“No Justice, No Peace”

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. [Public Domain]

If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people. —Martin Luther King, Jr., Three Major Evils

100 Failures in One Year!

Heart's Desire 2I had a full, productive first day back at work, and though I have not completed the task list (unsurprisingly), I feel good about relaxing for the rest of the evening. I thought I’d drop in with a little inspiration for the new year.

I stopped formulating New Year’s goals and resolutions some time ago. I use my birthday (October), instead of January 1, to reflect on the past year and consider my goals for the next 365-day cycle. However, at the beginning of the year, I do take stock of my progress and consider methods I can use to achieve my goals.

One of my forever goals is to get things out of my head, onto paper, and into publications. My life is crazy-busy, but if I’m not writing, I’m dying inside. So I write a LOT! I have journals and notebooks full of writing. And last year, after attending Tara Gray’s Publish and Flourish workshop, I started writing every morning (for a minimum of 15 minutes). I took a break from the practice, because in just a few months, I had drafted several articles and needed to take the time to edit, integrate research where necessary, and consider publications. 

And that’s where many things get stuck. That’s the time-consuming part, and because of all my other responsibilities, those things get put on the back burner. But, I think it’s also the scary part. Finishing can be daunting because it means I have to put it out there and deal with the possibility of rejection.

That’s what I’d like to push through this year, and Kim Liao’s article on failing best, “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year,” provides the antidote. In the Lit Hub article, Liao shared advice a writing friend she admired offered her:

Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.

I read the article late last year and decided that starting January 1, 2022, I’m going for the goal—100 rejections in a year. Yes, this will be mortifying for my soul, but the goal is not really the rejections, of course. The goal is to keep writing and to keep submitting. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m writing and submitting subpar material just for the sake of rejection. If I go for 100 rejections, that means, I am getting good writing done, crafting proposals, putting my work out there, and not sitting on the fence waiting for the publishing gods to find me. 

I like the idea of pushing for the loss instead of the win. It removes the pressure and anxiety and frees me to write authentically. So, that’s my one “big” plan for the year. I’ll let you know by December 31, 2022 how it goes. 😉

You can use the same principle for your goals. Try your hand at 100 new recipes; create 100 new clothing designs; visit 100 new places; read 100 books; create 100 masterpieces, or even perform 100 random acts of kindness. Whatever it is, go for it!

For now, this is my prayer for you:

May God grant your heart’s desire and renew your plans. — Psalm 20:4

Just remember to put in the work!


About the Image: This is one of the 10 pieces of inspirational “doodle art” I created for the 30-Day Creative Art Gathering. I think another round starts next month.

The Burnout Grinch

Tinsel Trail, Huntsville, Alabama, 2019

Forgive me. I did not intend to miss a whole week of blogging. After too many meetings, the usual post-semester mayhem, and life in general, all I wanted to do by the time I left work is…nothing.

The struggle is real. So is burnout.

There’s nothing worse than burnout 12 days before Christmas. Scratch that. Actually, there are a lot of things far worse.

But.

Tired is tired. And being in the middle of a pandemic makes regular tired feel like extra, extra tired–like a giant weight of exhaustion around one’s neck.

That unforgiving weight makes it difficult to push through or even move toward the things I actually want to do. :-/

And, I want Christmas. The tree, the lights, the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, the movies, (vegan) egg nog, and too many sweets. To make up for the big family Christmas we need but can’t have because of COVID-19, we need as many bells and whistles as my guys and I can manage.

Don’t let the “Burnout Grinch” steal my Christmas. If you have any out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for overcoming pandemic burnout, please drop them in the comments.

The Beauty of Small

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“Small” seems to be the theme of the last couple of years. The pandemic invites us to scale down our lives and learn to journey through the small. These strange and unsure times urge us to take small steps, celebrate small things, and live in small moments.

I’ve been reading various articles that claim we are post-pandemic. As I skim reports of numbers rising in certain areas, I am not convinced. I am concerned that such headlines cause us to move too swiftly and risk being in the same situation we were in during the early months of the pandemic.

Though not explicitly about our Corona times, Susan Frybort’s poem, “the beauty of small,” serves as a primer for us as we move through our collective trauma and slowly make our way to living fully.

the beauty of small
susan frybort

let me paint for you the beauty of small…small words.
small observations, small greetings, short calls.

these are the bravest steps for someone shy,
someone hurt, someone trying to connect,
and someone healing from trauma.
small steps. coming out of hiding and
finally feeling safe enough to make the first move.
small steps. relaxed and ready to practice healthy ways
to bridge and bond for the very first time.
small steps, like a beautiful sunrise–
glimmering at first, before shining boldly.


About the Image: The zentangle sunflower art in today’s post was crafted by my newest Love Notes friend and Certified Zentangle Teacher, Kat van Rooyen. In a small moment she and I chatted (via Messenger) about our mutual love for sunflowers. Afterwards, she “tangled” this abstract sunflower just for me! A retired psychotherapist, Kat now teaches zentangling and uses it as a form of therapy. I chose this piece for the post because the tiny art (3.5 in x 3.5 in) represents the powerful potential of the small–for building, healing, and restoring.

If you are looking for something new as you figure out how to navigate the uncertainty, see Kat’s post for the benefits of tangling. Maybe, you’d like to give it a try!

The Masters | John Bratby’s Sunflowers

John Bratby, Sunflowers I, Oil on Canvas

For our final week of Sunflower Month we will survey a few sunflower masterpieces–works of the sunflower masters that leave us in awe. We cannot possibly feature all the masters, so we will focus on [some of] those who are featured in my personal “sunflower collection.”

The sunflower art above is featured on the cover of Book of the Heart, so it is perfect for our first post of the week. The oil painting was one of many sunflower paintings by English artist John Bratby (1928-1992), best known for his central role in the Kitchen Sink School of Art, a style of realism active in London between 1952 and 1957.

We have reached the point in the pandemic at which we are all overwhelmed, anxious, and restless, so I will be sharing with this week’s sunnies selections from Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart: Meditations for a Restless Soul. In this collection Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows “attempt to [re]voice” the mystic’s thoughts. I hope the posts brighten your days (sunflowers) and stills your soul (Eckhart).

“Sometimes You Have to Break Things”
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

It’s true:
Sometimes you have
to break things
if you want
to grasp God in them.
In the breaking,
we allow what is holy
to take form
in us.  

Be sure to click the links to learn more about Bratby and his art and be sure to join us for more, more, more brilliant masterpieces!

Sunflowers & Snippets | I Choose Pencil…

Kim B Sunflower in Vintage Vase 2021

For this week’s sunflower posts, I will be sharing sunflower photographs with snippets of my writing from “Write Together” sessions coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff of Love Notes fame. I don’t always have the time to participate in the weekly sessions, but every time I do, I leave refreshed and primed to work on my “actual” writing.

In the one-hour sessions, Jennifer facilitates three rounds of writing. She offers three prompts for each round, gives 8-10 minutes to respond to one prompt (or more) and then allows participants to share their material.

I enjoy the sessions because they provide a timeout for me, and though I do not attend as often as I wish, I am always amazed by how much writing I am able to do in those small moments.

Today’s snippet was written in response to the prompt: “I am choosing pencil.”

I am choosing pencil because few things are permanent, and so much changes from day to day as we navigate the terrain of a pandemic. I am choosing pencil because life is already hard, and there have been far too many deaths, far too many things we cannot reverse. I am choosing pencil so I can erase the parts that don’t fit, the nonsense and pettiness of the day to day, the meannesses that spill out at the end of a long, exhausting day or after another sleepless night. We need compassion and patience and forgiveness and so much love. Pencils are good for helping us revise or escape reality. I am choosing pencil because maybe, we can alter the pain and loss and write a different story. –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 01.04.21

Ironically, typing this in a blog post makes it a bit less temporary, but I hope you get the point.

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About the Images: Today’s images come from my Love Notes friend, Kim B. The top photo features sunflowers in a vintage vase that travelled from her Nana’s house full of flowers to her house and back to her Nana’s for a refill. The bottom photo features an “amazing accident in photography” as she captured the bee in flight when her intention was to capture one of her homegrown sunflowers. The other happy accident happened when I scanned the photo. My “phone scanner” gave the photo a vintage feel. The sunflower itself is a little overexposed, so I’d planned to fix that for Kim in PhotoShop. However, I like the accidental effect offered by the scan, so I decided to leave it alone.

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].

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Little Things

2021-09-13_201812

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.

Creative Prayer and Divine Power

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The last couple of days were crazy-stressful.

I always become a little anxious around the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, but when a major storm hit Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of that storm, it felt like a little too much. I spent much of the weekend stress-creating (Saturday) and stress-working (Sunday) until I tired myself out.

My family in NOLA did not/could not evacuate, so when we lost contact due to power outage and sketchy cellular service, I had to constantly remind myself to remain calm.

I read the scripture featured in the doodle art above early last Thursday, and it offered calm assurance near the end of a strangely chaotic week. Soon after, I learned of Ida’s threat to the Gulf Coast and the unlikelihood of its veering in another direction or “dissipating into nothingness.”

The full Bible verse reads:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. —2 Peter 1:3 NIV

My heart needed the first phrase, so I wrote it in my journal and planner to remind myself that God has given me everything I need:

  • to tackle the endless list of tasks
  • to deal with challenging situations that pop up during the day
  • to exercise patience when my urgent questions aren’t answered
  • to overcome fatigue
  • to remain calm in the face of adversity

“To remain calm…” through Divine grace and power. That part.

My friend Cy relabeled my weekend art “creative prayers.” I think I like that phrase better.

Dream Week | The Rock

Dream-1

Last week, in the middle of the agonizing, true-to-its reputation Monday morning, I dropped by the Associate Registrar’s office to get clarification on a particular policy. While there, I noticed the cutest tiny Zen garden. I was drawn to the sand and calming turquoise, but I fixated on the rock that held the word “dream.” An hour or so later, I sent my friend Cy a text telling her I needed to take a mental break and write a blog post, but I hadn’t decided on a theme for the week. She suggested that I do a Dream Week. Her suggestion confirmed what the “dream rock” was trying to tell me, so here we are—a week later—hosting “Dream Week” on Pics and Posts. 

If you had asked me about my dreams a couple of years ago, I might have told you I have none–if I were being honest. I came to this realization early one morning while reflecting on a statement from Howard Thurman’s “The Inward Sea,” the first section of Meditations of the Heart:

Keep alive the dream; for as long as a [wo]man has a dream in his [her] heart, [s]he cannot lose the significance of living.

I asked myself, “What are my dreams?”

Crickets.

Nothing stirred inside, and I felt like a hollow vessel.

I thought, “Have I achieved so much in life? Am I so perfectly content that there’s no need for dreams? Or have I fallen so far down the “well of despair” that I could no longer muster up the courage to dream?” 

I could have psyched myself into believing that I had no dreams per se because I’d worked my dreams into plans and plans into action. But I knew that would be cute, but not true.

I was troubled. I once had deep, colorful, audacious dreams. Where were those dreams?

The question unsettled me; for I knew without dreams I was merely existing, and that was not enough living for me. 

Then, the more critical question emerged. Why had I stopped dreaming? After I took the time to soul-search, I arrived at the answers:

I had stopped dreaming because I was afraid to dream. I had stop dreaming because I was grieving loss after loss after loss, and while I had to function on all fronts in my outer life, in the inner life I could lay it all down and no one would know. I had stopped dreaming because I was wounded and “stretched out” while I processed the blows that took me down. I had stopped dreaming because there were too many disappointments and too many devastating realities.

I had stopped dreaming so I could pour all my energy into surviving. 

It took some doing—an additional year or so of soul work—for me to trust life enough to really dream again and to know that my dreams can be as boundless and wild as my imagination allows. 

I don’t have any solid plans for this Dream Week, but that’s the nature of dreams. Join me, and let’s see where the dreams take us.