Gift to Myself

“Creative Process — 1376 Images”

When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. –Jean Shinoda Bolen

Sheila D’s 30-Day Creative Gathering ends tomorrow. Although time is not always on my side when it comes to creative endeavors, I committed to participating as a gift to myself.

I created at least one thing every day this month. It was nice to ignore the everyday demands and tune in and engage in a way that wasn’t required or expected.

Besides the moment to focus keenly on the act of creation, this was a gift to myself in other ways. I needed time out from the unspoken questions, the fears dancing just beneath the surface of awareness, the conflicting ideals that are always hovering and holding thoughts captive.

I gave myself over for a few minutes to walk, see, feel, doodle, meditate, and from those moments create something beautiful and inspiring.

It was liberating, if nothing else.

And this was a gift…

Four Promises and a Gift

Tyhara Rain

“Tranquility” by Tyhara Rain

Yesterday, a friend dropped by to bring me a gift. Her gift and note became the impetus for the theme of this week’s blog posts—the gift. I will share some details of her gift later this week, but today, I’m sharing most of a blog post I wrote four years ago. I realized as I was thinking about today’s post that I wrote the post before…pretty much.

Instead of “reblogging” the post, I’m giving you the salient points and a little artsy goodness.

In order to see God’s vision for your life and become part of God’s story, there are four promises you must claim:

  1. You have a gift only you can give.

  2. Someone has a need only you can meet, only you can heal—no matter how inadequate you feel.

  3. Joy is the journey where the gift and the need collide. God’s path for your life is a collision course. The intersection where your gift crashes into the world’s need is where you will truly begin to live.

  4. Your journey to give your gift will break you…but it will also make you.  –[from Better Than You Can Imagine: God’s Calling, Your Adventure by Patrick Quinn, emphasis mine]

The excerpt from Better Than You Can Imagine unveils a principle I embrace. If we are to create change in the world then we have to find the gift someone needs—the world needs—that only we can give. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide what we’re going to give. We decide to accept and share the gift, but discovering this gift is a journey—not a decision.

Imagine how much collective change we can create if all individuals would take the journey to find that one thing and exercise it. We would literally change the world! As we partner with God on finding this “great need,” our lives are transformed from the inside out and we experience the “symbiotic” nature of change: the world opens up and reveals to us what it needs and we open up and provide.

Far too often we get caught up in the idea of making a name for ourselves or doing something grand when what seems smallest can make a huge impact on someone’s life and ultimately in the world.

Tyhara Rain

“Turbulence” by Tyhara Rain

A long time ago, I read “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” a poem by Robert Browning, which celebrates the grammarian’s lifelong dedication to Greek language study and his discovery of the articles. While he lived, his colleagues criticized his “wasting his life” and his brilliant mind on such trifles. For them his work was menial, but, though they seem a small contribution, the articles—a, an, and the—are so essential to our languages.

Like the grammarian, we must be keenly focused on finding our part and then doing it. In doing our “small” part, we change the whole.

I encourage you, if you have not already done so, take the journey to find your unique gift. In affecting even one person’s life, you’re doing your part to change the entire world.


About the Image: The artwork above is the work of one my students, Tyhara Rain. They are two of three companion pieces she gave to me as a parting gift when COVID-19 forced campus to shut down during her final semester of college and abruptly ended our long chats about art, literature, and life. :-/ We are still in touch, and I am glad she left so many precious gifts from the heart.  [Note: the scans do very little justice to these paintings].

#ThursdayTreeLove | Song for Autumn

BW Tree

Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the birds that will come–six, a dozen–to sleep
inside their bodies?

Mary Oliver, “Song for Autumn”

After this week’s rainy start, autumn graced us with sunny skies and cooler temperatures. Those of us who dwell in the Deep South appreciate the respite and the acknowledgment of the season, but we know in a matter of days—or even hours—we will be back to mid-summer heat and another season of storms.

I take three or four 5-15 minute walks throughout the workday. I walk to ruminate, to reset, and [especially] to move my body—which suffered much during the year and a half of Zoom. Lately, during my walks, I’ve been noting the subtle but sure transformation of the trees—the changing colors creeping into the dogwoods and maples, the thinning canopy of the black walnut and the oaks.

Today’s tree comes from one of my just-before-autumn walks. It’s not the most striking tree on campus, but there is something arresting in its stance against the cloud-filled sky.

We are some weeks away from the fullness of the season. We will blink one morning and find everything bursting in autumn glory and blink again and find only the bare structure of trees. This tree represents the in-between, a tree dreaming.  For once, I am appreciating the slow change, and not rushing toward the glory.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Blooms: Check out Her Sway

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See this whimsical pink flower?

The snail mail gods are warming up to me. I received a few pieces of mail in the mailbox over the last couple of weeks. One piece—just retrieved from the P.O. Box today—is this “flower friend” Amy N sent for the Global heART Swap, hosted by Louise Gale.

I joined the swap after an unplanned years-long hiatus. I usually miss the signup deadline, but this year, I actually had a moment to read Louise’s email announcing the swap before the deadline and was excited to see the swap theme: “Summer Blooms.”

I had just completed a bunch of floral postcards during World Watercolor Month, so I decided to print some of the flowers and join the fun. Perfect, right?

In return, I found two beautiful, artsy blooms in my mailbox. A third one should be on the way.

This sweet little friend–one of three Amy released into the world–seems to be caught up in some serious dance moves. Look at her sway–indicated by the bend in her stem–and those leafy arms dancing in the wind. Her expression says it all.

Later, folks!

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Things to Remember When You’re Overwhelmed

Sweet Girl

From Endless Dreams by Kim Anderson

We survived another week and made it to the weekend, y’all! Pat yourself on the back for not completely “losing it” during another week of life during a pandemic.

When I arrived at work Monday–by the hardest–I wasn’t sure if I had the strength to get to Friday. I thought about leaving work at 10 a.m. that day and starting over next week. There was nothing particularly challenging about Monday–or this week for that matter. It’s the weight of all the stuff we’re all carrying. I feel it. You feel it. Everybody’s feeling it, and we’re doing the best we can.

That we made it to today is a magnificent feat, so yes, applaud yourself and treat yourself to a big bowl of chocolate almond ice cream or whatever decadent treat your heart desires.

I had a different plan for today’s list, but since that list will take energy I do not have, I decided to postpone that post and close out the blog week with a list posted by Blessing Manifesting some days ago, “Seven Things to Remember When You’re Overwhelmed.”

  • You’re allowed to step back and take a break. (Yes, even when there is so much to do)
  • It’s okay to ask for help.
  • You can get through this.
  • You are more capable than you know.
  • Just take things one step at a time.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. (I mean a really deep breath. The kind you feel moving through your whole body)
  • You don’t need to have everything figured out right now.

And now, I’m going to take Dominee’s advice and make a cup of tea and breathe.

Have a restful weekend.


About the Image: The adorable card above came from Rhonda R., one of my former students. It was given to me many moons ago, but I rediscovered it recently while organizing my “to be blogged” files. The image is from Endless Dream by Kim Anderson (pseudonym/brand name of Bertram Bahner). The collection features 100 [previously] unpublished photographs of children.

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Bits of Wisdom from Seven Favorite Books

“Lavender in Old Book,” Photo by Ekaterina Antonova

If you haven’t been around long enough to notice, I love, love, love books and, therefore, words and quotes. When people ask “What’s your favorite book?,” I hand them a 10-page list of books (slight exaggeration). And quotes? Who can select a single favorite? “Not I,” said the rabbit [the rabbit is me].

“Old Books,” Photo by Oksana Nazarchuk

So, for today’s list—and #WednesdayWisdom—I’m sharing seven life-changing quotes from seven of my favorite books. The selection is limited and random and in no way represents a privileging or prioritizing of other works over others. If I were to list all the quotes and all the books, this blog would be about books and quotes, not pics and posts.

So here’s my list of quotes. Maybe, they’ll change your life too.

“The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.’  Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places

There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.―Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

“The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting.”Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“Literary Paris,” from Obvious State

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care, nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ – or else not. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

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Like any other list, it would be easy for me to go waaaaaay overboard, but I’m trying to practice what I preach to my students. Sometimes, less is more.

What’s your favorite quote? Are any of these a new fav?


About the Images: Each postcard in this post was for bookish swaps on swap-bot. Aren’t they fabulous?

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Little Things

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A few days ago, a friend sent me @studygr1nd’s Instagram post in which she shared an image list of small things and activities that keep her sane. I thought, “What a great idea for a blog post!”

So this Monday evening, when I’m feeling a bit out of sorts and words feel like too much for my crowded brain, I’m sharing with you seven little things that keep me sane. I’m focusing on specific things here–not experiences or people.

  • My sketchpad: Take my word for it–doodling sunflowers and daisies does wonders for chasing away the crazies.
  • My journal: There’s a tie between writing in my journal and walking among the trees as the best free therapy, but since I’m listing things and not experiences, the journal wins here.
  • Fine point black gel pens: With what else will I doodle and journal?
  • My favorite disc-bound planner: Writing out my to-dos and scheduling my day helps me to see the big picture. Also, the tasks don’t feel so overwhelming after I make a list.
  • Floral mail pouch: The gorgeous black mail pouch decorated with lavender flowers and gold accents was a gift from Christine B, one of my pen friends. The pouch is filled with postcards, note cards, tiny art, stickers, and washi tape. Of course, its primary purpose is to hold items for snail mail, but sometimes, simply looking at the pretties helps me reset.
  • Mary Oliver’s DevotionsNeed I say more?
  • My sunflower wall: Sometimes there’s nothing more mind-settling than turning toward my brilliant wall(s) of sunflowers that remind me to #facethesun

Though I can list far more than seven, I’ll spare you the lengthy list. I tortured you enough with my list of 100 things that bring me joy. 😀 And, since I don’t have to be convinced to make a list, I decided to make this “list week” on the blog. C’mon, you saw this coming, right?

What are some things that keep you sane?


About the Image: The postcard above, entitled Girl with Watering Can, features the work of Mila Marquis, a Hamburg, Germany-based illustrator. My Love Notes friend, Gina B sent the pretty card for International Women’s Day. You can see more of Marquis’ cheerful whimsical illustrations on her Instagram or Facebook page.

Terracotta Warriors Postcard

Terra-cotta Warriors, Xian China

I figured since the last two posts featured Chinese art postcards, I might as well finish the blog week by sharing another postcard which also features Chinese art.

The postcard above, “Terra-cotta Warriors,” features a small part of a collection of life-size sculptures of the army of Qin Shi Huangdi (259-210 BCE), the first Emperor of China–who unified China and laid the foundation for the Great Wall. As funerary art, the collection was buried with the emperor to serve as protection for him in the afterlife.

In a Live Science article Owen Jarus, comments on the artistic details of the sculptures:

The details of the warriors are so intricate and individualized that it has been hypothesized that they were based on real soldiers who served in the emperor’s army. Each warrior has uniquely styled hair and features; some have topknots while others have goatees; some have caps and loose tunics while others have armored vests and braided hair. They have different builds, expressions and postures. Another key feature is that the warriors were decorated in bright colors, which contributed to the individuation.

You can read all about the 1974 discovery, in the Shaanxi province in northwest China, of the first (nearly) 2000 of the 8000+ known warriors interred with the emperor: Terra Cotta Soldiers on the March.

And if you wish to read further, see the article by Jarus referenced above, which provides more details about the contents of the pits found near the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi: Terracotta Warriors: An Army for the Afterlife.

Until next time…

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Trees of Lan Ying’s Quiet Village

Lin Yang Country Scene

Country Scenery (Partial), Lan Ying, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ink and color on silk.

Since we’re on the subject of postcards from China, I’m sharing another one for today’s #ThursdayTreeLove. This postcard features the work of 17th century Chinese artist, Lan Ying (1585-1684), an artist of the Ming Dynasty. Based on my limited knowledge of his work, his art features impressive landscapes, typically with trees in the foreground.

Of his collection Landscapes of the Four Seasons, one reviewer wrote:

Foreground trees are always superb manifestations of his painterly craft. Comfortably shifting between the descriptive and the expressive modes, the diverse trees with their vivaciously gestural bodies and diverse foliage patterns provide sustained visual excitement as one progresses through the seasons.

Not surprisingly, I was drawn to the trees before I took in the entire scene of the village nestled between the trees. This enchanting [partial] view could have been entitled Trees of the Village, instead of Country Scenery, and that’s why the postcard has found its way on my blog for #ThursdayTreeLove.

Like another classical Chinese masterpiece shared on the blog a couple of years ago–Peace Reigns Over the River–this postcard is from the set, Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy Work. Cy sent a number of pieces from this collection.

Lan Ying’s work is mesmerizing. If you’d like to explore more, be sure to “right click” on the image above for a closer look and click the links below:


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.