Are You Happy with Your Story?*

“Story Girl” by Connie S.

I received the most adorable tag this weekend! It came from my penfriend Connie S. I sort of coveted the tag when I saw it in a Facebook photo among several tags she crafted a few weeks ago for a “Little Wings and Tim Holtz” challenge on swap-bot. This one was an extra, so she sent it as a gift as I “get back into teaching mode.” Happy dance!

Connie wrote a note on pretty floral stationery and ended with the question–“Are you happy with your story?”

On this rainy, bluesy Monday when the headaches are unrelenting, it’s difficult to answer when my mood and pain are trying to do the typing.

Interestingly, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about “my story”–the narrative of my life that shapes who I am, my path, and who I am becoming. Particularly, I’ve noticed  just how often other people insist on writing my story or are set on what they think I should do and be; I’ve also taken note of just how often what they think I should do, think, and be benefits them in some way.

Though sometimes [most times, maybe?] individuals are actually advocating for us, I realize if we’re just going along and not paying attention, we can make it easy for someone else to write or rewrite our story. Therefore, we must be intentional about guarding our own developing script.

My life isn’t perfect–it’s certainly “been no crystal stair,” but those ups and downs and all arounds have developed in me a deep sense of empathy and compassion. The questions yet unanswered have taught me to love the questions and either seek the answers with an open heart and mind or patiently wait through the process. I’m learning still that sometimes the answers will come on “the other side of glory.” In my weakest moments, through Christ I’ve found strength–grace sufficient–to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.

I have an amazing family, the best friends, and good energy in my most important spaces. When I count my blessings, they far outnumber my setbacks and disappointments. Even in my most dejected state or my hour of most profound need, my gratitude deepens and widens over the blessed life God has given me and over His indescribable, incomparable love for me.

Am I happy with my story? Yes indeed. I’m not sure I’d know how to behave with a different story.

Are you happy with your story?


*My apologies to those of you who received a draft of this post via email or in your reader. Somehow the WordPress bot decided to publish before I hit the publish button. 

Be the Light!

My home office is a complete, utter mess. The books and papers are literally closing in on me. There is a narrow path from the door to the desk and my favorite thinking place–the window. Other than that, every space is covered with stacks of books and piles of paper.

At some point, I’ll spend a day or two getting things back in order. For now, I’m glad I kept the many beautiful works of art created by swap-bot and Love Notes pals separate from the madness–especially since I have a lot of “catch-up sharing” to do this summer.

Today, I’m sharing a couple of postcards that remind us of the [potential] role we play in the life of each person we encounter.

The first card came from Martha S. of Postcards in the Air.

“Be the Light.” Artwork by Martha S.

Martha’s cheerful watercolor urges us to “be a light in someone’s life.” Her work has been featured on Pics and Posts many times. My favorites are her autumn leaves and the über cute raccoon watercolor.  Be sure to check out her blog for more of her work and musings.

The card below, also a watercolor, came from Rae L. I hadn’t seen her in my mailbox in ages, so I was overjoyed to receive this pretty card.

“Flowers.” Artwork by Rae L.

Rae included a Mother Teresa quote with her flowers:

Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. –Mother Teresa

I truly appreciate the messages of love and light. The world can be lonely, dark, and cold, so the work of light workers is critical. If you think you have very little to offer, remember, even the smallest flicker radiates tremendous light.

Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness every.single.day.

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.

 

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
.
Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.
.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.
.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

Let It Snow!

“Let It Snow,” Photo by Diane W (midteacher)

My students are tired; my colleagues are tired; and I am certainly tired. I can’t figure out why we’re all so exhausted less than three weeks into spring semester, but we are and we need a little break.

After a preview of this week’s weather, my son and I started praying for a snow day Friday–literally. Today, I enlisted the students and a couple of my colleagues.

In preparation for the “inclement weather” announcement that was sure to come, I stopped by Publix for “essential” snow day supplies. As I shopped, I was heartened by the bubbly energy of other teachers and professors exchanging quiet “hallelujahs” for the unplanned day off. Finally, moments after arriving home, the announcement came: “Classes cancelled.” I heard the collective shout of the students 15 miles away.

In anticipation of snow, I’m sharing some wintry mail from Michigan for this Microblog Monday.

I received the elegant winter-themed envelope from Diane W. (midteacher on swap-bot) a week or so ago; it remained unopened for days because I didn’t want to disturb the pretty.

Don’t you agree?

Here’s a closer look at some of the details:

Diane even “fancied up” the back:

There were about 10 photos tucked inside the pockets of the handmade envelope and a letter detailing the experience of her last photo walk of 2018.

With a piping hot mug of tea (posed above) Diane braved the cold and snapped photos of her “garden in its winter coat with fallen leaves still scattered from the old oak tree guarding the garden.”

I love every photo she included in the envelope, but, in addition to the mug, here are my favorites.

A snow-cushioned chair that invited her to “sit for a spell” [she declined]:

“Snow Covered Chair,” Photo by Diane W. [midteacher]

Leaves “still hanging on the raspberry bushes curled with a hint of green in the centers.” They look [to me] like two birds having a conversation. Diane enclosed the color and black and white versions of the photo. I have a thing for black and white, so…

“Birds Talking,” Photo by Diane W. [midteacher]

Dried globe thistle “donning caps of snow crystals.”

“Snow-capped Thistles,” Photo by Diane W. [midteacher]

I know snow days are not simply fun and games for everyone, so though I am looking forward to a needed day to rest and get caught up on a few things (perhaps?), my thoughts and prayers are also with those who will have to deal with the worst of the storm.

Stay dry. Stay warm. Stay safe.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 9

My Love Notes friend Andrea F stitched this pretty in pink pocket card in honor of my sister, Lori, but I received it in honor of both my sisters–Karlette and Lori–whom we lost to breast cancer. When I opened the envelope I thought of them immediately: Karlette’s love for pink and their mutual love for Christmas and pretty things.

If you’re used to seeing Christmas in only traditional ways, you might think the gently falling snowflakes that dominate the card are simply asterisks on a pink background. It is not until you open the card that you see…

…Christmas joy, a home overflowing with warmth and love, and a golden star-topped tree.

Add a bit of pink to your Christmas joy!

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 5

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. –Thomas S. Monson

I’m back today with another crafted Christmas tree postcard. This one is from Diane W (midteacher on swap-bot), whose 2017 postcard is featured in my Christmas Day post. Diane is my inspiration for mixed media photo creations, and now she’s given me a technique to try with card-making without photos.

Here’s her creation process:

  • Adhere scrapbook paper to 5×7 Watercolor paper
  • Spray a piece of brown craft paper with water; wad up into a ball
  • Carefully unwad and mist with Perfect Pearls Mist spray in Perfect Pearl
  • Allow to dry; iron flat
  • Cut to size and glue over scrapbook paper
  • Emboss the edges of the postcard
  • Create the tree by cutting a copy of Christmas music.
  • Adhere ribbon
  • Glue tree onto postcard
  • Add a piece of burlap ribbon for the trunk
  • Add Tim Holtz Christmas phrases

I love this card, especially the crinkled craft paper and the embossed edges. Since there are so few elements, I can make this project with leftovers from other projects. I have a drawer full of scraps that are too beautiful to toss!

I won’t put you through the agony of my imitation of Diane’s tree, like I did yesterday with Martha’s, but I think I’ll attempt this technique to make cards for some birthdays that are coming up in January.

Thanks, Diane for the quote, the card, and the lesson. Thanks, too, for showering me with beauty all year long and for sharing your techniques with me.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 4

It never ceases to amaze me how artists can make a complex project seem so simple. Such is the case with this elegant holiday postcard made by my Love Notes friend, Martha S. At first glance, it seems she “just” glued varying lengths of washi tape to the pretty red, glittery twine and adhered it to a piece of [really nice] art board.

“I can do that!”–so we think.

However, when we look closely, we’ll see the strips were made from tears of origami paper. This gave the tree texture and dimension–especially since it was adhered to really nice (and thick) piece of art board. [The card is far more impressive “in person”].

This look is not so easily achieved!

Just for fun–or to make my point–I attempted to make a tree with “plain ol’ washi tape.”  As expected…fail.

Tree fail!

I did this in less than five minutes–that includes looking for materials, which I didn’t take too seriously. 😀 It looks like a sailboat gone awry.

Part of the challenge of making art is accepting that it takes time and knowing how to work the materials you’re using. Magnificence is rarely achieved in under five minutes.

Thank you, Martha, for taking the time to craft many beautiful works of Christmas tree art and sending them out into the world.

For more of Martha’s art and thoughts, take a click over to her blog: Postcards in the Air.