I have always loved the ritual of creating New Year’s resolutions. As my childhood friend Sarah can attest, I’ve jumped at the chance to recreate myself every January since we were in junior high together. I would always commit to something extraordinary like: “This year I will change my personality!” “I will practice perfect posture!” “I will memorize at least one poem every week!” I put so much emphasis on the magic of starting a brand new year, like a do-over, I thought the slate was wiped clean and I could remake myself. Back then, I wanted to be the shy, quiet type that the boys seemed to like. For those of you who know me, you immediately recognize the grand feat necessary for me to “change my personality” and the unlikelihood of which not even a miracle could supply.
Twenty-five years later, I still relish the notion of starting something new and fresh; re-examining old goals, naming new ones. But my “resolutions” are no longer plural. I followed the lead of a friend who challenged us a few years ago to bear in mind a single word or phrase to guide us throughout the year. I’ve adopted that habit and found it to be freeing and focusing at the same time. Not to mention, it’s easier to keep instead of abandoning by the end of the first month.
I was very intentional last year in declaring my word as “Abundance.” Tired of settling for the norm and what had become mediocre, I wanted to know the abundant life promised in Scripture (John 10, Ephesians 3). I spent a long time in January crafting a large art piece that would consistently remind me of what I had prayerfully set out in the beginning of the year to find.
I clung to that word “abundance” looking for evidence of it anywhere and everywhere. But by the end of October, I was beginning to think that God misunderstood my message.
2015 began with a colonoscopy in January and ended with a double ear infection and thrush in November. Peppered in between those health concerns the year held injuries and nutrient deficiencies. Job, asset and relational losses were also among the wreckage. I literally thought to myself that the signals of prayer to the heavens were crossed and the message was heard that I wanted 2015 to be a year of abundant…burdens!
I am still trying to make meaning out of the past 12 months. But there was a moment in August after I had endured a vocational crisis where I was able to experientially grasp the concept of Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” During that month of mourning, Karl was there at every turn to comfort me and literally hold me together. I would wake from terrifying nightmares at 2 or 3 in the morning and beg him to just put his arms around me tightly so I could feel safe again. On the weekends when I still couldn’t break the chains of anxiety, I would weep and ask him to rub my back. I called him or texted him numerous times each day asking for reassurance or the chance to process my feelings. In 15 years of marriage, I never needed him like I did then. And when I needed that desperately, I was finally comforted in an abundant way.
Never before have I ever been the touchy-feely type. I didn’t understand what was so special about giving and receiving hugs, or snuggling or hand-holding. But after a painful year of desperate need, I found comfort in the human touch. Now, Karl says with a wink that I’ve gotten a bit greedy in my need for his comfort. “Hold me? Snuggle with me?, Scratch my back?,” I say daily. I know where to find the soothing I need. And he offers it to me in spades. But it took an abundance of need for me to find the source of abundant comfort.
And as I look at other instances from throughout the year, what becomes clear, in hindsight, is that there was an abundance of trials, to be sure, but for the first time in my life, there was also an abundance of comfort. So, maybe the wires to heaven weren’t crossed all along and God understood my message perfectly.
Last week, I discussed how I have found extra free hours in my schedule recently by not watching football games. I am certainly in the minority as it is projected that over 110 millions people will be watching the Super Bowl game this Sunday. However, I am pleasantly surprised at the personal discoveries I’ve made during those free hours. Having time to spend without guilt or pressure allowed me to explore my creative side.
I can’t recall loving arts and crafts as a child. I wasn’t a burgeoning artist who could draw at a young age. I didn’t glue random objects together as makeshift dollhouses or rocket ships. While I took piano lessons, I didn’t have a great ear or exceptional musicality. I never went to ballet, tap or jazz dance classes. I wasn’t a voracious reader who would then pen my own poetry or lyrics. The only thing that resembles any childhood artistic expression was my love of dressing and redressing my Barbie dolls. Each week I received a $2 allowance and knew exactly how I was going to spend that money. We lived just a few blocks from a small shopping center where among Furr’s Cafeteria and May D&F, there was a local drugstore was called Duckwall’s. My brother and I would hop on our bikes and speed to that store where I would promptly spend $.99 on a new outfit for my Barbie’s wardrobe collection and the other $.99 on a box of candy. I had the clothes and the shoes and the purses and relished creating outfits for every make believe occasion. Later, that interest would turn to magazines. I would feast on Seventeen’s fashion editorial spreads and collect every black and white perfume ads to tape on my wall. In the end, I dabbled in amateur fashion photography in college and family portraits in my twenties and toyed with Photoshop into my thirties. I thought that medium was the extent of my artistic expression until recently.I
I currently live in a house that is over 100 years old. The closets are uniquely designed in that they are far more deep than they are wide. This architecture makes it a very inefficient use of space. In order for Karl and I to fit our clothes in one room he takes the dresser I take the closet. I hang most of my clothes, and use plastic drawers for everything else. Frustrated with not being able to see in the back of the unlit closet, I decided I would take an old dresser from the basement and make room for it in our bedroom. This meant several pieces of furniture were going to shift throughout the house. After one move and then another and I realized things would fit, but they wouldn’t match. Like my Barbie doll’s outfits, things needed to “go” together. And unlike my current allowance, though not $2, still does not afford the luxury of buying new things. Hence, I began the work of making everything “go” together.
And in the process, I discovered what makes me happy: I love color. Thumbing through paint samples was a highlight. I found such delight when the gorgeous color I chose was first deposited on the wood. I enjoyed the specificity of measuring resin and its activator to create an epoxy coating. I relished the order of placing pennies in rows of tails first, then heads. And even the blemishes or mistakes that resulted from my amateur work were fun to attend to and remedy. Being able to display my success in our living room and share with the world on Facebook and this blog adds to the pride of my creation. But more than pride, I experienced pleasure as I painstakingly took on this challenge. And in the process, I discovered just how much I enjoy transforming things that don’t work into something like a beautiful work of art.
What brings you pleasure? What are you creating right now? What medium do you use? I’m curious to hear what makes you happy and why.
*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention.
Your body is not your masterpiece — your life is. It is suggested to us a million times a day that our BODIES are PROJECTS. They aren’t. Our lives are. Our spirituality is. Our relationships are. Our work is. Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush.
In many ways, the Visual Arts saved my life. When words were too much or too scary, I found color, line, shape, shade. And I found I had heart bent toward beauty and creation and depth. This therapy was actually quite scientific. Art drew the pool of my mental energy to one corner of my mind, the artsy part, and in that move, it left the anxious and depressed parts to starve in some dark corner. It was an escape from life because, yes, sometimes you just need to escape for a season.
Healing is a long and hard road, and forgiveness often takes time. But neither requires staying in a destructive, damaging environment. No one—not the abuser, not the abused, not the community—benefits when abuse or bullying goes unchallenged. In fact, often the first step toward healing for everyone involved is to stop the abuse or to flee it. It’s hard to heal in a war zone.
Hello lovely people…
I was recently given the honor of contributing a guest post for Beth Bruno’s blog series titled Beauty out of Chaos. I first came to know Beth through her husband Chris Bruno, a dear friend, colleague and fellow graduate from The Seattle School. In the years that have followed our initial introduction I have grown to admire the many ways in which Beth leans into her calling as writer, creative and activists. Check out her blog and I promise you’re day will be enriched as a result.
I never really thought of myself as a writer, let alone an artist. Perhaps it’s because when I was young, my writing was most familiar with the genre of survival. In the midst of the heartache of a broken home furnished primarily with the chaos of shame and abuse, I often retreated to the safety and sacredness of journaling. I had discovered a way to get the heaviness of those formative experiences onto those precious pages and pages, easing the burden of all I was being asked to carry through life.
You can continue reading the rest of my guest post on Beth’s blog.