Google+ peggy aplSEEDS: 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Joyful Christmas Season!

May this season bring abundant blessings to you and all your loved ones!

And the winner for my ATC giveaway is... NancyJB! Congratulations, Nancy!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Advent Sunday is the New Year’s Day of the Christian Church, when we begin another “year of the Christian mysteries.”    We can also use this season as a time to reflect on how we can also start anew.

Advent is a term from the Latin word 'adventus' which means "arrival" or "coming".  It is a period of expectant waiting...
…a reminder of the original waiting of the Jews for the birth of their Messiah
... of our own waiting for the celebration of the arrival of the Lord into the world through the birth of Jesus
... and for the second coming of Christ.

Sometimes it seems like we're always waiting for something.  When we are young, we are waiting to grow up.  Even now, all grown up, we wait in line, in traffic, or we wait for more important things. Answers to prayers. How can we wait in a meaningful way?

The season of Advent is a good time to practice waiting with patience, humility, and expectant faith... a time to practice waiting prayerfully, much like the waiting of those expecting the Messiah long ago.  We can start simply, just by waiting patiently as we wait in long lines this season.

We can also spend more time in prayer and scripture reading.  I usually have an advent reflection guide like The Word Among Us.  There are also Advent readings and prayers that go with the ceremony of lighting the Advent Wreath.  Simple activities like these remind us what we are really celebrating when we celebrate Christmas. 

Another way we can have a meaningful Advent is to delay, as long as possible, the celebration of Christmas.  In the Philippines, it seems the Christmas season starts as soon as the "ber" months arrive.  Christmas carols are played in the malls starting September 1!  I usually put out the Christmas decorations on "Gaudete Sunday", the 3rd Sunday of Advent (this year it is on December 13).  That is really late in this part of the world.  One idea I found interesting was to put up the tree without the decorations, and have the ornaments in a basket under the tree.  Every time a member of the family does a good deed, he/she gets to put an ornament the tree.  Hopefully, the tree will be full on Christmas day.

Almsgiving is another meaningful way we can celebrate Advent. Sharing our resources and preparing gift bags for the less fortunate, for me, is a way to give Jesus a birthday gift.  After all, he said "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me".  Matthew 25:40

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Artist Trading Card: Portrait Step by Step

I have been making a lot of ATC portraits using variations of the technique I will describe in this post.  I thought it would be good to share it step by step in case anyone wants to try it out. My pictures aren't great because I took them at night and so there's a shadow but if I were to wait for perfect lighting, I'd never be able to get it done so I decided to just go ahead.
When I started making ATCs, my sister lent me a tub of gesso and I used it to coat some cards.  When it ran out, she told me that she found out that the inexpensive wall putty available in construction supply or hardware stores can give you the same texture at a much lower cost.  I am all for lower costs!  In fact, when I was looking for materials to make my ATCs, I found a pile of my wedding invitations (the printer printed too many), so now, many of my cards are drawn on these.

1. Gesso or Wall Putty
Brush on some gesso or the more inexpensive wall putty onto the card.  You can use whatever stroke you want to get the texture you want.  Since I will be making a portrait, I don't want to have too rough a texture.  So, I just brushed on a thin layer with circular strokes.  If I were just making a background for a collage or a landscape maybe, I can use a thicker layer to give a rougher look.  I really think the texture that the gesso/ wall putty gives adds a lot to the finished card.  That's why I use this technique a lot.  Wait for the putty to dry and then...
2. Measure to size
Since I am recycling my extra wedding invitations, I measure out 4 cards at 2.5 by 3.5 inches, which is the standard ATC size.  You can use any medium to make an ATC but, they must be that particular standard size.
3. Cut to size
I use a steel ruler and a cutter to cut my cards.  I find it easier to get a straight cut with the blade rather than a pair of scissors.
4. Pencil Sketch 
This is the tricky part if you aren't confident in your drawing skills.  I have been drawing women since I was a young girl (I made a lot of paperdolls!) so I can either make a pencil sketch freehand from my imagination or have a magazine photo as a guide.
Another option would be to trace a magazine photo (choose one with sharp contrasts) and rub a soft pencil on the back of your tracing.  Put the pencil side of your tracing on the card and trace over with a ballpen to leave the pencil markings on the card.  Hmmm, I wonder if those instructions were clear enough. (Edit: Tutorial about drawing a face using the tracing technique here.)

5. Final Pen Sketch
Trace over your sketch with your final pen (use a waterproof pen if you will be using watercolor).  Sometimes, I use a well sharpened dark brown colored pencil and skip the pen outline.  For this portrait, I used a black ballpen which I find is more "forgiving" if I make a line I don't like, since it is so fine.
6. Erase the Pencil lines
I use a kneaded eraser to clean up the sketch and erase any pencil lines that are too noticeable.

7. Colored Pencils
The next step is to color in the sketch with colored pencils. So far, all the materials I've used are very inexpensive and although you can use inexpensive colored pencils, mine are Berol Prismacolor pencils. They are expensive if you buy them in the regular stores, but this year, I was able to get a bargain on eBay for a new set.

I start out with the lightest flesh colors and if I'm making the portrait from my imagination (just like this card), I imagine where the light is coming from so that there will be a darker side and a lighter side. The darker the shade, the more the texture of the gesso or wall putty shows.

8. Darken the Edges
I like to darken the edges of the card to frame the card and I also sometimes finish it off with running a stamp pad along the edge. If I'm not satisfied with the card yet, I can also add a bit of watercolor or watercolor pencils.

9. Watercolor pencil / Watercolor
For this card, I used a dark brown watercolor pencil on the hair.  I brushed a little water on those parts I wanted to darken. The order of the steps are not that important. I just keep layering on the colors until I'm happy with the card. Sometimes I start with a light wash of watercolor and build up the color with pencils. Sometimes the watercolor goes on last.

Here is the card, almost finished, with the colored pencils I used on it. I used a variety of colors in shades of flesh, browns, orange to give depth and volume (so that it will look like more than a coloring book image).
10. Finish
I like to spray a fixative on the finished card.  It think it gives a nice sheen and makes it look more professional (at least to me).

11. Information on the Back
Artist trading cards should have the artist's information on the back of the card.  I usually glue a blank card back (hides the wedding invitation and any mess on the back of the card) with my username in ATCs for All, my email address, city and country, blog address and I fill in the blanks with the title of the card, my signature, and the date the card was made. If the card needs flattening, put it under some heavy books.

13. Plastic Sleeve
Put your finished ATC in a plastic sleeve to protect it (make sure it is all dry).    Scan it, post it in the ATCs for All gallery and it's all set to be traded! 

If you found this helpful and if you would like to have the chance to receive this ATC, please post me a comment. 

Congratulations to NancyJB for winning this card!

Remembering those in Prison

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners.  Hebrews 13:3

A few of us go to the Quezon City jail every Thursday at 3:00 in the afternoon.  How did I ever get myself into this situation?  I feel I am the most unlikely person to serve there.  Not only am I female(it is an all male prison),I can hardly talk in straight Filipino (the product of parents who came from different provinces and had different dialects, and therefore ending up speaking English).

It started when the son of one of our friends was sent to jail on drug charges.  And then, in August, as part of our prayer community's activities, we started a time of reflection.  The theme for the first week was "An Open Door! Walk through it!"  The following week's reflections were also so meaningful to me.  And so, when an opportunity of a time slot for religious instruction in the jail was offered to us, how could I refuse that open door!?  The fact that I was allowed to miss an afternoon's work every week to go there was enough of a sign for me.

On the first meeting, after someone gave a teaching, I just sat together with my husband when he led the small group sharing. Eventually, in the weeks ahead and with so few of us going regularly, I had to handle a group myself.  At first, it felt so weird for me to lead a group of inmates in the small group discussions. Since I do not speak Filipino very well, I sometimes, even now, have to ask them in Filipino, "What is'______' in Filipino?" hoping one of them can translate for me.

But God can use even the most unlikely person,and the more I go to the jail, the more I grow in love and compassion for the inmates. So now, I am comfortable to sit among a small group of inmates. Many of them are very young, young enough to be my sons. Many of them are innocent and waiting for their hearings, waiting in such distressing surroundings.  The Quezon City Jail is unlike the prisons in the movies, with jail cells with bars and individual beds for each inmate.  Since the jail is extremely overcrowded, many of them have no space to sleep, even sleeping one person to each stair step.  

But,inspite of this, in the midst of the many men who are there, I have seen men wanting to accept Jesus and asking me how; I have seen teary eyed inmates listening to me share, and men who are just so glad to have someone - anyone, visit them there. I have heard them share how light and happy they felt after forgiving those who caused them to be in jail unjustly.  

Indeed, it is a joy to see God working through this ministry and to visit Jesus in (what Mother Teresa calls) His distressing disguise. "I was in prison and you came to visit me."  Matthew 25:36

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Matters Most

The recent typhoons that have passed through the Philippines have left many of us with life lessons about what matters most.  As we listened to our officemates share about what happened to them and to their homes, the recurring sentiment was always, "Those things can be replaced.  What matters most is that all of my family were safe from harm." "Those are only material possessions.  They don't really matter.  What matters most is our faith in God."

What matters most to you?  Great-Granny Grandma's comment in my previous post reminded me of something I sensed in prayer a long time ago, sometime before my first husband passed away - "Cherish every moment for you know not what tomorrow brings and life holds many surprises."  Indeed we don't know what life will bring and sometimes the surprises are not what we would want.

But Jesus promises in John 10:28-29,  "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand."  As it is said, "I don't know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future."  And so, for me, whatever happens, Jesus promises that He will always be with me and so, I will always have...what matters most.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy and the Filipino Bayanihan Spirit

It has been a difficult past few days in Metro Manila and the surrounding areas.  Last September 26, Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) brought record rainfall of almost 18 inches in 24 hours (the previous record was 13.2 inches in June 1967).  This caused severe flooding in so many areas, resulting in  lives lost and thousands of people homeless.  Everyone here has a story to tell about someone they know who has been affected.

Rich and poor were not spared.  One of my friends has a brand new house in a gated subdivision.  But there is a river nearby.  The flood in that area reached up to the ceiling of the first floor.  And all their brand new furniture, curtains, and everything else on the ground floor was left with a thick coat of mud.   The flood rose so quickly, and for many there wasn't even time to bring their things upstairs or transfer cars to higher ground. Others we know lost all their belongings as the flood just washed them all away.  So many people who lived along the river banks lost not only their belongings but their homes as well.  And all along the roads, expensive cars and SUVs were submerged in the flood, sometimes ending up one on top of the other when the floods subsided.  And yet, those who lost their material possessions have still been able to be thankful that they and their families have survived the typhoon.  So many others lost their lives.

Difficult times can bring out the best in people and the Filipinos' Bayanihan spirit has been evident during this time.  The origin of the term "Bayanihan" can be traced to the tradition which used to be very common in the rural areas.  When a family was going to move to a new place, their neighbors would volunteer to help them.  They would use a strong bamboo frame to lift the house stilts from the ground and men positioned at the poles would carry the whole house to the new location (the house was made of bamboo and nipa).  The word "bayani" is Filipino for "hero".

And so, just as everyone has a story to tell about someone who has been affected, it is heartwarming to see how so many have also done something to help.  The Bayanihan spirit, where everyone lends a helping hand to those in need, is still very much alive in the Filipino.  We have seen how so many have helped clean up muddy homes, clear the streets of mud and debris, pack relief goods, and donate money, food, blankets, clothes and other goods.  So many companies and individuals have done and are continuing to do their part to help out. There are drop off points for donations all over and people have been volunteering to pack and distribute goods. There are medical missions for those affected by the typhoon. Even students have volunteered to help in relief efforts.  There are even ways for people to donate to Manila from abroad.

All over the world, not just in times like these, there are so many people in need.  Let each one of us do whatever we can, wherever we are with whatever we have. Let each one of us, Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike have the "Bayanihan" spirit and be a "Bayani" to those in need.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blog Candy

FOR WOYWW, PLEASE GO TO THIS POST (I made a mistake in posting the link)

Once in a while, while taking break from making artist trading cards, I like to go blog hopping and looking for blog candy. My, there are some wonderful craft supplies, papers and all sorts of goodies being offered by bloggers around the world! It's nice to imagine those wonderful goodies in my mailbox!

Stamps, Paper, Scissors and Donkey Smiles - til Sept 26 
jodi's scraphaven - til September 29
Scrapping Mommy - til September 30
Artsy Fartsy Scraproom - til October 2
Boots Blog Spot - til October 3
Blodwyn3's Night's Drem Blog - til October 5
Inky Impressions Challenges - til October 7 
Cards n Greetings - til Oct. 9
Kristine - Lost in Creativity - til October 10
Bizzy Becs Blog - til October 11
Skaperglede i Anne's Hobbyhile - til October 13
Crafter's Kitchen - til October 29

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blog Candy from CraftyCat957 Designs

Surfing around crafters' sites, I came across some blog candy. Get a chance to win some wonderful craft supplies!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Artist Trading Cards: Turkish Women

A predominantly Muslim country, it is common for the Turkish women to wear headscarves in all sorts of different colors and fabrics. 

Researching in Wikipedia, it says "The term hijab, as commonly used in the English-speaking world, refers to the types of head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women, but can also refer to modest Muslim styles of dress in general.

Travelling to a country far different from my own, seeing traditional styles of dress of different peoples makes for great inspiration for art.  The Turkish women, with their various scarves, make great subjects for artist trading cards.

On my trip to Turkey, I brought with me some pre-cut cards (2.5 inches x 3.5 inches), already coated with a layer of gesso, a pencil, an eraser, a pen and some colored pencils.

The waiting times in the airport, and the long bus and airplane rides are usually so tiring but with these materials in hand, these times became wonderful opportunities to make those small art pieces.   Never did the waiting times seems so short! What? Time to board the plane already?!

Here are some of the ATCs I made both while I was in Turkey and after I got back home.

Turkish women are beautiful, aren't they?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is a fascinating place to visit. Wikipedia describes it as "a region of exceptional natural wonders and a unique historical and cultural heritage." When we planned our trip to Turkey, this was one of the places I was most interested in seeing. And I must say, I was not disappointed.

The first place we were scheduled to visit was the Goreme Open Air Museum. On the way, we caught sight of the unique rock formations. Amazing! So many, many formations which seem they belong out of this world. Looking closely, here and there, we saw windows and doors. People still live within these rocks! Our tour guide told us these rock formations are the result of ancient volcanic eruptions. There are areas where the soft rock eroded with time, forming tall thin pillars called fairy chimneys.

The Goreme Open Air Museum is just a small part of the large area of rock formations where you will find many of the soft rock carved out to form houses, churches, monasteries. Goreme became a monastic center between 300 to 1200 AD.

The Chapel of St. Basil.
The first chapel we entered was the Chapel of St. Basil. It is a very small chapel with simple frescoes on the wall. It was amazing to think of the early Christians who worshipped there in early times. Because there were so many of us in the small chapel, taking pictures and marvelling at the experience, it was a challenge to be there as a Christian and not just a tourist.
The Apple Church
The next church we entered was just amazing! Hmmm, seems like I can't stop saying the word amazing! Well, it was fantastic! The frescoes there are so beautiful! The designs and the colors are wonderful! In Goreme, the many chapels and churches have depictions of the Old and the New Testament stories because these were used to teach people about the Christian religion.

Sadly, many of the frescoes were damaged during the iconoclastic period, when there was the the deliberate destruction of the religious icons because some people believed it was a sin to paint these icons.

The Dark Church
The most well preserved church in Goreme is the Dark Church. Here, there are still some frescoes that are intact. Apparently, since the churches are hidden inside the rocks, the iconoclasts did not find the church right away. As I looked at the fresco of Jesus above the altar, I marveled that the same recognizable face we see in churches today was depicted in the painting of so long ago. In the frescoes, all Christians are painted with haloes and Jesus is identified by the cross in his halo.

The Tokali Church
Here, there is a small underground chapel and a large fully decorated Church over it. There are so many bible stories depicted in this church. The Last Supper, the Annunciation, the Nativity, Lazarus and many other bible stories. There is also a Madonna and Child that has been often copied by other artists.

Visiting Cappadocia reminds me of Jesus' promise to Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The Christians of Cappadocia had to hide in their rock homes and churches to escape persecution. They even lived in underground cities. But Christianity managed to survive such hardship and although Christians are a minority in Turkey today, Christianity continues to remain strong and vibrant in many places, even in far off countries like the Philippines.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saint Paul in Ephesus, Turkey 2

When Saint Paul was in Ephesus, some craftsmen who made and sold statuettes of Artemis in the Temple of Artemis gave him a hard time. These craftsmen were afraid they would lose their livelihood if the people converted to Christianity.

Here is the story as told in Acts 19,

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

The Theater at Ephesus

Even today, we can think twice about fully surrending our lives to the Lord if we think that being a Christian means having all these rules, these "dos and don'ts". We can be afraid of losing not only our livelihood, but all that is familiar to us. But for me, "the Way" as it is called in the reading from Acts, promises so much more good for us than the "don'ts".

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Saint Paul in Ephesus, Turkey 1

A trip to Ephesus is like going back in time. It is amazing to see so many ancient structures, with the sculptures, mosaics and intricate carvings. And to think that only a small portion has been excavated. Wikipedia says Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Can you imagine how much more there is to this wonderful place?

So many people visit Ephesus today and it was quite crowded when I went there. But they say so many people lived there during its best days so I suppose it was just as crowded.

Ephesus has a special place in Christian history. It is one of the seven churches that are mentioned in the Book of Revelation and Saint Paul, who lived in Ephesus for two years, sent one of his letters to the Ephesians. As I walked the main street and visited the different buildings, I imagined myself in the time of St. Paul. I wondered how it felt to bring the Good News to the Ephesians.

In Acts 19, it says

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

Just as in Paul's time, our sharing about Jesus can be met with resistance. "Some become obstinate; they refuse to believe and publicly malign the Way." But for those who are open to Him, the good news is, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that Saint Paul offered to the Ephesians is still available to us today, and God still does extraordinary miracles. The God of Saint Paul is alive today. And we can follow in Saint Paul's example, continue to share our faith and have "discussions daily" even if it is just in the "lecture halls" of our homes.

Five Loaves and Two Fish

"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish", the disciples answered Jesus when he told them to feed the hungry crowd.
"'Bring them here to me,'he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 18-21
As I read these words, I asked myself, what are my five loaves and two fish that Jesus can multiply? What can I offer to the hungry crowd such that they would be "satisfied"? The Philippines is a beautiful country with beautiful people, but many of them are in need, many of them are hungry. And so, I do not know where this blog will lead, and what I can do, but I will take one step and offer a little bit of my time today. Who knows how the Lord can multiply my five loaves and two fish.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saint Paul in Konya, Turkey

Turkey is a fascinating country. It is a land far different from my own, full of ancient ruins, mosques and veiled women. Traveling there, I marveled at the historical sites. Of special interest to me were the places mentioned in the bible as well as those with a Christian past.

Konya is one of those places. It was called Iconium during St. Paul's time and Saint Paul, together with Barnabas travelled to Iconium during his first missionary journey in about 47-48 AD. During the second missionary journey, Saint Paul and Silas visited Iconium again. They may also have gone there a third time during their third missionary journey in about 52 AD.

At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. Acts 14: 1-5

Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Acts 14: 21-23

Visiting Konya has made these verses from the Book of Acts more meaningful to me. We traveled to Konya by bus, and it was not a short distance that we traveled to reach there. Touring can be quite tiring even if we are sitting in comfort on an airconditioned bus. Imagine what it was like for Saint Paul and his companions! They were able to reach these far off places without modern transportation and when they got there, they were even in danger of being mistreated. Such was their conviction about the Good News they were sharing that they were willing to go through all these hardships. Reflecting on the journeys these early Christians took for the sake of the gospel strengthens my conviction that the challenges we go through today for the sake of the gospel are worth it. After all, the message of the Good News remains as true today.

St. Paul in Greece

It's been awhile since I've posted something. Blame it on my summer travels and Atcs For All. Making and trading artist trading cards can get very addicting! But that is another story.

This summer, my husband and I visited Greece and Turkey and although we did not take one of those "Follow in the Footsteps of St. Paul" tours, we did get to visit some of the places St. Paul travelled to in his missionary journeys.

First stop was Greece, where we walked to so many historical sites. While in Athens, I came across a thrift shop filled with all sorts the things you find in thrift shops. I looked through the row of books, thinking to myself that maybe I could find a New Testament bible in Greek. It would be all Greek to me, of course, but it seemed like the kind of meaningful "souvenir" I wanted. I didn't find one.

After wandering amidst all the amazing structures in the Acropolis, we walked towards the rock of Areopagos , below the Acropolos. We stopped to look at a plaque mounted on the rock and since it was in Greek, we wondered what it said. Just then, a man holding a book in his hand came up to me and offered the book to me. Suspicious, I asked him what he wanted from me, "Nothing" he replied, "it is a gift", continuing on to say that the book contained what the plaque said. The book contained the passages in the bible about St. Paul in Greece, not only in English, but also in Greek! I had my Greek "New Testament" or at least part of it.

I realized, with awe and delight that this rock was where Saint Paul spoke to the people of Athens in Acts 17, and the plaque embedded in the rock contains his words.

"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

Thousands of years after Saint Paul spoke these words, I marvel that one man's words have reached me from so long ago, from so far away. I marvel that his words are relevant today as they were then. Do we have our own objects of worship? What do we value more than God Himself?

May we continue to "seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being."

Next stop, Turkey...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Blessings

Dying, He destroyed our death. Rising, He restored our life! No greater love is there.

And so, whatever life may bring, we can experience the victory Christ won for us on the cross.

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring Cleaning

We just transferred to a new home and with packing up for the move we're also doing a lot of throwing out and cleaning up. Moving house is a good time to decide on what we really want to keep and what we can let go of.

I'm reminded of the ancient Jewish custom of thoroughly cleaning their homes in preparation for the spring-time holiday of Passover. According to Wikipedia, "In remembrance of the Jews' hasty flight from Egypt following their captivity there, during the eight-day holiday there is a strict prohibition against eating anything which may have been leavened. Jews are not only supposed to refrain from leavened foodstuffs (known in Hebrew as חמץ chametz), they are expressly commanded to rid their homes of even small remnants of chametz for the length of the holiday (Exodus 12:15). Therefore, for the past 3,500 years, observant Jews have conducted a thorough "spring cleaning" of the house, followed by a traditional hunt for chametz crumbs by candlelight (called bedikat chametz [Hebrew: בדיקת חמץ]) on the evening before the holiday begins."

Even if we're not Jews, or even if we're not moving house, it's a good idea to have regular spring cleaning, a time of heavy duty cleaning and organizing. Perhaps we will find that there are things we have that we don't really use and which would benefit someone else much more. Or that having less clutter will give us a more peaceful and well functioning home.

The weeks before Easter are also a good time to do some spiritual spring cleaning, to take a look at our lives and allow God to take away the clutter, to leave behind what is of value in the eternal perspective.

This Holy week, why not take hold of a Bible and take to heart these words...

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
" Psalm 51:10

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:2

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Seemingly Illogical Ways of God

Sometimes, or maybe oftentimes, we don't understand God's ways. We question them and say, as Oswald Chambers says in his book "My Utmost for His Highest",
"I am impressed with the wonder of what God says, but He cannot expect me really to live it out in the details of my life!" ... Your ideals are high and they impress us, but in touch with actual things, it cannot be done... "

Chambers says "These misgivings about Jesus start from the amused questions put to us when we talk of our transactions with God - Where are you going to get your money from? How are you going to be looked after? Or they start from ourselves when we tell Jesus that our case is a bit too hard for Him. It is all very well to say "Trust in the Lord," but a man must live, and Jesus has nothing to draw with - nothing whereby to give us these things..." Chambers was reflecting on John 4:11, when the Samaritan woman told Jesus - " have nothing to draw with."

These words struck me as I read them because in these times of financial crisis, so many people find themselves anxious about where to get money to pay the bills. And just like the Samaritan woman, many find it hard to believe that God can provide for the practical everyday needs.

But then, if you've tried all the other ways to get out of a crisis, what harm can there be in trying to find out about God's ways? After all, His word in Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." When I read something like this, I want to claim it and I try to find out what God requires of me so that I can follow His ways.

Someone close to me shared about how he used think that paying His taxes fully and giving tithes would definitely mean less money in his pocket. That's logical, isn't it? And then he got convicted about evading taxes and decided to follow God's ways. He paid his taxes and gave his tithes, obeying Malachi 3:10, and perhaps "testing God". It says - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." To his amazement, his business prospered and although illogical, he he found that instead of having less to spend, he had much more.

God's ways don't always seem logical to us. Like when He says in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Or in Matthew 20: 26-27, "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave."

However illogical God's ways seem to be, who knows how He will work in our lives when we open ourselves up to Him. I think it's worth a try.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vigan on My Mind

Last weekend, my daughter was away on a field trip to Vigan, a Unesco World Heritage Site that is well-known for its cobblestone streets, and a unique architecture that fuses Philippine building design and construction with colonial European architecture.

It's a long way off from where we live and it's the first time she's been away with people I don't really know. Time flies with our children. One day they are little kids and the next thing you know, they are all grown up. But I guess, no matter how old my daughter is (she just turned nineteen), a part of me will always think of her as my baby. To keep myself from worrying about her safety, I read Psalm 91 and claim these promises...

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the L
ORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinions,

And under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side

And ten thousand at your right hand,

it shall not approach you...

Here are some Vigan inspired ATCs I made using pen and colored pencils. I copied the designs from a newspaper clipping, but I asked my daughter to take lots of pictures in Vigan for more inspiration. I think the details of the houses make for lovely ATCs.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Running the Race

A few days ago, my son told us he was training to run a marathon. It reminded me of the days (more than 25 years ago!) I would get up early Sunday mornings to run with a group of all kinds of people, all of us hoping to run a marathon after training for one whole year. I would also run three more times during the week. If I missed those weekday runs, I wouldn't be able to keep up during the Sunday run.

Anyone who knows me would know that I am a most unlikely marathoner. A marathon is a long-distance foot race (according to Wikipedia, it has an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles 385 yards). Me? Run 42 kilometers? I can just hear the words, "in your dreams!"

Well, I guess dreaming is a good place to start! I realized, as I joined this group, that for many of us, our dreams about running a marathon were not about winning the race or finishing first. It was simply about finishing. Period. It was about training and persevering to reach that goal. It was about doing it together with other people who had the same goal.

Come marathon day, I was ready to go and determined to finish. Pacing myself, I just kept running (ok, ok, it could have looked like we were walking). There were ups and downs in the road, and, after hours and hours, the most unlikely marathoner crossed the finish line. I did it!

Our life is much like this race. Many of us aren't called to "finish first", to do what other perceive to be big things for God. We aren't called to be popular evangelists or write bestsellers. Many of us are simply called to live our lives as parents, sisters, employees. Simple lives. But I believe that to persevere in living our simple lives in a way that is pleasing to God, to love God and be obedient to His ways is enough. To keep on keeping on.

To run the marathon and finish it, I listened well to my trainer's instructions and followed them. He told us to train by running at least this number of minutes for this number of days a week (it's been so long, I've forgotten the details!). He told us to drink water, to pace ourselves, to carbo load the day before, etc. So I did. And by doing so, I finished the race.

To live a life that is pleasing to God, it is so important to listen well to God's instructions and follow them. The bible is full of His loving instructions and His promises when we obey them. To live my life well, I need to know what God says about the situations I find myself in as a wife, a mother, and whatever my other roles are. He tells me how to love, to forgive, to train up my children. After almost 30 years of striving to be obedient to Him, I fully believe that obedience brings Blessing.

I ran the marathon with my Dad and my sister and brother. The people we trained with became familiar to us and we encouraged one another to keep on. Just like in the marathon, there are ups and downs in life, but, it is easier to live a life pleasing to God when you do it with other people who have the same goal. The world around us tells us different things about how we should live our life. Many times, it's the exact opposite of what the bible says. When we become part of a community, to have brothers and sisters in the Lord to support and encourage us, it is easier to listen to God's words rather than all the other voices around us.

And after all this, however simple and insignificant our lives may seem, I pray we will eventually be able to say, in the words from 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What Do You Have?

Do you have empty cereal boxes, tissue boxes, old playing cards, greeting cards, invitation cards or any similar material? You can use these as a base for your ATCs. Do you have old magazines, colorful junk mail or catalogs? You can use these for collages. Are there crayons, pastels and watercolors somewhere in the house? Or cloth remnants, lace and button? Whatever you have on hand, you can use to start with in creating your own originals.

You can also use 300gm watercolor paper or Bristol Board. And if the cardstock you have is too flimsy, you can glue a few layers together. I have used invitation cards cut to size and coated with gesso or extra Bristol board from my daughter's projects. My sister has also used the more affordable wall putty or ordinary acrylic primer that you buy from the hardware store. There is always something close by that you can use.

In life, we sometimes say we can't do certain things because we don't have enough time, or we don't have enough skill or talent or we don't have enough money. Sometimes we think we can't share or give to those around us because we think we don't have anything to give. But you know? I believe we all have something to give. The question we just need to ask ourselves is "What do I have?" Whatever I have, I can use to start with to create a better world around me.

Matthew 6:35-44 tells the story of how Jesus fed five thousand people.
"When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. There were five thousand men who ate the loaves."

Five loaves and two fish! Whatever we have, we can offer and God can use. What do you have?

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Winning ATC

I've just had another wonderful surprise! I joined the monthly contest in ATCs for All and guess what! I won for the month of February! My entry was a mixed media collage of two trees (The theme was "Trees"). Here's how I made it...

1. First I cut the card to standard ATC size -2.5" x 3.5"

2. Then I gave the card a coat of gesso. This makes for a nice texture when you color it.

3. I gave the card a light wash of acrylic (or was it watercolor?) in varying shades of light blue.

4. Then I made a light pencil sketch of the two tree trunks and branches. I wanted to let the trees form a heart since the month of February is Valentine's month.

5. I painted the trunks and branches with acrylic paints, trying to put darker shades on the right side of the trunk. When painting I like to have different shades, mixing a little bit of different colors so that it's not just one flat trunk with one color.

6. I painted book paper in varying shades of green (again) and cut the paper up in leaf shapes.

7. I pasted the leaves to the branches, making sure that I kept the heart clear of leaves.

8. I used colored pencils for the hills and background. Again, I used different colors. The gesso gives the colored pencil a nice texture. I also gave the edges a darker violet color to sort of frame the card.

9. Almost done, just a few flowers at the base of the trees and two birds in the distance, painted with acrylics. And although it can hardly be seen, a heart carving on the trunk. Inside the heart, it says "ATCs".

10. Then, I pasted a backing on the card with the title of the card "February Trees", my name, signature, and email address and the date.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trading Cards

It's been a while since I last posted in my blog. After joining ATCs for all and looking through the gallery, I marvelled at the wonderful cards that were up for trading. I found myself offering to trade cards with some very talented artists til I had nothing left to trade. Since they offered to hold the cards I was interested in for me til I had new cards, I found myself having to make more cards to trade out. Having that goal and "deadline" really encouraged me to sit down and create something. I think ATCs are a wonderful way for artists and would be artists to develop their talents and skills. Since it's such a small size, just 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches, you can just leave a card you're not that happy with it and start another one. Or bring along a blank card to draw on while waiting for an appointment. You can even use recycled materials, cardboard boxes or old invitations. Even children can make ATCs! Although I haven't received the cards yet, I'm excited to receive the cards and I look forward to learning techniques from the artists I'm trading with.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Take Time to Listen

A few days ago, I went on a prayer walk. With my bible and journal in hand, I took a walk in a nearby park early in the morning.

As I walked, read the words from Jeremiah 29:11-14a,

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot..."

In the early morning, there are not that many people around. It is peaceful and quiet and I thought, "in silence, I will find Him." I could hear the crickets singing, the rustle of dry leaves beneath my feet... "In silence, I can hear things I don't ordinarily hear." And so it is that I need to take time to sit in silence and seek the Lord.

Often times, our day to day lives are full and noisy. These days, especially, there are many voices that say all is not well, and the future looks bleak. But this verse promises that God wants a future full of hope for me. For you. As He promised, "when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you...and I will change your lot..."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Trading ATCs at ATCs for All

I visited ATCs for All the other day to learn more about ATCs. After reading the tips and instructional posts and posting a message in the welcome thread, I was surprised to find a private message for me from Kat, who was offering me an ATC from New Zealand! How exciting, my first trade (of course I offered her one from me as well)! Her topic preference is a native animal, so I found myself thinking about native Philippine animals. I think the Philippine tarsier would be a good subject for an ATC since it is also very small (just like an ATC).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Artist Trading Cards

Last November, my sister had an "Artist Trading Card" birthday party. After dinner, she brought out cards, paints, pens, glue, papers and all sorts of other materials and she introduced us to ATCs. She told us they should measure 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches (she pre-cut them for us) and had all of us making (or attempting to make) our first one. Here is mine.

Yesterday, I decided to make another one for Valentine's day (see my previous post). Maybe one day I can really make some to trade with other artists around the world. For now, I'll do some practicing first!
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