I vaguely remember a story told by a woman on a Christian radio program. She told the story about years before when she began to identify a certain animal with God’s love. The special sign for her, I believe, was a cardinal. I don’t remember exactly how she came to this place, but she told the story of seeing the cardinal over and over during tough times and feeling like it was put in her view just for her. Her stories were a little bit … out of the ordinary as I remember. It seems as though she saw her cardinal in an odd place or an odd time and she was so moved by the sighting. And this began to happen over and over. Truly, I don’t remember all the details
I do remember that she encouraged the listeners to pick an animal and associate it with God’s love.
Let that animal be the one that would prompt us to remember that He loves us.
Well … what a great idea, right?
I mean … we all want to be reminded that we’re loved, right?
I decided that didn’t want to choose something common
like …. a certain kind of dog or bird.
I wanted to KNOW when God spoke to me.
I needed to KNOW that a SIGN from Him was a real sign.
You know? Like make the fleece soppy, drippy wet and the ground dry.
No. Wait! Wait! Wait! God … make the fleece dry and the ground soppy, drippy, muddy wet. (Judges 6:36-37)
So, for my animal, I chose a manatee.
Yeah. I know. I don’t live near the ocean and never really have.
And the oceans near me don’t really have manatees.
And manatees aren’t really popular in paintings and home decor
… the way owls or ladybugs or birds or bees are.
I was helping God out. I wanted to help Him to make this super obvious.
… ’cause you know …. how God needs our “help,” right?
And I’m pretty sure
in the 15+ years between the time that I assigned God my chosen “animal sign,”
I’ve seen one or two manatees a year.
And even when I SWAM with manatees in Florida a few years ago,
I didn’t feel overwhelmed with God’s love.
Oh, I was excited and thrilled … but it wasn’t a
“God loves you” kind of overwhelmed.
It was more of a
“Oh, my goodness! God, you’re so cool! Thanks for letting me experience this!” kind of overwhelmed.
In reality, I’ve never felt overwhelmed with God’s love when I’ve seen a manatee
in an advertisement, painting, decor or image of any kind.
I have just thought … “Oh. There it is! Would you look at that! A manatee!
That’s supposed to remind me that “God loves me.”
It’s never felt any different from seeing a stop sign, or a cloud or a bowl of cereal.
In other words, seeing a manatee has always felt common. ordinary. every day.
And if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that God’s love is not common.
And I’ve known when He speaks to me
and when He comforts me
and when He convicts me.
His communication and presence are n.e.v.e.r common.
This morning, as I was crossing a lone parking lot
with nary any cars
just cracked asphalt and worn, painted parking lines
with the wind blowing winter in strong … bold and brazen and blustery
and the cold cutting right through my cotton dress snapping and flapping like a flag ….
I saw this leafand tears welled up in my eyes.
Because I was reminded that God loves me.
He will never leave me or forsake me.
He walks with me and reminds me to breathe.
He gives me peace to rest at night.
He guides me along my way.
He is my provision.
I remembered the manatee
and how seldom I have see one.
And I thought about how often I see a lone leaf
forlorn on the ground
sometimes matted to the ground by rain
sometimes crushed into the cement by passersby ….
but … with a beautiful shape and design created by Him
with His purpose in mind
and right in my path.
I love trees. I love sticks. and I love leaves.
I often think of Him when I see them.
And when I think of Him and all of this beauty,
I am reminded that He loves me.
And He sees me.
In my helping God by letting Him know that I would remember He loves me when I see a manatee
I was undercutting His magnificence
by ignoring that He has assigned my sign from Him.
My sign from Him
is a single leaf
laying alone on the ground
right in my path.
Yes, a single leaf makes me remember I am loved
and brings me great joy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?
I love things that are old.
And I adore these vintage bottles.
My bottles are mostly finds. I went exploring in an area that was a dump ancient eons ago. I was in high school with a family friend. In fact, the friend was the brother to my friend Rusty who died just a few years ago. Robin went on to study archeology and then art and is now a potter. He is a fabulously talented man. And he was the one who took me on the dig that unearthed several of these bottles over 30 years ago.
These bottles … some still caked with remnants of earthen history …. sit on the round table that sits in my bay window.
No matter the day, if I am seated near, I pick them up and re-inspect … wondering about history and stories and what liquid they once held.
And no matter the day, they simply bring me joy.
They are a pleasure to behold.
My arrangement of vintage bottles nestled in a tiny silver tray
bring me joy!
How about you?
Something small? Something common?
Something HUGE? Something sentimental?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?
As far back as 2009 when I first bought these “breathe” socks
and then shared them as a Makes Me Happy Monday post,
God was reminding me to slow down and take a deep breath.
My friend Linda came not too long ago. I was gathering things together for a yard sale when she was here. She spied my “breathe in – breathe out” coffee cup and I found myself easily able to explain that I didn’t need it any more. I don’t need the reminder. I’m okay now.
But, evidently I do need the reminder.
My friend, Heather, tells me these c.r.a.z.y stories about seeing messages on license plates. I remember a story about how she was really struggling to keep her four active kids entertained in the summer heat. She’s a single mom on funds that are very limited. She had an above ground pool that her kids thoroughly enjoyed … but she needed a new filter for the pool and had no money to buy one. She found herself crying out to God in frustration as she ran errands. In her wonderfully honest, bare and authentic way, she was fussing and crying and driving and sobbing and praying about all of life’s current crazy including the need for a pool filter … when a car passed her with a license plate that said “FILTER1.”
That was only ONE of the car tags that she saw that night
with words or phrases that specifically fit her life and situation.
I laugh and send her pictures of license plates that I see. They say things like this ….
And that reminded me how awesome God is
in that He speaks to us in a way that we know is for us.
He speaks in a way that we understand.
He says what we need to hear when we need to hear it
in a voice that we can hear.
So, I’m watching and listening.
And the message God keeps putting in front of me
remains the same ;
My sweet Glory is getting ready to pack up her vehicle and move her boyfriend to Texas to live with her.
Five years ago, I would have been sorely disappointed.
Ten years ago, I would have been devastated.
But, I am a different person today than I was five or ten years ago.
Divorce has been so good for me.
In a conversation with a friend last night, I was asked how I felt about this move.
Without hesitation, I replied, “I’m okay with it.”
At the end of every Super Soul Sunday interview, Oprah ends her conversation with this marvelous question
“What do you know for sure?”
I am still blown away by the question.
If there IS one thing that I KNOW for sure,
it’s that I really don’t know much of anything for sure.
Through divorce, I lost all those crazy dreams of things that may never happen … those dreams that you hold on to because you want them to come true. I used to be so hopeful. But, my hopes hung on ideals and expectations.
What DO I know for sure?
I know that life is full of lessons.
And it is a gift that we go through struggles.
I’ve noticed a recurring theme in the answers given to Brandon on the Humans of New York webpage. When asked about regrets, we often make decisions on how to live our lives according to the things we have seen others do. We decide we won’t spank our children, because our parents were too aggressive with spankings. Or we choose to indulge in grand vacations, because our parents never took us away from home. Or we decide to let our kids eat whatever they desire, because we were forced to eat green things and we still hate them.
Click here for a perfect example. This woman said, “”My mom died the week she was supposed to retire. I think she died of sheer exhaustion. So I decided I was going to live my life in the present, and not focus on money. I just wanted to know myself and live life accordingly. I never thought about the future. So I find myself, at my age, having to focus on money.”
Here’s another. ““My dad was a Latin musician, so I rebelled against that and chose rock and roll. So I wanted to be careful not to try and force my interests on my son, because then he’d go the other direction.”
This man is living his life in a way that makes sure that his son has a better life than he did.
Here’s the thing; there are no guarantees. Going left may keep you from the trouble you see on the right, but you don’t know what struggle is around the bend, over the hill or just out of sight.
My daughter is moving her boyfriend into her apartment half way across this nation to live with her. Am I okay with it? Absolutely. You know why? Because, she’s a grown woman. There are lots of roads to be taken. Hers is not mine to travel. And hers is not even mine to direct. I could plan out her life making my decisions according to what I did right or wrong, what I should have done or what my parents did or didn’t do … and in the end, her life could still be a total wreck. Her life may or may not be what I expected for her when I was planning or directing. Most importantly, it certainly wouldn’t be a fulfillment of her vision.
I have had the firsthand experience of watching a parent turn their back on a child because a child said something that hurt their feelings. The words spoken were foolish, but the fact is ….. a child spoke them. I’ve seen parents turn away from children for their actions. We all do things that don’t please others. If I please you today with my words, surely I’ll offend someone else. It’s all part of life.
My dream today for my children like my dream for myself ; just be. Drop the expectations. Leave behind the struggles of what should or shouldn’t happen. Forget about that hokey movie-script life. Even the people who LOOK like they have it all together …. simply have a well-constructed facade. There is no perfect life.
*Of course, I dream that they love God and obey Him …
but just like He does for each one of us,
He’ll deal with them on own His time
in the areas that He chooses
in the way, timing and order that He chooses.
It’s not my job to step in and snatch His job from His hands.
What a joy! It’s not my job anymore.
Because if I look back over my life …. I’ve made some really big messes.
It’s probably a good thing that I’m not perpetually in charge of anyone
In a few days, I’ll watch Glory drive out of the driveway to begin a new chapter in her adventure book. She has a wonderful boyfriend who adores her. He even embraces her feisty spirit! I see how comfortable she is with him. I see them thoroughly enjoy each other. They appear to be a good fit.
Yet, they will have bumps in the road. They will hit struggles. But, the life is theirs to live. I’m not willing to let my ideals and expectations get in the way of loving her and remaining in sweet fellowship with her.
What I know for sure is
people and relationships are more important than ideals and expectations.
* Note paragraph added after original publish date
To be myself means being okay with not being liked by everybody. I’ve always been a people-pleasing, people-loving people-person. For me, those things were inseparable. I loved because I needed to feel loved. I wanted people to know that I loved them because I needed people to let me know that they loved me. I wanted to please others so they would not be reject me. My goodness … just writing those things exhausts me today. One of God’s lessons has been that everybody isn’t going to love you and that’s okay. As odd as it sounds, He’s taught me to say “I don’t care.” He has reminded me that He loved everybody, but He didn’t please everybody.
And since I am fearing rejection less, I am becoming more bold.
(*whispers* it’s so exciting ….. )
So, when the time came to hang artwork at a local coffee shop for a second showing, I began to pull quotes from my folder at home and harvest them from quote sites and scan my pins on Pinterest …. until I had enough to fill a wall with artwork.
I layered paper and paint and texture and tissue
and fiber and jute and sticks and rocks and stamps
and vintage penmanship … and created a whole wall of art
that felt more like adorned, creative notes to myself
hanging in a public showing.
and a jewelry board that was made more recently from assorted old knobs and a vintage chair part.
As I have looked at all the pieces hanging, I see some things that are consistent. I’m finding the more that I create, the more similarities I see in my work. I work almost exclusively in autumn colors. My work is almost always layered. And I use lots of pattern and texture.
I have recently befriended a man who came to my home for a visit.
After spending some time chatting,
he pointed out that my house is “too brown.”
My fabulous first thought was, “Maybe for YOU.”
I didn’t care what he thought.
HE might think it’s too brown, but I think it’s just right.
I LOVE it. I love my furniture, rugs and tablecloths.
I treasure my bedding, artwork and curtains.
I adore my artwork, practical creations and clothes.
And when he said that my world was “too brown” ….
rather than thinking,
“Oh, no! Really? Well … I should add more color! What can I change?”…
I am proud to say that I comfortably knew,
“It IS brown, and it’s perfectly, wonderfully beautiful! I LOVE it!”
So, if you’re out and about in Augusta
and you’d like to see some brown artwork (with other autumn colors thrown in),
feel free to stop by Inner Bean on Davis Road. It’ll be hanging for a few more weeks.
Read the little notes that I wrote to myself and hung on their gracious walls.
And know that I’m pretty proud of how I’m finally becoming okay with just being me.
I hope you’re finding that same boldness.
I hope that you’re comfortable in your own skin.
Some people seem to reach adulthood without struggling in this area.
I am not one of those people.
If you’re struggling, figure out why
and work to untangle those gnarly ties that keep you bound.
It takes a while to become free, but you can do it.
If I can do it, you can do it!
It’s a good thing to
…. just be yourself.
It’s odd that I dislike clutter and messes …
yet my art space is FULL.
I utilize every inch of space so that all my collecting is contained.
My art space is a stark contrast to the rest of my home
where you’ll find few knick-knacks and dust catchers.
My art room is orderly with like-things grouped together:
scissors, paper, stamps, found objects, ephemera,
paint, frames, ribbon, fabric … and more.
And what would be my “open wall space” is an inspiration line
filled with magazine tear outs, memorabilia and collected scraps of paper.
I’ve often felt embarrassed by all my craft stuff … because it seemed like “too much” in the eyes of some.
But, having spent some time with other creatives like my friend, Elizabeth, who is a potter
and my friend Gina, who is a painter and shop owner,
I realize that my space looks like other artist’s spaces; f.u.l.l, busy and wonderfully inspiring.
This is the first place I go in the morning. It’s where I watch TED videos while I make cards or work on some parts of the process in creating mixed media work. It’s where I am choosing to work through Danielle’s book The Desire Map.
It is the room that dons my paper stair tiles.
My art space is a place that is specifically and distinctly mine
and it brings me great joy.
What about you?
Where do you feel most yourself?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?
“Why can’t we all just get along? People fight and argue, back bite and slander, sue, divorce and murder. No good comes from retaliation. There is no victory in vengeance. Life is messy. Relationships are work. Love people where they are. Focus on the good and forgive quickly, fully and deeply. #lovewins ”
I posted the above words on my Instagram feed yesterday morning.
Day before yesterday, I happened to look at a few of hashtags associated with the middle east violence. It seemed as though it had been a while since I had heard anything about the terror going on there …
and …. well ….
we all know that the media quickly moves from one attention-getting topic to another. Just because we haven’t heard anything … doesn’t mean that the terror reigning there has stopped or even slightly improved.
As I scrolled through the photos associated with hashtags, I saw images with the words, “Je suis Charlie,”
but at the time, I didn’t know about the attack in France. It had only happened a few hours earlier.
Yesterday, I heard.
I heard about the men who stormed the office of the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.
I heard about the editor who had been provided police protection after death threats upon his life over a year ago.
I heard about the eight journalists, a lone guest and two police officers who were murdered.
And today … the people across the world are linking arms through imagery and proclaiming,
“I am Charlie” or “Je suis Charlie,” in French.
You know what I see when I see those “Je suis Charlie” signs?
I see “JE SUIS Charlie.”
Do you see it?
“I” am sandwiched right there in the middle of “JESUS.”
Me. And Jesus. Together.
And the translation for Je suis Charlie is I am Charlie.
Do you see that?
“I am” is the name God called Himself in Exodus 3:14.
The I am Charlie signs are proclaiming solidarity
… in part, for freedom of speech …
and that … truly … those killed could have been any one of us.
In a way, I am Charlie. And you are Charlie. We are all Charlie.
Any one of us COULD have been one of those people shot.
We are all one. We are all connected. We all have rights and freedoms.
I don’t know about you, but I feel so discouraged at times knowing
I can’t make a difference in the far away places that are riddled with violence.
ALL.the.time, I say
“Life is messy. Relationships are work. Love people where they are.”
And you know what? We can’t fix everything, but we can help some things. We can influence.
I thought all day yesterday about this terror and these messes and the chaos and the spiraling of this world
that often feels out of control.
What can we do? How can we help?
Some people aspire to change the world or to influence thousands,
but for most of us, the greatest influence we will ever have in our lives
is the influence on our own immediate family …
those that live with us day after day in our home … our children and our spouse.
And what do we know about people?
Well, we know that people who are wounded often wound others.
People that come from abuse, often abuse others.
So, we DO have some power in our homes to shape lives.
First, we become aware of our own junk, pains and habits.
We figure out why we do what we do and if it’s healthy or harmful.
Then we make changes to become more healthy
and talk about our stuff so our kids can see us working, changing and healing.
We tell our stories. In telling our stories, we help others know they are not alone
which encourages them to make changes, as well.
We love people where they are, but don’t pick up their bad habits
so that we further the cycle of pain.
We forgive those that hurt us.
We offer mercy.
This is tough work. But, with Christ’s power within us and His leading our spirit, we can do this. With Jesus example to follow, we turn the other cheek. We don’t force our ideas or opinions on others. We offer ourselves. We just love. Love people.
Last night, I googled “How can I promote world peace?”
This was one of the top hits.
This is it. This is where we have our influence. This is where we change things.
This is how we can promote world peace … in our own small (or great!) way.
It may not feel like much today, but the influence you have today can truly change tomorrow’s world. We don’t know who our children will become. They can be great peace keepers or they may wreak havoc. They may build up or they may tear down. Truly, each soul has the potential to influence many. As much as it is possible, forgive, extend grace and offer mercy.
Love people where they are.
Spread world peace. Just love people.
* Note: The awesome a cartoon is by Marcus Connor that you can have printed on tees, mugs, greeting cards and more. Click over to see more and use the affiliate link, if you’re interested in a purchase.)