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.
“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) (?)
Of all the scribblings and sketches in my Bible that chart my hopes, prayers, dreams and instructions, there are a couple I prefer not to read, that cause a sort of wrestling.
Make me wish I’d used a pencil, not a pen.
One word, “mama”.
“Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” Luke 8:50 ESV
Jesus had just been interrupted on his way to heal an important official’s daughter. He stopped in the throng of curious people when he felt a touch, I think more a desperate, still gentle tug and he healed a woman who’d been ostracized because she couldn’t stop bleeding. He looked her in the eye and called her “daughter” and said carry on now, go and live freely and well.
A few sentences later, he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead in front of a group of mourners, saying she was just sleeping.
“My doubt has fled; my faith is free.”Harriet McEwen Kimball, “Joy & Strength”
I’m curious about Harriet. How she came to this freedom and how she remained doubtless. Maybe it was an exercise in returning to the faith, of reminding herself in a comparative sort of fashion why she chose to believe.
Yesterday, I thought of prayers it seems I’ve been praying for quite a long time and I thought about waiting and about the wonder of prayer.
I could bullet list mentally the answers to some seemingly unrealistic and rapid responses and I could list the times I fall back to my knees and say “Here I am again, Lord and it’s the same thing.”
I can list the times I’ve been reminded by God’s spirit, give it to Him.
On Monday, I thanked God for the privilege of surrender, not being responsible for everything or maybe not much of anything at all.
I’ve written about this before, about the country preacher who came to visit when a long fought battle forced surrender.
The preacher didn’t lecture, didn’t condescend, didn’t direct me to a Bible, didn’t say he’d send the women’s ministry to see me.
He turned to me in my fragility and spoke softly,
“Just pray for mercy.”
The itinerant preacher from Poplar Springs Baptist Church saw me and responded.
And thereby started me on my tentative path towards believing, of refusing to doubt no matter the dilemma or delay.
When I wrote “mama” in my Bible, the lowercase letters resembling a middle school diary entry, I was a different woman than I am today.
If there was an assignment, I said yes. If there was a need, I volunteered to fill it.
If the church lights were on, I was seated in my pew or I was dutifully down the narrow hall, teaching or getting ready to sing.
I didn’t listen, only now cringe remembering, the Sunday morning my son said to me, “Mama, just sing with your voice.”
Oh, the ways my children endured me!
Because of my steady efforts, I was certain my mama would not die, like the daughter of Jairus, she’d rise up strong again.
But, she did not.
There were some things, I decided, my faith could not do.
I see “mama” on the page in Luke in my Bible as a gift now, a retrospective glance at the striver I was rescued from being.
I see “mama” and I still believe.
Because wellness, healing, a life without serious illness or chronic conditions is not completely up to me.
No amount of striving, performance or gut wrenching protective prayers or isolating will guarantee a life without sickness.
Circumstances will come, that’s a given.
Still, it is with certainty that I know belief is not circumstantial.
If it were, the woman with the flow of blood wouldn’t have had to wait so long or worse yet, she’d been overlooked or assumed too far gone.
Just pray for mercy.
Mercy will be given.
Perhaps not as expected and likely not without question of “if”.
And certainly not because of or despite your performance.
I was invited to write about “Hope” for an Advent series last month. My thoughts were prompted by a surprise. You know that verse about how hope deferred can make us heartsick? Don’t throw away or feel ridiculous to still hope. One day, maybe today hope will be gifted to you.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 ESV
Here’s my contribution:
Fulfilling Signs of Hope
The reunification came as a surprise. My brother’s wife, whispered to me as we celebrated a new coming nephew,
“I found a Bible. It has your name on it.”
Going through the remnants of my mother’s abandoned home, she discovered it. A strange Bible it was, at least for a woman in her thirties, oversized rich leather, more than substantial in size words. Someone gave it to me, and I gave it to my mama once I “graduated” in my faith to a more proper women’s Bible.
Over the course of sixty plus years, I have owned four Bibles. One, a tiny little Gideon’s New Testament and Psalms, the hefty one I passed on to my mother, a pretty leather one suited for women’s groups and my current one, a fabric covered blue Bible for journaling, for telling myself truths and stories in the margins.
Last week, I misplaced my Bible. I felt lost.
I had been traveling and packed it to reference its importance as I spoke to a group of women. Unpacked and sorting, everything was placed back in its place, except for my Bible. Anxious and confused, how could I be without that one final item?
I decided to pray, and my prayer surprised me. Rather than simply “asking and knocking” for the door to be opened to me finding my Bible, I found myself so very broken and grateful. I thanked God for the desperation, the relentless longing for my Bible, for the broken-heartedness I was feeling to be without it. I found my Bible in the place I’d tucked it away for safekeeping.
I found my hope again, the “withness” of God beautifully demonstrated.
In the margin of the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, I have written, “Who are today’s Isaiahs?” Isaiah spoke warnings of disaster. Isaiah spoke of sin that would bring judgment then he proclaimed beautiful redemptive promises for us through a “man of sorrows” who would make eternity with God possible. The pages of my Bible are strewn with notes, sketches of women and color to remind me of the words that were significant in some way and will continue to be.
In the seventh chapter of Isaiah, we read of Ahaz, the King of Judah refusing to ask God for a sign. He announces he doesn’t want to put God to the test. Isaiah speaks up and questions his reluctance. He tells him you are testing the patience of your people, surely you won’t continue to test the patience of God as well. (Isaiah 7:10-13) Since God is not a God to be tested, a sign was given.
“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” Isaiah 7:14 ESV
Immanuel, God with us.
How do you see evidence of hope?
Are you prone to tangible evidence being necessary or have you seen the dots connecting the scattered paths of your past to your present?
My sister in law could not have known the part she would play in my need of hope. I’d long considered the Bible I gave my mother to be lost or discarded. You see, I passed this Bible on to my mama, who believed in God but had reasons to not believe in hope.
A widow with little resources and an incapacitating illness, she’d begun to decline and spend most days alone.
As a child, we were not regular church-going people and so it was perhaps a bold gesture to give her a Bible; disrespectful, haughty or even judgmental, I suppose. I gave her my Bible with no explanation or expectation, only a hope that it may comfort. If it did, I cannot know.
I’d hoped it would be seen simply as love.
I wanted her to see I wasn’t afraid of church anymore, that I was taking a tentative chance on hope.
I cannot know.
But, the hope of it being gifted back to me, this is the evidence of God with me, seeing me, hearing the secret murmurs of my heart. The thick Bible is pristine. There are barely any marks of pencil and the pages barely looked thumbed. There are no places where pages have been turned down for later.
There is very little evidence that my mama read it.
Nevertheless, the underside of the front cover has my full name written in elementary school cursive, my daughter’s. There are construction paper faded Sunday school verses my son or daughter proudly delivered to me as we reunited on the wooden pews for worship.
There is one oddly compelling note on the very last page in my handwriting,
“When I give an account of my life…”
When I give an account of my life, I will include this Bible and its story as evidence of me being known by God and of hope.
Perhaps, this Christmas, we should all sit quietly and consider the birth of Jesus, the evidence of hope, the gift of a knowing and loving God being with us.
Where have you seen hope this year?
Has it been difficult to be hopeful in this vulnerable and bitter world?
Have you focused on the evidence of hopelessness all around us more than the hope in the miraculous although unseen, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world?
May you be surprised by hope this year, a resurgence of belief in what you long for and long to see. What have you yet to see that God long ago promised is coming?
The reasons to hope are immeasurable and too beautiful for us to fully know, the coming fulfillment or our hopes.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken to the prophet: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23 ESV
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.