Abstract: Cracked Messages

Acrylic on heavily textured background, resin, torn book pages, egg shells; 12×24 “You were my favorite word until the day I forgot how to spell you.”  – Michele G Stratford

I am exploring more natural texture to add to my pieces. Egg shells were a cracking good time to work with.

I am Naomi 🙄

I realized God was calling me out for having been bitter and calling me to stay constant in HOPE with Him

I have been purposefully carving out a portion of my day to read in my Bible and not just do a devotional or listen to a cool inspirational podcast as I would normally tend to do. There is not one thing wrong with my normal approach to getting a little bit of God time into my day in addition to the running prayer chain He and I have going. But, taking the time to get out my Bible with a pen in hand to really study it takes more time because I am usually carried off on a mission to discover more about the passages I’m reading. Since I have been walloped aside the head by God recently to let go of trying to control my world and allow Him to be my pilot once again (see the post The Opposite of Fear) I feel this is a prudent first step. Besides, when I polled all you lovely people about how you deepen your faith a good many of you said you turned to your Bible. Good advice.

I chose to begin studying the women of the Bible because, well, I am a woman and I relate to stories of women, naturally. To be honest, it was hard to begin. It was like I was afraid of what I would find out about myself that I would rather not acknowledge. I do not always believe in the devil’s power to insinuate himself into my life. I mean I find that I go for long periods seemingly forgetting that’s a real thing. Which is totally proof that this happens. But this fear of just picking up my Bible and reading??? It was c-r-a-z-y. I am an English teacher turned librarian turned tech coach. I have 3 degrees. Learning is what I do – I am NEVER afraid to read. So, being the rebellious girl I am I READ to spite this fear.

I chose the “Book of Ruth” because it had been on my mind. Though I have no particular reason to associate this with other than the Holy Spirit guiding me with the still and quiet nudges. Turns out, it was, of course, the perfect place to dive in because 1) it’s not too daunting – only 4 tiny chapters 2) it’s a story of friendship more than anything else 3) it demonstrates God’s promise with everyday life.

I didn’t like what I found.

Turns out, Naomi and I have a lot in common. I would love to insert a cuss word here but I feel that’s inappropriate.

Let me explain.

The story begins with Naomi losing her husband. Then, her sons get married. Ten years later both of her sons die. (Ruth 1:1-5) And there’s a famine. (Ruth 1:6) And she is a woman in a culture that does not make being a single woman of age an easy person to survive being. She became BITTER. I would go so far as to say she was angry with God and felt he had abandoned her, punished her, or outright turned his back on her. So she sorta did the same. Or she threw a temper tantrum, anyway. She called Him out. She even requested she be called a different name so that her very name (Mara – Hebrew for “bitter”) expressed her bitterness with God. (Ruth 1:20)

  • “For it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Ruth 1:13 NKJV
  • “But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Ruth 1:20-22 NKJV

Now, I’m too Southern for that. My bitterness was kept beneath the surface – just behind my smile and hidden inside a little corner of my laughter. But I felt this way. I felt abandoned by God when my marriage and life became plagued with my ex-husband’s alcoholism. I folded my arms and stomped my feet and cried “why me????” I was angry. I just didn’t go so far as to change my name to Bitter Bonnie.

THEN, now this one struck me, THEN Naomi said she was too old to marry again. (Ruth 1:12) Now woman. Please. I understand that in her context, in her culture, she did not see herself as any kind of bargaining chip to use to enter a marriage that might save her from the plight of being a widow with no sons and no parents to go home to. But, when I read this I immediately questioned whether or not as a divorced woman with grown kids I am possibly too old to marry again. Let me make this clear, I am not. This one sentence in this one chapter struck this conviction in me. Until recently it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. I know I am quite capable of thriving on my own. I do not NEED anyone. But, God has reminded me of His promise and His love for me. He has shown me what a true and soulful love could be. He has pushed me into wanting this again, to allow myself the vulnerabilty to accept it when (not if) God places me on such a path. I want God’s promise of a partner, a man made by Him specifically for me to spend the last of all of my days with. But, Naomi reminded me that bitterness can keep me from seeing the ways in which God wants me to go just like control can. It’s like a veil pulled between God and I and it creates static, impairing my ability to understand – or my ability to accept that I am not meant to fully understand. Naomi was in no position to dream of marrying for love. But, I am.

But Naomi’s story continues. Like any good woman of God, she took action and picked up and moved herself to a place where she had relatives and there was no famine. She did not sit and mope and wait for God to rescue her. She took action so God could rescue her. And she didn’t even have the Holy Spirit to nudge her along. Ahh. In her bitterness and her anger she kept moving forward. She was a good woman who suffered tragedies and she was angry and she chose to live and continue to believe in her God anyway. She was bitter, but she didn’t lose faith, and she didn’t stop being a woman of God.

God rewarded this moving forward with Ruth, Naomi’s daughter in law, who insisted she stay with her. Naomi tried to get her to choose to go back to her own family, but Ruth refused to abandon Naomi. She pledged to remain with her all of her days. I wonder, with as bitter as Naomi was, how long it took her to see this as the blessing it was? Her life took a turn for the fabulous because of the dedication of just this one friend.

As you may remember from my recent post about faith (referenced above) I am really trying to define the woman I am, want to become, and the one God has called me to be. Thanks to Naomi, I know I do not want to be bitter, I do want to be stagnant, I want to radiate my HOPE and FAITH in God and continue to move forward, always. Naomi didn’t quit – she picked up and moved and found the opportunities God had provided for her and Ruth to secure a better life. He is working on my life right now, just out of sight where I cannot see what in the world He is doing. But I have faith He is continuously laying foundations for me.

More on the “Book of Ruth” soon 😃

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Tennagery People

I was privileged enough to be asked by my daughter to take her and friends to Atlanta to see some obscure band play at the Mascarade. I say privileged because I think she and her friends are comfortable enough with me to be ok with me listening in on their conversations and they trust me to keep them safe. I know this is a privilege that teenager type people rarely bestow on adult type people.

I would argue that spending time with your teenage people is as important if not more so than spending time with your little people. This is when we can really begin laying the foundation for the adult relationships we hope to one day have. Now is when these almost adults are watching us and filing away those little decisions they see us make, marking them as future guidelines. Eek!

Working with this fabulous age of people for so long has made me hyper aware of this. I demanded respect of all in my classroom just as I do in my home, and I am always hyper aware that it should go both ways – I give the respect I expect. But I’m talking about more than this type of thing and more than the normal “I always put my grocery cart back” type decisions.

How do you handle the kid who is making poor decisions? How do you handle the kid with a gross attitude that makes you want to pinch their mouths closed and glue those lids before you watch that eyeball roll again? I believe that my reaction in these taxing situations speaks volumes to my kids.

When I respond to a terrible attitude with a calm warning – bringing attention to the behavior, having grace and assuming the kid was not aware they were being disrespectful shows my kids that I love and respect them – even if I’m not feeling the same from them. I take care NOT to reflect the attitude I’m receiving but reflect the one I expect. It is sometimes difficult. Assuredly. The second time the kid mouths off they get a second warning but with a future consequence attached and perhaps a bit more stern reminder on the expectation of respect as a way of living. If we get to the 3rd infraction- the consequence is exacted and there is no wiggle room to get around it. What I hope my kids learn from this type of example in conflict is that 1) respect is a foundation for good relationships 2) grace and benefit of the doubt should always be given to loved ones 3) you should always mean what you say and follow through.

I do not want my kids to fear bringing their troubles to me – I want them to understand that my love for them means I will see the best of them even when they are at their worst.

I want my kids to come to me if they are faced with something frightening, frustrating, heartbreaking, etc. and if they do not believe I will hear them and only reprimand and punish when they bring these things to me then they most likely will not confide in me. If they don’t confide in me, they must deal with whatever it is on their own, or with the guidance of other teen people, or an adult more trusted. And, as the mom, I want that coveted spot of “trusted adult” to be mine as often as it can be. Or, I at least want to be in the running. And I want to continue to be in the running well into their adult lives.

I am not naive enough to believe that my kids come to me with everything. I know they don’t. But, I do think that if they needed an adult they most likely would feel comfortable choosing me to confide in, ask advice of, and trust to hear and not judge them.

I am also not ridiculous enough to claim myself a perfect mom. I get it wrong alllllll the time. But I get it wrong out of love. That has to count for something.

Abstract: Calm In the Storm

“Calm in the Storm” 36×36 Heavily textured base, acrylic paint, resin, torn book pages “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This was my very first abstract. The idea came to me when I was prepping a background for another painting. I have always textured the backgrounds with modeling medium in circular shape. My daughter was playing around with resin on some of her paintings and I thought it might be cool to add some small areas of resin into an abstract painting. Now I am absolutely obsessed with exploring this in as many different ways as I can!

Abstract: Crossroads

“Crossroads” 30×40 “We have to get used to the idea that at the most important crossroads in our life there are no signs.” -Ernest Hemingway

The blue in this one made this painting pop for me.

“We have to get used to the idea that at the most important crossroads in our life there are no signs.” -Ernest Hemingway

The Hemingway quote is true for my life – I have encountered many a decision that I was suddenly faced with without the benefit of road signs or maps for guidance. Thank my sweet Lord for giving me people who are willing to walk along beside me and support me along this life’s journey – even when I go off path!!

Abstract: Whirlpool

“Whirlpool” 20×20 textured base, acrylic paint, resin “Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice snd I’ll tell you a story.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some paintings declare they are finished before I had actually planned for them to be finished. This is one of those. I fell in love with it at this stage in the process.

Abstract: Strong Foundation

“Strong Foundation” 8×16 heavily textured base, acrylic paint, coffee dyed torn book pages, resin “A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life” – Winston Churchill

The coffee dyed book pages turned out really cool. They are spotted and have a very pretty range of coffee colored hues.

I believe a strong foundation in vocabulary gives us the power to communicate as well as understand most effectively. Lack of communication is the root of misunderstandings and conflicts.

Travel feeds my soul

I have not always loved to travel. It wasn’t that I disliked it, I just hadn’t been anywhere and didn’t know. But once I’d been on my first international trip I was hooked. I want to go everywhere.

Today I am traveling to spend time with friends in a far off place that requires a flight or two for some much needed recharging and care of myself. I find that traveling away from my obligations, away from my memories, helps me see myself more clearly and allows me to realign my inner Pollyanna, connect with God’s peace, feel joy, and well, just breathe. 🥰

Abstract: Searching

“Searching” 36×36 mixed media, textured foundation, resin, acrylic paint. “If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going come what may.”  – Vincent Van Gogh. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh

This one was s departure from the ususal circular shape. It reminds me of lightening or cracked earth and yet it feels calming to me too.This is one of the bigger pieces I will have at River Clay this weekend!

Abstract: Tidepool

Tidepool 10×20 Heavily textured foundation, acrylic paint, resin “It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” –
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

The Steinbeck quote is pulled from a passage describing the wonder of the world and the connection we sometimes feel as humans to all of it – the wonder of being a part of the whole of life. It is a very existential and Thoreau type view of the world. I, personally, think this pull to feel connected somehow is a pull to thanksgiving.

Abstract: It’s Complicated

“It’s Complicated” 18×36 heavily textured base, acrylic paint, resin “It’s not life that’s complicated, it’s the struggle to guide and control life.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love how this turned out! The texture is so much fun. I delight in finding ways to make texture the focus of a piece and this painting kept me mesmerized. You cannot see in a photo the juxtaposition of matte paint against the shiny resin in the stream – but it is beautiful.

Work in progress. . .

Lovely work in progress

I love this stage of a painting. It has good bones. It has made it past the ugly phase. It is waiting on those final tiny choices that will make it into something magnificinet. Something I am truly proud of.

I feel that way about me, about my life. I have good bones, I have made it past the ugly phase of life, and now I am making those tiny choices that are slowly turning my life into one I am truly proud of – one that is incredible. After my terrible summer was over (refer to post “God has called me to my knees“) and life sort of settled back down into a normal-ish routine, I found myself once again getting excited about creating the life I love. This month alone I am painting, participating in an art show, applying to more art shows (fingers crossed!), going on a tropical trip with my girlfriends, and even going on a short cultural excursion to Day of the Dead in Mexico with my daughter (yeah, ok, this is technically next month, but we LEAVE during this month). I am loving my new job and slowly figuring out my role. I am modifiying my routines, more time in scripture and in prayer; cooking more meals and actually enjoying it; excercise/strength training, etc.

Who knows what next month will hold or the one after that! I. Am. On. Fire.

When my life is stripped away of all the drama and all of the noise, I am able to find my peace and love my people more fiercely. I had almost forgotten the peace. Almost.

Spread the peace and love, people. ❤️

The opposite of fear. . .

Her faith trickles down like beautiful golden honey into all areas of her life. It is sticky sweet and hard to wash off and makes her radiate in a glistening sunshiney hue. Her faith trickles down like beautiful golden honey into all areas of her life. It is sticky sweet and hard to wash off and makes her radiate in a glistening sunshiney hue.
Her faith trickles down like beautiful golden honey into all areas of her life. It is sticky sweet and hard to wash off and makes her radiate in a glistening sunshiney hue.

“Do you know what the opposite of fear is?” Asked my lovely counselor.

I did not. I rattled off a list of things I thought it could be – happiness, courage, love, action. All of these, she said, are byproducts of “the thing” that is the opposite of fear.

“Ok. Fine,” I said, “What is the opposite of fear?”

“It is FAITH,” She said. “Faith is the opposite of fear.”

Wow. Ok. When I am faced with something out of my control (the immovable rock from the post “Living in the Moment”) I am still. I pray. I live in the moment. But, what if I need to take it even further? What if a deeper faith could push me into a more steady and perpetual peace? What if all this planning that I do to abate anxiety is just masking fear of being out of control? And, if fear is the opposite of faith then all this planning that I do is only giving me a false sense of contol and not actually tackling the anxiety/fear AT ALL. What I really need is faith.

But, I have faith. I am faithful to His promise. I have faith in God and His plan for my life. But, maybe having faith should be percolating all the way down into the more mundane areas of my life and not just exercised on the bigger things. Which honestly, I didn’t even realize I was not doing this. I truly thought I was living my faith.

This is worth investigating.

So, I have English teacher-ed (yes, this is a made up verb) it by creating some good ole fashioned central questions:

What exactly is “faith”? How does one go about aquiring or building faith? If you find yourself having little faith or being fearful (since faith is the opposite of fear) how do you build or aquire faith?

Gracious, I don’t know. So, also English teacher style, I did some research – first in the form of polling a few friends and then putting it out to the masses via social media. Then, I went to delve into a more in depth religious explanation and got way more than I bargained for. But, that is a post for another day.

What is the definition of faith from the viewpoint of Christianity? After a quick research journey, I found 4 ways faith is referred to within Christianity.

Faith as religion – the doctrines and beliefs of Chrisitanity

Justification by faith – saved by Grace or the understanding that our forgiveness cannot be earned; our salvation is a precious gift given to us by God through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. We receive this gift when we have faith in truth of Jesus Christ.

Faith as a way of living – striving to live the teachings and the doctrines we believe in; “faith without works is dead” James 2:20

Faith as trust in God and His care of us

The FAITH I am after with my questions, the one I am seeking to understand how to expand upon, is the last one – faith as trust in God and His care of us. One of the social media responses I received spoke directly to me. My Facebook friend, Jessica, said, “I think to gain more faith we have to realize we are not in control of things, most of the time. We can control our small circle of influence and the choices we make but other than that, we don’t really control most things. Fear and anxiety specifically crave control. Once we can learn to do without it, faith can exponentially increase. It has to.”

If fear is the opposite of faith and fear and anxiety crave control then these are ways my soul is being targeted. UGH. Yes. I see this now. Truly, I am not a big fan of being so slow to recognize God’s truth. My mind is blown at how often he has tried to show me this truth and bring me back to faith and how often I have held on to that control like a pacifier, doing more harm than good.

So, now that my call to have a more purposeful faith, one that is more ingratiated into my every day life, is ringing in my ears how to I create exponential growth in this area?????? How do I build this muscle, so to speak – as in I have faith, but I want it to be of Goliath proportions and not a measley mustard seed or even a large shrubbery sized faith. GO-LI-ATH!! I want it to be the woman in the C. S. Lewis quote – “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase HIM to find her.” How cool is that? I need to define what that woman looks like in me. Also a post for another day. But, to start? Her faith trickles down like beautiful golden honey into all areas of her life. It is sticky sweet and hard to wash off and makes her radiate in a glistening sunshiney hue. The sticky goodness is left on everyone she touches.

Stay tuned. My research has sparked many a post!

Silly Songs . . .

my kids
I miss these littles. I mean, I love my bigs, but I miss these little people sometimes. . .

I often listen to my music on random shuffle, because you know as a gen-x I purchased a lot of music before the whole Spotify playlist thing was a thing. I love the eclectic range of my music – punk to show tunes to alternative to . . . Veggie Tales.

Yep. Tonight, “Silly Songs with Larry” popped on and I was singing along to the “Hairbrush Song” before I came out of the fog of nostalgia to realize my boys are not strapped into car seats in the back in my mini van. They are, in fact, adult men with a adultish little sister and the minivan was two vehicles and a divorce ago.

Where did the time go?

Life has taken unexpected twists and turns since I spent my days innocently singing along with Bob and Larry. I think of the woman I was and wonder, if I could travel back to her and tell her anything, would I? Would I tell her to brace for what was to come? Would she even believe me?

Would I risk whatever danger Doc Brown says about how this could mess up the space time continuum?

What if she did believe me? Could I then convince her that the blessings may actually be worth the pain? What if I tell her she will love and be trampled and she will love again and feel heartache but love is always, always worth the pain? The vulnerability I have learned is necessary for real love – I wouldn’t have this vulnerability if I hadn’t been through the dark times. And, even though it hasn’t lead to that dream of a lifelong committed soulful love as of yet, it has shown me that love is worth the risk. It really is. Could I get her to see and understand this without the benefit of the dark times yet to come?

Would I risk forfeiting the woman I am now? I am strong, independent, and even more caring because of the hard times. I have lost some of my naivety and optimism. I understand the necessary and true value respect plays in relationships. And I have gained a set of eyes wide open and am anchored a bit more firmly in reality. I have had countless confirmations that my gut intuition is spot on. And, I believe in myself and in God once more.

I have gained a world of living gifts in the wake of the years of living inside a toxic relationship. The years of feeling strangled by the thick oppressive air that surrounds someone walking through an eggshell world made way for a bright future paved with significant lessons learned along the way. Here are just a few things I have learned:

The value of self evaluation and criticism and evaluating my world for what is and isn’t worth my time.

The value of friends and family and love in every form

The importance of being self sufficient. And independent. And in control of my finances.

The value of education

The need to provide a safe home and landing place for my kids

The value of counseling

The value of finding my why and my values in order to make a huge difference when trying to point myself in the best direction

The absolute doability of creating a career later in life, including an artistic one 🙂 and that success is worth the risk of failure.

And, most importantly, God has never left me. He is here, loving me, always, and that a relationship with Him is like any other – in need of constant care and attention.

So, what would I do? Would I tell her? I don’t think so. But, I would really love to hang out with her and those littles! How fun would that be??

A few little birdies . . .

🎶Sweet little birdies 🎶

I will be participating in the River Clay Fine Arts Festival in Decatur, Alabama this October and these sweet little 6×6 birdies will be there!

I am spending a good bit of time in the evenings and on the weekends creating pieces for this show and I am loving every minute of it!

Champagne Sundays

Front porch check ins with a touch of bubbly

Weekly check ins. This is what Champagne Sundays are all about.

I have become wonderful friends with my next door neighbor and each Sunday we get together on the front porch and have champagne from my vintage champagne glasses and discuss the week we’ve had and the one coming up. We celebrate our wins and we dissect our losses.

We are at different stages in life – she has a little and I am five minutes away from an empty nest. I have about 10 years on her but I haven’t really noticed. I think at some point, in adulthood, friends are friends without regard to age.

I love my neighborhood. I am surrounded by homes that have stood for more than 100 years, including mine. My house has now stood through two pandemics and multiple wars. Several families have been raised here and these rooms have been filled with love, laughter, sorrow, and just the everyday joys and mundanities of life. Several decades ago, stting on the front porch in the twilight hours was the entertainment of the day. Folks visited with each other and relationships were the focus of life. No television. No internet or virtual anything. It was all about face to face relationship building. And I bet they didn’t even know it – it just was.

It is becoming more and more clear to me in my life that it is my people who are my everything. Maybe it is because I am about to lose my last child to the university life that is making me hyper aware of how quiet my house is when I am here alone. Maybe it is having my boys home with me again, all of my people here under my roof, that has me so aware of how much I have missed them and how fleeting this time is – that this is most likely the last time in my life I will have all of my babies living with me for any significant period of time. After this school year I will get visits, not children living in my home.

Maybe it is missing the relationships I built at work over 11 years while I am building new relationships with some really fun people in this new position.

Or maybe it’s all this change in my life that has me craving the connection with friends. Who knows.

What I do know is that at the end of the day when only 85 of the 2000 things have been marked off the list; when I have successfully completed anything, really; the only things that I will truly remember a month, a year, 10 years from now, are the memories I make with my people. I have no idea whether I cleaned the house last Tuesday, but I do remember having dinner at a friend’s house while she so graciously shared some sound financial advice and experience. I cannot remember one day last year where I went to bed feeling like I had completed everything that needed to be done – but I also can’t remember what those things were. I do remember some very pleasant conversations with my ex (which I now treasure), some heart to hearts with wonderful teenage people, advice from dear friends, laughing on my birthday. I remember the people and the memories made with them.

I also realize I am replacable at work. I did a lot. I had a lot of hats. I took on more than the average chief. But, since leaving the position, those jobs are being absorbed. Someday I will retire even. And, although you can be sure that I hope I have made a difference, I hope I continue to receive messages like one I got today from a former student sharing some of her brilliant writing with the message “Some writing I’ve done recently. I owe my skills to you. I miss you,” I am also fully aware that I am not destined to make some sort of name a building after me kind of impact. I made a difference on a more individual level. I miss her, this student. But I miss the connection that we formed when we bonded over Henry David Thoreau in her 10th grade English class several years ago. I miss having life changing conversations with teenagers who have minds open to every possibility under the sun. This wonderful young woman changed my life as much as maybe I changed hers. The ability to grow intellectually through conversation – it is the lifeblood of a good life!

Now I am not at all hating on technology. I have a love affair with all things tech, actually. And I fully advocate for the use of tech and participating in social media and all that. It’s one of the ways I stay in touch with my college roommate or see what my sister (who always lives a country or two away) is up to. Use the tools available to keep up the relationships with the people you love.

Our Champagne Sunday talks are almost always about the people in our lives, not the tasks. I encourage you to start your own Champagne Sunday, or supper club, or girls’ night out, or even a vacation with your favorite people. Spend your time where it really counts, on relationships, on people. Do not get bogged down by your to do lists and the mundanities. Live! Share! Be vulnerable with your people. Share your love – it is an infinite pool that grows and grows if you let it.

Living in the moment

I got this.

I have realized here lately that when there is a situation that I cannot control I analyze it, come up with all sorts of possible explanations and solutions and tornado myself into an anxious place of f e a r. I am doing this because I trained myself, during the dark times, that occupying my mind with anything feels like an action, and an action feels like it is working toward a solution, and working toward a solution allows me to avoid feeling my present situation. It also, I told myself, prepared me for any and all scenarios either the worst or the best and anything in between so I could better brace for what comes. These were the ways of survival. But these are not the dark times. When a situation has no solution this action sends me into a spiral and just confirms there is no solution and this breeds that all consuming f e a r. As my sweet counselor likes to ask when I am stuck in such a tornado – is this a playdoh problem or a rock problem – meaning is it one I can actually push around or is it out of my control, unmalleable?

How do I change how I handle the rocks?

I be still. (U G H)

I live in the moment.

I allow myself to feel, leaning into the tears, the frustration, or the anxiety, if you will. Because let’s face it, if we are facing a rock that is causing us to seek solutions when there are none to seek, then it isn’t some kind of happy, happy, joy, joy thing that has us all tangled up in tornado thinking. It is something not going our way, or that requires a “wait and see what happens next” approach, or is just simply at the mercy of someone NOT US. What is that wonderfully terrible truth???? I am the only one I can control. Yeah. That.

I pray to God in thanks for allowing me the situation, because if it causes me to feel intensely then my heart must be all in. I don’t tend to get all worked up about situations that do not involve people I love. I give Him thanks for allowing me the love that causes the instance and I praise Him for creating and sharing this sort of love with little ole me. And, then, I ask HIM to solve it. What is a rock for me is always playdoh for HIM.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I allow myself to NOT see solutions and just sit in the present, not predicting, not worrying, and not telling myself stories that are most definitely pure conjecture. Do you ever do that? Brene Brown calls this a “shitty first draft” or how we explain things to ourselves when we are hurt or offended, insecure, etc. The stories we tell ourselves from a place of f e a r. These stories need to be checked for truth because, generally speaking, they are anything but. Recognizing a shitty first draft (SFD) reaction to anything will deflate an escalating situation quickly. Check yourself as that tornado begins to form for the SFD component.

I allow myself to feel the blessings of the moment and not search out the sorrow. I allow myself to be thankful for the grief or uncomfortable unknowing. It is ok to not feel peaceful, but there is some kind of peace in letting go of the fear. I must really just stay in the present. Wow. Soooooo hard for me.

Be present. Be present. Be present.

I am sensing a running theme. . .

Being present as a person who loves to plan her future is, well, sometimes a bit tedious. My head is always trying to look ahead and skip the uncomfortable parts. BUT, what I am finding is that when I cannot see a future, I am more engaged in my present. I am spending more time present with my kids, you know, engaged in conversation, laughing and talking. I am cooking dinner more, painting more, and spending more time with friends. Hmmm. Maybe I am not really spending more time on any of these things. Maybe I am just enjoying them more because in the back of my mind I am not already jumping to the next thing, planning away my present. Regardless, it feels good.

When I recognize that a rock has started knocking around in my brain, I pray and give it over (I do tend to be fairly specific in the way I would prefer for God to handle it, but you know, He is God. He will exact His will. But, it doesn’t hurt to put in my two cents, ya know?) Then I focus on my present. I fill my time with my people and my art. I make a conscious effort to Be still. Be thankful. Be HERE.

Live like a college graduate

My oldest, the one who made me a mom, graduated from college with a degree in biology on Friday. He has worked hard both for the degree and to become the responsible, dedicated man he is. He has successfully completed his final weeks of coursework, found a really cool internship opportunity in South Africa, and packed up and moved home all in the wake of his father’s death. I am so proud of him, and his father would be too.

This is our first event without his father. I wanted my son, and my other two kids, to feel their father was a part of this momentous occasion so I found the fraternity pin (they belong to the same fraternity) and I had a battery replaced in one of his father’s old watches for him to wear while he walked. I chose a graduation gift I thought my ex might have chosen with me for our son, a dive watch in the same brand of the last watch I had given my ex and that he had loved and worn every day for the last few years. I think he would approve of my choice for our boy.

It is strange, now, that the responsibility to be sure he is included is mine once again. It is sort of like I have been made the wife again in death. Really, I just love my kids and they loved their dad and I do not want his absence to feel like a gaping hole for them. He loved them. In death, I can be sure they know it.

Watching the graduates walk across the stage, each full of potential and promise and the wildness youth bears, I reflect on how I learn so much about life by watching the young people who are always around me. They are unafraid to take chances, change trajectory, and jump in with both feet at a moment’s notice. How much more important is this sort of impulsivity here 25 or so years older? Now, when I realize how precious life is, how fleeting it might be, how few opportunities we are given to love deeply, or change trajectory, or slow down even – NOW is when I need to embrace that impulsivity and “why not?” way of thinking and embrace all that God may place in my path.

Now is the best time to remember that it is PEOPLE, relationships, that are my treasure. It is the love I have to give and the love bestowed to me that I need to fall to my knees and thank our sweet Lord for placing in my life. He has blessed me in more ways, especially in this last year, than I ever thought possible. He has shown me His love for me through others when I have least expected it. He has answered prayers and opened doors and placed just the right people in my path to push me in the directions He wants me to go. It is lovely, but He wants more.

I may not exactly choose to go and spend weeks or months in South Africa like my son, but you better believe I will not hesitate to go where I am moved to go – I am not going to worry away my opportunities to live, LIVE my life with love and laughter and drama and all the other good and bad and wonderful and tragic days that this life may hold for me. I will be open and free to travel or even move if I am so moved by God to do so. I am thankful for my Lifetime moments as much as my Hallmark moments. I am thankful to just feel again, all of the feels, to have been broken open and set free to experience life once again. It’s funny how a graduation ceremony reminded me of all of that. Why is this so hard to hold in every day life?

I only have this ONE life. That. Is. It.

I want to live it body and soul.

Let us all . . .

Be courageous.

Be impulsive.

Love with wild abandon.

Be still.

Be gracious.

Be creative.

BE THANKFUL.

Be present. Be present. Be present.

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God has called me to my knees

I have been double whammied. Triple really.

The beautiful man I have been dating needs to take a step back and reclaim his life, reconnect with God, and heal from his divorce before he can fully give of himself. Goodness. As sad, and disappointed as I have been about this, it is so admirable. This man is a man of God – the sort of man I prayed for. I cannot argue with God’s will. And, I see the damage he was left with, the heartbreaking inability to trust fully with all of him. He needs this time. God called me to my knees to have the strength to let go.

My ex-husband died the week after my love declared a “Pause” to our relationship. My son and I found him, in his home. I am so very thankful I was there with our son, so he didn’t have to navigate the immediate aftermath of the discovery of death on his own. God called me to my knees for the strength to be a rock for my children.

And, finally, I was offered and I accepted a new position that is out of my comfort zone. Yes, I know. This is how we grow, taking on new challenges and excelling at meeting and surpassing them. It’s just a LOT of change in a tiny fraction of time. God called me to my knees for the courage to take on the challenge during a period of chaos in my life, when all I want is to hide in the comfort I’ve known.

Each one of these monumental events deserves its own post. Chapter, really. But in this moment, I am too heart weary to devote that much of myself to each one. Instead, I have spent the past two weeks (really, all of this transpired over 10 days – the Pause, death, funeral, interview, job offer) seeking my God at work in my life, because he has to be using this for my good.

There have been so many what I call “thought tornados” that I have had to resolve in the wake (tsunami) of these changes that I am finding I have no choice but to take them to God regularly. I cannot and should not burden anyone else with the anguish that is me when I am fearful. Some of me needs to remain between me and God. I have had a quite fractured relationship with God for several years and through this anguish of removing myself from the man I love, letting go of a man I loved, and embracing a challenging new opportunity – God has called me back to Him. To my knees in praise, and in fear, and in mourning, and with cries for strength because I have never felt so weak or my foundation so shaken.

I see the beauty in the healing God is working in me and the clearing away it could do to make way for the sort of partnership God has always meant for us humans to have. One where I remain a strong independent person and at the same time, what seems like a contradiction, vulnerable enough to become one beautiful being, melded together at the heart with a man that I love when this healing is done. (I pray daily He is planning on making a quick go of all of this.)

God’s fingerprints are evident in each of these events. I see Him everywhere, in the details.

God gave my oldest son the intuition to know his father needed to be checked on, and being out of town, text me to get his brother to go. God placed me at home and available to accompany his brother at that very moment.

God gave me the presence of mind to know what to do. Check for signs of life, send my son outside to call his uncle, call 911. Call one of my best friends to come to me and my mom to go to my house, to my daughter. Right there, in the moment as my son began to comprehend the finality of the day, God gave me the words to speak to his heart.

God removed me from the love of my life so I would cling to Him and not him in the aftermath of the death. I was bitter at the time. I see the brilliance now. 

God ushered me into a new job/position which will provide us with the increase in income equal, almost to the penny, of the child support we lost in his death. God is taking care of me, of my children, and of my heart as broken as it feels.

I feel so old, some days, older than my 50 years. I feel panic at the missed opportunities I’ve had and I struggle to accept that I am not in control. I cannot have what I want when I want it. I struggle in the want to become numb and to retreat into myself, in the protection of apathy. But, I am loved. And, I trust in God’s perfect plan for my life – I have just to get out of the way, forgive Him the way I know He forgives me, and surrender to this season of my life.