“Follow on, and thou shalt never lose track of that light.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength
I sort of remember the first time I told myself that painting and writing are “my calling”. Several years later, I still question the label that leads to an assessment of whether my work represents such a strong word.
Once I called it my “treasure”, felt that was better. A “gift” may be even easier to accept as the description of what’s more than hobby but less than calling.
“Allow God to cultivate your calling.” Hosanna Wong
I heard these words while walking, having told myself to take a break from podcasts, that I once again had way too many voices in my ear telling me how to finally be at peace with me.
I am prone to quitting a whole thing rather than being patiently selective, giving up rather than testing the waters.
Not finishing things I begin for fear of failure.
The shape of a bird waits on a wood panel. Vibrant colors of green, azure, a little coral brushed boldly to complete the suggested work are only thoughts. Although I’ve painted these before, what if I can’t again?
What if I’ve forgotten how to paint and write?
That would mean what you thought was your calling was wrong all along.
I consider the words of Hosanna Wong again this morning. Like a middle school diagram sentence, I broke apart the words.
Allow – give someone permission to do something Cultivate – to develop a quality or skill Calling – a strong urge towards a particular way of life
Allow God to cultivate your calling.
There is relief here, this freedom from effort, comparison, numbers of followers, readers, collectors and validators of my work…
Of whether it is or ever was “my calling”.
Because, I’m closer now to understanding
my calling is the calling of every single one of us, to let God lead, show us the way, place us in the places we are needed by others, not the esteemed places of what fulfills our needs
recognition, praise or even kind words.
The pressure is off.
I’ll adjust to this new understanding of calling. It may take some time. I may still fear rejection and thus, hesitate in offering my words and paintings.
Or I may settle in, paint and write because I love it and love the way God made me to love doing it.
Of the seven paintings inspired by Psalm 23, a Bible close by as I painted and breaks in between colors to comfort myself in reading, only one has sold.
A tiny one, “All I Need” will be shipped today.
I allowed my Bible to fall open in my lap just now. The margin sketch reminding of words from another day.
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
There’s so much I don’t know, don’t fully understand about God’s ways, His love for me, the places He has for me, my words and art to go.
I will follow. I will stay close beside Him. I will find my calling in the listening to His gentle, guiding voice.
I have everything I need.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 ESV
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:2-6 ESV
On Sunday, I felt the tone in my voice change to excited, the chance to tell again how it all started, women in redemptive poses, muses of my art.
The story of a new Bible for Christmas, the trend catching on of filling margins with notes, colorful stickers or maybe drawings.
I was reluctant. I remembered warnings of never let your Bible touch the floor, leave it somewhere safe, underline some things and write on little pieces of paper tucked away, the sins you keep sinning.
That’s what you need to remember most, I was raised to think. Keep track of your wrongs, only consider the tiny chance you are worthy of grace.
I was in awe of the mysterious unattainable gift of the Holy Bible for many years.
Gradually, when time alone brought comfort, I began timid sketches of women and stories I could see myself in comparable pain, joy, messes made or willingness to learn.
Willing to come nearer to God.
Brave enough to trust His love.
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14 ESV
I heard love in my voice on Sunday, felt it in the fluttery words lifted into the air as I stood surrounded by my art.
This thing I get to do that leads to stories of a Bible filled with drawings, the word “trust” in dark pen to greet me.
Listening as a passerby stops to say, “This one speaks to me.” I listen and am grateful for the gift of their emotion, their interpretation of the canvas.
Thank you seems insufficient and to add “it means so much” seem like the reply of an amateur, not a “real” artist.
But, I tell them. I tell the ones who see themselves in my art that their purchase, their kind words are a gift.
Because, I mean it and rare is the occasion I say something I don’t mean.
Share your thoughts, words and trust.
You never know what a gift to them it may be.
The gift of you sharing “your Bible”, your life.
Open your Bible, let it speak then speak it through your story.
“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:20-21 ESV
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I sketched an oak tree years ago, green grass water colored and a blue sky with the words above added in a sort of filigree.
I worked for the Department of Family and Children Services aka DFACS aka The Welfare.
I gave this sketch to my first real boss, the County Director back then, thirty something years ago.
Something in me has always understood the something in others that causes harmful, negative, risky behaviors.
Causes giving up or succeeding.
And so, I had work to do, very hard work, but I tried to be kind.
Because, I’m certain every single person in the world is battling something.
Many times it’s something they’re hoping to outgrow or to not hand down to their children.
As I age, I’m beginning to see the battle of becoming, either fear of what I may become or a greater fear of what I will not.
I knew a woman once who should’ve been a chef. Her meals were spread out like royalty when family came on Sunday. She retired from professional management type work and she immersed herself in cooking. She became the cook at a little campground type place where men shot dove. The tips were good, the encouraging compliments invaluable. She was on top of the world and then, she just couldn’t or decided she couldn’t anymore.
Sometimes, I’m asked in these days of either anxious anger or languid depression, how I stay motivated, how I keep painting, I wish I could be like you, have a calling and purpose.
And I’m honest. I say,
I’ve seen what happens when you stop doing what feeds your soul. I’ve seen how quickly you don’t leave your house, grow weak and weary and weaker and worn out.
I’ve seen how becoming what you longed to be only lasts for a minute. I’ve seen how one sweet hope that gets stolen or is forced to be given up because of hardship or loss can break a strong soul.
I keep painting because like probably you, I want to become the mama who lived life fully not the one who decided she couldn’t keep on.
Feed your soul. Cook. Write. Paint. Sing. Dance. Plant your roses.
Every bit of you is the beauty you’re becoming.
The battle we all fight, the hard one?
The battle not to let ourselves quit, not to let our hopes go.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Psalms 23:1 NLT
I let my granddaughter run a distance ahead of me when we walk. There’s freedom in her feet, there is an overabundance of curious independence in her thoughts.
Taking care to watch her and yet, letting her be, letting her grow.
Letting her become full grown.
Watching her thrive.
My daughter has a plant called either “snake” or “mother in law’s tongue”. She asked my wise aunt, how to keep it alive.
My aunt quickly replied,
“Get up every day and tell it good morning and walk away.”
I suppose whatever it needs to thrive is somehow either inside its stiff leaves, woven together roots, or maybe it’s in the air around it. Maybe it is the home.
A parable in Ezekial, a rarely read book in my Bible was happened upon this morning. The clean page had a faint underlined place,
“Will it thrive?” Ezekiel 17:9
The parable was written to compare the ways of two leaders, a warning about the king of Babylon coming to Jerusalem and the importance of honoring The Lord’s covenant. History often confounds me. Still, the three words “will it thrive” caused me to sit with this passage.
A riddle to be understood, I sat with these several verses on this quiet Friday morning. I read and read again, God’s Spirit assuring me there’s a truth for you here.
Two vines planted from the branch and seed of a twig transported by an eagle.
One grew and spread near the abundant water and rich soil, it grew outward, freely, vines spreading and branches putting out new boughs.
The other wrapped its young roots around the eagle and became dependent upon it for water and its hope to become a noble vine.
Yet, when it needed to be transplanted, free to grow, the roots would be found weak, easy to be blown away, bent by the wind and eventually wither.
I think of my attention to things God has given me to contribute my part in their growth.
Naturally, I think of my children.
A daughter who’s a wife and mommy, a leader in vocation and learning, outspoken and deeply caring.
A son who is Colorado and lives near a park known for its majestic cedars. A son, who subtly agreed when I mentioned another mother saying “every child gets to write their own story”.
“That’s right.” he said.
They are thriving and becoming even more fully grown.
It’s a wonder to me, because I surely often overwatered, fertilized with unsolicited advice and often looked on too closely to circumvent uprooting of what I felt meant thriving.
So, how does growth happen best?
Not getting too wrapped in the care and nourishment of our thriving, established long ago by our Father.
If growth is intended for us, it will grow when we let it be.
Because of God, my growth and I have all I need.
Like the healthy plant that never gets watered. Whatever is within it has it thriving. Letting it be seems to be the answer.
I journaled in the margin of the smooth thin paper what God hopes I’ll let linger.
Roots that are planted in good places of abundance and then left to spread on their own are more likely to thrive than the roots I cling tightly to, so tightly they wrap themselves around me stunting the intended growth of my calling, art, writing, my contributions to others.
Roots allowed to spread without being overnourished, overthought or overworked are the roots of long living, lasting evidence of hope.
Yes, it will thrive.
Let it happen. Let it grow. Contribute as needed, as led by the Creator of you.
Hope will grow and thrive.
Continue and believe.
“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalms 23:2-3 NLT
Who can you think of past or present who is famous because of their peace, the most indescribably unknown person you know?
“These are treasures no bird of prey can see, no falcon’s eye observe.” Job 28:7 NLT
I spoke with an author of three books recently. I sensed the ache in his voice as he told me about his writing after I talked about mine, the children’s book inspired by Matthew 6:26. We agreed to sell a lot of books, you must be famous, have a website with a bookoo of followers and be good at talking about yourself.
Just the conversation between us about self/book promotion was hard.
Before sunrise today, I thought of just how contradictory that seems. I’ve read lots of Christian books, some sort of trendy and insubstantial and some very resonant and worth returning to.
I thought of how we, as far as I interpret the words of Jesus, are not supposed to want to be famous.
When we say
“Make Jesus famous, not me!”
We’re supposed to be able to mean it.
And yet, an agent won’t return an email and a query goes unread because you have less than 5000 Instagram followers.
A few weeks ago, I had a skip in my step, a sense of a really cool possible art opportunity.
Time passed and it faded to “oh,well…”
I’ll reference trauma once here and that’ll be it.
If your needs went unnoticed as a child or young adult and you get well enough to try expression of your needs and talents again and nothing happens…
You decide it’s better to be invisible again.
Because invisible is what you know.
But, now this self-awareness feels less achingly deficient and more like
a better fame.
A realization of what I decided was my “treasure” was not my treasure at all.
Years ago, when I began writing, my heart set on a memoir about the possibility of hope, I was starry-eyed and optimistic and I told myself don’t be a chatty little woman who writes about Jesus.
Be authentic. Be real. Be truthful but not so truthful you hinder another’s hope.
And I thought I’d write a book about it all.
Now, I realize I may not.
Because the truth, my truth I am learning to be okay with is,
I don’t think I want to be famous. I think I’d rather be quiet.
That admission may be the kiss of death to being a published author or it may be the breath of heavenly fresh air to a weary striving soul.
Because writing, painting, being a published author are not my treasures, my peace and my peaceful sharing of my healing are. They are the treasures I hold and occasionally share in hopes of stirring curiosity over the same treasure for others.
I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop painting, often with crayon.
I’m just certain being a person who can be found by name on Amazon as an author or who has art that can be searched for and purchased has given me a taste of fame.
But never has fame made me famous, instead only made me wanting more.
Thirsty for recognition, parched for praise and aching for a dollar sign saying success next to something I made.
Eight years blogging. I suppose it’s fitting to write honestly today.
That feels like a quiet celebration.
Keep writing. It’s good to continue quietly and to believe.
Because healing is not dependent on fame, only on believing, believing like the lame man on the banks of the Bethesda.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that the man had been crippled for a long time. Jesus said to him, “Do you truly long to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there’s no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed! So he rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath.” John 5:6-9 TPT
If she could go without a soul knowing, she knew where she’d run off to. Down Highway 80 through Savannah, through the mossy oaked canopy, and over the bridge crossing grassy low tidewaters. She would find that old place, the place she felt known. She would take what she needed, chill some water in the Frigidaire, and have crackers and peanut butter wrapped in her Kleenex, food for the road. All would be well. She’d venture down to the lonely October shore and sit on the sand; she would be on the beach. She would wash her feet in the frothy tide. She’d sleep soundly with the breeze, the little clapboard house by the shore, the place she longed for, left her art there, the place where her dreams began. The place where someone else now lives, strangely she decided they would just welcome her in. She would wake with the autumn crispness and move towards the kitchen, avoiding the tiny room, space where she used to stay. She ached to be there again. She longed to have her fingers, arms. elbows covered in paint, to forgo the brush, blending colors in. She would consider painting again, maybe later. She might allow herself to be taken away, to be lost in the translation of her concerns to thickly layered colors. “Iris”, she might pencil in in the corner, always signing that way. Maybe this evening she thought when the light comes through the sheers just before the day gives way to night. She might settle in then, lose all track of time and heartache. Wouldn’t that be something? Everyone would talk! Iris has up and left Earl, she always had an independent streak! She smiled, thinking of all the women at the factory, the gossip, the whispers.
Instead, she drove back home, the little white house, tin-roofed and porch screened in. It was Friday, no telling what was waiting. Her husband, a carpenter, fisherman, a rounder, and rascal would be waiting. About thirty minutes away, longer if she could drive like she wanted, slow and smooth in her silvery-blue Impala, if she could she just keep right on going she would. She’d like to take longer before easing up the hill and cruising, her foot off the gas and over the bridge that marked the creek. She flipped on the blinker, she had to get on home. The highway changed to sandy dirt; the first curve was the sharpest as she passed his cousin’s place. She cracked the window and let the other one down all the way, Remer’s wife would be peering through the parlor window, same time every day, making sure she had come back home. The one perched on the tractor slowing to see her, his baby brother was watching too, knowing he’d made it home from wandering now and waiting for his wife to get her “sorry self” back home. She smiled, satisfied in her last moments of alone. Creating pretty things, little flowery dresses, gingham checked and ruffled, her art, the products made by her hands. Only three days into October and she had made production.
Her fingers were bent and achy, their tips flattened smooth. One hundred little Christmas dresses from four different patterns and each of them the same except their velvety hue; cobalt blue, rich red, emerald green, or ivory. Some with broad white collars and some with wide sashes for tying bows cinching perfectly around tiny waists. For ten hours a day and a Saturday, she had been taken away to a place that was hers, a place she could be proud of, a place close enough to feel free, free like the painting she used to do.
She turned onto the path that led her back home. He might be sitting out back on the steps or she might hurry in past the sight of his broad back in bib overalls, bent over the old table cleaning his fish. She wouldn’t ask him what he had done today, only go about her business, get herself out of her slacks and cotton blouse and into her housedress and slippers, he’d been waiting for his supper. She knew his expectations. She understood her role.
As she headed towards the kitchen she remembered, there was no rice for supper! Oh, Lord have mercy! She had forgotten to cook that morning. Her husband had gone without, no rice for dinner and none waiting for his supper. She turned back towards the hallway and she saw it there, the old rice pot that was always sittin’ on the stove, it had been thrown up against the sitting room wall. Laying there with the sun coming through the picture window, shining like a flash of warning or a lost coin, either way, the rice was not ready, supper would not be on time. There was nothing for her to do now. She would have to be prepared. Sooner or later he would barrel through the door, overalls half on and half off and the stub of sucked-on cigar loping sideways from his lip. She would know right away; she would detect the smell or not of Pabst Blue Ribbon. She could only hope there wasn’t a deeper smell, the thick scent of warm bourbon or the belligerent tone of clear liquid, meaning there might be anger and she was surely too tired to take him on. Oh, how she wished her girls were there. But, long gone they were and with husbands of their own, one feisty and determined and the other followed not too far behind. She hoped the other brother who lived beyond the cornfield might pass through. They would talk of the weather or the crops or the President, move to compare their sorry-ass women, and how their lives should have turned out differently. But it was looking like a lone night, just the two of them and she had no idea when he might decide to come inside.
She turned to listen, as still as she could be, and decided he must be occupied with cleaning fish or digging bait or maybe brooding in a close to drunken state. She had time maybe, time to get the rice ready, time to pretend she had not forgotten before leaving for work, leaving her husband here. She reached for the Tupperware and opened its lid to scoop out the white grain into the soon-to-be boiling pot of water.
She startled when the screen door creaked. She stood still to measure his mood by the weight of his feet on the porch. She listened as he grew closer, seemed somehow more spring in his step. She’d grown accustomed to the heaviness of his stride, his feet like cinder blocks, the way they seemed so thick, pushing himself along in despair. Her heart was pounding. She listened. He stepped into the kitchen and ambled towards the sink and there he lingered. She felt his breathing on the back of her neck, she noticed the scent of his labor and decided today, maybe he had been working. She opened her mouth not sure what to say or which way she should begin. Before she could speak, he came even closer and then turned, his hand on her shoulder, the other one circling around her waist. He cradled her for a moment and then turned and walked away, left her standing there. Butterflies rose up in her belly and fluttered in dance at her throat.
She was frozen in front of the stove; the sensation of his touch had overwhelmed her. She looked at the pot waiting for the boiling water and listened as he ran the bathtub water, longer than usual. What in the world, was he not worried anymore about the well running dry? She realized she had more time. She opened the icebox and pulled out a chicken and the beans. If she hurried, the Crisco would be ready about the time the rice simmered down and the leftover lima beans, she would season them with a fresh “strick o’ lean”. She listened as she worked, his odd behavior allowed her more time. She thought of slipping past the tiny bathroom to the bedroom mirror to check her hair and her face, but she decided not to chance it, he would hear. She never knew really; she was careful not to wake her sleeping giant of a man. Something might set him off and he’d holler loud from the other side of the wall, probably then he’d let her have it, did she just expect him to go hungry again?
Supper was nearly done ‘bout the time the sky changed from blue to dark and thundering grey. The wind was whipping the loose tin on the back shed and pine limbs were threatening to come through the windows, thick and green they pushed against the windows and then moved away just long enough for her to see where the storm was headed, how long it was staying, the hard rain, the threatening thunder the flash of angry lightning. He’d be back in the kitchen any minute and he’d tell her he knew it all day, he knew a cloud was making up, he saw it coming. She waited and then continued. She floured the chicken and dropped it carefully in while the beans were warming and the rice was filling up the pot, the water making it thick and the way he liked it, thick and fluffed, not mushed together. The aroma filled the room, a later than normal supper. She was scrambling to move the cast iron from the heat for the gravy when he came around the corner. He walked towards the table, pulled his chair out, and told her, “You ain’t got to make no gravy.”
He surprised her when he said softly, “I was thinkin’ all day, I sure hope we get a good hard rain.” then asked her how her dressmaking went today. She answered that it was good, he nodded and then just looked away. He told her he had gone to town and that he talked with a man about helping a man with some carpentry. Rumor had it that there were new houses coming in just out past the grocery store, that a Yankee from Carolina had bought up all the land and that somebody told them if you need a good carpenter, well, Earl is your man. He told her that he was sure the rich man had been warned, “You just have to catch him sober or not fishin’”. She listened as he continued, remembering her daddy and how she had been warned about his reputation, his family was good people, but the son was rowdy. He was a charmer she remembered, his swagger swept her away, upturned lip with an “I got you girl” smile, he reeled her in. They finished their supper and she rose to clean the dishes as he leaned back in his chair and told her, “You better get on to bed, they’ll be expecting you early again tomorrow.” She paused, “Good night.” she said, and then she barely heard him mumble in reply. She did not remind him she would not be working tomorrow.
The storm had passed, and the windows only open a tiny bit, she listened to the birds in an exchange, singing sweetly one to another, the crickets and the frogs down by the pond would soon join in. Tomorrow she decided, she would go to town, it was Saturday, she might see if he wanted to ride along. She drifted off to sleep, slept like a baby. She woke to the sound of coffee percolating and a strange sense of mystery, of newness, and of intrigue. Coffee and cream and the corn flakes and evaporated milk were placed on the table. No words were spoken between them, unfamiliar and awkward, this new way of them. Not his way to think of fixin’ breakfast.
“I think I’m going to town today.” she offered. He grunted. He had grown accustomed to her independence, gave up on changing or caging her in. She did what her preacher man daddy raised her to do, she was dependable and gave in to most everything, knew when to leave him alone, stay out of his way. He let her veer off on occasion, it gave him his space. He didn’t know what she was up to, what was happening between them? He said okay when she out of nowhere asked, “You want to ride to town with me?” then he instantly regretted his answer. What in the world? That would mean changing his overalls, changing his plans, putting on clean boots, sitting closer to her than he had in years, all enclosed in her car and barely an arm’s length away from her body. He would be the passenger in her beloved Chevrolet. “You ready?’ she asked. He looked out the window and walked away, never gave an answer. She waited. She wondered. She regretted asking. Then she heard the rusty creak of the old Nova’s door, the pumping of his foot on the gas to give it the boost it required, and the beat-up old chassis backed up and bolted through the field and down the roads, swerving she knew it, barely keeping it between the ditches.
She sat as morning changed around her. The corn flakes flat and floating, the coffee cold and the house was again silent. She thought of her life, how it could have been. She remembered the cousin who left Georgia and moved to California, became a designer, famous in a way she supposed. She rose to wipe the counters, poured the coffee out the back door, took the corn flakes down by the edge of the woods, scraped her bowl, left it all there. She promptly returned to the bedroom, made her bed, knelt down, and prayed. She rose to gather the white blouse starched and waiting and navy slacks, flat shoes. She found her blue cameo pin. She washed her face, took the bobby pins from her hair, added red lipstick then blotted it to fade to barely there. Dressed and ready, she grabbed her pocketbook and her keys, her little list, her memorandum and she slammed the door behind her. It was only 8:00 in the morning and she knew he would be down by the river; she had the whole day.
Iris slid into the seat of her car, glancing down through the field, corn on either side, the road that led to his family. She popped it in reverse and glided back before turning the other way. She had no idea where she was going, she just knew she was going away. She made it to town too early for lunch, barbeque had been the plan for the day. She decided on the café, found a booth, and sat to listen, watch, pay attention to others. A pattern of hers it has always been, comparison of her life to almost everyone everywhere, she was an observer. The waitress served her coffee, toast, and jelly as she lingered. She thought about the possibility, of her husband sitting across the table having a pleasant conversation. She remembered the night before, the glimmer of different, a slight change in him, for them. No idea what to do next, she paid her bill and left, walked out into a perfectly cloudless day, and then started her car to go on her way. Windows down and a scarf tied at her neck, she drove towards the beach and then turned back the other way. Unsure whether to be angry at herself for not going or satisfied that she chose the better thing, she remembered her memorandum and made her way to the McConnell’s Five and Dime.
Barely noon, she still had a lot of day. She opened the door, welcomed by a sharp clanging bell. “Well, hello Iris”, she heard someone say and she turned to see an old classmate; the one who left the country and made her way to the big city. She smiled, dreading the questions of how and what in the world have you been doing. She anticipated grand stories of her successful husband, her children, her grandchildren, her brick home, a garden with brilliant flowers, a display of pride, and better than. Small talk of family and weather led to nosy interrogations she endured. Inquiries of her husband, of her daughters, of their home, and whether she had ever decided to pick back up on painting.
She answered all of them, made excuses to hurry up her shopping, nice to see you again, say hello to your mama. She watched her walk away, listened as her heels clickety clacked down the aisle, and overheard her words to the cashier, condescension over an apparent mistake in her change. Iris stood for a moment and then decided on a change. She slowly pushed her buggy down one aisle and then the next, forgot about the Pine-Sol and the detergent, continued on her search until she found it, the small section with the thick ivory papers, the colors, and the brushes. A box of crayons, she opened them and smiled over all the colors before closing tightly the lid and setting them down in her buggy. A large brush for backgrounds and a small for details, two or three more for blending and then tubes, oh so very many happy tubes of paint! She inventoried her list, best she could remember she had all she would need. She paid for her items and danced through the exit doors; going back home, not running away.
As fast as she could, she made her way back home, mapped out the afternoon, time allotted her for solitude. She thought of what she might do for a bite to eat, enough to get by until supper, she was excited, so very excited. Barely turning to notice the sister-in-law, the cousins, the brother in the field, she pulled in and unloaded quickly, laid her beautiful things out on the porch. She grabbed the peanut butter and the crackers, ice water, and a banana. Remembered the rice then and considered not cooking but decided it’ll only take a minute, might as well do this for him. It was expected and it required so very little of her, put the water in the pot, the rice does the boiling, cover it with a lid and just leave it there. It will be there for him, whenever and however he comes back in. It was such a little gesture, somehow, she saw it now, as a gift.
All of that accomplished, she found a big old sheet, spread it out on the floor, and made a place for her paper. She found an old piece of wood, leaned it up against the screen, and with a rusty nail positioned her idea of an easel for her paper canvas. A jar filled with water and brushes soaking, she found an old broken dish and made herself a palette. Vibrant blue was her background and greens, red and purple followed. With no idea of how to begin, what to paint, she simply layered colors. She stood back and admired the symmetry, the way one color spilled over to another bordered by heavy tint turning to faint shade and shadow. She found the box and crayons and added flowing lines in length and layers, she decided they reminded her of gowns. So, she quickly added shoulders, gauzy sleeves over arms, and shapes of faces titled one way or another. She added ruddy cheeks and pale hollowed ones made barely noticeable bridges of noses and only just hints of blue, brown, or green where the women in flowing gowns eyes would be. She sighed, an audible “Ah!” escaped from her lips, and then she felt it, the smile, the filling up because of it of her cheeks. She gazed at the colors, the freedom of them, thick paper flamboyant and joyous colors, all types of stories. She rested then realized the time had escaped her. The dusk of the day was approaching. She gathered her jars and her brushes, stuffed crayons back in the box, and careful not to ruin the extras, gingerly picked up her papers, picked up the unpeeled banana, and nibbled a stale cracker. She scrubbed the brushes and laid them on a dishcloth to dry, turned on the pilot light, and then the burner, the rice, oh, Lord, the rice had to be ready! Hurriedly she finished, put everything away, and decided chicken from last night would be enough, would be okay. She walked out onto the back porch to see the coral sun setting and she breathed deeply, sat down in the place where he’d be pulling in, and rested her bare feet in the soft cool dirt-like sand. Her husband would be home eventually; but she wasn’t worried, not afraid.
She made a choice today when she could have chosen another way. She could have chosen rebellion, a trip to Tybee, and come what may. She surely did consider it. She could have chosen pity pouting in the discount aisle and she could have chosen to be a fighter for her freedom. Instead, she chose to gently open her own door. Iris was daydreaming when she heard the familiar sound of him coming around the corner. She thought to get herself together, to hurry back in, stand waiting in the kitchen in a wifely way. She stayed still, she waited. He pulled into the driveway and turned to look her way, puzzled for sure, he smiled, and then he shook his head. He walked over to see her and asked, “How was your day?” Before she could answer he told her he was sorry, that he knew she wanted him to go to town today. She smiled and asked about his day, about where he had been. He answered with a grin, told her he drove towards the river then came back to check the pond dam, decided to see the plot of land where the fancy houses would be, and ended up back at his brother’s, just sitting around mostly. She told him supper was about ready and that she had just wanted some air. She reached for her shoes, brushed the sand from her feet, and headed back in. He walked beside her, straight with no sign of stagger and he reached for her hand. She did not know what to make of it, she allowed it, she accepted him then. As they stepped towards the porch, she saw the makeshift easel, she remembered the painting. He opened the door and held it for her, and he turned, and he saw it and said nary a word. Supper was different because he kept on being different and when it was done, he pushed his plate to the table’s center and got up out of his chair.
She watched as he stepped towards the porch; listened as he stepped back towards her. He carried the piece of wood made into an easel and tenderly placed it with its still moist colors on the sill of the window that looked out towards the field. Then he shifted it left a little before saying, “That’s somethin’ else! A real pretty paintin’ Iris, why don’t you make another one for here.” She stood up from the table and met him in the middle and she knew in her heart, everything would change from here, her independent streak not broken against her will, but gently set free and blended, the color returning to her story.
I’ve removed the fifteen or more books from my nightstand.
Some of them read, some recommended, others opened and skimmed and set aside.
I’m hard on myself as a reader. I’m distracted and mostly too sleepy. They say a writer must be a reader.
Maybe that’s why I’m less afraid to paint.
To simplify. The nightstand now has one framed photo, a lamp, a pen with paper and a paperback collection of Psalms and Proverbs.
“How he satisfies the souls of thirsty ones and fills the hungry with all that is good!” Psalms 107:9 TPT
I’ve taken to the practice of reading at least one verse as soon as I’m settled in bed.
Some nights more. I thumb to the passage chosen by the date and the pages from notes compiled through the years are becoming my sedation, my self-help.
There are pencil scratches, black or blue ink faded to soft grey. There are bold underlines and tiny little star asterisks in places.
The summary of supplication, of suffering questions, or redirection of myself in an achingly sorrowful way.
Remorse, regret, confusion and occasionally a determined commitment to peace, the words warn, these are best kept secret.
Much like Job may have felt, I imagine if he sat with the pages that detailed his friends calling out his wrongs and his reply incessantly saying,
But, none of this makes sense. Why me?
I feel like Job was just that honest.
If you find your old journal or Bible, do you find your honesty to be hard or do you see it as simply honest?
Do you see how far you’ve come or are you hard on yourself that some days you still hurt to comprehend some things?
I fell asleep with a revelation the other night.
I’d read my prayers scrawled in the old book. Concerns so very intimate that only God and I knew and know the reasons.
I realized I had such a yearning for God back then.
I realized I still do.
The thought of my laments and longings documented with pencil or pen gave me a new idea, a different peace.
I was a seeker. I still am.
My soul ached with yearning.
It still is.
I decided it is a good thing to be still yearning, to not be satisfied in who I’ve become, to be certain God’s still what my heart yearns for and the goodness of His gifts to me, to my family, beauty made of so many hard things.
The words to a song you won’t hear on the radio seem to pop up on my Pandora quite often lately.
I drive the morning road, make it to the hill and curve on the dirt one and I slow my arrival because it happens!
The voice of Paul Beloche, so gently and assuredly reminding me of all the beauty God has made of my life already.
She gave a helpful list with one thing being to ask yourself at the end of the day,
“Where did I see God today?”
Naturally, I loved this, it’s might kind of deep thinker thing.
Tuesday was a “grandma day”. It was so sweet and easy and it was a gift the way the simplicity of the day fell into place.
We sat together in the cool castle building dirt spot. To pass the time ‘til Mama drove up, I taught the baby to sift sand from one hand to the other. Teaching maybe the wrong word, I just did it and she followed.
From one hand to the other we just passed the sand between our hands. She looked up, longer than usual, looked deeply into my eyes in a way that said, “This is sublime.”
Yes, this was when I saw God.
God with us.
Heaven met earth and situated itself with us in the Springtime dirt.
Yearning for me not to miss such a beautiful moment on a blue sky day.
And I didn’t and I pray I don’t from now on.
“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” Hebrews 7:25 NLT
Lord, may our earthly days cause our longing for you more every day even as we yearn for the incomprehensible promise of heavenly days promised by you.
There’s an odd tree near my home. Its branches are grey and twisted and it half stands half reclines in an empty lot.
It is solitary with only tiny tender pines trying to begin their lives nearby, bright green fan like needles on the skinniest of branches.
I’m not an arborist. I know this tree is old, “gnarly” comes to mind. It has pods of some sort and pale white tiny blooms in the Spring. I’ve yet to see it produce a nut or fruit. It still has a few crinkly leaves furled and scattered.
It has lingered long.
Planted in the empty lot or the lot owned by someone and long neglected.
A decade or so ago I began to notice, this leaning tree keeps staying, fascinating me. It is steady although it has no real reason, not attended to by anyone other than God’s good rain and sun.
I’ve just gotten word from a gallery telling me thanks for your submission, our walls are full.
We have enough for display.
I downgraded from a website for my art to Etsy. The decision surprised me with the ease, and the peace, the still today peace is keeping me.
The desire to be an artist feels like an ache, a wound that keeps reminding you to take it slow, slow movements bring lasting health and renewed fervor.
This I know. The change is internal. I am being refined. I am growing. I know because this time, I have told this change, welcome, come on in, stay a bit.
A crazy thing happened on Sunday morning. I heard a sound above my head and thought, an animal in the attic…a big one. At last, I’d convince my husband and he’d believe me, those squirrels are living above our bed.
Later, I went to make the bed and discovered branches curled against my window. The pretty poplar tree had been uprooted by nature and leaned in a precarious way against our home.
Home alone, I walked out in rain boots and pajamas to see the bulbous root upturned and the trunk resting against a patio table. The discarded table saved our windows and our roof. The tree is now cut into pieces by our sweet son in law and only debris remaining.
I am wondering what caused it to fall.
Today, I read a passage in a devotional referencing a verse about being refined.
I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. Zechariah 13:9
I thought of what it means to be refined, how I’d always equated being refined with having more polish, more finesse, what had been started becoming a final result that stood out from the rest. To be refined would feel as close to perfection as possible, a pleasing object to gaze upon, a showpiece worthy of applause.
I know the metaphor of life’s trials and traumas being a symbol of the fire of the silversmith, the heat melting the substance so that it shines smoothly.
I’m realizing it’s not about shining, the refining God wants us to understand and allow.
It’s an inside transformation, a change in our souls that leads to changes in mindsets and goals.
A change maybe we and God only know.
To be refined, all impurities are removed from a substance, it becomes internally pure.
A Canon named George Body, born in 1840 describes it this way,
“His loving eye is ever eagerly watching for the moment when the purifying work is done. Then, without a moment’s delay, He withdraws the fire, and the purified soul is removed from the furnace. See, again, it is when the image of Christ is reflected in us, so that He can see Himself in us as a mirror. Raise your eyes, then amidst the flames, and see the Face of Jesus watching you.” George Body
Stand like the old tree, stronger because of the nature of its own depth and fiber and because of the refining hand of God.
The strength is inner, the strength that was brave when it said call yourself an artist.
Keep it quiet. Keep it confident. Keep it grounded.