Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Possibility Painting"

If you have followed this blog for any time at all, you will notice a different look to it today.  It was time for a change - in part, to remind myself that the year of re-birth continues to bring surprises.  And, I found this great background, which reminds me of the colors of creativity and my own artistic endeavors.  In recent years I have come to identify myself in many different ways... certainly I am pleased to be a mother, privileged to be a pastor, honored to be a sister to one of the greatest siblings ever, daughter to an incredibly strong mother, friend to many amazingly wise and wonderful women and men.  Yet one of the identities which pleases (and amazes) me the most is that of the artist.

I remember being 8 or 9 years old when my teacher lifted up a finger painting I had created with extravagant praise.  I remember carefully bringing this treasured masterpiece home.  I remember learning for the first time the truth that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and the disappointment of eyes that beheld something different than mine when gazing upon my painting.  That was when I decided the teacher had been mistaken and I moved away from any thoughts of artistic grandeur.

Until about 9 years ago, when I went to a workshop where I was guided in a meditation to discover an image of my own soul.  When the meditation ended, I was given a blank canvas and access to acrylic paints in every imaginable color, with the instruction to paint the image I had seen in that contemplative state.  There were only two rules for the game:  First, I had to paint as closely as possible exactly what I had seen in the meditation; and secondly, I had to honor the painting by taking it home and hanging it in a place of honor.

Now my painting was quite abstract, reflective of my lingering doubts about myself as an artist. Yet it was a fairly decent description of the beauty I had encountered in those moments of meditation.  On the last day of the workshop I dutifully carried my painting into the restaurant where the last luncheon was held, prepared as I was to bring it home and hang it in a place of honor.  The waiter serving my table changed my life and gave me a new identity when he remarked, "Where did you get that beautiful painting?  I'd like to buy one just like it!"

Maybe that second-grade teacher was onto something after all!  Or maybe, beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder.  It is also in the heart of the artist.  I came home with my painting and began to paint some more.  I started with several more abstract, colorful, undisciplined works as I let Spirit lead me into creativity.  Eventually I branched out into landscapes, and still lifes.  But it wasn't until several years later that I finally embraced this new part of my life.

I happened to be at a holiday art show when I chanced upon a booth full of lovely, whimsical acrylic paintings in bright colors and geometric shapes (horses with triangle bodies and circular heads, mountains of pyramids, rectangular buildings and trapezoidal trees).  As I took in the light and the color and the humor, I remarked to myself "I could paint this!"  Whereupon the artist replied, "yes, you could... why don't you?"  In an instant I recognized the only thing stopping me was myself.  

How many times have I decided NOT to be ... an artist ... a poet .... a guru ... or even just a friend?  And how many times has that decision been the only thing that stood in my way?  When I go into my garage to paint this summer, I will try my very best to bring my second grade teacher along in my heart.  And I will try to let my eye behold the beauty she first saw.  That would be a great way to practice re-birth, for sure!


I cannot believe it has been 6 weeks since my last posting! (How embarassing!) I could claim to have been super busy with my daughter's high school graduation celebrations, with family visits from out of town, with preparations for and participation in the annual conference for United Methodists in Oregon and Idaho. All of this is true. I have been busy. But that still does not explain, nor excuse my long absence from the blog!

Because what is even truer than all this talk of busy-ness and external distractions is the internal work I've been doing when it comes to CHANGES. This year of Re-Birth continues to be exciting, challenging, life-giving, and most of the time, fun for me. As my body has undergone radical changes (I'm now down 70 pounds), my spirit has also been opening up in some new ways. I have begun to let go of the need to plan, predict and protect my future. I have begun to trust a little more in the ongoing work of God's Spirit to be present not only in this moment, but in the next and the next and the one after that. This has brought a lightness to my soul which matches the growing lightness of my body.

And, it is not always easy. I believe one of the ways we know we are in the process of making real change is by the discomfort and the disquiet it brings. Recently my youngest daughter experienced this in a profound way.

We were on our way to a party for friends who are moving from one job into another. Of course we were running late (nothing particularly "changed" about that!), so while I drove I asked my daughter to choose a card for each of our friends, and a hearthstone to go with it. Now "hearthstones" are small, handmade clay hearts imprinted with a word for inspiration or blessing. I had a bag of about 20 stones to sort through to choose just the right gift for each of my friends. One by one the stones were lifted from the bag and their blessings were read, until one of the stones was accidentally dropped onto the floor of the car, landing upside down. Retrieving it, my daughter began to laugh and said, "wouldn't you know it ... it says change!"

You see, this daughter is feeling almost engulfed by change these days. The graduation celebrations are a happy memory and now her days are filled with a summer job, and preparations to move on herself - from the safety and security of home to the uncertainty and wonder of college. And seasons of change always provide a fertile ground for us to delve a little deeper into the wounds, the insecurities, the fears we carry, unnoticed in our ordinary days. So of course, the stone she dropped said change.

Off we went to the party, off we went to offer our love and support, our cards and our gifts. And then it was time to go home. Climbing into the car, my daughter surprised me by saying "Very funny, Mom!", accusing me of planting that problemmatic blessing on her seat. For there it was, in all its ironic glory, that one hearthstone - this time, face up where nobody could miss its message - change.

Perhaps the trick is to stop running from it and just accept it. We all know that change is a part of life, that nothing which is alive is not changing in every moment. So why should we be surprised when it chases after us while we are doing our best ostrich impersonation - you know the one, the head-in-the-sand hoping it will go away pose?! I think that is the blessing of the hearthstone, and of this summer for my daughter's development, and of this year in my life...for change is not only a constant, it is also an opportunity. Which is why I am going to stop running and start rejoicing once again.