Reindeer Sketches

Reindeer in Wappingers Falls?! Yes, really! Adams, my favorite place to buy most of our groceries, has had two real, live reindeer staying right at the store for the past month! They have a really nice enclosure, half inside, half outside, at the back of the semi-outdoor garden center, and they seem to really like having people visit to see them.

I went to Adams early this morning to do my Christmas dinner shopping, and spent close to an hour sketching the reindeer. These two are very social and friendly, and when the man who takes care of them went into their pen, they went up to him for attention. One of them, Star, affectionately rubbed her antlers against him and leaned up against him like a friendly dog. The other, Angel, was a bit reticent, but when he scritched her under the chin, she leaned into his hand and rolled her head back and forth the way Rowan does when I rub under his chin.

It was a bit of a challenge to sketch them, since they were fairly active, so I just got quick sketches done standing in front of their enclosure,
bundled up with mittens (the kind that open so my fingers are free but
thumb is still covered), trying to capture them whenever they stood
still for a few seconds.

I did these the way I do bird sketches; I would start one sketch, then
start another when the reindeer moved, then another, then back to one
I’d already started when she returned to a position she had been in before,
and so on. Fun, and keeps me looking closely at my subjects, so even though I don’t
come up with anything like a finished picture, I really enjoy the process.

When I came home I looked up some reindeer facts to learn more about them and wrote some of those on my pages.

Third Sunday of Advent- a Time of Grief

What does one write about two days after a terrible shooting that took the lives of so many young children and the teachers and administrators who taught and loved them? Little else has been on the minds of much of our nation since Friday. How do we look forward to Christmas in the face of our grief and anger? Joy and celebration are not what come to mind.

Like the rest of us, I have no answers for the many questions that hang in the air, that bombard our minds. I think of the parents and other family members of the victims, and I feel overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of their brokenness and overwhelming grief. I think of the gunman’s family and how horrified and grieved they must be.

Like many, I can’t help asking why God would allow this. As I pondered and grieved over the weekend, though, I kept coming back to the thought that God is grieving too. That doesn’t answer the “why” questions, but it does show me God’s heart. He created all life, carefully and lovingly forming each child and adult who lost their life in Sandy Hook on Friday. He has told us over and over to love our neighbors as ourselves, that by loving one another we both express and experience his love. And he must now be grieving that so much violence was done to those he loves and that so many others whom he loves are torn apart with grief.

Advent is a time when we remember God’s gift of Jesus, his Son. He sent Jesus to live on earth to bring us God’s Fatherly love. Jesus lived, sharing God’s love and, in turn, he was violently killed. God knows the grief of losing his Son and he shares in the grief of those who mourn.

In Advent we are also reminded to look ahead to Jesus’ return, when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17) We grieve deeply for what has happened and for the brokenness of this world, and we look for the hope that someday we will be comforted and all our tears wiped away.

Advent Musings- Week 2

Today is the second Sunday of Advent, and I was just sitting down to think about writing this when my mother-in-law called. When I told her what I was writing on, she said that she really likes Advent, but that it’s hard to think about Advent when all around us is Christmas. 

I agree. We’re surrounded by Christmas decorations, Christmas music, Christmas shopping advertisements, and Christmas planning. Advent reflection gets lost, as quietness often gets overwhelmed by the noise of our world. It’s hard to settle into quiet when we’re bombarded externally, and even more, internally, by noise and to-do lists, but the richness of life is not found in checking off to-do lists. 

Richness is found in relationships– relationships with those we love, and most deeply in relationship with the God who made us and who loves us deeply. Without time and effort, relationships dwindle and become dry. Advent is a time set apart to enrich our relationship with God by preparing ourselves to receive his love revealed in Jesus. Last week we focused on our need for a savior and how Jesus came to be that Savior. Another way we can prepare ourselves is to meditate on who Jesus is and what it means that he is the Christ, which means Messiah or Anointed One.

Let’s make some quiet moments for ourselves this week to ponder some passages of Scripture that speak to us of who Jesus is and what he does for us.  

Each day we’ll have a verse or verses to
meditate on to expand our picture of what it means that Jesus is the
Christ. Let’s dwell on these verses, perhaps printing them out or
writing them down to read throughout the day, allowing them to give us a
deeper knowledge of Jesus and thus a greater anticipation of his coming
Monday: The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord…Isaiah 11:2

Tuesday: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
   because the Lord has anointed me
   to preach good news to the poor. Isaiah 61:1

Wednesday: He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners… Isaiah 61:1

Thursday: …to comfort all who mourn,
 and provide for those who grieve… Isaiah 61:2-3

Friday: to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3

Saturday: The
first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon and tell him, “We
have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to
Jesus. John 1:41-42

Cooper Lake

Last week I went to visit a friend in Woodstock and spent some time before our visit at nearby Cooper lake. I was there a few years ago and did some sketching then and have been wanting to go back to enjoy the serene quiet and do some more sketching. This time it was very cold, so I only sketched briefly and didn’t do any watercoloring, since the idea of water made me shiver more.

I sketched the view over the lake, then walked and ran a bit to try (in vain) to warm up, then had to stop and sketch a smooth and aged dead tree rising with dignity from a swampy area. Then on my way back to the car I spotted a Bald Eagle perched in a distant tree, but it was far and I was cold, so I didn’t draw it.

My sketches from last week:

A watercolor I did last year from a photo:

Sketching at home and out walking

I woke up feeling kind of on edge and crabby today, and this morning was perfect for being outside, so I headed out for the rail trail with Rowan and walked and sketched for a couple of hours. The morning and early afternoon were sunny and only slightly breezy, so perfect for being out enjoying it. By this afternoon the temperature was dropping, there were heavy dark clouds, and the wind was whipping the trees, so I’m glad I was home by then.

I also spent some time watching the birds at our feeders. These sketches are from yesterday and today.

Advent Musings- Week 1

December– a month of counting down shopping days till Christmas, rushing to get the tree and house decorated, and fitting in parties and other seasonal social events? Or a season that includes times of quiet reflection, of preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth, of anticipating his return some time in the future?

Today is the first day of Advent, and I am pondering how I will manage my schedule over the next few weeks. I know I’ll be preparing gifts, and since most of those gifts will be paintings I do, I will be occupied with that for much of the month. I enjoy doing that, as long as I don’t leave it all for the last week. I hope to invite friends over for tea at various times in the coming weeks. And I do also plan to decorate the house and the tree.

But those things are not my first thought as I look ahead toward Christmas. I know if I’m not careful, these good activities will fill all my time, and I’ll miss what I most long for in the depths of my being–connection with Jesus.  Jesus, who was born to save us, so that we can live in relationship with God. Jesus, who came to earth in order to reveal God’s great love for us. Jesus, who will someday come again to make everything whole and right.

Below is a daily prayer guide I wrote for this week, to help us draw apart from our busy schedules a little while each day for some quiet communion with our Lord. There’s a verse or verses to meditate on each day, to ponder how it applies to us and what it reveals of Jesus. Let’s allow these verses to lead us into quiet communion with our Savior, so that we don’t forget him in the midst of this season that bears his name.

Monday: Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5

Ask God to guide and teach you, so that you can fully experience the hope he is offering you.
Tuesday: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

Think about the sin that has separated you from God, and then thank Jesus for coming to set you free from that sin, opening the way for you to come into a loving relationship with God.
Wednesday:  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus… 2 Timothy 1:9-10

Meditate on the thought of Jesus Christ coming as a Savior, revealing God’s grace for you.
Thursday: We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14

Ponder the fact that Scripture is full of eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. 

Friday: He will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Let this verse run through your mind throughout the day, assuring you of the gift of salvation for all who put their trust in Jesus.

Saturday: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God… In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. Isaiah 40:1, 3-5

Meditate on and draw comfort from these timeless words of hope.