Knots & Hard Places

So, I’m working on this project and I am reminded
once again
that knots are gnarly and tough.

wood knot

I learned this lesson when working with pallet wood.
I am reminded of the lesson as I work with these Grade #2 wood 4x4s.
Both wood types are messy and slightly imperfect … like people … and life.

When working with these, you must choose your cuts carefully
and be intentional about the choosing the places to drill holes.
If wood is thick enough, down deep inside the piece of lumber
may be a tough, dangerous knot …. one that can’t even be visually located.
And when cutting with a saw, a knot will definitely slow you down
with its dense, dark blemish.
In fact, you may be moving through the wood easily when
*BAM* you’ll hit the knot and it will
GRAB the tip of the bit or the blade
in a way that will make you lose control of your tool
if you don’t have a good grip and aren’t anticipating
that  sudden change in fluidity in of smooth movement.

Though, some people particularly like the way that knots look in wood.
They give wood more personality and character.
But, personality, beauty and character … are not without danger.

As a tree grows, branches sprout out from the trunk.
Sometimes a branch will break off. Bark will then scab over the open wound
and create a knot.

As I drilled three inches into the four-inch wood,
my drill bit began to spin without moving any deeper.
I could force the bit with some pressure,
but this would more likely damage my bit
more than it would move the bit deeper into the stiff, amber and wood lesion.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... As I watched the bit spin round and round,
I thought about how much
we are like this piece of wood.
We are knotted with scars, scabbed over and stiff.
The more someone tries
to push through that tough spot with some instrument
that is intended to create something new and better,
the more likely that person is to be injured …. their blade dulled.
And, oh the friction. In dry, parched wood …
enough sawdust and friction
could cause a fire that will burn everything right down to the ground.
1" drill bit

I pull out my bit. It’s brand new … right out of the package. I have drilled fewer than six inches into wood with this new blade. The tips are sharp. The edges still keen. I will have to be careful and patient as I drill, waiting for the bit to do its work inside that dark hole.

How often do I push away God’s drill? Ask Him to put it down? Tell Him I don’t want to be something “new” and different? My knots give me personality and character, but the presence of those tight, dense knots surely gets in the way of  changes that need to be made. One at a time, He bores them out … and I am better because of it.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Pattern

I love patterns. You can see that passion in much of my art.
My concentric circle artwork is an entire painting of patterns, layered one upon another.

Final painting - circles ... concentric ... nested
I see patterns everywhere. I hear them in words … and love alliteration.
I see them in life … in actions …. in nature.
And I snap photos to save the images

Pattern & Boots
for comfort and later inspiration.

4x4
Because, there really is something comforting about pattern, isn’t there?
You have seen the repetition so … you know what is coming.

Pattern in a painting
In relationships, you never know what is around the corner.
What is being hidden? What will come out later? What surprise will blind side you
and leave you wondering …. “What is next?”
Maybe that is the repetition? Once you are blindsided … you expect it again.
I believe it is Ann Lamott who said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”
I’ll be honest. The longer I live, the less I trust. And I think that it’s a good thing.
I’ve been too trusting of my heart, my life and with my future.Because I am honest, I expected others to be honest.
Because I am open, I expected others to be open.
It is hard to switch tracks after riding on the same route for so long,
but I’m working on it.
Fabric pattern
And I’m using repetition to make myself stronger.
Every time I ignore an unkind email, I become stronger.
Every time I stand up for myself, I feel more strength.
And every time I refuse to believe the lies that I have been told, I love myself more.
It is hard work, but it is worthy work.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.
I am choosing repetition in my life …..
beautiful patterns in the physical world
and gorgeous patterns in my emotional world, as well.
I hope that you are doing the same.

Yes, patterns make me wonderfully happy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Birthday Band

A few months ago, with birthday money from my parents, I bought myself a present.
Bands of protection

I have been looking for a second intricate band for quite some time now. The one of the far right is one I purchased on the Savannah River Front at least …. 20 years ago? It was made by a craftsman who had a table of silver, bronze and gold bands and jewelry. I still remember how excited I was to purchase it!  When I was married, I wore it from time to time with my wedding band and engagement ring. I have always loved it. Today, it bears the scars of being worn flat on the edges that press up against other bands. But, it is still beautiful.

Some time ago, I wrote (here) about how I still wear stacked rings that could be mistaken for wedding bands on my left hand even though I am divorced.  One of those bands was lost at the beach … and several others have since been thrown away as they were inexpensive jewelry that tarnished quickly.

Circles of gold and silver

The new band is primarily gold with a twisted cord of silver worked into the body.
I always thought of my old band as being representative of my marriage. It has two smooth cords and one textured one, each of about the same thickness. The silver, textured cord was me … because I’m more bumpy and intricate. The smooth, silver cord was my spouse as he was easy-going. And smooth gold strand was God … of greater value than either of us.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... I see all of life this way!
It is a constant search to apply spiritual realities
to the physical world around us.
I am in constant search of metaphors or parables.

I love that the new band seems to fit my life today.
The gold is still God.
He is smooth and constant … never-ending.
He is gold, so He is of great value.
He is also represented with a much wider strand.
And I am still silver.
I am bumpy, intricate and tarnish easily.
And I am tucked inside His beauty …
I am of greater value because He encircles me.
His presence beside me enhances who I am and makes me more beautiful.

My latest ring

I wear bands that can be mistaken for wedding bands so that I can be comfortable being myself. I am friendly to all people … children, men and women. But, I sense that my friendliness is sometimes misinterpreted as being flirty.  I do not mean it that way, so I wear bands so that I don’t look like a single woman being flirty. I don’t “look” like a woman trying to get fresh with a man … because … in reality, I’m not. I am not searching for dates right now.

But, if some guy comes along and is brave enough to ask questions about me …  my marital status … and why I wear the rings, that would be fabulous. The key to me is that he would have to ASK. I want someone courageous enough to ask questions … to pursue and investigate. THAT is of utmost importance to me. So, wearing bands on my left hand is actually a screening, of sorts. And if no man comes along that is an investigator, so be it. I’d rather be alone than live my life with someone who doesn’t push limits, ask questions and probe.

My bands

I  have loved stacking rings for decades.  And I am thankful to have found a beautiful new piece of quality craftsmanship.
What a treat that I was able to buy it with birthday money … making it all the more special.

My new birthday band makes me happy!
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

The Dryer Parable

During our extended dryer illness,
James realized that the dryer that I own and the one that he owns
are nearly the same make and model.
Since he is living at my house right now,
and his dryer had also been making a funny sound in his apartment before moving back home,
he began contemplating using parts from both machines to create a working single model.
He has never worked on a dryer before,
but decided to take a look at it.

And by “take a look at it,” I mean
he googled dryer schematics,
did some heavy research on forums
and began taking both dryers apart.
I’m pretty sure that he spends as much time doing research on a repair
as he does ON the repair, when he dives into the uncharted  territory of a new job.
Disassembled dryer

He made major renovations inside my dryer.
His dryer had two heating coils, but the heat reflective pan wouldn’t work in my dryer.
So, he altered the pan in my dryer to accommodate both coils.
He had to switch out the blower on my dryer
but it vented in the opposite direction of the original.
This required major repositioning of the blower and the venting system.
These are only two of the problems that he explained to me
while the drum of my dryer sat in my kitchen
and I waited for him to finish the job
in his spare time (which is slim).

My dryer drum ... in my kitchen

He got the dryer running.
It worked well …. for a few weeks
before something inside began to make noise again.
Dryer

 

My memory is sketchy on some things, but I’m pretty.sure that my dryer was purchased new
around the time that Joy was born.
That would make my dryer around fourteen years old.
Considering that it worked hard for a family of five for at least ten of those years,
(with folks moving out and staying out … or moving out and back in during the last four)
it is no surprise that it has simply … tuckered out.
And James’ model was nearly the same age. 

 

James - working on my dryer

After James decided that the appliance was truly broken beyond repair,
a thought occurred to me.

James has no training in dryer repair, but he was willing to work to figure out how a dryer operates.
He did all the right things … as far as he could tell.
He looked up the schematics from the maker.
He read about problems and sounds and symptoms to isolate the problem(s).
He took time to seek wisdom from people with greater experience.
He asked questions and listened to answers.

But, he was using parts from two failing … worn …. broken appliances
to try to create a working model.
Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... We … broken people …  do the same …  all the time.
We try to find ways to repair our broken hearts
through another broken person.
We search for the perfect person  who loves us
rather than the one we can best serve.
We date and  break up and date and break up. We search and hunt and watch for a soul mate.
We marry and divorce and remarry again .. and again.
We find ourselves bewildered because we think we have control and our actions should be enough.
Like on the dryer repair, we work, remove, replace, reposition, and redirect … to no avail.

In reality, there is only one way to create a beautifully operating instrument
from bits of broken … wounded … dated … and worn on this earth
and that is through God who knows our hearts and loves us anyway  ….
through Christ who redeems us and fills in our gaps … caulks our cracks …. and smooths the roughness …
through God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and walks with us … guiding and leading ….
strengthening weak places, shining light into dark corners ….

Our dryer is dead and gone. There is no plan for  James or I repairing it.
Our hope of fluffy, sweet clothes from that machine has been removed.
In fact, we put our home and our own lives in danger from trying to get THAT machine
to do something that it is no longer capable of doing.

But, there will always be hope  for you and I in the spiritual realm.
We live in a broken world … but our inner world need not be a shambles.
We cannot fix our broken hearts with another person … no matter how much they love us.
The only way to operate on this earth without completely falling apart  …
is through the power, energy and wholeness offered us through God alone.

Harmony in relationships

You’ve heard phrases like “Bad company corrupts good character”  and
You become like the five people you spend the most time with.

These are true in friendships,
but think of how much more like they apply to marriage.

Snoopy and Charlie Brown get it right here on this pin:
It’s not where you go in life, it is who you travel with.

Marriage is the uniting of two spirits.

“The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife,
and they become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:23 & 24)

I hear …
if he is a liar, I will be influenced to become one …
if he is a gossip, I will be  transformed into one ….
if he is self-centered, I will be pulled towards self-centeredness …
if he enjoys porn/speeding/stealing/gambling/you name the weakness _______________ …
being in his presence will be tempt me to embrace that activity.

Of course, we can fight this and resist …
but I can at least say in my own life, I refuse to spend my days “fighting” and “resisting.”
These relationships are exhausting. Run away from them.

I will choose friendships and relationships that
reinforce my good character and bolster my strength to push away the bad.
I love the question, “When you are with him, does he make you a better you?”
THAT is the ultimate test in friendship.

I really don’t think we will fully understand the depth of this intimacy and connection,
but the longer I live, the more vividly I see the integration.

When I first saw this video, I thought about marriage ….
relationships …..
the intertwining and merging of spirits
and how one soul influences another.

We THINK we stand alone,
but like these metronomes,
we are influenced by the movement, rhythm and balance
of those around us.

The New York Times reported in this article from a study by University of Michigan,
“The increase in facial similarity results from decades of shared emotions,
according to Robert Zajonc, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, who did the research.”

It happens in the physical world
and I believe it happens in the spiritual world … this entangling.
In many ways, the physical world is given to us as a tangible representation
of the unseen, spiritual activity that operates behind the veil of earth and flesh.
Our denial or disbelief void the spiritual laws no more than
denying gravity’s existence will allow us to float rather than stay grounded on earth.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

I watch in wonder.
I think about those that are in my inner circle.
I think about those who have walked out.
I’m thankful that I know that my life is rich in people
who offer a  strong, positive influence on my life
for good, for reaching higher, for becoming stronger, more honest and more authentic.

I have said it before: Choose carefully. 
Choose your everyday friendships carefully,
but, most important … choose your spouse carefully.
Because …. two become one.

These are the days

These ….
are the days of beauty.
These are the days that we are cleansed.
Dogwood blossoms with Masters' flag in the background

Our town is becoming more busy ….. traffic mildly deeper and denser as people come to Augusta, GA for one of the most prestigious golf events in the world.  We’ve had a few weeks of more favorable weather … nights in the 50’s and days in the 70’s. Azaleas and Dogwoods are announcing spring.

We have had a taste of warmth … longer days … more intense sun.

But days like today  …. hold a beauty of their own.

Rain is falling steady and gentle. The temperature outside is not warm enough to keep my thermostat set on 65 from tripping the heater into action. The weatherman says we have a day or two of this …. gentle rain and cooler temps.

And I love it
because the pine will still continue to bloom
and the flowers will continue to blossom
but the pollen will be gently washed away. pollen on tile

It speckles the porch  from gentle splashes.

pollen

It puddles in the drive and on the streets
where obstructions of uneven sidewalk
or dams of pine, leaves and sticks hold it captive
like an oil slick floating upon the water.

The haze that fills the spring air tinting the world yellow
is cleansed from the air
and washed from our presence.

While I yearn from warmer days
and the return of the summer humidity in the air,
these days are beautiful, too.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... It is a glorious thing
to be cleansed.

I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Jeremiah 33:8

 

 

Homestead Sermon

The Traditions Web

Years ago, I bought a sturdy coffee table book.
The artist’s first name is Herbert … and his last name is now lost to me.
Most of the paintings are dated 1973.  Some may be pen and ink. Most are watercolor …
earthen, muted browns and ambers, black and gray with muted greens and
mottled, speckled blues here and there.

Coffee Grinder

Some time ago, I ripped out the pages that appealed to me
and tossed the rest of the book.
I’ve been a page collector for years.
Rather than pack-ratting entire books and magazines,
I save the pages that inspire me.

I used one of the pages from the book as the base for creating the Journey artwork that I wrote about here. 

Glue ... ready

I didn’t grow up in the country, but I grew up traveling the backroads of Georgia between busy south Atlanta and rural Statesboro, Georgia where my grandparents lived. We also traveled to Americus and Waycross for a bit to visit other grandparents.

Georgia fields

When I was in middle school, we moved to south Georgia and the trail from Thomasville to Statesboro become familiar. With both grandparents there by that time, the trip was common and frequent. I think it is all this back road travel that cemented my love of open fields, cattle and barely rolling hills.

Tidewater

This style home is one of the quintessential standards in Georgia. Between every rural city, you see a few of these … those that wind and weather haven’t blown away.

Naturally, this page was one that was pulled out and stashed away from that book of watercolor paintings from the 70’s.

With the change of seasons … comes the change of artwork on my mantle.
And I have no spring painting.
This sliver of paper of an overgrown homestead seemed an excellent springboard
towards something lovely.

details

The weekend found Joy, still in footed pj’s that are wild and free like her spirit.
She offered me acoustic melodies as I painted
and I enjoyed her sweet presence.

Joyful acoustics

Painter’s tape guided my rows,

Homestead Sermon

as I marked off my field rows
and tried to mimic texture and color around that beautiful house painted and then printed decades ago.

Homestead Sermon

I will be honest in telling you
that ofttimes I pick up a paintbrush,
am surprised at my finished product.
This painting was as much a surprise.
I really like the way she feels.
She smells of fresh turned peanuts in fall and feels like a warm spring breeze.

But, she needed words to offer the message
that I saw in her.Sermons We See by Edgar A. Guest

And I found the message
in Edgar Guest’s poem called
Sermons We See.

from the book Leaves of Gold

It was in an old copy of Leaves of Gold, a book of prose, poetry and proverbs.
I cut out the words
and affixed them in place.

The phrase tells the story … my heart story …
the one I long to tell
and the same I yearn to experience.

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.  I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way”

What truth.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

Ah, yes!
Parallels between the physical and the spiritual!
Those are “The Sermons We See!”

Homestead Sermon

 

And this truth … that walking, living, breathing
discipleship is the one that speaks volumes.
It isn’t taking your child to church that teaches him about Christ,
it is behaving like Him that speaks volumes.
It isn’t quoting verses of scripture that teaches her about His love,
it is behaving like Christ that makes the impression on that young, tender shoot.
It is loving when it hurts,
giving when we are empty
and asking forgiveness even when we don’t understand how we offended ….
we only know that we have wounded.
Christ carried the burden that He did not deserve.
He put relationship over pride.
He put others before Himself.
He led by example rather  … than simply quoting The Law.
Homestead Sermon

This is my focus.
I don’t want to p.o.i.n.t  to Christ …
I want His image
to be the default image you see
when you look at me.

This is the homestead sermon …
written on the hearts of those around you
taught daily within the four walls of your home
with the handwritten script of time,
standing the test of weather, wind and time.

Legos and a Teachable Heart

The bedroom that James once occupied has a massive, wonderful closet.
When James moved, he took most of his things … but he left behind one full top shelf of toys, games
and containers of Legos.


James has been very open with me in the past
about his fear of our home catching on fire.
Most people say they would try to save their photo albums first.
He has always told me,
“If our house catches on fire, I’m saving my Legos!”

Because life has been dramatically rearranged of late,
I am in need of the shelf space that is currently home to his Lego collection.
So, I pulled the containers down
and requested that he take them to his apartment.

My son's Legos

It is bittersweet to know that some time in the not-so-distant future,
he will find a lovely bride … marry …
and then become a father.
I’m praying for the day that his own children will play with these bricks and blocks.

When he was potty training and near three years old, I would give him a tiny Lego set as a reward for staying dry for three or four days, building to a week or more. I made a little chart and posted it on the fridge and checked off the days.  Those first sets were quite small. Most were vehicles of some sort with 20-40 pieces. There was one condition to him being allowed to play with them: he had to put the set together according to the instructions first. After that initial building, he was free to play with them in any way he wanted. Many men think that instructions are written for operators to consult when you hit a snag. I wanted him to learn the value of instructions and begin with them rather than resort to them when in frustrated or desperate.

Heads and helmets

He kept his Lego direction booklets and even sorted them in three-ring binders according to the theme of the set ….

… and  chose to sort Lego pieces for easy accessibility.

Today, he can fix anything he sets his mind to repair. He amazes me. He will research parts, figure out problems and commence to any repair he chooses to tackle. He can google any snag he hits and figure out the inner workings of most any machine. He has taken his car engine apart several times and repairs computers for a living. I’m so proud of him for finding value in looking “elsewhere” for help and direction. Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

Because this is life ….
and this is humility.
The person who often says, “I know. I know,”
is not a teachable soul.
The man who turns to God as a last resort
and o.n.l.y reads the “instructions” when he hits a snag
lives a life of desperation.
The woman who thinks she has no need to ask for help …
will find herself lonely and lost.

We all need help.
We all need direction.
We all need support.

The person who is not too proud to admit that need …
to ask for instruction  …
to confess when they just “don’t know”
is the one who finds support, direction and friendship.

I want to have a teachable heart. I want to remember to read the instructions first. I want to be the quick to say,
“I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”

My man/child has taken another step.
He has very few things here in my home that belong to him.
But he has taken with him the most important: a teachable heart.

Choosing to Quilt and Throw Glitter

My new parakeet birdcage cover!!

After finishing the birdcage cover,
I had this stack of “trash” …. that I just didn’t want to toss.
It just l.o.o.k.e.d inspiring and visually stimulating laying there on the table.

img_9681

I loved the rectangles and lines I saw in the fabric remnants
and the brass hardware of the grommets …
and I love layering, thread and collage.

I cut the grommets from the end of my scraps
and punched squares from scrapbooking paper to create individual frames for the grommets.
Then  I lined them up on two square 12 x 12 canvas squares that had been painted and
given a tissue paper layer as a background.

My paper "frames" for the grommets

I eventually sewed each grommet in place with floss
to create two individual but coordinating pieces of art work ….

The strip of material that was between the grommets
was used to create a woven fabric design …

that I sewed together …

and stitched to two coordinating canvas bases.

My Mama’s antique buttons offered me two perfect embellishments.

Of all of the artwork I have ever created ….

I think these four pieces are my favorite creations … ever.
If I only had an embroidery machine,
I would add a word to each … like
“peace,”
“explore”
or “twirl.”

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Because, this is the beauty of life, isn’t it?
We take what we have … scraps and remnants …
things we come across and stumble upon
and we use them to create our external and our internal environment.
As we explore the world,
we can choose how to live as we travel … in peace or angry and full of turmoil.
Our experiences are woven into the exquisite quilted, woven fabric
that is our life.
We can blame others for our pains, spit unhappiness on those we touch and live growling while nobody is looking ….
or we can spin and twirl, leap and throw glitter
and make the intentional, conscious decision to live a joyful, buoyant, abundant life.
Both take energy.
But one is exhausting
and the other rejuvenating!
I choose the latter.