Blessings

I guess I don’t often think about what a gift it is when we share blessings with one another. Sometimes they are said aloud like on birthdays or holidays, but often it’s just a smile and shiny, teary eyes that say, “Bless you.”  Wrapped with each blessing is a bit of gratitude as well . . . and love . . . and recognition . . . and hope.

We are a blessing to each other when we take the time see one another not only as we hope to see each other but as we really are. In this one day alone, I’ve been privileged to share in conversation with people younger and older than me. I don’t know if they know how much they enrich my life, how much I see the Light of Christ in them.

The younger folks I visited with was through an elementary school mentoring program. This week they’re studying poetry, particularly that of Langston Hughes. In their eagerness to share their work with me, I saw the creative Spirit breaking through the surface, mostly untouched by criticism. A bit of creativity introduced and nurtured, set free to interact with each child–I only hope it catches on and sticks around to grow into the potential I heard and saw.

I hope that these children are able to pursue their dreams without false pretenses, saving themselves the time and energy of putting on guises to present who others want/expect to see. Still a prolific writer, how much more so would Hughes have been if he had been encouraged to follow his creativity at an even earlier age?

How much richer would our society be if we took time to acknowledge the Spirit unleashed in each other, blessing each other and the gifts that we offer? True, we have to know what our gifts are; furthermore, we have to know who we are first. This takes time (and sometimes therapy!), but the more people I meet and get to know, the more certain I am that each of us is a blessing if we choose to be.

As God’s beloved, we are blessed. If we can live into that, we can’t help but be a blessing to others.

Hungry for a spark of creativity from an author of beautiful blessings? I cannot get too much of John O’Donohue.

 

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Acceptance

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?  Isn’t that what we’re told?  Twelve-step programs have become mainstream, offering a wealth of information for anyone struggling with any kind of addiction.  Tried and true advice.  It can work.

What about admitting you have a gift being the first step to the rest of your life?

I’m reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit right now.  Synchronous, really, how I got it.  My husband and I went to our local bookstore to conclude our child-free days over the winter break.  One of the people I am glad to call a friendly acquaintance happened to be working there.  We got to talking.  Those of you who know me well know it doesn’t take long to get to reality, to what’s truly important when in sincere conversation with me.  We shared a bit of our lives with each other.  It was lovely.

I confessed to her that I am a writer.  I confessed that I really hadn’t read all that many books.  I confessed that my husband and I wanted to support our local bookstore more.  We spoke each other’s language.  I wasn’t burned at the stake.  In fact, as I browsed the shelves, she approached me again and put a book in my hands.  “You have to read this,” she said.  The owner of the store, working at a table behind me, assured me that is was a highly recommended book; the dance troupe last in town bought 14 copies.  This was Tharp’s book.

Within the past couple of months, I have come to the realization that if I am most honest with myself, I am happiest when writing.  At home, in the woods, at the park, in the doctor’s office — anywhere I can put pen to paper (or finers to keys) and be alone with my thoughts.  But I have more to learn.  I have discipline to cultivate.  I have unhealthy habits to overcome.

The Creative Habit comes along, and right off the bat she’s talking about the importance of routine.  She can’t make me get up at 5:30, but she states quite clearly that her morning starts out at 5:30AM.  She does it.  Others do it, and artists have for centuries.  They are extremely productive.

Almost in passing, she refers to a moment in time when she thought she could have been a painter; she has a talent for the visual arts.  She let the thought go as quickly as it came.  She’s a dancer.  She goes on to say that it’s almost better to have one clearly defined talent in your life.  It’s harder for those who can do many things well.  The discernment of your best gift is only harder the more choices you have.

Did she know I was going through this right now?  That for some time I’ve been wondering if the crafts I’ve been making were actually good for my creative process or an accomplice to my nasty habit of procrastination?

I am in process of organizing my craft supplies.  Some I need, some I don’t.  Scraps of fabric are going to my sister-in-law who makes clothes for children.  I’m keeping the bulks of fabric for skirts for myself and for the girls.  Good skirts are hard to come by and expensive should you actually find them.  Necessity and creativity are good companions.  Now I need to organize my stamps.  Which ones do I need and use?  Which stationary do I need to keep.  What will nurture my writing, encourage me to write?  It needs to be an accessory to my writing, an embellishment.

Inasmuch as I enjoy doing other things, I have to accept the fact that I’m a writer foremost.  This is the greatest part of my priesthood in this life.  I believe that through my writing, I have the potential to reach others and convey to them some of the Truths in this life.

The page is my blank canvas.  The Love of God is my muse.  With every word I bare my soul and make myself vulnerable, but I have nothing to lose.   As sure as the cold brings the beauty of snow and the grips of death, I trust that this experience of life is meant to be shared.  For some, it’s meant to be shared through dance, sculpture, painting, music, or any of the arts, but for me, I accept the fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to put into words that which is completely inexplainable.  I’ll enjoy every moment of the painful growth as I stretch my imagination and probe the depths of experience.

Whether a gift or a curse, I accept it with a smile.  May I remember this at 5:30 in the morning.

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What’s Your Image?

I finally put my spiritual autobiography into coherent form and in six pages. To write about that which is intangible, I had to find a metaphor. I could have used a plant, like I’ve spoken of before, but I chose a different one this time. Ironically, it’s one where I might have a role in the creation. It’s a quilt, with a spiral design pieced together on the front. I’ve seen beautiful ones done before and wonder if I could muster up the perseverance to do one myself. I imagine I could . . . after I finish the Dr. Who scarf, that is.

Of course, the spiral is a familiar image in spiritual circles (pardon the pun). At the center is my soul, and radiating from that, in light and dark to create a sense of depth and dimension, is my journey in colors that reflect my perception. To represent the presence of Spirit, I envision using decorative yarn or ribbon weaving throughout, more visible in some times more than others but ever-present, even if only beneath the surface.

This exercise comes at a time when I truly have to assess my values. What do we truly need as a family? What is most important to us? What is the difference between the life we want to live and the life that we are living? I find myself at a familiar crossroad, one that seems to be coming more frequently these days, and these are questions that arise. I am being engaged in this creation here and now. It’s not just a quilt. This is my life, choosing how to participate in God’s will.

I don’t want my spiral to become stuck in one place, disconnected from the core of my being. With our home, our children, our family and friends, with strangers and the unknown, I want to be open. I want other people’s experience to enrich my own and add new colors to my life. I want to keep discovering, keep going beyond where I thought my understanding ended.

My image propels me forward and deeper, closer to what I believe is central to all. It is everything and nothing in particular. It is not easy, but the way is so simple.

What is your image? What best depicts the journey of Spirit in your life? Is it alive and vibrant, flowing? If not, why not? What would your life look like if you allowed unconditional love to move you? If you can, draw or sketch it. Label it. Name it. See how rich your life is and can be. Keep creating.

Peace be with you.

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Restoring Balance

It’s about that time.  The school supplies are purchased.  The laundry is clean.  Summer vacation is wrapped up in memories as early bedtime has resumed.   The kids are sleeping soundly, though I’m sure the anxiety for the first day of school (coming on Wednesday) is coursing through their veins.

I am quite certain I’m not the only mom feeling frazzled.   These last couple of weeks of vacation, I did put my best foot forward to give the kids some last hurrahs to go back to school with some stories.  (How many third grade boys jumped from a bluff into the river last week?)  But the concentrated effort has taken its toll, and my to-do list has grown so long that I dare not look at it all at once.  Talking with a friend, we realize how family-focused we’ve been.

As good as it is to put the family first, there are some of us who receive boosts of energy when we are tapped into a higher power, a greater source of creative energy.  How else would we be able to do all that we do?  I wondered why people thought I was a supermom, but now I’ve realized that I take for granted the strength, the seeming reserve of energy, that comes from doing what we are truly called to do.  When we tap into our “vein of gold,” we are energized to continue our good works, and this inevitably spills into other areas of our life.  When we focus on all of our practical responsibilities that come with daily life without tapping into this wellspring of creative energy, we quickly realize that it is quite impossible to do it all on our own.  At least, that’s how I feel, and after doing too much too long alone, we usually get physically struck down.  (Cue migraine.)

So, as routines change up again and we all find ourselves settling into new fall rhythms, I hope to keep the door to creative outlets open and pass through often enough to be invigorated with that Divine creative energy, bringing it into other areas of my life as well.  Lord knows the only limits are those I impose upon myself, and it’s fully within my means to get my life back in order, trying as ever to restore a sense of balance.

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“Easy Does It”

Like “don’t sweat the small stuff,” “one day at a time,” and “just do it,” there are slogans that some of us live by and work with.  In the current chapter of Finding Water that we’re reading, one of the mantras is “easy does it.”

Have you thought about how or when you use this phrase?  When I say “easy does it,” I really mean, slow down, do this slowly and carefully, and don’t rush it.  I only ever use it in the circumstance of some physical exertion.  If I think about what it says . . . what does it really mean?

Julia Cameron makes a case that it means if you show up daily to your artist’s work, do a little at a time, don’t obsess about it, don’t become all-consumed by it, then you will get it done eventually.  Taking it easy gets the work done. If I apply my meaning of the phrase to artistic endeavors, I mean the same thing.  Slow down.  Don’t rush the process.  Show up to do the work and let the creativity flow through you.

This doesn’t mean that every time we take time to do something artsy that it will be brilliant, but it also doesn’t imply that we have to be in the “mood” to create.  The more we create, the more we make ourselves available as creative channels, the more likely we are to have the strokes of “brilliance” and to see the Divine reflected in our works.  Days or years later when you reflect back on your work, you might be amazed that you really did that, that you really were a channel of the Divine, of Spirit, of Creativity.

I hope that, like me, you can accept the challenge of assuming a mantra like “Easy does it.”  Pick a hobby/craft/art that you want to do, need to do, but don’t make the time for because if you got in “the zone,” you might neglect everything and anything for your art.  Now, make a contract with yourself that you will set aside, say, 20 minutes a day to devote to your “hobby.”  Take a mommy-time-out if you need to.  I am today to write this. I told my kids it’s still quiet time until I’m done writing.  We have to teach by example, my friends, and then we have to respect their time in return.  Don’t expect it to be easy the first few times, either.  (I counted four interruptions from three kids.)

Twenty minutes a day, consistently if you can.  Be open.  Have fun.  Let’s give Creativity some room to move.

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Some Crafty Thoughts

I’ve been wanting an awesome shirt pattern.  I was catching up on one of my fave blogs, and saw the shirt!  Leave it to SouleMama (who also has some great photos, as ever).  She got the pattern from the book Weekend Sewing, which I’ve seen before, recommended on Sew, Mama, Sew.  I may have to pick it up at our local bookstore sooner than later.

The past couple of weeks have included some crafty projects.  For the women’s retreat, I got to

  • make placecards, which instead of using the traditional folded placecards, I used pre-cut bookmarks, decorated with stamps and tied with a ribbon.  (I would post a photo but can’t seem to find my bookmark at the moment!) 
  • host a blessingway, and I printed the program on vellum, attaching it to pretty printed paper with flower brads.
  • make a couple of beaded necklaces (literally, I just made 2-4, while the other two ladies did about 12 each!).

When it comes to crafting, our projects don’t have to be large or perfect.  It’s taking the time to release some creative energy for the sake of doing something good.  That’s all.

May we all take more time to do some good things.

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Changing Tides

In my dream the other night, the tide was receding.  I can’t remember much else except for standing on the revealed sandy shore, much lower than those who were standing on the beach of the high tide.  I wondered how much lower the water would go and if I would be ready for when the water returned.

There’s definitely much moving about in my inner world as I continue my discernment process.  As an outward expression of that, naturally I want to rearrange everything in my house, clear all unnecessary items/clutter, and clean everything to the core.  It is (almost) time for spring cleaning.

It’s difficult to live in a way that truly honors our inner being if we are concerned about what others think and worry about superficial consequences.  Blessed are those of us with the faith to believe that all will be well, that as long as we’re following our heart, then in the long run, it will work out, and we will have no regrets.

What better way to honor your Divine than to create something . . . anything.  Honor those thoughts; honor all of them to keep the flow open and alive.  Do something today for you.  Take it a step further and either give it away or make something else to give to someone.  Love is best when given and received.

With it being Mardi Gras, it’s a good time to think of the inner work we need to do or are already doing.  The discipline I’m taking on is to journal daily (my writing, dreams and gratitude).  What I’m giving up is carbonated beverages and alcohol for sure, food that does not nourish my body positively at best; all these things can contribute to energy being blocked, inhibiting the flow.  One friend of mine is actually adopting a raw food diet for Lent, but that’s not my calling this year.

May acts of kindness be our practice daily, and may your mind be clear as you travel through the desert.  May we remember our dreams and the clues they give us to the unconscious for our spiritual growth.

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Challenge: Personal Goals

There’s this strange (to me) dichotomy in our society regarding health/fitness. Everyone needs to be healthy and look physically fit, but we find that it’s easier and much cheaper in the short term to eat poorly and devote our time to any given task or gadget instead of exercising.

Regardless of where you are with your new year’s resolution, it’s always a good time to put your intention on being well, living well.

My husband found what’s called the Ultimate Black Belt Challenge (UBBC), which is something our local dojo offers.  You set these incredible goals for yourself (basically for mind, body and spirit), and if you achieve them, you get your black belt (usually after paying a fee).  Well, originally we thought it was a challenge meant just for black belts, that it was a challenge for challenge’s sake, meant to improve yourself in every way.  (We didn’t read the letter well, I guess, because it’s quite clear.) 

No one in our family is a black belt in taekwondo or aikido, but we set some goals in all areas for each of us.  It’s easy to say what you’d like to do, who you would like to be.  It’s quite another to put your time where your mouth is.  With every day scheduled to the brim, how do you squeeze in a couple of hours for this and that?

That’s why it’s a challenge.  Do you stay up late to watch the great new movie, or do you get some sleep so you can get up early the next morning and get a productive start on the new day?  (FYI — last night we watched the movie.  Probably shouldn’t do that any more!)

So what are your goals?  If you had to push yourself to be a better person, what would you do?  Lent is coming up soon.  It’s a great time to give up that which doesn’t nourish you and take on that which makes you more whole . . . maybe even more holy?

My goals, total for the year:

  • 160 hours of workout/exercise time (30 min/day)
  • 12 books
  • 250 hours in the garden
  • 120 desserts (two or three/week)
  • 30 meals out (doesn’t count meals at church)
  • 25 Spanish days (goal is for family to learn Spanish)
  • 100 hours family game time
  • 25 hours of journaling
  • 100 hours walk/bike/swim/hike
  • 50 hours creative time


I’m going to be working on our chart.  I’ll share it when it’s done.  Put your creative energy to work today on living well!

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Creative Responsibility

It is true that right now I’m not being incredibly creatively productive in an artistic sense; even my husband has commented on my lack of project productivity.  My time, it seems, has become devoted to other more immediate and practical necessities.  So, while I devote this day to wrapping up some communications, searching for a career and cleaning our home for a party tomorrow night, I feel it’s okay to mention that creativity takes many forms, and the potential for everything resides within us all.

As with the presidential address, we are reminded that we all have a responsibility to find solutions to our current crises.  Every family, every person has a role to play.  We have to teach this to our children. We have to show them how it’s done and hope that when they’re our age, they do it even better.

Seth Godin, a prolific writer with a savvy business/tech sense my husband adores, shares in his blog that we all have the potential to achieve the amount of success we desire  . . . we just don’t want to.  Ouch.  Personal responsibility.  I have to tap my vein of gold.  I have to make it work, find how best to use my talents.  I have to put the pieces together.  Or, I could not and complain that the Universe is working against me.  But is it really?

It’s time for us all to be truly creative, accept our responsibilities and find what works to fulfill what we truly need.  Maybe it’s what we need that needs evaluated.

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Reality Check

Finally, I see where all the fall colors come from.  So often each tree changes to its one color, then the leaves drop and become the brown, crunchy mass.  This past week, I’ve seen trees in all shades, from blazing orange to fiery red to brilliant gold.  Yesterday I even saw one of the most beautiful fall maples with shades from green to yellow and red to orange.  If I hadn’t been driving, I think I would have stopped to bask in its brilliance.

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of fall now; the leaves are quickly dropping, the nights are cold, the holiday goods are out in all the stores, and the lights being put all around the square.  Now I figure is a good time to be honest with myself and take a good look at where I am, who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going.  I should have done this on my birthday, but I was too busy doing.  I’m getting signs that now would be a good time.  (I share this with you not to boast or brag or complain out loud but rather to encourage you to take time to do the same for yourself at some point.)

note_creative_author.jpgI ground myself in my writing.  To write, I must be still so as to receive the truth that is being channeled through me.  I have to be careful about my influences, for everything in my environment affects how I interpret any given moment.  When writing, I feel my closest connection to the Divine and feel that this is my right livelihood.  Going forward, I make a conscious effort to write more daily, be a productive writer and establish myself as such.

I craft to disperse the creative energy in a physical, practical way.  Perhaps if I channeled all my creative energy into writing, I wouldn’t need to write more, but I enjoy greatly using my goods, giving handmade gifts and teaching the children how to make thin  Now I will increase my skills with what I have and make what I need or need to give.  I would like to make a few things well to sell in an Etsy shop.  That would be nice.

My relationships with others I feel has always been golden.  I do my best to be authentic with them, to listen well and to be participatory.  With my children and husband, I have to make a conscious effort to love myself well so that I may love them wholly.  We are currently seeking a family counselor so as to address our needs, for raising kids is harder than we ever imagined it could be.  We need some help, and asking for help is completely okay.  It’s better to ask for help than to sink into despair, withdrawing from yourself and others.  May we be always honest, loving and respectful of ourselves and each other.

In the daily round, I am pleased with where my expectations are.  I’ve come a long way in understanding what I can and cannot do, steering myself away from the buckets of shoulds.  That’s not to say I don’t occasionally regress.  In a given day, like all mothers, I combine all my different roles.  I am at once a writer, wife, mother, spiritual seeker and birth advocate and educator/doula.  I’m sure that’s probably not even all aspects of my being, but they affect most of what I do, day in and day out.

As with the leaves, I am constantly changing.  Where I am today differs from yesterday and tomorrow, but if I can hear what I need from and for my soul, then I can visualize it and try my best to make it manifest.  To do so, I need some quiet, some time for me.  Thanks, Casey, for giving me that time yesterday when I needed it so badly.  Thanks, Kaye, for listening.

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