How long has it been since you picked up a pen and paper and wrote someone a heartfelt note of appreciation or love? Did you notice what a creative act it has become to actually put pen to paper and scribe words that express emotion?
I recently had this experience. I created the opportunity and took the time to actually write something to someone. The words suddenly become very important. How should I express my deep feelings is such a personal way? Five years ago, even two years ago, this would have meant nothing to us. In today’s fast paced, electronic communication age, words have almost become cheap - flung to the masses with expedient hopes that you would not have to express the same message to individuals in time consuming face-to-face encounters.
Sure, writing a note is not a terribly personal mode of expression. But, I thought, has this person ever even seen my actual handwriting? The very act of creating each letter gave each word added weight and meaning. I found myself choosing my words very carefully, much as an artist would choose paint or brushes; I wanted to give true expression to true and genuine feelings. Then something unique happened...
I received a hand written note in return! I poured over it; I savored it. This was no electronic mark, recorded for mass consumption, stored in everyone’s cache, cheapened by its very mode of expression. This message was for me alone. These words were created by a person, formed letter by letter with the skill of their hand. These words were thought out; no easy erase or undo function here. I know I’ve seen this particular handwriting at some point in my life - but I can’t remember when. My note, after much study and contemplation, was folded away in my purse, right next to all of the other important items I need to have at ready access. The next time I feel alone or sad, I guarantee you I will reach for it. It’s message may not meet the need of that particular moment but the knowledge that at some point in time this person cared enough for me to create it will strengthen me, will enlighten me, will encourage me, will warm my soul and make me smile.
I have a passion vine that has been a prolific bloomer for several years now. This year I built a beautiful trellis up and around the vine to help support its vigorous growth and showcase the multitude of blooms it usually produces through the late summer and fall.
Despite the preferential treatment; the new luxury living and climbing quarters, the watering and feeding schedule and excellent growing conditions, this year the passion vine has failed.
I could go the obvious route and draw the conclusion that the condition of my passion vine is a reflection of my recently and unexpectedly failed relationship; a reflection of passions that have faded and died away. I could also conclude that the sad shape of my vine is a mere echo of the failure I am feeling on the heals of my failed marriage. And yet, today I have noticed that there is more to observe here.
The vine, usually full of lush green leaves, is skeletal this year, its foliage eaten away by some very thorny looking caterpillars. If you look closer, all along the top of the trellis and along the top railing of my fence, there are many cocoons; some spent and empty, others still occupied. Look further and you’ll notice that my backyard is teaming with butterflies!
Today, my passion vine gave me 2 perfect blooms. The blooms only last 1 day and there are no other blossoms in sight. I look at the carnage of the vines surrounds these 2 blooms and I can see that this vine has been a host, nourishing others. It has given up the promise of its showiest prize to feed those who have come to it for sustenance. Those who have fed on the vine have experienced a metamorphosis of their own and now they are spreading their wings and gracing the world with beauty. For this year, in this season, the focus of my passion vine has changed and the fruits of its labor are different.
It is difficult for me to look at this ravaged vine; but oh how I have enjoyed the butterflies! Only God understands His purpose and use for our lives. I can’t help but feel that we have to look beyond the obvious to see His intending blessings. It is not lost on me that I was blessed this morning to find two perfect blossoms and not just one.
Have you ever considered how you might best portray your heart graphically to tell the story of your life? If the heart is a good representation of your soul, the source of life and love, I’ve been wondering, what would mine look like after 48 years of life?
I know it would be red and shiny, exuding life; not yet dimmed, withered or faded.
It would be plump and rounded; bursting with love, life, expectation and hope. You would be able to sense the deep joy that lives there. You would glimpse the sense of adventure and humor that dwells within.
Images would be faintly visible, as though impressed into the surface; family, friends, loved ones. The hint and flavor of precious memories would pervade.
This heart would be wrapped round and round, though loosely, with a thick and silken cord. Something beautiful that would offer enough strength to hold the heart together but not enough to bind and chafe. It would be tied with a pretty bow and tassels that would just almost cover the broken places.
At first glance you would imagine shadows cast by the safe and secret place where this heart is stored. Alas, on closer inspection you would discover that the dark shadows are bruises; soft with pain.
This heart would appear damp, wet with tears of both joy and sorrow.
Soon you would begin to notice the places around the base of this heart where it is propped up and supported by the hearts of others; many others.
The last thing you might notice, or perhaps the first, is the pile of bricks and mortar heaped nearby in case the construction of an emergency wall is needed. Fortunately, this wall has been dismantled for some time now and it remains dusty - but ready.
Mine is a heart that is comfortable. Waiting for the next thing. Hoping for a glorious future full of blessing. Ready to be a home or a refuge for anyone in need. Come share your heart with mine.
My word for 2010 was “Focused Solitude.”
When I chose this word for the year I had grand hopes of just slowing down, of quieting the noise of my life, of taking time to look inside to discover to a greater extent the creative me. Now, ironically, I find myself on the brink of a new phase of my life that will include extreme solitude. I would like to embrace it willingly but I find that I am petrified by the prospect.
How can you honestly embrace solitude without berating yourself for being there in the first place - solitude brought about by broken relationship? How do you look deep inside when you have no real-time outlet for what you discover? How do you answer the question every day, “What’s the point?”
I have come to believe that I am simply the way that God has chosen to express himself to the world - His creation, a facet of His character, a mere hint of His passion, joy, love and creativity.
In the solitude of 2010 what is there for me to discover? What depth must I plumb? What reward on the other side ? I would not be honest if I did not say that I am afraid.
If the saying "Energy flows where attention goes," is true, I MUST find a way to frame my attention toward the excellent. I must bend my mind toward the positive. I must search relentlessly for the reason and purpose of my life. Be in prayer for me my friend for I am on a difficult journey. Something deep, profound, exciting, is waiting to be discovered and I am determined to share it with the world.
Life is like living in a tide. The ebb and flow of time and events though sometimes gentle are often just crashing and hurried. How often we seek to just bob along on the surface. This seems easier as no deep swimming effort is required, you can easily change course, not too much commitment here.
I made a random stop at my parent's house today expecting to give my mother something that she needed and then fly on my way, surfing on the top of the wave of getting a million things done 3 days before Christmas. Ironically my mom doesn't sit around and wait for my visits but I did get to spend a little time with my dad. I always try to honor these special opportunities and give them the time and attention they deserve before speeding away to the next thing.
We talked for a while and then moved toward the door, dad walking and talking with me, reluctant to bring the time to an end. He started talking about my grandmother, his mom, who just turned 99 years old. As you can imagine she has some health concerns and these were the subject of our conversation. In that sliver of time in the tide of our lives, as dad was sharing his heart about his mom, I got a glimpse of the heart of this man I love so dearly. Through his eyes, misted with emotion, I could see his care and compassion for his family, the pain and understanding he has gleaned about the hard and unfair times through his various life experiences, the frustration and helplessness of being human and far away from the people you love, and perhaps even some fear and uncertainty.
In that tiny sliver of time in the tide of our lives we moved to a deeper, calmer, warmer place. Gone is the bobbing and rush; safe for now from any future brewing storm. This is a good place, a place that does not breed regret for time and opportunity lost - a gift. Take a deep breath and submerge yourself into the deep things of life and relationship. Words from one of my favorite songs come to mind, "Before you can swim you've got to be ok to sink." Swimming is good, necessary even, but its the sinking where the richness of life dwells.
I read these words in a book about 10 years ago. I cannot find the book and, though I have searched and searched on the internet, I cannot credit the author. If you are familiar with the book or the author of these words, please let me know. ** See update below.
It really took me a long time to find out who I truly am - its taking me even longer to try and figure out how to live that out in a full and genuine way. I was raised in the Bible belt with a lot of rules and regulations about how a good girl should act and behave and what the "perfect" life should be. I let that shape my life without much question until life began to unravel. If you can't meet the "should - good girl - perfect" requirements, maybe its because they don't match who you truly are.
My defense mechanism to handle this disjoint was to just become numb. I lived in numbness for about 15 years - its a bleak, hopeless place to be.
Don't default to numb. Whoever you are - whatever it is that you are - find it. Embrace it, love it, shout it from the rooftops. Sting the world with who you are. Your ways of being might challenge the status quo - it might challenge the people around you - but it might make your world richer, filled with more grace, stinging with emotion. Take anything over numb - its a difficult journey but one well worth the battle to get there.
** UPDATE ** Brian Jones, my wonderful husband has located the passage referenced in this article. These lines were written by Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul.
I am an artist - struggling to find my voice. I have bursts of creativity but they stir up my mind to the point that I cannot get anything else done. The idea comes; it cooks around in my brain, it simmers and boils. It takes concentration; removing oneself from the common distractions of the day...like work, the tv, the computer, family members, even the dogs. Who has the energy to be creative? If they say you actually lose years of your life through lack of sleep, artists must be the shortest lived species on earth. Ideas and creativity do not equal sleep!!!!!
I know I must write; but about what??? I've struggled to give birth to poems and books. I've strained to form the perfect words to covey my thoughts and feelings. I've lived with my words swirling and whirling around in my head until I'm dizzy and senseless yet still wondering - who will even read it?
I've written about this awful condition - the voiceless artist. It reminds me of the words of the song by Anna Nalick, Breathe; "Two a.m. and I'm still awake writing this song, if I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to. And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud, and I know that you'll use them however you want to." What an awful condition in which to live!
How do I handle this misery - default to numbness. This is a common theme in my life; a defense that has caused me great disparagement and has totally kept me from being the person (artist) that I truly am. I need to break these chains. To revert to numbness preserves the sanity I need to sleep and get to work every day. It allows me to keep up with the cooking and the dishes and the laundry.... but to what real end? Here is my sacrifice to creativity; an ode to the voiceless artist.... What remains unvoiced in your life?
My children are artists
I admire their abandonment of self, their ability to express themselves; hey - their ability to even define what it is they want to express
They are far away living dreams that I can only imagine - defining their worlds through their art; what unspeakable joy and riches!
In their room is a plastic box full of pens and pencils; tools of an artist
They speak to me of all of the unrealized, pent-up canvases in my mind
It is such a privilege to give birth to an artist
It is an agony to hold the very same desires within myself, afraid to unleash them on the world
In their box is a quilter's marker; a tribute to the one art I have been able to unleash - why is this the only one?
Tonight I carefully picked through this box of tools; selecting the colored pencils that spoke to me
Tonight I unwrapped a canvas that I have kept, sitting ready for so long on my unused easel......
And it remains white - dust covered - unused - unspoken - unexpressed
Where does an artist find his voice? Where is inspiration? Where is courage to let loose what churns inside?
My children are artists - why can I not say the same for myself?
** photo by Brian Jones
The high superfluousness of God’s love is demonstrated by rainbows flung over rain and secret rainbows painted on the domes of deep sea-shells. Do you notice your day by the superfluous gifts of God - they are over the top, crazy, gorgeous, unnecessary, demonstrations of his love for His creation and His love for us. Take the time to widen the focus of your camera lens to see those superfluous gifts from God - wrap yourself in them and enjoy the extravagance of God’s love.
Main Entry: su·per·flu·ous
• Pronunciation: \su̇-ˈpər-flü-əs\
• Function: adjective
• Etymology: Middle English, from Latin superfluus, literally, running over, from superfluere to overflow, from super- + fluere to flow — more at fluid
• Date: 15th century
1 a : exceeding what is sufficient or necessary : extra b : not needed : unnecessary. 2 obsolete : marked by wastefulness : extravagant
— su·per·flu·ous·ly adverb
— su·per·flu·ous·ness noun
Poem by Robinson Jeffers - The Excesses of God
Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal,mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.
** photo by Brian Jones
Last year I made a trip across country with my son to take his car to college in Portland, OR. We drove through Kansas sometime near the end of the summer and we saw acres and acres of sunflowers; a most marvelous sight if you’ve never seen it for yourself! I sent a text home to my husband, “I finally know what I want to be when I grow up .... a sunflower farmer!”
This summer I planted sunflowers along the fence-line in our back yard. Within a matter of weeks these little guys went from tiny seeds, hopefully poked into the soil, to these crazy - zany marvelous flowers. They are 10 feet tall, peeking over the fence, waving their paint brushed petals of yellow, orange, and red gleefully in the summer breeze. Every time I step outside they actually make me laugh out loud.
I cut some of the heavier flowers out of the centers of the plants and put them in a vase on my desk at work. Flowers bring me an indescribable energy. Just having them around makes my mind buzz with ideas and hopes and dreams. Today I realized why I love sunflowers so much. They are extreme overachievers - just like me!
• Their faces and leaves are a big as your head,
• They grow 10 feet tall to overshadow all the other plants in the garden,
• Their petals are a marvelous variety of colors that contrast outrageously with the dark centers,
• The centers grow fat and puffy and furry then they reveal hundreds of seeds,
• They never stand still but dance and jiggle and shiver in the breeze day and night.
Overachievement seems good to me when it brings so many delightful attributes to the table. I don’t want to be a person who allows myself to sink to the level of mediocracy acceptable in society today. I don’t want to be an overbearing overachiever who smashes the joy out of everyone they encounter just to meet their goals. I want to be a delightful overachiever who spins beauty in the everyday, who accomplishes things in a big showy happy way that sweeps others along for the ride and leaves a trail of “happily-ever-efter” in her wake, who splashes color on the drab, and waves and jiggles and dances over the fences we all build around ourselves. Lets hear it for sunflowers - hug one today!