The Beauty in the Different

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


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.


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.


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.



On Being Off-Balance

I have had the great pleasure and joy of having not one but two Wesleyannes in the house this weekend.

Aub came home, and her sisterfriend joined her.  The whole crew, including Miss Sophie, have carried on as if it were one big party.

And it has been really, because I can’t think of anything better to celebrate than being together and napping and laughing and playing and napping–oh yeah, and napping.  Because, you know, college is hard.

As these young women will tell you, the struggle is real.  One week back from Spring Break and I know they had at least three mid-terms to take this past week.  Underwater basket weaving was not one of them.

So sleep has definitely been on the agenda.

But so has fun.

This afternoon and evening the girls and I cleared a spot in the Nest and painted.  I am giggling to myself a bit, with delight, because when I sat down with my own paintbrush and invited them, Aub’s friend claimed she wasn’t much of an artist.


Well, I beg to differ.  She did a beautiful job.  Hello, freehanded it.  Nailed it.


As Aub was lettering, she got frustrated, saying she thought her words were off-balance.  I looked, and I thought she was doing a fabulous job.  In the meantime, I was getting ready to Mod Podge my words on my work, and I slipped up and placed it at a bad angle.  As I fussed to myself and was quickly peeling it off so I could move it, both girls looked over and said it looked great.


They both suggested I write about being off-balance tonight.

So here are my thoughts.

We can feel off-balance, frustrated that everything isn’t a-okay-perfect in our lives.  The truth is nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect.  It’s hard to plan ahead on where to start so we end up with everything in exactly the right place at the end of the day.

However, isn’t it interesting that, while each of us thought her own piece was a train wreck and all off-kilter, the others thought it was lovely?

That’s all I have tonight.  What you think is a tore up mess and very obvious to the world probably ISN’T.  So just keep on keeping on, trying your best, because everyone has something go wonky at some point.  Grace abounds.

And sometimes when things are wonky is when they are most beautiful.

May you all find yourselves with just enough off-balance to keep things interesting.

Love to all.

The Sound of a Bee’s Laughter

I find myself falling for a fella who’s long and thin and, well, can be a little bristly.  But when we are together…..add a little magic, a little color, a bit of creativity, and who knows what we can do.

My paintbrush.

And today, after taking a few painting classes with instruction to create a picture similar to the one by the teacher, but with my own flair, I was in a class called “Art Mind and Soul.”  It was about reaching back to the creative people we were as children before we worried about it being perfect or what colors would be “right” or how it looked compared to the work of others.  I was there with my oldest and with our sweet friend.  We started the class by using crayons to color a sheet from a coloring book or playing with clay.  After a few minutes of quiet listening we set about creating the pieces that were on our hearts.

At the beginning of this year, I selected my “word,” what I wanted to focus on in 2013.  Open.  I wanted to be open to all kinds of things, but I have just about decided that I was supposed to be open to change.  Not my favorite of things by any means.  When I was choosing the word, I looked for a photo of a gate or door that was somewhat open to remind me to open my heart, my mind, my eyes.  I never found the perfect one.  So this afternoon I decided to attempt to paint the picture on my heart of “open.”  I was a bit nervous, but the wisdom of our instructor from Thursday night echoed in my ears, and I began.

I quartered the canvas, sketched it out, blocked my colors and then began working on the detail.  I was intimidated and wondered if I could do it, but as I did one small bit at a time, I found my heart lifted and I actually giggled out loud.  By the time I added the bougainvillea I was downright tickled with it all.  It was not photographic, but it was mine, and it was full of what was in my soul today, and in that I was joyful.

I wanted the gate down my path to be open; that was my main idea.  But as I drew and painted, I found other ideas creeping in.

The red clay path that was much like my Granny’s dirt road that led to her home and so many happy memories.  The big cauldron that Granny had hanging from a wooden beam, always filled with beautiful flowers.  My Granny’s old place, much like my great aunt’s house and Blackberry Flats (my parent’s place), speaks to my soul and grounds me.  The memories soothe me and remind me of a carefree time of chasing fireflies and late night Monopoly sessions, holding snoozing puppies on my chest as we sat quietly in the swing, sleeping on pallets of old quilts, going fishing, and sopping up syrup with Granny’s delicious biscuits.

The tiny, delicate purple flowers in the grass remind me of a quote from The Color Purple that my friend and pastor shared one night at Evening Prayer: “I think it [ticks] God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  Ever since she shared that I try to notice and celebrate the colors in a field, the beauty of the cardinal, the multitude of colors in a sunset.  When my oldest was little, she had a friend who was known to call out, upon seeing a beautiful sunset or something equally as striking, “Good job, God!”  I never want to forget to appreciate and admire.

The birds in the sky remind me of the old hymn written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”  It was inspired by a couple Mrs. Martin and her husband had met on their travels.  The wife was bedridden and the husband went to and from work in his wheelchair.  Their bright hopefulness despite all of this touched the Martins, and they asked the couple their secret.  The husband answered: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”  From there a beautiful hymn was born.  The first time I heard it, our college choral group, the Wesleyannes, performed it.  The lyrics floated through the air and landed in my heart and soul, only to be revived recently as words of comfort.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

The bougainvillea reminds me of beauty and strength.  It is a beautiful yet hardy plant.  Strong.  I like it.  And it reminds me of sitting with an elderly woman in England who told me once, “Oh dearie, someday you will sit around with your friends and talk about plants and flowers and such.  I suppose it sounds silly to you now, but one day…..”  And she was absolutely right.  I never could have imagined, but now I’m there.  Talking about what herbs to  plant to last year round, planting butterfly bushes and lantana and roses and the like.  Such joy that brings me!  What a wise and sweet woman.

The little bees remind me of the fragility of our world, and that I must work to protect it and to be a good steward of what we have around us.  The bees also remind me of the intricate workings of nature, how it’s all inter-dependent, just like we are.  And what an amazing creature the bee is, flying against all the odds… you suppose anyone has ever told a bee he couldn’t fly, that it’s actually pretty much not possible?  I would love to hear a bee laugh with glee.  Much like I did as I was finishing the painting I told myself couldn’t be done.  It was too hard.  And yet…..laughter.  Joy.  Worship.  Remembrance.  Grace.

pic of my painting

Tonight I am thankful for finally having my picture of Open.  It is all the more dear to me because of the journey, the path to get there.  To that completed picture.  I am grateful for the gift of time to do this, given to me by my sister, Mess Cat.  I give thanks for the laughter and stories and encouragement that floated around the room as we sat and created together.  And I appreciate the peace that has settled in my heart and soul tonight.  My heart and spirit and faith has taken a beating over the past couple of years.  I find myself seeking, searching for a way to worship that makes sense and resonates within me.  Today brought together my thoughts, what was on my heart and mind, and my appreciation for what is in the world around me.  Holy ground.  And for that, I am most thankful.  Amen.