What was good? What was hard? Where did you see God?
They come a bit early to Sunday school, and help me set up the day’s activities while their mother leads the choir. They keep me informed about all the latest happenings in their lives, and on the new toys and books that I’m too old to know about. And they draw. This Sunday, they drew me.
The artistry, and the effort that it took, are wonderful answers to what was good?
The artists, Addy and Henry, are wonderful answers to another of the questions: where did you see God?
A couple years back, she was a birthday present from my son, Colin. I’d never seen an all-white nesting doll before. I thought Colin picked it because it would show up on the dark bookcase shelves – something the traditional multi-colored nesting dolls might not. I was wrong.
Not about the showing up part, but about her true nature. Sure, she held two other nesting dolls, each with different flower pattern on the front. I thought the change in pattern was just for fun. I was wrong.
My nesting doll isn’t just decorative, lovely as she is. She is a set of measuring cups. The tops are the thirds: 1/3 cup, 2/3 cup, and 1 cup; the bottoms are the quarters: 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 3/4 cup. The patterns on the bottom make it easy to tell one size from the other – a clever way to keep measuring mistakes to a minimum. This nesting doll set is sturdy, washes easily, and takes up less space than the usual 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 1 cup sets.
She sits on an open shelf in my kitchen – simple and pretty when not in use. She measures dry goods when I’m cooking – simple and accurate when in use. Form and function residing together in a thoughtful, simple, gift. If that isn’t a bit of kitchen magic, what is?
They began as six hollyhock plants, three a lovely pale yellow, three a deep scarlet. Being an heirloom variety, they reseeded themselves every year – yellow on one side of my front walkway, scarlet on the other.
Ten years after they were planted, something changed; the yellow gave way to something closer to a very pale pink, and the deep scarlet lightened. A few years after that, the flowers opened with two colors: peach and yellow on some, lavender and cream on others.
Over the years, the plants have moved up the walkway on both sides. I’m never sure where the newly reseeded ones will emerge, and I adjust the placement of my annuals – an opportunity to rethink my flower beds every year.
Weeding the beds the other day, I saw in these changes my life. In the nineteen years I’ve lived in this place, I’ve gone from a mother of small children to a mother of 20-somethings. My life pattern is different, growing out of changes that are beyond my control.
If someone had asked me nineteen years ago what life would be at this point, I doubt I’d have landed on what it is. But this life has grown out of the older one, changing with each season, flowering in new ways.
I can’t control it, and I can’t predict exactly what the coming nineteen years will bring. Isn’t that amazing?
Origami is an art and a mystery to me. I enjoy watching a flat piece of paper turn into something quite different – a crane, a bird, a bat, or a Christmas tree. Or a rose and a boat, like the ones above.
You can’t tell by looking at them, but they share a common attribute: both require my participation after they are folded. The boat needs me to set it afloat – something I’ve done with dozens of boats in tubs, rivers, and ponds. When it gets waterlogged, I restore it by lifting it out of the water to dry. Origami boats, with a little help, have several voyages in them.
The rose is different because it’s not just a rose. A soft press of my fingers turns it into a cube; my gentle pull on the corners recreates the rose. It cannot be what it was created to be without help.
A beautiful human life seems to require the same: loving creation and another’s help for it to be what it was meant to be. Weighed down by the sea of reality, everyone needs a lift and a time for restoration. Stuck in one place, a gentle push or pull is necessary to shift into another one.
What a blessing, to be interdependent in this God-created world.
What a blessing, to have the honor of being the helping hand.
It’s the bottom of the lettuce, the part I cut away to free the leaves for my salad. A rough, flat nub and an inch of tough ends that usually ends up in my compost pile. But set it in the garden bed, and a miracle happens: new leaves begin to grow from the stump overnight. Three or four days later, it’s enough to snip and add to the top of my taco. Even more amazing, the new growth is beautiful to see.
Life from a throwaway, from something that has already fulfilled its primary purpose. Beauty arising from the ordinary. If such remarkable regeneration comes from discarded things, how can anything be impossible?
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
They were nineteen years old when I threw them away. I bought them before Jared was born, when Dave and I lived in New Hope with our toddler son, Colin. You can’t see it, but the soles are split, the laces are frayed (this is the second set of them), and the stitching has given out on the heels. They are permanently bent, as if my feet were still in them, lifting up to take my next step. I took the picture to remind me of how much care and talent went into their creation, and of how they carried me in comfort over countless miles.
Images evoke feelings and memories. The same image can mean different things to different people – over time, they can also mean different things for the same person. For these summer days, I’ll share some images that speak to me – like the boots above. I’ll also post a second picture – one at the end of the post. Without words for a few days, then with a story.
If you are so inclined, tell me what you see. A second set of eyes can bring a new perspective…
The time signature in a musical piece sets the rhythm – common time, three-quarter time, etc. It gives a frame for the notes, directions on how they work together in time, and keeps everyone singing and playing the various parts working together to transform dark spots on white paper into melody and harmony. It’s the touchpoint for improvisation, the place of reference for scat singing and jazz solos. When I dance, it directs my feet; it provides the when and how often for clapping.
It’s usually easy enough to find the rhythm that the time signature sets. But every so often, it isn’t so easy. I can’t quite find the underlying beat, and the pattern of the notes escapes me. Turning on the radio at the end of a song or during a guitar solo; a cappella chanting; some modern classical music that changes rhythm unexpectedly and often: these can throw me off, and it takes more than a few seconds to find my way in the piece. I have to wait until I can feel the structure and pattern in the music. It’s unsettling.
My spiritual life feels that way sometimes. The time signature changes throughout my life, and it throws me off until I find the rhythm; I’ve tuned in somewhere in the middle instead of at the start (more honestly, I tuned out for the beginning part!); someone’s offering a riff on faith, and I miss its connection to the standard version.
Finding the rhythm of the Spirit may take some time, and I may not catch on as quickly as I’d like – I may even clap in the wrong places. But given time and a little patience, I’ll find my place in the music. I may appreciate the time signature all the more for having missed it.
[The Book of Love, Shall We Dance?, Peter Gabriel, 2004]
Debbie keeps it in a frame – a card her longtime friend sent to her years back. If you knew Debbie, you’d know this card is so much like her – an equestrian, a good woman, and just enough of a renegade to keep life interesting. That’s the specifics of why this card is so great.
In a general sense, it’s also amazing – a great message to all the girls who will grow up to be women, and all the women who grew from the girls they once were…
Life is an adventure. Be a good companion to those who join you in all the ups and downs – kind, considerate, and prayerful.
Just as important: dare to break the rules that need breaking, don’t be afraid to show strength and courage, and have a hell of a lot of fun.
You are a delight to God. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – even your own inner critic.
The note came from a friend, with only one sentence inside: This picture has me thinking of you, literally. She’d seen my teapot of blooming nasturtiums; it might have made a leaky mess as a teapot due to a small crack, but it made a wonderful plant pot.
I firmly believe that we aren’t put on this earth for a single purpose, and that our beautiful souls and our God given gifts may find surprising ways to shower love on our neighbors. But even more, I believe that our flaws, our cracks, will point us toward something beautiful that we may never have found without them.
She was in residence when I visited Gallery in the Sun nine years ago, living and working in one of the buildings DeGrazia made for just such a person and purpose. She said she wasn’t going to be there long, but loved being there at the moment.
I love the sheer joy she captured in this charcoal drawing. It isn’t just the smile; it’s the light in the little boy’s eyes, and the dance in his body. He is the embodiment of finding happiness in the moment – and offering that happiness back to the world.
None of us are going to be here long. That’s just reality. So why not love being here at the moment? Find the joy and you just may find yourself dancing, too.