Makes Me Happy Monday: Superior Rocks

Greg  left my home the first week of June. He got back on his bike and began his pedaling trek home. He headed north towards Niagara Falls and then dipped into Canada for a few days after he turned to head west.

Days started at day break and ended with the setting of the sun. They were filled with navigation and careful attention to road hazards.

Nights were spent along roadsides, at state parks, in national forests and anywhere else convenient and safe for a lone traveler, a tent and a bike.

Because he lived alongside me for the month of May, he knew my love of rocks.

When he reached Lake Superior,

he took the time to pick up a few rocks that were unusual …

and mail them to me.

He took.the.time to pick them up,
ride his bike out of his way to a post office,
buy an envelope and a card,
write me a note inside the card
and then mail me the package.

And look at these beautiful stones.

This one may be my favorite. I plan to drill a hole in her
and wear her on a leather strand around my neck.

The smallest gestures
can take great effort
and mean SO much

Rocks
from the distant shore of a huge northern lake
make me smile today.

What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

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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.

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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