Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sunshine On My Shoulders {and in my heart}

This day started a few years ago really.
Started in my heart as Erin would draw girls with curl-i-cue hair and sunshine on their heads.
Then she started to put hearts over their head.

Even farther back to my Art History 101 class in college on those early summer mornings.
Three hours of Art History in an upstairs classroom on campus with no air conditioning
with a professor, very soft-spoken and introverted, 
who had a difficult time making eye contact.
Long mornings of trying hard to keep my eyes open yet remembering one thing:
the sparkle in his eyes when he brought in a folder of his daughters' drawings.
He talked about how children's drawings develop . . . how most of them grow the same way.
They start with a circle for a head and eyes and the arms come out of the side of the head,
and legs come out of the bottom of the head.
Eventually, they add a body and arms and legs from the body instead.
And then fingers, usually three, but then five.
And more and more details emerge.
That is what I remember from that class.
And so I watched my own children as they began to grasp crayons with pudgy fingers.
Starting to scribble and then create shapes.

Ordinary miracles as children grow.
Drawing.  Speaking.  Rolling over. Crawling. Walking. Reading.
Miracles of movement and of communication.

Remembering moments and living fully in the moment.
That is important to me.
I have a desire to create sacred spaces for meaningful memories.
So, "Sunshine On My Shoulders" emerges.
From my heart and on Shaw Ranch . . . way out on the prairie . . .
where this woman had a idea and 
took a brave flying leap of faith 
forward to carve out of time and a humble little home 
this sacred space for moms and kids.

The day begins early.
Quiet. Still.

Kaira brings me an towering 2 foot tall bouquet of flowers
she has pulled from the root
from their ranch an hour's drive north.
Generously giving and sharing from what she has.

Nine o'clock comes and my little house
is busy and busting at the seams.

With a little man who tells me which painting is his favorite
as he traces wings with his fingertips
asking, "How did you do that?"
and a little blonde pint-sized jalepeno popper of a girl who tells me,
"I am an artist too!"

I share about hiding treasures in a collage painting
while sitting on my breezy western South Dakota deck,
not noticing the significant pieces of my life all around me, 
until I see the photographs.

Treasures . . . of life memories.
A paint covered plastic table I bought at a yard-sale for $5, 12 years ago at my feet
that gets used almost daily and bumped and kicked out of the way
because it sits at the foot of the stairs going into the kitchen.
When I see the table out of the corner of my eye, I carefully skirt it, 
because it usually holds a full cup of water stuffed with paint brushes.

I see that I am sitting on a quilt from Grandma Edna that she made
so that my brother and I would each have our own car quilt
after she rode in the car with us fighting over a blanket,

which is exactly 

what my own mother would do for her grandkids today.

A quilt that has traveled many miles keeping us warm in the car in winter
 and has been to many softball tournaments covering the ground in the shade of a spindly tree
crowded with hot sweaty kids trying to get out of the blazing sun . . . 
and that same quilt shaded a mom and a grandma from brutal sun
as they sobbed in the road ditch of a fatal car accident
as we were coming home from one of those tournaments.

There is a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at my right hand
about which I could write a book of memories from student teaching
a child that told me, "Dat's good story, teacher,"
to my own children and then my own spiritual journey.

It is not the "things".
It is the journey.
It is the memories of how I have gotten to this place
and the things I do not want to forget.

All of which

brings me here to this place with these women and their treasured chidren...

and their bits and pieces of a life

and little things to remember.

It is a day for
being intentional about preserving one of those abundant drawings
that her child creates in a season of life
in which he or she proudly writes their name on everything
including the kitchen counter or their bed or the bathroom wall with a Sharpie.
{What did we ever do without Mr. Clean Magic Erasers?}
~ When I was five, I painted my name in red nail polish on my bed. ~

Because the days are here when we sweep drawings and papers
into the garbage when little eyes aren't looking
because we cannot possibly keep them all . . . 
but then a day comes when the handwriting is mature and the spelling is correct
and the fear of not drawing "good enough" creeps in and so the drawings disappear.

Prairie-wind swept blonde hair covers minds that
are still brave in drawing and painting.
Still hold fascination and confidence and carefree summer days.

It is a day for "Little E" and me to share our art supplies,
including smocks and aprons from Grandma Linda and VBS
and jars of left over colored pencils from school boxes, paints and glitter, and
a stack of scrapbook paper that, at one time, I hoarded,
but has now traveled from school to country school,
to camp and Bible school and to art class after art class,
and surprisingly is still just as tall of a stack as when I started,
even though I haven't bought anymore paper.
The paper is kind of like Jesus feeding the 5000.
The more I share it, the more it seems to multiply...yay for miracles!

It is a day for moms to grab hold of their child's thoughts
and creations from their small hands and give them a place of honor.

To remember that her boy loves monkeys and bananas
or tractors and farming.

To remember that they draw what they love
or what is important to them.
To pay attention to the things that they draw 
over and over and over and over.

To remember preciousness like, 

"My mom never unloves me."

"My mom makes the best life."

"My favorite thing to do with my mom is snugl."

"I love my mom because I just love hr."

It was a morning to learn and to try something new.
To learn how to have courage with a brand new canvas,
and what to do when we mess up.
And how to deal with the fear of messing up.
That there are times to start over and times to keep going through the ugliness.

There are times to take a break and have a snack.
To just walk away for awhile and breathe and come back fresh...
or that maybe even to come back to it another day

It was a morning that I shared 
about how I am afraid to write in a brand new vintage journal that I bought,
just like I am intimidated by a brand new big white canvas.

But after sitting with God, He helped me see that
even though we want to just put "special" words on a page of a new journal
or only the best and prettiest things on a canvas,
starting something new is like life . . . like a new day or a new year.

Each day is made up of mundane tasks, and mistakes, everyday stuff
as well as the things we do get right and the fine beautiful details and treasures that get weaved in.
The day-to-day stuff gives us substance and foundation to build upon.

When we write we begin with words.
When we paint, we begin with color.
We do not have to think that the "mundane" or even the "mess ups"
do not have a place in our journal
or in our art
or in our life
because the only way the good stuff gets in
is by starting
and continuing to go forward and put more into it . . .
through the boring times, through the ugly times, and through the good times.
All of it adds to the richness and the texture and the substance and the realness.

Many kids start and finish with art quick.
Often, they dive right in and are not afraid to just get paint all over.

They finish, and it's too hot for my idea to pick wildflowers,
but never too hot to jump on the trampoline for a bit.
They find the cool air conditioning of E and Syd's tiny little room.

Moms chew on things awhile longer.  They linger at the table adding more detail.
Thinking things through.
Thinking about the day, about the things their child wrote, about the things they wrote,
noticing how large her daughter prints yet how tiny she draws,
thinking about how this is harder than they may have thought,
or maybe wondering why putting paint down can feel so scary.

This day was for the kids, yes.
But really . . . deep down . . . 
it was for the mamas.

For their hearts.

It is for them to let their child open the creative door . . . 

and after their child runs off to play . . . 

they keep going on the creative journey
that they might not have taken
had they not let the child open the door for them
and hold hands and walk through it together.

The child helps them begin . . . 
which can be the hardest part,
but once they begin . . . 

it is hard to find a place to stop. . . 

There are giggles
and silliness

weaved in with moments
of seriousness and growth.

It is good to stop and take a moment
to be together,
and to let yourself linger
the moments matter.

The moments become the pieces of life.
The blocks that build the mama life and the child's life.

Sunshine shines on our shoulders
sometimes making us cry
sometimes making us happy . . . 

Sunshine over our head
and in our hearts.

If you'd like to join me,
I had two more dates available for this class here:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cherish Moments Where You Are

Lately, I have noticed this
"missing out"
kind of feeling.

Let me explain.

If you have ever been to Disney World,
you might remember that there are things happening ALL of the time.

There is a parade going on here, there are fireworks there,
there is a rollercoaster here,
and you are getting ready to eat with characters now,
and there is a program here,
and a play going on there and a concert there.

And instead of just thoroughly being present and enjoying
you find yourself looking over at the music coming from someplace else.
You see people having fun over there
and you feel like you are missing out on something big.

It seems like that is how summer goes.
There are so many wonderful things to say "yes" to.
We find ourselves choosing between great things to do,
and wondering if we should have said "yes" to the other thing.

But here is the thing that I am trying to practice:

Pay attention to the moment that you do say "yes" to,
and savor it fully.
Enjoy it.
And let go of the other things.
Just use my five senses as well as my thoughts and spirit
to really take in the choice of now.

It is what this art piece is all about 
that is made up from my background
and my daughter's drawing.

It is soaking in where she and I are right now.

I know, I know.
This is ONE MORE thing to add to your list of options!
But, let me encourage you,
if you say "YES" to joining us on July 3 or July 6,
come fully present, ready to soak in the moments!

The June 26 date is already full,
but there are 2 spots left on the July 6
and 4 on July 3.

You can register here:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Walk The Line

So, I love fence lines.
I love wooden posts.
Not new steel posts that my husband prefers.

I especially love mangled, old, lichen-covered cedar posts.
They are so much more interesting, yes?
So much more character.

I don't see what needs to be fixed.
I see textures and colors and light.
But I am seeing a bit more with my husband's eye
and trying to think like him before I post pictures.

So, this one is pretty good, yes?  
Straight lines, no missing staples.

Bit by bit, I have started walking the fence lines on the ranch.

Shhhhhh . . . don't tell my husband.
He'll make me carry a backpack 
with a can of staples and a wire stretcher.

But a crazy thing I realized
gathering pairs in the small pasture behind our house, one day,
was that I had never seen the northeast corner of that pasture.
And it is right behind my house!

So, I decided to start
walking the fence lines
of the ranch here at home.

It is surprising
how much newness is right around the corner
or right over a hill.

Hatched eggs
buds ready to bravely bloom.

As I walk,
I find that I discover my favorite places
that I return to again and again.

And I also have new country to walk
when I get bored
or when the seasons change
and the walk in the creek that I love in the fall and early spring
is overgrown with tall grasses
that hide snakes and ticks.

My paths of walking change with the seasons.
So do the treasures I discover along the way.

When I walk the fence line,
I hum along to Johnny Cash who sings in my mind,
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine
I walk the line.

Reminds me of one of my favorite verses from Proverbs:
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life.

Walking the line ~ the fence line ~ and lines of following God
are ways that I guard my heart.
A walk on the prairie brings me quiet time where I can hear God's whispers.
Where I see beauty that heals and that renews hope.
I see God's ways and His lessons everywhere when I walk the fence line.

I have posted this excerpt on my facebook page several times
from Johnny Cash's autobiography and I'll share it here as well because I love his heart here:

"I want to write a song that has something to SAY. A song that will have a lot of meaning not only for me, but for everybody who hears it--that says I'm going to be true not only to those who believe in me and depend on me, but to myself and to God-- a song that might give courage to others as well as myself . . . " 
~ Johnny Cash about "I Walk The Line"

I am a fan of Johnny Cash.
More so since I have read his autobiography
and even watching the movie Walk The Line.
He really was a walking miracle.
He should have died so many times.
He could have remained in the pit of addiction for the rest of his days.
But his story of redemption and living a new life
is one of my all time favorites.
Whenever I have doubts,
I think about his story,
his journey and struggle and walk with God,
falling down, back in the pit, but getting up and getting out.
His battles, his losses and his victories.
Sometimes, I find it helpful to hang onto my faith in God, and what He can do with a life
because of Johnny Cash's life story.
Imperfect, stained, scarred,
but filled with hope and new starts and redemption.
Broken and beautiful.
Raw and true.


Below is my last bunch of wildflowers that I photographed this morning.
While I was crouched down on the gravel road, 
I could hear noise 
and I glanced up.

Our neighbor's horses
were looking at me with unashamed curiosity.

Coming closer and closer
to see what that crazy lady is doing on the ground.
It was like I could hear their conversation,
even though they never uttered a word.


So slowly like they thought they were sneaking.

And then my beagle, Toby, caught scent of a rabbit,
and started his beagle bray.
This distracted them for a moment.

{See there is one of those steel posts . . . not as interesting is it?  It's even leaning!}

And then they remembered that they were
trying to figure out what I was and what I was doing.

Childlike curiosity.

Little treasures
from walking the line today.

If you'd like to walk some fence lines with me this summer,
have your eyes opened to see treasures on the prairie,
get a bit more creative and comfortable with your camera,
and be brave with learning some new ways to express yourself with art,
even if you are a complete rookie with a camera and art supplies,
check out my art and photography retreat-style summer classes here: