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Joy Devotional - Day 3

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Joy Devotional - Day 3

Here is Day 3 if you are following along in our 7 Day Devotional on Joy from the retreat in Italy. So grab your coffee and journal and I hope it blesses you today.

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Day 3

Do we trust God?  We say we do, but do we REALLY?  Do we truly believe that God knows more about what we need than we do? 

Let’s see how to build a strong relationship with our Creator and get more “plugged in” to this true source of joy…

First, lets talk about this “fullness of joy” a minute.  Yesterday’s devotional we heard this term in Psalm 16:11.  So what is the difference between joy and happiness, because as we study God’s Word we see that they are definitely not the same. The word HAPPY comes from the same word as “happen”… that’s interesting, right?  We FEEL happy if something GOOD is happening to us.  So is happiness temporary and dependent on our circumstances?  I think we can say a resounding YES.   We don’t always have something good going on in our lives and we are certainly not happy 24/7…

Well, thankfully joy is much different.  Joy does not depend on what is “happening” in our lives.  Joy is something that lives inside of us… something that stays deep down in our hearts.  It doesn’t change with the days or with our circumstances.  It is always there even through our hardest days.  Joy is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we will talk more about that tomorrow.

So how do we tap into this fullness of joy?  Think of a lamp.  If you were to put your hand out towards the  lightbulb, you would feel the warmth, right?  The closer you got to it, the warmer it would feel.  The lamp is the SOURCE of warmth, just like our God is the source of our JOY.  So why don’t we stay close to that warmth??  I don’t know about you, but I have filled up my days with so much “busy-ness” of LIFE… that I just didn’t make my spiritual life a priority.  And THAT is a huge mistake. One morning as I was writing and putting this devotional together for the retreat, I woke up with the words on the photo above in my head. And it really went straight to the core of all of this… Christ is that SOURCE and how close do we stay to His life-giving joy?

We need to understand our need for God, and we need to actively work on “plugging” in.  This is the only way to strengthen our relationship with our Creator and have that fullness of joy David was talking about.

Just like spending time with a close friend over long coffee talks builds that relationship, it’s through prayer, worship and studying God’s Word (and coffee is great here too …) that we can build our relationship with our Lord & Savior and tap into that true source of JOY!

There are so many reasons to want a strong relationship with our Creator!  

Here are some things you can write in your journal today:

1. List some reasons in your journal why it’s important then to stay “plugged in” to His warmth.

2. Draw a lamp or lightbulb to remind you of staying close to that the source of LIGHT & JOY.

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Have a GREAT weekend everyone! I will post Day 4 tomorrow

Hugs,

Laura


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Joy... in the Middle.

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Joy... in the Middle.

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The middle.

What does the middle look like to you? A lot of times we feel like the middle isn’t very pretty, or fun or enJOYable. We’re usually so excited for the beginning of something. The start of something BIG, or the beginning of a new journey. We love the dreaming stage and how the ideas come flowing out at the beginning, right? Oh the dreams, ideas and “inspiration” boards we can put together at the beginning of things. Just look at any Pinterest Board to see the INSPIRATION that we all are bombarded with! Or what about the cute little baby stage. Having a grand baby on the way is so exciting! Beginnings are so FUN.

But the middle… well, that can be messy. Get past the inspiration, the dreaming, maybe even the planning stages and arrive in the middle… and things are different. The middle of something can get stalled, we can lose our way or motivation, and things can just feel hard. The middle makes us feel like there’s still so much to go. Have you ever decided to re-model your house, or build a new one? Ya, you know how messy the middle is then. ;)

Well, enter in Italy.

In the Fall… when the leaves are falling.

Not the beginning or end, but the middle of things.

With a group of women the Lord brought together for “such a time as this.”

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I recently returned from one of the most amazing weeks in Italy I have ever had.  (we’re missing a few in this photo though) If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I have a heart for Lake Como, Italy and Bellagio specifically. I love to share this beautiful place with people and in a way that hopefully connects them to the Lord as well. I think I’ve brought over 14 different groups of people here over the last 7 years! I have LOVED each group and each time it is a new and exciting journey that I have enjoyed with all my heart.

It is such a beautiful time when I get to bring women who love the Lord and desire to draw closer to Him to this incredible location.  I feel BEYOND blessed to have this calling on my life. But this time of year is extra special because it’s my FAVORITE time of the year on the lake, I turned that “middle age” of 50, and this group got to see Bellagio in all of it’s “middle” splendor.

And that wasn’t by accident.

There was something so special about this week together and I think I felt that deeply, before it even began. There were so many stories from beginning to end of how each person felt called to come, how the Lord provided in AMAZING ways and how it all came together for each one (and for one it was literally last minute!) This week was truly ordained by God for these women and I saw the Lord working in ways that I didn’t even imagine! Each story is such an amazing testimony of what Jesus does and I will try to share some of those stories here…

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Fall on Lake Como is simply stunning.   I mean just look at these photos!  There are hundreds more where these came from.  But to top that, the Lord really showed up in BIG ways for each woman that came.  This is what AMAZES me each time… but it shouldn’t.  He is a BIG GOD and can do anything! 

My prayer for each retreat that I host is for the Lord to bring the women who need to be there and for them to be able to step away from life for a bit and be RENEWED and REFRESHED.  How the Lord does that each time is different.  But it’s NOT different in the sense that I am seeing Him work in each persons life…  every. single. time…. and I am still blown away by that! It’s not always some huge revelation for each person either. It may be that, but it is also may sometimes be just simply a time to “be still” and He allows them to PLAY. To connect with others and be reminded of His goodness and beauty.

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What I didn’t realize is that in the MIDDLE of this retreat, when I’m busy making sure everything is running smoothly, that everyone is being loved on and taken care of, and where I don't really have time to “be still,” the Lord would speak so clearly to ME. But more on that later…

As you can gather, the theme of the week was “Joy in the Middle” and as I’ve explained above, that’s not always easy. Sometimes the middle can feel more like this:

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Isn’t this GREAT?!  I love this statue we saw at Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo.  What a perfect representation of a woman going through the “middle” of things.  I see this woman who is exhausted, who is needing rest and asking herself “Really??  Come on… Do I still have to...”  You fill in the blank _________. Let’s say she’s in the middle of life, or in the middle of something hard, some trial. That middle season of change.

Doesn’t this statue speak to you?

It sure did to the women at our retreat.

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Like my beautiful friend Sheila Atchley said in her devotional time, “Lots of emphasis is put on beginnings and ends, but almost nothing is said about the middle.”   Isn’t that so true, and why do we think that is? We love beginnings… a new romance that brings all the butterflies, or brand new babies that smell SO good. We even can find the good in endings. The end of a great book. The end of a beautiful life lived, the memorial to a person’s life where we honor and remember them. The end of a movie.  The climax and ending are so important to how much we fell in love with the story.   As a believer, we obviously put much emphasis on the ending.  “Finishing well” as the bible says in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

So as we think about the beginnings and endings, we wonder why much is not talked about in the middle?  

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But guess what… these two women you see above are definitely in the “middle” of life.  Sheila Atchely and I are admittedly in our 50’s.  Technically that may not be the exact middle of our lives, but definitely the middle stage of life.  Let me tell you, our hearts were deeply woven together during this week teaching together.  Our talks and prayers before the retreat even started were a great indication that I would love this woman whole heartily.  Well, spending a week with her was even better. Her heart is so deep… so deep I really have to dig DEEP myself to understand what the Holy Spirit is speaking though her… and I LOVE that about her!  She is feeding us the MEAT… not the milk.  I adore that about her. Her desire for each woman there was to find true JOY, to celebrate JOY “in the middle” and then to build upon it!  To find a deeper creative spirit within us and truly see the connection ART has with our FAITH. 

Hello… God is SO good! Because what she was speaking is my desire for each person who comes to these retreats!  My heart behind these retreats is for you to find the Joy of the Lord, to make the connection between our desire, (or need) to be CREATIVE, and see that it is because we are created by the Ultimate CREATOR of the Universe!  These things are already deep inside us because we bear the image of God.  It looks different for each person, but it’s the same everywhere.  When we find this connection and stay “plugged in” to it, this is where we will find true joy in our lives.  Our JOY comes from the Lord and guess what… He does DESIRE us to have joy! (If you’re not sure about this, stay tuned. I will be sharing the devotional I put together for the retreat that goes in depth into the subject of JOY.)

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Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of all HOPE fill you (up) with all JOY & PEACE in believing, SO THAT… by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope!”

That’s the verse I put on the little abstract name holders in the event room.  It’s always so fun to plan the event room and add little pieces of art and personal touches to each person’s work space. The little tin above was the start to Sheila’s Art Tin Class that everyone LOVED!

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Getting back to Joy in the Middle though… True JOY (not just being happy) is from the Lord, and it is ALREADY ours!  Did you know that? We don’t have to work for it, we don’t have to try to muster it up… We have this joy deep down in our hearts by faith in Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of having the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Joy from the Holy Spirit is our truth, and we need to REMEMBER that.

It says in John 16:7 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to YOUR advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” When Jesus told the disciples this, He was speaking of giving them the Holy Spirit; who is our helper, our counselor, and our teacher. No matter if you’re in the beginning, the middle or the end… THAT should bring you joy!

That TRUE joy is already ours and it doesn’t change with our circumstances.  It is always there even through our hardest days. 

So how do we tap into this fullness of joy?

I believe there is much to be said on this subject and this post will become a book if I add it here. So I will post the devotionals from the retreat after this post. Each day’s devotional came with a photo from Lake Como (like below) that I’ve taken over the years, and then a two sided devotional to go with it. If anyone would like a set, you’re welcome to have one as well. I’ll make that available for anyone and you can just send me a message via the contact page.

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Getting back to the women who came and the Lord really moving in our hearts… I want to say a few things.

First, I know this is not a cheap endeavor to come to Italy for a week’s retreat. There is a sense of responsibility in that for me because I want to provide the most beautiful week you could ever imagine AND give you all that you dream about! I also pray that you do feel the Lord’s presence in this week. That is my heart’s desire. I know the Lord is in these retreats and has given me this calling to draw people closer to Him, and my HOPE is that you are moved because of it. I want you to know I don't take this lightly and I know it’s a huge deal for you to prayerfully decide to come.

Secondly, what I saw this past retreat was MORE than that… more than what I hope & pray for. But it was “more” in simple ways. Yes, I saw the women in awe of the beauty of Lake Como. (that part always makes my job easy :) What was simple, and profound, was how I witnessed everyone opening their hearts and lives to each other so quickly. BECAUSE of the bond of Christ in all of us I truly believe we come together and instantly connect because of it. I also heard the stories… oh the stories. There is such beauty in our stories. The only way I know how to describe it is this odd sense of joy and sorrow mixed together. (C.S. Lewis describes it as “Stabs of Joy”) There is sadness in our stories for sure. But there is also joy and beauty in them… because we have a God that loves us SO much, and He wants to restore us through our stories. He WILL restore us… and I saw it happen. I think we all saw and felt JOY come alive again.

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I always try to sit by each person throughout the weeks meals. I love to hear and listen to their stories. I heard unbelievable stories, stories that would move you to tears, that moved the story tellers to tears, and I am honored by that. That they would share them with me and let me into their personal journeys is very humbling to me and I don’t take it lightly. But what is even more amazing is I saw their stores expand that week. Because this week WAS part of their story and the LORD knew that, and put this retreat on their heart.

That’s the WHY of all of this…

And it’s part of my story as well.

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Lastly, what I learned this past retreat is so simple, yet so profound for me. Like I said, there is a sense of responsibility I carry. You see I know a little about each person’s story before they come because we’ve communicated online for a long time. So in my own mind I’ve made part of my retreat “mission” this need to want to help them in some way. I want to sit and chat with each one over coffee and let them talk. I want to pray with them. And all those things are good things, right? There’s nothing wrong with that…

But what the Lord quietly showed me through these women, at this moment in time, is that I am just the FACILITATOR to God’s will. I am to “Set the Table” and He will do the rest. I always thought “Oh I need to find time to talk to this person or I need to do this or that…” But He showed me this time how He sets the appointments up, not me. I saw conversions happening, people connecting and friendships beginning. I heard stories of how someone shared their story over dinner and they cried together. It was so lovely to witness first hand, and also so wonderful to hear. It wasn’t like this was the first time that happened, it happens every time! It just finally dawned on me THIS time that I don’t have to be directing conversations, or trying to make sure it’s ME that has to say the right thing, or spend x amount of time with each person. No, it’s the LORD who brings the people together for what His will is. He connects the dots… I don’t have to. (So I’m just the “middle man” in all of this. lol)

That was what He showed me this time and it was HUGE for me.

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Isn’t it is so freeing when we see that we are only asked to open our hearts to being USED. We aren’t asked to do it ALL. Man, we think if we follow God’s will/His calling on our lives it’s going to be NO FUN and HARD… He’s going to send us to the outer edges of the universe… but what we really find in the Lord’s will is this amazing sense of FREEDOM!

It may take time to see this, to see what His will is in our lives. I sure had NO idea that when I went up to the event room in 2011 and asked if they had a space for classes that I would be back almost 20 times since then! I just knew I LOVED Bellagio and my husband said if I wanted to come back, I needed to find a way. (because it was too expensive to keep coming back) I can see now that this desire in me to come back again was actually the Lord prompting me to something He knew already was going to happen… WAY before I was even born.

He has given each one of us gifts and abilities. He also desires us to use them…

So what is that for you?

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Look at this beautiful sculpture “The Repentant Magdalene” by Canova. My dear friend Rita came with us and explained the beautiful meaning behind this sculpture and we all just fell in love with her. What’s different about this sculpture from the one above? We all were touched by this one as well but in a different, more meaningful way I think…

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Look at her hands. Her hands are what spoke volumes to us. These hands open, repentant, maybe we could even say willing? Willing to let go of pain, or willing to let the Lord have His way in her life, willing to be refined? Desiring to feel the love of God wash over her? I don't know… What do these hands speak to you?

Are your hands open?

I found this song called “Open Hands” by Laura Story and thought it was fitting here. Take a few moments to listen and reflect on the words.

I love the words in this song: “Our Greatest Joy is Finding You”

Ok, I know I need to wrap this up here because if you’re still reading this, I’m in awe of you! hahaha

All I can say is that YES, the middle can be hard, but it can be so beautiful as well. The Lord loves us and He is going to refine us, most likely in those middle moments. But He uses those “hard middles” in us… to help others see Him. And when we are ready for that, ready to be used for His purposes…

He will use all of those things; our sorrows, our joys, our desires, and our giftings for BEAUTIFUL things! (I wrote in depth about this on my blog here)

So I hope you take this away from todays very long blog post:

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in… God is in the middle of it. He IS the CENTER and in the midst of whatever you are going through. Reach out your hands to Him. Open them and let Him work His will in your life. And when you are ready, He is going to use it for GOOD.

THAT is where HOPE & JOY collide my friends!

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If you’d like to join us on the next retreat:

Summer 2019 Art & Faith Creative Retreat will be in Venice AND Bellagio, Italy! 

The dates for that are June 12-22, 2019 and I will be announcing the teacher very soon!

We will also be doing a fun GIVEAWAY when announce the teacher, so make sure you check back for that in the next week or two.

Have a GREAT week!

Hugs,

Laura McCollough

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Class Schedule - Fall 2018 Art & Faith Creative Retreat

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Class Schedule - Fall 2018 Art & Faith Creative Retreat

Hello! It’s been a busy month with everything going on, but I wanted to make sure I came on here before I left for Italy in a little over a week from now. We are busy getting things all pretty and packed up as well as preparing for our classes, and I wanted to share with you a glimpse into our week in Bellagio.

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It will be such a blessing to step away from our busy “home building” life and enjoy some time to sit. You will definitely find me sipping my cappuccino from this spot the moment I arrive…

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This is a little SNEAK PEEK into some of the little ephemera packs I put together for my classes.

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At this time of year the lake is quiet and still. This will be the perfect spot to take some moments to be refreshed…


Below are two of the classes that will be taught by Sheila Atchley in Bellagio, Italy for our October Art & Faith Creative Retreat. All the classes are available to register for on the SIGN UP PAGE, under REGISTRATION now!

Here’s a preview:


  1. The first class for Sheila Atchley will be her Altered Tin Class. This will be taught on October 8 starting at 9:30am. Cost is 50 Euro’s and you need to be local to Bellagio, Italy because this is not an online class. We will have a break for lunch, and then continue afterwards to finish this beautiful art tin class. Class will end by 4pm.

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2. The second class with Sheila will be held on Wednesday, October 10 at 9:00am. We will meet in San Giovanni to enjoy a Plein Air class as we walk and enjoy the surrounding beauty of Bellagio. Cost is 35 Euro’s & Class will be over at 12:30pm.

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3. I will be teaching classes during the week as well, and they will start with a class on Sunday, October 7th with Bible Journaling 101. This will go into detail about the heart behind this new “art form” as well as share with you the art products that you can use in your bible safely and delve into the worship aspect of Bible Journaling. Cost for this class will be 30Euro. (and again, you need to be in Bellagio, Italy to attend) This class will begin at 10:30am but you are welcome to join us at 9:00am for a time of worship and devotionals to start the day! Please Note: Picture below is just an example of Bible Journaling, not the actual pages we will be working on.

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4. On Wednesday, October 10th, after Sheila’s Plein Air class, I will be continuing to teach Bible Journaling. This class will be more in depth and if you have done Bible Journaling before and want to have time to delve into more techniques and just have time to devote a few hours to it, please join us! This class will just be a fun time of listening to the Lord’s promptings in His Word and journaling in our bibles. Cost will be 10 Euro.

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5. On Friday, October 12th I will be teaching the last class & it will be a Traveler’s Notebook Class. This is a FUN way to journal and keep notes on ANY subject in one place. (Just check out the hashtag #traverlersnotebook on IG and you will see a whole new world! :) This class will come with a Brand New, HANDMADE… ITALIAN LEATHER Traveler’s Notebook!! Yes, I am having them made by hand by our favorite leather maker in Bellagio! It will come with the inserts to go with it and a fun package of ephemera to get your started! I will teach the basics on how to use this system and we will be creating ART and documenting LIFE in our BEAUTIFUL new notebooks. Cost is 85 Euro’s as you will be given a handmade leather TN along with the class. NOTE: For this class & afterwards, I will have some extra Traveler’s Notebooks and will be selling them online after I get back from our time in Italy. I will give a SNEAK PEEK on the actual TN’s tomorrow!

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Ok, that’s a FULL load of classes and I know everyone joining us is super excited about them. We hope if are you local to Lake Como you know you are very welcome to join us in one or all of the classes! It has always been my heart to open these retreats to the local woman to join in our time together and to encourage community through these retreats. It has been a huge blessing to see the relationships that have started through this with women all over the world!

We can’t wait to meet you soon!

Hugs,

Laura


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Create in Italy...

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Create in Italy...

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Want to create in Italy THIS summer?  We have a GREAT opportunity for you that doesn't come around very often!

There is ONE apartment available for our Art & Faith Creative Retreat THIS June 23 - 30, 2018.  This apartment can accomodate up to three of your friends, (1 - 3 people can fit in this apartment) so this is the perfect chance to grab YOUR spot, and bring a friend if you want to!  

Usually our summer retreats in Bellagio, Italy are sold out, so if you've been thinking about coming, this is a great chance to join one of our retreats.

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The details are under the SIGN UP page at the top for this week together, BUT you need to message me directly via the CONTACT button at the top to find out the SPECIAL pricing for this last minute opportunity! (Yes, there is an awesome last minute DEAL on the price)

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Come be inspired, refreshed and renewed... in Italy this summer.

Have a GREAT day everyone!

Hugs,

Laura

 

 

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Italy in the Fall...

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Italy in the Fall...

Let me introduce you to my beautiful friend Sheila Atchley.  Then I want to invite you to spend a week with us in Italy... because I know the Lord is going to show up during this week, and show us BIG things.  Below are Sheila's words (and if you follow me on IG or read my blog, you know I'm all about WORDS lately, and these words from Sheila got me...)

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"This October, in Bellagio, Italy, I will be bringing a word for those of us “in the middle”. While we are smack-dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful gardens in the world, ablaze with autumn glory, we will play with the idea of an Autumn Planting.

Gardeners do it all the time.  Cold weather crops may need a little extra nurturing, and a little different mindset, but cold weather crops are some of the best.

It is never too late to plant something new and different.

God can take what you plant, right now in this middle-season of your life, even what feels like “late in the season”, and give you a “winter crop” that will knock your socks off and bless you all your days.  

Through words and art, we will play with this and other “in the middle” themes, surrounded by the beauty that is Bellagio.

He makes all things new.  He does all things well.

No one reaches the middle without a few regrets.  Nevertheless (I love that word), we don’t have to settle for our present mid-life harvest, if it is even a little less than we hoped for.  We can plant again, for a future harvest.  Because our God makes and does, we don’t have to “make do” with what is.  Such grace!

Come away for a little while, and let God restore your capacity to play, to dream new dreams and to plant new things."

~ Sheila

Beautiful, right?

Well here is a sample of one of the classes she is teaching that she just sent me.  

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We are praying the Lord moves in the hearts of those that need to be at this retreat.  So pray about it and see if that's YOU.  

We can't wait to meet you in Italy this Fall!

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Find out more details here.  Or Sign up HERE.

Hugs to all,

Laura

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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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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...

There is such a LONG post coming soon, I promise, but I just don't have time to catch my breath long enough to sit and blog.

Last week was our 28th wedding anniversary and Lance took me back to our honeymoon place... well multiple places.   We honeymooned in New England and had planned our honeymoon to coincide with the Fall Foliage.  So we went back to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts last week and we had SUCH a great time!  

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We had SO much fun and what a beautiful time to visit New England!  I highly recommend a visit to this part of our country if you can.

Then today was the day we had been waiting for for a while... to see if Lance had thyroid cancer.  Praise God he does NOT and we are overwhelmed with joy and love from all of you that have prayed for him and have been with us through this scary journey!  We know so many of you know how scary it is to find a lump or lumps and go through this process and we are so humbled by all the love and support we have had.  He does have Hashimoto's disease which he will need to take care of, but we are so thankful it was not anything worse.  

And now tomorrow... yes, life is a bit crazy right now... Rebecca and I get on a plane for France and Italy!  We have an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with a group of about 25-30 ladies in France on Thursday and we are so excited to see where the Lord is leading us.  It is scary to say "I am willing"  to the Lord, but when you DO, He sends you.  He opens doors you would never have imagined and He shows up.  I know He is calling us and even though things are a bit scary in the world these days, we know He will be with us and provide peace and protection.  When we are done in France we will head to Italy to do some work and see some new places for future retreats!  So stay tuned for some SNEAK PEEKS on social media!

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And,

if that is not all that is going on in our lives...

Last post I hinted at a trip we were about to take to Colorado to see if the Lord was directing us there for a reason.

Well, by the end of the month we might actually be land owners in COLORADO!

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We are in escrow on some land with the potential to build on it in the future.  We are not sure exactly the when, what or how... but are positive the Lord is directing it ALL.  I promise when I find the time I will sit down and share the whole story.  It's an incredible one that is still unfolding and I know it is all for His glory.  This is not for us to have land and build our "dream home" on and live happily ever after...  This is a vision the Lord has given to me over the past couple months and I have a husband that can see that vision, supports it and wants to be about the Lords business...  so we are in prayer about all of it. 

My favorite verse keeps coming up and it's one I am clinging to daily:

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We don't always understand what is going on in our lives.  If you would have told me 3 months ago that we would possibly be moving out of California and building on land that has cows and deer and bears and SNAKES.... I would have told you that you were CRAZY!  But it's not our place to always understand what God is doing or calling us to.  Our job is to TRUST the Lord and ACKNOWLEDGE Him.  That He is the author of our lives.  That He has SO much He wants to do in and through us... if we only allow Him to.  Honestly, until we let Him truly, truly direct our paths we  aren't living our lives completely.  But when we say "YES, Lord... I am willing," that is when the going gets GOOD.  Oh it's scary... like I mentioned before.  We don't like the unknown, right?  (Rebecca and I don't even like to fly or speak in public... so what is going on?  lol)  We like our safe neighborhood with fences all around and our sunny California weather with our pretty backyard.   But I can see more and more that the Lord doesn't call us to a "safe" life.  He calls us out.  He wants us to Go.  And that is when He shines through us and It. Is. Good.

Because He is GOOD.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Hugs to all,

Laura

 

 

 

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Love, Tuesday...

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Love, Tuesday...

Happy Tuesday!  

This is what I am LOVING this week...

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This girl!  She just turned 19 over the weekend and we celebrated with family and friends and lots of new college friends!  What a joy it is to watch her grow and follow the path the Lord is calling her to go down.  It's not an easy path when you go against what the world would try to tell you you should do... but it is a beautiful journey she is on and I know the Lord has her right where He wants to use her.

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This girl too!  Poor thing has been sick for over 2 weeks now and we have some fun trips coming up that she needs to get all better for.  We had to go to Urgent Care yesterday to have her checked again, and this time she has gotten worse and needs some strong medicine to get better.  So prayers for her recovery would be great!  She has a sinus and ear infection.

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I LOVE this quote/verse that I found on Pinterest. We ARE all meant for SO much!  Life has given us so many opportunities that can apply to this verse... at different stages of our lives.  I was CREATED to be a mom.  I was meant to be a mom to Victoria, Rebecca, Isabella and now "2nd momma" to Dany... and someday for Rebecca and Isabella's future guys!  I love my role of being a mom and a wife... but I also love the creative woman God made me to be.  As my role of a mom to little ones is coming to a close I feel like the Lord is really showing me that He does have so much He still wants to do through me.  I've been feeling this for a while and have said YES to that.  I know that is a scary feeling to open yourself up to "God possibilities" but it's also crazy AMAZING and I can't wait to see what the Lord wants to do in this stage of my life.  I think it's important to think "outside of the box" of our own ideas of how life "should be" and ask God how He wants to direct our lives.  He has Great and wonderful things to show us, if we simply ask and obey His calling.

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Ok, this is DOUBLE love!  Little Minnie is becoming a family member and it's about time for her to go back to her family!  Boohoo...  We have all enjoyed this little girly and I think we have established ourselves as Auntie and Uncle and need to claim weekend visits in the future!! hahaha

The other thing that I am loving is this devotional!  So good.  "Coffee for Your Heart" by Holley Gerth.  My dear friend Heather and I are going through this together once a week.  It's not only a great devotional to go through with a friend, it's really great to have that honest time with a friend to talk about the Lord and our lives and stretch each other in our faith.  I would highly recommend getting this book, finding a friend, getting some coffee and going through this together!

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Here's just one page in the book that I found inspiring!  Jesus paid the price for our sins, yet I think we can still be so stuck on them or still see ourselves as what we "aren't."  But Jesus LOVES us so much and has SO much for us!  So don't let your insecurities or failures hold you back ladies... Let your heart be OPEN to the possibilities that the Lord has for you!  

John 10:10 says: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

Read that last part over again.  Jesus came so that we may have LIFE and an ABUNDANT Life!  Don't forget that.  LIVE that.

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Oh, I love this dog too... She hasn't been in the best of moods lately!  hahaha

I've never seen a dog be jealous, but oh boy is she ever!  So she will be happy to see Minnie go and get back the rule of the home very soon... 

I'll leave you with one more "love" for this day:

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This place.  You know I love Italy... but Venice stole my heart this summer.  By the way, this photo was taken on my iPhone in the morning light, no filter needed.

I've been to Venice several times and at different times of the year, but this quick little family trip to show Isabella Venice just got to me!  So much so that I am really wanting to take YOU there!  So look for another Art & Faith Creative Retreat coming soon... It will still be in beautiful Bellagio, Italy but I will be adding Venice to the end of the trip for those who would like to go with me to Venice as well!  If you would like to be added to the INTEREST LIST for the Bellagio & Venice Art & Faith Creative Retreat you can send me a message via the Contact page up at the top of this website.  

Have a GREAT Tuesday!!

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Art & Faith Creative Retreat SIGN UP Details...

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Art & Faith Creative Retreat SIGN UP Details...

Hi everyone!  I can't WAIT for NEXT MONDAY!!  Are you excited too?

Here are some of the details you may have questions about BEFORE next Monday:

1. Sign ups will go LIVE at 8am PST on Monday, August 1st.

2. To Sign up, you will click on the button at the top of this site that says "SIGN UP"and there will be a drop down menu.  Click on the "Registration Page" and you will be taken to the page with an image like the one above.  Click on that and you will see the information on pricing and how to pay the deposit.

3. Once you have signed up I will get an email alert and then I will send you a welcome email and contract to look over, sign and send back.  

4. Once you have signed the contract you can decide on the payment plan that works best for you.  There is a monthly plan, a quarterly plan or a payment in full option.

5. I will also be starting a private FB group for our retreat so we can get to know each other and it's where I will post updates and details as we get closer to our time in Italy together!

I think that's about it for now...  

Please know that I would LOVE to have a ton of people at these retreats, but I can only take about 20 people because of how small these little villages are in Italy.  Finding a big bus to navigate through these small street, finding restaurants to accommodate a lot of people just isn't possible.  Plus I really feel a smaller group is a perfect setting to get to know everyone and really connect with the Lord and each other. So therefore, the retreat may sell out quickly.  If you are prayerfully considering this trip, I would definitely be here Monday morning to sign up!

And if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to email me via the contact page!

Hugs to all,

Laura

 

 

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