Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Over the last couple of weeks, every time I have sat down to write, no words have come. I am mostly feeling empty these days. Empty and tired. I know this will pass. I know my voice will return. I know my strength to keep moving forward will be renewed. But for now, in the wake of indescribable anger and unbearable hurt, I am just empty. On this Thankful Thursday, I am gathering all my strength to say, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him" (Job 13:15). Although I am empty and oh so tired, I am choosing to be grateful.
*I am thankful for the privilege of being a godmother. As I stood beside my godson as he was baptized this past weekend, I was overwhelmed both by the beauty and hope of that moment as well as the enormity of my responsibility to be an example to this child as he grows. Not overwhelmed in a bad way—more so that I find myself challenged and inspired to be a better person, to keep pressing on in this journey to find God again. I am grateful for the trust his parents have placed in me, for their belief in my ability to be a light to their son. And I am grateful to have one more reason to keep fighting.
*I am thankful for friends who are like family. You bring so much meaning to my life and make me feel like I belong. Thank you for that.
*I am thankful for a job that provides me with paid vacation time. I know many people are not so fortunate, and I am deeply grateful for the chance to rest, reconnect with friends, and find the strength to keep going.
*I am thankful for the courage to pursue more testing in the hopes of finding healing for my tired body. I have been in this place countless times before and always it has ended without a change in my chronic health struggles. It is hard to choose hope when there has been so much disappointment, but for now, I am choosing hope and I am choosing to be grateful for this hope.
*I am thankful for my dad—for a lot of reasons, but this week I am particularly grateful for his generosity in loaning me his fancy car and trailer and even more so because of his faith in my ability to do something I have never done before.
*I am thankful that my landlords did not let me out of my lease when I asked them to last fall. These last few months have given me the opportunity to adjust to the idea of moving and to prepare physically and emotionally. And the change in the market has opened up many more opportunities than I would have had even a few months ago. All of this means that I am feeling a tiny bit excited about what might be in store—and that is definitely a reason to give thanks.
Yes, even in this place, there is reason to be grateful. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday

It's time for another late-night Thankful Thursday post. In all fairness, I did begin writing this last night, but somehow it never got finished and so here I am scrambling to get it posted before Thursday is over. Well, it's not like I can't be thankful on Friday, too :o).

*I am thankful for sunburn and bug bites. Why? Because it means the weather was beautiful this past weekend and I was out in it for HOURS. How thankful I am for summer-like weather in April!

*I am thankful that in small ways, I am learning to let go and be brave. As I mentioned in my last post, I got down and dirty photographing the tulips without even really considering what people would think. And their funny looks made me laugh rather than making me feel self-conscious. On another day this weekend, I went outside in my pajamas to photograph my garden because the sun was hitting it just perfectly and I couldn't take time to get dressed before running out there to get photos. Was it worth it? You tell me:

*I am thankful for getting the approval to take time off from work for a much-needed, long-overdue trip to visit dear friends. Let the countdown to vacation begin!

*I am thankful for all my artistic friends (which is pretty much all of you) because you help me to see the world differently, to notice beauty in unexpected places, to find deeper meaning in the everyday things.

*I am thankful for metaphors and analogies—I process the intangible things happening in my heart and mind so much more fully when I can relate them to something I can see and understand.

*I am thankful for hope—hope of healing, hope of better days ahead, hope of eternity, hope of starting over. There were many years of my life when hope was not a word in my vocabulary. I did not understand it and it had no place inside my heart. I am so thankful that has changed and that God has planted hope where it never was before.

And what are you thankful for, my friends?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tulips, Daffodils, and All Things Spring

We had another gorgeous weekend here in Seattle, and my dad and I took a trip up to the Skagit Valley to enjoy the tulips and other spring flowers at the RoozenGaarde Display Gardens. Though the tulips are a bit late in making their appearance this year, there was still a multitude of blooms in all kinds of colors and varieties. Dad and I both took oodles of pictures and enjoyed the beautiful sunny weather. I had fun experimenting with different angles and compositions, and my favorite pictures are the ones I got by laying on the ground to get the right angle. I did get a few funny looks from the other garden visitors who clearly were not photographers--but one woman asked, "Did you get it?" when I was getting up off the ground. Yes, I did, thank you. And it was worth it! I just posted my favorite pictures from this trip to my Shutterfly site, so you can check them out by clicking here. You should also check out my dad's pictures on his Flickr site here because his pictures are fabulous!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring at the Arboretum

A few weeks ago I visited the Washington Park Arboretum on a beautiful sunny day and was able to capture some of the early spring awakenings. I've finally sorted through my pictures, chosen my favorites, and posted them to my Shutterfly site. You can view the album by clicking here (the "slideshow" option is available in the right sidebar). Although I included a fair number of cherry blossom pictures in this album, if you love cherry blossoms as much as I do, you may want to check out the full set here. And if you haven't visited my Shutterfly site in recent weeks, I've changed the layout a bit and added a few things, so feel free to stop by the homepage here and check out the new look. Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday

It has been a hard week. I have a sense that I am making progress in this seemingly never-ending process of grieving, healing, and starting over. But it is messy and deeply painful. And to be honest, I have a hard time figuring out when I am moving forward and when I am going backward. Even so, I find that I am not without the ability, the strength, and even the desire to be grateful in the midst of this week. That fact alone is reason to give thanks—and perhaps reason to believe that I am moving forward after all.

*I am thankful for my garden. In recent weeks, I have been outside almost daily to check on the progress of all my plants as they slowly break free from their winter dormancy. It is reminding me to be patient, both with the coming of spring and my personal journey toward healing.

*I am thankful that the appearance of death is not always the reality of death. Several plants that I was certain had died are surprising me with the tiniest signs of life. I am holding onto the hope that even the parts of my heart that seem dead right now may yet have life in them.

*I am thankful for more blue-sky sunny-day weather. I was thinking yesterday how much I wanted the sun to soak into my being and push out all the darkness inside me. In little ways, I think sometimes it does that for me.

*I am thankful for the "after." After the apathy comes anger. After the anger comes hurt. After the hurt comes longing. And after the longing comes reconciliation. As much as I wish I could skip right to the end, I have a sense that this process makes the reconciliation sweeter, stronger, and more real.

*I am thankful for the power of written words. Somehow, after putting my thoughts down on paper, I feel like I have finally been HEARD. And being heard helps me make peace and move forward.

*I am thankful for all of you who have not been scared away by the rawness of my emotions and the depths of my doubt these past 7 months. Thank you for walking this road with me, for refusing to give up on me, for letting me grieve, for letting me be angry. You have been a blessing to me.

*I am thankful for the strength to keep fighting, to keep believing that there are better days ahead.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Making War

I am angry,

More angry than I've been before.

Does that scare You?

Will You get angry back?

Worse yet

Will You turn and walk away?

I am angry that You left me

Angry that I had to grieve alone

Angry that I don't know who You are

Angry that I loved You

And even more angry that I no longer do.

Where have You been

And why have You come back?

It's too late.

I am broken.

We are broken.

And I am only angry.

Maybe making peace

Begins by making war.

Yesterday I felt nothing.

Today I am angry.

Maybe tomorrow I will miss You.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Well, I'm cutting it a little close this week. There are less than 2 hours before Thursday is officially over (at least here on the West Coast) and I am just now starting my Thankful Thursday post. But it is still Thursday and I am thankful, so I guess that's what matters. I will say that my list may be a bit briefer this week in the interest of getting to bed sooner rather than later!

*I am thankful—ecstatic, really—for the beautiful sunny, warm, blue-sky weather we had this past weekend. I am always grateful when the sun comes out, but to have it be sunny AND warm AND on a weekend AND when I had time to enjoy it, really that is a rarity in this part of the world. Sunshine is good medicine for a weary soul—I'm sure that's in Proverbs. Okay, maybe not. But it should be.

*I am thankful for the chance to get out and photograph the beginnings of spring. What an awesome thing it is to witness nature coming to life again, and to be up close and personal with it as it's happening.

*I am thankful for the joy that always comes to me from photographing the details of creation. I never grow weary of it. And it is such a blessing to have something so simple that consistently brings me joy.

*I am thankful that my magnolia tree survived the winter and is now slowly bursting into bloom. I have seen other magnolias of the same variety around town, and they have been blooming for a couple weeks. I was afraid mine wasn't going to bloom after the hard winter and I have been rejoicing this week to see my little tree finally breaking bud.

*I am thankful for my new doctor and the glimmers of hope I now have regarding some of my chronic health issues.

*I am thankful for the way God brings revelation to me through my own writing. You may not believe this, but most of the blogs I have written so far have turned out completely different than what I intended them to be. For instance, yesterday's blog about cherry blossoms and maple trees—all I wanted to do was share these cool pictures of the maple I had taken. But somehow I ended up seeing myself in that tree, understanding that is represented something I didn't even know I needed to express. I am thankful that God can speak to me even when I think I am the one talking.

*I am thankful that I have so much to be thankful for.

Okay, it's off to bed for me. I hope wherever you are right now, you can stop for a moment and express gratitude for all the blessings in your life, both the big and the small, the obvious and the hidden. We all have much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rebirth of a Maple

This past weekend we were blessed with beautiful weather and I was able to make a trip over to the Washington Park Arboretum for some pictures. It was the cherry tree blossoms that drew me here on this rare day of sunshine. After all, what's not to love about branches laden with soft pink blossoms, framed against the bluest of skies? While I did take many pictures of cherry blossoms, it should not surprise you that some of my favorite pictures from this trip are of something very different. Something no one else was taking pictures of. Something no one else even seemed to be noticing. I am calling it the "Rebirth of a Maple."
Of course, the process is yet unfinished. This work of restoring life to barren branches takes time.
As I marveled at the sight of this tree being reborn after the bitter winter, I couldn't help but see a reflection of my own journey. How often I have wished to be the beautiful cherry blossom, basking in sunshine and floating against a blue sky. To have my life story to be the kind that draws people near, that reveals God clearly without being muddied by my frequent mistakes and seemingly constant doubts and crises of belief.
Yet I take great hope in the fact that the image burned in my mind right now is not of cherry blossoms and blue sky but of something much smaller and quieter—but every bit as beautiful. It is the miracle of rebirth, often happening so slowly that it goes unnoticed until suddenly a place of death and emptiness has been filled with life and the fullness of grace. So many days I think I am going nowhere, that my life and character are no more a reflection of God than they were yesterday or the day before that. I wonder how anyone can see Him amidst all my stumbling and fumbling along this journey of life and faith.
Yet I believe that not only does my Creator take notice of my painstaking, not-always-forward-moving, not-always-pretty pursuit of growth and character—He is also the one who is laboring day after day to bring it about. And somehow, when all is said and done, He will hold me up against the blue sky and declare me beautiful.
"They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:3b
Well, maybe I will be a maple and not an oak, but oh the hope of being planted by the Lord to reveal His glory.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Growing is Beautiful: The Collage, Part 1

As I mentioned previously, the name of my blog was inspired by an art project that has been in the works for several weeks now. In light of everything I have been struggling with spiritually and emotionally these past months, I find myself turning to art as a means of both coping and processing what is happening. This in itself is a demonstration of personal growth for me--in accepting my identity as an artist as well as understanding the power of art to heal, awaken, bring clarity, and give others a window into my deepest self.

In January of this year, I decided I wanted to create a "vision board," a visual representation of my hopes for the future in regard to character development, spiritual growth, my relationship with God, etc. I wanted something tangible I could look at every day to remind myself of what is important, what makes all this struggle worthwhile, what hopes I am holding onto in order to keep me moving forward. I have created a few collages in years past, and this seemed like the perfect medium from which to generate my vision board.

I bought a stack of magazines from the Goodwill (only 49 cents each!) and set about cutting out words and pictures that caught my attention. Once I had a good supply of words, I spread them all out so I could begin the process of choosing words and phrases that I wanted to include in my collage. Now, it might be interesting to point out where I chose to lay out these words:

Yes, that's right. I laid them out across my work desk—the one I spend 40+ hours a week at, transcribing hundreds of medical records. What makes this an even odder choice is the fact that, only a few feet away from my work desk, I have a beautiful table whose sole purpose is to give me space for working on art projects. Why didn't I lay them out on my art table? Well, perhaps because it looks like this most of the time:

In all honesty, it never really occurred to me that I could (and probably should!) clear off the art table and use that instead of my work desk. I just happened to be sitting at my desk at the time and really didn't see any reason not to use it for my current art endeavor. Of course, I soon learned that sneezing, coughing, and sighing deeply where no longer acceptable activities while working at my desk. Not to mention having to check my sleeves, arms, hands, pants—pretty much everything—on a regular basis to make sure I had not inadvertently attached myself to a word or two or twelve. Perhaps the oddest part of all, however, is the fact that I did not really find this whole situation in the least bit odd! It's so good to know that I am an artist in EVERY sense of the word. I finally had time this week to clear off the art table, so the rest of this project will take place in its rightful location (how boring!).

I have enjoyed the process of making this collage immensely, and I am excited to see how it turns out. The words and phrases that are surfacing are not what I expected them to be, which doesn't surprise me in the least. The most prominent phrase so far has been "Growing Is Beautiful," and I have decided this will be both the title and theme of my collage. I have a feeling I will be creating a series of these vision boards, each with a slightly different theme. In the end, I hope to find that I have not only created visual reminders of who I am, what matters in this life, and who God is to me but also that I have taken a few more steps in the direction of healing.

(Click here to continue the story in Part 2, posted in November 2010)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Well, it's Thursday again, and that means it's time for me to pause and acknowledge what I am thankful for this week, this day, this hour:

*I am thankful for a most magnificent day of rest I was able to have earlier this week. Time for sleep, time for art, time for reading, time for just being.

*I am thankful for my dear friend R. She will never fully know how much I love her, how much sweeter my life is because of her presence, how much better I am because she has loved me, challenged me, prayed for me, and walked beside me. Thank you for everything, R. You are always a light to me.

*I am thankful also for my dear friend B. She is my only life-long friend and our relationship is living proof that by the grace of God, it is possible for friendship to survive time, distance, marriage, children, depression, physical ailments, spiritual crises, deaths of loved ones, and so much more. Thank you for sticking it out with me. What a ride it's been, but it has been so worth it. I love you, my sister, and I am looking forward to the next 20+ years!

*I am thankful for the space this blog has given me to share my heart, process what I am struggling through, and practice being an artist amidst the everyday routine. I didn't think I had much to say, but clearly I was wrong. Thank you to those who knew what I needed before I did.

*I am thankful for music. As I wrote earlier this week, music has allowed me to connect to God at a time when I had no other way to reach Him. As hard as these past 6 months have been, I can't imagine what it would have been like without even the smallest part of me maintaining that deep longing for His presence.

*I am thankful for books and the many people who are wise enough and gifted enough to write them. Nearly every period of brokenness in my life has been accompanied by a book that helped me to hear and see God through my struggle and move towards healing. My current book: Philip Yancey's Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? When I have finished processing it, I will be posting some of the many things that have challenged me and brought me hope. I am deeply thankful that God is willing to speak to me in ways I can hear and understand.

*I am thankful God is waiting for me to be ready for relationship with Him. Please be patient with me a little longer, God….

Tell me, Friends, what are you grateful for today?