Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Make Some ART. Or Whatever.

Hello my lovelies! It’s good to be back! Thank you for your patience with me. I’ve been busy potty-training twins and writing novels.  #charmedlife More on that later. Well the novels, not the potty training. Because I am so done with potty talk.

Three years ago, I blogged about getting lost in the woods. What I didn’t say was that I was in the woods as part of a private yoga retreat.  I was REALLY looking forward to it because, well, it was all about yoga and Jesus and those are two of my favorite things (not necessarily in that order). 

As I was driving the last few miles to the retreat, the song  “Thy Will” came on the radio.  That song has direct access to my tear ducts. It’s like “The Christmas Shoes” song. Total.  Waterworks.

When I pulled into the parking lot I was literally hiccuping tears.  YOU try listening to that song without crying. I double dog dare you.

The yogi greeter who met me at my car said something about my tears symbolizing my sacral chakra being unbalanced.  Full disclosure: I still don’t really understand chakras.  To realign my chakras, or whatever it is ones does with chakras, the greeter handed me a hand-drawn map and sent me to a tree house nestled in the middle of the woods.  To make art.  Or whatever.

A fairly dominant part of me wanted to say, “Yeah, I don’t do woods. Or art.” But I was blubbering too much to protest so I picked up my yoga mat and followed the map to the tree house. 

The tree house was this magical adult-sized cabin built up in the trees. Like the ones you used to dream about living in as a child. Or at least I did. It radiated charm. And it was complete woodland creatures.  I’m not going to lie, it felt a little bit like a Goldilocks meets the Three Bears situation. But alas, there was no porridge. 

There was, however, a desk full of art supplies. I obediently sat down so I could get the arts and crafts part of the day over with and move onto the yoga.

But guess what friends?? There was NO PAPER.  Tell me, how exactly does one make ART with no paper? 

Yeah, I didn’t know either. 

I just sat there FOREVER trying to figure out how the heck I was supposed to make something.  There were colorful pens and markers, spools of fancy ribbons,  gemstones, beads and glue, but nothing to put them on to “make art”.  

I pulled open drawers. I looked on shelves. I even climbed a ladder. My search produced nothing.

I couldn’t very well leave without re-balancing my chakras. If I did, the yoga would be all unbalanced and, well, I didn’t actually know what would happen to one’s yoga practice with unbalanced chakras, but it sounded serious.

So, I sat perched in the tree house and willed myself to figure something out. To make art, or whatever, and leave so I could be on my mat before the chimes sounded. The pressure was ON.

As I looked around, I noticed some graffiti on the walls.  It was such a shame. Vandals stealing away into the woods to damage such a magical place. Ugh.

But when I looked closer I realized they weren’t gang symbols or crude body parts on the wooden walls. It was….art. Kind of. If you could call it that. Art to me was on paper or canvas. It was….proper. The colors stayed in the lines. The lines within the frame. But with this type of art there was no frame. There were no lines. 

I looked back at the materials on the desk. Some of them were the same materials on the walls. And, friends, it CLICKED.  I needed to make art on the walls.

Well, this upped the ante. When it’s a piece of paper, you draw your flower or your house or your horse (I tapped out of the creativity department in the 6th grade so that’s about all I know how to draw) and you THROW IT AWAY. Or recycle it, depending on how crazy you got with the embellishments. It holds no meaning whatsoever. It occupies your mind for a minute and then disappears.

But, when you make ART ON THE WALLS it has to mean something. It has to be…special. Beautiful. THE STAKES WERE HIGH. This changed everything folks.

It had taken me a million years to decipher the task and then it took another million years to figure out what to make. I might as well have been in crow pose up in that tree house for the entire time if that gives you an idea of how easily it came to me.

Then it CLICKED.

I sorted out the gemstones and found some thick red ribbon.  I arranged the gemstones vertically on the wooden beam with rubber cement and cut strips of the red ribbon and nailed them in place, leaving the tops of the nails exposed. While I worked, the bells chimed signaling the start of the first yoga class.  I stayed put, rooted in the middle of my project.

When I was finished, the sun beam coming in the window rested on the words “Daughter of a King” in shimmery yet sobering splendor.  I wish I had thought to take a picture because it has become one of those junctures in life where you’re no longer the same person after having experienced that moment. I walked out of that tree house different even though I couldn’t articulate it back then.  I felt completely redeemed. It was as if I had been curled up for way too long and I finally stretched out my cramped-up muscles in a new way.

Well, friends, three years have passed (or a million).  I felt myself slip into a rut. I knew, from this tree house experience, I needed to “make art” somehow. But I couldn’t figure out how to apply that experience to my present day life.  There were no blank canvases. Everything around me in my real life is way too sticky and noisy to make anything…special. It all seemed like chaotic graffiti. Except was it?

Then it CLICKED.

I don’t have paper (a clean, quiet, blank space) but I do have a lot of really amazing materials. Tucked in the drawers of my heart I have shiny moments of love, ribbons of laughter, and colorful connections with my kiddos, my husband, family and friends.  They’re not traditional art supplies, especially the sharp pointy spears of fear and hurt.  But they’re mine.  And they were given to me to make something out of them. Not something meaningless…something special. Something beautiful. Something that will last.  

And so, I opened up the blank canvas of a Word document on my computer. And I let myself dream and then...I made something. 

I wrote a novel, a love story. And it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life because this time I was able to pull my family into what I was making. My kids were cheering me on, my husband was coaching me, encouraging me to keep going, and it was beautiful. We even came up with our own sweet Valentine's Day-themed dessert. (I know it's October, but stay with me a little longer.)

The novel hasn’t been picked up by a publisher yet.  I was hoping it would get picked up by Hallmark Publishing, because I have such a soft spot in my heart for all things Hallmark (more on that another day), but they passed on it. That’s okay. I don’t need someone to tell me they loved it to make it shimmer. It already does, especially when the light of gratitude shines in through the window of my heart.

Maybe it means my chakras are finally balanced. Or maybe it just means we’re all made for more and we just have to get lost in the woods to discover how we’re supposed to “make art”. 

What about you? How do you make art? How does it change your world when you do? Please comment, I'd love to share supplies and chat. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

Monday, June 25, 2018

Lion's Roar

Hosea 11:10 

They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion.  When he roars, his children will come trembling from the left.  

Yikes.  It has been 40 weeks since my last post.  Thats right, 40.  And I literally forgot what this blog was called in that time (Tiny Little Blessings being my old one).  I wish I was joking.

I searched ALL MAIL in my Gmail account with words like "Joy" (surely it was called "joy", right??) and "Blog" (I think you can guess how fruitful that search was).

In a grandiose gesture last September I announced I was a writer and then I apparently fell asleep and hit the snooze button for 40 weeks.  Daily life had lulled me into a stupor.  Thankfully I got a wake up call when I read One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Personal Passions, Family Chaos, and Saying Yes to Both of Them by Jennifer Fulwiler.  You should read it.

As you can imagine, a lot has changed since my last post, including our home address (more on that later).  One things that hasn't changed is the struggle to raise four young kiddos to be kind, courteous, respectful individuals.  It always feels like I'm doing something wrong.

Last week in a race to get four kids to three different camps on different parts of town between 8:30-8:45 AM we struggled a bit.  I should probably add that time management baffles me. So does rush hour traffic.

The kids lost their minds.  I lost mine.  Although in hindsight, I may have been the first one off that bridge.

"No, this has to stop." I said, "We're all on the same team." Then I blasted Jeremy Camp's Awake O Sleeper in the car so loud I couldn't hear their protests.  I added some mild dancing and fist bumps, which was completely out of character for me.  They were stunned into silence.  It was a beautiul vicory.

When the song was over they had all completely forgotten their arguments and asked for it again.  And again. And again.  We have now listened to that song on repeat so loudly that my windows rattle.  (Who really won that battle?)

The daily treks to and from all of the various camps and physical therapy appointments has given me some time to really soak up the lyrics:

Oh, Abraham would raise his handsAnd mourn this very dayFor his children left the promise landIn search of their own wayAnd they kick and scream like wayward sonsAnd always wanting to sleepAnd dream away these evil daysIn hopes that God can't see
[Pre-Chorus]Chains upon Your children, LordChains upon Your childrenChains upon Your children, LordChains!
[Chorus]Do you hear the lion roar?Awake O SleeperStand with me we'll fight the warAwake O Sleeper......

In a way I've been asleep these past 40 weeks, knowing that I needed to get up and do God's will, but allowing myself to get zapped by things that don't really matter and then literally and figuratively going to sleep to escape and hide, when really I should be hiding and resting in Him. Does that ever happen to you?

There is so much to praise Him for and so much glory when we stop hitting the snooze on the life He has given us.  So let me ask you, do you hear the lion roar?

P.S. A lion is totally going to be my next tattoo.  We're talking a half sleeve on my arm. Some day.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rest for the Weary

"If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit." ~ Banksy

A good friend of mine shared this quote with me today and I love it because it captures my current season so perfectly.  Tired - check.  Ready to quit - check (okay, only some days).  Resting - ch...hold up, what??

When the twins came home from the hospital and our family ballooned from four to six life changed pretty dramatically.  It was my honor and privilege to serve them around the clock.  Seriously.   I slept on the couch right next to them in their bassinets, their little bodies hooked up to machines to alert us of any breathing irregularities.  I got two three-hour sleep cycles every 24-hours and it was enough even though it wasn't.  Want to know why?  Because I knew that I couldn't do it on my own.  I fell asleep praying and woke up praying, I gave God my weariness and crabbiness and my not-enough-ness and just rested in Him.  

Then the twins started sleeping through the night and I started sleeping, too. Somehow, this was supposed to be the magic formula for me to start living in my own strength.  I loved them with all of my heart and I could handle life serving them.  It was just dishes and laundry and homework and shuffling kids around - easy stuff.  I could handle it. Round the clock, I could handle it.  I was up with the kids at sun up and folding laundry until the middle of the night some nights.  And again the next day/night.  And the next.  Because I loved them.  Because I could handle it.

Friends, can I tell you a secret? I can't handle it.  You probably already knew that.  

Can I tell you an even bigger secret? The things I do I didn't do with love in my heart anymore.  I was empty, just a shell.  I forgot how to laugh and how to play.  It was as if every need my family had was over-drafting the bank account of my soul, which was completely depleted.  Even though I was surrounded by people who loved me, a beautiful home and all of the luxuries of suburban living, I was living in poverty.  It turns out there is more to me than this physical body that just needs food, water and sleep.  Well huh.

I remember sitting on my patio chugging cold coffee (coffee that unintentionally got cold, not iced coffee.  There's a difference.) I was trying to muster up the strength to break up one more argument with the kids when I just stopped.  I couldn't do it.  Not even with the kick in the gut from cold coffee (Oh, I drink coffee now.  Having twins will do that to you.) I just stopped and left.  

DON'T FREAK OUT.  Yes, I left, but I just went to the YMCA down the street.  I hadn't been there in years, it was my safe place in college.  But it was different now.  The layout was different and the machines were different (I suppose that can happen over the course of 15 years.)  I couldn't figure out how to work the TV on my machine and the only alternative was to stare at a brick wall while I ran away from my life as fast as the machine would allow me to move.  (The irony that I was running towards a brick wall is not lost on me.)  So I stared at the brick wall and listened to a podcast to escape my Great Escape.

Spoiler alert: God moment!

The podcast next in my queue was about Sabbath rest.  Oh. Come. On!!! Yeah, it was one of the ten commandments and all, but I was responsible for four small children, there was no such thing as a full day off every week no matter how holy of reasons.  But Sabbath rest doesn't mean I don't care for my family; it is a time where stop our work, enjoy rest, practice delight and contemplate God.   It is deliberate time with God and it can be a part of every day.

God didn't say I have to get to the bottom of my to-do list before I can rest if there happens to be time left.  My husband didn't.  My kids certainly didn't.  I did.  I enslaved myself.  So once a week or once a day I can post a "No Trespassing" sign on my mental to-do list and just sit with God and enjoy His presence.

Fast forward to another morning on the patio with the cold coffee in hand and kids nearby.  This time I'm sitting with Him and enjoying the rest with Him, practicing delight in His creation that is all around me, and contemplating His goodness.  It seemed so fast, and to come out of nowhere and everywhere all at the same time...

I was not loving my family.  Not really.  Not the way love was intended.  It was obligation masked as love.

I'm going to give you a minute to read that again.  Obligation masked as love.  Obligation is slavery.  Slavery is death, spiritually speaking.  By relying on my own strength and answering to a to-do list that no one created for me other than myself I was dying.  And believe me, I felt it in my soul.

So now what? Love.  Genuine love.  Love is light and love is life-giving.  Our Heavenly Father is the only true source and He gives it to us abundantly, all we have to do is ask.

This has changed my world. I mean it. I've been made new.

I can love and really love my family, but I can't do it in my own strength.  When I feel that choking feeling, it is a sure sign that I've slipped back onto the obligation treadmill.  It means I need to take a moment and rest in Him.  It may even mean (gasp) asking someone else for help so I can take a minute.  He is always faithful in overflowing my heart when I ask Him earnestly.

I feel so blessed to have received this message from Him, and even more so, to share it with you.  Are you resting? I mean really sinking a "No Trespassing" sign in the ground and resting in Him?  Are you loving your people or are you dutifully doing your piece out of obligation masked as love at the expense of your soul?  Trust Him with this.  He is faithful to you and He will give you what you need.

Genesis 2:2-3 The VOICE

So now you see how the Creator swept into being the spangled heavens, the earth, and all their hosts in six days.  On the seventh day - with the canvas of the cosmos completed - God paused from His labor and rested. Thus God blessed day seven and made it special - an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping, because God rested from all the work He had done in creation that day.

Matthew 11:28-30 The VOICE

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Put My yoke upon your shoulders - it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves.  Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  They kingdom come.  They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I'm a WRITER!!!

Galatians 1:15-16 The Voice

But God - who set me apart even before birth and called me by His grace - chose, to His great delight to reveal His Son in me so that I could tell His story among the outsider nations.  

One of the most miraculous things about watching my kids grow up is the way their faces light up with they make a new discovery.  Their eyes get wide, their mouth drops open as they gasp fresh air into their little lungs and they immediately want to share the wonder and excitement and joy with those of us huddled around them.

Their discovery could be magnetic trains or puzzles or riding a bike.  As the parent we know they are capable of unpacking it; we put them in situations where the opportunity is right in front of them, we watch as they pick it up, turn it over in their little hands, hold it up to the light or put it in their mouths.  Some days that's all that happens.  Actually a lot of days.  The time they spend not fully interacting with whatever is in front of them just makes it that much sweeter of a moment when the gears click into place and the discovery is made.

A favorite book at our house right now is Drawing Lessons from a Bear by David McPhail. In this book there is a bear who is first and foremost a bear but also an artist.  As a young cub he became quite interested in art, and as he grew he unwrapped his talents while never losing sight that he was a bear.  It's a good story to teach kids that somethings we're born with but they don't define us anymore than what we create.  At the end it encourages kids to proclaim "I'M AN ARTIST!"

You're probably wondering where I'm going with all of this.  I have a point, I promise.  This year I took a break from writing to focus on important things like being a Mama Bear.  I love that I'm a Mama Bear, I really do and I've been blessed with five cubs - one in heaven and four with me this side of heaven.  But the more time I spent away from writing I discovered that I'm not just a Mama Bear like I thought; there is more to me.  But what could it be?

I picked it up.  I put it down.  I picked it up. I put it down.  I picked it and turned it over and held it up to the Light and with wide-eyes and wonder I made a new discovery...

Friends, I'M A WRITER!  It's a part of me and who God created me to be; I can't fully be who I'm supposed to be if I continue to let it go unacknowledged and unopened.  So it is with wide eyes and and a gasp that I unwrap this offering and sincerely pray that He may be glorified by this new discovery.  

My former blog, Tiny Little Blessings, was created to journal my way through Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome and I thank each and every one of you who joined me and prayed alongside me during that time.  The twins are absolute miracles and a gift from God...but there is also more to our story than TTTS.  Like how we are a typical family in desperate need of love and forgiveness...and GRACE.  Specifically God's grace.

Grace is God's abundant love He freely gives to us precisely when we don't deserve it, and I don't know about you, but there are many days where I feel like a little extra grace is required in my life.  A double dose even, so without further ado please let me welcome you to my new blog: A Double Dose of Grace.