A February Project

I saw the sweetest thing the other day when a friend shared an idea for spreading the love this February.  For each day of the month (29 this time around, for those of you counting), the parent would stick a post it note on the child’s bedroom door with something sweet–a thought, something they appreciate about the child, encouragement–you know, something showing love.

It stuck with me for a few days, and while I love the idea of focusing on the positive and surprising my children with loving messages, something wasn’t sitting well with me.

And then it hit me.

The post-its.

We are no stranger to post-it notes.  I have used them in our homeschooling for quite some time.  They serve a great purpose and kudos to the inventor.  However, I know that nothing is permanent, and I could see those things fluttering down off doors, landing on floors, long before the 29 days were up.

And then there’s my sentimental side to deal with.  What do I do? Throw them away when the month is over?  I mean, I will have worked for 29 days to create the perfect message times 3, and then at the end, we just toss the messages?  Ummm, no, I think not.  But keep sticky notes?  There’s just no good way to do that, and it will contribute to the clutter I’m trying so hard to be rid of, so, hmmmm, no, not that either.

It finally hit me two days ago what the perfect solution would be.

Canvases.

At first I planned to paint 29 hearts on each canvas to fill in with the loving messages, but  I was worried about spacing and what if I wanted to say more on one day than another?  That could happen.  Today I decided to paint each canvas a signature color for each child, put their name in the middle and surround it with loving messages each day of February.  I’ll write the message, surround it with a heart, and hopefully, this will create something lovely for each of the ones I hold dear.  (I mean, I wish they’d clean up a little better, empty the dishwasher without being reminded, and put away their clothes for real, but I do hold them all dear.  And no, I won’t be putting any of that in my messages.)

I’m excited about the idea, and I hope it will go well.  I’m not even going to put a timeframe on when I write my message.  If I want to do it at night, I will.  But if it doesn’t happen until the next morning, that’s okay too.

After all, those elves just left not too long ago, and that was enough stress for a whole year.  I don’t need that whole “I can’t go to bed until…..” or waking up at 3 a.m. and running for a Sharpie to get it done before anyone else wakes up.

Just no.

This is about love and letting my people know how much they are loved today and everyday. Maybe this will start a new tradition, or maybe it won’t, but it in the words of my Mama, “It’s all for the fun of it.”

Wishing you all someone to tell you how much they love you each and every day!

Love to all.

The colors don’t show well in the light in that room but it’s purple for our Princess, Tiffany blue for Aub, and blue for Cooter.  Tomorrow we begin the hearts.  

   Note of Apology:  I was loading the photo from my phone into the WordPress App, and I hit publish accidentally.  I apologize to those of you who got a confusing non-post via email.  This is the corrected, edited version.  Sorry about that.  Best wishes to all. 

 

The Beauty in the Different

Today I got to do something that I love to do.

Paint.

I love to sit and paint.  Under the direction of a teacher or on my own–both are fun.  Both fill my soul.

Only I rarely make time to do it.  Today that changed.

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My version of Miss J’s Red Barn in Winter painting 

I guess it’s because I fell in love with this painting.  The red barn.  Or maybe it’s because it’s January and it’s always been a hard month for me, for whatever various and sundry reasons.  Or maybe it’s because I’m tired and I really just needed to get out of my head and create.

Whatever the reason, I made time for it, and all of the people I love and live with did what needed to be done for me to go.

Thankful.

When I sat down in the group of maybe fifteen people, our teacher, the fabulous Miss J, announced that none of our paintings would look alike in the end.  She told us that we would put our own spin on her original, and that was okay.  It was more than okay–it was desired.  Different was great.

As we painted the sky and then the snow, the trees in the front and then the evergreens in the back, Miss J never sat down.  She walked around the tables, helping and offering suggestions but mostly praising.  Always praising.  When doubts crept into our voices, our questions, she encouraged.  “You can’t mess this up,” she said more than a few times.  She also kept noticing the differences in our works.  “Every one of your paintings are different.  I love it!  You are all doing so well.”

Her kind words were empowering.  Maybe, just maybe she was right.  Maybe we couldn’t mess it up.  Maybe we could make something beautiful.  Maybe my wonky tree line isn’t so bad, even though it looks nothing like anyone else’s.  Maybe, just maybe, I can create something worthy of praise.  Maybe–could it be?–I’m worthy of praise?

As I left the class with my painting (which is still a work in progress, I’m not quite sure yet what, but it needs a final touch), I felt a lift in my spirits.  Miss J is like that–her buoyant, beautiful way of living just overflows and touches all around her.  Her positivity is a gift, her encouragement a treasure far richer than gold.  She created a lot more than one painting that we all copied today.  She created the heart of an artist in each and everyone of us.

Each heart looks different, but that’s okay.  That’s perfect, in fact.

Tonight I’m thankful for those who remind us different is okay–that we can be ourselves and stay true to that, and that we are worthy of praise.  Worthy of being loved and cared for.  Worthy of making time for.

Miss J is right:  different IS good.

May we all have a day of seeing the different in others as something to encourage and celebrate.

Love to all.

 

 

A Time to Listen, A Time to Write

Sometimes as a writer you have to realize when it’s more important to listen than to keep writing.

Tonight is one of those times.

I had a hard conversation earlier with someone I love and will always love, but it will be different from now on, I’m afraid.

Still trying to wrap my brain around the pain in that, I received a text from my oldest, Aub, about the video she’d just watched on my college sister’s Facebook page.

Wyanne is a very talented artist.  She tells beautiful stories with her paints and her brushes and all kinds of other materials.  Beautiful.  And that girl has fought a huge Giant over the past year.

Last night I talked about being frustrated with things that are NOT OKAY.

CANCER IS NOT OKAY.

But Wyanne’s still standing.

Not only that, she’s still painting and creating and sharing light and love in the world.

And wisdom.

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She’s made it through the storm and is working on picking up the pieces.  She’s got big beautiful plans.  Plans about creating art and community.

Now that, THAT IS VERY OKAY.

I watched the video, and like Aub, I was moved to tears.

We have so much.  We are so fortunate.

And we don’t even realize it half the time, do we?

Even when having hard conversations, I can hang on to the hope that reconciliation and healing can still come–because we’re still standing.  On the other side of the storm.

Here’s to my Wesleyan sister Wyanne and to all of us who weather the storms and then pick up the pieces when they’re over…..

and rebuild something even more beautiful and filled with love and light.

May you have a good day of listening to stories that remind you to appreciate where you are, and may you find hope in the midst of brokenness.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Thanks to Auburn for lettering Wyanne’s quote for me so quickly.  Love you girl.  And to her sweet bff, the originator of “That is NOT okay.”  It’s her birthday, and she’s pretty amazing too.  Happy Birthday, A!

 

The One About Creating and Failing

Today the littles and I went on an adventure.  We went to our local art gallery to visit this lovely in person.  We had never been there before, so we had no idea what to expect.

This lovely painting by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Wilkinson

This lovely painting by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Wilkinson

 

This beautiful picture is painted by one of my favorite artists.  She speaks to my soul, as she paints my stories before I even tell them.  I saw a photo of this work of art the day I had just finished writing about my Daddy’s rows in his garden and how he laid them straight.  Perfectly in sync.  I love the story in this painting.

At the art gallery we were privileged to see all sorts of different works–some more abstract than others.  We saw animals and scenery and still life.  Several joined my wish list, as their stories became a part of mine.  We enjoyed an impromptu tour with another of our favorite artists, Miss Jackie.  What a gift she gave us today–her presence and her time.  She had me laughing with the stories about a couple of her paintings.  Cooter picked out one that she had yet to finish and said he wanted to hang it in his room.  I was surprised but pleasantly so.  If my children find their own love of art, I will be ecstatic.

I had both Cooter and Princess find one piece to make up a story about.  They entertained me with the stories on the way home.  Both had me laughing.  Such creativity!  These are the kind of days that make homeschooling especially joyful.

When we reflected on our visit, we talked about all the different kinds of painting we saw–all the different media used, the different sized paintings, the different subjects, right down to the way the artists signed their work.  As we talked, they began to understand.

“Is there any right way to create art?” I asked them.

I was thrilled to see the light dawning and a smile slowly growing on their faces.  “No, there’s not.”  I swanee I think I saw a look of relief on Cooter’s face.  He had been talking earlier about how he didn’t know how to paint like the artists whose work we had seen.

Exactly, buddy, do you.  Paint like you.  I can promise you I’ll love it for always.

On our way home, we stopped to pick up some frozen broccoli.  Yes, that was it.  Of course, I knew we would likely pick up a few other things, but I have turned into my Mama when it comes to shopping.  I get certain things from certain stores.  And from this store–frozen broccoli, rice, paper products, shampoo, and printer ink.  Those things especially but I can get others.  They are the only ones who carry the big five-pound bag of broccoli florets.  I was out, we eat a lot of it, it was time to make the stop.  And since it was on the way home and no one was in a wet swimsuit or dance leotard…..the timing was perfect.

Before we went in, I led our merry band of misfits in our shopping mantra, “Hey, we’re going in with nothing, and we’re coming out with…..”

“NOTHING!” they chimed in correctly.  This is my way of preparing them for no toy aisle expectations.  Eh.  Sometimes it actually works.

“Yes, well, except for frozen broccoli.  We don’t even need to walk by the toy aisle, y’all.  Let’s get in and let’s get out.  Okay?”

As they were unbuckling and moving to the door, Cooter said with a sincerity that was a bit troubling, “I will help you find the broccoli, okay Mama?”

Princess whipped her head back around to him.  “Oh, you are just trying to get on her good side so you can walk through the toy aisle, that’s all!”  She was livid.

Cooter had the good grace to look sheepish as a grin covered his face.  He caught me watching in the rearview mirror.  “Really, Mama, I want to help.”

Ha.  Whatever.  Busted, my friend.

As is par for the course, when we got inside the need for shampoo and detangler and lip balm was realized.  We finally made it over to the frozen vegetables.  I was thrilled to see some of my favorite veggies back in stock, frozen by a local company.  I loaded up on them.  We found the bananas we needed and a couple of other things, and we headed for the checkout.

The crew helped me unload the buggy, and we were on our way home.  We’d gotten about a half mile from the store when it hit me.  “Frozen broccoli!”  If I hadn’t been driving, I totally would have slapped my forehead.  I mean are you kidding me?  All that, and I forgot what. I. went. in. for.

Oh me.

I had to laugh.  I could almost hear Mama saying, “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.”  I looked back at Cooter and pretended to be mad.

“Dude, you said you’d help me find the broccoli.  And neither one of us remembered…..” I kept on teasing him, and then I dropped the “f” bomb.  Pretending to give him a hard time, I said, “Dude, epic Fail.”

They were both laughing.  Then I heard Princess say, “Yeah, Cooter, you’re a failure.”

Wait.  What?

Nooooooo.

I seriously almost pulled the car over.

A failure?  No.  I knew then and there I had to straighten that out.

“No!  Cooter is not a failure.  Y’all you can completely fail at something, but that doesn’t make you a failure.  Ever.  That means that you tried and it didn’t work out, so you need to rethink it and try again a different way.  Or let it go for a while.  But trying and failing DOES. NOT.  MAKE.  YOU.  A. FAILURE.  No way, no how.  Y’all got that?”

Yeah, I might have raised my voice.

I feel just that strongly about it.

Because fear of failure means they might not try.  And I want them to try.  Always.  Try their best, and see where it takes them.  Sometimes failures can take you to some pretty neat destinations.  I can attest to that firsthand.  But I never want them to label themselves OR ANYONE ELSE a failure.  That’s not okay.

I think they heard me today.  About being you, doing you, creating your art.  I think they understood a little of what I was trying to say about falling down not making a person a failure.  I do.

But if homeschooling and raising this zany bunch has taught me anything, it’s that usually none of us get it on the first go round.  We have to read it or try it again.  So we will be talking about these things again.  And often.  Because I think they are related–being you, creating your own mark in the world that isn’t a copy of anyone else’s, and not being afraid of doing so because you might fail…..yeah, I think they are.

Failing at something is a bump in the road.  It’s not a place to live.  You hit the bump and keep on going.  Creating.  Loving.  Living.

That’s a good lesson for today.  And everyday.

Love to all.

 

Old Sewing Scissors and Things Made New

This morning our Princess and I had a Mama/Princess event.  Aub was at work, and the Fella and Cooter were out doing their “Guy’s Breakfast.”  So my girl and I went to Bare Bulb Coffee for a tie-dyeing and “upcycling t-shirts into scarves” class led by one of my favorite local artists Micah Goguen and his trusty assistant.

It.  Was.  BIG Fun.

Princess working on her tie dye project.

Princess working on her tie dye project.

Gathered with friends and folks we had not met before, we cut, we twisted, and we bound with rubber bands–so many rubber bands–and then we bleached two color tees (one green and one yellow)-and our Princess added beautiful color to her white tee.  The bleached ones we have already washed, and I love the patterns that came out in them.  The tie-dyed one will be revealed tomorrow.  She is almost beside herself with excitement.

Our Princess' tie-dyed scarf project, waiting for the reveal.

Our Princess’ tie-dyed scarf project, waiting for the reveal.

We returned as a family this afternoon to dye pillowcases to brighten the stays of young ones at the Children’s Hospital in Macon.  For a little guy who didn’t want to go, Cooter had a great time.  He loved blending the colors and turning the white pillowcase into something cheerful and fun.  Cooter, Princess, and my nephew Shaker all enjoyed themselves, and after they’d colored a pillowcase for a child in the hospital, they each were allowed to decorate one for themselves.  They were told that sleeping on it could help them remember to pray for and send light to someone sick in the hospital.

Shaker's pillowcase project.....he was really getting into it by the time he was working on the second one.

Shaker’s pillowcase project…..he was really getting into it by the time he was working on the second one.

Beautiful, right?

This morning my knitting diva friend–Micah’s trusty assistant, who can do anything from building a deck or stairs for her dogs to climb into bed to knitting and sewing clothes for her grandchildren and their dolls, was teaching us how to make the scarves once our fabric was ready.  As she began showing us the first step, she looked around.  “Where are my scissors?” she asked, checking the counter and tables.

Someone reached to hand her a pair of theirs.  “Here, these are really good scissors.”

My friend shook her head gently, and said, almost to herself, “No, let me find my blue-handled ones.”  And then she did.  The lesson continued.

It made me smile.  Just an hour earlier when my girl was getting ready to cut her shirt as directed, she was having a hard time with a pair of scissors.  A kind woman behind us offered us her scissors.  “Here, use these.  They are dressmaker’s scissors.  They are made for cutting fabric.”  (They may have been, but my girl still struggled a bit, which made me wonder about an “operator” issue.  Never mind that, she did get it cut and we moved on.)

It tickled me later when I started thinking back on my day.  And as I laughed to myself, I was also laughing at myself.

I don’t know if it happens all over, but us folks around here, we take our sewing scissors seriously.  In case you didn’t know, yes, sewing scissors are only for sewing.  And they are treasured and taken care of.

Which is probably why I asked if I could have my Mama’s sewing scissors.

To my knowledge they never touched anything other than fabric.

Okay, not more than one time.  And I said I was sorry.

Those scissors were special.  They were always ALWAYS where they belonged (but then again, not much in Mama’s house wasn’t) and they always cut precisely.  I guess because she took them to be sharpened as they needed it.  I can remember seeing signs at Hancock’s Fabrics back in the day with the date the scissors sharpener “truck” would be there.  I guess Mama either took them there or Daddy might have sharpened them for her.  Either way, she took good care of those scissors.  And we knew we were to leave them alone.  They were NEVER EVER to touch paper.  Good heavens above, under NO circumstances were you ever to use them for a school project or even for cutting patterns as I recall.  And I only did once.  I felt so guilty over that, but as they are still cutting just fine, I guess the damage wasn’t irreparable.

I’m just as serious about my sewing scissors.  I don’t let the children use them at all.  I even got other scissors for cutting the fleece for blankets because I heard that fleece can dull them.  (And I am picky about my fleece scissors too–I have the ones that are spring loaded to make it easy for cutting the strips.  I often wonder why the fabric cutters in fabric stores aren’t issued those scissors–they sure can save your hands.)  I am sure I have traumatized a child or three when I’ve seen them casually reaching for my sewing scissors for a craft project.  Oh good gravy no.

Tonight I am thankful for the opportunity to learn a new craft.  Mixing and changing colors–there is something soul-stirring in that.  Creating. All those shades of light and dark coming together to make beauty.  And finding a new purpose for something old and worn out, well, that fills me with hope.  I am looking to be repurposed myself sometimes.  To be made over for a new way to be in this world.  And I’m grateful for the memories of my Mama and her scissors and to have people in my life who still live with the old ways.  Sometimes–no, I’m starting to realize more and more–most of the time, the old ways ARE the best.

I was just thinking, sometimes it’s best to hold on to the old, but sometimes it’s best to create something new…..and sometimes you can do both at the same time…..

Life sure is a funny thing sometimes, isn’t it?

The transformation from t-shirt to scarf…..creation, I love it!

The bottom part used to be the same color as the top part of the shirt.  Who would have thought that bleach would turn it such a beautiful red clay color?

The bottom part used to be the same color as the top part of the shirt. Who would have thought that bleach would turn it such a beautiful red clay color?

Cutting off the bottom seam and then cutting the strips.  So thankful for a GOOD pair of sewing scissors.

Cutting off the bottom seam and then cutting the strips. So thankful for a GOOD pair of sewing scissors.

Almost finished scarf--haven't decided if I'm going to embellish with some old costume jewelry or not.  But very fun, yes?

Almost finished scarf–haven’t decided if I’m going to embellish with some old costume jewelry or not. But very fun, yes?

Broken Pieces and the Beauty of the Big Picture

Ah the chaos that Tuesday brings.  Once again.

And also the joy.

Today was Sister Circle day again.  We have become quite the group.  What started out as “let me offer paper and markers so folks can doodle while we talk” has turned into an art and talk and share and help each other session.

Love it.

When I got there and was inviting folks to come in and join us, one lady laid her hand on my arm and asked, “Are you doing the beads today? Making jewelry?”  (We made bracelets and necklaces with beads last week.)

“Oh, I’m sorry, ” I replied, “but no.  We’re not.”

She looked so sad, but when I mentioned we were going to gather and do something else, her whole face lit up.  One of our other new regulars asked her to come.  I was ecstatic.

We had several of our regulars in attendance, but T and K were not there, which again, worried me.  Relationships can be tough in any circumstance, but when you are vulnerable and in need, they can be particularly hard.  I hope they are okay.

Today we talked about the eighth principle of Magdalene from “Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart” by Rev. Becca Stevens.  “Let God sort it all out.”

The phrase alone brought nods and sounds of agreement from this group of beautiful and strong women I sat with today.  We talked about how hard it is to let go.  To wait.  To sit back and NOT try to make things happen on our own.  Somehow the conversation shifted into talking about the mindset of our culture–“I want it and I want it now.”  Fast food, waiting “too long” in a grocery store or Wal-Mart line.  The words “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” came out.  That one really hit home with me.  Needs versus wants–we talked a lot about that one and how confusing it is.  Hard stuff.

And yet so good.

In preparation for our art pieces, we took strips of construction paper and tore them into bits, focusing on tearing up the things that we had a hard time letting go of–thoughts, control, words, pain, emotions, memories, darkness, sadness, brokenness.  As we tore, we tried to really think about letting go of these things that had such a hold on us.

I even tried NOT to tear them evenly and consistently.  Really trying to improve my inner artist and work my way outside of the lines.

I really did try NOT to tear them evenly and consistently. I AM trying to improve my inner artist and work my way outside of the lines. *sigh*  There’s always next time.

We then glued our pieces together in a mosaic.  The idea is that we have all these little broken pieces in our life, and that is hard because we can’t see the big picture sometimes.  But there is One who can see it, and it is beautiful.  Broken pieces and all.

I designed a boat with my pieces.  I had it sailing on dark waters, reminding me I do actually have to leave the safety of the harbor to get anywhere or do anything.  My boat was extra big because there are people who will travel with me on whatever journey I’m on, and that is a comfort and something I need to remember, especially when the seas are stormy.

I love what came out of my sweet sisters’ minds and hearts and worked its way onto paper.  As we created, we talked and laughed and shared.  A beautiful time.

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N is definitely an artist.  She loves portraits.  When we worked with watercolors, she painted a portrait of me, which touched my heart and made me cry.  This is a mosaic of a man.  She is a very quiet, introspective soul, so it was an honor to hear her share about her work.

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B cracked me up.  As she tore her pieces, she chatted away.  “I’m not tearing mine small.  Y’all sure are tearing yours small.  I like this big.  Anyone going to tell me mine’s don’t look good?  Cause I like ’em big like this.”  I love that her pieces were bright and vivid and bold, because that is every bit who she is.  When she shared she talked about how these were her baby girl’s favorite colors, and she was making this for her.  B plans to put this on her refrigerator, as soon as she gets her “some of those things that hold them on.”  I’d smell a future project, but I don’t want to leave out those without a refrigerator or a home.  We’ll see.  I love B’s chattiness and teasing nature with these women whom she has come to know so well.

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When G shared about her mosaic, she said, “My life used to be all red, black, and blue, but now I have sunshine in my life.”  (She added the orange after she shared, almost as an afterthought, so I didn’t get to ask what that color represented.)  G went to art school for a while, so she enjoys the art in a different way.  She has a lot of pain and brokenness in her past, and I hope she was able to let a tiny bit go when she shared today. As she moved the little pieces this way and that, she said, “I just have to give it all to God and let the pieces fall where they may.”  I love that.  It is her piece in a nutshell.  Letting go. A little bit at a time.  Healing is a lifelong process, I am afraid.

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My friend, sweet P.  She is a helper.  She drives several of these ladies where they need to be, including our Sister Circle.  A quiet leader of sorts.  I wondered where she was going as she tore, but I really love her story.  Each “block” stands for a holiday and the colors are coordinating with each one.  From top left–Thanksgiving, Easter, New Year’s with all the fireworks and confetti–so colorful, Valentine’s with the pink and red, Christmas and Christmas again, and then 4th of July.  P said these are the happiest times for her as she and her family gather together many times, but especially for the holidays.  Her love of her family is evident.  I wonder if she’s the oldest–she seems to have the protective Mama Bear posture about her.  And that is one of the things I love about her.  (And it’s not just because when we talked about this, she said I did NOT look old enough to be a grandmother. Love. Her.)

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Speaking of family, this is R’s work.  She is a part of P’s family.  Here she made a mosaic of a home with sunshine and clouds above, grass all around and a door–that is open.  Open to family and friends and whoever needs to come in.  She shared that if she had to choose one word to live by it would be “share.”  Wow.  That blew me away.  She talked about being in recovery for six years now (You Go, Miss R!) and how she has come so far from those days, and yet she has to fight it every single day of her life.  “When I was in the darkness and the brokenness, I was into everything.  But now I’m into light.”  Oh. My.  Land.  Bless her.  She has a voice with important things to say.  It is an honor to hear her share.  She talked about having peace now, and how “did you know, some folks don’t even have peace?”  B answered, “Uh huh, I want me one.”  I just love these women, every single one.  It moved me to tears when R talked about how much fear had taken from her all those years.  Like she wasn’t even really alive.  Amen, sister friend, amen.

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Miss A was the last one to share.  My new friend.  The one who had taken my arm and was so excited to come and be a part of our group.  She was so timid in the beginning, unsure if I had a certain way or certain thing I wanted her to create.  No ma’am, I assured her, you do it just how you want and it’s yours to take with you.  She smiled at that and worked so diligently.  She said that all of these colors reminded her of nature and that made her happy.  We talked about how we are made in the image of a Creator and so that means that there is an artist inside each of us–we’d shared this a couple of weeks back.  I love that her picture reminds us of that, and I adore her pieces and their lack of uniformity.  It is imperfectly perfect.  I hope she continues to find joy in it.  As she left she asked me if we would be back tomorrow.  “No, next Tuesday.”  She nodded and smiled broadly.  “I’ll be here.  I sure will.”  So thankful for her stepping away from her safe harbor and joining us today.

Today with these bold and beautiful and precious women, I sat and was enthralled.  With their stories, with the assuredness that comes from being broken but not torn, from hurt but not anger, from love not hatred.  They amaze me, and I find myself looking forward to next Tuesday, to hear what wisdom will float through the room, looking for a place to land, in the midst of laughter and Black Cherry Cola and art supplies.

Glitter.  Someone asked for glitter today.  Oh my sweet sister friends, you outshine glitter by a thousandfold with your endearing smiles and resilient spirits and your willingness to share–fried chicken, napkins, glue, and advice.  I love you.  And because of that, you shall have your glitter.  But it can never be as beautiful as that which you sprinkled on my soul today.  Thank you.

Golden Girls, Jazz, and the Artist Within

Tuesday again.

Another Sister Circle.

Today was a small group.  Just the three of us.  We sat close together at one end of the U-shaped table setup.  We are on Chapter 4 of Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart.  The topic of discussion was “Finding Your Place in the Circle.”

Lately I have found myself immersed in art and meeting wonderful new artist friends.  A couple of weeks ago one of them shared with the group I was in that we are all artists.  When someone expressed her doubt, the artist explained that as we are created in our Creator’s image–a Creator who is most definitely an artist–we all have a bit of artist in us.  With this in mind, last week I took markers and colored pencils and paper to our Sister Circle and we all “created” while we talked–some with words, some with drawing, some with abstract doodling.  It was beautiful–every bit of it.

Yesterday I had the chance to visit with one of my new favorite artists.  She teaches art lessons and often finds people in recovery sitting with her, discovering their inner artist. Healing.  Restorative.  As we talked she mentioned mandalas and how they can tap into one’s artistic and spiritual sides.  When I saw that we were talking about our own Circles today, I thought it would be perfect.

This morning I printed out several different mandalas for us each to choose and color.  When I arrived, there were not many women.  So it was that the three of us sat and talked.  Both had been before so we were able to jump right in.  When it came time to choose a mandala and medium, they both chose markers.  One chose the butterfly and another chose the circular pattern.  I really liked the butterfly myself, so I chose it.  I enjoy colored pencils so I used those.

I love the bold colors and the combining of areas to make a different and beautiful picture of the butterfly.

I love the bold colors and the combining of areas to make a different and beautiful picture of the butterfly.

I love that the circles are all flowing back into one.  Again the dark and bright and bold use of color and uncolored spaces combine to make a powerful work of art.  Love this one too.

I love that the circles are all flowing back into one. Again the dark and bright and bold use of color and uncolored spaces combine to make a powerful work of art. Love this one too.

We talked about all sorts of things.  Relationships.  Considering ourselves worthy of healthy relationships.  Respecting ourselves enough to require that our relationships be healthy.  Golden Girls, and how cool would that be to live with our best girlfriends.  Jazz music and whether we like it or not (two yes, one no).  I was very touched that both of these women said how much they liked having this time together.  Humbled.  It is just a time of conversation.  Nothing more really.  And yet, so much more.

As we finished up, I looked over at what they had done.  Both had used big, vibrant colors.  Both had created something that was outside of what the lines were asking to be done.  They had created their own in the midst of what was there.  They were artists.

My butterfly--all pastels, all symmetrical, all planned and put together.  I said something about the hard part being choosing what color to use each time and K said, "Not for me."  I want to have that sense of freedom.  To be able to breathe.

My butterfly–all pastels, all symmetrical, all planned and put together. I said something about the hard part being choosing what color to use each time and K said, “Not for me.” I want to have that sense of freedom. To be able to breathe.

I looked back at my work.  I had stuck to the pastel colors.  Whenever I looked at the grays or browns, I just couldn’t bring myself to use them.  I had made sure it was symmetrical and stayed inside every line, literal and figurative, there was.  I sighed.  This is where I want to step out of the box–to create.

I smiled and touched each picture.  “See,” I said softly.  “Look.  You’re artists.  You’ve done such a great job of creating something new.”

I paused. “I want to be an artist too.”

K nodded her head at me, shrugged, and said, “Well, hey, at least you is tryin’.”

Y’all.

Love.  Her.

I love both of them.  They’ve known each other for a long time.  In their world of people using other people for a means to an end, they have each other to depend on and trust.  At times today it was like they were speaking their own language.  I listened and smiled and envied them their friendship with laughs that spoke volumes more and thoughts that were so in sync that they could finish each other’s sentences.  That’s the stuff the Golden Girls were made of right there.  It was an honor to sit and be a part of it for a little while.

And then, the encouragement from one whom I’ve only just begun to get to know.

Better. Than. Gold.

Okay, truthfully, I’ve never been a big fan of gold.  Let’s see, it was better than a big ol’ King sized sweet tea over flaky ice from Nu-Way.  Yes, it felt that good.  And even more refreshing.

She’s right too.  I am trying.  To tap that inner artist.  To refuse to let my fear of not being perfect or worry over what others will say inhibit me from creating what is on my heart, what lies in my soul–whether with words or paint or colored pencils.  Or maybe even markers.  It’s just that today I fell back into that “let’s keep it lovely” mode.  Perhaps it’s time for me to go back to finger painting and playing with playdough for a while.  Time to get a little messy and see what beauty can be found in that.  There’s the real challenge–finding beauty in the mess and brokenness.  Because it is there to be found. 

Yesterday when I was visiting my new artist friend, she said, “I don’t believe in throwing anything away.”  She laughed.  “I think you can find beauty in anything.”  As I walked around her yard, I could see that it was true.  It reminded me of my visit to the farm and thinking about redemption.  Nothing was wasted.  There was redemption in everything.

Today one of my sweet friends called to check in and asked about our Sister Circle.  I laughed and said I was enjoying it, “Though if you asked for a mission statement, I don’t know what it would be.  I’m not sure we have one.”  As we talked for a few more minutes, it hit me.  “We do have a mission statement actually–‘to build relationships.’  That’s what we want to do.  Build healthy relationships in a safe space.”

And there it is.  In a nutshell.

And I think we might just be getting there.  When K, my new friend who initially said she had no artist in her and shared she just doesn’t like jazz music, took the time to stop and encourage me, I felt the tears prickling, crowding in ready for release.  To have someone see inside you and name it and let it out.  Well.  Ahem. Such a tender moment.  Perhaps one of the most loving, grace-filled, and precious gifts. 

She’s right.  I am trying.  In the meantime I am thankful for women like these two beautiful young women who honored me with their company today.  They teach me what real strength looks like.  And real friendship.  And love.  Bless ’em and I hope they sleep safe and sound tonight.  And every night.  They are my sisters and I love them.