Today…

Today marks one year since my sister Lori’s passing, so I punched purple tulips in her honor.

Today, my sorrow over [both] my sisters is tangled up with grief over the loss of my favorite uncle, who ministered so ably and lovingly when we lost Karlette and Lori. He passed away two days ago.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to put into words all the things my uncle was and is to me.

Today, I sat in front of my window–journal and pen in hand–and desperately willed the words to come. They refused. Usually my readiest companions through the most challenging moments, lately, they have failed me time and time again.

So today, I punched purple tulips in honor of my sister.

Sneak Peek: An Inspiring Arrangement

March is over, but I still have a stimulating bunch of woman-centered art/words/postcards to share!

Here’s a sneak peek at most of the yellow and purple flower postcards I received for Women’s History Month. I’ll be sharing them on the blog throughout the next month or two (or three) because they deserve a closer look.

Speaking of [purple] flowers, look at the lovely tulip done by my friend Holly over at ThreeSixFiveArt. Holly was inspired by the purple tulips in my latest #WordlessWednesday post. She did a fantastic job! Stroll over to her blog to read about her process. [Click image below].

Purple Tulip. Watercolor by Holly M.

April is an insane month for those of us in higher education, so I’ll either blog less (because of time constraints) or more (because of self-imposed “time outs”).

I hope your week is filled with sunshine and flowers!

Purple Tulips and God’s Hug | #WordlessWednesday

Spring came again today. The thawing Earth
is like a child who knows her poems by heart.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus
[Translated by David Hills]

We’ve finally had some consistently beautiful weather–sunny skies and breezy, warmer days–so yesterday I took a break from the mental work and took a photo-walk with my photographer friend, Amanda. We “found” purple tulips.

Purple tulips were my sister Lori’s favorite flower, so this experience was truly a hug from God.

Happy First Day of Spring!

See You “in the Morning,” Sister-Girl

Lori Ann by Tapman Media

My guys and I traveled to New Orleans the weekend before last–to lay eyes on and touch my sister Lori, to love on her and pray over her. Even though she could not verbally communicate with us, she was responsive. She even opened her eyes briefly. In our prayers for a mighty miracle, we also submitted to Divine Wisdom. There was so much light in her, still so much fight that we walked away, hopeful that we’d see her again the following weekend.

That was not to be.

My sister, Lori, took her last breath a few days after our return, Wednesday night, September 12, just before midnight. And now, I feel like I’m holding my own breath…again.

I am angry. Disappointed. Hurt. Grieving miserably. I wish I could sit this one out and not go through it at all. I draw parallels between Grendel, the monster of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, and cancer, a horrible night-crawler that catches us unaware and snuffs out lives. Jealous over our happiness, our relationships. Our very humanity. And that horrible beast took Lori from us, like it took Karlette five and a half years ago.

One of my nieces texted me yesterday expressing her utter disappointment and anger about Lori’s passing. We were all praying that her desperate situation could become an incredible story of Divine intervention. I assured her that I share her feelings, and encouraged her to give full vent of her anger to God. He can handle it. Furthermore, He’s well acquainted with our grief and He’s just as hurt and angry as we are that we are going through this…AGAIN.

I read and reread the following quote almost daily for several weeks and finally shared it with my mom and sister:

God didn’t set this journey in motion. He’s just as angry as you are that you have to walk this road. But He promises you this: He will walk this road with you. And He will be there for you when you reach the end of it. God loves you.  –from the television series Touched by an Angel

God is a compassionate, loving Father, cradling us and weeping with us. His amazing grace, the blessed hope of Christ’s return to take us Home, preparation for the biggest family reunion ever, and a heavenly future without the suffering and pain of illness and death rescue me from the darkest depths of despair.

I already miss Lori like crazy. She was a good person, who welcomed all into her life and loved them deeply. She loved giving gifts, finding just the right thing. Like Karlette, she loved beautifying her spaces. She spent so much time babysitting many of the nieces and nephews that we can claim she “half raised” them. Her guys and two little girls (her granddaughters) were her heart, but there was so much room for many more.

Though I grieve over the loss of her, I do so with an unshakeable hope, rooted in Christ:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18

“Lavender Tulips for Lori,” by Tapman Media

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Another Round of Love!

We completed the first round of Love Notes 2017 a couple of weeks ago.  Again, I had a beautifully artistic soul with whom to exchange cards and messages.  My partner, Carolyn D. of Garden City, Idaho sent handcrafted cards with elegantly handwritten messages.  It was always such a treat to find one of her notes in my mailbox.

For week 1’s prompt “I can trust the universe because…,” Carolyn sent:

“Create Art” by Carolyn D.

I can trust the universe because of its maker, who shows Himself in the laughter of the children, the beauty of nature, and the kindness of strangers.

Week 2’s prompt, “I invite you to tend to your soul…” provided me with a gorgeous card and much needed advice.  I should have heeded this advice before I was forced to spend four days in bed.

“Feathers and Spools,” by Carolyn D.

I invite you to tend to your soul in a tub of hot water with your favorite bubble bath… Then, donning warm socks and a pair of sweats and reading your favorite book while curled up in your favorite chair.

I’ll be tending my soul and body in this way tomorrow with a hot cup of tea added to the prescription. My soul and body need this.

And for “Love is…,” the dreaded week 3 prompt (dreaded because that means the round has come to an end), Carolyn appropriately sent hearts and love.

“Hearts and Love” by Carolyn D.

Love is…

  • taking time to help someone when you’re in a hurry
  • being kind when someone’s opinion differs from yours
  • God giving you strength when you are overwhelmed by the events in the world and in your country

I’m intrigued by how Carolyn can take torn paper and cut outs and make such visually appealing cards.

We were similar in our approaches to the prompts and I thoroughly enjoyed our exchange.  She ended the swap with a nice lengthy note telling me a bit about herself.  I’m happy to add her to my growing list of postcard pals.

As usual, I received extra cards from other Love Notes participants turned pen friends.  I shared Martha’s cards here and here.  If you haven’t seen it already, you’ll fall in love with the adorable raccoon watercolor.

  • Jacki sent a multi-paneled postcard, “Driftwood Art” by Martin Wiscombe.  This one was sent from the future, as it was dated February 18, 2017.  I love it!  I’ll make a point of revisiting it on 02-18-17.
  • Lorelei sent a “Did You Know?” postcard about Five Missions of San Antonio, Texas.
  • Sheila, a new Love Notes friend shared a woodblock print by Holly Meade, a Maine artist. Check out Reach Road Gallery for more.
  • Marrianna, another new friend and very talented photographer shared her gorgeous flower, edited in iColorama, one of my favorite editing apps.  You can see more of her work on her blog, Snapshots in Time.
  • Christine, who is a prolific postcard sender, sent her cheerful watercolor tulips.

[Click an image for a closer look]

The next round begins in April. Plan to join in! For more information and to sign up, click here.