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Charity

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Charity, as defined in our world today, is regularly thought of as just giving to someone in need, or some charitable organization. Often people in harder circumstances are referred to as “charity cases.” But Charity has been defined in the scriptures as something different. Charity is the pure love of Christ. Charity is loving others as we feel His love, and extending that love, through our actions to someone else. But what is love? In our day it seems like a fleeting feeling that deals with emotions and physical intimacy rather than what love truly is.

To figure out what love is, we need to go to the source, to the person who is Charity, Jesus Christ. He exemplified love, and none of it had to do with physical intimacy, rather to do with how He treated people in everyday situations. He offers us the perfect example of how to love everyone we come in contact with, how to have real charity, real love.

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Jesus was Charity. He went out of His way to help the ones who were hurt. He sought out the weak, the alone, the outcast and He included them. He offered forgiveness that only He could grant but showed us our need to forgive others as many times as necessary. He did not judge based upon perceived righteousness but based upon the heart. He had time for any who came to Him, indeed, even those who simply reached out to touch the hem of His robe. He not only cared for, but taught and instructed, striving to help us all know how to become better people.

So, what do we learn about Charity from Jesus? We learn that it is not some tingly feeling we get when we are around certain people. Rather, love and thus Charity are a frame of mind, a way to be. And the best way to feel love? To extend it to others. Seek out opportunities to serve or help our neighbor. Look for opportunities to give someone the benefit of the doubt, or to extend forgiveness even when we know we weren’t in the wrong. Take time to listen carefully to someone else’s perspective, even if we disagree with their perspective. Listening to understand is a great way to show Charity for someone else. Listening may not change our perspective, but at least we took the opportunity to understand someone else’s. Charity can even extend to simple everyday things we do. Open a door for someone, allow someone in front of us while driving. Instead of being engrossed in our phones, look up and look around. Talk to the people we come in contact with whether randomly while we’re out and about, or more thoughtfully with our family and close friends. Smile at the people we see every day. It’s amazing how wonderful it is to see people’s smiling faces with everything that has happened in our world the last few years. Take care of the poor and needy with a willing heart, not begrudgingly or with the attitude that we are somehow better. We are all children of God trying to navigate this crazy world, regardless of social standing or worldly wealth.

I am definitely not perfect at extending Charity to those around me. I regularly catch myself judging, thinking that somehow, they must have brought their circumstances upon themselves by their choices or actions, which may or may not be true, but that is beside the point. Regardless of how we each found ourselves in the situations we are in, we need to be kind, to be understanding, and to love each other. This week I am going to work on Charity. Work on seeing people as Jesus sees them, and work on being a little more kind, a little more forgiving, a little more compassionate with people. I am also going to work on looking up and smiling at everyone I come in contact with. My ultimate goal will be to someday become perfect at giving Christ-like love. But this week, I am working on become just a little bit better than I was last week.

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Brushes

Paint brushes are obviously a very important part of painting. There is a lot of opinions on the best brushes to use, but I have found that most brushes work, it’s mainly what you get used to. I did not start out with very expensive brushes when I began, nor should anyone, as you may not enjoy painting. But as I have gotten better, I have begun to purchase a somewhat more expensive brush, however, not the top of the line either, as I think again, you can paint with about anything, and it’s what you get used to. As you’ll notice from the pictures below, I have a variety of brands of brushes. My current favorite is made by Princeton.

The above picture is a large portion of the brushes I use. There are a few in-between sizes that are not pictured. One thing to make note of is my brushes are short handle brushes. I have some for acrylic painting that have really long handles, but I find that they get in the way for the most part. Most of the watercolor brushes I can buy locally though are short handles, and I think that seems to be the trend now. They are much easier to use, and I feel like give me more control, especially for fine detail.

The brushes pictured above are flat brushes as you can see, and I use these least of all. But I do keep them on hand for a variety of reasons. The big one on the left I use for large washes on large pieces of paper. It works great to lay down a lot of water really quickly and get the color on just as quickly. This is super important when the air is really dry, usually in the winter here in Alaska, and helps keep the background really smooth. The second from the left I rarely use. It is nice for straight lines and removing paint, and I use it on occasion, but definitely not necessary if you’re just beginning. The third brush I use more often, for again, straight lines, but also to scrub out patches of color where I want it lighter, as well as to put down crisp water lines in landscape paintings. While I don’t use it a ton, I like the rounded edges better than the square one next to it, and I would suggest one similar before you get the larger square one. The last brush in the picture is a fan brush. Again, I don’t use this one often, but it works great for grasses in landscapes and fur on animals.

Now on to my workhorse brushes. I love round brushes for watercolor. I use most of these brushes in all of my paintings. Having a variety of round brushes to choose from is essential, but if you are beginning, go with the even numbers, 0, 2, 4, 6, 8. Those I use most often. The largest round that I have is size 12, great for large washes like the large flat brush, but doesn’t cover the area as fast. I usually use the large flat and size 12 round for large washes, wetting the paper with the flat brush and then painting in the background with the large round brush, especially if I have to go around anything, this size 12 brush comes to a great point for precision work. The other brushes are used based upon need and area that I am trying to cover but are used in every painting that I paint. The brush on the far right is a rigor brush. I don’t use it as often as the rest, but for fine lines and details it is essential. The bristles are quite a bit longer, so a little practice might be necessary to make it work like you want, but it’s an important brush to have on hand.

If you are thinking about painting, I would recommend trying brushes from a variety of manufacturers, and like you are doing here, look at different people’s recommendations. Also, look at the different styles of painting from the various sources of brush recommendations. You can see the type of painting I do by looking at my prints on my website, zoom in and look at the details, zoom out and see if that’s the kind of painting you would like to do. If so, maybe try some of the same brushes. The type of paper you use, and the quality of paints used also affect how your painting will turn out. You can check out some of my recommendations for those on some of my previous blog posts as well.

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Family

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This week members of my Church all over the world have been studying in Genesis about Isaac and Rebekah, as well as Jacob and Esau. As I have studied about these great people I have also studied about family and the importance of marriage and children. I believe that marriage and family was ordained of God before the world was, and that it is essential not only to our eternal salvation, but here on earth it is also essential to holding our communities and countries together. It is the most important entity that exists on earth, above any government or institution that has ever existed. I also believe that protection of the family is the most important thing governments can do to create a healthy society.

No family is going to be perfect however, because we are all imperfect human beings. But there are some things that I think make a huge difference in family life and help to maintain not only a good core family at home, but when children leave home, helps to keep extended families together as well as helps our children create good homes where the family unit can thrive, even when none of us are perfect. Today I will tell you about several of my favorites.

Family dinners together are super important. Well, a family meal together every day. Some families are super busy in the evening, going every which way with work and activities, so maybe it’s breakfast together. But a meal together where everyone can sit down and just talk. No particular subject, just be together in a relaxed and safe environment where everyone can share their thoughts. My husband and I have also found that this is a great place to discuss concerns the kids may have, and often, the answers come from siblings rather than us as parents. This helps to keep the bonds between siblings strong as they realize they can help each other as much as we as parents can help.

Taking time to teach values. This is something that has really gone by the wayside in a lot of instances. Parents are relying more and more on schools to teach values, but that is not the school’s purpose. Kids should come to school with some basic values that are inherently human, like how to be kind, how to share, how to say sorry and take accountability for actions. These are things that every human being should be learning at home at a very early age. This obviously takes a concerted, conscientious effort on the part of parents to teach, but it doesn’t take a lot of time, it can happen naturally in every day situations.

Involving our kids in activities in the community is a great way to strengthen family bonds. I know that sounds really weird, because it’s not at home. But the key is to be involved as parents as well. If your kids love basketball, go and watch them play, volunteer to help with the concessions or stand at the gate. Let them know that what they find important, you find important too. Encourage the other siblings to go. My oldest loved basketball. My second child doesn’t particularly care for basketball, or any sport. But we required her to go and support her sister periodically. She would go and read, or at least we thought she was reading the whole time, until she would comment on a bad Ref call, or talk to her sister about a particular player during the game. Keeping them each involved in each other’s personal lives keeps those family bonds strong and diversifies each child’s outlook on life. One may be so focused on basketball that they never looked at any other sport until a sibling started rock climbing or some other new interest, and all of a sudden everyone has benefited by having their knowledge expanded because of something new.

Time. I have often heard that love in family life is spelled T I M E. Making time for just your family is critical. We like to set aside Monday evenings for just family. Sometimes we end up at a basketball game or some other activity, but we do it together as a family. Most often however, we are at home. Sometimes we play games, sometimes we watch movies, sometimes we go for a drive together, sometimes we just sit around and talk. Often, we have a gospel discussion, even if it is briefly. But making sure that time is taken together, without outside distractions. In some ways I think this one is the most important one.

Those are some of the things that we enjoy doing as a family, and things that we have made sure we strive to do with our kids. Some might call them traditions, and in a lot of respects they are. Good traditions are also a great way to keep families together, long after they have each moved on and started their own families. But, however you do it, family bonds are the most important, and the easiest to keep if we put forth the effort. I hope you take time today to make or keep your family bonds strong. What are some traditions you have in your family that help keep your family together?

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Questions

I recently had the opportunity to give a talk in my Church’s Sacrament meeting. This happens about every year or so for every member of the congregation. Sometimes we are given a specific topic to talk about, sometimes we are given leeway to talk about whatever we feel inspired to talk about as long as it’s gospel related. My husband and I were asked to speak on the same day, about whatever we felt inspire to talk about, and we had about 40 minutes of time to fill, 20 minutes or so each.

As I have stated before in my blog, I know that Heavenly Father is in the details of our lives, and so I prayed about what to speak on. The week before was really busy and I didn’t have a lot of time to think or prepare. But I also didn’t have any inspiration to go on either. By Saturday morning, I was a little bit desperate and offered a much more sincere prayer and then received the inspiration I was in need of. The topic? Questions.

This is a topic that as a Seminary teacher I teach about on a regular basis. It is something we encourage the youth to do, ask questions, and something we strive to do ourselves as we learn and grow through our own study of the material. Questions are good. Just as the above quote says, if you never question, you may never learn. I have found in my own life, that I can learn in any given situation, but when I just sit and listen, rather than engaging with questions, I simply scratch the surface of what I could be learning. My talk last Sunday dealt with how to get answers to those questions.

The first thing I talked about was attitude. Attitude affects what we do with answers. Why are we asking the question? What will we do with the answers we receive? Are we willing to accept the answer to the question even if it contradicts what we have previously believed or thought we understood? Can we hold on to the truths we already have when we find contradictory information? Our attitude affects our ability to learn far more than we may realize.

Second, have faith that you can receive an answer now, or as more information becomes available. If we know something to be absolutely true, hold on to that. Don’t allow misinformation to create doubt about what we do know. Seeking truth requires us to be willing to change our perspective and adjust what we think. But truth exists, it is not created by one side or the other, it isn’t relative. We need to be seeking out truth from all the information we come in contact with. We do this by listening to the Spirit, or the light that is in us and then acting on that light, acting on that inspiration and see where it goes. By the fruits we can know whether it was true or not. What are the results?

Third, look at the question from the correct perspective. Because I believe in God, and in His omnipotence, I believe that He has all truth, that this life isn’t the end, and that there is more to my existence than what happens here. I also believe that He cares very deeply for His children and that He will help us as we are willing to listen. Consequently, when I look at what’s happening, I try to look at it from His standard, rather than the world’s standard. The world’s standards are constantly shifting and changing, but God’s standards don’t change. Doctrine is always doctrine; truth is always truth. I find that being able to step back and watch a little bit helps me decipher truth. Again, by the fruits we can tell what is true.

Fourth, look for answers in correct sources. If you are sick, you would never go to a grocery store to get diagnosed from the cashier. Likewise, if you want to know the cost of 5 pounds of potatoes you wouldn’t call your doctor’s office. The best place to go for a math question would be a math teacher, and so on. Google provides lots of answers to all sorts of questions. But the answers aren’t always correct. As I have stated before as well, you can find an answer to agree with your perspective on just about any subject on the internet. That doesn’t make it truth, however. So, we need to seek out sources that we know to be valid and correct as well as recognize the ones that aren’t correct so they can be avoided.

It’s funny in this day, in some situations you are encouraged to question everything, while in other situations you are told to stop questioning and just accept what you are being told. I think that questions are essential for our development and understanding, and so I ask questions, but I have learned over the years to be patient waiting for the answers. They come, but sometimes they take a while. Just like a fruit tree growing, you can’t taste the fruit until it has fully grown and ripened. So, too, some questions take a little bit of time to answer. But I know answers will always come eventually, often it just takes a little (or a lot) of patience on my part. If you would like to read directly from the resource I used for this information here is the link: Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge. I hope that you take time to ask questions this week, but also to look at what the results are, and be patient while waiting for answers to come.

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Forget-Me-Not Timelapse

For some reason Forget-Me-Not flowers have been on my mind lately, and with the large amounts of snow we’ve had over the last few days I have wanted to paint, just for the color associated. So, no wintery scenes for me yesterday, just blue forget-me-nots. This one, I decided to also record for a time lapse video for my YouTube channel Stephanie Richey Art. It took me about 2 1/2 hours to paint, but the timelapse is about 12 minutes. The first 2 minutes or so are not time lapsed, just so I can show you my supplies and the colors I used.

I will show you here some of the preparation steps that go into the process of the painting before I get to the point of painting. The first thing I always do is get a reference photo, or several reference photos actually. Unless it is my own picture or one that I have permission from the photographer to use. I love the site Pixabay for reference photos as they are copyright free photos and can be used for commercial or private use. But I still like to use a couple of reference photos. This step takes a while, sometimes the subject matter isn’t as common so there are fewer good pictures, but a lot of times I get distracted and start looking at other things. It’s a great place for ideas and inspiration.

The next step is to make a sketch of what I might like to paint. If I have a personal photo, I skip this step and usually just transfer over to the paper without the sketch. But I have found that the sketch helps me see the subject better, become more familiar with all the parts of the picture, and, if it’s a large, complicated painting, the sketch helps me remember which parts are which so when I go to paint it, I don’t paint a leaf the color of the petal, or fill in the background with a foreground color accidently, and mistakes like that.

The image above is the original sketch that was drawn in pencil. I then outline with a fine tipped sharpie once I am pleased with the sketch, so that it is easy to see and then decide if I like the size. Some pictures I will sketch the actual size, this one I used a scrap piece of cardstock and sketched it on that, knowing I would have to enlarge the image when I was done. I will usually draw the image no bigger than a regular sheet of paper because I like to keep the sketch for possible use or reference later. At the very least I will copy the image to a different piece of paper for transferring onto the watercolor paper. This one I decided to enlarge so that it filled more of the 8×8 inch watercolor paper I was using. The below picture is the original outlined in sharpie, and the enlarged picture below the original sketch.

I then scribble on the back of the copied and/or enlarged picture with a regular pencil so that when I place it on my watercolor paper, I can trace the image on the right side, and it will transfer over to the watercolor paper. Usually it transfers fairly light, sometimes I have to go over it with a pencil to see specific details, but more often I have to go over it lightly with an eraser to lighten the lines, so they don’t show through in the finished piece. For this painting I used a Windsor Blue, Yellow Ochre, Permanent Rose, Sap Green, and a little bit of Lemon Yellow in the centers, as well as a hot press paper, as it gives the petals a much smoother look than a cold press, which would make a grainier looking painting.

My cheap phone camera really doesn’t take very good pictures, but I’ll digitize it later. I love these pretty forget-me-nots. I really enjoyed the color as a change from the white, white snow. And, as the title of this post indicates, I have a timelapse of this painting on my YouTube channel as well: Forget-Me-Not Timelapse