I'm Busy

I’m busy. I mean, I am so busy.

Not in an uppity, “I-have-no-time-for-you” kind of way. Although, to be honest, I don’t have an open day for lunch for at least the next month.

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I’m busy crafting a well-considered middle.

It looks like I’m painting, and I am. But there is so much more to a painting than the pigments and canvas. There is so much more to a painting than even the talent of the artist. The deep processing that happens in the soul of an artist, I believe the thoughts and considerations and emotion that an artist feels her way through while painting, can become infused into the finished work of art.

There was a time in my life when heart break looked like something. It looked like me sleeping late, or it looked like no fresh flowers in the house.

At the present time, deep joy and healthy processing looks like something entirely different. It looks like me with a tube of Titanium white standing in front of a canvas. And what comes out of my brush is first showing me who I am, as God sees me.

We humans are not born to be multi taskers. But we are made to be dual processors. We can consider the lilies while we wash dishes. We can silently pray for a friend while we do data entry at a computer. I can be crafting a well-considered middle while I paint. In fact, if I do not paint, my life would not be nearly as well considered as it is. For example: I can plan and dream what my next hospitality gathering could be, while I paint a dinner plate dahlia on a 36x48” canvas.

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It’s going to be simple and special. “The art, or your next gathering at your house?” I hear you asking me.

“Both.”

That would have to be my answer. Because my consideration of the one is spilling over into the planning of the other, which comes back into the doing of the first again. Back and forth, through this dialogue, this dual processing called art, I end up crafting the parts of my life that have nothing to do with paint brushes or acrylics or linseed oil.

When an artist does her art, when she puts herself into and through the process of creating from her inner being, with no guarantee as to whether it will be received or rejected - she might also be crafting a well-considered middle, by simply, resolutely, picking up the paintbrush and dipping it into the paint.

She could have been a teller at the bank. She could have stayed with her day job. She could have decided to go the route of uplines and downlines and work every day to network her net worth. But no. A believing career-art artist has chosen to buck the system, and she has chosen to dual process: to sit at the feet of Jesus while she also sketches, or writes haikus, or paints her interpretation of what He is saying to her life. And if it is true that she has chosen that good part, and it shall not be taken away from her - she is the person who hurting people are going to need to hear from in days ahead.

When Men of God Dream {...and thoughts on middle-marriage retreats...}

There was Jacob and his ladder. There was Joseph and his kneeling sheaves of wheat, and bowing sun, moon and stars. There was Pharaoh and his seven fat, seven lean cows. There was the unnamed guy who saw a piece of bread roll* into the Midianite’s camp, overturning the tents, foretelling the imminent victory of one named Gideon.

*pardon the pun

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And there’s my husband and a six lane interstate highway in New Jersey.

What do all the above have in common? Each instance involves a man who had a dream. Not a Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” type of dream, but an “I fell asleep and this is what I saw” type of dream.

God is continually speaking to my husband in dreams. He has dreamed of the mechanical fix to complicated car problems - down to intricate details involving which wire, and where it is located. He has dreamed of architectural and structural solutions to problems with our church building. He has dreamed of the complex problems of gross sin, and religious sins like gossip and pride, and been told in dreams straight up who was up to what, in secret, and seen those dreams come to pass. For me to tell you all his dream stories would take at least an hour - two, if we were having dinner together. It would boggle your mind.

Interestingly, of all the dreams mentioned in Scripture (21, I believe), at least half of the dreamers were men with a calling, or clear leaders in their day. Six of them were kings. It was mostly men who heard the Lord in a dream, with only one woman, as far as I can tell. (I have my speculations as to the reasons for that, but this post would quickly evolve into a comedy monologue, and we can’t have that, can we?)

Well, last night, The Preacher dreamed he was on one side of a six lane interstate, and I was on the other. These traffic lanes were full of trucks and cars, but the moment he spied me, he did something most amazing: he knowingly risked his life to bolt across all six lanes of traffic, in a very Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible style, to get to my side.

Once he got to me, a little breathless, he asked me if I was married. I looked at him and said, “As a matter of fact, no, I am not.”

To which he responded, “Then, will you spend the rest of your days with me?”

And then he woke up.

Never, ever will I forget him relaying that dream to me. Never, ever will I forget how my heart has caught itself, a thousand times today, in absolute wonder and gratitude that this man, 32 years married to me, would still dream about me at all, much less dream like that. I can’t imagine any man, especially subconsciously, where the true-truth lives, loving a woman like me, like that. (Don’t worry, I am not down on myself. I simply understand that I am blessed far and above what I have earned or deserve.) I’ve wiped tears at the tenderness of all of it, many times - I may or may not be fighting them now.

But I need to blow my nose, and move on. I want to tell you about a dream I had about The Preacher.

About a year or two ago, I had a vivid dream where my husband was the hero:

I dreamed that I was exhibiting in an art show in the mall. Suddenly, art-hating terrorists stormed the mall and descended on the art show, armed and shooting.

Keith Urban was a featured musician in this art exhibition of my dreams. He was hiding from these masked terrorists, quivering under the table where I sat. In my dream, Tim had read an interview where Keith Urban had told the reporter that he didn't carry a gun, but he "always carried a concealed knife" in case he ever needed to defend himself.

So my Preacher struck out to kill the terrorists, one by one, with the goal of preventing more loss of life. He made a series of very professional, emphatic, very military style hand motions to Keith Urban (still hiding under my table). I somehow knew that those complicated hand motions translated thusly:

"You. Keith Urban. Come with me. You go left, I go right. Bring your knife."

But Keith was paralyzed with fear, as was I. So I ducked under the table and whispered hoarsely, "He isn't ASKING you because you're a country music star. He's TELLING you because he knows you carry a knife. NOW GO HELP HIM."

So he did.

There was more to the dream, but that is enough to give you the gist. I woke up, pulse pounding. I looked across at The Preacher with big heart eyes and said, "You saved everyone's life…

…and Keith Urban is a PANSY."

We still dream about each other, y’all. Sorry/not sorry if that makes you want to roll your eyes. I’m pretty sure that makes us candidates for hosting what might be the worst, or maybe the strangest (or perhaps the best) marriage conference in the whole history of ever.

We’re…uh…”dreaming” about it! Who knows??

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Your Solstice of the Soul

I hope and pray each of you had the best Christmas yet. But even if you did not, there is still one more gift of Christmas, and it is waiting there just for you: the gift of being able to hope in God. It is always darkest just before dawn. Those who have seen this fact with the eyes of their soul, know it is no cliche. It is rock-bottom truth: Beginning December 21st and forward, light starts to grow greater than darkness.

Welcome to my version of Winter Solstice Soul Care. I am such a light-lover.

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The Art of the Middle (...and Laura McCollough's Art and Faith Creative Retreats...}

Given the fact that I didn’t pick up a paintbrush until I was middle age - well past my mid-forties, and I am only now almost 52 - it can seem like a kind of miracle that I traveled to Bellagio, Italy to teach art last week! Consider this quote: “The great victory, which appears so simple today, was the result of a series of small victories that went unnoticed.”

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