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My friend LaRessie Mason (North Carolina) is preparing to go to Guatemala on a mission trip in March. She has always wanted to do mission work, so when this opportunity came her way – JUST IN TIME FOR HER UPCOMING 40th BIRTHDAY – LaRessie jumped at the chance to serve God in this special way. I’m SO proud of her, and in support of this important trip she will be taking mid-March, tomorrow – Feb 1st – I’m launching “40 Days of Fasting and Prayer for Guatemala.” For health reasons I cannot fast from food, but I CAN fast from Facebook and from cell phone games… two HUGE time wasters that I tend to allow to take away from time that I’d normally spend in prayer with the Lord. I’ve sent my sweet and Godly friend, LaRessie, a special list of things I’m going to pray for during each of these coming 40 days – things specifically related to her upcoming mission trip. I hope you’ll join me in prayer for LaRessie and her team as they travel next month to Guatemala. And now you’ll know why I’m out of the loop on Facebook for the next 40 days! If you need to reach me in the meantime, try email: kyshartank@yahoo.com. Blessings, Sharon

Many of you know that I am now subbing “full-time” in our area schools while we are starting our new business venture, Tankersley Photography. I love subbing. If you know me, you know that I am a life-long learner. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, I love to learn about it. (I joke with Sharon that if I could get a job going to college full-time, I’d jump at it!) One of the benefits of subbing is being in many different class subjects. I’ve had everything from Math (ha!) to Chinese. I love it. What a great job for a guy who can’t settle on one thing!

A few weeks ago, I subbed for an Art class where the students watched a biography on Norman Rockwell.  I think I may have watched this 4 times that day. I learned so much about the artist, his life and his values. I started taking notes around the second to third times I was going through it, and wanted to share a few insights with you.

I’ve always enjoyed Rockwell’s work. It seems to perfectly distill the American experience. I have been fortunate to see several originals of his, including some working sketches, and I’m always amazed at how his vision of life was so clearly defined. I found it amazing that he generally wasn’t seen as a painter of fine arts, but a mere illustrator. In fact one critic, when visiting Rockwell’s studio and viewing his work, commented “Well, he certainly works hard.” In referring to his own work, he said “I was painting the America I knew, and the details I noticed.” 

Rockwell didn’t seem to be concerned with highbrow art, but wanted to communicate the goodness of life. In fact, he said that “hope” was what he painted best. When he was presented with opportunities to be seen as a true artist by painting the darker side of life, he said “I don’t have an instinct to paint people with evil ideas, and I won’t.” What a difference from the culture of “celebrity” we seem mired in today!

I learned that loyalty was prized by Rockwell, even in the face of greater fame and fortune. He would routinely turn down higher paying opportunities, because they meant he would have to turn his back on his friends. This even extended to his neighbors. He once put off having his house painted until a less well-off neighbor could have theirs painted.

What an incredible person. An artist that would make thousands of dollars for certain commissions, and turn around and charge the Boy Scouts a mere $50 for a painting. We seem so stuck on the idea of “famous” today, that the idea of simply doing what we know, come fame or obscurity, is lost. Rockwell’s images will forever frame a certain period of our history, simply because he painted the America he knew.

Once again, the calendar page has been flipped and a new year is upon us.  We’ve now moved from being inundated with last-minute Christmas sales to the annual marketing schemes of  “New Year, New You”.  If you are like us, you just can’t escape the whirling dervish of starting off the year right with new resolutions and this weird innate drive to organize everything in existence. No longer are visions of sugar plums on the menu, but wild-eyed rides through places like IKEA and the Container Store. There’s nothing like it!

Even though winter only officially started a couple of weeks ago, with the onset of the New Year thoughts naturally turn to new growth in the coming months. (For me, I’m already tired of snow. Sharon says I’m just old!) But I know that gardens are being planned and landscapes are being mapped out. Minds have turned from the green of the Christmas trees to the green of Spring (bring it!). The title of our first post of 2011 just seemed to cry out.

During one of his Advent homilies a few weeks ago, our pastor said that “it is the nature of all things to sprout”. I love that. What a great reminder of our ongoing inner drive to move, to grow, to create.  I’ve been thinking a lot about his statement, and my own drive to sprout. Too often, in our frail humanity we see this drive to sprout as a drive to do more, to be more, to get more – and we see it wrong. Sprouting is growing…growing towards something or Someone. Sprouting is starting (as the cliche goes) where you’re planted, and growing into what the Creator has designed.

I don’t know about your past year. Like a lot of people 2010 was a mixed bag for Sharon and me. We began the year with Sharon in an unsure new job situation. I lost my job in May. We celebrated our 20th anniversary in August (yay!).  Both of our families have been rocked to the core with unseen happenings and health issues.

It would be easy to worry about the coming months. There are still an incredible amount of unknown out there, and we’ve still got a lot of hurdles to get over, but we find ourselves excited at the possibilities. We find ourselves ready to sprout. After all it’s in our nature. We hope that you will stick with us (and continue to pray with us) as we hit 2011. We hope that in your New Year’s resolutions…goals…hopes…or however you are looking towards the coming year you will remain open to the growth that is ahead.  Come sprout with us!

I…Got…Mine!

There’s a lot of talk these days about the increasing problems of bullying in children’s lives. If you are like me, you know that bullies have always been around, and that it isn’t a “new” problem. Having spent the last few years in education, I do agree that the problem has increased in occurance…and in intensity.  I can remember when bullying involved losing your lunch money, a prized baseball card, or a new cap. Now it seems our kids tend to be in danger far more, especially from a physical standpoint.  A few months ago a friend of ours in New York state wrote on Facebook about a problem her son was having with a kids spitting on him at the bus stop. She was at her wit’s end, since no one seemed to be able to do anything about it.

It is a problem, and it is getting worse. It’s getting national media attention, and full-time anti-bullying programs are being implemented in our schools. But what I don’t hear much about is who is teaching these kids to bully. I think the answer is simple…the adults around them.

This time of year is great for seeing the best in people (hopefully!) but it’s also the time of year where we see the worst. People are impatient, rude, pushy, and just plain bullies! (Sadly, much of this behavior occurs in the midst of Christmas shopping!) How many times are you followed in traffic so close the driver behind you can run a diagnostic scan on your engine? Or you observe (hopefully you are JUST observing) a person who hasn’t gotten their way and is physically and verbally bullying (abusing) the object of their rant into getting what they want?

For several years, Sharon and I have had a name for this behavior – “I GOT MINE!” as in “and I don’t care what I’ve done to you to get it!”  Too many people today (especially here in America) are only concerned with getting what they want, with absolutely no thought as to the people around them. Why should I care about you, I GOT MINE! (Think back to every piece of Black Friday footage you’ve seen!)

I can’t tell you how many times a driver has been somewhat frustrated that I wasn’t going 120 on the local road and was very animatedly letting me know about it, only to pass me with 2 kids in the back seat of their (too-large) SUV. Or they spend several minutes berating the person checking out their groceries, with the little one taking it all in from the comfort of the grocery cart.

Kids aren’t born bullying – they learn it, and yes, the video games, tv and movies tend to help this process along – but kids learn primarily from the adults around them – that’s us! Parents, if you’re worried that your kid tends to be a bully, take a long look at your own behavior to those around you and see if you are teaching your kids these three simple words I GOT MINE!

Twenty years ago this evening I was rushing around like a crazy person, trying to finish decorating the church while checking the music while folding programs while barking out orders to the rest of my bridal party like they were members of some unfortunate chain gang.  Somehow we all got past that crazy night and even managed to get through the next day, too.  Most of those involved that day are even still speaking to me… Thanks to each and every one of you (you know who you are!).

There are a lot of funny stories from that day, and from our first few years as a married couple.  Well – at least we think they’re funny NOW.

I could tell you about how my brand new husband, behind the wheel of our honeymoon vehicle, chauffeured his brand new bride out of the church parking lot, drove a few blocks and turned straight into a car wash where he fed pocket change into a machine and wiped the car clean of all tale tell signs that would have let others on the road to Gatlinburg know that we were “Just Married.”  NOW I know that he did it because we were in a borrowed car and he felt nervous about driving it with all that junk on the windshield.  But at the time all I could think about was my childish, bratty self – and how disappointed I felt at not being able to arrive at our honeymoon destination with signage in tow.  So silly…NOW.

Or I could tell you about our first anniversary, and the fact that my sweet, broke college student of a husband penny pinched and somehow figured out a way to buy me a wonderful, heartfelt gift that reflected his nostalgic memories of our early dating.  At the time I didn’t respond well at all when I opened the package and saw the contents of his mysterious box… A Fry Daddy.  I wish I could take back my reaction that day – spoiled, immature and self-centered.  You see, my husband is one of the last true romantics, and that first anniversary gift meant that he remembered how much we’d enjoyed sharing our favorite buffalo wings during early dates together… and that he planned to recreate those special wings for me with the new fry daddy.  If only I’d known then what I know NOW.

There are dozens and dozens of other stories from our twenty years together, and many of them lead to similar conclusions.  What I know NOW, after having been with this man and sharing my life with him all these years is THIS:  Bob Tankersley is the most spiritual, most creative, most romantic, most spontaneous, most respectable, most loving man a woman could ever hope to marry.  He is Home to me, my anchor in the storm, and my sense of humor when I’ve forgotten how to laugh.  Sometimes he’s my conscience when I’m tempted to cut corners.  Often he is my inspiration when I feel like my river has run dry.  He is, quite simply, my best friend.  So, on this eve of our 20th Wedding Anniversary – I would like to say to the world that I would marry this man again in a heartbeat!  So, Mr. Tankersley, tell me:  What are you doing for the NEXT twenty years?…

‘Tart

What if?

What if the followers of Jesus…

  • made sure no one was homeless, BEFORE they built a church building?
  • made sure every kid had shoes, BEFORE they started a Youth Ministry?
  • made sure no one was hungry, BEFORE they celebrated communion?
  • made sure no elderly person was truly alone, BEFORE they hired a preacher?
  • made sure the needs of their community were satisfied, BEFORE they decided what worship style they would have?
  • welcomed everyone as Christ, BEFORE they started buying property for a “satellite campus”?
  • made sure they were fulfilling the words of Christ, BEFORE they decided who they didn’t fellowship with?

What if?

Bob and I recently enjoyed a lovely week visiting family and friends in Texas.  The time flew by in a swirl of warm hugs, sweet laughter, and more good Tex Mex than a middle-aged body should be asked to digest.  It took me awhile to get back into the groove of life back here in Kentucky.  I think this is partly because I was exhausted from the trip, and partly because leaving loved ones behind was bittersweet.

Of all the beautiful moments we enjoyed while on the trip, one in particular has clung to me like a lovely perfume… I’m still savoring its scent nearly a week later.

It was a rainy afternoon at the Fort Worth zoo – a favorite old haunt where adults become like children again through hands-on interaction with animals from every part of the globe.  We’d gone there that day with some of our oldest and dearest friends – Ryan and Amy Gibbons and their two delightful children, N and L.  The sun that had shone all week chose that day to give way to rain showers.  But a few raindrops didn’t keep us away from the lions and tigers and bears – oh NO!  We were feeling adventurous and the animals were calling.

Bob and I took turns snapping photos while our little group wound its way through the various exhibits, trying hard to keep up with the boundlessly energetic children among us.  I had fun capturing this shot of Amy under her umbrella while she laughed at a silly story Bob was retelling.  I hoped that the photo would capture the essence of what I love most about my precious, long-time friend: Boundless joy and peace that remain buoyant even in the midst of life’s rain showers… THAT is what I think of when I reflect on my image of Amy Gibbons. 

She and her family have endured many challenging days in the past few years.  Job loss, hurt-filled separation from those they once called “friend”, and an uncertain future framed by seemingly perpetual transition have been the puddles they’ve had to trudge through of late.  Yet Amy’s faith in our Father remains steadfast.  Her comment to me when sharing some especially disappointing news she received a few days ago?… “Well, I’m not exactly sure what that means.”  Wow – talk about an unwaivering faith!

In fact, their journey has been both a mirror and a forecast of the road that Bob and I have travelled this past year.  Funny how God moves us along such parallel lines at times.  I like to think that it’s His way of providing a built-in support group when we need it most.  And as I think about my friend Amy and her unsinkable joy in the midst of strife, this image of her laughing under her blue umbrella as the rain poured down all around her that day at the zoo is so completely uplifting, so utterly endearing, so thoroughly inspiring that I plan to use it as a daily reminder to steady my own anchor to the Rock in the storms of life.

Thank you, Amy, for reminding me that real joy and peace can truly pass all understanding when we remember to buoy our souls to the One who calms the seas.

P.S.  Didn’t my husband do a GREAT job recoloring this photographic work of art!??