On either side, grey with spattering of a heavier shade of green. Illuminated by headlights switched courteously to dim, the asphalt blended in and danced with shining specks.
The colors of the morning like a softly blended oil painting evoking thought, allowing questions.
I slowed to press the Audio button to resume my walking podcast, again, again. It didn’t work. Thought to find the charger wire and took the second or two struggle with the plug. Then, made the decision to travel quietly.
To have the only noise be the noise of my thoughts being easier to address, more approachable as emotions, less of a hurry to stuff them down, keep them hidden.
Have them buffered by chatty voices or lamenting songs.
In the early morning hours, I woke without alarm, lyrics waltzing.
“We will never the see the end of your goodness.”
I wrote in my journal, “Don’t lose heart.”
On the first day in February, I had a thought about emotions.
The emotions we wish were not ours, the ones that come back pounding on the door like an official bent on taking us away.
I thought wrongly at first.
Emotions must not go unaddressed, I thought and
then thought to be more truthful,
emotions will not go unexpressed.
They won’t allow being held back. They’re bullies that way.
Because we cannot choose emotion, only our behaviors that tend them, embrace them, coax them gently to go away.
What are those behaviors? I’m sure I can’t accurately say for everyone.
We can choose behaviors that allow the beneficial expression of emotions.
Walking (without advice or music)
Praying (unashamedly allowing your anxiety to be exposed privately to God)
Sitting quietly (unhurried for evidence of His attentiveness)
Drawing (pencil on paper, no skill necessary and no ideas for precision or perfection)
Here it is February 2nd and I have already forgotten how to prevent that squeeze in my chest over my not yet enoughness.
Then I remember the words of David that woke me.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12 ESV
I’m participating (at least for today) in a creative challenge called Artfull February. It’s a way to acquaint myself with other artists, to engage. Yesterday, I introduced myself, told my artist story.
Today’s prompt suggests we share our “studio”. This space in my home is called “my art room” by my husband. It’s an add on room that was built for my daughter when our family became “blended”.
It’s tiny. It’s deficient in natural light and the floor is covered in old rugs. The corners are filled and growing higher with works on paper and the walls all have paintings completed and not purchased leaning against them.
I catch my paint thickened apron hung sweetly on the easel and I see a recent piece newly edited, “Pursuit”.
I snap a photo of the beauty to me in the midst of the mess.
David penned this prayer after a big mess he made. He’d slept with another man’s wife and that secret he tried to keep was only a tiny part of his descent into remorse.
He asked God to give him a willing spirit. I suppose he could’ve justifiably given up, hidden, quit living altogether or decide there’s nothing in my future.
Nothing I’m worthy of pursuing or participating in.
Instead he was honest.
With himself and God. The anxiety that tried to catch me as I surveyed the place others call “studio” and added to it the pending works of art I’ve promised but can’t seem to start was unpleasant and stifling.
But, not for long. I acknowledged it. Decided to realize today I may not paint.
That won’t be disastrous.
I asked God to give me ten more years of the “late to the game” pastime that’s becoming vocation.
Still, today is just one day.
Restoration, Refinement and Redemption aren’t instantaneous.
Emotions stem from destruction deeply imbedded. Be hopeful that you have the guts to address them.
Listen to what they’re telling you and then bravely reply
“This is not that.”
It just feels like it.
Then embrace the restoration you know, hold it like a treasure, press its cheek against your soul.
You’re not fully grown; but oh how you’ve grown.
Believe. Continue and believe.
Choose loving kindness for yourself.
Remember to be willing to do what is your heart’s desire as well as your obligations.
Maybe remember the old sayin’
“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…”
Then exchange your grappling with graciousness, your tentative tasks with tenderness and your insufficient mindset with the certainty that we’re not the ones in control.
From the upstairs window, I watched their coming and going. The wife, tentative in her steps and the husband, with an armload of groceries, one hand against the small of her back. I noticed their commitment to one another, their quietness and settled joy.
I mostly avoided them. We, the upstairs tenants and them, below. My baby brother and I lived together. What a life it was. Barely getting by, outrageous behaviors, dangerous rendezvouses and mostly him being certain I was okay and I less caring and attentive to him, carried on in my reckless ways.
My brother and I were together, it’s an invitation to be safe I will forever treasure.
All the while, the diminutive couple surely observed us. Never confronted or complained about our noise up above, only nodded occasionally in a knowing way.
One Sunday I was brave. I watched from our window as their sedan found its spot. The gentleman had gotten his wife settled in and I walked lightly down the stairs and stood facing his caring eyes.
And he did not look away.
“How can I know the will of God?” I asked with timidity.
Close to forty years ago and I can’t say what he answered, only that his tone was gentle and he gave me a small book.
A book I only skimmed, a paperback long ago packed or trashed away.
The will of God is not a detailed plan, more a captivating pursuit.
I believe it is simply and profoundly a decision
to trust and to renew that trust as often as necessary.
To sit quietly waiting.
To consider how decades later, a church going senior citizen’s response matters.
There was no correction in his tone, no critical reply or even “come to church with us next Sunday.”
Instead, he instructed me to be a seeker. He gave me a book. He compelled me towards words and the Word.
This morning, I sat in the place I love. I pondered all of the voices of advisors…
Podcasters, those who believe they’re gifted with prophecy, experts on enneagram and such…people who are benefiting themselves by joining the trauma healing (bandwagon) force.
The voices are loud, lauding quick and exciting never known to be possible results.
Yesterday walking, I mentally answered a question.
Who is God to you?
I answered. “God is my creator.”
Remembering the sufficiency of that astounding truth, I watched the sun for more than a glance.
The golden light landed on my art. I watched it become more outlined.
Become a window.
So I sat for a minute more and answered my heart’s question.
The will of God is for me to see Him. To settle my search inviting other relief or rescue.
To see God on a chilly morning because I sat still long enough.
And to remember the value of a gentle response, never haughty and a hindrance.
Hopeful, always hope.
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NLT
Simply to create, I decided to paint one thing every day and I started with cake.
No plans for the works on paper, painted with ease and allowable error and then a scribble signature, set it aside.
Creativity for the sake of creativity and I guess to spread the word about my suggestion others get creative in their own way and also, share a slice of cake or two with someone special on January 28th.
“Cake with your Mama Day”
began on a whim. I wasn’t especially sad and I’m not sure I really wanted cake. It just seemed fitting to eat cake on my mother’s birthday to make it less heavy and more happy.
My mama passed away two days before she was to turn 70 over ten years ago.
Before my daughter became a mama, we had cake one day downtown after work. It was the sweetest day.
Mama was a professional for many years and then, although not at all lucrative, she began to bake cakes for people, the lusciously decadent cakes only her family had known her for.
And something changed in her, I saw her stand before a red velvet cake about to be delivered and I saw love on her face.
Her countenance reflected the gift of being a maker of only something she could create.
Her cake business was art.
So, every year, now on the closest Saturday to January 30th, I invite others into the #cakewithyourmamaday and for the past couple of years, my dear friend Jeanne at Juniper in Ridge Spring, SC (a very cool and yummy place) joins me in promoting the celebration…the invitation to remember your mama or anyone who mama’s or has mama’d you.
Or anyone at all, together sharing.
Friends gather together and dip their forks into cake, conversations about life, love, hope and happiness happen over shared slices of cake.
Cake with Your Mama Day is more an invitation to joy than just a day of enjoying dessert.
So, if you follow me on Insta, you’ve seen I’m painting a cake a day as I’ve come to understand more why this day is special.
I believe my mama understands my desire to keep painting. She sees the sweet release achieved by making something as she saw it in her country kitchen pulling the pound cakes from the oven. She sees and is smiling down on me over a slice or two of cake.
I hope you’ll have cake on January 28th.
Share your photos with us all on #cakewithyourmamaday
I will go before you and level the exalted places. Isaiah 45:2
I dreamt I attended the funeral ceremony of a kind and giving man, a steadfast friend of our community. I suppose I’d seen the photos of others who attended, who shared their thoughts on being there.
The faces of the family left to live without him, the dignitaries who gave thoughts and tributes and other individuals there to witness the event and offer support.
I noticed the posture of some, shoulders slightly bent, carrying a burden and I noticed downcast faces on some who stood at the podium.
But, I saw strength in many; perhaps, they told of how this gentleman taught them to be stronger.
So, I dreamt that I was there and after the ceremony was over, one of the speakers approached me to say hello. It was then that we shared our own experiences of knowing the man who passed away.
It was then I shared,
He always spoke with the kindness and sincerity in hoping the best for me every time I had the chance to talk with him.
The listener listened with the same kindness as I added, “He was like a father to many, I believe.”
Every morning, I add thick circles around my prayers. One in particular might be circled until I’m gone.
Because when I think “no need” life shows me I could be wrong.
I’ve told a very few people on rare occasions that someone felt like a father to me.
It’s super personal and often uncomfortable to express that you wish you’d had your father a little longer or worse yet, that he had been a different person.
Now, I’m seeing why I dreamed that dream. Often, writing helps me unravel the causes. It wasn’t the FB photos of the funeral attendants, it was a thoughtful documentary about redeeming our days and the days we decide were all wrong.
Yesterday, I watched “Love, Tom”, a documentary about the life of songwriter Tom Douglas.
The story is told as his response to a younger man struggling who says beseechingly so in a letter to Tom.
You’d think he might not even respond.
After all, he’s famous, the recipient of many awards.
He lives in Nashville and is beyond the early angst of a creative’s struggle. I’ve commented on Instagram to writers when feeling a likemindedness…no reply. You realize they’re famous and you are not.
I’ve promised myself if I write again, a book more well-known or become a better known artist, I’ll engage with the curious and kind followers who simply want to be closer to my craft and me, the creative behind it.
Tom wrote the young songwriter close to giving up an authentic letter.
The letter became this documentary.
And, I suppose because he’s a creative he told some beautifully, tender and honest things about himself.
About redemption and about a sort of rethinking his father who struggled’s reputation.
I won’t spoil it for you. I hope you’ll watch it for more than a couple of reasons:
A well-known responding to another who feels invisible, a parent relating to a child, a child forgiving a parent and a creative who learned not to pursue creativity harder than he pursued the Creator.
Redemption, he suggests we keep after it until we’re gone.
Now, I see that the dream wasn’t really about the man laid to rest, it was about the other prominent person who listened when I expressed my feelings over the loss and with his response and his eyes, he agreed and together our grief was encircled.
I had to slow my steps, intent on only art canvases, make the beeline to the back and hurry on. No eye contact, small talk time, just me and my fast walking.
I needed to halt or bump into a woman with her son. She had a shuffle step that was familiar, I remembered a mama long ago who had an injury leaving one hip higher than the other. So, I thought this might be her and I’d be able to ask how she’s doing along with her now adult son.
Strangely, it wasn’t her, instead a younger version.
Still, our eyes met and she exhaled a big sigh. I asked “Been shopping all day?” And she replied that they’d been in the street since eight o’clock and she’d been takin’ her mama to all her doctors.
I saw her then, saw her loyalty and I added as I walked beside and then ahead of her,
“I remember those days. They are so hard. Get home and find some rest.”
She nodded, thanked me.
I bought eight 8×10 canvases and carried on.
I noticed the line was short at Chick Fil A and I was thirsty. I ordered my little indulgence, kids meal, fruit not fries and tea and answered “Lisa” as the young man calculated my change.
He asked how my day was going and I said “good” as I sensed the awkward in between, the task of giving me change and so I asked “Are you having a good day?”
His deep dark eyes met mine and the rising up of his chunky cheeks in a smile beamed as he happily answered, “Yes, I am.”
I rounded the drive thru line and watched a couple of boys/young men play “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who’d bring my order.
The one who lost sauntered over to my car and chuckled, “I just took your order!”
I smiled back and said that’s so funny because I was about to ask if you had a brother.
Serendipity, sort of, the chance to share kindness again.
Last stop, Publix for collards for tomorrow. Intentional here too, I have a short mental list and on a mission. The soup aisle is running low on chicken broth and my path intersects with a shopper who doesn’t hesitate to look up and say “Hey! How ya’ doing?”
I smile, realizing I don’t know her and she keeps talking and adds “I’m about to cook a big pot of soup for my family!”
“Sounds good!” I go my way and she goes hers until we’re both in the parking lot, cars loaded and I hear “toot toot” from her little SUV and my eyes meet her excitement in getting to wave goodbye to me, someone she doesn’t know.
I’d say it’s just accidental, this thrice encountering kindness from strangers and reciprocating.
But, since I have a thing for things in 3’s, I know it was heavenly, this afternoon of kind conversation and willingness to be seen.
Unknowingly, three people changed the course of my day from sullen to seeking, from deficient in hope to hoping.
Three people, working in community with my Good Father yesterday.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 ESV
“Running away was not in her character.”, Google provided this definition for character, the word that settled as I’d read in Isaiah about Mary before there was Mary.
Just now, I’ve named this windowsill decoration. I’ve been pondering why I love her, why she comes down from the attic every December.
She’s not an angel as angels are known. She has no wings, no halo, no aura. She’s holding a tray with an unadorned cypress and a few red apples.
I see her as one who brings, one who offers and loves.
Irregardless and unrelentingly.
Silly me, it’s a ceramic statue.
But, she has no shoes on her feet, the garland of green crowning her head is only leaves and so, I see and
I sort of see me.
Little have I to give in comparison to others if giving is measured by grand or perfect.
Little am I in comparison to many, my gifts to the world pale in comparison.
Last night, in the before bed tidying, I discovered some of the manger scene had gone missing.
The little felted figures, the angel, a wise man, a shepherd and Joseph were nesting like a family of birds in the tree.
I smiled with the discovery.
I’m not sure the reason, perhaps just boredom or longing for something I can’t know.
What the mover of these had in mind for these or for me.
They’ll stay there until packed away for next year and when I look at the intentional redecoration, it’s celebration that I see.
Celebration, not imperfection in my tiny bit tedious decorating this year.
How is it I’ve never thought of Mary as a “giver”, one who questioned the reason behind things; but, set her heart on her part in the story, her character in the scene at the manger.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 ESV
I have a canvas on the easel resting with edit number “several”. I’m envisioning the position of the figure sort of off center.
Now walking away, staring into some mysterious distant place, I see her being reimagined.
I believe she may be a “keeper” to remind me.
A settled soul facing forward, a gift of something fruit or flower cradled at her chest and she may be simply waiting.
She may have the stance of offering not taking.
And I believe I’m sweetly loving the thought of that.
The thought of giving, not expecting, of resting and not resisting.
Of waiting for what’s within me to create what’s meant for me not to be without.
“The Giver” will be the name of the painting.
This morning, by accident I found the words I thought might be in a book about the moon.
“The sun will beam and the moon will glow. The light will stay, little child. God is with you today and tonight. The light will stay, child. The light will stay.” Me (Look at the Moon) (?)