Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just Do Something


I didn’t get up and run. I didn’t get the meal plans with calorie counts laid out. I haven’t worked on my blog, paintings or book in the last few days. I had no art plans for the kids. With hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, distracting and discouraging thoughts plague my mind. The drive ahead looked bleak and full of more self criticizing stabs.

“This is not how you roll,” a gentle and surprising whisper swept through my soul. This was lazy, full of excuses. It was not me. Not the dust off, get up and go girl who is BLESSED! Now, what can I do? Surely I can do something!? I need a transformation of thoughts....

Romans 12:1-2 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Looking down at my water bottle in the cup holder, I knew it. I could drink more water. Not earth changing, but a start. It’s good for me. It is moving in the right direction. Glug, glug, glug. There! I did SOMETHING. It was like holy water, filling me up with a renewed sense of hope. No, there was nothing magical or spiritual about my plastic water bottle. But there is something amazing about our God and how He can even work through a drinking straw. The cycle was broken. The self-defeating cycle of not good enough, not getting enough done, not enough progress was broken. Why? Because I did something. Through a divinely inspired desire for something more. Not something amazing. Just something. Something putting me on the right path and turning in the right direction. What something can you do today? Pick up the paint brush? Write down blood glucose levels? Make the phone call? Lace up the running shoes? Open the Bible? The pattern has to be broken before it can be changed. Today, I will continue to drink more water. And lace up those running shoes too.

To live an artful, abundant life takes a proactive attitude. Artful life is meaningful life and it is worth the effort to be proactive. Make something more beautiful by rearranging; mantle d├ęcor, pictures on the wall, or flowers in a vase. Recover the cushion, or move your most precious piece in the curio cabinet to a new place of prominence, where it can be admired! Need to clean, but feel overwhelmed? Just do something…a drawer, a pocketbook, a counter. Intend on doing art with kiddos, but feel intimidated? Grab some paper going in the recycle, scissors and glue and make a mixed media collage on a paper plate. It doesn’t need to be a giant, multi-step lesson with extensive objectives. It just needs to be.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Give Me The Pen

Give me the pen.

“Lord, I don’t want to. This is MY agenda…I need the pen to fill in the details.”

Give me the pen.

“But I just got rolling with my blog again, and I have these ideas I want to try out in the studio, and swimsuit season is just a few months away…”

Relinquishing the offending writing implement is one of the most difficult tasks I face daily. When I give it up, things get rewritten in my agenda…and not the way I want them to. Cross out inspiring "Art Lesson" and write in "doctor’s appointment at 9:30". Erase “work out abs and arms” and rewrite “rest and recuperate from infection”. Delete “write new blog entry” and replace with “wash dirty sheets from sick child…again.” I had it all planned out, but apparently that was just the clue God needed to read through the lines to the deepest part of my heart. “My plans are not your plans,” my God tells me. Then in scripture I read Isaiah 55:

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts…”

I know I have some memory issues (most everybody does these days) but how can I keep forgetting time and time again? Maybe, just maybe (after a week of antibiotic laden reminders) I will remember…it’s not my life. I have already given it to one who holds the ultimate agenda, the sketchbook of the time.  And when God fills in the blanks on my agenda pages, it is abundantly better than my ideas for any day. SO, here is the pen, Lord. Take it away and draw with in my life like only the artist of the universe can do.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Show Me The Art

I've shared pretty extensively about life in general...family, ah-ha moments, blessings and perspectives. So it was brought to my attention that with all this new found blog-thusiasm, I may have omitted a significant element. Thank you, kind family and fellow bloggers who politely noted...there is NO art on this site. After all, this is a blog about art and life. Hmmmm....this could be a problem!
Struggling with where to begin (a recurring theme in my life), it seemed choosing a piece interpreting the primary underlying theme of life might be a good start. But let me preface with my method before I present my first piece for a blog world critique.   A passion that has recently reignited for me as an artist is the desire to see music on canvas. To paint the kinds of songs I hear, the rhythm lines and of color that goes with the message in a song. I did quite extensive research on this in college and find it fascinating. Painting to music. Could it be considered an illustration? Perhaps synesthesia? Just an abnormal obsession with Wassily Kandinsky? Maybe all of the above and then some!
A discussion this weekend left me wondering the “How do we keep God front and center?” and “What is my purpose in this world?” kinds of questions. Surely, I want to honor God and live this awesome abundant life He promises. But… how? The answer is both simple and difficult. By approaching EVERYTHING you do as an act of worship to God. That’s it. That’s the real deal to keep the ball rolling, the smiles sailing and the sun shining.  Do you ever hear something you already knew, but somehow stored into some “don’t-throw-away-because-I-might-need-this-later” folder in your memory? That’s how I felt in this conversation I was participating in. I felt like I was being reminded to breathe.

So, earlier this year, the musician Steven Curtis Chapman came out with a catchy little tune called “Do Everything.” I claim no rights to the song other than having purchased the cd and listened to it about a hundred times, because it seemed to be my life song at that moment. To paint it meant sitting with repeat on the audio, and turning up the sounds so loud you could feel it in your bones. What unfolded as I brought brush to paint tickled me, and I hope it does for you too. I like fun in art, so this is my semi-primitive interpretation of Do Everything.  Using the imagery of Kokopelli as symbolism for productivity in life and tying in some Hopi Indian and African influences, these fun figures frolicked onto my canvas. I hope they bring you smiles. Check out the song while you are looking at it. And think about the big question…what drives your everything?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cat Food, Popcorn and Setbacks

Maybe art on rainy days…or how to reuse plastic bottles in a creative way…”

My mind whizzed through possible topics as my vacuum whirled away dog fur and debris. Lord, what would you have me write about next? What can I share? What about that snowman thank-you card we made?

Crash! Twelve pounds of cat food on the floor later, I had my answer. I had a plan. I had a mission. And I had a setback. So I thanked God for allowing me to dump a month’s worth of feline fare on the floor, cleaned it up (and used two hands to move it back on the stool it tumbled from), and continued.

Setbacks come in many forms…changes in health, relationship altercations, unexpected occupation alterations, art plans that don’t go as expected and surprising expiration dates on dinner ingredients. They can be small, yet destroy a day. Or they can be huge and feel like they’ve destroyed a life. Yesterday I planned an artsy project with the kids. Funny how even with years of art teaching experience, I didn’t see the setbacks coming. That’s how they work. With blinding surprise.

Here’s the scene. While trying to emphasize the meaning of the word “thankful” with the kids (kind of ironic now, actually), we had a simple, creative plan (which I still recommend, but with a few adjustments…you’ll see). Using white glue on black paper, I spelled out “THANKFUL” and Kaden would use leftover popcorn to fill in the lines. Voila! Creative-learning-experience-with-emphasis-on-character-traits for the day…check!

You can probably imagine the gluey mess that ensued. Popcorn was recognized as a food…not so much an art material. Mostly after being dipped in glue. Baby dolls and army men came over to take a dip in the sticky white rivers. Nayla’s tiny hands laid flat on the glue letters while she reached for more popcorn. Adding paper to the mix to replace the popcorn only made it more confusing. Pretty soon we had to scrap our plan. We had a setback.

A good hand washing and a few wiped toys later,  I found it necessary to reflect on the situation (a much more fun approach than immediately cleaning it up).

What went wrong? Could I change it for next time? Did anything go right? Where do we go from here? Is it worth repeating, but with changes?

So here’s the good news. When you have a setback, you have a chance to change. Oh yes, you can just stew. You can blame. You can cry. You can sulk. But after that, you have an opportunity to make some lemonade out of some lemons.  Even better, we’ve got a God who wants more for us than just frustration.

“How abundant are the good things you have stored up for those who fear you” says Psalm 31:19. So God’s got bigger plans for me than my mistakes, flaws or setbacks. I choose to believe this is true on even the smallest level. So, how ‘bout some good things?!

So we’ve got a setback. Now what? First, make sure you are on the right road. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3. Whether a project with a toddler or big business deal, this part has to be in place.

Second, where did things go wrong? Reflect and analyze. In my simple messy example, using food for the first time with this project and putting on a little-sister-level table spawned most of our problems.

Third, what could we change? In our case, using paper (cut to the right size) instead of popcorn as an introductory media will be in the next plan. Setting up little sister with a paper of her own (with a smaller amount of glue) and manageable paper scraps should help too. Modeling the project with one of the letters might not be a bad idea either. If your setback involved someone else, ask them what could be changed and make it better. Even my four year old was able to help out with suggestions (“Mom, Nayla needs her OWN paper!!!”) and he had a chance to see how we handle setbacks together.

Setbacks that are mistakes in art are really just opportunities to be more creative. That’s what I tell my art students. And that’s what I believe. Setbacks that are beyond our control are opportunities to grow in faith. That’s what I tell myself. Blessings to you as you tackle your setbacks with a sense of grace and style!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Banning Micro-Planning

Please tell me I’m not the only one sinking into a comfy couch to avoid putting away groceries tonight. Please let me know I’m not hopeless for choosing to step over the (dirty) laundry on the floor instead of put it in the wash. There must be others who planned out every detail of their day only to have that rug yanked out from beneath their feet and shaken vigorously. Case in point: today I micro-planned. And it bombed.

It’s time to stop. It’s over, minute-by-minute agendas. You’re done, project-planning-spirals-with-extra-tiny-boxes-for-detail-notes. I’m a recovering addict, so today's timeline agenda, which included everything from outdoor playtime with the dog to grocery shopping parameters, menu items and serving times, nap times, play dates with friends at the park, bringing soup to neighbors, and an oil change, was a pretty standard Saturday spread (I know, I know…I’m embarrassed right now as I type). Now there are a few things about micro-planning to consider:

1. You can always fit more things on the list than are physically possible, thus setting oneself up for failure to perform.

2. There are always things that could be streamlined and make time use more productive, thus, more efficient, therefore, more “successful.” But you never think of them until later.

3. Writing it down doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way.

So today was really about the third part for me. The lesson learned is this: planning isn’t bad…it’s what you do when it all falls apart that matters. Whether it’s calling a tow truck because you can’t start your car and get it in for the oil change or having a baby sleep past their dedicated napping hours, flexibility isn’t just helpful…it is a necessity. SO, if you have found yourself sitting amidst the best planned budget, the neatest event timeline, or the perfect exercise plan, feeling so frustrated and exhausted you want to cry, take heart. You are not alone. I feel your pain, and so do MANY others. Perhaps this approach would help…

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Hmmm…can we consider the tendency to micro-plan should be nudged in a different direction? Just maybe I need to verbalize (or write or type) the plans…and then give them over to God.

Kind of like the handful of hours. Really, who likes to be given a gift, then be told how they must use it? I know I don’t and I can’t imagine God would appreciate it either. Philippians is a great book, because if one had even the slightest doubt (like “how will I possibly get everything done I need to without laying out every detail for the day?”) verse 4:19 then says,

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Ta-da!!! Presto!!! That was the part I was worried about…getting everything done I needed to! And God’s got it covered. The same God who dresses the flowers in splendor and feeds the sparrows has got my day covered. So, planners (myself included) rejoice! While the micro-plan may be banned, the gift of our time AND our plans continue to be a part of this living sacrifice. Plans given instead of loaned. This is my fragrant offering…and I pray it may be pleasing to God.

Ok, that was a lot of reflecting and it seems there is a pattern in my subject matter. Definitely need to be sensitive to that. We are clearly witnessing a work in progress. J Blessings on your abundant journey!
PS The part between Philippians 4:6 and 4:19 is pretty fabulous too, and I’m sure you’ll be encouraged if you check it out.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Handful of Hours

This is what I have today. I want to give God my very best and bring Him something worthy…but this is all I have. A handful of hours. That’s it. Nothing more. So I lay them down on the throne. I shuffle them around and sort them out, trying to make it look like fancier, like something more. But it’s still just a handful of hours. “What can you do with these?” I humbly ask, “What good are a handful of hours?”

They are perfect. It’s exactly what He wanted. My Father takes my gift and with strands of love, weaves them into a fabric, wrapping it tenderly around lonely shoulders. He paints them into a picture of kindness and chances to change the world in small ways... ways that matters to just one person at a time. He sculpts my gift into a home where joy overcomes frustration; a place where fear dissolves into peace. With this gift, he draws smiles onto the faces of children, erases a friend’s tears and etches in laughter. This tiny gift is embossing hearts with respect and lives with grace. He prints blessing after blessing with this handful of hours, coloring light into dark spaces. I should have known. He is the Creator.  

I’m not ashamed of my gift anymore. For he who is able to do remarkably more that I could ever imagine wants what is best…even for me! In 2 Corinthians (9:7-8), scripture says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” I am going to write it out and tape it to my mirror.  You should see what your handful of hours can do. Look prayerfully and watch carefully. You, too, will be amazed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Good and Faithful Servant Day

Ever battle the to-do list bulge? I know I do. But there are times when the normal to-do list needs to take a backseat to life. Today,  I realized just how much this applied. The list, sporting a hefty number of need-to-tackle items on it, got distracted today. Prayers were sent and prayers were answered. Time was made for people instead of things, and that is a significant part of living abundantly. Let me give some examples...

My list said, Run 2 Miles with Toby (the dog), but God gave me "Walk 1 mile and meet and encourage a new neighbor." And I am ok with that.

My list said, "Wash the dishes in the sink," but God gave me "Spend time with Jesus and soak up God's word." A precious moment with Jesus that refuels my heart...I am definitely ok with that.

My list said "Clean out Facebook inbox," but God brought me to  "Chat a dear friend who is conflicted and struggling with a broken relationship, then share the verses we were just talking about." And I am so thankful for that.

My list said, "Clean all the tile floors," but life gave me, "Get back to blogging and sharing life......the floors will still be dirty later."  And I am blessed to oblige.

You see, my revelation this morning was not that To-Do lists don't matter. Oh, I'll still wash that sinkfull of dishes and fold the contents of the never-ending-laundry-basket. But if I had been so staunch in fullfilling my list, I would have missed out on some special opportunties to bless and be blessed this morning. And at the end of my day, I will take a "Well done good and faithful servant" over a checked off post it note anytime.  Wouldn't you? It is why God has put me where I am. So I can be useful in building His kingdom. Make it a Good-And-Faithful-Servant Day.