Note to self: It’s summertime!
I did not grow up with a tradition of observing Lent but, as an adult, I have grown in appreciation for spiritual discipline in general and this season of church life specifically. God does great things when we give Him great access to our lives through disciplines that help to tune our eyes and ears to His work.
Before this Lent began I asked God: “What discipline would you have me observe to see you more clearly?” Funny (and I truly believe God IS funny this way, at least sometimes), He didn’t answer clearly. I could take on a discipline of reading the news; in these times, we all ought to read the news more broadly and more carefully. And I put on a ring my mother-in-law gifted to me; as my ‘not typical’ right-hand ring, its presence on my finger has reminded me of Jesus’ presence with me.
And then Lent took a quick left-hand turn into discipline. Situations arose that required prayer; people needed me; I needed Jesus. God knew I didn’t need more disciplined practices than the discipline He was already planning to send my way. (And oh, wowza, did I ever need that ring as a reminder of His presence…!)
Today is Maundy Thursday, which means Lent is almost over. The dark before the dawn, tonight we commemorate Jesus’ last supper with His disciples before He was betrayed. Tomorrow He was crucified. Sunday, at last!, Jesus rose from the grave.
We want to fast-forward the bad stuff to get to the good. We want to skip the pain in favor of pleasure. We don’t want bitter but sweet. In this Holy Week, God calls us to see His glory in the worst-ever scenario, trusting Him to redeem and transform it into more than all we could ask or imagine.
So what am I thankful for on this Maundy Thursday?
I am, as always, thankful for Jesus, who sacrificed Himself in love for me, for all of us, so that our lives not only exist, but matter.
I am thankful for a year, and that the situation that occupied my heart last year is no longer my concern. And I’m thankful for the hope that the situation that occupies my heart now won’t next year.
I am thankful for time, as in, time heals all wounds. The wounds of last year, but also more recent cuts and jabs that, with time, prayer, and careful tending, have already begun to heal.
I am thankful for kind and gentle human beings who willingly give of themselves to help the rest of us make peace–with ourselves, with God, with one another.
I am thankful for the continual bubbling over of last week’s Mexico trip, and the ways I see God has grown and shaped my Teen through this experience.
I am thankful for yoga, and my friends and their friends who filled a studio this morning for a laughter- and fun-filled sweaty workout, good for body and soul.
I am thankful for the rain showers earlier today, for the quail running down my fence line, for the twilight breeze rocking the tree branches outside my window. Peaceful beauty.
The week before spring break is a crazy one in our office as each year we prepare to send about 250 people from our church and community to Mexico to build hope and homes with AMOR. This year, in this one week, our group will build fourteen homes.
I am FULL of gratitude for this trip, this experience, that changes lives in Mexico and the Bay Area. The chaos that precedes the trip dims in contrast to the bright light God shines through the trip itself. I can’t wait to hear all the stories on the other end…!
That crazy-office week continues to our home. My sweet Guy leads this trip every year, and every year it surprises me (again! How can I be surprised again?) how much work it takes to plan. In addition, this year Teen is–at long last–a senior and a student leader for one of the house builds. Quite literally, he has anticipated this trip his entire life, and it’s almost here…
The FULL schedule means I have not been as present to the blog as I like. I have put on pause several posts just because there aren’t enough hours in any day. I had hoped to post a Meatless Monday recipe for National Spinach Day (3/27) but, as much as I ❤ spinach!, I didn’t have a spare minute to decide which particular spinach recipe I’d post. I started writing a re:create recess post for Wednesday before the day slipped away. I planned to write a Thankful Thursday post, and instead said a happy Yes! to a friend’s request for a short walk around the dog park, a healthy antidote to stress.
So here we are: Friday. The week has been FULL-to-the-brim. My heart is FULL: the hectic pace pulls in tow joy, gratitude, frustration, bite-your-tongue bleeding, tears, and laughter (um, have I mentioned I’m just a wee bit emotional?).
And now, now it’s time to take a deep breath and a rest. We have a week. Nine days, including weekends. Half of our little family will be in Mexico, working and serving and growing. Half will spend intentional time resting and playing together, growing in altogether different ways.
I may feel energy-empty and heart-full now but, during this week, I plan to fill up on rest; to fill up on moments and memories with my darling Tween; to fill up little accomplishments in a lot of arenas; to fill up my body with satisfying rest, fulfilling exercise, and delicious food. I want to exit this week FULL in completely different ways.
For dinner tonight, I’m making (again) an entirely satisfying soup (stew) that will linger as tummy-yummy leftovers this weekend (my friend keeps sharing her kale crop!). And for more on my (too-short) one-night experience with AMOR, keep reading.
Today’s guest post comes from a friend who for years pew-sat near where I pew-sat. We waved, smiled, hugged, and regularly engaged in worship side-by-side. I came to know her creative heart as she shared through a regular design article in our local paper and through her business posts over social media. Her eye for beauty never fails, and neither does her willingness to pray.
Create Challenge #33: Ann McDonald
God’s heart, the soil
Steward in the secret place
No place too deep, heights beyond
Healed, beauty born
Order out, safety balance
Creative beyond measure
Love, weight, fallen yet redeemed
Place of honor stewarded
The psalmist sings
Transparent truth, weight measured
Bearing anguish, healing souls
Relationship, chords become
In blood, redeemed creative
Bring forth new
Endless soil, possible
God’s heart, stewarded from
Are, beloved truth, birthed from
From the soil
God’s heart, now seeds
Break through, growth, fearless, timeless
Ann McDonald is a visionary creative strategist and tactician. She has a unique skill for constructing and deconstructing the macro without sacrificing the micro in the marketplace and in the realm of ideas. Ann foreruns curriculum creation for consultants, and coaches Leaders across the spectrum unto growth and profitability.
A 25 year veteran of the Luxury Design Industry, Ann is the Business Moderator for a trade community over 100,000 strong. She has a passion for equipping creatives. She creates processes to bring ideas from raw form to implementation, and then towards influence and increase.
Ann graduated from UC Berkeley, is married to Patrick, has two grown sons, three pugs, and currently splits time between Lake Tahoe and the San Francisco Bay Area.
My grandmother never used a facial cream of any sort and, at her passing at age 96, her face wore only the normal road map of life experience. In her mid-70s, my mom is only just beginning to look ‘mature.’
Last week on vacation in Carmel, I walked past a shop in which a man stood in the doorway behind a big bowl featuring a sign that read “Enjoy a Free Sample.” I thought it was a candy shop until I saw the beautiful jeweled soaps in the window and did a hard about-face. He smiled and handed me and my mom each an envelope of facial moisturizer. He asked, “Would you also like to sample our eye cream?” Well, why not?
He invited me to follow him. Uh oh…
Alejandro, a charming 29-year-old Argentinian, warned me not to fall in love with him, though I was free to fall in love with the products. I pointed to Guy through the open door and promised we were safe on the falling in love front. I mentioned charming?
He gently smoothed the tiniest spot of cream at the outside corner of one eye, oh so faintly dabbing at the sensitive under-eye skin. He fanned my face with a black Spanish lace fan and told me to let him know when the lotion penetrated the eye muscle. At first it felt cold and I felt confused—what would I feel? And then I felt it, a sensation akin to the tingle of peppermint lip balm.
He added just a drop of another cream on top of that and then showed me a mirror: I gasped at the noticeable difference between the lotioned left eye and the untreated right eye. I’ve never in my life seen a beauty product work so instantly. The poster behind Alejandro promised that this cream would be better than Botox—and it was.
To even things up Alejandro treated the other eye and explained that if I purchased these two creams, to be used just once a week at bedtime, I would receive a daily eye cream free. When I asked if the creams could do anything about the loose skin under my chin, he laughed, his salesman’s face cracking just a bit. What was my concern?
Truthfully, I haven’t been concerned about my eyes but I’ve been aware of that chin since Teen was in 1st grade. Reading a book side-by-side, he looked up at me and asked, “What’s that?”
Confused, I asked what he meant. He stabbed his little finger below my chin and exclaimed, “That! I don’t have one, do I?” Great. Thanks, kid. So let’s add that insecurity to the list.
Alejandro slathered another cream on my chin and neck. This was one felt wet, slimy even, but as he applied it, my smooth-talking salesman stumbled on his words. He confessed that I have beautiful skin, not one wrinkle (pretty good as I nudge my way toward 50…). He admitted that purchasing and using these creams now would not be restorative so much as preventative.
Then the one-two punch: the free-with-purchase eye cream would be a savings of $350! The two weekly creams would cost $500, but I would receive $850 in products. Sounds like a deal, right? Or a scam. Or, simply, like really expensive beauty products to soothe the insecurities of aging. The sales pitch continued: since I would use the creams only once a week, they would last a full year. $500 for a year’s worth of weekly lotion meant they cost only about $35-40 per month.
Except I’m not sure I spend more than $40 a year on lotion; $35-40 per month for facial cream would absolutely amount to an extravagant splurge.
Still, I waffled. If a product works, maybe it’s worth the splurge?
The kids confirmed that my eyes did, in fact, look different while Guy laughed at my new insecurity. No way were we going to spend $500 on lotions I hadn’t known I might need.
I valued Guy’s confirmation that, for me, for now, this wasn’t a worthy indulgence. And yet, for the rest of the day, I felt like I’d lost out. I wondered how Alejandro had seen me: did he see an edging-towards-50 woman, a woman of mature age? Or did he see the Me I see, young at heart and still young in face? Do I look older than I think I look? Would he have been able to accurately guess my age?
I had to work hard to silence the new crazy voices in my head. What does it matter how a stranger-salesman sees me? What does it matter even if I do look my age? While I may feel younger than I am, I’m also grateful for the lessons learned in my 20s, 30s, and now 40s. Aging is not a problem. Being needlessly insecure about aging would be a problem.
I didn’t lose out; rather, I gained a new insight, and it didn’t cost me a penny.
Today’s guest post writer holds a special place in my life: mother-in-law, the wonderful woman who raised my Guy to be the creative, giving, thoughtful man I love. Her creativity impressed me from the first time we visited their family home. Something was always baking or cooking (all three of my guys drool for her cookies–and she graciously keeps them in supply), her walls covered with handmade-by-her needlework, and she often had a current project in her lap. And I love today’s post about creativity as problem-solving right in your own environment.
Create Challenge #24: Nancy Ricketts
Let me introduce myself…as per instructions from my beautiful, talented, creative daughter-in-law.
My name in Nancy Ricketts. I am nearly 75 and have been blessed with many opportunities over the years to be creative. I could say something about “creating” two wonderful sons, but I give God credit for that…I only helped a little.
It seems to me that I create because of need. There is a problem or an opportunity that calls out to be solved, fixed, improved. My own home is my current creative laboratory, so here are some examples of my brand of creativity. The way I’ve chosen to decorate expresses creativity with shapes, patterns, textures, objects, light, colors and use of space.
Let’s start with the front door of our home. It is a bit plain and needed a creative touch. A local thrift shop provided inspiration. Don’t you think it looks better with a band of roses overhead? The view overhead changes with the seasons. Fall leaves and pine swags await their turn to appear.
When we moved here almost four years ago, we were overwhelmed by the huge blank living room that had a wall of windows and a very high ceiling. On a trip to South Africa I found a large fabric wall hanging; at the same craft fair my husband found some beautiful sketches of San tribal members, also known as “Bushmen.” One thing plus some other related things create a whole. Problem solved.
Creativity can also be involved when things need organizing…whether planning a dinner party for 20 or dealing with a messy pile of fabrics and sewing materials. I confess it was not a fun creative project to sort out stuff from my home workroom, but the organized results are satisfying. Moral to this story: Do not expect every creative project to be joyful in process. Creativity may be in disguise as hard work!
Behold the covered rosebush! A plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store protected my precious yellow roses from marauding, hungry deer that see our yard as an evening buffet. This covering worked well during the night, but obviously can’t be used in the daytime, and unfortunately, the deer recently discovered that the roses are also tasty during daylight hours. Creativity does not always solve the problem!
Deer do not eat our patio flowers, leaving me with plenty of pretties to put into tiny bouquets, my current favorite way of expressing creativity. Some of these are given to people on our Food and Friends (like Meals on Wheels) route every week, others are given to friends, neighbors, or staff at our local medical office.
Rejoice in the creative abilities God has given you–enjoy and share them with others! How pleased our Heavenly Father must be to see us explore and use the gifts He has so graciously given us.
[My blog went dark last week due to computer complications, so you get a bonus Create Challenge post this week–lucky you!]
Today’s post comes from a woman who grew up around the corner from my childhood home and yet I’ve never known her well. I’m a smidge older and, as kids tend to group up by age/grade, we never ran in the same circles even though we also attended the same small liberal arts college in overlapping years. Her sister was one of my sister’s best childhood chums, however, and I remember my mom especially commenting on what a delightful artist Tina was even at a young age. I bumped into her at a storytelling conference a while back and I am thrilled to see the beauty she creates in her art and in her life. For anyone who would indulge creativity, you will recognize the inherent time-balance crunch she writes about in this post.
I have been creating art professionally in Southern California for over 20 years. I specialize in custom canvases and murals, working with my clients to create something meaningful that works with their style and decor.
I graduated from Westmont College where I studied Business and Art. After graduation I started my business and painted full-time for ten years. After getting married and starting a family (my two kids are 12 and 6), I became full-time mom//part-time artist. I love both jobs, but it is often a complicated juggle running a part-time business while meeting the demands of school and home. Projects for clients take precedent and, while I love being creative for others, my creative projects often end up last on the list. I have been fighting against this, and trying to be very deliberate about making space for personal creativity. Here are some of my strategies.
Schedule it! I choose a few days a week when I can schedule 20-30 minutes of creative space in my day. In my ideal world, I would have hours to sit and paint, craft, etc. But in my reality, one to three hours a week is a victory. I set an alarm on my phone, stop everything else, and work for 20+ minutes.
Creativity takes many forms for me, from painting and crafts, to cooking, writing, and editing photos. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, but once I’m going on a project, I can dive right in. The physical space where I can work is a key part of making creativity happen. I have a corner set up with my easel, paints, brushes, pencils, paper, a small table, etc. This allows me to paint for 20 minutes rather than spending the same amount of time setting up. There is no perfect time, and my ‘chores’ are never finished so, much like committing to a workout routine, you have to “just do it!”
God is the ultimate artist and I believe He made us to be creative too. I’m a better mom, wife, and friend when I have fed my creative soul. I encourage you to get in touch with your creative self; make time, get messy, and have fun!
Lover of all things creative…on the canvas, in the kitchen, in my nest…and in the details of life. I find that when I invest myself in something creative everyday, no matter how small, I am better for it. My blog is in ‘hibernation’ at the moment, but there is lots of creative content there to check out: www.winsomewren.blogspot.com. My website is www.tinacwellsart.com.