Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Give 52 - Week 8: A Father's Love

Give 52 - Week 8
Cheryl Houston 2015
July 16, 2015, I get a text from my sweet husband saying that Darren has invited us to dinner. A friend that they use to work with was in town. Our dinner party consisted of me, my husband and 5 other men. When we walked in I thought, "Oh! I'm the only girl." but I was reassured that I was invited.

The gentleman that was in from out of town is Pete.

Pete lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Jen, his son, Dylan, and his daughter, Elliana.

Pete gave me the usual speech I hear when meeting someone for the first time that knows my husband. "Chris is a great guy! I love him." My response is always, "I know! I love him so much I married him!"

We teased Pete about living in Pennsylvania and how could you even think about not living in Texas. Isn't it cold in Pennsylvania? Ew! But he went on the explain that his wife has family in Pennsylvania and she loved being near them. Ah, sweet.

Pete told me about his son and how he loved race cars. Now, I could be making this part up but I'm pretty sure he told me that he wanted to be a race car driver. Is that right? Cool ambition, right? I like it.

And then, Pete started telling me about his daughter, Elliana, and how she has her own business with her own bank account and business cards and the whole works. I asked how old she was and I think I remember the age 12 being thrown out.... is that right, Pete?

Well, I was intrigued. A 12 year old girl with her own business? I asked what kind of business she had and he told me she was a balloon artist. I don't know if it was just me connecting with another artist, or the beer I was drinking or if it was actually the pride busting out of Pete's voice that touched my heart. No, I do know. It was Pete.

Sitting before me was a father beaming about his daughter being a balloon artist. Beaming!

Elliana wanted to perform in the school talent show and taught herself from the good ol' internets how to make balloon art. She continued mastering her talent and her parents recognized those talents and encouraged her by setting her up at a table at a party they were at and,  of course, what kid can resist balloons? I heard the kids flocked to her and I guess the rest is history- they started a business, Take It Up A Twist.

Of course, I went home and checked out Elliana's work, and people! It is so AMAZING!!! These are not just your regular swords and flowers and little poodles that some old guy made you back in 1970, though, I'm sure she's very good at those. Elliana is making reindeer, Santa Claus, Brides and Grooms and Pirates with treasure chests! Check out her Facebook page for the photos.

And as amazing as Elliana's work is, what touches me most about this story is the act of  her father sharing her story with me in a way that was so authentic and genuine that you couldn't help but to see how much pride and joy he has in her and her talent.

I'm sending this weeks artwork to Pete to gift to Elliana. Elliana, I don't know if you know this but your father has a great big warm spot for you in his heart.

Pete, thank you for sharing your story with me. I will never forget meeting you.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Give 52 - Week 7: S I N G

Give 52 - Week 7
Cheryl Houston 2015
Is it bragging if I say I completely love the way this piece turned out? And friends, this weeks art piece didn't come easy. I prepared something else and I could hear one of my art teachers saying, "Many are called. Few are chosen."

The original piece was not to be chosen. It was fine but it did not sing! So, I was starting from scratch Sunday evening, wrapping up Monday evening, and mailing yesterday. Just under the wire!

I've sent this 6 x 8 inch piece off to Valley Creek Church's worship leaders, Ben and Rachel Moreno. They lead Valley Creekers in worship most every Sunday and it's so, so good.

I can't tell you how many times that I have been singing along with them and become so overwhelmed by the presence of God that tears just start streaming down my face. It's embarrassing, folks! But, it also feels really wonderful.

I was able to spend a little bit of time with Rachel in a creative group gathering this past spring and she is so encouraging. Genuine love and  fun oozes from them both.

I'm so grateful to go to a church that emphasizes the importance of worship and that part of the service resets my heart to be able to face another week of the world. And, if that isn't enough to be grateful for, the worship team also put out albums for us to listen at home.

The newest album, By Cloud, By Fire is available now on iTunes. I Have Decided is one of my favorites. You should totally check it out. Like, right now. Go!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Give 52 - Week 6: Funny Friends

Zentangle Flower
Give 52 - Week 6
Cheryl Houston 2015
Confession: I am not a good friend.

What do I mean by that? 

I'm not good at planning events, or gathering people, or even just calling the women I consider to be my friends. In fact, other than the friends I work with, I probably haven't spoken to, texted or emailed many of my friends in a good long while but once I consider you my friend, I pretty much always consider you my friend. No matter how much time has passed.

I met Leah at work. We share a lot of the same 12 year old boy humor. 

One of my favorite stories of Leah is of a time when we working out in the office gym. She was doing side shuffles and she was supposed to put down and pick up a medicine ball at the end of each pass. Our trainer was trying to explain to Leah that she was supposed to pick up a ball every time not just put it down.

As she was shuffling by me she said, "I am picking up a BALL every time!"

I said, "You're not holding a BALL right now."

She looked down and to her surprise- there was no ball in her hands and the three of us busted out in laughter.

"Leah said, 'Balls!'" 

You see? 12 year old boy humor.

Another tidbit about Leah is Leah loves Jesus. And she has a talent for sharing her love for Jesus in way that is respectful and welcoming . I know she did a lot of praying for me when I was busy pushing all-things-God out of my life. She never once preached at me or made me feel offended or put off. She just lovingly talked about how much she loved Jesus.

I hope I can model that attitude and message in my life for others to see. I'm so grateful for the abundant life God has graced me with and people like Leah that He throws in my path. I guess he knows I need them.

I'm so grateful for Leah's love and laughter in my life no matter how many days there are between today and the last day we talked. Here's to good friends and laughter!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Give 52 - Week 5: Do You Believe?

Believe in Yourself for Heather Snow
Give 52 - Week 5
Cheryl Houston 2015
One of my other House of Shine buddies, Heather, works for the University of Texas - Arlington. She works in Student Affairs where she and her staff help students be successful by encouraging community on campus.

Heather contacted me late in July or early August, asking me to create something for her to put on her office encouragement wall. When I asked her what she was thinking she wanted she said that she wanted something to encourage her students to believe in themselves. She told me that her students come in so discouraged and hopeless.

Well, I knew right away that I would include Heather and her encouragement wall in my Give 52 project but I didn't tell her that. If we're encouraging students to have hope and to believe that they can achieve their dreams then I'm in!

How can I do more? That's what we should all be asking ourselves.

And, for me, this is what this project is about. Doing more. Sharing my artwork. Encouraging others to be all that they are. Do more of your thing that makes a difference in this world. In other words: SHINE! That's what Heather and I do when we participate at House of Shine.

Always keep dreaming. Always keep learning. Always stay curious. Always be kind.

And, never ever say never because I believe in you and all that you are!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Give 52 - Week 4: Salt and Light

Salt & Light for John & Colleen Stickl
Give 52 - Week 4
Cheryl Houston 2015
When I met my husband in 2011, I was pretty much on the outs with God.

Well, I was out. God was faithfully waiting on me to open. Open my eyes. Open my heart. Open my mind. Open the door.

Chris had been attending Valley Creek Church for a couple of years and while at dinner on a Saturday night he invited me to go with him the next morning.

This was the moment I was dreading- the moment of invitation but I knew it was important to him so I held on to my open heart and said okay. I think my exact words were, "Okay, but don't expect me to be all churchy with you every week. Me and God have an understanding- stay out of each others business."

Okay, I was the only one in on that agreement.

Pastor John was in the middle of a series called Favor and talking about grace and gratitude. Quietly, my heart responded: "If someone had taught me about grace 20 years ago, it would have probably saved me a lot of heartache and frustration."

And, just like that I was hooked.

When I wasn't able to go with Chris, I was watching online. When he wasn't able to go, I was going by myself. Three years later, I found myself in a baptismal tank getting baptized and we rarely miss a week in the presence of God and our church.

(If one of my family members is reading this and saying, but Cheryl, "You were baptized in 1997 at St. Michael's Catholic Church! I saw you!" I can only say to you that I argued with God about the same exact point for about a year when asking God what my next step was. I would say, "I already did that, God!" But what I came to understand was in 1997 I got baptized to join a family. A family I'm no longer a part of and this time- I got baptized to follow Jesus. And it was pretty wonderful.)

Pastor John and his wife, Colleen, are awesome. Colleen has delivered the Mother's Day message for the last two years and I love it! My whole spiritual journey has been set on lighted path because of the work they do with the church. I've been to a lot of churches throughout my lifetime and the presence of God is so strong in this community. From the worship to teams to the serving teams to the leadership. Top to bottom and in the smiles of everyone's faces.

Our marriage is blessed to be in such a loving, honest place and while I could go on and on about all the different messages that have been spoken directly into my heart and changed my life this really isn't about me. I suggest if you're looking for some spiritual leadership that you join us at Valley Creek Church in Flower Mound. Not in Flower Mound - join us online. They live stream the service every week and have past series in the media archives.

Because of the gift that God has given to Pastor John, I have been blessed and I trust in the good plans that God has for me and my family.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hello Week Four!

Give 52 Week 4
Going to the post office.
Week 4 already! Say what?

Be sure to join me tomorrow to see the latest piece of artwork and who I sent it to.

They're so awesome!!

I've added some new prints to my Etsy shop and hope to add some original drawings soon, too.

My designs are also at RedBubble where you can order lots of fun products like stickers, tote bags, coffee mugs and spiral notebooks.

Links are in the right side bar. Over there -->>

If you ever see an image of a drawing that I've done (check out Instagram) and you want it for a gift or project, drop me an email and let's make that happen for you.

Happy Tuesday!