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

 

 

 

35/52 No Greater Gift… than the Gift of Prayer

This project has taken so many fun twist and turns. One of my favorite ways, is how it has allowed people to be honored with paintings by nominations. This one is especially special since Pastor Kevin Johnson, of the First Baptist Church of Florence nominated my husband’s very own grandmother, Exie Higginbotham.  He asked for a painting to hang in the Church in honor of her giving of one of the greatest gifts of all…the Gift of Prayer. Her granddaughter, Emily writes this weeks post honoring her.

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I’ll keep you in my prayers…an expression commonly and often casually used to share comfort or demonstrate concern.  One stated with the best of intention but all too often is simply that…an intention.  But what is prayer?  Words spoken to God, or perhaps for some, spoken into the unknown?  A well-meaning thought?  A last resort once all other avenues have been exhausted?  A place for healing?  A chance for peace?  As Christians we serve a God who does not need anything from us but instead has already sacrificed for us.  “Pray without ceasing” we are told, and “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Jesus introduced to us the beautiful act of personal prayer, revealing to us the Creator-of-All’s desire to spend time with us.  For some, prayer is powerful.  Prayer is reaching out to the One to whom nothing is impossible.  And maybe prayer is what we need foremost.  An act that points to a God who loves us dearly but also to our love for each other.  Through prayer for one another we celebrate each other’s joys and share each other’s burdens.  Through prayer for one another we are shown that we are no longer alone.  Through prayer for one another we give perhaps what we need most in the moment…love, comfort, and hope.  What is prayer?  Perhaps prayer is a gift…perhaps prayer is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Painting number 35 of 52 is hanging in the newest annex of First Baptist Church in Florence, AL in honor of a true prayer warrior.  Exie Higginbotham is known to many.  She is mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, friend, and confidant.  She is where many have turned and none have been turned away.  She is always generous and kind demonstrating a quiet strength and selfless passion for others.  She is wise and quick to listen.  She is loving.  She is a woman ahead of her time who, with elegant charm, kindly disagreed with those who did not see the need for a woman to further her own education.  Doing so she paved the way for her daughters and granddaughters to reach their full potential and showed them what it means to achieve their dreams through hard-work and determination while maintaining grace, integrity, and love.  Against odds, she changed her world and made it a better place for all of us to come.  A librarian and teacher she enriched the lives of children.  A wife and mother she sacrificed and clothed her family in love.  She is the woman who respectfully defied doctors and alone cared for her ailing husband in the comfort of their home.  The woman who at a young age comforted her mother while waiting on news of her brothers from Pearl Harbor.  She is the grandmother and greatmother who reads books time and time again, plays games, and treats the children in her life to carousel rides and lemon icebox pie.  She has known pain and loss and joy, but she so often pushes her own pain aside to comfort others in theirs.  She is a woman of faith who embodies the very fruits of the spirit.  She is the person we aspire to be, the friend we hope to find, and the woman we pray our daughters will become.  Snapseed

She is also the woman who has planted churches, volunteered in the service of others, and for years now has gathered each week at FBC to pray.  She prays for the sorrow, hopes, fears, and needs of the people she knows and loves…and the people she does not know and yet loves.  She is the woman who recognizes that prayer can be hard.  Prayer so often engrossed in emotional turmoil can at times require a strength that can fail us in our deepest need.  She offers her own strength to all who ask without hesitation.  Always compassionate, she has shared the pains and joys of those around her looking for nothing in return and consequently has touched the lives of generations.  She is a matriarch, a servant of God, a blessing to all she prays for, to all who know her, and to all who have the privilege to call her mother, grandmother, greatmother, sister, and friend.  She is her community’s prayer warrior, and what is prayer?  Prayer is a tremendous act of service…a beautiful act of love.

Thank you Kevin and First Baptist Church of Florence for loving and honoring Ms. Exie!

Emily & Lauren

 

33,34-52 Providing a Meal for the Ronald McDonald House

 

These two pieces are about to be shipped to Austin, framed in gold and hung in a beautiful bedroom! But first, we are sharing the story of what the Williams Family decided to do to turn the art into a thing of beauty.  The Williams family talked about options for this project, and settled on a great one! They intend to provide a meal to the local Ronald McDonald house this month. Ronald McDonald House is an organization that provides a “home-away-from-home” while children receive the care they need.

The Williams will have the meal catered from Olive Garden ( a family favorite) and then serve it to the families at the hospital.  It will be a great way for them to spend a night serving others and giving back. If all goes well, they may even make it a family tradition! If you are interested in learning about how your family can do the same HERE is more information. If you are not in the central Texas area, you can search your city and state and find your local Ronald McDonald house HERE

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Photo courtesy of Ronald McDonald House

Thank you for taking the time to follow along and learning a new way to give! Also, thank you to the Williams family for sharing their great idea! Hopefully, it will inspire others to do the same this holiday season!

-Lauren Woods

 

 

32/52 Brighten the Holidays

FullSizeRender 12Painting 32 went to the home of a sweet family that chose to highlight the Salvation Army Angel Tree program! This way to give is an incredible act of service, and your entire family can participate! Angel Tree’s are hung by the Salvation Army in various locations around town. Usually local malls, Chick-fil-A stores and Walmart stores participate. The trees have cards that contain a wish list of items local children in need. You can choose a card and shop for the items on the list. What a great way to help others and to teach valuable lessons about the joy of giving!

If you are not in the Birmingham area, search your location HERE

 

ANGEL TREE KICKOFF EVENT IS TODAY IN BIRMINGHAM!

Friday, November 10 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM

Join the Birmingham Salvation Army as they celebrate the kickoff of their 2017

angel treeAngel Tree program on Friday, November 10 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. Stop by the Brookwood Village main entrance on Village Lane and get help selecting your Angel from some of your favorite WBRC Fox 6 and iHeart Media on-air personalities! Enjoy a live performance from the Christmas Carol Quartet and other family-fun activities.

Bring the family and do something meaningful to kick-off the Christmas season by helping a Birmingham child in need!

Thank you for Leslie for participating in the 52 things of beauty project and sharing a way to give that is close to your heart!

30/52 Remembering Everlee Grace

Written by Danielle Brewer:

Everything changed in an instant. One minute, my husband and I are anxiously joking in the labor and delivery suite between contractions. The next, I am waking up groggy from the anesthesia after an emergency c-section to find that our daughter did not make it.  In that moment, our world came crashing down around us. You spend 9 months planning and preparing for everything that you will need to do once your baby arrives only to be left wondering what we were supposed to do now.

As I was recovering after surgery, the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization was contacted on our behalf. This organization’s mission is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture. Our photographer, Traci Young, came to our hospital room and captured the most beautiful images of our sweet Everlee Grace. She took care in each image she captured and we are so thankful to have these amazing photos of our little girl.

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A year and a half later, we are able to look back at these portraits to remember the sweet features of her face, those adorable toes, and all that dark hair.  Even though she was only here a moment, she will be remembered for a lifetime. We recently welcomed our second child into the world and we love that we are able to see so many of those same sweet features in our son, Wynton.  We will be able to share these photos with him so he will know his big sister and her legacy.

We are so grateful that Lauren has chosen to create a beautiful painting in honor of the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization. Donations to this organization will allow them to gift other families with priceless photos of their children gone too soon.

The Lord has placed so many wonderful individuals and organizations into our lives to get us through this incredible tragedy.  Our family has been able to find peace knowing that Everlee has touched so many lives in her short time here and we look forward to the day that we will be reunited again.  

-Danielle

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29/52 Big Oak Ranch

Faith, family, home…the things we first list in gratitude during our prayers at the dinner table.  The things we feel most acutely when without, and are indeed most grateful for.  These things, however, seem to lack the luster of something truly special….rendered common by the simple fact of being ours, always being ours, and always having been ours.  But what of those who cannot share such sentiment?  What of those who have never witnessed faith, who have never known the warm embrace of family, or the safety of home?  What of those whose embrace by family has been abusive, whose home is frightening or simply dark?  And what of those whose family, home, and maybe even faith, has been torn from them through death, disease, or any number of this broken world’s destructive qualities?  Is not such darkness in the most need of Christ’s light?

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Painting number 29 of 52 is being given to someone who would like you to know about Big Oak Ranch near Gadsden, Alabama.  A place whose purpose is to take in God’s children and to give to them what life has so cruelly taken away.  In the words of Bid Oak Ranch, “(it) exists to meet the needs of abused, neglected, and abandoned children by giving them a solid Christian home and a chance to realize and fulfill God’s plan for their lives.”  Bid Oak Ranch was founded in 1974 by John Croyle.  A talented defensive end for the University of Alabama, he chose to give up a lucrative career in the NFL to open a home for children nearly lost because others could not see their precious value.  Since it’s opening, over 2000 children have been given a home where their physical and emotional needs may be met.  They have been shown the unconditional love of Christ that does not extinguish at a certain age or time.  A love so deep and true it has the power to heal.  To heal the pains of abuse, neglect, and abandonment that are not temporary pains, but are rooted deep and can lead to such things as hate, emptiness, and self-loathing.  Yes, the wonderful men and women of Big Oak Ranch give children faith, family, and a home…but they give them also something else equally beautiful.  They give them hope and a future.  If you would like to donate or learn more about Big Oak Ranch, visit their website at bigoak.org and witness or contribute to the miraculous work of God.

 

Thank you so much for following along!

Lauren and Emily Woods