Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A summer painting on a winter day

Today I gathered my golden tints, naples yellow, and sap green and attempted to paint a summer day. I loaded my pallet with all the hues of summer. I was in a painting support group. The three of us supported each other's decision to paint on this winter day.

The lighting was great in my friend's kitchen. We sat up our easels and clutched our brushes. It was time to begin summer. I tried not to look outside the window and view the snow fields of diamond dust. I was quite slow at beginning. I had not painted since fall and had lost my "knowing" . I was face to face with the canvas and the canvas was winning. It was a wrestling match of a sort. I painted a soft green field enclosed by mountains in a distance. At least in my mind that is what I was painting. The brush seemed to go its own direction , and I had about as much paint on me as the canvas.

As I begin a painting, it is always humbling. I realize what a challenge and how difficult creating really is. There are so many decisions, fine motor skills, and the need of a creative nudge to birth a painting. I have observed how easy it looks when I am standing in a gallary. I admire the strokes, the color combinations, and the style of another painter. What I forget is how much planning, design, composition, and thought is behind that landscape. Most of all , I realize it takes time. There is a time to learn, a time to practice, a time to paint out and a time to paint in.

To every painter there is a season.

I am seeking my season. Other painters and friends encourage me. They use their "art eye" to help me make another stroke, another pattern, another developed area. Suddenly, today I realized why I enjoy this art form so much. It relaxes me as well as challenges me. It frustrates me as well as pleases me. It takes me out of my comfort zone and into an art zone of new discoveries and demands.

Painting is not about creating a calendar likeness. It is not even creating a scene as I photographed it. It is instead knowing that my Creator is within me . He has graciously given me the gift to create. Only for a glimpse can I understand His masterful hand in creating the heavens, the planes, the roaring sea. I am addressing angles at rest and then shifting forms, shadows, and lines. Painting gives me a oneness with my Creator. It is only then that I can paint a summer day in winter in the small Eden of this afternoon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chasing Rainbows

Chasing Rainbows

“Oh, mama, these are the best hush puppies and fried fish,” my daddy stated while looking at our family sitting together for Saturday dinner. My sister and I were so accustomed to my mama’s wonderful cooking that sometimes we forgot to thank her. Daddy helped us remember by his favorable comments.

“This is my favorite dinner,” my sister echoed. Just then, Daddy leaped up and ran to the window. “Ladies of dining, I see a rainbow.” This statement had us all on our feet. Mama grabbed her purse, and we slid into the old sedan.

We were off to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow.Our eyes were peeled to each window. We giggled and chanted, “Our treasure is near; our treasure is near.” Suddenly, Daddy announced we were in Daytona. We hurried out of the car and ran down the beach seeking the end of that glorious rainbow. It is where dancing sand and sunshine blended into a memory profound. This spontaneous action happened many times in my childhood. We cherished rainbow times. After such a chase, we would drive home and Daddy would explain he had found his treasure, time with his three favorite girls. It is such a warm memory, so I have continued to chase rainbows to this day. In a way, Daddy fashioned my days to come.

When I see a rainbow, I yell, “Come quickly; look, look, God’s promise is near.” My boys would always help me look and speculate where the end might be. Even the neighbors were beckoned in my excitement to see a rainbow. There is just something magical, divine, and soul stirring about seeing this miracle of the heavens.

Now, I have seen mighty rainbows over the mountains of Colorado that have brought me tears of gratitude. I have seen misty rainbows sitting on top of the waves of the seas. I recollect a rainbow while standing on the Cliffs of Mohr that brought me to my knees. It is God’s painting and majesty at His best where ever I go. On cold, wintry days I must conjure in my mind that wondrous sight nestled in the sky.

As I think on rainbows, I am reminded that this is a promise from God. It is His hands upon the helm. It is His breath in the sails that direct my journey. I anticipate finding my greatest treasure each day with Him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How I learned to Die

How I learned to Die

When I was five, my mother invited me to sit with her while Uncle Albert died. Perhaps this sounds peculiar and outlandish for a mom to offer a child this invitation. She whispered, “Now, watch closely, Uncle Albert is making peace with his Maker.” I watched intently because from my five year old perspective, it just looked like he was sleeping. Mamma said it was important to sit with the dying because it was part of our living.

As a child, I remember friends and family calling Mamma to sit with them while their spouse or friend was dying. She was an early hospice model. It diminished any fear of dying within me. I recall when I was a young teen sitting with Mamma while another uncle died. We watched and prayed and reminded him we were by his side. I remember feeling God all about the room. She had taught me well that dying was part of our life’s journey.

Through my adult years, I found myself following her example of sitting with the dying. Sometime I would hurt so much for my friend that was dying because their families were afraid. Even when I sat with my dear father-in-law , Hank, I realized my husband and his mother were at a loss as what to expect and do. I read Hank Psalms, prayed with him , and told him all the times he had helped me and taught me. I encouraged the family to do the same. As they shared favorite stories with him, I typed furiously to record each memory. Then, the time came for quietness. The time came for the light to start slipping slowly into Hank’s view. I cherish the memory of leading him to that light and assuring him his cancer pain would soon be gone. I beckoned him into the light and watched him make peace with his Creator.

Strangely enough, when my wonderful step-dad was dying, my mother commissioned me, "Sit with Foster and help him.” She had nursed him for two years in his battle with cancer. She would visit the room periodically but did not stay for the entire journey. She was hurting so much she didn’t want to disturb his peace and reckoning time. My sister and I sang hymns to him and told him stories of how he had changed our lives. We told him how much we loved him and how good he was. I asked him if he wanted me to pray and release his spirit to squeeze my hand. He did, and I put on my tap shoes. Yep, I tapped and sang his favorite song, “I’ll Fly Away O` Glory.” I think I detected a slight smile on that still day. Then, I saw the sunset was coming, and I asked God to release his spirit unto Him. Foster relinquished his earthly body and stepped gently into the sunset. It was a beautiful time with Jesus.

I have been sitting with the dying for sixty years now. As I sat with my mother in her last hours, I recollected her former teaching, “Always tell them you will be here with them.” I told Mamma I would be at her side until she stepped over into the heavenly gates. I watched her make peace and sat languished hours by her side because her heart was strong, and she seemed to have a last purpose in her dying. Nurses and caregivers would stand in her door and listen to me read scripture and pray. Mamma lingered for two days making right her soul. My sister and I told her how much we loved her and shared childhood memories. I remember distinctly when she grew still in body and God was near. I said, “Ah, you see His face, Mamma. You are smiling. Go ahead and I will see you in our future. Go ahead, step into His glorious path.” She too softly left this earth.

I share these stories because I want to alleviate fears of dying and make others realize that they too might be a tool of comfort in helping a loved one step over. Do not fear because God is there in His entire splendor. It is a magnificent time of closure and a miracle time of entering the door of eternity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gingerbread Men Pressure

Each of us must face a New Year every year. I just can’t escape it; January 1st arrives, and I feel the pressure. I must make resolutions about eating right, exercising often, flossing better, and being faithful in my breast exams. I must resolve to read more, longer, better. I must engage in more painting, training, and lessons. Closets cry out, “It is the New Year; clean me now.” I must practice my craft of writing with more purpose and focus. Yikes! No wonder everyone on face book is depressed because this is the first week of January. It is not the cold. It is not the snow. It is a new year of pressure. Granted, they may all be good, but they are pressures.

So, today I made chili. I ate two gingerbread men with my tea. Please know I did not eat any Christmas cookies because I am allergic to wheat. Yet, I just ate the two left in the plastic container. Yep, sugar, wheat, and a snack. Those are all my “no, no’s” according to Dr. Oz. I just did it today, January 4, 2010, the first Monday of the year. I haven’t done any exercises, gone to the gym, or walked the dogs. It is just too cold to be walking circles in my neighborhood. What is my problem? It is a new year. I am in total rebellion. I need a self help coach, a diet chef, a professional organizer, a personal trainer, and Susie Orman by my side. How did I ever exist in 1965, 1975, 1982? Back then, I didn’t even realize that I needed all these helpers to make me whole. Now, the news, magazines, advertisements, and friends are hyped that these things bring balance, beauty, and new beginnings.

So, I am taking control. Listen to this all you health gurus, physical trainers, and economist. I am going to bask in my pleasures. I will read….sure I will because I enjoy it. I will sing even though I am off key. I will dance to fun music and wiggle and giggle with my two wooly, four legged friends. I will make chili with hamburger because that is my husband’s favorite meal. I will approach this year gently and make strides of improvement one step at a time. If today I miss one of my needed rituals, I will just enjoy my prayer time more, my journal writing, and my paper arts. I can make 2010 work. I don’t need to jump into with such gusto that I am gasping from exercise and gulping down sea weed. I am woman. I am invincible. Yea, right, but I can get into this New Year without having a nervous breakdown.

So, Happy New Year to all, and to all a good journey of discovering how many people need hugs, how many children you can affirm, and how being grateful feels so much cozier than criticizing. Yep, I am on my way.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Friends Are My Heroes

Before Christmas I read Lolita in Teran. It is a memoir of the determination of the human spirit. The setting is Iran. When I read such meaty books, I am so thankful that I was born in America. Last week I read the Shanghi Girls. This is a memoir of two sisters persevering through hardship and persecution. Even though it is painful, I like to read this kind of literature to force me to embrace other cultures and know some of the pain they have endured. It is beneficial for me to know how others have sacrificed and struggled in times of war or revolution. I admire how these characters seek wisdom , God, and art even though the setting around them is poverty and oppression. I really enjoy memoirs because they are based on someone's real life experiences.

I am reading Water For Elephants this week. It is not a memoir but based on true experiences. It is about being in the circus, which was one of my childhood dreams. Again, it has characters that come over adversity. I read these kinds of novels, so I won’t whine, complain, or feel sad. These books teach me that hardships make strong characters. I would aspire to write such a wonderful novel. However, my life has not been harsh, but affable. Sure, there have been some hard times, childhood verbal and physical abuse, bad decisions, obstacles, debilitating diseases in my parents; but, overall, I am blessed. From childhood, I have chosen to see the glory in the land, the sparkle in an old person’s eye, and the last few dollars at the end of the month as a gold mind. I marvel at childhood chatter and make-believe and benefit from their free spirit.

Even though my husband beats me in gin rummy almost every night, I just enjoy the anticipation of maybe winning this night and spending time with him. I thank God that He has shown me how to look at things through rosy glasses and not dirty, gray ones. However, I have not walked in the moccasins of so many of my friends. They live daily with heartache of the loss of a loved one or live with an alcoholic or endure spousal abuse. One friend has cared years for a husband with a fatal disease; another friend wonders how she will pay her heat bill. These are real life heroes that daily come over so many obstacles. They recharge themselves with the word of God , and His grace is sufficient. They find joy in a simple cup of tea. They give of themselves to others. These friends teach me daily how to live life today. It is as if I am reading their life novel, only their lives must be lived out in days and years, not on pages.

It is through knowing and loving such dear friends that I am humbled each day. They choose to live, not to nag, drag, or gag on their daily portion. I read books to learn of other cultures, to understand new subject matters, to enjoy a lifestyle that I will never embark. However, it is the friends with whom I am surrounded that give me balance. They teach me faith. They extend gratitude when I might not understand why. I cherish these friends for the depth and grace of living that they have modeled. I thank God daily for these friends.