Category Archives: Interesting things

I am an Artist

 

wood framed

It took me a long time to say the words, “I am a writer” but once I did I was empowered. I am now experiencing the same thing with art. I recently discovered Encaustic Painting, which is working with wax. I’ve been guilty of saying, “I’m not an artist, and can’t draw, but love encaustic.” I’ve decided to correct myself. I am an artist. A beginner at the encaustic art form, but merely the act of “doing” it makes me an artist. I’m not required to be “Professional.” It isn’t necessary to be perfect to create beauty.

Encaustic painting is something I discovered last summer when visiting a friend in Rhode Island. We were wandering around art studios and a picture called out to me. No, I didn’t buy it given the huge size and price, but I was enthralled. The lady at the gallery explained to us that the artist used wax and a blow torch to melt the colors into what was a beautiful picture of frothy waves on the ocean. We wrote down the word “encaustic” because I had never heard of it and wanted to learn.

There is a perfectly good workbench in my basement I don’t do any “work” at, so I repurposed it as my encaustic bench. I ordered supplies and dove in. Encaustic is a form of art that ranges from abstract to detailed and intricate. I’m still on the abstract level and okay with that. As accomplished as I feel after completing a painting, I’m aware there is still more I don’t know than I do. I feel stretched to learn and grow; although I feel productive at the level I am at. I lose myself when I go downstairs to “paint”, which technically means melting wax in strange patterns on paper or wood. I now get what painting therapy gives to one’s soul.

I now own a couple of books, have watched numerous YouTube videos, and am in a Facebook Encaustic Art group. I am in awe of many of the paintings shared by talented and accomplished artists. I’ve even found myself brave enough – and proud enough — to share some of my fledgling pieces. The group is supportive to all skill levels and I feel welcome in the community.

I’ve learned through my painting is that a piece is never done. If I don’t like it, I merely take heat to the painting and remold the wax into a new shape. The parallel to our lives and God’s influence on who we become has not been lost on me. Once the wax is changed, it cannot go back to a previous version but is beautiful in new ways.

A picture is never completed until the artist decides it’s done — me in the case of wax and God in the case of me. Even as we are learning and growing in life, we can produce beauty at whatever skill level we find ourselves. We can know that God, as our artist, takes pride in the shape our lives take.

Polishing Memories

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Cologne, Germany

I was listening to a speaker this week who talked about how stress, negative emotions, and bad memories can affect our physical health. A term he used was to “polish your memories.”  We have a lifetime of memories filling our heads. It’s worth taking some time to think about what thoughts and memories get the majority of our awareness.

Are we remembering life with regret over poor decisions?  Are we wallowing in self-pity because of painful experiences?

Or are we focusing our hearts and minds toward the good in our lives and pasts? Not to deny negative experiences, but what can we do to let them go and give them less power in our minds? Are we treasuring and taking out precious memories and polishing them, fondling them like precious gems that they are?

How can we polish and find peace for the poor experiences in a way that doesn’t bury them but puts them away? Life isn’t fair – I assume you’ve figured that out by now. I sure have. However, our minds can be fair in the judgment of experiences and balance of our thoughts and memories.

I have to ask myself, “How will my day be shaped?” Will I focus on what I can’t do or will I put energy into what I can and will do?

Life is also precious. We need to make memories and polish those that we treasure. Other memories should be pushed away like a stone being skipped across a lake leaving smaller and smaller rings until it sinks to the bottom.

I have some precious moments that I pull out to polish when I’m having a rough day. What’s interesting is that I sometimes have a dilemma – which life moment should I polish today? I inhale, exhale, and feel the problem that seemed so daunting to be shrinking.

I visited my daughter in Germany recently. I had an incredible time. We walked miles and I snapped a lot of pictures. Oh, and by the way, I broke my kneecap and had to take a nap every day for my head. Yes, ouch, but as I heal, I’m polishing the memories of Kendra’s company and care – right up to the point where she handed me off to wheelchair people at the airport. I look forward to my return sometime in the future. Maybe I’ll pack kneepads?

When my older daughter Kayla broke her kneecap last winter (yes, both of us in one year), what I recall was the time I was able to spend helping her while she healed. Lunch on Thursdays, playing with my grandson, and sometimes falling fast asleep on her couch for a nap.

When I have a bad head day, I breathe and pull out a few memories. Maybe I’ll return to tropical beaches where I’ve relaxed with friends. In my mind, I see the bright sun, feel the warm breeze, and remember dipping my toes in ocean water.

What memories do you like to polish?

 

Fear

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Laguna Beach, California

Some people like the charge they get from a “good” horror movie or scary Halloween costume. I am not one of them. Others love the thrill of a roller coaster. No, not that either. After going on numerous rides with my daughters years ago, one day I decided that it wasn’t a good thrill that I got when my stomach flipped while rapidly dropping dramatic distances. That was my last roller coaster ride. Whether you are a thrill seeker or a find life itself enough of a thrill, it’s okay.

Fear can be lighthearted fear at Halloween but also heart wrenching from life events. Fear fills our minds instantly and churns our insides when we get a hint that something is wrong. Fear triggers our autonomic nervous system – what controls our bodies below the level of consciousness. This effects our heart rate, breathing, digestion and even perspiration. Autonomic functions are involuntary but work with voluntary control in the somatic nervous system.

That was technical and I don’t fully understand what I just said. However, it means is that we are frustratingly not totally in control when facing fear. We each experience fear in our individual way, even when faced with the same situation. For some that means dry humor. For others it means prayer and meditation. For some it means curling up in a ball and for others it’s angry screaming.

Fear can take over our bodies such that we spend energy trying to control our physical reactions. We try to not shake, or cry, or stammer, but it happens. We may want to speak but words do not come. Everyone is different, but we all fight a balance of voluntary and involuntary when facing fear. Ranging from controlled worry to the desire to escape our bodies, fear is jarring.

I’ve faced fear in my life. As a kid I was cautiously fearful at Halloween. As an adult, I’ve experienced fear that was physically debilitating. What I learned is that when all is taken away, it is myself and God. I had to choose between the option of trusting my faith in God or giving in to theories of randomness.

I chose faith. Prayer calms me. Asking for guidance from God lightens the weight of my burden. I stepped out in faith believing verses like “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV) and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Only when I learned to accept that I’m truly not alone was I able to gain the gift of living and not fearing. Only with the gift of hindsight have I been able to see that I’ve never been alone.

Ghosts and goblins are not for me, but I’ll help with the Halloween candy. . .

Life’s Balance: Actually is a Balance

Life (Simplified)

Life (Simplified)

Yes, I really do spend time drawing these silly pictures.  I am obviously NOT talented in this particular area, but it hasn’t stopped me from expressing myself.

Think of the many interviews of someone who lost a dream of being an athlete, actor, entrepreneur, or whatever? Disappointed, some struggle but find new passion. Disappointment still remains in hindsight, but a new perspective is gained over time for the importance of one lost dream. Countless other stories tell of people who lose their dream and become entangled in pain and fail to move forward, sometimes for years.

Acceptance of unwanted change is sticky and gooey. Anyone who has found success at something then lost it, churns for period of time. Risking full disclosure, I’ve found felt quite sorry for myself at times. I wake in the morning and find myself laying still, making an analysis of my options. Will I wallow over where I am, or move forward to seek an achievable goal for that specific day? Breaking down obstacles allows me to find joy in each step toward a new dream.

When making the decision to spiral down or up:

On my down pajama days, laying horizontal, staring out the window:

– I allow the loss of a dream to loom over all other dreams and accomplishments.
– I exaggerate to myself how lost and alone I am in the big, bad world.
– I chaff at not being able to control everything in my life.
– I compare myself/my life/my circumstance to others and minimize my own accomplishments.
– I dislike being on a need to know basis with God.

On other, better days, I’m more balanced (admittedly maybe still a pajama day):

– I allow myself time to regenerate if needed. I sleep a little more, read a book, or spend time in thought without allowing thought of misusing time.
– I let my disappointment go, even if for a moment. Life is a series of days we must live.
– Some will, frankly, be better than others. Each day takes us somewhere. No day takes us nowhere, even if we are still.
– I think about God. Not how short I find myself in actions, but, quite simply, how big He is even while guiding my little life in the huge scheme of things.
– I focus on others. How can I reach out to someone? What can I write to brighten someone else’s day?
– I recognize the value in nature of a safe cocoon. How it provides protection to delicacy. I recognize how God puts us in a cocoon, kept from knowledge at times. A hedge of protection until we are stronger than we thought possible.

I’ve found it to be an interesting journey to transition from the corporate world with strategic plans, performance evaluations, and service level agreements to embracing the world of art. Touching someone’s day by writing a paragraph is as rewarding as achieving a corporate objective used to be. If I hadn’t had downward spirals mixed with some incredible upward ones, throughout my entire life, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t appreciate what I dream today. I wonder who I’m yet to be.

The Blog Pile – Lighting Our Path

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Summertime is full of outdoor activities. I recall camping as a little girl, and the most dreaded part was having to go to the bathroom in the dark. I would plead with my family members to accompany me, and off we would go. I remember screaming and jumping on the toilet if a mouse happened by. But the flashlight? I never let go. As an adult, when I took my kids camping, I was on my own if they were sleeping. While I was braver, admittedly, as an adult, I still had the heebie-jeebies. I would hang on to the flashlight tightly, using it as a guide that I would not let go of. Darkness hung around the light that helped me navigate branches or puddles along the path and brought me back to the tent safely. I only went where the light led.

In Psalm 119:105 (KJV), we are told that “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Have you noticed that, just like a flashlight in the night, we are most concerned about where our feet are currently, and where we’re going? Why are feet and path both mentioned? Simply put, our feet are where we are in life and our path is where we’re going with time, efforts, and sometimes uninvited events. God shines a light on our lives through His Word to highlight what is pleasing and what needs attention. Reading the Bible provides us with a light that helps us see ourselves as we are – right where we stand. He meets us where we are, in the midst of events spiraling out of control or stuck between unmoving issues in life. We may be deep in debt, bound to bad habits or, conversely, feeling pretty good about ourselves. It’s important to look at where we are in order to chart a path forward.

Then, He shines a light onto our path, leading us along a path that is illuminated by His guidance. There will be rocks and detours, but He’ll shine His Light through His Word. Just as a lamp’s light diffuses as it moves into darkness, our knowledge of the future will show our next steps brightly with a still unseen future. God has put us on a need to know basis.

Interestingly enough, there is no mention of the path behind us. Even though we are living with fond memories, regrets, or even consequences, the past is behind us. It is over, as He forgives us as we confess the bad and acknowledge the good in our lives. He lights both where we are and where we need to be.

Camping is fun, and I have great memories of it. I now camp at the Marriott without need of that indispensable flashlight. However, I still have God’s Word reminding me of an indispensable lamp that leads my life. I try to not look back but focus on today, tomorrow, and avoiding puddles.

I Am A Writer

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The words, “I am a writer,” are not easily said aloud the first time. We don’t know exactly when we’ve stepped over the threshold between being and wanting to be. We don’t feel worthy of a title that is nebulous. Our fingers and minds feel loose and clumsy as we venture into the world of words. We deny being a writer even though we find ourselves capturing images of children’s laughter in words, daydreaming about how to uniquely describe azure skies blotted with marshmallow clouds, or missing parts of conversations by attempting to remember a catchy phrase or thought before it flees. Like many others, I was “not” a writer. I dabbled. I wrote essays. I mused poetically. I studied skillful writing styles and voices as I read books.

After years of closet dabbling, I attended my first writers’ conference several years ago. I don’t remember how I heard about it, but somehow I found, registered, and showed up. I nervously gathered registration information, added it to my carefully prepared notes, and headed to the introductory session. I sat in a back seat toward the side of the auditorium. The last thing I wanted was to be noticed or drawn into conversation that would expose that I was a “fraud” in a room full of writers.

I looked around the room at a couple hundred people. Were they all writers? Some appeared studious in plaid, button down shirts. Others, in flowing and colorful garb, seemed to be at a reunion with other flowing writers, “Hey, I didn’t know you were coming.” Or “I loved your book.” The one that really got me was “I loved your latest book!” Oh boy, what did I get myself into?

The first session began, and the speaker immediately addressed my fear. I learned that we are writers simply by writing, not by anything else. For two days, I went to sessions and soaked up information about “the biz” – agents, publishers, editors, plots, and tedious rework. Despite hearing repeatedly how difficult writing is, I was energized and determined.

Not long after, a writing group started in Kalamazoo and I attended the first meeting. I waited anxiously as my writing was read aloud, followed by silence, and then uplifting encouragement. With prodding as I plodded, I published my first book and individual chapters in three anthologies. The camaraderie of writers fueled my writing. I’ve learned that while the task itself is quite lonely, the result of a project pulls together people with common experiences, causes, and interests. Writing provides encouragement, connection, laughter, and escape.

I’m now okay with saying “I am a writer.” I receive an emotional gift each time I learn that I’ve touched another with my words. I was bitten by a writing bug and am seeking treatment through words. My prognosis is that many letters will be arranged creatively on an ongoing basis.