Julie’s Mom

How often do we think, “why me”?  How often do we look at others and think, “if only my life looked like theirs”?  “If only my struggle would cease to exist”…or even, “if only my struggle was someone else’s.”  The truth is we do struggle, we all struggle in a broken world that seems to persist beyond our own strength to resist.  Some struggle more than others.  Some overcome stronger than before, some carry scars that are hard to hide, but all seem to ask… “why?”.  Perhaps the question is incomplete…perhaps the question should be “why do we weather our storms, if not to help other survive theirs?”.

Painting number 48 of 52 is going to a mother nominated by her daughter.  A mother who struggled, who fought, who overcame, and who decided that that was not enough.  She decided that others could use her strength, her experience, and her love.  She not only asked, “why?” when it was completely appropriate to do so.  She also asked, “now…how do I help?”.  Here are the words of her daughter about the mother she has watched serve.

Hi! My name is Julie Starling and I am nominating my mom, Sandra Stanley. My mom
taught 8th grade science for 34 years  Isn’t that crazy? I cannot imagine being in the eighth grade for that long. On top of being a teacher for more than half of her life, she is a great mom to not only myself but to my two younger siblings (Julie-23, Jessica-21, Matthew-18). In August of 2010 our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. After battling for over a year, then enduring over a month in ICU for reconstruction, she is now cancer free and in her 5th year of remission! She is by far the strongest and most inspiring person I know. She is constantly giving to others, and mentoring family and friends who are battling cancer. She’s the epitome of a giver in my mind, I hope you would consider her for as a Beautiful Giver on your site.

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She sounds amazing Julie! Thanks for nominating her!

 

-Lauren

Sam Strong

This past weekend, I attended a wonderful event ATeam Ministries puts on called Heart2HeART. This organization matches professional artist and children with pediatric cancer to paint for an Art Auction. This year, I had the honor of being one of the Artist and was matched with 13 year-old, Sam Cunningham. My family went with me to meet Sam. After meeting Sam and his family, my sister Emily helped write this week’s blog post…

Last year Sam was a guest, a guest at an event to raise money for an incredible organization that helps families who are battling pediatric cancer.  He went in support of a friend who had fought that horrible disease.  Within a month, however, Sam found himself facing a similar diagnosis.  For the next year, Sam has endured doctors visits, hospital stays, cancer treatments, and at least one life saving surgery.  And in the midst of all that, he would not be consumed by the darkness of cancer that has haunted so many families.  Instead, he would simply ask if he could paint, if he could be a part of that remarkable organization that has changed so many lives.  So with a crowd of family and friends supporting him, Sam attend the event this year, not as a guest… but as an inspiration.

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Genesis 1:4 states that “God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”  I can not imagine a greater darkness than knowing one’s child is sick.  It must be a blinding darkness indeed.  This is a darkness Sam’s mother knows well.  She was called upon a year ago to serve her child in a way every parent dreads, and she continues to do so with love, and care, and a spirit of strength and hope.  She is a light and a privilege to know.  She is the person you are drawn to in a room because of her attention to others, her lively spirit, and her infectious smile.  You would never know the struggle she faces and yet she faces it head on everyday with grace and strength.  She found herself surrounded by darkness, and for her child, she became the light.  Yes, God separated the light from the darkness…and He saw that it was good.

So painting 47 is for Sam and his family for being an inspiration to all of us. fullsizeoutput_6624

Love,

Emily & Lauren

Willa’s inspirational parents share their story to help others.

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Painting 44 was created for my friend Ashley Jamison’s cute little living room. Ashley chose to participate in the 52 Things of Beauty Project by nominating her friends Mark and Sarah Wilson as “Beautiful Givers”. Mark and Sarah have a daughter that has struggled with health issues. Ashley, along with many others who read their story admire their bravery, honesty, vulnerablily and inspiration provided through their page Lessons Learned from a Brain Injured Child.

On August 7, 2017, their daughter Willa was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic disease called Adenylosuccinate Lyase (or ADSL deficiency). They chose to create a page to help inspire others dealing with feelings of the unknown. They realize everyone experiences these feelings about our health, our children, our future. So they created a platform to share in a beautiful way. Here is a short excerpt from their page…

       “This is also our chance to share Willa’s life with those we love so dearly, beautiful people from all over the US who are not able to be with us physically as we continue on this journey.

A lot changed for our family on that day. Our day to day didn’t. Willa didn’t. Rowe didn’t. But we lost that glimmer of hope that this was something she’d grow out of. We lost hope that we were ever going to have that “normal” family. I lost hope that I would go back to work. I lost hope that therapy would not be my norm. I lost hope that I would get to help Willa put on her wedding dress.  

As the days and weeks have passed, I have found new joys and learned so much about the expectations we set on ourselves. I get to see the face of Jesus every day in this child. I get to see His mercies with her and with refining me every day. I get to see grace in my marriage where there was very little before. I see appreciation for the messes and things that used to make me growl under my breath. I have learned that expectations are man-made and made to be broken. It is only when you can adapt to their brokenness that you have succeeded. I struggle daily with the idea that comparison is the stealer of joy. I have learned that I have been letting Satan attack my family, my marriage, and my mind for far too long. I am broken and weary. The one thing that stops me in my tracks and pushes me forward is knowing that I serve a God that has watched his child suffer. He has seen His child die. I will witness these very things. And I am not alone.  

For today we move forward. We have a diagnosis, and I am forever grateful for that. I am terrified. I am humbled that God chose us to walk this path. And I am joyful that I get to love on my sweet angel for as long as I possibly can.  

Mark has said it before, but we truly cannot thank you all enough for everything you have prayed and sacrificed on our behalf. We are so very blessed! 

I’ve never personally met Mark or Sarah but their words have moved me to tears. What incredible faith and perspective they have! If you want to help Mark and Sarah by giving they have a Go Fund Me page. But more than anything, I hope we can all encourage them by giving time in prayer. Praying for them to continue to have strength and peace.  Praying for them to continue to have courage to help others through this difficult time. Please know Mark and Sarah, you have inspired so many already! Painting 45 will be yours and sent out to you this week! Thank you for giving in a beautiful way!

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Thanks for taking the time to read!

-Lauren

41-43, St Jude, American Cancer Society & Black Warrior Riverkeeper

3 more paintings! 3 great organizations!

As you start the new year, now is the perfect time to find a new way to give! A way for you to get involved and find a passion. Finding a passion can give purpose to your life …creating the ultimate satisfaction. The point of this project is to give you ideas of creative ways you can give with your friends or family. Here are 3 more great ideas!

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#41 This painting was designed for Whitney Cook, who chose to bring awareness to St. Jude.  Did you know that you can become a St. Jude’s hero by running for the kids of St. Jude?

Runners who fundraise for St. Jude while training for their race are part of a nationwide alliance against childhood cancer. They’re called St. Jude Heroes.Registering for your race as a St. Jude Hero means an online training program, race-day extras — from a St. Jude singlet to hotel accommodations, depending on your event and fundraising commitment — and possibly even entry into the most exclusive races in the world.

Learn more at https://www.stjude.org/get-involved/at-play/fitness-for-st-jude/run-for-st-jude.html?sc_icid=gi-mm-hero

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#42  This painting was done for Anna Barnes, who chose to give to American Cancer Society.  Her brother Dennis battled and beat lymphoma years ago. She chose to make a donation in his honor to the American Cancer Society. Here is the mission of American Cancer Society.

“At the American Cancer Society, we’re on a mission to free the world from cancer. Until we do, we’ll be funding and conducting research, sharing expert information, supporting patients, and spreading the word about prevention. All so you can live longer — and better.”

You can choose to help the American Cancer Society by clicking HERE

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#43 was a 48X60 water scene for Leslie Stephenson. Since she has many fond memories of the water, she chose to give to the Black Warrior Riverkeep’s organization. According to their website, “Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries.The organization uses a watershed approach to ensure clean water, a healthy aquatic environment, and the recreational and aesthetic values of the river.”

Black Warrior River Website

 

Thank you to everyone taking the time to read! I hope these three people challenge you to find something you can feel good about getting involved with. Giving of your time, energy, or money will help you to shift your focus on others, in turn, making you a happier, more fulfilled person! Make 2018 the year you find your purpose and make a difference!

–Lauren

 

38-40 Giving to the Red Cross

 

These happy paintings brighten Chelsee Ryan’s playroom. The Ryan’s decided a great way to give is by donating blood to the Red Cross. By donating blood you help save lives!

Here are some benefits of donating from the Red Cross website:

Benefits of Donating

Benefits of Donating

  • It feels great to donate!
  • You get free juice and delicious cookies.
  • It’s something you can spare  most people have blood to spare… yet, there is still not enough to go around
  • You will help ensure blood is on the shelf when needed  most people don’t think they’ll ever need blood, but many do.
  • You will be someone’s hero  in fact, you could help save more than one life with just one donation.

If the thought of giving blood is intimidating you can still help by volunteering.

Benefits of Volunteering with the American Red Cross Blood Services

  • Have fun and meet new people
  • Gain career experience and learn new skills
  • Be part of a large humanitarian organization
  • Make your own schedule – work when and where you can
  • Earn documented service hours
  • Build your resume and gain experience
  • Receive training and support
  • Participate in volunteer recognition activities
Generous volunteers who give their time and talents help fulfill the American Red Cross mission. Whether you are interested in working at a local blood drive or in an office setting, we have volunteer opportunities available for you.

Getting started as a Red Cross volunteer is easy. Just click on the start button below and our Volunteer Connection tool will guide you through the process.

Find out more information about how you and your family can get involved and save lives at https://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood

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Thank you Ryan’s for sharing a great way you can give back!

-Lauren

37/52 Sahara’s Project

 

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Some of my favorite paintings in the @52thingsofbeauty project have been through nominations on the website! One of the most rewarding things about this project has been painting for people that I’ve never met. It is so much fun to hear stories of people choosing to make a difference especially when their stories have reached across state lines! In North Carolina, Jasmine nominated her Aunt Ashlyn and Uncle Shane Ferguson as “Beautiful Givers”. There are so many good people in this world, like really good people that make a difference in ways that are so amazing. These are two of them. They have chosen to take a hard situation and turn it into a way to help others financially who are going through similar situations! Here is their incredible story from their organization website http://www.saharasproject.com

 

       I would like to share the love story of how Sahara’s Project came to be.

It all started when I met my lovely wife Ashlyn. We had our first date at sixteen, and many more for the next eight years. In September 1995 we made it official and pledged to spend the rest of our lives together. After three years of blissful marriage, we were thrilled to learn that we would be welcoming a new member into our small family. We named our little miracle Sahara Lynn and had such wonderful plans for her. But when her day of arrival came, we lost her.

At the time, we didn’t understand the reason she was taken from us, and had to believe that the Lord had much grander plans for her than we could even imagine. Time does heal but doesn’t forget. We have used the very challenging and difficult times to rebuild and make us stronger.

We now have five wonderful boys, ages two to seventeen. Each child is a blessing and we are so thankful for them.

One of our youngest, (Cash) became ill when he was one year old, resulting in a brain bleed that left his left side paralyzed, and his motor skills in a state where he needed to relearn arm and leg functions. 

Experiencing Cash’s struggle has shed a major light upon the way we view children with disabilities that need therapy to help restore their health and mobility. This is something we never gave much thought to until we had a child with challenges.  It made me realize how much I take for granted when things are going smoothly and good health is bountiful.

The more Ashlyn and I work with Cash in therapy and see other parents and single mothers trying to provide the needed therapy for their children, and falling short because of financial reasons, or don’t have enough time to make ends meet; the more we see a need for provision and assistance.

Knowing the struggles and challenges that these parents and children are faced with, firsthand; has made us very passionate about helping. 

We have a heart for underprivileged children, foster children, and single parents. We can’t fix everything, but we can do our part and feel that sometimes just the smallest things matter in the biggest way.

Sahara’s Project is a way to provide help to those who need it, and a way for our Sahara to be remembered forever.

 Shane & Ashlyn Ferguson. Snapseed 3

 

Isn’t that amazing? What a beautiful way to remember their daughter! Shane and Ashlyn you are truly an inspiration to so many people. You saw a need and jumped into action. Thank you Jasmine for sharing the story of your Aunt and Uncle! They are “Beautiful Givers” indeed! If you are looking to donate to an organization this holiday season… this would be a great one!

-Lauren Woods

36/52 How to Let Your Kids Create the Perfect Abstract Art for Christmas!

Hi friends!

With Christmas coming up,  I thought I would share a fun idea for moms of small children. I am going to show you an easy way to let your “littles” create beautiful abstract art. My idea behind the 52 things of beauty project was to use Art to inspire giving and this is the perfect gift! I did it with my kids, Waverly (2 years)  and Sawyer (1 year). It turned out great!

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Here is what you will need:

  1. Watercolor Paper–I got mine at Micheal’s you can order it HERE
  2. 5 Shades of neutral paints– For this project, I used mostly Target Brand Hand Made Modern. Colors; slate, satin egg, satin white, elephant, and aluminum. Found HERE
  3. Brushes–I suggest using a large brush and a small brush or you can even just use their baby fingers. This brand is non-toxic but you will still want to make sure they don’t try and eat it. Ha!
  4. Frame–I absolutely love the Champagne double mat frames from Studio Decor. They look like custom frames but are much more affordable. Find them HERE

Also, Micheal’s always has great coupons so make sure you check their website to get the best deals!

Then let them get messy and paint! If possible, let them leave some white and not cover the entire canvas with paint. This allows your eye to rest in places which makes for a prettier painting. Also, it is fine for them to mix some of the colors together as they paint. Just try letting them use different brushes with the different colors and it will help give dimension to their work. After they dry, use a small paint pen to write their name and age. Then stick them in the frame! Ta-da! A beautiful piece any parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle will love! Happy Giving!

-Love,

Lauren