the Curious Penguin investigates Yarn


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Today the Curious Penguin, feeling decidedly hungry after eating only dog food and Mrs. Marlow’s goldfish, investigated the Suspicious Looking Basket in the living-room.

It looked like a fisherman’s basket, but it only had soft knotty stuff that tasted dry. IMG_6266


Free coloring page: A fruitful tree


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Scan0007I’ve taken on doing the coloring pages for our church once a month (or more if they need me). This was my first week. Pastor is preaching on Psalm 1, and the godly man’s life.

I love taking a concept and trying to put it into a picture: It’s an allegory, an illustration. You don’t understand it just by glancing; there is a story woven into the lines and swoops of the pen.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Scan0007-001The Christian life is one of work; taking the principles God provides for us in His word and applying them to everyday tasks and relationships. God does not demand of His people that they work for their salvation, but that they rest in His finished work in Christ; we serve Him because we love Him and want to obey Him, not to earn our salvation.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

But on the other hand, we are created for work. We are called to be fruitful for Christ, whether we’re washing dishes, driving, speaking with others, or building businesses. Our lives are not our own— we are to govern them according to God’s perfect, unchanging law. Take God at His word, and you’ll be surprised how He blesses it.

And it’s really exciting.

Feel free to download and print this image for the children in your life!

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the Curious Penguin discovers Books


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I love books. I love warm colors. I’ve got a few art projects in the long-term works, but my penguin pet is just too much fun not to take a break for sometimes!

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Questing for beauty: social media


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I never could figure the whole social media thing out.  I had a business. I sold stuff. Okay. I’m supposed to start a Twitter account? Why? What am I going to do with it? Oh, a Facebook account too? And a Pinterest one? Instagram? Really? I can’t keep up with my personal correspondence, how am I supposed to post on fifteen social media sites every single day?

Well…..yeah. I haven’t figured all that out yet. But I’ve learned a few things.

1. I am a producer. My work is to make things to enrich people’s lives and make their work more valuable. I can’t give if I haven’t received. If I’m not filling my mind with good things and thinking on that which is true and noble and beautiful, I won’t have much to offer others.

2. I don’t have follow the rules.  I am not in a season of life where I can devote my whole workday to art and the promotion of said art. That’s okay. I have important work that can’t be charted by how diligent I am on Twitter.

3. I don’t need to follow everybody to get exposure. Maybe that works…..for other people. But I’m not going to worry about that. This is where the “quality, not quantity” thing comes in. What does 2k followers do for for either me or them if neither of us have anything in common? It’s better to follow a handful of people that inspire you and that share your passions than to follow a million random people. Don’t fish for clients. Attract them.

The bottom line is: don’t kill yourself if you’re not doing everything ‘just right’. I’m not full-time with my illustration (far from it: it’s more of a hobby at this point, not a business), but there are really only a few key rules that I’ve learned from studying this: quality content and consistency. If you can put out your 90% best quality and show up consistently, you don’t need to worry about all the rules that, if you try to follow them all, will run you ragged.

Follow beauty. Seek beauty. Create beauty.

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The Curious Penguin discovers Paint


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About halfway through the designing process of this piece, I realized that it was strongly reminiscent of Captain Cook, the pet of Mr. Popper in the delightful storybook “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”. Don’t you agree?

I think I’ll be revisiting this little fellow. Adélie penguins are so adorable.

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The Golden Chisel of Sorrow


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Arthur Hughes (English, 1830-1915).:

Arthur Hughes (English, 1830-1915)

I flew out on a cool November morning. The sun rose as I cried in the terminal, but darkened again as the passengers shut their airplane windows against its brightness.

I was going to a place that is as home to me as the house of my youth. The loved ones there had learned of my sudden grief, and they heard in my voice the sound of a breaking heart.

So they took me in. They loved me. They allowed me to be quiet, to think, to talk, to try to understand the sudden change that had hit me. They gave me the gift of rest. They watched as I gained strength through work– scrubbing floors and washing dishes — and they saw me struggle through those initial days of shock when I wandered the borders of the hedges and collected fistfulls of grasses and twigs and autumn leaves that I set everywhere about the house. They gave me the gift of home, a place to be safe in my grief.

Grief will bring out the true nature of ourselves and those around us– and often the sweetest expressions of love and friendship will be given through the seasons of struggle and pain.

Why does our Father allow sorrow, anyway? Why must we so often be pierced with the sword of pain, and feel so keenly the loss of our dreams, our plans, our desires, our loved ones? Why do the things we so longed for– good things, things that are worth the wanting– so often get taken away?

I cannot fully answer that question. I know that God has His reasons for everything He does. I know He loves us , His children, and that He does all things for our good– but I still do not always understand why He chooses to show us His love through pain so often. I’m glad that I am not required to understand.

Grief if not a logical thing. And yet, in all of its pain and suffering and ugliness, it is strangely beautiful. There is sanctity when a girl is on her knees before the Lord, weeping tears that cannot be put into words. He hears those tears just as well as he hears a prayer. He will answer her, and he will change her into His image.

That is one of the main purposes of grief in our lives. To change us into the image of Christ.

When you are faced with a trial– a door closing, a long cherished ambition being cut off, a loved one becoming lost to you– what is your response? Do you cling to your own will, refusing to let God take from you what you wanted, or do you ask Him to do what He wills , only that it will make you more like His Son? Can you earnestly fall to the ground in tears, pleading ‘not my way, Lord, don’t let me have my way– I want Your way, no matter what the cost, for my will leads to death, and Yours is perfect. Whatever it takes, make me like Jesus.”
We cannot be like Him on our own strength. He lets us come to the end of our strength– when we cry out with all our hearts “I cannot go on”- – so that we will see our need of Him, and flee to Him for grace and strength. He loves to hear our cries and give rest to our souls. He loves us. He died for us. He does not hold our mistakes and our sins against us.

Sorrow adds to us a certain beauty, both physical and inward, when we take it to the Lord. When we surrender to His will and quietly bow to His providence in our lives, saying “Lord, do what You will to make me like Christ– if it means tremendous pain, even if it means You taking from me this thing I love and desire the most– then do not spare the rod, only hold me up and create me into the image of Your Son.” Through the trials, He will confer on us a grave sweetness, a deep seated joy, and a quiet peace and trust that will sustain us through the hardest of sorrows. When you meet people like this, you know. You see the tiredness on their face, the pain and sorrows that have run lines in their cheeks and put a depth in their eyes, but you also see a tender softness about their lips and a warm, steady glow in their gaze. It is the mysterious, transfiguring beauty of a soul surrendered to God.

James Carroll, The Letter:

James Carroll “The Letter”

“She is not the girl she was in those light-hearted days when the two used to walk and talk together while love’s dreams were so bright. It is not long since; but in the little time she has learned strange lessons— lessons which have gone deep into her soul. All life has been changed for her, and in her, too. She is a woman now, set apart by the baptism of sorrow. The light still shines in her face; but it is not morning light now, it is the serious light of the mid-day. She has a new joy now– joy which is sorrow transfigured, glorified. God’s comfort is in her heart, and a holy peace is in her eyes. She has experienced sore loss, but she never was so rich as she is now.”

-J.R. Miller, “Young People’s Problems” on the topic of grief and disrupted plans

James says that we must not only accept God’s will in giving us trials, but that we must rejoice when they come. I am beginning to see why. If we want to be like Christ, then we will be willing to go through whatever it takes to form us into His image. When we are tried, James tells us, and if we bear it in the strength of God, we will become patient (Christ is patient), and over time patience will become a deep quality of our lives, much different from the common idea of patience which is ‘bearing with the current situation until it goes back to how I like it’. Paul also tells us that we should rejoice in our troubles, knowing that they give us patience, and patience will give us experience (experience brings wisdom when considered in the light of Scriptures), and experience will give us hope (God is always faithful).

“Perhaps some few misunderstood the patient, unselfish way in which this bereavement was met, and thought the brave heart that endured such a sorrow with no clamor, was made of steel. But those who really knew this bereaved mother, knew the whole story. The life-long habit of Gospel love to the neighbor, and of faith in God as One who could not by any possibility make a mistake, came to her rescue. It was right because He did it. And what if she was sorely wounded, was she the only one lying mangled on the battle-field?”  -Elizabeth Prentiss, “The Home At Greylock” 

Grief and pain is like a chisel which our Father uses to work in beautiful details in the sculpture of our lives. He is tapping and cutting and hewing, and sometimes his chisel goes oh, so deep, and the pain is terrible; but we can be still knowing that these things are necessary for us to become shaped into the likeness of our perfect Savior and Lord.


Beauty or productivity? Or both?


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My little moss garden

The past few days I was listening to a talk  called The Joy of Food by Chef Francis Foucachon. I listened to this beautiful, thoughtful presentation while trying to juggle at least five different online ‘projects’ at once. Research this. Post about that. Oh, but first I must look this up! Oh man, I forgot to do that. Did I check this off my list? Oh, I’d better write this down before I forget it. Hey, that’s right, I need to do that too.

In the background of my random, disjointed ‘productivity’, Monsieur Foucachon was talking about the blessing of food and a dedicated meal time for family and friends to gather for an unrushed time to savor food and fellowship.

I paused the DVD and sat silent for a moment. That’s…..that’s honestly beautiful. I thought. I want to live like that. I never wanted to run from one activity to another. As a child I was a member of a slow-paced family (by American standards), but we still did our fair share of rushing to activities a few times a week. Staying at home every day would garner very little protest from me. I love home and building a home-culture— Someday I want to create a  warm, welcoming sanctuary for my family to grow and for us to practice quiet, relationally warm hospitality.

And yet, even in my quiet introvertedness, I feel torn and rushed. I see the unending list of things I would like to learn and accomplish and study and pursue, and I feel as if I am being caught up in a whirlwind and I must sink to the floor and cover my head to hide from it all.

How do I balance it to have the productive life I believe is so important, and yet not be so rushed to be productive that I run past the beauty of life?  Is savoring beauty, after all, a form of productivity? If I lay down a project I’ve set aside an hour to work on to stare in wonder at a sunset shining through the woodlands, setting weeds and vines aglow with a magical brilliance, is it  a good use of my time? I think it is. So I then it would follow that…..

Spending hours on crafting a beautiful meal served on attractive dishes and taking the time to set the table tastefully, even going outside for fifteen minutes to pick leaves and twigs for a centerpiece;

Lying on my bed reading to a small child who interrupted my studies;

Drawing a little scene on an envelope which needs to be mailed that morning;

Organizing the washroom decor to be more symmetrical and tasteful;

Instead of  mindlessly eating  in front of the laptop while I work, sitting down at the table and appreciating my meal– the colors, aroma, flavor, and texture;

These are not ‘distractions’ from my ‘real life’, my ‘productivity’, but rather  crucial elements to creating a life of thankful beauty instead of a life of chaos.

This is a seed-thought. It pleads to be pondered. The subject of beauty itself is something that calls for study. And I mean to study it.

[image: a piece of beauty I created for a friend this week]Madisons Talent_0003

Hand work, brain work: Learn things while doing chores


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I really love mindless work because it allows me to learn while being productive. It also frees me up to pursue rabbit trails of self-education, for I’m still getting my to-do list accomplished.

It always bothered me that there were so many things I wanted to learn, and yet by the time I got all my ‘mindless work’ done, it was too late and I was too tired to pursue them. Those dishes don’t care if my mind is improved or not: all they know is, they’re dirty and they want to be washed.

If you want to educate yourself, use every spare second for learning. 

I’ve listened to lectures off and on for years; it wasn’t anything new to me. I’ve been on kicks where I’ll listen to five hours of lectures in a day. But that’s not normal; on the average day, I hardly listened to one.

I don’t remember what changed, or even when it changed. But I have started becoming more and more intentional about learning, about redeeming the time, about using every spare second to do something productive. I don’t always succeed– I find myself staring at my Facebook feed more often than I care to admit. But I’m learning. I’m learning that life is short and that all these things I want to know and do in my life won’t happen without my working intentionally towards them.

Here’s some of the ways that I’m mixing hand work with learning:

  • Listening to online radio shows while tidying my room and making my bed in the morning
  • Watching videos while I’m ironing
  • Listening to podcasts when I’m editing photos
  • Reading a few pages while my computer is processing something/while I’m waiting for a page to load/when I restart my computer
  • Working on my handiwork (knitting, sewing, etc) while riding in the car/sitting and socializing with people
  • Turning on educational material while I’m organizing or cleaning
  • Learning hymns or memorizing Scripture while I wash dishes
  • Reading online articles when I’m chatting with friends (instead of browsing the internet between sending and receiving a message)

I am learning how to learn. It’s a process, and I’m just beginning it. But today I listened to the podcast “How To Become A Learning Machine“, and I’ve got some new inspiration as well as a more focused strategy for redeeming the moments and educating myself. I’ve been kind of jumping all over the place, researching everything from culinary arts to camera aperture to hemming jeans to interior design…. and it’s not effective. Sean’s tip that things must be studied in seasons, and that you should focus on one subject at a time, was helpful. I’ll be looking at my ‘currently learning’ list and prioritizing it to decide what I’m going to focus in on first.

So. Are you going to start educating yourself?