Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Simple Stuff

I know! It has been too long! (Reaches out and gives you that uncomfortable "pat-pat" hug.) I try desperately not to give apologies or false hope here. I won't tell you "real life got in the way" or that I have been very, very busy - All of which is true. I will tell you that this is still my happy spot and I miss you when I don't show up here. I have been out in Analog World doing Me.

Me? Well this chick is a mess! She does things like lays laminate floor and crochets sweaters, draws cell phone covers and decorates glassware. She has a card business and lots of creative ideas. She writes reams and then doesn't write at all. She's simple and she's complex and all of that inside a 30 nano-second time span. I won't pretend to know why I have been out of the blogosphere for the last two weeks, I only know that I have accomplished much, gotten some much needed chores done, reclaimed an entire room in my home, lost a dog and been dealing with an insurance company. It has been a little hectic... And yet, I have been happy. Well... As happy as I can be when I am not writing.

Writing is just so much of who I am. It is the essence of Me. When you do what you love it is as if you suddenly exist. When I neglect it - Well, I become shadow - bodiless mist, as it were. Don't feel sorry for me, I can be damned productive shadow-mist! But I still pine for that space in my head that feeds my writer-self. I miss it. And so... Here I am!

It hasn't been an easy week, but I am still here, all of my loved ones are safe and the hard decisions are made. It is in these weeks, when I rely on God most, that I become aware again of how important it is to say thank you for the simple things and take a moment to appreciate them fully. Here is my list:

  • I love the smell of fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee, hot in my mug, the color of warm caramel.
  • I love to see my dog stare at me. Such innocence and love, unconditional and unwavering.
  • I love realizing that the cat who loves only my husband is sitting next to me and allowing me to absently stroke his incredibly soft head. I love that he pretends not to notice I am touching him and I love that I touch him without thinking about it.
  • I love that if you leave honey and lemons in a mason jar long enough they ferment into a lovely addition to your Vodka.
  • I adore text messages from my love. He gets me... Mostly.
  • I love my bed and the sound of my fingernails on the keyboard. They remind me that I am doing what I love in the best spot in the house, surrounded by the things that I love and love me back.
  • I love the smell of cut lumber.
  • I love the feeling I get when I accomplish something I was afraid to start (Yes, laminate floor and cardigan sweater, I am talking about you!)
  • I love remembering to write things down so I don't forget them later and then actually remembering where I wrote them so I have them at my disposal when the time comes...
  • I love the feel of crisp, fresh paper
  • I love knowing that all of my choices, good and misguided, make me who I am and no one can say they have done it exactly like I have.
  • I love feeling my purple converse get wet from the slush because it means we have snow on the ground.
  • I love knowing that no matter what I fear, God already knows how it turns out.
  • I love the curls and waves in my hair that are so trendy right now and all I have to do is give it a spritz and I am done...
  • I love being a sister.
  • I love finding a bargain at the Goodwill at just the right moment and confirming that it was a really good deal!
  • I love just being...

What are your simple things? Say thank you right now and count them out loud!

Be blessed!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fitting It All Together

Photo Credit Creative Commons
I grew up thinking everything had to have a purpose. I don't know why and I don't know how it came to be my modus operandi. It just did. Suddenly I was sitting in my grown up life and everything had to have a reason for doing. You ate when you were hungry, you spoke when there was information to impart, you moved because things needed doing... All of it had links to something important in your life. Homework was to get you to college. Jobs were to teach you responsibility. Careers were to earn money and buy things, have a family, do the right thing. It all linked together in this jigsaw puzzle of life and someday, when I was grown up, it would look like something spectacular. The trouble is, I had these pieces that didn't seem to fit the rest of the puzzle.

I had pieces that I loved. Pieces that were shiny, beautiful and touchable but they didn't fit into the puzzle. They didn't have the same tones, the same shape... So I set them aside. I left them there to gather dust and wondered if there would ever come a time where the puzzle they belonged to would surface and I could make them fit somehow. I waited for permission and purpose to use those pieces.

I don't usually watch much tv before I write. It saps me of creativity. Sunday Morning on CBS is different. The format pokes my creative spirit in the ribs and asks, "Did you hear that? Did you see what they did there?" I love it. Seeing the artists they feature and hearing stories of how they came to be so in tune with themselves... It gives my muddied muse a douse with the garden hose and lifts me back up to the easel. I get inspired.

Today I watched a piece about rock and roll artist turned Broadway musical creator, Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish. It was soothing and pleasantly enjoyable until his parting words slammed into my chest, "I love writing music. It's like food!" Not that I love writing music, that wasn't where I instantly related. It was the "I love _______. It's like food!" Put in that space anything that fills you up, anything that truly rejuvenates you, completes you in ways that all of your chores for purpose don't. That was what struck me today. There are things that I do in life because they need done and there are things that I do in my life because they feed me. FEED ME... It was as if I had in earplugs and I finally removed them to hear that desperate plea, now so loud it was shocking. I had been ignoring that cry because I had other things to do; important, purposeful things... I was drowning out the pleas, waiting for permission.

The epiphany wrung my heart with surprising strength. The puzzle pieces that sit outside my daily life: my writing, my artistry - They are not pieces to be set aside to gather dust or be forgotten. Worse yet, they are not pieces to be used as rewards for a job well done in purpose-puzzle-land but a vital part of me to be cultivated and grown and built upon in their own right. If I cannot fit those pieces into the puzzle of daily life then I need to build another puzzle. I must start by realizing that those fragments, whimsical and fragile and frivolous, refuel my desires and my abilities to stick with a puzzle filled with responsibilities and things I have to do.

I had a meltdown the other day. I was overwhelmed, frustrated and desperate. As in most times like that, my mother called. I don't know if she has a radar for my moods, but she could instantly tell that something was off with me. I poured out my heart to her, I explained my frustration, I cried, I admitted that I hadn't a creative drop of juice left in me. Her answer was not to head into the house and get some laundry done. It wasn't her advice to clean a bathroom or head up to the office and do some accounting or web updates. Her advice was to go out to my studio and soak it up. Even if I did nothing at all but sit on my couch and take in the light, she advised me to go to my happy place and just BE. She told me that not everything has to have a purpose to be good for us. It was like a balm to an open wound. It soothed me and gave me permission to minister to myself.

As a woman and a caregiver I tend to deny myself that luxury of doing for me. I feel guilty if I am not serving someone else's need. I hold myself to a standard no one could achieve and one that I am sure God didn't intend for me to model. I was created to serve a God who wants me to be lit afire, burning brightly and cheerily, giving to others without draining myself of my own fuel. That "food" that I crave it is like a Sabbath to my soul. It feeds me in ways that I don't always understand. Like different cuisines, each of us craves something unique. I am fed by putting words on a page, by creating art that touches others. It becomes a Sabbath refuge for me - A place of rest and rejuvenation. It is in this space that I feel most alive, most myself, most ME. Seems counter-intuitive that I would avoid being more of who I am, doesn't it? It is time to change that perception.

Those odd puzzle pieces aren't a part of my daily routine quite yet, but I am turning them over in my hands now. I am studying them and starting to look for other pieces that will fit. Someday they will become a part of the larger picture. Until that day, I will build on them in their own right. I will create around them and be refreshed by that sensation - The sensation of being full, being satisfied - being Me.

Be blessed - And be YOU!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

After God's Heart

Photo credit: Creative Commons
He stood there, in his youth, fresh, strong, ruddy and handsome. He felt the rush of blood through his veins and excitement sped his heart rate to ear pounding levels. He was in the presence of every one of his brothers, his father and the leading holy man of his time. He knew he'd heard it right, there was no denying it - And from the looks on the faces of his kin, it was no less shocking to them either. David had been anointed as the next king of Israel. There were some details he didn't understand, of course - like how he could be king when Saul was currently on the throne - But that didn't matter right now. He would be king... Soon!

I love David. I thank God that He let us know his story intimately. David was small, a shepherd (one of the lowest jobs you could have at the time) and not your typical hero. He was hot tempered (yeah, I can relate to that), red headed (one of my people!) and he screwed up on a regular basis. These things are not what Hollywood would have you believe make up the most recognized hero of the Bible. But most people, even non-Christians, have heard at least part of David's epic tale. Yeah, he's THAT guy. David is the diminutive under-dog that killed the giant. He's also the guy that fell in love with Bathsheba, another man's wife, and had her husband killed so that he could take her for his own. I cherish the allowance God gives us with letting us see David for such a long period in his life. To be able to learn that he starts out strong, is pursued by evil, kicks evil's butt, fails, then epically fails and ultimately ends up exactly as God says he would is a treasure trove of love. I strongly advise reading David's story (1 Sam 17:1-1 Ki 2:10), it is beyond amazing. Be warned, his rule spanned 40 years and he was a busy guy... Not to mention the years before he ruled.

Yeah, that is what I am really talking about here. David was dubbed King of Israel amid his family by the prophet Samuel FOURTEEN YEARS before the crown was laid on his head! Fourteen years, people! And we get impatient waiting for our burger and fries... Before we dismiss that thought with a sage nod of the head and let our brains wash out how long that actually is let's think about it. There isn't one thing I have waited for in my life for that long a period of time. There is only one thing in my world that even comes close and that is my son - He is fourteen. (yeah... Moving on!) Imagine being told you won the lottery... Now imagine that your first check won't come for fourteen years! That's right, you have to go on working for the same boss, worrying about the same bills and responsibilities, deal with the same lines at the grocery store and live in the same house. You have the winning ticket, you know you won, but for fourteen years nothing is going to change. And here's the kicker, you know it will be fourteen years - David didn't know when he would finally be king! Are you getting it like I am?

The years David spend waiting for that moment he would get to wander the halls of palaces and be waited on hand and foot were long and arduous. Not because he lived in ancient times without running water, indoor facilities and wi-fi, but because he was pursued. Yup. The current king was being ousted, but it was going to take a while and in that time period, King Saul found out who his successor would be. Um, can I say that he wasn't thrilled? It made him cuckoo, in fact - literally. Saul went nutty trying to make sure he would stay king as long as he possibly could. He drifted from having David among his court members playing musical interludes (where he also used little Davey for target practice) to chasing the young ginger in and out of caves, around the country-side and onto fields of battle.

If you thought that made any difference in what our young hero did, you would be wrong. David proved to be a resourceful man. We all know the story of how he took down Goliath when everyone else hid, but you have to read on to see how loyal, inventive and intelligent he is after the meeting with Samuel. He is fearless in his youth and nothing seems to sway him. He stays in service to King Saul as long as he can, only leaving when his best friend, the kings own son, advises him and aids him in his escape. He then partners up with some men of questionable reputation (some of them open criminals) and wanders the countryside, trying to stay just out of Saul's reach. He is pursued relentlessly, hungry often, worried for his men, his family and himself and he is often exhausted beyond comprehension. He has lost the company of his best friend, he is under a death warrant for something he didn't ask for and it all seems surreal and unfair.

How easy it would have been for David to chuck it all and figure he somehow got it wrong. To think that David could have walked away, thrown the inheritance of a kingdom and the glory of God down the drain is a testament to his perseverance and his patience. He had every right to say "forget it!" He didn't deserve the wrath of a crazy king. He didn't do anything to be left friendless. He was a godly man who started out a lowly shepherd, did a courageous act in battle for his country no one else would step up to do, and he had been thrown aside and forsaken, even it seemed, by God. He could have done all that, and we would have understood. Except for one thing... He didn't.

David was patient and he persevered. David trusted God and what He said through Samuel. He didn't need to be reminded over and over that God had said he would be king. He knew it. He trusted that God doesn't lie. More importantly, David understood the magnitude of the job. To be king of Israel would take a man that could lead a people reputed for their stubbornness and refusal to obey God's commands. To be king and survive it in humility, David had to learn strength and reliance on the one person who could see him succeed: GOD. He doesn't do it perfectly. In fact, he becomes a murderer and an adulterer, he loses children because of his own sin and he is not allowed to build things he once thought he would. He deals with consequences that most of us would crumple under. He perseveres.

I love David and his story because it shows me how trivial my problems must look. It gives me a focus that is so simple and clear: Do it because it pleases God. It is that plain. Because it pleases God... Not because I will get anything from it, although I may. Not because I will have fame and followers, although I might. Do it because God has asked it of me and my obedience pleases Him.

Whatever you are going through, be reminded that patience and perseverance are rewarded mightily at the hand of a God that knows every hair on your head. He loves you, wants to bless you and will discipline you with the hand of a devoted father. Christ sealed the deal for us with grace and mercy so that we can walk confidently into the purpose set before us. Don't give up... You never know when that promise might be just over the next horizon.

Be blessed!