Love, Tuesday...

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Love, Tuesday...

I LOVE the shape of a heart.  All different shapes and sizes.  I have put them on most of my artwork over the years and my bible journaling and I also have a thing for finding heart rocks.  If you've followed along you may have noticed that I find a heart shaped rock every single time I'm in Bellagio, Italy.  It's just a thing... well my daughters may question how much of a "heart" shape my rocks are, but this one right here take the cake for me:

Come on... am I right!?!  Yes, it's not perfectly shaped like the one in my bible down below.  But it's the most beautiful one I have found in Bellagio... ever!  It found "me"  when we were kayaking one day before the retreat with Jeanne's family and the Taylors and as we stopped for a little break the kids played in the lake and I looked down and there it was.  LOVE...

It's how I feel about this group of people that have been such a big part of our lives over the last couple years.  It was such a blessing to get to spend a little bit of time doing things like this before the retreat started, and it was just so fitting that I found a heart rock... with them.  

They are my prayer partners and I am so thankful for that!  For the last couple years we have ALL been through some very heavy stuff and it has been such an amazing thing to have this group of people that will pray at all hours of the day and night, whenever someone needs prayer.

We have shared our joys and tears together...

We've told each other our DREAMS...

and we've taken enough selfies to crash the Internet!

So this Love, Tuesday is for the "Bellagio Girls"...

"I thank God every time I remember you..."  Philippians 1:3-11.

Have a GREAT Tuesday everyone!  We are headed out very early tomorrow morning for a LONG road trip to Michigan!  We are excited to see some friends along the way (maybe even one or two or more of these sweet people...) and praying for safe travels and protection as we go.

Hugs to all,

Laura

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 5

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 5

Buongiorno!  

We have been home for a few days now and I'm finally getting around to posting about the retreat!  We were in Italy for almost a month and all at the same time it feels like we were there forever and also like it went by so fast.  The week before the retreat we always arrive to start preparing for our group and getting everything ready.  Then the week of the retreat goes by so fast it seems like as soon as we are welcoming everyone, we are turning around and hugging them goodbye.  Then all of a sudden we are there by ourselves and it's so quiet and we don't know what to do with ourselves...  I guess it's a pattern we should get used to.

This year was so special and I hope I can convey that in the photos... but it was unique in a couple ways.  First, my Art & Faith Creative Retreats have mostly been all women, but this year we invited families and husbands to come!  It was such a different dynamic but so wonderful.  Some of the families we knew at least one person but to get to know the hubbies or children as well was so much fun.  My hubby also was there the whole time, which isn't usually the case.  Usually he comes for part of the time we are in Italy but then needs to get back to work.  But this year he stayed the whole month with us and was a part of the retreat as well!  I have to say that the guys had a GREAT time exploring and chatting and just getting time to be guys while we were having fun in our classes... I wish we would have taken a photo of all the guys.

Next year will also be open to families and I think a few of our own family friends are going to join in on the fun!  So if you are thinking of coming and want to bring your husband or family... I hope you will prayerfully consider joining us.  We are exited to see what the Lord is going to do NEXT summer as well.

But here is a photo tour of THIS year and what fun we had.  This is Part 5 in a series of blog posts, so I encourage you to look through the other posts that I shared during the week.  The previous posts also share my Pray. Wait. Trust devotional that I gave each student at the retreat.

 

Villa Melzi is a beautiful home and garden that is open to the public and rich in history.  We enjoyed many days wandering the gardens and sitting on the benches right under these magnificent Sycamore trees.  Sunday "church" for us was right here some times reading the Word of God and doing our own devotions and bible journaling.

Oh I already miss this group!  We become like a little family and I know we will all be connected because of the time we spent together... but I always wish we could have a little "reunion" again and I hope to see all of these people again some day.

Here's my space in the event room with some of our projects that we worked on during the week.  A beautiful art/junk journal by Jeanne Oliver, a prayer journal by Stephanie Ackerman and a mixed-media canvas that I taught. 

Here's Jeanne teaching and doing a devotional one morning.   I had asked each teacher to do a devotional on our theme of Prayer and it was beautiful to see their hearts and what the Lord put on their hearts to speak to everyone.  I love these ladies and am so beautifully inspired by them.  

The architecture on Lake Como is also so inspiring.  Art is everywhere here, everywhere you turn you can see the beauty of God's creation and how He has inspired people all through history to create beauty as well.

One of my favorite towns on the lake is Varenna.  It's got one of the most beautiful walking paths by the lake and it was so wonderful so spend some time with a friend of ours in his beloved home town.  He showed us things about his town and the history of his own family here on a beautiful afternoon last week.  Thank you Roberto for your time and friendship.

Here's a place I know you've seen me post many times.  Part of the reason we love the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni and why I always host my retreats here is this lakefront pool.  It's so refreshing after a day out exploring to come back here and relax.  They don't have enough apartments for all the people who come with me so I do use other locations, but if you plan to come some day to one of my retreats and you REALLY want to enjoy this pool (some people are not pool people) then let me know when you sign up that this is important and I will try my best to get you in this location. 

Another JOY of mine is to offer a cooking class with these two ladies!  This is Silvana and Elisabetta.  They are mother daughter and Silvana has a cooking class in town that her daughter helps her with.  It's such a fun time to learn from them and believe me when I tell you... the ladies LOVE this class!  It's most definitely a highlight of the trip!

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Here's one of the groups at the end of their class and meal with their Diploma's!

A day on the lake is alway a very special day during out week.  We have so much fun seeing the lake from the water and visiting some of the beautiful villas on the lake.

My friend Rita was our tour guide for this day and it was a GREAT day with her!

If Villa Balbianello is familiar to you... it may be because several movies were filmed here including Star Wars, James Bond and A Month on the Lake.

This girl... Stephanie Ackerman lights up a room with her humor.  I wish I had her sense of humor,  I just don't have that quick witted of a brain... But I LOVE to laugh and I am thankful for people like her and Jeanne that can make my stomach hurt from laughing so much!  Thankful she said YES to teaching with me again and thankful for her heart and what she so opening and honestly shared with us that I know touched lives in such a real way.  

Here we are peeking through some of the beautiful architecture at Villa Balbianello.  Isn't this just the cutest group ever??  Look at those cute kiddos we had!  Love, love, love all of them... especially "slim squeezy"  :)

Some of my favorite memories are shared over dinners together.  This can be said for most people I'm sure.. but when you have beauty and ambiance like this and such great people to share it with... it's as perfect as it can get I think!

This little cutie loves these retreats and loves helping set up and going on all the excursions with everyone.

My guy.  Words can't really explain how I feel about him.  He's always been my greatest "cheerleader" and supports what I am doing 100%.  He really got to see what it is we are doing here this time and I'm so thankful he was a part of it.

Oh, and he's just a tad bit excited about this peach sorbet... so much so that they know how much he loves it and he always tends to get the biggest bowl of it when we go here.  Don't they know I'm the one in charge... and I LOVE their peach sorbet too...  hahaha :)

On the last day we had a fun little picnic at the hotel in their gardens.  The weather did not cooperate this week very well, but we managed to make the best of it and enjoy so special times like these by getting outside and experiencing the beauty of this place.

Oh my heart.  To finally meet all of Jeanne's family this time was such a great joy!  She has an amazing family and we just adore each one.  Then I also got to have our dear friends Tom & Erin DeRusha come this year and help me with everything.  We had some special times with these people that I will treasure forever.  Thank you Jeanne and Erin so much for all that you are.  I can't believe I didn't take a "selfie" with my girl Jeanne... but I'm excited to say that I get to see her in a few days and I will make SURE that it happens!

This pasta... oh how we long for it when we are home!  My hubby asks for the recipe each year... and they don't share it with him.  (lol)  I guess it's just a thing we have to wait for when we go back each year and sometimes, if we're lucky, it pops up in our dreams when we are not there...

These cuties!  Mia is a "regular" at our retreats.  Funny, but true!  Her first time here was when she was 5 and then she came to my retreat in Paris a couple years ago.  Then we got so lucky to have her and her dad and mom this year!  The sweet connections my girls have made with the people who have come over the years is really life changing.  I'm so grateful for these connections and to have friends all over the world that we have made through these retreats.

My friend Rita.  I really love this lady and my retreats would NOT be the same without her.  If you've been before with me then you know why.  If you haven't been and will some day... then you will instantly know why she is so beloved!  Come for the art, come for the faith... come for the gelato... but you will leave with a friend in this lady, someone who is so passionate about her "lake" and believe me... it's contagious!

I couldn't resist...Sorry Rebecca & Jack.  But these two didn't know each other before this week (or 10 days to be exact) and it's pretty safe to say they became friends, as you can tell by this photo.  Rebecca loves to laugh, is quite sarcastic in her humor and has a joy of the Lord that you don't find is many young adults these days.  I can say that I never heard her laugh so much, get quite a bit of sarcastic humor thrown back at her and have someone to talk about her faith with. She also never posts pictures on IG of guys... so needless to say when I saw this pop up on my feed I was a bit intrigued!  ;)-

Gelato.  Yes we consumed a LOT of gelato!  But you walk everywhere so it's all good...  In all honestly there are so many aspects of enjoying a week in Italy that you will LOVE.  You can go with your family, you can go by yourself... or you can go on another tour.  There are many choices for you.  But I hope you will see that this choice, our Art & Faith Creative Retreat, is pretty special.  

The classes are special too!  Here's a little snapshot of Stephanie's classes.  We had so much fun making our OWN stamps! And her prayer journal is something I am using now on a daily basis.  I love this part of our time together.  To learn new techniques and really  make that connection between Art & Faith.  I will share with you on another post about how the Lord showed me how deeply He cares and how connected things are...

Here's a page I finished while I was there.  It's a page I started back at home and actually posted on Shanna Noels' Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling page on FB.  But I knew I needed to paint it with the colors of Italy, here in Italy.  I went back to Villa Melzi's gardens to sit and ponder these verses and what they actually mean for me, here in a place that I feel so called to.  To share the LOVE of Jesus with everyone who comes here and everyone we have been blessed to know here. I am in AWE of the Lords love for us and how amazing He is that His gift of love is for EVERYONE.  

I can't believe I got to spend a month in Italy with these people.  No it wasn't perfect 100% of the time.  But 100% of the time I love these people and am so thankful for them.  I think traveling far from home helps us to remember that we are here for a purpose.  Life is about people and the connections we make, not the things we attain.  I have always rather had a small home and less things so that we could travel and share those special times with our family.  It's never ever easy to do that and we have made sacrifices along the way, but it is so worth it in the end.  How many people have we heard that at the end of their life the only regret they have is that they didn't spend enough time with the ones they love.  We missed Victoria and Dany on this trip and are hoping they can come next summer... But what a JOY it is to do something you KNOW you are meant to do and be able to do it with the people you love!

And I have to give a big SHOUT OUT to this lady!  Erin is not only a friend... but was the 3rd grade teacher to Rebecca AND Isabella and she taught them how to swim as well.  She has seen my retreats from day one.  She has heard me talk about them, she has given me ideas for them and she was the first person to ask if I needed any help with them! (hahaha)  Well this year was the biggest year ever and YES, it was time to ask for more help.  She was fantastic and stepped right in and didn't get bothered by my "attention to detail"  in everything!  Thank you Erin, it was a trip I won't ever forget with you and Tom by our side!!  

I guess I'll end this long, photo heavy post with this girl.  She's now not only my helper but my business partner!  She has a heart for what I am doing and now what WE are doing here and all over the world, Lord willing.  I know we are praying BIG prayers together for what this is supposed to look like going forward.  Where the Lord is calling us to... What is should look like... and how often we should do these retreats.  So I'm blessed to see her heart for others come out so beautifully and I am looking forward to what the Lord is going to do through her in the future.

And if your noticing she is on a gondola in Venice, Italy... that's because we took a couple days and rented a car and stayed in Venice.  It was a GREAT little side trip and there may be some planning taking place for a future retreat here... but I will share more pictures from our two days in Venice next blog post, so stay tuned!

Hugs to all,

Laura

P.S.  Next years Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Bellagio, Italy is OPEN for Registration!  You can SIGN UP right here under the SIGN UP page at the top of the page.

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 4

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 4

Well, the retreat is over and everyone left this morning.  It is such a sad time when we have to say goodbye to another group.  Last night was the final dinner together and we enjoyed a little surprise as well.  It was such a GREAT group of people and we are so thankful for another week the Lord blessed us with.  Our prayers are always that the people who the Lord is calling to be here come and that throughout the week they are able to draw closer to Him and get out of this week what God is wanting them to hear...

I hope that is what happened and I am hopeful that it will stretch out into their future and their lives going forward.  They all have enriched my life and shown me that God is so in control of this "dream job" and that is truly is a JOY to serve others during these retreats.  But it's also so evident that He places us in the right place at exactly the right time because He has something to show us.  Mostly, the Lord wants so show us how much He LOVES US but also that He does have a PLAN and even through the struggles and trials in life He brings others into our lives to share our burdens.  To help us through hard times 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 after these retreats...

because of the STORIES.

 

I could go on and on about one woman telling me she "needed to hear that" 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" 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.  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.  I'm wanting you to come spend a week getting to know the Lord and what He has for you here.  Because if you are feeling it on your heart to come... than He does have something here for you.  And you will go back you changed.  I just heard it last night... "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... as in REGISTRATION opens in less then 3 hours... 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 be OPEN for sign ups at 6pm Italy time (which is 9am PST and NOON EST)

You can sign up on the SIGN UP button at the top of this website.  Click on SIGN UP and then REGISTRATION and you will see all the information and this image:

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You'll go through the process to pay your non-refundable deposit to secure your space in next years retreat!  I am excited to see who will be here with us next summer in Italy!

Here's a little SNEAK PEEK of the teachers and what they do:

I will be teaching Bible Journaling as well as a Traveler's Notebook class, and Sarah Bechler and Simona Angheleri will be teaching with me!  I will post next week more information about each teacher, but I wanted you to see a little of their work now.  Simona is from right here on Lake Como!!  She is such a beautiful lady who is a watercolor artist and teaches all over Italy.  She is also a very talented Baker and has a wonderful Instagram you NEED to follow!  Sarah is from Michigan and we connected a couple years ago and it's such a great story I have to share it in depth next week!  But Sarah is also an amazing artist and has her own company called Old Glory Woolen Company and I am excited to be adding a new art form to next years classes!!

 I am excited to see who will be here with us next summer in Italy!  Here's a photo from this past Thursday when we visited Villa Balbianello.

We had the LARGEST group ever this year... 33 people... but it was such a beautiful group with families and husbands and so much laughter and friendships that developed!

I wanted to leave you with the last part of the Pray. Wait. Trust devotional from this past retreat.   The last day is on trust and that I know that is a hard thing to do...  So I hope you have time to go through each day and see what the Lord is speaking to you through it.

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Day 7 ~  Trust…

Trust is having a sense of reliance on Him working things out.  It’s where our faith becomes real, or tested.  We need to trust that God never fails and the final results are in His hands.  It’s giving up our own desires to let Him work it out according to His much better plan for our lives! 


Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be still.”  Are we trusting in the Lord enough to “be still” (to wait) and then willing enough to “go” or “act” when He says it’s time?

I found this beautiful breakdown of Romans 8:28 by Liz Higgs 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28:

1. And we know…can be confident, well assured… that we can TRUST that everything we are dealing with is temporary and purposeful.

2. in all things…everything, every details is in His hands and it all matters to God so pray about all of it and wait on his timing. Trust Him with all of it. KNOW that He’s got all of it… God is in ALL things.  He isn’t just “holding them” he is doing something about them!

3. God works…that’s the assurance…God has it and is working on our behalf!  Making all things work together… He designed us, he knows how to keep things together, how to orchestrate it all, he is Always working and in it with you!

4. for good…everything fits together as God works it toward something good!  Even if it doesn’t appear good now.  He is hands on… cleaning, straightening, organizing… (like cleaning a closet where it’s looks worse before it gets better)

5. for those who love Him…Does He do this for everyone on the planet?  No. It is only for those willing to open the door to their messy lives and say “Lord come in, I’m glad your here… please help me clean up my life and stay forever.”

6. who have been called…not only missionaries & evangelists… simply being called to be a part of God’s family.  When God reached out, you said yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit and accepted His invitation to live according to His plan for you life.

7. according to His purpose…“We are the clay, you are the potter.”  Isaiah 64:8 We are His workmanship.  Whatever He is making is good.  Because it is purposeful and some day we will be a finished vase or flower jar or beautiful pottery.. standing in His glorious presence.

We may not understand why we are going through difficult circumstances… but sometimes God is using those circumstances to in turn help others through them.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can then comfort others.  Maybe He is remodeling you.  Maybe God is increasing your capacity via adversity.  Maybe the problem you never thought you could overcome will turn into an opportunity to help others.  So give everything to God in prayer!

We need to pray, seek counsel and trust His wisdom & power.

We’ll never have all the answers.  Maybe trusting in Him is about having the faith to embrace the uncertainties of life.  We won’thave all the answers.  But remember that God has a way of making the uncertainties and troubles in our lives prepare us for future opportunities. 

Romans 8:38-39 ”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Prayer not only strengthens our relationship with God, but when we pray with other believers, prayer also strengthens the bonds between fellow Christians.  It is an amazing witness to His power and strength.  Prayer helps others know the love of Jesus.  Prayer can clear human obstacles out of the way in order for God to work. It is not that God can't work without our prayers, but that He has established prayer as part of His plan for accomplishing His will in this world.

 

~ Ask God to make you sensitive to His working in your everyday life.  

 

~ Thank Him that He is working on your behalf, even if you cannot see the answers to your prayers yet!

 

Do you believe what He has for you is good?  

That may be a hard question to answer… but it is a test of our faith.  I pray you come to the place where you say YES to Him working His will in your life, and receive everything as a gift of love from Him.  

 

What might we miss if we don’t Pray… wait… and trust??

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Next week I will try to post as many photos as Italy's Internet will allow... from this weeks retreat.  

Hugs to all,

Laura

 

 

 

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Art &  Faith in Italy... Part 3

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 3

Today we prayed away the rain... for a while.  :)

The rain has been so unseasonably strong this past week and Thursday is always our "Lake Day"... I really wanted to have a sunny day so they could all enjoy the lake tour and visit Villa Balbianello and have lunch at our favorite local restaurant by the shorefront.

So waking up this morning we were a little nervous to look out the window...

But to our amazement there were BLUE SKIES and beautiful white puffy clouds!!  Sun was out and greeting us and we had the perfect window of time for our whole excursion to be absolutely amazing!!

So very, very thankful for a wonderful day!

Here are Day 5 & 6 in the Pray. Wait. Trust devotional I have been sharing all this week:

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Pray… Day 5 ~ God hears our prayers.  

God is everywhere.  This is known as omnipresence, meaning that He is present everywhere throughout His creation. As a result of the reality of God's omnipresence, we are assured that no matter where we are, God will hear our prayers… even from the belly of a fish. 

Jonah 2:1-2 "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”  While I’m sure that wasn’t the most comfortable place to pray, we know that God heard the prayers of Jonah.  

When we pray to God we will be heard. But how can God hear unless we pray? How can our prayers be received unless they are sent? How beautiful are the prayers of those who seek the Lord, despite their circumstances.  God is eager to hear us, comfort us, strengthen us, help us, and uphold us with His "righteous right hand”  (Isaiah 41:10)

No prayer is too small for God to hear. Neither is any prayer too large for God to handle.

Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God”

Psalm 139:7 “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?”  

Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”

1 John 5: 14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.”

An important step in receiving the blessings of prayer is to humbly and sincerely offer our prayers to God. Fortunately, we can do this anywhere and anytime, because prayer is always available to us.  Prayer is our way of connecting with God in all of life’s circumstances. God is always listening, we can talk to Him any time throughout the day.  What an amazing realization when we understand that prayer is not an event, but a way of life… 

Ask Him to help you right now…

God is always ready to listen, no matter what our circumstances, but we must speak to Him in Prayer.

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Day 6 ~  Wait…

Yes, this IS the hard part because who wants to wait? But waiting is not a waste of time, it can be a step in God’s plan!  It’s not just a “pause” but an actual part of His plan.  We are called to wait, and it is actually a valuable time in our lives where we grow and learn to trust His timing!  He uses these “Pauses” in our lives for our blessing… if we let Him. God is working for those who wait for him.  The Creator is not lacking in anything and he is working, he cannot fail! 

There are rewards for waiting on His timing:

1. We discover His will:

Lam 3:25 “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”

Rom 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

2. We receive supernatural strength and power and endurance:

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

3. We win battles:

Proverbs 20:22  Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”

4. We see the fulfillment of our faith:

2 Corinthians 1:20 “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.”

5. We see God working on our behalf:

Isaiah 64:4 “For since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

When we wait on God and obey, He is actively working on our behalf.  He ensures our victory and He gets all the glory…That should get a big Yes & Amen!

Waiting means:

~ Looking to the Lord

~ Searching Him for His will

~ Praying before acting

~ Seeking God’s counsel first (in prayer)

~ Being open & submissive to Him

What do you see God working on in you while you are waiting?

We learn some of life’s greatest lessons while we wait.

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I hope you have enjoyed these little devotionals.  I will post the last one tomorrow. 

Saturday next years retreat will go LIVE right here on Saturday around 6pm here so that's 9am on the West Coast and Noon on the East Coast!  If you want to join in on next years Art & Faith retreat then come back on Saturday to sign up and pay your deposit to secure your space before it sells out.  I can't wait to share this week again with everyone next summer!

Hugs to all,

Laura

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 2

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 2

This week has been unseasonably rainy...  It's hard to plan for this kind of thing but I have to say that this group has been SO great about it!  We had plans to go to Varenna yesterday and it didn't work out so we thought about it today but as we were about to leave on the ferry the rain and thunder and lightening just poured down on us.  Thankfully most of them were fine staying back and we just spend more time in the event room working on our fun projects.  Some of them braved the weather and did go over for lunch to Varenna and wouldn't you know it... the rain stopped once they got over there for a while and they could explore a bit before it came back.

Tonight though we decided to brave the rain and whatever come may... because our dinner over across the lake is just one NOT to be missed!  So we headed over in the rain and got in our 4 vans and were driven up the mountain to our friends restaurant, Al Veluu.

It wasn't the best night for sitting outside so they put us all on a long table inside and it was so cozy and the perfect setting for a rainy evening meal.  I had to get a photo with the three of us teachers... but apparently we can't seem to take a "normal" photo... ever. :)

After dinner we were serenaded by Jeanne's kids (and one of mine) on the piano in the room.

Love that this group is all about working through the circumstances and having a GREAT time regardless of the weather.  Tomorrow we are praying the rain AWAY so we can go out on the lake and enjoy Villa Balbianello and lunch at our favorite spot on the lake!

So here are Day 3 & 4 of the Pray. Wait. Trust... Devotional I put together for this retreat:

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Pray… Day 3 ~ What Prayer Is Not…

This is just as important to understand.   We should not pray forselfish gain. Prayer should be about the Lord and what He wants for our lives, and to draw us closer to Him.

Prayer is not a genie in a bottle… we don’t get to make “wishes” that automatically come true.

Prayer does not make demands. While we can make requests to God in prayer, we dare not make demands. God is the Creator of the universe and does not take orders from us.

Prayer is for our benefit, not God's. We need a relationship with God, available to us through Jesus Christ and engaged primarily through prayer, because we were made to function best when we are in a proper relationship with our Creator. Prayer is not a guarantee against suffering. There will still be trials in life…Prayer just puts us in communication with the Creator who then gives us His peace that passes all understanding… in the middle of our circumstances.

John 16:33 ”In this world you will have trouble" 

1 Peter 4:12-13 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were  happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

We are so blessed to serve a God that cares about us.  This is about a relationship, not a religion.  God wants a relationship with you and is ready to listen when you call upon His name.

Because our God is holy, there is a barrier that exists between Him and us when we come to Him with unconfessed sin in our lives.  Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

He knows our prayers before we even ask them, so what have you held back and not talked to God about?

What trial have you been through that you felt the Lord’s hand guiding you through?

Prayer is exchanging our temporary desires for God’s eternal wisdom. 

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Pray… Day 4 ~ Prayer is always available.

Prayer is always available to us, but far too often we turn to God in prayer as a last resort, not a first response.  Charles Surgeon wrote: “Prayer is an open door which none can shut… Devils may surround you on all sides, but the way upward is always open, and as long as that road is unobstructed, you will not fall into the enemy's hand."

The Bible references several areas that hinder prayer:

  1. When we live according to our flesh, rather than in the Spirit, our desire to pray and our ability to effectively communicate with God is hindered. 
  2. God’s word says that without obedience there is no blessing. Disobedience to God's word and unconfessed sin are a hindrance to answered prayers. 
  3. We also can shut that “door” to God when we choose disbelief over belief. 
  4. When we have any unforgiveness in our heart.  Mark 11:25 Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

We need to make sure we are coming to Him in prayer with a humble heart and confessing our sins.  Once we have done that, we enjoy a clear and open channel of communication with God, and our prayers will not only be heard and answered, but we will also be filled with a deep sense of joy.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 ”Pray continually"

Luke 18:1 ”Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." 

Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

Jesus is the perfect example for us to look to on prayer.  He showed us through His life that we must rely on God through prayer for the strength and wisdom we need.  We also know from Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20 we are called to take up the “Whole Armor of God” because there is a Spiritual battle going on.  

Here are the tools that God provides us to win the battle:

~ Belt of Truth

~ Breastplate of Righteousness

~ Shoes of readiness of the gospel of peace

~ Shield of Faith

~ Helmet of Salvation

~ Sword of the Spirit - Word of God

So ask yourself if that “road” upward is obstructed? 

 

God is always working on behalf of His Children.

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Don't forget...

If you want to join us NEXT SUMMER right here on Lago di Como, Italy, you can SIGN UP for next years Art & Faith Creative Retreat on Saturday!  

 

Have a GREAT day,

Laura

 

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Art & Faith in Italy...

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Art & Faith in Italy...

Good evening from Bellagio!  We have started the classes this morning with all the ladies and it has been a wonderful day with everyone!  It is the biggest group ever and it has been great getting to know everybody and show them around Bellagio.

They all arrived on Saturday afternoon and we welcomed them on the Grand Hotel's terrace by the lake.  Then that night we had a quick dinner at our favorite pizza place since most everyone was really tired and that was the best choice for a quick meal.  Check out the size of the pizza in Jeanne's photo! ;)  That night happened to be the Sagra Di Bellagio... the Festival of San Giovanni... and the Torchlight procession from our hotel to the town of San Giovanni.  It is quite a special event and we have planned our retreat around this yearly event in the past but since it usually falls on the night they arrive I know so many people are tired and may not be able to handle doing this event.

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But I told everyone about it and about half of them wanted to participate and even just walk with the crowd for a while.  It really is something to see and I know they had fun watching such a neat traditional Italian festivity!

Here are the two town light bearers who lit my torch while I took this photo.

Then you just pass the fire around and light other torches so here's some in our group as they get started.

That night after the Festival we had quite a storm pass through the town but by Sunday morning it was all washed away and a beautifully clear day for our tour of Bellagio.  Rita is our lovely tour guide (and my dear friend) and she is always loved by everyone who comes to Bellagio with me.  You can't help but fall in love with Rita within 2 minutes of meeting her!  And we got to take her Mother-in-laws dog Molly with us on the tour too because Isabella loves Molly so much. :)

We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon with her showing us her beloved Bellagio and telling us so much of the history of this place. Here she is explaining the church in the square by our favorite Caffe Bar sport where we go get a cappuccino every morning...  It was such a joy to watch everyone be captured by the stories and passion that Rita has for her lake!

She takes us to her mother-in-laws home that is literally on the point of Bellagio.  It's an amazing location and you can see the mountains far North at the end of the lake that are the start of the Alps.  Such a beautiful day it was... you can see the town of Varenna off to the right in this photo as well. 

Here's Molly and her walker for the day...

Villa Melzi is a beautiful villa still owned and lived in my the Melzi family.  They are gracious to open it to the public and we get to enjoy the beauty of their gardens.  Here is Rita explaining all the different vegetation and the history of this amazing family!  (Think Napoleon and Leonardo Di Vinci... I won't spoil it for those who plan to join me here next year...)

I don't know why the kids are so tired... we adults did just fine... 

Then that night we enjoyed an amazing meal with our friend and talented chef Luigi.  It is quite the experience and I won't tell you everything... so if you come to one of my retreats you will still be surprised.

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Today was our first day in the classes and we started off with an hour of devotions and some quiet time to bible journal or be in the Word out on the terrace of the Grand Hotel.  I shared my heart for these retreats and talked about my devotional that I shared a little about last time on here...

 

So I will put the first 2 days of the devotional down here below that I wrote and I hope you will spend some time on it this week as I post each day.  I will try to do all 7 days on here so you can also work through them with us.  I hope it blesses you in some way.

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Pray… Day 1 ~ What is Prayer?

1. Prayer is communication with our Creator.  

2. It is a relationship with the living God.   But just like in any other relationship when you don’t communicate, it falls apart.  So God wants us to seek a relationship with him and come to Him in prayer.  But to truly understand prayer, we must first have a clear idea of who God is.  

God is a personal being… meaning we can communicate and interact with Him. He cares for us, He has a plan for us and He loves us.  This is critical to prayer because if He wasn’t an all loving, all caring, all knowing, all powerful God…prayer would be meaningless.  

We know these things to be true because the Bible shows us all these things:

Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loves us.”

Matthew 6:8 “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 ” … if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 

He is all powerful and in control of everything in His creation.  He created prayer to commune with us and it is our way of serving Him and seeking His will for our lives.

Do you believe He is loving and cares about every detail of your life?

What do you want to bring to Him in prayer today?

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Pray… Day 2 ~ We are Called to Pray.

Throughout God’s Word we are called to pray.  In fact God commands us to pray. Prayer is also our weapon against a war the enemy is raging against us.  “Prayer is what brings the power of heaven down to earth.” Priscilla Shirer

When we pray we are:

~ Praising & Thanking Him 

~ Confessing our sins

~ Bringing our requests to Him

~ Interceding for others

Here are examples of how He calls us to pray:

Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray …"

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." 

Ephesians 6:18 ”And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

Philippians 4:6 ”Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Here’s a prayer “framework” from Priscilla’s book Fervent:

P - Praise.  Thanksgiving is one of the most important aspects of prayer.  Gratitude to God for who He is and what He’s already done should thread throughout every prayer because ultimately His name and His fame are the only reasons any of this matters.

R - Repentance.  God’s desire is to claim your heart and the hearts of those you love.  So prayer is also about what’s happening on the inside, where real transformation occurs.  Expect prayer to expose where you’re still resisting Him - not only resisting His commands but resisting the manifold blessings and benefits He gives to those who follow Him. 

A - Asking.  Make your requests known.  Be personal and specific.  Write down details of your own issues and difficulties as they relate to the broader issues as well as how you perhaps see the enemy at work in them or where you suspect he might be aiming next.  You’re not begging; you’ve been invited to ask, seek and knock.  God’s expecting you.  He’s wanting you here.

Y - Yes.  “All of God’s promises are YES!  (2 Cor 1:20) You may not understand what all is happening in your life right now, but any possible explanation pales in comparison to what you do know because of your faith in God’s goodness and assurances.  So allow your prayers to be accentuated with His own words from Scripture, His promises to you that correspond to your need.  There is nothing more powerful than praying God’s own Word.

If we are to be obedient to His will, then prayer must be part of our life in Him.

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Tomorrow we are headed across the lake to another town if the weather is nice and some of the ladies will be taking a cooking class in the afternoon.

If YOU are interested in joining us here NEXT SUMMER... don't forget the SIGN UPS for that will be THIS SATURDAY, JULY 1st!  You will be able to sign up for the retreat by clicking on the SIGN UP button on the top and then the REGISTRATION PAGE on the drop down menu.  I am not sure how to work the time change b/c I will be here in Italy, but I will let you know sometime tomorrow more of the details and the time that they will go LIVE on Saturday.

I know some of you have expressed interest in next year, so if you also want to be included on a email list just send me a message via the CONTACT PAGE at the top of this website and I will make sure you get the details before THIS Saturday.

Have a blessed day!

Laura

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Pray.  Wait.  Trust....

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Pray. Wait. Trust....

Sometimes the Lord brings us on a journey, and it's always for a reason.

It can be a long journey or a short one, but it's to show us what He is trying to speak to us.

As I am headed to Italy I think of this journey that the Lord has brought me on and how before I was formed... He knew.  

 

He knew I would be excited and frazzled and open and fearful and willing... and every emotion I have right at this moment!

But He also knew that it was part of HIS plan.  The plan I didn't even know existed.  So off to Europe we are and as our pastor said last Sunday and spoke to my heart in such a profound way... we are taking Jesus with us.  It's a special time for me because my daughter Rebecca is feeling lead to be a part of these retreats and I just got her her own business cards... to make it official! hahaha  So I am praying that the Lord speaks to her heart as well and shows her what He is calling her to do in and through these Art & Faith Creative Retreats.

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I'd wish I could take EVERYONE with us, but in some way I guess I can...  Throughout this time in Europe I will be posting on here as much as the Internet and time allows.  I hope you will follow along on this journey.  It's for you too.  You see the Lord has put on my heart the theme of PRAYER for this years retreat.  I have prayed and seeked and written, and have put together a devotional for the ladies in Italy, but also for you.  I'm going to try to put up the devotional for each day on this blog so you can also be a part of this time and learn what the Lord may speak to you too.  

The theme is:

Pray.  Wait.  Trust...

It started months ago and this little blurb below IS from a while ago... I'll leave it because it's what goes with my theme and I will talk more about it when I share my devotional with you.

 

From May 10:

This morning I woke up, turned off my alarm and scrolled through my Instagram.  I give myself one "snooze" to look at my phone before I get out of bed. :)  It's just one of those things that has become a habit.  I like to see what my friends have posted while I slept (mostly friends from the East Coast or Europe) and I get to read my daily devotions through IG as well.  It's also so great to follow so many godly women who inspire me every day with their bible verses and beautiful photos and inspirational quotes.

This is the one that got straight to  my core this morning:

I don't know about you but that isn't a thought I have on my mind.  I guess I just didn't think of it that way, even thought I know that to be true.  This quote goes with the verse in Isaiah 64:4 "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him."

 

That is an AMAZING verse and it spoke to me deeply.  I can't wait to share more with you!

So come back and follow along.  The retreat is June 24 - July 1st  AND I will try to have lots of pictures and the devotionals on here during that week.

ALSO...

I am going to try my best to have next years Art & Faith Creative Retreat SIGN UPS go LIVE on Saturday, July 1st!  I know the time change may play a weird role in this, but I will have more details on next year's retreat in Bellagio, Italy next week!

If you want to be put on the INTEREST LIST for that one in Bellagio, Italy it will be June 23 - June 30, 2018!  

Have a GREAT weekend everyone.  We would love your prayers as we leave today and head over there.  For our travels to be protected, for us to be used for His glory and for our loved ones who are staying home to be well. (Victoria and Dany couldn't come so they are staying at our house) We wish the whole family could have gone together but they have work and are waiting for Dany's green card to come through. (you can pray for that too :)

Hugs to everyone,

Laura

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Love, Tuesday...

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Love, Tuesday...

It's been a while... I know.  

I've been busy getting ready for my Italy retreat that is in a few weeks and haven't had a chance to blog.  I totally miss it and wish there were more hours in the day...

But I HAD to come on here for Love, Tuesday this week because I have something I truly LOVE to talk about...

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Rebecca graduated from High School!!

We are so proud of her and all that she has accomplished.  This is the girl that from the VERY first day of Kindergarten came home from school and wanted to sit at the kitchen table and do her homework.  The girl that wanted to be involved in everything she could.  The girl that worked her butt off to get all A's on her report card from Kindergarten to her Senior year!!  That is pretty incredible when you consider her science teacher in High School had never given an A to ANYONE!  So needless to say... graduating from High School was a huge deal for her (and us) and we were so excited to watch her finally have that joy of finishing well.

This girl is off to new adventures and we are so extremely excited to see where the Lord directs her path.  She will be attending a Bible College in the Fall and even though many well established colleges tried to woo her, she felt the Lord calling her heart to go to a Bible College first.  It's been a journey for this girl over the last year or two and I know she has grown so much through the things the Lord has allowed in her life to bring her right where she needs to be.  I am in awe of her strength, her love for others and her joy, regardless of circumstances.  That's HUGE and something we as women don't usually learn until we are much older!  

I am excited to say that she is feeling the Lord calling her to also help me in my ministry of Art & Faith Creative Retreats!!  So ladies, those that have met her on these adventures.... she's not going anywhere... she will still be alongside me on this journey!  We are praying BIG prayers over our retreats and know the Lord is moving and showing us things for the future that we will get to share with YOU!  

For one of her graduation presents I gave her my first journaling bible.  Here's what I wrote about it on IG this morning:

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Our middle daughter graduated from High School last Friday and it was such a beautiful culmination of many years of hard work and dedication on her part. We are so blessed by her spirit and excited to see what the Lord has in store for her! I gave her my very first journaling bible as a gift that night. I started this journey close to three years ago and I am totally changed because of it. My relationship with Jesus has been transformed, my understanding of His Word has grown, my love of art & faith has converged and my heart is so overwhelmed with a desire to know more. That's what we pray for, for our children, right? So I don't want to wait until I'm gone to pass on these special treasures to them!! So many of these verses I've journaled and painted and learned from are verses I looked up because of her. Because of my love for her and wanting to teach her in the ways she should go... This page in Proverbs 16 was a work in progress actually for many months. I would come back many times and just not feel finished with it...Until the day of her graduation. It just felt right to finish it that day and it was actually that day that I finally decided to give the Bible to her. As she goes off to Bible College this is my pray... Commit your plans to the Lord and He will establish them! He has BIG plans for you Rebecca and I know as scary and exciting as that is...you are open to them, and that makes my heart SO joyful! 💕 #journalingbible #journalingmyfaith#biblejournaling #proverbs16#illustratedfaith

So join me in congratulating this girl...I know she would love any prayers for guidance and direction for her future!

I hope you are enjoying this season of graduations and congratulations to YOUR graduate if you have one as well!

Hugs to all,

Laura

 

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Creative Retreat... in the U.S!

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Creative Retreat... in the U.S!

Yes, Italy and France are beautiful... and I will continue to do retreats there as long as the Lord allows.  But I feel that it is time to do some closer to home.  I want to bring the same time and attention, and beautiful detail to restoring women's hearts and souls here in America as I do in Europe.  

This is a ministry I feel the Lord has given me to help women be refreshed and renewed in Him.  To be able to take time out of our crazy, busy lives to hear the voice of the Lord showing us how to BE STILL and KNOW that He is God and loves us right where we are.

So, with that in mind...

I know I had mentioned an Art & Faith Creative Retreat coming in the Fall a while back.  I wanted to let you know that it is still in the works and I just met with a friend yesterday to go over some of the details!  I should have all the details about the event within a couple weeks and will have it on here to SIGN UP before June. ( I can't believe that is just next month?? Is this year go by lightening speed for you too?)

This "mini" Art & Faith Creative Retreat will be in my part of the world... Southern California!  We live in a beautiful area that is in a wine region less than an hour away from San Diego and Orange County.  It's a great place "in the middle" that allows me to show you some really beautiful places, while also being able to relax and have time to be creative and do art in our Bibles.  Of course their will be great conversations over meals together and also time to be by yourself to spend time in prayer and the Word of God.  And... I couldn't have you come all the way to Southern California and not take you out to explore and do a little shopping... so there will be some time for that as well!

I am so excited to see what the Lord does through this first retreat here in California, and I hope you will join me on this new adventure!

If you are interested in joining me, please send me your contact information via the CONTACT page at the top of this website.  I will put you on the Interest list and get the information to you via email once I have all the details wrapped up.

Have a GREAT day everyone!

Hugs,

Laura

 

 

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Class Schedule -  2017 Art & Faith Creative Retreat

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Class Schedule - 2017 Art & Faith Creative Retreat

We are getting so close to another Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Italy!!  

I am amazed at how the year goes by so quickly as I announce a new retreat and we get the sign ups, then we get to know each person through Facebook and our email correspondence, and then we start planning for our time together.  Then it's here before we know it and we are sooooo excited to go an this amazing adventure together!  

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What they don't know (if they haven't gone on one before)  is that it is going to be such a transforming trip for them and that is what I look forward to the most!  The time spent in Italy is such a beautiful time of restoring our souls, meeting new people, and experiencing amazing places... each person comes away with a new set of friends, life long memories and Lord willing a new sense of closeness to Him.  Oh... I can't WAIT for June!

So for those of you who ARE joining us this summer in Italy, here are the classes you will be taking!  

For those who live close enough to come for a day trip... these are the classes YOU can sign up for right now, under the SIGN UP page at the top of the website!  I have always welcomed the local community to be a part of my retreats and that's what I think makes it extra special.  So if you would like to join us for a class, or 2 or 3... please go check them out and see if a time will work with your schedule and we would love to meet you and spend this time together!  I have about 10 spots I make available for local sign ups, so you will find out all the details under SIGN UP and then click on the REGISTRATION button to find each class.

Here is a sneak peek at each class we are teaching this June in Bellagio, Italy:

Class One | Creating a Junk Journal | June 26 - 9:00am

I am a huge believer that carrying a journal and a few supplies with us everywhere we go changes how we see the world. We will be creating in one of the most gorgeous locations in the world and I want to share some techniques that you can use as you explore and then also later when you return home. We will start by creating a handmade art journal full of watercolor paper, mixed media paper, vintage ephemera, fabrics and more. Each journal will have a hand stitched vintage French linen spine and will close with a leather strap.

Class Two | Stamp Carving | June 26 - 1:30pm

In this class Stephanie will show us how to create our OWN one-of-a-kind stamps!  She has been doing this for a while and will share her tips and techniques on making these fun stamps and using them in our classes during the week.  I don't know about you, but I'm excited to learn how to do this and I hope you will join us in this unique class!

Class Three | Mixed-Media Canvas | June 28 - 9:00am

During the week I will be teaching you some Bible Journaling techniques and we will be enjoying this time of art in our bibles!  But I also wanted to have something you could take home with you and hang or display in your home.  So this class will be on a thin canvas board and I will be teaching you some of the basic techniques of mixed-media.  We were learn how to create a collage base on our canvas and then we will be adding layers of dimension to the canvas.  In keeping with our theme for the week, you can add some wording with stamps and hand lettering or add your own saying to the canvas

Class Four | Prayer Journal Midori | June 28 - 1:30pm

In this class we will learn from Stephanie how to make a beautiful Prayer Journal.  She will share with us her insight on how to bring our prayer requests before the Lord and to remember to journal those answered prayers as well!  We will have fun putting this Midori styled journal together with all her colorful paints and stamps!

Class Five | Altered Journal Pages | Friday June 30 - 9:00am

We will then explore fun and easy contour sketching so you can learn to capture the beauty around you in landscapes, architecture and even people.  We will then create a two page spread in our journals as we practice mark making, collage and stitching to create beautiful works of art. My hope is that your journal will become full and well worn as you explore and create in Bellagio and back in your own towns.

So that is all the classes for this summer.  Again, feel free to sign up if you are local to the area and can be there for any of the classes listed.  You can go to the SIGN UP button and the click on the drop down menu on REGISTRATION and you will see all the classes and can pay as well.

If you have any questions you can email me via the contact page at the top of this website.

For those interested in joining one of these trips to Bellagio, Italy there will be another Art & Faith Creative Retreat NEXT SUMMER!  I will have all the details about that in the next month or so.  The dates for that will be most likely the last week in June of 2018.  If you want to be on an Interest List for next year you can also send an email via the Contact page at the top.

Have a GREAT day,

Laura

 

 

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