Lessons from the Pandemic

Yellow Flowers in Vase by Sheila D of Sheila’s Corner Studio

I confess. I sometimes feel like a slacker. Sure, I am always doing something, but as I said in an earlier post, I’ve been getting nowhere.

Everywhere I turn, it seems someone has completed a book, started a new venture, traveled the seven seas, or even managed to purge and organize their home during the pandemic. I’ve done zip! I’m usually adept at side-stepping the comparison trap, but lately I have wondered if I’m just plain lazy!

Over the last year we’ve been given many tips on how to thrive, how to stay motivated, and how to do this, that, or the other during the pandemic. It was refreshing to join Pastor Lola Johnston’s Bloom in the Pandemic webinar a few weeks ago and hear her offer, instead of tips for thriving during the pandemic, two reassuring pieces of advice—to simply believe God is who He says He is and practice the principle of Matthew 6:33. She encouraged participants to refrain from practicing belief in our outcome and instead practice belief in the God of the outcome.

Whew!

It was nice to be let off the hook, to release the feelings of failure or guilt for not being completely awesome during the last 15+ months.

Of course, I wasn’t a slacker. I did not reach some of the goals I set for myself, but as I revisit those goals, some of them were way too big and way too much for our present circumstances. But during an actual, maddening pandemic, I held down a full time job, ably managed a leadership position that I was suddenly thrust into, taught overloads each semester, and operated fully in my family without losing my mind. And I actually managed to accomplish a few other things.

It helps to pivot our perspective. Doesn’t it?

If we focus on the gains instead of the unchecked items on our goals list, we’ll find ourselves in a healthier mental space. I realized this while writing a list of lessons learned in response to the final prompt of Love Notes 35. Even though I didn’t achieve some of my biggies, I’ve gained in ways that expanded my soul tremendously and I’ve learned so much.

I’ve learned to listen for the silence.
I’ve learned to find the path to stillness no matter where I am.
I’ve learned to adjust.
I’ve learned to keep moving.
I’ve learned to find time to write and “just be” in small moments because there will never be enough time, otherwise.
I’ve learned to appreciate the questions.
I’ve learned the answers do not always come.
I’ve learned [again] to accept sorrow and grief as necessary parts of life.
I’ve learned to let the deep, aching pain of loss do its work.
I’ve learned that my being vulnerable frees others to drop their masks.
I’ve learned that everyone is indeed fighting a battle.
I’ve learned that there’s very little I can control, but what I can control makes all the difference in my attitude and outlook.
I’ve learned that those who need our compassion most are those for whom compassion is a difficult exercise
I’ve learned to walk in the truth that everyone is made in the image of God.

Even though I sometimes feel like I should be doing so much more, I am learning that continuing to breathe and walk with joy during the pandemic are extraordinary accomplishments.

What have you learned in the last year or so?


About the Image: The bright yellow flowers were sent to me by my blogging pen friend, talented artist, and Love Noter, Sheila D. I actually wrote this blog post more than a week ago, but refused to post it because I wanted this particular piece of art to lead the post. I misplaced my “to be blogged” art file and it took me a whole week to find it! Why this postcard? In the face of difficult challenges over the last year+, Sheila has maintained a beautiful outlook on life. I find that inspiring.

Suddenly Spring!

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

 

The Japanese magnolias and flowering pear trees have reached full bloom. Soon the blossoms will fall and the branches will fill with the cheerful green of early spring.

Winter has its purpose, but oh, how I’ve longed for this first day of spring! After a few days of rain, the day is bright and beautiful, and I’m looking forward to some much-needed time in the sun!

Nothing says spring in certain parts like the daffodil. I’ve been seeing clusters of them crop up in the last few weeks–at the edges of driveways, encircling trees, around mailboxes, and in the floral section of the grocery stores–like an invitation to this moment.

I was happy to find the cheerful watercolor of daffodils [above] in my mailbox. Eileen V, one of my Love Notes friends, sent it in celebration of International Women’s Day, but in the dismal last few days of winter, it was a welcome reminder of the sunny, hopeful, healing days to come!

Wishing you a…

Happy Spring!

#ThursdayTreeLove | Precious Joy

Even though there are signs of spring, many of the trees around me are still skinny, naked, and exposed–shadows of their spring, summer, and early autumn selves.

I thought about those trees this morning as I watched the sun fill the sky, a backdrop for the leafless trees. I contemplated one of the passages of scripture I studied yesterday–

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of His faithful servants. —Psalm 116:15

I turned toward the computer to begin the workday, and my eyes met the pink sticky note on which I had written Psalm 96:12b a couple of weeks ago, anticipating the arrival of spring.

Let all the trees sing for joy.

Somehow, these two Bible verses are connected for me.

Today marks eight years since my little sister was taken from us. It’s strange how my body knows when the date is nearing. The grief and sorrow over the losses of both my sisters [and so many more since] are palpable, but it firms me up to know that God feels each individual loss intimately. We are precious to Him.

Maybe, the verses are connected in my mind because they point to hope.

Hope is in the “spring” of that soon-to-come Great Reunion when the trumpet sounds and those who have fallen asleep in Christ will rise first and meet our Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:12-18). Oh, how we’ll sing and rejoice!

In fact, all the earth will worship, and the trees will sing for joy!


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.

Give Me a Second to…Release…in This Moment

From 2016-2019 I participated in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and wrote a blog post every day in November. Earlier this year, I thought I would do the same this month, but by mid-September, I knew there was no way I could commit to NaBloPoMo while battling pandemic-fatigue. I reminded myself that I “blogged” every day in April, National Poetry Month, so two months of daily posts in one year might be a bit much to ask of myself.

Fall Semester is over, and I am only a few grades away from being able to reclaim some parts of my brain. Now, I can focus on clearing a “backlog” of tasks from my to-do list and sharing pretties with you a little more frequently–for the next 4-6 weeks.

I’ve dedicated this week to cards received from Love Notes partners and friends.

Today’s post features gorgeous artwork and beautiful messages from my latest Love Notes (LN) partner, Zotis K of Sunnyside, New York. Here are the cards and notes she sent  in response to prompts for LN 33 which ended late October.

Art by Zotis K

Prompt 1: Give me just a second…

Give me just a second…to decipher what has happened. We are going through many struggles, struggles that all of us are sharing now. Under this lockdown we’ve been given: time to heal – time to share – time to adjust – time to accept – time to be with loved ones – time to care for one another – time to give thanks for the blessings of being given one more day – time to create – time to call and listen to a friend or neighbor or a family member in need of comfort – time to develop skills we didn’t know we had – time to establish some form of peace and understanding. From now on, let’s just save time for ourselves because “we” are important too.

Art by Zotis K

Prompt 2: Release

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.  –Maya Angelou
Just breathe and release.

Art by Zotis K

Prompt 3: In this moment…

Be thankful for a breath of fresh air to be alive and well. Allow love and happiness to penetrate throughout your mind and soul. Take time to relax and live in the moment, the now, the present. Enjoy today. –Amaka Imani Nkosazana

These cards/messages rescued me from some crazy-busy moments and reminded me to take a second to pause and reset. Maybe, they’ll do the same for you.


Love Notes Postcard Project: In case you haven’t heard, Love Notes is a postcard project coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff that “encourages slowing down, getting back to basics, and connecting through handwritten notes sent through the mail.” Participants sign up for the swap on Jennifer’s website and then she assigns partners who correspond with each other for three weeks based on a prompt she provides each Sunday. The swap is hosted quarterly (four times per year).

NaBloPoMo Note: I didn’t do NaBloPoMo this year, but you can always scroll down to the archives to read my November 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 posts. I can’t remember any of the posts, but I’m sure there’s lots of eye-candy. 😀

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Create!

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

When my anxiety or stress levels heighten they are met with an equally strong desire to create. During the “lockdown phase” of the pandemic–March through July–I wrote poetry (almost daily), participated in seminars and workshops, tried new vegan recipes, painted, sang, doodled, and experimented with creative photography.

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

Since I returned to work in this pandemic season, the drive to create to combat the stress of this moment has been so intense that I had to add micro-creation sessions to my day.

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

I find a moment to doodle while thinking through a solution or while listening to a podcast or webinar. I fiddle with the lines of a poem I’ve already drafted in the wee morning hours. I transform a photo. I create inspirational Instagram posts.* I cut and tear pages from beautiful magazines and use them in art journal pages. I even do little things to create order out of the chaos of my desks [at home and at work].

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

Like journaling, there are many, many health benefits of creativity. These small, though intentional, acts of creativity allow me to tune out the chaotic noise of the world and find order within.


About the images: The set of floral art in this post is the work of Rae L, one of my Love Notes friends. She sent the envelope full of cheerful flowers a month or so ago. This is how she’s coping with the madness. Aren’t they lovely?

*A few weeks ago, my desire to create order spilled over to my Instagram page. I wiped my IG clean, changed my name, and created a uniform look for my page. If you have a moment, check it out. Maybe, you’ll be inspired: iamchandralynn.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Loved Thrice

Trees in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Artwork by Christine B.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—
the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
~Andrew Wyeth

I had a different tree love post in mind for today, but when my friend Christine B. sent (via message) two tree watercolors she completed while on vacation in Colorado, I decided to share one of her pieces instead.

Is there any better way to express tree love than through art?

Through painting, sketching, or drawing a tree, the artist loves the tree in at least three ways–with eyes, with hands, and with heart.


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.

A Dear Deer in the Snow

Watercolor Deer by Eileen V. “Frohes fest und die besten wünsche für das neue jahr.”

I promise I will not do another “12 Days of Christmas Postcards,” but I will share a few (?) of the super cute and original ones that come in–like the one above. The watercolor of an adorable deer relishing the snow was created by my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

Don’t you love how she captures the deer’s delight? It seems humans aren’t the only ones who can’t resist looking up and losing themselves in the wonder of snow.

Interestingly, the card Eileen sent last year also featured a [rein]deer in the snow. Coincidence? Maybe, Eileen has a thing for deer. 🙂

Sunflowers and Copycats

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Sheila D.

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery. –Charles Caleb Colton

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my artist/blogging friend Sheila Delgado should be tickled pink over the art Christine B and I created in the style of one of her specialities–“sunflowers in a vase.”

Last year, Christine B sent me a sunflower watercolor she “borrowed” Sheila’s style to complete. I included it in a blog post last November with many other sunflower postcards, but here it is again:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Christine B.

Days after the post, I received a Sheila D original watercolor of sunflowers in a vase [above]! Needless to say I was thrilled! I was so pleased to have another sunflower watercolor that it remained [with Christine’s] in my prayer and mediation space. So, a few months ago, when I began to include art/doodling as part of my daily routine and after seeing it every day, I played around with imitating Sheila’s sunflowers in a vase. This is one result:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Pen and Pencil by Me!

Thankfully, my sunflowers have improved a bit since my summer doodle [I’ll share some next month]. Like all my drawings, I used ink and colored pencils. I haven’t been brave enough to attempt this with the watercolor pencils, but I will make an effort over the longer holiday break.

I read somewhere that beginning artists learn by imitating the styles of other artists. Even though I’m a long way from being that kind of artist, I enjoy testing my [minimal] skills from time to time by “copying” the artwork of others.

So…thank you, Sheila, for giving me sunflowers…and another subject to doodle. 😉

Children’s Book Illustration Postcards | Gumnut and Wattle Babies

I hope you’re prepared for some super cuteness this evening. The postcards below were sent for Children’s Book Illustration swaps 49 and 50 on swap-bot. I had never heard of “Gumnut” or “Wattle” Babies, and then suddenly I was introduced to them when not one or two, but three postcards featuring May Gibbs’ Australian Bush Babies made it to my mailbox within days of each other.

CBI 50: Original watercolor for The Gum Blossom Ballet from Snuggle Pot and Cuddlepie, 1918. Illustration by May Gibbs (1877-1969)

This first card came from Yvonne and Jeana, who sent the Bunyip and Magic Pudding Maxicards I shared earlier this year. The card features the “Gum Blossom Ballet,” from the book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are:

two adventurous little gumnut foster brothers who long to see a Human. Snugglepot, the leader, and the gentle Cuddlepie are good friends with Mr Lizard and Little Ragged Blossom and together go on many heroic adventures.

And what are gumnuts?

[Gumnuts are] the first of the bush babies, the inquisitive Nuts are full of fun and mischief. They love all the Bush Folk, but are a little afraid of lizards and snakes. Mrs Kookaburra is most fond of them as they make her laugh. In the hot sun they hang their heavy heads over the swaying leaves and sleep.  –from May Gibbs website

I “met” Jess, another Australian swapper, earlier this year. Like Yvonne and Jeana, she also adds unique postcards to my CBI collection. She sent two Wattle Babies postcards.

BLC CBI 49: Original watercolor for frontispiece of Wattle Babies, 1918. Illustration by May Gibbs

The cheerful Wattle Babies are the most good-natured of all the Bush Babies. Their bright yellow clothes brighten the bush on a Winter’s day. In Spring they love to go boating and swimming with their frog friends and have fun playing hide and seek with the baby birds. —-from May Gibbs website

BLC CBI 50: “Wattle Babies.” Illustration by May Gibbs

These are some pretty impressive watercolors!

Gibbs (1877-1969) was an English-Australian children’s author, illustrator, and cartoonist. She was best known for her “bush babies” or flower fairies. Her works have entertained the children of Australia for more than a century.

Gibbs willed her works to the Northcott Society and Cerebral Palsy Alliance. As a result she has helped thousands of children and their families. You can learn more about May Gibbs, her work, and charities here: May Gibbs.

See you tomorrow…

Something Arresting…

“Magnolia Tree” by Christine B.

Earlier this week, while escaping my ice-cold office and collecting warmth in the tree-adorned area just outside, I looked up and noticed a flash of red in the magnolias. The seed pods were exploding with color. In awe, I simply paused and allowed the beauty to wash over me.

My penfriend, Christine, must have been awed by the magnolia’s beauty too. She enclosed with a birthday card the precious gift of a magnolia watercolor that may have been inspired by my spring magnolia post. [The scan above does little justice to her art]. She perfectly captured the creamy white with just a nod at yellow. What appears gray on screen is actually silver, and those silver and green splashes capture and “emote” the experience of being in the actual presence of the tree in bloom.

Sparkly. Tingly. Beautiful.

Pavithra Mehta’s declaration regarding the magnolia warrants repeating, so I’m thankful Christine reminded me of it.

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.

This weekend may you pause for a moment and give into the beauty of some thing, some one, some moment; may you allow it to grip you and wash over you, to soak into your skin, permeate your being, and change some part of who you are.


Side Note: I began interacting with Christine, the artist, via Jennifer Belthoff’s Love Notes project. In the few years since we met she has become one of my treasured friends. If you love snail mail, meeting new people, and sharing your light, consider participating in the next round of Love Notes. It begins October 13, so get signed up today: Love Notes 29.