feel like they can best identify with. This has become quite the controversial issue as of late, and I see more and more articles posted about parents who want to raise their children to be gender neutral. Some parents even refuse to reveal their child’s gender identity to the public until the child is old enough to decide what gender they want to be for themselves. I have thought about this a good deal, and I wanted to share in writing my beliefs on this topic.

First of all, let me start out by saying that while I am a Christian, and I do have a Christ-centered viewpoint on this issue, I do not write this blog as a way to throw judgment on parents who believe differently.

Secondly, I do want to clarify a few things before I get too much on top of my soap box and loose you completely!

  •  I don’t have any real problem with a child wanting to play with toys that are generally associated with other genders. I am 100% all for the little girl that loves Lego’s or dinosaurs or trucks, or the little boy that likes to play house or play with dolls. They are toys, meant to spark imagination and teach kids about how to live in the grown up world. There is nothing inherently evil about that – a thing in and of itself cannot be evil.
  • I don’t have any problem with a girl wanting to wear clothes with dinosaurs on them, or a boy who decides he wants to wear pink shoes (these are merely a few examples).
  • I don’t have ANY problem what-so-ever with a little girl who wants to grow up and become an engineer, a nuclear scientist, or president! I don’t have ANY problem with a boy who wants to be an artist, a fashion designer, a nurse, or a hair stylist (again, these are merely a few examples).
  • I DO NOT have children, but that does not mean that I know nothing about children. I have a degree in Art Education K-12, I have taken multiple classes on child behavior as well as seen and worked with that behavior in action in my student teaching. I have babysat children of multiple ages, I have worked in my church nursery since I was in middle school, and I now substitute teach at an elementary school. I want to be a parent in the next several years, and I do have a knowledgeable opinion on this subject.

Thirdly, you are more than welcome to disagree with my point of view. This blog is all about my point of view, and I don’t expect everyone else to share it. If I did, I wouldn’t really need to write a blog post about it. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts with me, but I expect you to do so in a respectful way – just as I have tried to write this blog post in a respectful way. I do hope that you will think through what I have carefully written out in this post, just as I have thought through what others have carefully written out in their blog posts on the opposing opinion.

With those things being said, let me begin to explain what I DO believe about this issue, based on what God has told me.

  1. Gender is not debatable. I don’t believe that gender is something we get to decide. It is a choice that is made for us before we are born, and it’s a good and perfect choice. Is it crazy for me to say that I believe there is a reason and a purpose that I was born with the anatomy that I have? I don’t think so. There are a lot of assumptions that are made when we make statements like, “I was born into the wrong body.” You assume that you know more than God – you are assuming that you know the plans for your own life, and you are 100% sure that God made a mistake when he formed you in your mother’s womb. There is this whole idea of gender identity, which to me boils down to something quite simple – You proclaim that you are whoever you want to be, not who God made you be.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. – Deuteronomy 32:4

  1. I believe in raising my children to be Godly men and women. Gasp! How dare I say that I want my child to become a certain way. Am I not stifling their individuality? What about creativity and allowing children to develop into their own person?

 The notion that you can effectively raise a child to become their own person without any influence from you as the parent is preposterous.

Yes, I just said that. And I hope that you will stop, go back, and read that sentence again and let it sink in. The whole point of raising a child is to influence them. Otherwise we could just put them in a box and drop them off in the middle of the jungle and call it quits. That’s what many animals do in the wild! We are created differently than animals for a reason, and we are supposed to tell our children about our beliefs and share our thoughts with them. Of course I don’t want my future child to become a copy of me. I want them to have their own interests, and even their own individual thoughts that might differ from mine. I want them to be their own person, and to be able to stand up against the world when they are old enough to leave my house. If I have a little girl that loves sports (when I really have no idea what’s going on at all in ANY sport), that is fine by me. But I would be lying if I said I hoped I would not influence their belief system. It would break my heart to have a child who grew up to believe that they had to work to achieve God’s grace, or who believed that Jesus was only a prophet – not the Son of God. Whether you want to or not, you influence your children every single day. If you are a gender neutral parent, then you are  influencing your child in those thoughts and ways of life too.

So with that being said, what kind of person DO I want children to become? I want my future daughter to one day be a loving wife to a husband, a man. And I want my future son to one day become a loving husband to a wife, a woman.

  1. I believe that homosexuality is wrong. HEAR ME – I did not say that I hate gay men or lesbian women. I did not say that it is okay to persecute gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender. What I am saying is that I don’t agree with this lifestyle, and I cannot in good conscience, allow my children to live it.

In the world we live in today, I know that I’m not supposed to say this. I am supposed to be tolerant and accepting. But… Jesus was not tolerant or accepting of sin. He called people out, made them uncomfortable, he lost friends and followers, and HE DIED because people hated him so much for his beliefs. He was killed so that I could be free of my own sins – and I will not compromise what I believe and pretend that I’m okay with something that I believe is wrong. But wait, isn’t Jesus supposed to love everyone? Yes, and he does. In fact, his love for us is the very reason he is so intolerant of our sin. He loves us so much that he wants us to be free, and he wants good things for us. This is why he can’t stand it when we do things that tear us away from him.

This is not the time where I will explain why I believe homosexuality is wrong – in this post it is enough for me to say that I do believe it is wrong. It is no less and no more wrong than lying or stealing or cheating – in God’s eyes sin is sin. All sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).

What does homosexuality have to do with raising a gender neutral child? If I believe that homosexuality is wrong and my goal is to raise my children to become loving husbands and wives, how can I teach them that it’s okay for them to choose their gender? If they think that it’s right for them to choose their gender, then there is nothing wrong getting to choose the gender of the person that they decide to love. Both things are wrong, and lead to a lifestyle of believing that God makes mistakes and his ways are not perfect. 

In the same way that I don’t want my children to grow up to think that stealing is okay, I don’t want them to believe that homosexuality is okay. I will reiterate my earlier statement: I want my children to know that God had a purpose in creating them, and that he did not make a mistake in any aspect of their creation.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

I have many more thoughts on this topic, but to write them all out would take much more space and time than I am sure you would indulge me.

           

Maastricht, Netherlands

I have not been to the Netherlands since I was small, so I was eager to go back while my mother-in-law was visiting us! I still want to go back in the spring to see the tulips blooming, but I was not disappointed with our short day trip across the border.

*Side note for my technology challenged family members whom I love dearly- you can click on any of the pictures in this blog in order to see them larger*

Maastricht is filled with lots of cobblestone streets that look much like the one bellow. There are hundreds of little shops, apartments, and restaurants around any given corner. There are no yards or grass to be seen along the road unless you peek into someone’s courtyard and they happen to have a little garden. Shh… the door was open, okay?

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I was totally blown away by this cathedral that is has been converted into a bookstore! Wow, wow, wow. It was so incredibly beautiful. I felt like Belle from Beauty in the Beast when the Beast takes her into the library for the first time. We stayed in here quite a long time. I can’t even imagine how long I would get stuck here if all the books were in English…

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Overall the theme of Maastricht seemed to be bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles. We had a terrible time finding parking, so I understand why. After we got out of the bookstore, it was pretty overcast outside and sadly most of my pictures of cool looking buildings did not turn out. But later on in the evening we were able to catch the sunset over the Meuse River. We stood on the bridge for a long time just admiring the view and watching people pass on their way home from work.

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IMG_2962I’m so glad we got a chance to visit such a pretty little town and I can’t wait until next year when hopefully we will get to see some windmills and tulips!

The Taboo Tattoo

In Christian circles tattoos can often be a topic of heated discussion. The Bible clearly speaks against them in Leviticus 19:28, which says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the Lord.” It seems pretty straight forward in this verse, so why is there so much disagreement? Why do some people have extremely strong convictions against them while others seem to feel no guilt at all? I have done a fair amount of research into both sides, and I would like to share some of my findings.

The History of Tattoos

To help you understand a little bit more about what tattoos meant to people around 1440 BC, you need to understand the reasons why certain people chose to get tattoos. Tattoos during this time were not meant for decoration. No one’s tattoo story started with, “I just went into the tattoo parlor and picked it out because it was pretty.” Tattoos were primarily marks of ownership, which can mean several different things. The Romans used tattoos to identify a person as a slave or a criminal. Other cultures used tattoos to show which God they served, and the Egyptians believed that tattoos created a spirit connection with dead family members. This way you would be able to find your family members in the afterworld. (http://www.thetattoocollection.com/history_of_tattoos.htm)

What does this have to do with Leviticus 19:28? 

In Leviticus 19:28, God gives instructions to the Israelites to keep their bodies pure and free of markings. Why was this important? Because God wanted his people to be separate from the cultures around them. They did not need tattoos to show which God they served or which master – they all served him. He was their Lord. Allowing the Israelites to have tattoos would have been equivalent to allowing them to worship other gods (In my opinion). They did not need markings to prove who they belonged to, they were his people simply because he chose them. He did not need them to mark themselves to prove his ownership of them like those of pagan cultures.

There are a lot of different commandments in Leviticus chapter 19. Some of those commandments are ones we still follow today, and others are not. Leviticus 19:19 commands the Israelites not to wear clothing woven of two kinds of material, and also not to plant two kinds of seed in one field. Leviticus 19:27 says not to cut the hair on the sides of your head or trim your beard. Leviticus 19:26 says not to eat meat with blood still in it. There were very good reasons for those laws to be put in place for the Israelites. These laws set them apart as a culture, as God’s people who kept themselves holy.

So… what does this have to do with tattoos today?

Tattoo’s today have a very different meaning. We no longer use tattoos to denote ownership. We use tattoos to express a message, but they unlike the tattoos of the 1400’s they do not define us.

My personal reasons for getting a tattoo: 

I chose a tattoo after 6 months of careful consideration. It was not a decision I took lightly. I chose a tattoo that reflected the person that I am, and the person that I want to be. I chose a tattoo that glories God and gives me an opportunity to share the gospel if anyone asks about it. I chose a location that can be easily covered up, and researched tattoo parlors to find a reputable location.

I believe that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is why I chose to get a tattoo – as an act of worship.

Some Questions to think about…

All this is not to say that tattoos should be taken lightly. I do believe that some people get tattoos for the wrong reasons. A tattoo is something that will last forever on your earthly body, and so there are many questions to consider.

1. Does this tattoo honor the Lord? If your answer is no, then think about why you are getting it. Do you want the cute butterfly/jellyfish/flower/whatever just so you can show it off to your friends?

2. Am I getting this tattoo for myself or for other people?

And there are also some practical considerations:

3. Will the location of my tattoo prevent future job offers (depending of the type of job you want, some employers do not allow visible tattoos)? 

4. Will I still like this tattoo in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? 

In closing…

Some people will not agree with this post, and that is okay. If your convictions are so strong that you believe it is a sin to get a tattoo, then you should absolutely not get one. Romans 14:14 says that if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. In other words, for those people who do believe tattoos are acceptable, don’t flaunt your tattoos in front of someone who thinks they are wrong and try to convince them to get one. For those who are against tattoos, stick to your convictions and do not do anything that you feel in your heart is wrong.

I Will… because I LOVE my body.

So many of the reasons that I fail in my own fitness and health journey are because I focus on what I can’t do instead of focussing on what I can. The view we have of our bodies is extremely important, and most of us look in the mirror thinking about what we wish we looked like instead of focusing on the things we like about ourselves. Think of your body as a permeant home, one that you can never leave no matter how far away you go. Yes, someone else might have a bigger home or a smaller home than you. Someone else might have more expensive things, or less expensive things. But comparing your home to some one else’s doesn’t change anything about your home – all it does is make you miserable. What changes your home is your desire to be a happy home owner. When you say, “I love my home, and I want it to be the best that it can be,” then it truly begins to flourish. If you love your body, it doesn’t matter what anyone else’s body looks like. 

Now with all that being said, I do want to emphasize that part of a healthy view of your body is taking care of it. Yes, I am a firm believe that you are absolutely perfectly beautiful the way that you are, and don’t let anyone try to tell you you’re not. BUT that doesn’t mean that if you have a great self esteem you can never exercise and eat poorly. On the contrary, if you love your body you should treasure it. Give it only the best, and push yourself to your limits. 

Not so that you won’t have any jiggly parts. That’s not enough. Do it because you are worth it. Because you deserve to have a body that functions at 100%, full of energy, and able to do all the things you want. Because God created our bodies to do incredible things, and you are missing out on some great opportunities because don’t have enough energy. Because keeping our bodies healthy is an act of worship to God

This might seem like all talk and no action to you. So how do you begin to love your body? Some of my first steps are making a contract with my body that is filled with “I will…” statements to remind myself that a healthy lifestyle should be empowering, not discouraging. 

 1. I will strive to meet my own personal goals that are matched to my body and my abilities. 

2. I will say one positive thing about my body every time I look into the mirror.  

3. I will continue to work towards improvement, even when I feel discouraged.

4. I will eat when I am hungry, and stop when I am full.

5. I will eat dessert every now and then… because life is too short. 

6. I will encourage others in their fitness journey.

7. I will put foods into my body that are real foods, pure and chemical-free as much as I possibly can. 

8. I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength! My body is a temple and I will worship him by treating it with love. 

 My fitness instructor has been taking this challenge, and I thought some of you might be interested as a way to start treating your body with the care it deserves. It is called the 28 Day Love Your Body Challenge.

http://mollygalbraith.com/2014/03/cellulite-stretch-marks-and-a-love-your-body-challenge/

 

 I do agree with most of the things in this challenge, but for myself I also wanted to keep a spiritual mindset during this challenge. Some of the quotes here seem sort of new-age to me, and I want to remember during this challenge that my ultimate goal should be glorifying God, not myself.