I lean towards the serious, it’s the design of me. Someone asked, “Why do you always look so sad?” I answered, “Not sad, just thinking.”
But, I sure did think about the candid observation.
Yesterday I positioned myself on a piece of cardboard alongside a three year old. We’d played Cracker Barrel tic tac toe over lunch and annoyed the other shoppers by giggling over a plastic toy chicken.
Last week, I sat on the driveway and played “marbles”.
Together, we slid down a high slope of a backyard hill moist from humidity.
Our faces glistened with the warmth of a Sunday in November. We giggled over choosing which puppy we loved best and we decided on the brown one, the one that nuzzled most.
Not so serious me later (on purpose) fell off the yoga ball repeatedly while being serenaded by Elizabeth’s uncontrollable cackling.
Laughter prompted by toddlers, puppies and Sundays.
I’m not so serious, thought you readers should know.
“On different days, I’m different too, You’d be surprised how many ways.” Dr. Seuss, “My Many Colored Days”
Someone commented on Sunday, her love for the colors in my paintings. I smiled to myself. My palette has decidedly changed.
Formerly, I had a bend towards neutral, bland in conversation and tone. My aim was ethereal. I now see it was timidity.
Yesterday, I watched a tiny lizard fade from black to green to gray. I convinced my granddaughter to let him go as she clutched the caught creature, tiny thumb and forefinger keeping “the baby safe”.
Once set free, it scurried with a whip of a long tail into the sandy ground overtaken by green.
There was a time, I turned all the books exposing only the pages, clean and pristine, no color showing. My husband asked how we’d know the titles, I answered, “Pull it from the shelf and look and keep looking until you find one you like”.
Explore. Truth is, I felt comfortable with the quiet untouched arrangement.
It was safe, not noisy with color, uncluttered, avoidant of engagement.
Now, it appears I’m becoming vibrant, creeping towards but resisting crowded clutter.
Discovering wonder in tiny things again.
Like sunlight landing on spines of books I love.
Morning greeted me that way, touching the den’s corner and I saw the beauty, I saw the gift of a perspective change.
I lean my paintings against my mama’s white chair, the backdrop a mixture of blue speckled paintings and a splash here and there of yellow.
I’m layering color more boldly these days, still soft and easy, fluidly filtered but not at all shy.
Ebony paint fencing in water, creamy white shadows only slightly dulling the grasses.
Verdant green, velvet like a cool cushion.
Happy pinks and confident blues.
October 11, 2022, I paused to see if my memory was correct.
Then I tallied the years since my father passed away on October 11th, 24 years ago today.
I remembered the room where the decision was made and thought of how it seemed to be a circle of voting, “what do we do?”.
Hang on or let go?
I wondered, this afternoon, what might have been had we decided differently and for a minute I felt lonely. Then, a thought that might not be true for others; but, for me it quelled the useless wondering question.
Don’t waste your wonder over what might have been, only and always open your heart to the wonder of now and the wonder of them.
A cousin I haven’t seen in over twenty years wrote to me today. She said my daddy would check on her when he was in Savannah. It was always unexpected; but, sweet, so sweet when my daddy, her uncle came by to be sure she was okay.
I found myself like a child, filled with wonder and my day, one of many colored, was bright yellow dancing with indigo.
Not murky grey like regret, nor blah with grey from the dirty jar needing brushes washed.
No, blue like the eyes of a girl like me, filled with wonder. Coral like kindness, turquoise the assurance of hope for tomorrow.
These are the colors on this day, just one of my “many colored days”.
I have so many more.
“a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4 ESV
A noticer of people, on Monday I watched from my car in the Hobby Lobby parking lot. I noticed the clothing of others; vibrant yellow, a too long skirt on a woman, a man who walked beside his wife dressed as if accompanying her to the craft store was a hot date,
A young girl with black boots, arms covered in ink and every accessory a display of matching energy as she danced by, like a little bird on a mission.
A woman dressed completely in drab black, long skirt, shirt and too big cardigan, I watched her shuffling in orthopedic/athletic shoes that were so big I could’ve put my fist in the spot for her heels.
For a minute, I was sad, felt it was my place to fix her.
Should I offer to give her my shoes or give her money for a pair that fit? Thinking, here I sit, about to go and buy more paint as I enjoy my Chick-Fil-A and she needs shoes.
Or does she?
Who am I to know what defines “abundance” for her?
I thought about her all day. My thoughts went from sympathy to more of “I think she’s okay”.
And today, I wake to Job’s words again coupled with Ann Voskamp’s email, reminding me that I’m not the maker or measuring tool for abundance, only called to do what God created me for and to notice in places less obvious.
To see it in me, the abundant life through Christ, to quietly consider every moment just how abundance looks, feels, is expressed through me.
To see my little deposit of abundance in the faces of others.
God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” Job 28:23-24 NIV
The Creator knows us, us as artists, executives, teachers or skilled fixers of things…as creatives, makers of families, lovers of the beautifully crafted earth around us.
I was given an opportunity by Hayley Price, owner of The Scouted Studio and The Art Coaching Club of which I’m a member, to share my thoughts on being an artist and why I continue this intentional journey.
A family of seven walked the trail together. Up ahead they kept in a slow rhythm, a man, a toddler, a few adolescents and a woman with a stroller.
One looked back, heard my catching up to them. The man smiled and commented on the humidity. The woman pushing the stroller I noticed was empty, corrected one of the children about something. Her voice was loud, her face so serious.
I smiled and looked back at the group, told them,
“My children laughed when I tried to be mean, I was never good at getting their attention that way.”
The girls and boys looked at me and stayed in step with their mama who added in a way that her children know she can be “mean”.
Not in a fearful or threatening way, I sensed the children understood.
It’s a matter of how we’re made, how we convey our truth.
Job argued defensively with his friends and with God for whole chapters and yet, never disrespected or disavowed his Father.
He was quiet, but strong.
Distraught, but not demanding.
Frail, but not frightened.
The Book of Job is poetry for the introspective and honest. It is comfort amidst woe.
It is quietly strong.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV
Quietly strong, a tone I love.
In the mornings, I find a smoothly writing pen and I write the names of my children side by side, circle them on their own and then add an embrace of a larger encircling together.
A quiet practice.
Strong and soft, unwaveringly committed.
A way of trust.
The way I know.
Wisdom found in quiet confidence.
“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.” Job 28:23 ESV
With the songs and sermon, prayers and passages, I had church today while I painted.
The thought came to do both just as I’d decided to stay home. You’ve been running, racing and getting to do lots of things.
You’re learning, that kind of running will catch up, put you in slow motion.
Take your peace away.
Funny thing, I’d never painted while “going to church”. But, I felt compelled to do it and so, I listened as I prepped tiny canvases for color.
Just as I’d listened to a new take on an old favorite, Psalm 139. Whole house silent and I heard it differently, more clearly.
The Holy Spirit’s presence.
My soul knows it very well.
I wrote just these words beside my name in the margin. This beautiful psalm is one we read to remind ourselves we are known beyond our mind’s comprehension by God who made us.
Mostly, I’ve read this psalm to remind myself of God’s intentional love and to confirm that I’m here on purpose, not an accident.
Today though, in the quiet, I saw a little deeper meaning. God knew and knows that it’s our soul that guides and informs us, that the things we need to “hear” from him, we will hear with the nudge of conviction, correction and the deepest of joys that can’t be described in words, only the pure reaction in our core/our soul. Some say gut or conscience.
How do you describe the most intimate joy of being surprised by the ease of something you feared would go wrong?
How do you describe the peace in an unexpected emotional response to something as simple as a hug from a child?
A greeting at the door with a flower and a request for a jar?
How do you describe knowing what God wants you to know that you’ve been avoiding or are afraid it can’t possibly be true?
It’s close to impossible to fully convey the soul.
That may be why David ended this Psalm this way. Sort of a brave request of God.
I’m often afraid to ask such a question.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24 ESV
Because God knows all the beauty of us, He also knows the ways we get wrong.
Since He knows us so very well, wonderful creations, complex and complicated, we can trust that we’ll see the parts we sometimes get wrong.
If we’ll simply ask Him.
We don’t have to be afraid of the answer. It will come gently. After all, our Father is the maker of our very tender souls.
Today, I took my time, walked outside to breathe in the coming season, check on the mysterious morning glory and just because.
I stayed home.
Remembering lunch with my daughter and son on Saturday, rounding out my birthday celebrations, I recalled the sweetness of togetherness and the ways they’re so very different and deciding that’s quite okay.
My hopes for them, always been the same, are the very evidence of that very thing, hope.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 ESV
I thought, I think… this is good, no surprise, exciting, you get a break to paint or to do whatever.
But, that’s okay. Last days are good, are meant to be noticed and honored.
Honored with the grace of two breezy morning walks, odd finds, two morning glory flowers, yellow leaves and some important to remember instructions about songs.
Today had me thinking of last days, last things.
Odd, some may say, but I miss the meetings when I offered up my space and the mothers, fathers, friends and others who introduced themselves with the story of the loved one who chose suicide.
I don’t miss the stories, I miss the significance of their sharing. I miss being invited to join them. I miss showing up.
I don’t miss the trying to turn left from Aiken Middle School’s exit to take my son home, but I miss my on the cusp of manhood son and his four or five tightly knit rascally buddies with baseball on their minds and ambition on their fearless shoulders.
I don’t miss walking into my daughter’s room and discovering the clothes explosion covering the floor hasn’t given me a path that’s clear, but I miss her just down the hall, I miss climbing into her tiny bed to talk.
I don’t miss the DFCS court days and the half-hearted or no show biological parents intent on being defended just for the happenstance chance of maybe the judge will give us a fourth chance. But, I surely miss the children, the ones I advocated for and often buckled into my car if “on call”.
I don’t miss the home visits that scared me s**tless, but I treasure the eyes that met mine and saw concern, an unspoken love and hope that life could be better.
I don’t miss board of directors meetings or foreboding financials, but I do miss the allegiance and commitment together to mental health.
I still get the “seriously?” looks when I retell the reason I retired, a child welfare and nonprofit leader, at 58 years old.
I made a promise to my daughter. My mama did the same. I’ll share the responsibilities with my “tag team” other grandmother (“Gamma”) and I will help care for my daughter’s daughter.
By the way, do you know the importance of the first three years of a child as far as strong love and bonding?
It’s important. They’re important.
The one I call, “Morning Glory”, the one who told me today,
“Grandma, you and the baby can find morning glories and you can’t sing “Rise and Shine”, that’s Gamma’s song.
Yours is “Jesus loves Me”!’”
The grandbaby I retired early for begins pre-school on Thursday.
Today was my last 5:15 a.m. alarm to arrive and send off to work my Literacy Coach daughter.
It was special.
Today and Monday.
Who knew, Elizabeth, God or had they talked already?
She added wings to an angel drawn with a stick in the sand. We decided dragonflies and butterflies are cousins. She told me my hair is long, long like her mama. She asked me to braid her hair and she told me she had a “happy” dream, a slide went into heaven and there were children there and it was beautiful.
She told me “Jesus, is up, up, up and way, way up there.”
And when I asked, she was smart enough to know my crazy hoping for the reply so spectacular,
“Have you seen Jesus?”
“Well, no,” she answered. “He isn’t down here, he’s up there…the rocks haven’t been moved again.”
Yeah, I had no words.
I listened. Again, listened.
I pushed her in the swing too small, sized for the baby because she wanted to be little.
Then, we got all gussied up and had salad for lunch and frozen strawberry slushy ice cream.
Oh, and we got shoes, red ones for school.
No matter the mood, red shoes can change it, right?
Today was my last “grandma day”, not for long, just a break or as needed.
I told Elizabeth I wanted it to be special.
This last day of 5:30 rising and driving out to the country, the place I named “pretty”.
Walking with a tiny baby close to my chest to racing with a toddler in a princess dress, seeing who can find a feather, a rock, a weed that’s a flower and pausing in the shadow of “That’s your favorite tree, right, Grandma”?
She said, “Memories, Grandma.”
Yes. I said “Yes.”
Morning glories I’ll never let go.
“Never go backward, only forward.” Grandma Bette aka my mama
Elizabeth Lettie goes to preschool, excited and
I will be.
So will I.
In a book there are flowers, a feather, a seed pod we call gumdrop and a plan to print photos, put them in a book called “Morning Glories”
Stories, songs, smiles, schedules and little things that are still secrets between E., God and I.
These are days the Lord made. We have rejoiced and we have been glad in them.
This baby has changed me forever. They say it’s that way. No need to wonder. I’ll hold fast to what I believe.
Prayers are said, “Jesus Loves Me is my favorite”, she tells me when we talk about her songs.
It’s been the favorite for as long as her just over three years old.
There’s the song about the sun comin’ and the one that’s my favorite, three little birds outside my window happily reminding me every little thing’s gonna be alright.
But, “Jesus Loves Me” remains the three years running favorite.
We turned from dirt to pavement, up the hill on the way to town after noticing bright happy yellow faces of new sunflowers. I told her we’d walk tomorrow to see them up close and she gazed out the window decorated with stickers to tell me the trees were so green, maybe they’re full of blueberries.
We slowly move from country to town and she announces,
“I saw a raccoon yesterday…a big one.
It was in the road. Someone ran over it, keep looking Grandma, we might see it.”
I looked and remembered and told her that I’d seen a raccoon yesterday too.
The car became silent, my mirror told me she was thinking, dreaming, maybe somehow seeing God in a way I can’t through her window and up past the fat clouds.
So, I added “I hope the raccoon is in heaven.”
She answered. “He is. I’m sure.”
Her assurance was more than cute toddler sing-song words. I felt a presence, God’s as I kept driving.
I thought, oh to believe with such untested abandon, such unfiltered commitment, such direct and unquestioning conclusion.
Heaven. Of heaven to be sure.
A “roadkill raccoon”, according to my granddaughter is surely in heaven.
I smile over the image, I meet Jesus one day and popping around the corner, a raccoon or several. If there are thoughts in heaven, I think, “just like she told me.”
Since becoming a grandmother, I’ve seen through the eyes of a baby, now toddler just what to be sure of and what really does not matter at all.
I could tell all the stories I know of Jesus and they’d pale horribly in comparison to what her sweet soul knows about God’s care and love for us all, creatures and sinners and questioners who teeter on believing without evidence.
“I love you so much.” she offers unprompted.
Best love of all, unsolicited, not a reply to the same casual announcement, not a cordial gotta go, see you soon, love you
More an “I see you” and I think you need it, need to let you know, you seem to need it so.
For a time, all the books were shelved with the pages, not the spines facing forward. Another time, prompted by some sort of famous person, all the spines with titles were organized by color.
Often, I take the book covers off a new book, curious over the color chosen by the publishers. The colors are typically soft, often blue, tan or yellow.
They’re muted, not noisy.
The star quilt is the one I chose. My grandmother died and we all gathered around the cedar chest to pick a quilt from the perfectly folded pile. Three quilts came back to Carolina that day. My daughter chose a soft blue sort of willowy with a ring pattern. My son chose the largest with a spattering of vivid, I decided, story telling squares.
There’s a sweet spot on my walking road that caused me to stop long ago. Sometimes with the Labrador, often alone. The vast valley of green field bordered by forest always caught the sun going down and the weeds, grass, wildflowers seemed to be wearing halos.
I’d stop, neighbors maybe looking on and I’d capture the blue sky scattered with clouds over the splendid field.
Then someone, a young couple, decided to put a double-wide home in the space on the end.
It seemed an intrusion to pause there to think. It wasn’t the same place, the field felt somehow disgraced by the change.
But, yesterday evening, I approached the hill that curves around to the big open field. The sky reminded me of waves building, like the tide’s rhythm. I paused for a photo.
As I continued towards home, I saw a girl hurrying down our driveway. I met her. She told me she had mail that might belong to us and then asked for an egg. She told me she lives in the trailer, has a baby, a boyfriend who works too much and a mama who is sick with a second bout of cancer. Then she told me she can’t find the people who should have this handful of junk mail, coupons and such and then asked again, “Do you have an egg?” She wanted to make some cornbread.
So I gave her two eggs, told her my name and that I would pray for her mama.
And she crossed the road back to her home, the robin’s egg blue trailer in the field I loved.
And now, love again.
My star quilt is used to cover a hole in the arm of my then new loveseat. The Labrador we love beyond measure ate a chunk out of the arm as a wild and excited puppy, home alone.
So, I folded my clean quilt, beige and blank side showing to match the furniture and to disguise the damage.
The stars’ colors never showing.
This morning, I’m seeing the change, the quilt folded before bed with the star pattern showing. The colors are dancing next to the cobalt blue of a pillow and the rich green of a painting I painted and framed before I ever had the guts to use the word “artist”.
The same green of the field with tiny new pines is the same green of the grass on this painting and the moss from so much rain, a pillow for a feather I spotted walking.
I suppose I’m noticing God again after a season of just continuing towards what we all felt might soon be better.
I’m considering all the places I’ve missed in the interim and acknowledging some grace I can give myself.
Get chances to give others.
Because the places of goodness in my life hold the promise of more; even more lines, color, and interruptions that aren’t misdirections, detours or disasters.
Simply colors added to my story.
Just so pleasant, the peace of accepting them.
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6 ESV