Slow death

I had several really fun posts planned for this week, including the promised announcements about on-the-road teaching gigs… but then I got hacked and my laptop had to be reformatted and I had a kind of mini-meltdown and pity party for myself.

Laptop-Reformat

In the middle of weeping and feeling sorry for myself and utterly overwhelmed, I stumbled across this amazing blog post by Ann Voskamp. (If you don’t regularly read her blog, you really and truly are missing out.) And some of what she wrote just jumped right off the screen and slapped me in the face like Cher in Moonstruck.

Life is Pain — and you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment. Nothing happens without discipline. No music gets played without discipline. No games get won. No finish lines get crossed. No freedom gets tasted. And you want that…

Brilliant doesn’t matter, if you can’t get out of bed. Talent doesn’t mean a thing, if you let Fear be some terrorist that takes you hostage. Potential doesn’t add up to anything, if you get addicted to perfectionism because perfectionism is slow death by self.

And then I had a conversation with my sweet husband, and aired the things that were dogging my spirit, and we made some decisions and found ourselves in agreement and a kind of fog lifted. Then a dear friend checked in with me today and we found we are walking a similar path, and I came face to face with this uncomfortable truth:

I’ve been undisciplined about a lot of things since I got sick in September, and it’s created a perfect storm of unhealthy consequences. The result is that I have had kind of an internal crisis going on – emotional, spiritual, mental, and creative. I have been very much affected by some circumstantial things, having nothing to do with being hacked or having to reformat my laptop (which were just the last straws) – and I was becoming much too focused on the provision instead of the Provider. So… discipline, starting with lots and lots of time with Father, and patience, and taking little bites instead of big ones, and one day at a time.

And grace.

Because in the end, that’s what He wants for us. Love and grace and redemption. Anything less is not His best.

So I’m rebooting more than just my computer this week. If you’re interested in joining me, I’ve started a new 30-day reading plan on the YouVersion app – accounts are free and completely private, though you’re welcome to “friend” me or drop me an email if you want to share anything along the way.

“Fun” posts will resume next week, God willing and the creek don’t rise. Enjoy the weekend!

Recalibrating

I stumbled across this video last night, and it stunned me.

I believe – deeply and passionately – that like these wolves, human beings have a purpose here on earth. Beyond that, I believe with equal passion that each individual human being was created by a loving Father God with a plan and an intention for every single one.

Every. One.

Including me.

When we turn aside from or deny the things that God created us to be and do, it has an impact – not only on us as individuals, but on the people and places and circumstances and culture God created us to engage. Often our choices and decisions are well-intentioned – like the removal of the wolves from Yellowstone in the first place – and it’s only when we recalibrate our perspectives that we understand the damage we’ve done. When the solution is as simple as reversing course – reintroducing the thing we removed or setting aside an indulgence – we breathe a sigh of relief. Sometimes, though – often – it takes more work and focus and discipline. And sometimes the damage cannot be undone.

I spent the entirety of my Sunday yesterday contemplating some challenging truths about myself, my choices, and what lies ahead for me. There are things I have – with good intentions – allowed into my life that have no business there. Important things have suffered from inattention and a lack of discipline. As difficult as it is to admit, the imbalance all of that creates is devastating to the internal landscape of my spirit. Everything around me suffers – relationships, creativity, environment. Me. And honestly? I walk through periods of intense self-loathing every time I stumble over one of those icky, unpleasant parts of myself I wish desperately would just go away.

And then… hope. Perspective. Grace. A God who forgives and empowers and and directs and casts vision. It is not an accident I found this video last night, or that my day was full of small moments of beauty. If you missed my story about the widow’s rosebushes, read my post from last week and then look at the beautiful rose I found yesterday afternoon when I stepped into the yard.

Helen's Rose

God loves me. I am – largely in spite of myself – where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do. I have some recalibrating to do, but none of it is fatal, no essential part of me or my life is extinct or damaged beyond repair. Because… God. And grace. And Jesus. And I am so, so grateful for the reminder.

Happy Monday.

I’m sensing a pattern here…

Monday seems to be the day that I get around to posting here. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, except that lots and lots has happened since the last Monday post and I’m pretty sure I can’t remember it all!

Nuala-Necklace

I did get to spend a few hours on Friday with a student who had been part of our Barbara Becker Simon workshops last month. Together we worked on designing and putting together this wonderful necklace using some amazing lampworked beads that Barbara made, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Mostly, though, what stands out about last week is its rather intense introspective aspects. I’m struggling with some stuff right now and have been in a funk for a couple of months. We got some good news about Nick’s work situation last Thursday, and I think I was expecting the funk would lift in the wake of the relief and so much to be thankful for. Unfortunately, not so much – I’m still wading through emotional and spiritual mud, which feels like lots of effort without much progress. I talked about the nature of “funks” during worship yesterday (always a risky thing!) and prayed from Ephesians for myself and others in the room . I was really stunned by the number of people who came up to me after both services, some of them very emotional, to say they were in a similar circumstance.

So, prayer. And creating. And one step at a time.

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”

Pearl S. Buck

Francesca Watson Designs

I’m working on two mixed media pieces for Gail’s upcoming show, “She’s Got Issues.” I have never done any serious mixed media work, and the subject matter of both pieces is intensely personal, so this has been a “take a deep breath” experience. The process has been alternatively frustrating and deeply satisfying, and I’m happy with where the pieces are ending up – though I’m a little desperately trying to convince myself this isn’t going to wind up being as addictive as my other creative pursuits. (Because there’s nothing inherently bad about trolling eBay for vintage ephemera, right? Right??)

(Along those lines, Roadhouse Arts just recently signed Seth Apter to come do some workshops with us next fall – what a genuinely nice guy! He has a new line of stencils out with Stencil Girl and to celebrate he’s having a blog-hop and a giveaway. Check it out here!)

So that’s the update – we’re packing up and decluttering the house so we can put it on the market (which is taking much longer than we expected) so between that and life at Roadhouse, life is pretty full. How are things in your world?

The Rest of the Story

Disappoint: To fail to satisfy hope, desire, or expectation.

We’ve all been there. We work hard for something and it doesn’t materialize. Or we make plans and a key element falls through. Sometimes “disappointment” is an understatement for the devastation or anguish that results from dashed hopes or unmet expectations.

Photo by Jason St. Peter. Used under Creative Commons License.

Almost every year at this time, I find myself trying to imagine the experience of Christ’s friends and family on the day of his crucifixion. Disappointment hardly seems sufficient to describe what they must have felt. Horror for those who watched him die. (Among those was his mother. The bravery of her story, from beginning to end, is humbling.) Disbelief. Fear. Grief. Shame for those who couldn’t bear to see things through to the end, who hid themselves away.

I imagine the first night, as his friends and family mourned. What on earth would they have said to one another? Was any among them hopeful? I think about the women, whose job it was to clean and prepare his body but who had not been able to begin their work before the Sabbath. Did they dread it? Or were they grateful for the opportunity to serve him one last time? I think about the universality of human loss, how it is the same regardless of time or culture or age. I can imagine eyes burning from the tears they shed and the sick thumping headache that accompanies them. I have known grief so deep that anything beyond it seems improbable, unfathomable.

Photo by John. Used under Creative Commons License.

It seems ghoulish to dwell on the torture and murder of a man who lived and walked the earth more than 2000 years ago. In fact, my father once told me that Christianity was a religion of death, which was why he was so adamantly against it. But he was missing the point – as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, here’s the rest of the story.” Christ’s death wasn’t the last word. We don’t celebrate his death – we acknowledge it, with solemnity and awe and wonder. What we celebrate is his conquering of it, against all hope and against all that “reality” tells us we should expect.

Detail, The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin. Photo by Lassi Kurkijärvi. Used under a Creative Commons License.

In the middle of the things that beset us, it’s easy to forget God is at work even when we can’t see how things might get better. In the dark of the night, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with grief and worry. When we suffer a grievous loss or the failure of a longed-for dream, it’s easy to believe God has abandoned us. And it can sometimes be easier to stay in that Good Friday place of sorrow and despair than to allow ourselves to trust and hope.

But Good Friday’s good because of what came after: Sunday’s coming. And he’s waiting there for us, arms outstretched, joyous. Death has lost, and love has won.

We celebrate that he did it for us.

But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of death.

Psalm 49:15

The End of the Day

Long day, but so worth it.

Roadhouse Arts

I taught a beginning soldering class today to four lovely women, all of whom were brand new to it. And look what they did! They layered and hammered and designed and laughed (there were a few tears, too) and watched and asked and explored and soldered and at the end of the day, they left with earrings and a rocking ring (or pendant) that they were happy to wear. And although the day was long and had its own challenges and frustrations, my heart is just… full.

Those moments… when that voice inside someone’s head is silenced. You know the one I mean. It’s the one that says, “You could never…” or “Why bother…” or “That won’t work…” That voice, the one that keeps us timid and afraid and coloring inside the lines. Sometimes, when she’s focused and doing the work, there’s an almost audible click when the switch flips off, and she’ll take a deep breath and meet my eyes and say in surprise, “I did it!”

And I’ll say, “I know!” And then we celebrate, and she’ll smile huge.

And sometimes, like today, I have to master tears of my own. I don’t want to scare anyone, how deeply I feel about all this, but seriously: who puts those voices in their heads in the first place? And how can I help in the work of turning them off for good?

I know the work isn’t mine to do, of course. And it will seem silly to some, I suppose, but this is ministry for me. This is feeding women’s spirits and encouraging them in something that can be uniquely theirs. And maybe this is the only time they’ll ever take up a torch and light the flame and create that alchemy of metal and fire… but one day, they’ll look at the thing they made and remember they are strong, and made for a purpose, and eminently capable of being taught and learning well.

I’m so grateful for my life, and the privilege of speaking into the lives of others. And I am even more grateful for the people who are willing to receive this love and this passion I have for them. So even while I’m deeply tired and the shadow of fibromyalgia wraps itself around my body and demands attention, it’s all worth it. Every bit of it.

Because look what they did!