A manadala for prayer & poetry

Recently attended this conference w/ R and two of the boys.

Mandala for poetry

There were prayers, discussions & questions and a lot of space made for prayers, discussions & questions.

this is your day to explore

bring an Expectant Heart

There were blessings and wise words spoken by David Taylor, author of For the Beauty of the Church. I asked that my copy of his book be inscribed with a pastoral blessing. I confess I’ve re-read the inscription several times.  Blessings are like that… easy to return to, as they give us clarity and gumption.   Wonderful to have poured over our heads or put into words to keep close by.


{May God grant you the grace to discern the specific contours of your calling pastorally and bless you to expand beauty upon the earth.}

Habits define us.

choose and rechoose and rechoose

The evening wrapped up with a poetry reading and some beautiful music; and as is often my habit when listening, I drew.  Anya Silver’s poetry put me in mind of trees with deep roots & the regular things, that in their simplicity, capture hearts.  I came home with a slim volume of her poems called, The Ninety-third Name of God. The impact of these words has been anything but slim…  Attend again next year?  Yes, please.

Mandala for poetry

By |2016-10-19T14:20:34-04:00August 25th, 2011|Art is Life is Art|2 Comments

From the Archive: Hidden Treasure

Adventures in Frustration or A Hidden Treasure

Sunday, October 1, 2006

The light in October is beautiful and totally worth sacrificing breakfast and a little sleep to capture.  That’s why this past Saturday morning found me out in a field, in the early morning, waiting for the sun to illuminate dew drops just the right way.  The light was perfect and the sky was stunning, but at this location, I couldn’t find a view without power lines.  In the end, I trudged home, wet and frustrated, in search of coffee,  having decided that the “shoot” was a bust.

When I got home and off-loaded the 50 or so shots that I had taken, my suspicions were confirmed.  Between the ever-present power lines & my shaking hands, {It was cold as well as early…} none of the shots turned out to be what I envisioned when I set out.  Too blurry or too full of extra information, there didn’t seem to be any keepers except for one set of three shots that had pretty color in the sky and a silhouetted flower stalk with a single dew drop, in the foreground.   Of the three, one shot was in focus;  I liked the composition of another;  and one seemed unimpressive on both fronts.  Obviously they didn’t strike me as magical when I shot them, because I didn’t even remember taking them.  Still, I was pretty glad that there was some payoff for the pile of wet clothes and all the frustration inside my head and spilling onto Randy.

{And by the way, when is my creative practice ever worth sacrificing important relationships?…}

I decided late last night to take the one shot that had decent composition and fashion some sort of apology to Rands for being such a grump.   I also decided to take a closer look at the few individual shots that were closest to my ideal and see if metadata and intense scrutiny would reveal the adjustments needed for the situation next time.

{the situation =  the place of dealing with change, discomfort and an environment that doesn’t match large ideals.}

I almost missed it.  I almost hit delete…

September sky in dewdrop

There hidden inside the third unimpressive shot was a hidden treasure.  Reflected in the face of the dew drop was an image of the incredible sky that I had been striving so hard to capture.  There suspended on the end of a dried flower stalk, in a throw away shot, was a reminder that anything that I “create” is simply a reflection of God’s glory.   It was a prompt to look closely at what seems to be, by my analysis something to discard, and find every bit of what God has for me.

By |2016-10-19T14:20:34-04:00August 16th, 2011|Archive, Art is Life is Art|1 Comment

Art is Life is Art: Good Friday & Waiting Saturday

Bright Sadness

Yesterday was a day for darkness.

In the Orthodox Church, the Lenten season is called the season of Bright Sadness.  A beautiful phrase that came to life last night as we literally sat in the dark.   Remembering The Cross and stepping into mourning, there was orientation and life.

Today is a day for waiting.

I confess I don’t wait well.  I know how to look back.  When I look back, I have learned to analyze, connect dots or tap into emotions.  And I can look forward with ideation, vision and hope.

But waiting…waiting I don’t do so well.  Waiting feels like treading water with no end in sight.

A million years ago, when I was 20-ish, I wrote a song with a friend.  It started with a line out of my journal:

“Pulled in so many ways,  too much life in one day…”

and landed in a chorus that said, “I will wait to be your glory.”

In that song, I was trying to make sense of season of upheaval. It was a waiting season.  I had left childhood behind and was turning toward the future.  But, in the reality of my day to day, I was being crushed.  I was in my first serious battle with depression and life felt like it was taking me under.  My past was just that, past.  My future was unclear and my present was full of unknowns.

I was restless.

I had no answers.

What worked yesterday, was no longer an option.

And nothing had concretely opened before me.

I was waiting.

Not like the anticipation you feel when a baby is about to be born or your birthday party is about to start.  Not like standing at the mailbox waiting for the letter with a check.  Not Waiting-cause-something-good-is-on-the-way.  This was Hope-is-dead-and-I-don’t-know-what’s-coming-next kind of waiting.

Looking back now, I see that The Waiting {seemingly without hope} was a life-definer.

It was in that season of darkness that my faith simultaneously grew deep roots and wings.  It was in the waiting that I learned to rest in the midst of a storm.  It was in that season of waiting that I lost my way, made poor decisions and learned that I am not enough.  It was in that season that I learned that provision is made.

Even when I can’t tell what’s coming.

I know that tomorrow’s celebration is coming.  I am washing napkins, tucking “happys” into baskets and preparing for a family gathering.  But in my heart, I’m holding on to the darkness, because I know that depth and glory are found in waiting.

Our hearts are restless

By |2016-10-19T14:20:36-04:00April 23rd, 2011|Art is Life is Art|3 Comments

Art is Life is Art: Collaboration & 9 months of words

calendar & mandalaOver the past several months, it’s been my privilege to sit and chat with my new friend, the lovely Meghan Arias.   We talk about all sorts of things.

* beautiful things

* creative things

* spiritual things

* favorite beer things

* cemeteries and their stories

* our people and their stories

We talk about the past and the future, but mostly we talk about this:

Art + Mommy = X

X = blocked

X = conflicted

X = all or nothing

X = a dance

X = synergistic

X = not the same as before

The last time we met, Meghan and I talked about how motherhood has changed the structure of the creative process in our lives.  We no longer have the freedom to wait on inspiration or feeling to create.  We no longer create when it is convenient for us.  Instead, art happens in and around motherhood and life.  In planned spaces.  Or in unplanned spaces.  In studios.  Or in nooks and crannies.  Written in neat handwriting.  Or scribbled on a napkin.  Often times art happens in ways that are counter-intuitive to our natural bent.

We confessed that we don’t like it.

We shook our fists.

We may have even cried a little, but just a little, cause we’re tough like that.

And then we laughed.  Seriously, we bounced in our seats.  Because in the deepest part of who we are, the need to create supersedes the need to be angry about our less than perfect studio spaces.

In the midst of discussions about calendars and schedules, deadlines and shows, we decided to create a collaborative space of our own.  Thus, each month from April to December, we’ll choose a word and respond creatively to that word.  Simple, I know.  But, simple is good, since between the two of us, we:

*write words and songs

* paint stuff

* glue paper on things

* sing

* parent 9 children

* run businesses and manage creative careers

* read lots of books

* work on our vocabularies

* and make copious lists

We have decided that our motherhood is a reason, not an excuse.

9 months worth of words.  Very gestational and birth-like.  It is in keeping with the motherhood theme.  We have a pretty awesome list of words – some nouns, some verbs & even some adjectives and adverbs.  It’s a list of words that have been sitting in our hearts and minds percolating.

Bubbling to the top for April, is the word Surrender.  I’ve been carrying the word around in my pocket for a couple of weeks now.  Noticing it.  Looking it up.  Breathing it in.  Waking up with it on the tip of my pen.  This time ’round I’m making pages.  Keep an eye out for posts concerning our current word – there may be more than one.  {What can I say, we’re Word Girls.}  Meghan and I will link to each other’s blog and invite you to join us by leaving a link in the comments.    We’ll then scoop up all the collaboration and share the love.

I leave you with a question & a prayer for Surrender.  {From my journal yesterday morning}

A question:  What does it look like to let go of control in the creative process?

A prayer:


O Love that will not let me go,

I’m still holding on.  Some things are precious to me and I don’t want them to change.  Others are broken and beg to be hidden.  As I become aware of these holding-on places, I reveal them to you.  I confess I have tried to hide and compensate and have grown weary.  I Surrender.  I accept this time and place.  I bring my gifts and my wounds and trust that you will display your works in and through my surrendered places.

By |2016-10-19T14:20:36-04:00April 15th, 2011|Art is Life is Art|6 Comments

Mandala Monday: Mandala for Listening


Had tea with friend yesterday.  It was one of those epic catch up kind of afternoons.  We sat in the sun, on the patio of a restaurant that’s around the corner.  {She only lives about a mile-and-a-half down the street; I’m not sure how we went so long without sitting in the same space…}  The weather was perfect, as it often is this time of year in Atlanta.  The desserts were sweet.  {And so was the company.}  As usual, I had a journal and a couple of pens.

A Mandala for Listening.

Her story was long and deep – and the rhythm of mandalas keeps my hands moving and helps me listen.  {And stay quiet…}

Mandala for Listening

And a sister mandala from the same conversation: 

A Mandala for Prayer

It’s comprised of words and thoughts in the round.  A prayer both as it was made and for returning.

Mandala for Prayer

By |2016-10-19T14:20:37-04:00March 14th, 2011|Art is Life is Art, Mandala Monday|2 Comments

From the wild thyme archives: On Grief & Green Play Doh

I dug this post out of the archives; it came to mind as I was reading from Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies yesterday morning – an Ash Wednesday tradition.  {A Nashville friend shared her practice of reading this passage on Ash Wednesday; several years ago, I adopted the practice too.}  I’ve tried to remember what was going on in my world when I wrote this post; nothing comes to mind.  I think I was simply missing my father, who died seven years ago on a sunny day in March.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

gremlin_1Thank you, thank you, to all the lovelies and friends who reminded me that sunshine gets rid of Gremlins. Your emails and words were (are) appreciated.   The overwhelming didn’t eat me!   And a weekend away with Randy opened the blinds all the way.  Rose-filled rooms and chocolates on my pillow helped revive me.

A camera + a mountain drive & my boyfriend = a deep breath X remembering to laugh…


Boyfriend 2

Boyfriend 3

I took the Anne Lamott book, Traveling Mercies, to NC so that we (the book and I) could get better acquainted.  I read  the chapter “Ashes”, over and over again; and I wept in the wee hours of  the morning, as I read the chapter entitled “Traveling Mercies”.  {This is how I know Rands loves me:  He didn’t complain when I poked him awake so that I could finish my cry with a friend.  A connected memory ~ He also used to wake up with me when I nursed babies in the middle of the night.}

The past few days have revealed grief ~  in conversation, in relationships, in books and inside of me too…  Interesting how themes emerge.   I haven’t been on the lookout for grief.  I didn’t decide one day to call a therapist because it was time to do “grief work”.  As a matter of fact,  I thought that I could control how and when we met – that I could make an appointment and meet Grief at the door with a journal of lined paper in hand. I thought that I would go through a sequence of stages and then it would be over.  (and silly me I thought I could ask him to come back another time…)  But Grief didn’t ring the doorbell.  He just walked in the back door, sort of sneaky- sort of not.  Sort of screen door slamming.  Sort of me turning around saying, “Was that the back door?”

Here’s what I read:   An excerpt from chapter 2 “Church, People, Steeple: Ashes” in Traveling Mercies:

Twice I have held the ashes of people I adored – my dad’s, my friend Pammy’s.  Nearly twenty years ago I poured my father’s into the water near Angel Island, late at night, but I was twenty-five years old and very drunk at the time and so my grief was anesthetized,  When I opened the box of his ashes, I thought they would be nice and soft and, well, ashy, like the ones with which they anoint your forehead on Ash Wednesday.  But they’re the grittiest of elements, like not very good landscaping pebbles,  As if they’re made of bones or something.
I tossed a handful of Pammy’s into the water way out past the Golden Gate Bridge during the day, with her husband and family, when I had been sober several years.  And this time I was able to see, because it was daytime and I was sober, the deeply contradictory nature of ashes — that they are both so heavy and so light.  They’re impossible to let go of entirely.  They stick to things, to your fingers, your sweater.  I licked my friend’s ashes off my hand, to taste them, to taste her, to taste what was left after all that was clean and alive had been consumed, burned away.  They tasted metallic, and they blew every which way.  We tried to strew them off the side of the boat romantically, with seals barking from the rocks on shore, under a true-blue sky, but they would not cooperate.  They rarely will.  It’s frustrating if you are hoping to have a happy ending, or at least a little closure, a movie moment when you toss them into the air and they flutter and disperse.  They don’t.  They cling, they haunt.  They get in your hair, in your eyes, in your clothes.
By the time I reached into the box of Pammy’s ashes, I had had Sam, so I was able to tolerate a bit more mystery and lack of order. That’s one of the gifts kids give you, because after you have a child, things come out much less orderly and rational than they did before.  It’s so utterly bizarre to stare into the face of one of these tiny perfect beings and to understand that you (or someone a lot like you) grew them after a sweaty little bout of sex.  And then, weighing in at the approximate poundage of a medium honeydew melon, they proceed to wedge open your heart.  (Also, they help you see that you are as mad as a hatter, capable of violence just because Alvin and the Chipmunks are singing when you are trying to have a nice spiritual moment thinking about ashes.)  By the time I held Pammy’s ashes in my hand, I almost liked that they grounded me in all the sadness and mysteriousness; I could find a comfort in that.  There’s a kind of sweetness and attention that you can finally pay to the tiniest grains of life after you’ve run your hands through the ashes of someone you loved.  Pammy’s ashes clung to us.  And so I licked them off of my fingers.  She was the most robust and luscious person I have ever known.

And here’s what I wrote:

Grief leaps out from behind bushes
that have special place branches
and certain song leaves.

He hides behind trees made of perfume
and blue skies, then jumps out,
squeezing my heart until my eyes water.

green play dohIt all put me in mind of green playdough.  To me, green playdough represents the side of life that eludes our control.  Years ago I walked into a room full of my three small boys and a container of green playdough.  It  brought about one of the most important paradigm shifts of my life.  Watching my children get playdough under their fingernails and in their hair and wondering how making pancakes and snakes resulted in playdough mashed into the carpet left me feeling more than a little out of control and more than a lot furious.  But in that moment,

I witnessed delight and free expression.

I saw a wonderful picture of how messy it can be when people embrace life.

That playdough day was the beginning of a shift – or maybe a returning, because as I recall, I loved mudpies when I was a little girl.

Most days I am uncomfortable with mess – especially my own.  It’s why I’ve wanted Grief to stay away.  In part because crying is such a messy endeavor, but mostly because the whole process is unmanageable.  However, I’ve since decided that inviting Grief in for a cup of tea (or a good argument) is probably more prudent than continuing to swallow lumps in my throat.  Besides, I am running out of glue to paste smiles on my face.

When Rands worked nights, there were times when I wouldn’t hear him come into the house.  He would walk up behind me and greet me or reach out and touch me and scare the living daylights out of me.  But after that initial moment of panic, there was a huge relief, when the Oh-it’s-just-you-reality hit.  Grief keeps surprising me, but I am learning to say, “Oh, it’s you.  I’m glad you’re here.  I’ll put the kettle on.”  I think I shall acquire some beautiful handkerchiefs for the occasion.

By |2016-10-19T14:20:37-04:00March 10th, 2011|Art is Life is Art|3 Comments