Creative Retreats - 2018...

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Creative Retreats - 2018...

As we get ready to enter this next week of Thanksgiving and take some time off to enjoy family, friends and lots of food...

Here's some "food for thought:"

If you have signed up for one of our Art & Faith Creative Retreats next year... we are THANKFUL.

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We are so very, very humbled by your desire to gather with us in these special places and see what the Lord is speaking to your heart.  It still gives me goose bumps... Thank you.

AND... If you are praying about joining us, please do!  We are always certain the Lord brings the people He is calling to come and we have seen amazing stories of that each year.

Here's an update on what we have available for next year:

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We just had someone that needed to back out of this SOLD OUT retreat, so if you were wanting to join us in France and Belgium next July... Now there's a SPOT for you!  Please email me if you are interested in taking this spot. The details are under the SIGN UP page at the top.

PLEASE NOTE:  The dates of this retreat have changed.  NOW they will be:

July 8 - 18, 2018.

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Come join us for a 10 day adventure in beautiful Paris, France... Bruges, Belgium and the French countryside!

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We also have 2 retreats in Bellagio, Italy next year!  

 

The first one is at the end of June:  June 24 - 30, 2018

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This Art & Faith Creative Retreat in JUNE has a few spaces left and we would love for you to join us!   This is the week of the San Giovanni Festival and an amazing "bucket list" Torchlight Festival!  If you haven't been to Bellagio, Italy this is a GREAT time to see it with us!  We will have two amazing artists joining me that week to teach us!  Sarah Bechler is a wool artist and will be sharing her amazing skills with us in a beautiful class you won't want to miss!  Simona Angheliri is from Como... the main city on Lake Como where our retreat is held.  She is a beautiful Italian lady who is very talented.  We are exited to learn watercolor art from her that week.  I will be teaching Bible Journaling during the week and I feel so blessed to get to share this passion of mine with those who join us!

All the details on this week are under the SIGN UP page, so just click on the Summer 2018 retreat to find the details, or you can email me if you have any further questions. 

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The second one if in the gorgeous Fall: October 6 - 13, 2018

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We just added this one and it's almost sold out!  We THANK YOU for those that have signed up!  This is going to be an incredible week with Sheila Atchley!  She will be teaching and leading us in what God has put on her heart.  I will be teaching Bible Journaling at this retreat as well and am so excited to see what the Lord is going to do.  This is such a beautiful time of year to see Lake Como and we can't wait to show you all of it's beautiful colors!

If you are thinking and praying about joining this week... we would be so happy to have you join us!  I think there's about 5 spots left, so we will be waiting for you. All the details for this retreat are also under the SIGN UP page at the top.  Just click on the Fall 2018 retreat and you will find out the details, or you can email me via the Contact Page.

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So, whether it's France or Italy... We look forward to welcoming you to enjoy a week away... to step away from life and be RENEWED and INSPIRED.  To relax and enjoy time being creative in such a beautiful setting.

Jeremiah 31:25 says "For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish."  My prayer for everyone interested in joining us on our Art & Faith Creative Retreats is to seek out that time to be renewed in your faith and refreshed in your spirit.  To ask the Lord to draw you closer to Him as you open yourself up to being CREATIVE and finding that connection between ART & FAITH.  I hope you will take this time to "Be still, and know that He is God..."  while you wander down cobblestone paths, explore beautiful places, and enjoy delicious meals with new friends!  That is what our Creative Retreats are all about and Lake Como, Italy or Paris, France are the perfect locations for these beautiful moments to take place.  

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This also makes a great Christmas gift!  So if that is something you are thinking about blessing someone with, you are welcome to email me and we can put a beautiful presentation together  to give them this beautiful surprise! 

Have a BLESSED weekend and Thanksgiving week!  We will be taking some take away from work and social media.  We pray that you will all have a beautiful time being thankful for the many blessing God has given you!

Hugs to all,

Laura

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Love, Tuesday...  Creative Friends

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Love, Tuesday... Creative Friends

I have some AMAZING creative friends!  When you get to do what I do and host CREATIVES in Italy... you get to see all kinds of inspiration.

So today for Love, Tuesday I wanted to highlight one of those creative friends that is doing some amazing things.

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Stephanie Ackerman.  This girl... not only is she creative, but she is FUNNY.  I wish I could be funny like her.  I LOVE to laugh, but I just can't come up with the stuff she does.  This girl has been in the scrapbook/mixed-media industry with me for many, many years.  She may pre-date me actually.  We would run into each other at the CDA shows and say Hi and then go about our lives.  It wasn't until a few times of that, that we actually got deeper and found we had so much more in common.  I think we are the same age and when we friended each other on FB years ago we noticed we had a mutual friend from our childhood days!  How cool.  But what I love most is that her heart is so REAL.  She is open and honest and I just love that and am thankful for that.

So this girl is doing some GREAT things.  She has taken her love of the Lord and her love of being creative and blended them into a business called Documented Faith.  Her style of art is so easy to recognize if you are ever on Pinterest or surfing Instagram.  

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Everyone LOVES her style.  So she has just had her art journaling published in a new book called "Faith Journaling For the Inspired Artist"  and it's a GREAT book to have, so go check it out via the link above.

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She gives you all kinds of techniques to use in your art or bible journaling and gives you great advice on how to draw closer to Jesus.

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Stephanie has taught twice with me at my retreats in Italy and I'm sure that won't be the last time you will see her at one of my retreats...

Go find her on IG @stephanieackerman1 and say Hi!

Next Love, Tuesday I think I will continue this series and highlight another CREATIVE friend.

Hope you enjoy your day!

Hugs,

Laura

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Got plans?

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Got plans?

Listen up... this is a public service announcement for those of you who are "planning" your life.

I have some good news, bad news and GREAT news to share!

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The good news is that God's love endures!

Psalm 103:10 says:"He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." 

Let me try to explain.  Last week in bible study we were in 2 Kings 13.  This is where the kings of Israel are really messing up.  They were making all kinds of WRONG plans, even wicked plans.  If you want a GREAT little history lesson, you can go to the Bible Project and watch an animated video on the timeline of this part of the bible.  By the way, I was completely amazed at what this organization (The Bible Project) is doing and I'm so excited to share it with everyone and anyone who wants to learn about the bible in a very easy way.  

Anyways...  Back to 2 Kings.  This is where the Lord loses His patience and is angry with the wicked kings of Israel because they kept veering from His plan over and over again.   Of course when they get into a bind each time, what do they do?  Of course... Ask God to help them!  God was so displeased with the path they chose...  But it says "God listened to their prayers."  

This should give us all hope. 

 

The Lord was displeased but He still listened and answered their prayers... in SPITE of what they had done! God loves us so much.  He knows we are going to make mistakes, He knows we are going to mess up... but when we come back to Him in prayer... He listens.   His love endures.

See, it's always about God's GRACE.

He doesn't answer our prayers because we are so AWESOME. It's because HE is, and He loves us and gives us GRACE undeserved.  Oh thank you Lord for that!

The other example in this part of 2 Kings is a TEST.  (Yes, we go through tests as well...)

Elisha asks Joash to strike the ground with some arrows.  Oh Joash did... but half heartedly.  He struck it a few times, but it angered Elisha that he didn't do it more or with more effort.  There's so much symbolism here with the war that was coming, but the point is that there was this lukewarmness in King Joash.  And that's where we are so many times.  Maybe we know what we should be doing but we do it only part of the way, with the least amount of work.  Maybe we THINK we know what plan God has for us, but we go down it only part of the way and when things get hard we jump to a different plan.  Maybe we don't trust that what God is telling us is really God.  Or we lack spiritual maturity because we are not dealing with our sin or we're not being filled every day with the Holy Spirit and asking Him to show us His plan for our lives.  

So that's where Joash was, and:

He got exactly what he believed God for... but NOT what God would have done for him!

READ THAT AGAIN...

WE GET EXACTLY WHAT WE BELIEVE GOD FOR... BUT NOT WHAT GOD WOULD HAVE FOR US.

 

We put limits on God because of our lack of faith or restrained prayers.  I don't know about you... but this is so true for me.  Man was I smacked in the head with this at church.  God is a limitless, endless possibilities God! Why don't we see that and believe that... daily?!

Oh, what opportunities are we missing out on by not having BIG BOLD FAITH?? By not trusting that His plans are so much greater than anything we can imagine!?

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So that's the good news...

God is SO willing and ready to SHOW UP and show us what He can do in and through us.  To get the glory for great things He has and will do in YOUR LIFE!

The bad news is... a lot of times we don't trust Him to do that.  I get it.. it's not easy to put our plans, our futures, our lives all before Jesus and say... "Ok Lord, USE MY LIFE.  Use the gifts, talents, abilities that You have given me.  Walk me through some amazing, hard, awesome, scary GOD PLANS because I am trusting You."

The bad news is... we don't want to wait on Him.  There are so many examples in scripture of waiting on the Lord and His timing.  But if you're like me... we get an idea in our head and we're OFF!  We hear the Lord in our prayer time or think He's giving us something to do and we're ready to plan our life away!  (Yes, this hits close to home for me.)  I am MOVING to another STATE because of what the Lord was stirring in our hearts... hello! (lol)  But we are trying to trust Him daily and wait on Him to tell us the WHEN.  

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I saw this on IG a few weeks ago and it really got to me.  Waiting isn't easy to do!  Sometimes we think maybe waiting is actually a NO.  Or we don't hear that "still, small voice" and we're not sure if we will.  Waiting is so hard when you DO have to plan for a move. Or you DO have to decide on what college to go to, or what job to take...  

So how do we make these BIG decisions in life? How do we know what's the right plan, at the right time?

Let me start by saying one of the greatest blessings in life is that we do get to have the freedom to choose.  It shows God's love for us in that He has given us free will.  So know that He does give us all free will to make plans, live life and choose.   I also know there are so many different kinds of paths to follow, plans we could choose, that this freedom may feel overwhelming at times.  And in that freedom we can (and should) still desire to know what the Lord's BEST is for us.

Here are some tips from friends, some tips I found online and from my own life experiences that I wanted to add to this blog post. I think these are great guidelines to help you in planning for your future.  So consider the following tips:

1. Read God's Word

God's Word is like a map.  He has given us the Bible to instruct and guide us.  We've all heard the saying "When all else fails, read the instructions." It's smart to read the instructions first. The Scriptures are filled with ways to stay on the path God designed for you... ways to see what God has for your life.  Those are His instructions.  "People who read the scriptures daily find hidden treasures that will guide them to their greatest purpose in life." Family Source.  

You will be amazed at how the Lord will speak to you through His Word when you seek Him there.

Psalm 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."

2. Pray

One friend said... Pray, duh.  hahaha   What's true though is that we all know we've been headstrong on an idea and gone forward with it without praying first.  So we need to be reminded to PRAY.  Pray for God's help in making your plan be in accord with His plan.  The Rev. Dr. Brooks Ramsey said  "Through prayer and meditation, we have access into the divine presence that provides guidance and inspiration.  God is never so pleased as when we stand up and make a moral decision that reflects our desire to live at the highest and most useful level attainable."  

Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."

3. Think about what your ultimate goals in life are

How do you plan for your future if you don't know where you're going or what you want to ultimately achieve. Ask yourself, "What is my end goal?" If you were playing football and you had no idea where the end zone was, you would have no direction as to which way to run. So it is with life. Picture your "end zone," and run in that direction. Here are a few suggestions to help you discover your end zone:

Ask yourself what you really want out of life? One friend said that she likes to write out lists to help clarify her thoughts.  Sometimes we may intuitively know more about how we are deciding than we think, and the lists may show that. So try  making a list of those wants for your life, such as feeling God's spirit with you, having a happy family, enjoying your career, helping others or improving your talents.

Call out to God in prayer and ask Him which of these are most important.

Make a plan to achieve them. Begin today to live that plan out.

Psalm 145:18 "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."

4. Seek out wise counsel

One of my friends said that she likes to confirm big decisions by seeking wise counsel from people in her life that she knows will be straight with her and not just agree with everything she says.  How important it is to have trusted friends and wise people in our lives.  When faced with big decisions it is very helpful to share our thoughts with someone who we can trust will give us sound advice.  Ask the Lord to lead you to the right person, or persons.  Think of the people in your life that have endured the trials of life and yet have remained true to the Lord.  Ask them to be your mentor. 

Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."

5. Develop your natural talents

They were given to you for a divine purpose. Did you hear that... a DIVINE purpose.  You may not think you have any, but YOU DO.  They can range from musical to artistic, writing to athletics, teaching to nursing others, and the list goes on.  I know it's hard to step out in this area and trust that what talents you have can be something you can make a living at.  My homework assignment for you... Go read "CHASE THE LION" by Mark Batterson... like right now.  

See, what you're really thinking/praying is that what you LOVE to do WILL be God's plan for your life.  Am I right?

Well, we are ALL created for a purpose, remember? A divine purpose.  We all were created with special talents and abilities.  So is it so far fetched to see that our dreams come from God?  And if so... we should have the boldness to act on them, right?  

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Get on your knees and ask your Heavenly Father, who loves you more than you can even imagine, to help you to know what your talents are and how to use them for His good.  Ask Him what He wants you to do with the desires of your heart. You will be surprised what happens as you start opening the door to being used in the ways He has designed for you before you were even born.  "In God's book of success it's about stewardship.  He won't ask us if we have been successful... He will ask us if we have been FAITHFUL with the time, talents and treasures He has given us." Mark Batterson

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."

6. Trust Him

Here is one of the most beautiful scriptures to help you see the plans God has prepared for you. It is from Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths."

We are free to plan and choose what we do in life, but to have the greatest happiness and fulfillment in this life we will include God in the choosing. That is when we can be certain we know our plans are His plans.

And...here's the GREAT news:

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Job 42:2 "I know that You can do ALL things,  and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."

That should make you REJOICE!

We can plan, we can choose a path and we WILL make some mistakes along the way.  But the GREAT news is that He is in control and His plans WILL prevail.  I love what Mark Batterson says in "Chase the Lion"

"In every dream journey (a.k.a. plan for your life) there comes a moment when you have to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.  You have to go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.  A God-sized dream/plan will be beyond your ability, beyond your resources.  Unless God does it, it can't be done!  And that is precisely how God gets the glory!"

Here's another nugget of inspiration from Mark:

"God's dream for your life is so much bigger, so much better than breaking even.  If you focus on not making mistakes, you won't make a difference."

 

So dream GOD-SIZED dreams!

 

Dream, plan, choose a path... do ALL of these things with the help of your Heavenly Father.  You will never regret living your life for Christ.  Your only regret at the end of your life will be the time, talent and treasure you didn't give back to God.  He gave you those gifts for a reason and He will be there with you every step of the way, if you ask Him.

Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

 

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Hebrews 4:16 "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Go confidently my friends!

Hugs,

Laura

 

P.S. Thank you to my dear "Bellagio girls" who gave me some great tips for this post. xoxo

 

 

 

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Registration is OPEN!

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Registration is OPEN!

We look forward to welcoming you to beautiful Bellagio, Italy next Fall!

Registration is open NOW!  you can go to the top of this website and click on SIGN UP.  From there you will see a drop-down menu and you can click on REGISTRATION.  That will take you to a page with 3 different retreats to choose from.  Click on the Fall 2018 retreat and that will direct you to a page to pay your $695 deposit.

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Once you have made your deposit you will get a notification from Squarespace.  I will also be sending everyone a welcome email with more details about our exciting time together next year!

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So let me invite you to enjoy a week away... to step away from life and be RENEWED and INSPIRED.  To relax and enjoy time being creative in such a beautiful setting.

Jeremiah 31:25 says "For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish."  My prayer for everyone interested in joining us on our Art & Faith Creative Retreats is to seek out that time to be renewed in your faith and refreshed in your spirit.  To ask the Lord to draw you closer to Him as you open yourself up to being CREATIVE and finding that connection between ART & FAITH.  I hope you will take this time to "Be still, and know that He is God..."  while you wander down cobblestone paths, explore beautiful lakefront gardens, and enjoy delicious meals with new friends!  That is what our Creative Retreats are all about and Lake Como, Italy is the perfect location for these beautiful moments to take place.

We are so honored that you would want to join us in this weeklong event next year.  We know the Lord has some GREAT plans for this week!  Sheila Atchley and I are praying for this week to be a time the Lord really speaks to your heart... and we can't WAIT to meet you in Italy  next year!

Hugs,

Laura

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We will be available to answer any questions you may have today so please feel free to email us  via the CONTACT button at the top of the page.

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Pumpkin Muffins and a heart to heart...

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Pumpkin Muffins and a heart to heart...

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Ok, these look GOOD, right?

I'm so happy to say that I have finally figured out this Gluten Free recipe switch!  I've been experimenting with a lot of our favorite baked items and I will tell you it's NOT easy.   The gluten free flour that says it's just a 1:1 ratio is not telling you the truth.  In my opinion...

I tried to make our favorite pumpkin cream cheese cookies last week and they didn't work out at all.  They weren't sweet and they crumbled so easily that you couldn't even barely pick them up with your hands to eat one.  So that got me thinking that they don't put the Xanthan gum (or similar binding agent) in their flour.  If you click on Xanthan gum you will find a link to what it is by a well known health expert.  He suggests that and other natural ingredients you can use in baking.  So, this time around I added 1/2 teaspoon to the recipe and it worked!  The muffins stayed together and baked perfectly.  I still think something to do with the gluten free flour almost nullifies the sweetness but I did not add anymore sugar.  I think you COULD, but it wasn't too bad this time and I added a little bit of cinnamon sugar on the top of the muffins to make them look pretty and have an added texture.  I love adding walnuts or pecans to the top of my muffins as well, but this time I didn't.  The girls don't like the nuts inside of the muffins so if I use them I only add them to the top of some of them... the ones I plan to eat! :)

So here is the Original Recipe:

Pumpkin - Orange Muffins

3 Cups Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. Allspice
1/2 Tsp. Cloves
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Oil
3 Eggs
1 16 oz. can of Pumpkin
1 Tbs. grated Orange Peel

Mix the dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat sugar and oil until blended.  Beat in 1 egg at a time until fluffy.  Beat in pumpkin.  Add the dry ingredients and the grated orange peel.  Fill muffin pan and bake at 350 for 20-24 minutes (depending on the size of the muffins)

Here's the GLUTEN FREE Recipe:

Gluten Free Pumpkin - Orange Muffins:

3 Cups Gluten Free Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Tsp. Xathan Gum
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. Allspice
1/2 Tsp. Cloves
1 1/4 Cup Sugar (you can add another 1/4 cup if you want them sweeter)
1 Cup Oil ( I use almond oil)
3 Eggs
1 16 oz. can of Pumpkin
1 Tbs. grated Orange Peel (sometimes I don't put this in... it's up to your preference)
Cinnamon - Sugar mixture for top of muffins

I also wanted to mention that I use organic ingredients as much as possible.  I know it adds to the cost, so it's up to you.

Mix the dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat sugar and oil until blended.  Beat in 1 egg at a time until fluffy.  Beat in pumpkin.  Add the dry ingredients and the grated orange peel.  Fill muffin pan and add cinnamon-sugar to the tops of each muffin.  Bake at 350 for 20-24 minutes (depending on the size of the muffins... these muffin trays made extra large muffins so they baked for 27 minutes)

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Let me know if you make them and how they turned out! 

Now for that heart to heart chat...

The Lord has been really getting me to a place where I seek HIS PLAN for my life.  To really ask and search out what He wants me to do.  I know this is the age old question for EVERYONE... "What am I supposed to do with my life?"

I also know it's different, for different stages of our lives.  I have such a heart for those who are just about graduating High School and asking themselves this tough question because it's SO important at that time as well.  In fact, I have a blog post I keep meaning to write and it would follow this one perfectly... I will try.

But for those of us NOT graduating High School anymore... 

What DOES the Lord want for us & from us in this "middle" time of our lives?  (or maybe not so middle)

That's what I think we need to ask ourselves.  Do we just think our jobs as moms are "done" or almost done and then what?  We get more time, we don't have to make school lunches and we can read!  Oh... I'm ALL for that, trust me!  But I don't think that's the answer either.  That empty nester time frame is where I am headed with two raised and the last one starting High School next year.  So all of this is on my mind lately...

Here's a question I want YOU to ask yourself.  It stopped me in my tracks/thoughts this morning and it's stills swirling around in my head...


Am I living in my own unique place of grace?

 

Loaded question, right?

I started a new devotional on YouVersion.  It's Titled "Live, Love, Lead" and it's GOOD.  Find it and add it to your devotional time.  I had a conversation with a friend last week at coffee and we both talked a little about our roles as moms and as that "full-time" roll ends what is the next step?  What is God calling us to do with our time?  I know in our society we have this mentality of "Retirement" and kicking back for those "golden years."  We think... "I'm going to retire, travel the world, golf... etc, etc."

I'm going to say something now that may totally offend... so get ready for it.

I don't think God wants us to RETIRE.

Retire from a 9-5 job... maybe yes if you don't think that is where God is calling you to be a light.  But retire from doing work... aka. His will and His purposes... absolutely NOT.  I really don't see how that is biblical.   I think those "golden years" can be a fresh start of something bigger than ourselves.   And that's EXCITING!

So getting back to that loaded question above...Here's a few more to add to it:

What does God have for you to do?  

Who does God say you are?  

...and What is God calling you to do?

think about those questions... chat with a friend or a spouse about them.  Email me if you want!  He gave each one of us UNIQUE skills, abilities, talents... GIFTS.  They are GIFTS... and He didn't do that for the heck of it.  There's a REASON you are who you are.  So ask HIM those questions.  In prayer and in His Word you will find those answers.

Hey, I'm still trying to figure those questions out too!  Why is God moving us from a safe, lovely, sunny, So Cal existence to somewhere that wasn't even on our radar 4 months ago!??

Well... probably because He has something UNIQUE and SPECIFIC He is calling us to do.

So figuring out those questions... knowing what UNIQUE purpose the Lord has for YOU... that's important.  No matter what age you are and how far down a path you have gone.  Search out the plan/path He has for you because it's going to be THE. BEST. PLAN. EVER.

Ok, the chat is over... did you just feel like your parents sat you down at the couch to talk!  I kinda feel like that and I'm the one TALKING!  lol

Before I go I want to share something my dear friend Jeanne Oliver posted today!  I think it fits with what I was just talking about because in order for us to find out what our PURPOSE is in life, we need to get outside ourselves.  We are to be the "Hands & Feet" of Jesus and this special project she created for this time of year is just PERFECT for that!

So look at this beautiful Advent Tree:

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This Acts of Service Advent Tree is SO sweet and lovely... and what a special idea!  She posted it early enough so you could make it and have it ready to go.  Here's the link to her blog and how to make it:

Acts of Service Advent Tree

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Inside each star is an act of service note.  Here's Jeanne's youngest cutie... Ben (aka. slim squeezy...it's an inside joke ;) getting one of the stars.  Jeanne has such awesome kids. Honestly,  I have to say how much we love them and are impressed with how Jeanne and Kelly have raised their children to be such kind and loving people.  I can't help but think that little things like THIS have shaped them.  

So before Christmas comes, let's all ask ourselves where are we headed?  What does it look like to be the hands and feet of Jesus?  What is He calling us to do?  

We have some little things we do around this time of year to bless others, but this Advent Tree is going to make me think about some more ideas on what we could do.

I think I'll have one more muffin in my backyard and think about that... ;)

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Have a BLESSED day,

Laura

P.S.  Don't forget... THIS Friday REGISTRATION opens for our retreat in Italy with Sheila Atchely next october!  I hope you can join us... it's going to be a week you won't forget!

Oh and that coffee mug... Yes!  I do believe the BEST IS YET TO COME!! xoxo

 

 

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Art & Faith Creative Retreat... Fall 2018

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Art & Faith Creative Retreat... Fall 2018

Yes... it's happening!

 

I am very excited to announce our 2nd Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Bellagio, Italy next year!  

 

Mark your calendars and plan to join us:

October 6 - 13, 2018

 We are very excited to have this special teacher joining us...

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This beautiful lady is Sheila Atchley and if you don't know her... you need to!!

Here's a little bit of information on this talented, funny, honest & open gorgeous lady:

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Hi, I'm Sheila Atchley:  artist-author, wisdom-chaser, silver-haired ordinary mystic.  

I'm a celebrant, a congregant, and a flagrant creative.

I have a semi-empty nest, a pet husband, and five adorable grand-wildlings.

And I over-use the hyphen.  

While I am equally drawn to words and art, words are my defining first love, and a big part of my art form.  I'm here to encourage you with paint, prose, and poetry.  I'm here to unleash an army of women whose metric is grace.

One of my passions is the middle age woman.  This beautiful season of life is under-celebrated and under-valued.  Middle aged women do not get enough support, by and large.  I aim to change that, when and where I can.  I believe that, just like Abraham in the bible, “everywhere the soles of your feet tread shall be yours…the Lord will extend your boundaries…”.  

Middle age is a vast and gracious land, a land where many of us now find ourselves walking, a land where the potential fruit is enormous if you are willing to slay some giants.  I’m busy doing just that, in my personal life, in my art, and in my writing and speaking ministry.  I want to help you extend your boundaries, and to inherit what’s yours, in every season.  

After all, if I encourage the women, I encourage the world.

So sit down, relax, and please overlook my hair (it is its own light source, my apologies.).  Let's talk about the things that really matter, and laugh about the things that really don't.  

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Ok, don't you love her already?

I didn't even know this lady 4 months ago!  Our dear mutual friend Jeanne Oliver mentioned her to me when we were in Italy together this past summer and she told me it was someone I needed to know.  Well, a few hours later I got a Facebook message that was Jeanne connecting us.  THANK YOU JEANNE!  I truly am in Awe of the Lord's PERFECT timing and the way He brings people into our lives.  I already love and adore Sheila and the conversations we have had just confirm it over and over.  You do NOT want to miss this special, special lady having a BLAST in Italy with us next FALL!

You can check out more of Sheila's life and art at: Sheilaatchley.art

So let me share with you the WHY we decided to add this retreat next year.  I know... I already have a retreat in Italy in 2018!  And if you want to join that one... Please feel free to join us!  I think I have a few more spots open if the Summer 2018 retreat works better for your schedule.  I know for some people it's easier to get away when the kids have their summer break and that would be a great time to actually BRING the family!  This past summer we had our biggest group EVER and it was because we said YES to hubby's or families and it was a BLAST!

Getting back to the FALL 2018 Retreat...

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My daughter and I just got back from a work trip to France & Italy for our retreats and we really didn’t expect what happened.  We knew it would be beautiful in the fall (and it WAS) and it would be so great to see new things and discover new places we want to take YOU in the future… and it WAS.  But we didn’t think we would be coming back… NEXT Fall!  It was just SO beautiful and SO inspiring and we could feel the Lord stirring something in us to come back with YOU next fall… so we are.  

Each year that we have done these retreats I am just in awe of how God is moving and knitting people together through these times together.  We are so thankful the Lord has blessed us with this opportunity to serve and love and come along side the women that come to our retreats! Our prayer is always that the people who the Lord is calling to be there COME, and that throughout the week they are able to draw closer to Him and hear and experience what God is wanting them learn from this time in Italy.  

It is so evident that He places us in the right place at exactly the right time because He has something to show us.  Mostly, because the Lord wants so show us how much He LOVES US but ALSO to show us how BIG of a God He is and that He does have a PLAN for each one of us and He wants us to see that!  He also brings others into our lives for a reason and I get SO excited to see that each year… the people who come into a group of strangers and leave a week later with a FAMILY of friends.  He is so good to bring us together and bring people into our lives who we need to know… who we may need to help us through hard times, or to share our joys or simply to share laughs with and beautiful art with… and that it ultimately is His gift to bring us together.  I am so unbelievably sure of that... and it's why I always cry at these retreats...

because of the STORIES.

I could go on and on with stories... one about a woman telling me she "needed to hear those exact words" or another lady saying she doesn't have very many women in her life and she now has a whole group of ladies!  Or that one lady was so down on herself and how she felt she was "weird or didn't fit it in her world" until another lady who came was JUST LIKE HER... and she realized it was OK to be who she is!  Or how one has struggled with a certain problem and two other ladies were going through the SAME THING.  The stories go on and on.  So as we pray each year for the people to come, I am in AWE of how the Lord orchestrates it... 

PERFECTLY.

I say all this because I want that for YOU.  I'm not trying to sell you on a week in Italy.  You could go by yourself and see Italy.  What I am wanting is for you to come spend a week getting to know what the Lord has for you here at one of our retreats.  Because if you are feeling it on your heart to come... than He does have something here for you.  And trust me... you will go back changed.  I hear it all the time... "This was LIFE CHANGING"  

So please pray about it, seek the Lord's will, and if you feel the Lord prompting you to come next year, then come.  There WILL be room for you.  If you sign up NOW... OR if you can't sign up for a while.  I truly believe if you are meant to come, there will be a space for you.  

Registration will OPEN THIS FRIDAY, November 10, 2017 at 9am PST/Noon EST

You will click on the SIGN UP button at the top of this website and then the drop down menu will show three different retreats.  Click on the "Italy Retreat - Fall 2018" if that is the retreat you want to join and then it will take you to another page.  On that page you will click on the retreat you want to SIGN UP for and it will take you through the prompts to pay the deposit.

Oh, I hope to meet you in Italy next year!

Hugs,

Laura

P.S.  I am always available if you have ANY questions.  You can contact me via the CONTACT button at the top of the page as well.

 

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Are you asking... and dreaming?

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Are you asking... and dreaming?

John 16:24 “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and you joy will be complete.”

I understand that this verse is a little bit controversial.

No, God is not a genie in a bottle, ready to give you what you want. Asking our Father for spiritual blessings, the desires of our heart, or for Him to work in our lives and show us what that looks like... should be from a humble confidence that understands where our blessings come from. That we are completely dependent upon Christ and Christ alone.

It also makes it clear that we are to ask in Jesus’ name.

So first off, we are called to ask. Ask, with a right heart. Next... well if it says “you will receive” then that means we understand that we are dependent on God to receive it. That we acknowledge that dependence and rely on Him.

And finally...

God delights in our joy.  

How awesome is that! He wants us to have our souls filled up with JOY.  Soak that in.  

AND DREAM.  Like Mark Batterson says... If your dreams don't scare you they aren't BIG enough!

Bring your humble heart and your honest prayers to Him today. The relationship you can have with the Father is like none other. Seek that out and He will bless you. And ask it all in Jesus’ name.

Ok... can I get an Amen??!

I am dreaming up plans right now for NEXT October in Italy!  

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I'll share more later today... and will REVEAL the When, Where and Who will be teaching with me in Italy next Fall!!

Have a blessed day!❤️🙏🏻 

Hugs,

Laura

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Love, Tuesday... Work & Italy

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Love, Tuesday... Work & Italy

I know... that sounds like an oxymoron.  Work and Italy together.

It's rough.  ;)

But seriously... we DID work, and even though it is the most incredible, inspiring and enjoyable place TO work, we want to make sure that when you come to Italy WITH us, we are showing YOU the most incredible, inspiring and enjoyable places while you are there!

Here is a snapshot of some of the places we saw while we were working:

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We have been to Lake Como many times, (I think this was my 16th time) but this was the first time we were there so late in the fall.  It was STUNNING.  I just didn't realize you would see so much COLOR.  Someone told me while we were there that on the lake they have about 40% of their trees that change color.  Wow, was it gorgeous!

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This little hamlet of Bellagio is one of my favorites.  It's very hidden and most people never explore it, but it has some amazing views of the other side of the lake and this building is one of my favorite buildings in all of Bellagio.  As we were walking here I had an inkling that this house would be beautiful, because in the summer it is covered in these green leaves.  Well, I have to say that at this time of year it is just showing off!  hahaha

I couldn't get enough of it... I think I took photos from every angle I could get.  :)

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We both just couldn't stop taking pictures!  And that is why I could kick myself for not taking the good camera!  I know the iPhone has a great camera, but it just doesn't have the capabilities of a good digital camera.  So remind me next time... take your good camera Laura!

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This is another angle of the photo I posted yesterday on "What path are you taking?" blog post.  This door and path is on the way to that same hamlet in the photo above.  I walk past this door every time I'm there and I had such a urge to open it and see what was "behind that door"   :)

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And of course I always find a "heart" rock.  Ok, they might not be perfectly shaped like a heart, but I'm ok with that.  To me it's just a "God wink" that I always find one.  It's like my little sign that I'm where I am supposed to be and the Lord is IN THIS.  This job, this dream, this mission... He has it all in His plans and we are just a tiny little part of the equation.  We have been praying over this place and what the Lord is calling Rebecca and I to do here and we know He is showing us some amazing plans! 

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And this lady right here, Rita, she is a BIG part of that!  The Lord brought her into our lives for a reason and we are so blessed by her.  She has such JOY and PASSION for her Bellagio.  I am so grateful we have been able to "team up" with her and that she WANTS to show us her lake!  It was such a fun WORK WEEK with her and we have lots to show YOU now.  

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Rita also introduced us to an amazing artist, right there in Bellagio!  We were so honored that he would take the time to meet with us in his studio and talk to us about his art, his plans for a studio he is building and how we can work together in the future.  Exciting things happening and I will be sharing more very soon!

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So there you have it!  We have some new things on the horizon for our Art & Faith Creative Retreats!  We look forward to what God is doing and what He has in store for those who come.

We are looking forward to meeting the next group right here in June of 2018!  If you are still interested in joining that group, there are a few spots available and I always, always say this... if the Lord is putting it on your heart to come, then listen to Him and trust that He will make a way.  

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He brings the people to our retreats that He has already planned to be there... for a reason.  There are way too many examples of this to tell you right now, but the ladies who have come can tell you.  They needed to be there and it changed their lives in some little or big way...  For that reason we will continue to do these retreats as long as the Lord allows.  

Which brings me to the reason why we went in October... (although we didn't know it at the time... but the Lord is ever patient with us and guiding us to what He wants...)

We are going to do TWO retreats in Bellagio next year!!

Yes, we are!  We will be sharing the details of the next one VERY SOON.  We are so blessed by the lady who will be teaching with me and I still can't believe it!  We are praying about what this will look like and the exact dates, but it will most likely be the last week in September or the first week in October.  

If you are at all interested in coming to Lake Como, Italy with us next fall then please send me an email via the CONTACT page up at the top.  I will put you on the email list when we announce it... very soon!

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The Lord is gathering people.  He WANTS us to meet together.  I pray you consider joining us in that and seeing what He has in store for you.

Hugs,

Laura

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What path are you taking?

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What path are you taking?

Looking over my photos from this year I've noticed a theme.  I take a lot of photos of paths!  What I'm realizing is that it's so fitting for this year because we are truly seeing that the Lord has us on a NEW path and we did NOT expect it.  More on that later...

Here's just some of the paths we have been on in 2017 and you're welcome to scroll right on by, or you can indulge my nostalgia.  :)

This beach path was taken on New Years Day... Looking into colleges for Rebecca lead us to this beautiful beach path in Santa Barbara.  She didn't follow this path because she clearly felt the Lord calling her in a different direction and we are so thrilled she listened to that "still, small voice" that was speaking to her.

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This really cool city street path lead us to one of the cutest little cafe's in all of Paris when we went to Paris in the Springtime!  What a beautiful time of year to explore one of our favorite cities.

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Old cathedral walkways are beautiful and bittersweet to me... This was a beautiful pathway in Mont-Saint Michel in France that we toured and even though is was beautiful, it was a bit sad to see it as just a tourist destination and not really a place of worship anymore.

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This gorgeous path below was in Bruges, Belgium and Rebecca and I had a glorious day this past spring biking through here.  We are SO excited to do this again next summer with the ladies coming to our Paris & Belgium retreat!   We also got to explore many paths in Belgium on a horse-drawn carriage and wander down the beautiful streets that we can't wait to come back to. 

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This girl got to walk another new path... and have a photo shoot in Paris for her Senior photos taken on these picturesque paths!  That was a beautiful surprise and a really special day for both of us.

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Some of the paths we took this year lead us to new places and some lead us to places we used to live!  It was so fun to go back to Orange County in May with our friends from church and spend a weekend in Newport Beach.  We will treasure these times with our families because we know we are all taking different paths soon...

Because sometimes paths will lead you away from people.

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And some pathways will lead you to new people in your lives.  Getting to finally meet Jeanne's whole family this summer and spend time with them was such a treasure and we are so grateful to have had this special time in Bellagio with them!  

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This pathway in Venice was just MAGICAL.  Isabella was so enchanted with this city and it was so much fun to see a place through someone else's eyes.  I feel this way about Bellagio when we see the look of wonder on peoples faces when they see it for the first time.  It is such a joy to get to experience that again and again.

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Isabella was so in love with Venice.  This "path" or Ponte dell'Accademia Bridge has one of the most stunning views of the Grand Canal.  I'm so glad we took the time to take Isabella to Venice this past summer and give her a chance to see this beautiful "floating city."  I know we will be back and find new paths to explore in this amazing place.

Sometimes we take unexpected paths in life and they lead to big changes...

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We would have never thought that taking a road trip from California to Michigan this past summer would change the trajectory of our lives... but it has.

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This beach on Lake Michigan was a quiet spot for me to spend time thinking about what the Lord was stirring in my heart on that road trip.  I believe He wants us to take those times to "Be still" and listen.  So much of our lives we are busy WITH life and we forget to listen to what He has FOR our lives?  This road trip was THAT time for me... and it changed the path we are on now.

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We came home from that road trip and felt a stirring.  If you read my blog post below "Go out in Faith" you know what I'm talking about.  This guy on the path below is one amazing man.  He was able to listen to what the Lord was showing me, believe that the Lord was working in our lives, pray to be lead as well and then move on what we both felt the Lord was calling us to do.  I think he'll find new paths to take with that Harley wherever we live...

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We had a few other paths to head down this year...  Like a trip to Colorado where we actually put an offer on 35 acres of land!  Then an anniversary trip back to where we honeymooned in New England.  And then a trip back to France for Rebecca and I to teach and work... It's been a quite a busy year, if you couldn't tell already! hahaha

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And then Italy... that path just has our hearts. We just got back and I'll be sharing photos from that trip tomorrow on my Love, Tuesday post.  

I'll never tire of walking the beautiful pathways in Italy.  I hope to be an 80 year old lady walking these paths hand in hand with Lance. 

Some pathways, no matter how many times you have been on that path, are so special and have such a place of HOME that they can be visited over and over again...

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And then some pathways BECOME your NEW home...

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It's OFFICIAL... As of today, we are land owners in Colorado!  We can't quite believe it yet, but we are stepping out in faith and praying about what that is supposed to look like for our future.  I continue to be AMAZED at how God works things out and look to Him to guide us on this new path we are on.  Thank you again for all your support and kind comments on here and via email and social media!  We are so grateful and pray that the Lord will just shine in all of this.

The last few days as it lead up to our closing on the land the bible verses for each day were about God building your house, then the next day... God providing for your land and then today was about paths... 

I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Psalm 119:104

I LOVE how things become clear and He speaks to us through His Word.

And, I don't know about you... but I don't want to be on the WRONG path.  I think I was on the wrong path for far too long in my life.  The safe, lukewarm path... I'm sad that that is true, but my husband can attest to it.  The wrong path doesn't have to look horrible and scary and ugly... it can just be a little off from the RIGHT path, to be the WRONG path.  

I am so thankful that the Lord got me back on HIS path and I'll be honest... this new path is scary!  But I am hopeful and excited to see where He leads us.

Think about the paths you have gone down this year... or the last few years.  Would you say you are on the right path?

If not... seek the Lord in prayer to show you how to get there.  Because He has a pretty scary, but awesome path for you too!  It's about having a little Faith and Trust... and being ALL IN for the PATH that leads to eternal JOY.

What path are you taking?

 

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Love, Tuesday...

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Love, Tuesday...

It's been a week since Rebecca and I got home from our time in France and Italy.  Here's a little bit about our time there and some photos from our trip on this Love, Tuesday...

We went on this trip was for two purposes.  I'll share the first purpose this time and later this week I'll share about the other reason.

Rebecca and I met up with two ladies this last spring in San Diego that live in France.  We were put in contact with them through a lady that contacted me via this website a couple years ago and is actually now going to teach with me next summer in Bellagio!  We are so thankful for these beautiful connections God places in our lives and know that there is a reason for every one of these connections.  We talked and connected and became fast friends that night in San Diego, and decided it would be fun if I would come to France and teach a class to a group of ladies they meet with every other week.  They started a group called the "Wisdom Cafe" for anyone that is interested in joining that live on the French Riviera and have really seen God working in beautiful ways.  So of course I needed my helper, Rebecca... and were off on a plane to France in the beautiful fall!

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The ladies hosted us in this quaint little village of Valbonne, France in this adorable little hotel!  The weather was PERFECT.  We enjoyed that first evening just strolling through the beautiful cobblestone streets and delighted in the quiet pace of this beautiful place.  There was a definite Italian influence in this town that we noticed though and they said it was because at some point in time it WAS part of Italy!

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The next morning we had a lovely breakfast in the town square and then headed to the home of one of the ladies who would be hosting the "Wisdom Cafe" that day.

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This very French style home is the home of Roger and Sarah, who have been living in France for 12 years now.  How can it get any cuter than this?

On a side note: One really cool thing about Roger & Sarah... they lived in Colorado for 16 years!  It was so neat to have a conversation about what we are seeing the Lord do in our lives in moving us to Colorado and hear their story of their time there as well.  This actually happened three separate times on our trip and I'll share the other two times in my next post. 

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We set up our class kits and then started welcoming all the ladies who were arriving.  Wow, they were beautiful ladies!  We found out that there were 9 different countries represented in the group that day and they all had amazing stories of how they came to live in the South of France.  We enjoyed a beautiful lunch that Cy and Sarah prepared and we took some time to talk with each lady throughout the day and hear their beautiful accents from all over the world!

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The "Wisdom Cafe" is something they started years ago as an opportunity to connect women and share their faith.  They like to discuss all different topics, but this was the first time they actually brought someone in to do an art class!  I was so humbled by that and really excited to share my connection with Art & Faith.  They usually have a long discussion about a certain topic for that day but since we were going to do an art project they asked me some questions and had me share a little of my story and my retreats.   We talked about art and the connection to faith and I spoke about our Creator and how He ties those things together for me.  One of the quotes that we really enjoyed talking about was this one from Pablo Picasso:

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ― Pablo Picasso.

What a beautiful description of how art can cleanse the soul.  Most of these ladies had not done any type of art since their school days.  So I talked a little about the innocence of childhood and how creative we are as children and as we grow up we loose that freeness of spirit... and how we need to try to get that back!  

Because ART is FUN and THERAPEUTIC and GOOD FOR THE SOUL!

Then it was time to make art.  

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As a teacher I am always wanting to make sure everyone understands what I am teaching and they are getting the techniques as well.  With this group I was giving them a couple different choices for their canvas so it was a lot to teach at once!  But they all looked like they really enjoyed it and it was so nice to see their finished art at the end.  Here's a picture of some of the ladies who were there and wanted their photo taken with their canvas.  I hope to see some of these ladies next summer in Italy! 

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Here I am with Cy and Sarah, the two ladies who we met in San Diego.  These two have such a heart for France and have been such a blessing to so many people.  Thank you ladies for letting me come and be a part of what you are doing there!

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That night we drove with Cy to Cannes for dinner.  It was fun to see this iconic spot on the Rivera and have dinner at a cafe next to one of the most famous hotels in Cannes.

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We even had "famous" guests right next to us that were being filmed for a TV show... we think it was for a "Housewives" show.

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After dinner we walked on the boardwalk for a while and had a great time chatting with Cy about life here. Then she took us back to our little hotel in Valbonne, about 20 minutes away,  and we came back to the town actually "closed"...

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Yes, they literally close the streets at night and put the fences up so you can't drive in! Now that's a small village vibe for sure... gotta love that.

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The next morning we were up early and onto the train station to go get some work done... in Italy!

I'll share more about that next time.

Hope you enjoy YOUR Tuesday and I would love to hear what YOU love today.

Hugs,

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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