I’m a poser

For years now, it has felt like life has just been
plain hard.
The responsibilities of being a single mom
when layered with ….. well …… #allthethings
…. it’s just been tiring.
Like many single moms, I’ve felt overwhelmed and exhausted.

But,
one.at.a.time ….
God has allowed several of the responsibilities
that I have had
to finally
be r.e.l.e.a.s.e.d. 

The change in weight
from my mind and heart
is more than I can explain
with mere words.

Every passing day feels  :: l i g h t e r ::.

It is a very welcome change.

So ….
I have just recently decided
it is time to stretch.
I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone.

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Since my divorce,
I have participated in several “stretching events”
that are physical.
I participated in
a Warrior Dash, a half-marathon and a Sprint Triathalon.

But …. I’m ready to step out emotionally
and face some challenges
that make me test my boundaries in a different way.
I want to do some hard things
that make me explore
WHY I consider the activity to be hard.

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I began a list of things
that make me uncomfortable
but spark my interest.
You know the things.
They’re different for all of us.
We are intrigued by them

but fear holds us back. 

 ….  oh, fear.  we’ve been friends for SO long now  ….

My goal is to do one thing that makes me uncomfortable
each month
for the next year.
That means 12 scary things!

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I have a friend who recently told me about her stint as a nude model.
::trembles:: Uhm. Yeah. THAT would definitely make me uncomfortable.
Sitting bare and exposed
before intently staring eyes
that must look closely and examine
in order to transfer
what they see with their eyes
through a brush or pencil or stick of charcoal
to a flat, bare surface of paper.

That conversation sparked my curiosity.

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So, this past Tuesday evening,
I went with a friend to Columbia, SC
to the Columbia Museum of Art.
I posed as a model for About Face.
About Face is a group of talented artists
that meet every other week
to practice their craft
through drawing or painting a live model.

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I wasn’t nervous.
I sat for four segments of 25 minutes
with a five minute break between each segment.
I chose what to wear and how to sit.
It was SO much fun!

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This piece was created by Alice, the artist in blue in the photo above.

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And this is Tran.
Look at his work!

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And the ever generous, sweet Barbara Yongue
actually offered me her work in charcoal.

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Tuesday was my first chance to meet with the group
and try my hand at sitting still
for two hours.
NOT an easy task for me.
Tuesday night was the first time in years and years
that all eyes in the room have been on me.
Another out-of-the-ordinary sensation.
Tuesday night was preparation.

I go back in two weeks
to pose nude.
Let the new stretching begin.

Makes Me Happy Monday ; Stretching

I have run with people that have made fun of me for my stretching routine.

Stretching

I always walk a short distance, stop and stretch  … then run.

When I lived in Montclair, I walked to the park in the next block and stretched at the playground.  The park bench was the perfect height for me to throw my foot up and get a good hamstring elongation. And the curb was excellent for lengthening my achilles tendon and the plantar fascia so I wouldn’t have a run in with plantar fasciitis.

From my new home, I walk to the bus stop/turn around (which is about the same distance from my home as the park in my last neighborhood) to stretch.

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I stretch before AND after I run.

And I rarely have trouble with shin splints, ham string injuries or pulled muscles.

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I’m very flexible in the “forward folding” position. But, not so much with my hip flexors. I am really working on this. My goal is to one day be able to lie flat on my back in butterfly position. It may take years, but I’m working on it …. every.single.day.

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Without stretching shortly after a warm up, sooner or later, there will be injury.

This is a spiritual/physical parallel, don’t you think?

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

I see this in every area of life. If we aren’t stretched physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually in our relationships with ourselves and others, there will be atrophy and eventually injury.

Isn’t it better to have a “warm up” and then some stretching
than to find yourself avoiding confrontation and then
*BAM*
you’re right in the middle of a crisis
that leaves you sore and wounded
because you weren’t warmed up
and you weren’t prepared?

I’m all about the warm up
… the stretch
… the prep it takes to get ready
so that people – others or yourself –
aren’t left injured by an exercise
that could have been simple
but ended up being a complicated, painful mess.

Yep …. I love stretching ….
all kinds –  physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Stretching makes me happy today.
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

 

Makes Me Happy Monday : Amber jars of tiny blooms

I love flowers. I love them in the yard. I love annuals and perennials … bulbs and bushes …. vines and, yes, even weeds.

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But like most other things I bring into my home, I can’t bring myself to pay full price for flowers.

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While shopping at Kroger yesterday, I happened past some flowers marked down. As gorgeous as the dozen deep crimson roses were, I couldn’t bring myself to pick them up. They were $4.99 a dozen and … I just didn’t want to hand over a five dollar bill for flowers.

But, these baby’s breath were only $.99 !! That was an investment I was pleased to make.

As I trimmed down the long legs of these pretty girls, I had a few sprigs that had flowers on them.

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Rather than toss the dregs, I stuffed the little shoots into an amber jar on the dining table and promptly filled her with water.

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So, there are two spots in my kitchen that are singing summer in crisp white
and my investment was less than a dollar.

For days, I’ll have the opportunity to find joy in the fresh flowers that are brightening the busiest room in my home … and it really makes me happy.

How about you? What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday?

Makes Me Happy Monday ; Warm Showers & Tawny Port

I wake up and walk out in the darkness.
The kitchen table still speaks of last night’s final conversation and libation.
Artwork gifted by my dear friend, Gina,
rests beside two crystal tulip-glasses
that held tawny port.

Tawny Port and artwork in the morning

One month ago, I had never heard of tawny port.
Today, it is my favorite after dinner beverage.

Tawny PortThe color of this particular bottle’s port is stunning.
You might describe it as reddish amber or golden burgundy.
The taste is smooth, fruity …. and woody.
It amazes me that
a wine can taste …. like a tree smells!
After years of sitting inside a wooden barrel,
it only makes sense that she takes on the aroma and flavor of her container.

It was a month ago that I received a request from another WarmShowers.org member
asking if he might stay with me. He only requested to pitch his tent in my yard for one night. But substantial rains on the next day, the Monday of his arrival, made me refuse to allow him to sleep in a tent. My home is tiny, but I made him a pallet on the floor of my extra bedroom and offered him dinner, a warm shower and time to dry out and rest.

Conversation quickly revealed that he had been riding since mid-February. He had ridden his bike from Sacramento, California to Augusta, Georgia with one goal in mind; to race in a USA Cycling National Championship race to be held at Fort Gordon Army Base. Of all of the homes in Augusta available, he requested to stay with me because I lived closest to the event site.  He made good time crossing the US so he arrived a few weeks earlier than he expected.

And there I sat, across the table from this stranger
with clear, blue eyes
and tan, defined legs
listening to stories of Texas and New Zealand,
Australia and Lake Tahoe,
the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Alabama.
He had a week’s reservation at a local hotel for the week before the June 3rd race
and planned to possibly do some sightseeing
and couch surfing
while he trained and rested.
I offered that he stay still for a few days
while he figured out where he might want to visit
and how he might want to spend the next month.
Og and me

Yes, I slept with my bedroom door locked,
and mace inside my pillow case,
my phone beside me on the bed
and a home-made contraption to LOUDLY alert me
if my bedroom door was opened in the night.

But, by the third night,
I didn’t feel the need to lock my bedroom door.
He’s been living beside me since May 1st and
this man has been a gentleman to me
in every.way.possible.

With the race behind him,
in only two more days,
he will mount his bike
and begin the trek home.

He took a southern route to get here.
He’ll head north up the coast and then west across the states to return.
He plans to visit Niagara Falls on his way home.
i.am.jealous

This rough-around-the-edges stranger
has become a dear friend
to this intentionally-sheltered Southern girl.
No. I won’t be changing my Facebook relationship status.
No. I won’t turn down a date if someone else comes along.
And no. I won’t quickly forget all the ways that he enriched my life
in the thirty eight days that we shared meals, conversation and living space.

And yes, I will miss him dearly.

WarmShowers.org, tawny port and “Og” (his nickname given by a friend)
make me happy today. What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

 

 

Makes Me Happy Monday ; Outdoors In

The thin sliver of glass
that separates controlled humidity
from the wild, blue open
is an invisible barrier.

My inside world is laden with nature.
I choose to fill my home with colors, textures and objects
that blur the line between
outdoors and indoors.

I often find gifts from creation
that have an unusual color, shape or feature …
so I pick them up and bring them inside.

I love the way this oak gift dried open and flat
with her sweet little acorns scattered along the main stem.

So, I picked her up and brought her inside.
Oak love with acorns

Often, my stick and root finds
make their way into artwork.
This brings me such contentment.

My favorite pieces always have elements of nature incorporated into them.

A post shared by Karen Cason (@karen_lee_cason) on

These branches are grand.
One has great movement
with branches that twist to the side
rather than reaching straight out.
And the one in the foreground ….
has lovely little buds.

I brought them in, too.

Tree parts to be admired

Some of my branches have found a home above.
This is my office/art space ceiling.
It is vaulted so there is space for a canopy of twigs.My office/art space ceiling

Dried orchid blooms
and still-green-oak leaves sit beside sticks and reindeer moss.

Oak leaf treasure

A bowl cradles Sycamore fruit.

Sycamore balls in a bowl

A pine cone from a long ago adventure
rests on a tray.

Pinecone on the dinner table

What once was a single jar ….

#amber #rock #words #branches #quiet #still Happy Monday.

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has become a trifecta of collected beauty.

Tiny stick bouquets

And this tiny bowl
holds a broken piece of beauty
that I adore.
Small. Unevenly spaced. And intricate.
I look at it often when I sit at the table to dine.
And it makes me so happy.
I will definitely work her into a tiny piece of art …
a little, bitty, tiny work of art.
Stick love in a clay dish

Here’s the thing …
you have to know yourself
to know what makes you happy.
You have to separate yourself from the
things you’ve been told about
who you are,
what you should like
and what you should do …
to really consider
what brings you joy.
What makes your heart sing?
What makes your soul dance?

Give it some thought.

Then begin to surround yourself
with the things and the people
that bring you the greatest joy!

This morning, I am reminded
that nature makes me happy.

What brings you joy on this marvelous Monday morning?

 

There is no “Complete obedience”

A sweet, young friend posted this on Facebook recently.

“The past week has been so horrible. I’m ready to leave behind all of these mistakes and failings once and for all. It’s times like these you realize what is truly important and fulfilling- what your heart really needs. I don’t even want to imagine the utter hopelessness and horror that my life would be without Jesus. I am so thankful for His grace and mercy that have carried me this far, and I trust and believe that He will be faithful to keep on picking me up and keep on forgiving me. I pray in 2016 that I will be able to trust Him more and be completely obedient to His voice in the ways that I have failed this year.”

Boy, do I know this place. Many of us have in our heads an idea of what things should look like and how everything will be good if we just obey or perform or love more. We get hung up in OUR role in having our “good” life.

 

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Let’s stop beating ourselves up. There is no “completely obedient.” Never.  And think about it …the ONLY way to live without struggle, peril and difficulty is to live in a perfect world .. and that’s not this earthly place.

Whatever you’ve been through, it has taught you more about empathy, compassion, understanding and mercy. It has taught you more about trust, faith, and keeping your eyes on Him.

I have a friend who says “hope can be a dangerous thing.”( I wrote about that here) Think about that. It’s SO true. When our hope is in God alone, we are strengthened. BUT ….. when our hope is in some idea of what things SHOULD look like, how we SHOULD feel, or how things SHOULD turn out, we will almost always be sorely disillusioned. Vacations, nail polish colors, marriages, friendships, iPhone screens, kittens, dating websites, dentists, children, new ice cream flavors, church sermons and darned socks can … and will disappoint us.

This world offers us an idea that includes a picket fence, a new car, a dog and cat, kids that immediately apologize after a fight and a loving, kind spouse. It’s a facade … a front with no follow through or guts behind the scenes. It’s like a movie set or a theatrical stage or Disney World. The fence will eventually rot, the car will break, the cat will have fleas, the dog will have an accident in the house,  kids rarely apologize without being prompted or forced and spouses disagree and hurt each other with or without intention.

And these things happen whether we are completely obedient or not.

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SOMETIMES … our grandiose ideas of what things SHOULD be are even based on scripture. But, I think we miss the mark e.v.e.n in using scripture as our guide for SHOULD.  For example, God told Abraham to sacrifice/kill his son. Rahab lied and it appears it was a good thing. David killed a man with a rock (and a slingshot). The Bible is full of things that you would think would be “should nots.” But, God used them for good.

Frankly, sometimes I scratch my head when I read scripture.
But rather than filling me with doubt,
the stories of the Bible remind me that
I can’t possibly understand God
and the crazy that is in this world.
Sometimes I will do things
that other people will question,
but I should keep my eyes on God
rather than making sure my actions please other people.
Sometimes, even God’s promptings won’t make sense to us.

The thing is; He knows our hearts.
When our motivation is to please Him,
He sees that.

So, let life happen and don’t fight it. There will always be complicated, messy … let’s call it what it is …. really shitty stuff. There will be SUPER hard things. There will be disappointments from people.There will be tough situations when you feel alone. Expect it. KNOW that it’s coming and just let it all be okay. It’s going to happen and it’s not YOUR FAULT … it is more like a gift for you … a gift to help you grow, to further your maturity and to draw you to God.

I-20 W... the road from Augusta to Stone's house

As Christians, it would be foolish for God to protect us from the gunk. THEN people would want to be saved JUST SO they would be protected. No. He wants us to turn to Him so He can comfort, teach and guide us … not to place us inside a gated fence (Eden) to keep us from tangled brambles, pokey stickers and pits of sticky mire.

Keep your eyes on God and let Him direct how you d.e.a.l with those situations … but don’t expect that your obedience to Him will keep you from those difficult places. If He protected us from all the junk, we would have the idea that our performance and obedience is where our security lies.

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In reality, we don’t know what is around the bend. We will walk through storms, darkness and fire. And each of us has a different path to walk. Don’t compare your path to someone else’s.

Our security lies in knowing that He loves us through it. He steadies us through us. And He teaches us compassion to minister to others through it. I say … 2016, Bring It On! Teach me, Lord! Work in me through my struggles so I can be more like you and love others with great compassion, mercy and empathy.

 

 

Photo credit: Picket Fence, Maggie McCain via Flickr, Creative Commons

 

Bandersnatch – Book Release and Guest Post

After 25 years of trying to become someone who I thought I should be,
I found myself divorced
and wondering how to regain my bearing.
Truth be told, I probably never have had my bearing.
As a child,
like many teens, I wanted to please my parents.
At college, I was learning to embrace my true self,
but surely allowed outside influence and people-pleasing
to too heavily influence the unfurling of my true self.
And then I got married.
The more time I spent in church,
the more I heard about submission, being a help-meet
and how a Proverbs 31 wife should behave.
The more I learned to die to self,
the more my “self” died.

In God’s magnificent, patient, kind, gracious way
He has slowly shown me
it is okay to be me.
In fact, He WANTS me to be me.
He created me with my unique talents, quirks and creative bent.
He gifted me with the ability to
feel empathy easily, connect with others quickly
and see spiritual truths everywhere in our physical world.
HE
gave me my insatiable thirst to question absolutely everything
and my passion for mixing three or four or seventeen different patterns
in a single outfit, piece of artwork or design.
And He wants me to have the desires of my heart
when I’m doing my human best to align those with His desires for me.

It has been a rocky, breath-holding, white-knuckled ride
since my divorce,
but I see His hand guiding my way.

After choosing the word of the year “desire” and working my way through
Danielle LaPorte’s fabulous book Desire Map,
I now find myself working my way through another guide-book, Bandersnatch.

So, I offer to you a glimpse into Erika Morrison’s book
and a bit of her story as she guest posts today on her book release day!
(Be sure to watch the book trailer at the end. Erika has the most ….
energizing, embracing and refreshing voice … a encouraging message.)

Congratulations, Erika! Thank you for sharing here in my little corner of the world.

* * * * * * *

“In July of 2000, when my husband and I got married, I was the ripe old age of nineteen and he was a seasoned twenty-four. Six months later I found out there was a baby in my belly, not on purpose. Then shortly after, another baby got in my belly not on purpose; then even less shortly after another baby got in my belly not on purpose.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: somebody needs to check the date on her birth control! But I promise you that nothing short of a medieval chastity belt with a rusted-shut lock could keep this Fertile Myrtle from getting pregnant. I don’t even trust the vasectomy my . . . never mind, I digress.

When our last boy was born in the left leg of my husband’s pajama pants (I should probably mention I was wearing them) while we rode the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor of Yale-New Haven Hospital, I had just birthed my third baby in three years. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. I was twenty- three years young with a three-year-old wrapped around my thighs, a sixteen-month-old in one arm, a newborn in the other, and a godforsaken look of “Help!” writ across my face.

It was about this time that, as mentioned in the previous chapter, our marriage dove headlong into mess, we lost our income for too long to hang onto our home, and we experienced religious restlessness and a whole heap of other life challenges. Those early years redefined my own terms for what it meant to be drowning in the lifeblood leaking from every pore on my body. My internal equipment just wasn’t mature and qualified enough for my external reality, a reality that was demanding more of me than I could bear

What happened to me is what some psychologists call an identity crisis, a term coined in the early 1950s by Erik Erikson to refer to a state of confusion and unhappiness over one’s sense of self. If anyone had thought to ask me “Who are you?” in my good and lucid moments—which were few and far between—I could’ve answered with just about nothing.

Erika Morrison, Bandersnatch

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the pain of not knowing who you are or if you feel that pain right now, but what can easily happen in that place of ache is that you start looking at other people, extracting the qualities you like about them, and injecting those qualities into your person as a substitute for what you don’t understand about yourself.

This is no bueno and that was what I did. In my naivete, I saw the people around me as more inherently gifted than I was, so I decided that self-fulfillment meant adopting their God-given gifts as my own. I looked at this person’s way of socializing and that person’s version of hospitality and another person’s artistic expression and began mimicking their nuances. Before I knew any better, I had squeezed my shape into several different ill-fitting molds at once, while cramming my own personhood into a tiny, overlooked corner in the nether regions of my body.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how devastated my spirit would become under the influence of everyone else’s borrowed qualities. Other people’s gifts and character traits are designed to enhance, enrich, and complement our own, but never act as substitute for them.

A healthy sense of self-identity seemed to be a luxury I didn’t have the currency for . . .”

(Excerpt from Erika Morrison’s book, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul.)

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama.

Those are your interests and investments.

Erika Morrison Bsndersnatch

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

Erika Morrison, Bandersnatch

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God”, either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

Bandersnatch - By Erika Morrison

I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested.

(Are you interested . . . ?)

Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for your own and only God-given glow?

If you’re interested, you can order wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

All my love,

Erika