Truly Seeing

The holidays are over and a new year is about to begin. The stress is over, or should be soon.  Relax for a minute with me.  This is merely a collection of photos from the past year with the occasional thought of what I intend to do more of in the coming one.

Friends are where it’s at-

GrayC-Tom

Take time for golf, even if it’s in the median strip.  Drive your favorite car there, just so it looks like you own the joint. (I don’t golf, but there are so many carpe diem lessons here!)

Golfing

There is beauty around you, even if you have to crop the photo or change your angle to see it.  Morning light is always more flattering.

Horses

HankFlowers

Hens

EarlyMornBarryStreamTrainTree

 
Home

PipsOcean

TomSandcastlesHome is not a place; it’s where those you love are.

Enjoy new places, new things, and don’t worry about your clothes.  Some of the best moments of your life happen when you were willing to just do it and be there. The moment will pass far too quickly.

 BrenKnox

Take the photo, even when the camera seems to intrude.  You’ll be glad later.Butterfly2 Babies are beautiful, in whatever form they come.  All the hope and promise – ColtTree

 

Invest heavily, with whatever you have to give. Raelynn

Lifejackets

Look for God’s glory in the smallest things.  Sometimes it takes a camera to truly see what you were looking at.  And too often, even then, it’s only in hindsight you see the blessings of where you’ve been.

 

May today be the beginning of a new life with your eyes attuned to the glories that surround all of us.

OnionCreek

As always, my photos are copyrighted.  Please do not share them without my express permission.

She’s a Lady

Women, their interests, and fluffy stuff have never been my cup of tea.  Then I was told at the hairdresser’s last week that I am such a girly girl.  Whatever could she mean?  She chuckled something about my clothes, nails, and hair and how I enjoy them.  That I do.   After 17 years of being pregnant and/or nursing, either baby-fat or just looking it with my incessant baby slings,  I’m ready to be more than a spit rag.  I no longer dress like the poster child for durability and functionality.  All that time as “one of the boys” and then “Mama” has left me wanting to be a woman.  If I can pull it off, “Lady” sounds better still.

I noticed something right after “In the beginning…”  Woman is made of the same stuff as man and can take over his position if necessary.  Since living in the sticks, I’ve realized I am tougher than I thought.  Storms can pound and crap may fly, but I will still be here tomorrow to take some more.  The women who inspire me have an unusually quiet strength, never breathing a word about what they endure.  Trials are unbecoming to a lady.  As tempting as it may be to whine and complain, I must bear up under pressure gracefully, never besting her man.  I met a beautiful gal once who was a serious mechanic.  You’d never know it over dinner, though, with her lovely, dark red nail polish to cover the grease under her fingernails.  This is probably what sets a woman apart.  Men don’t cover their grime.

God pulled Eve out of man to be different.  While she’s capable of anything, she should not do it all, and what she does, she does differently.  She is the soft, merciful side of the equation;  she is Grace to man’s Law.  It is hers to bear the next generation and sustain this one, keeping home and hearth warm.   A “womanly touch” softens and beautifies.  He  provides security and incites fear in any who threaten their nest.  There is nothing to fear in woman but the withdrawal of her acceptance.  Most men will do anything to prevent that.

Yet, so many men show affection for  their ladies similarly to how they’d show affection for their brothers.  I remember watching a guy flipping his keys around his finger, slapping his new bride’s thigh with each turn.  Chink, chink, chink.  Stupid, little things hurt a woman deeply.  She (and other women around her) will read many intentions into that one thoughtless action.  It’s not the pain;  women will control their minds and breathe through the ultimate workout of childbirth.   I have never met a man who honestly thinks it would be no big deal to bear a child.  Childbirth is only the initiation.

A man’s work is done when the battle is won and the goal achieved.  He bandages his wounds like trophies and wears them proudly, turning to new pursuits and obstacles to conquer.  The woman now moves into the daily grind, covering over her scars and stretch marks as shameful and unladylike.  Her work of feeding the family and making sure the laundry is folded and put away is not hard work – it is merely tedious.  And far beneath her abilities, she is reminded too often.  Chink, chink, chink.  Childhood stories have left visions in her head of singing while she scrubs her floors, laughing with the children when they come in from their mudpies, and overlooking bootprints her gallant warrior tracks across the tile.  Nothing she does is special and couldn’t be done better by a maid, and she tends to forget that it is her very presence which makes the magic of “home”.  She sees so many areas where she hasn’t met the standard, and they pain her.

Her deepest desire is to be taken care of – cherished, as my mom would say.   She needs to be so dear to her man’s heart that she is restored to rib-hood.  She must know beyond any doubt that she is essential to the survival of the family,  appreciated and protected and held tightly when the nights are cold.  She can become stronger than steel if necessary, but prefers to be soft.

She is powerful and vulnerable all at once.  Fascinating.  That’s what makes her so alluring.

She’s faced the hardest times
you could imagine
and many times her eyes fought back the tears
and when her youthful world
was about to fall in
each time her slender shoulders
bore the weight of all her fears
and a sorrow no one hears
still rings in midnight silence,
in her ears

Let her cry, for she’s a lady
let her dream, for she’s a child
let the rain fall down upon her
She’s a free and gentle flower,
growing wild

–           “Wildflower”, by New Birth

What I Do

A strange new light has appeared. I feel like this sunset that happened a couple days ago. Everything’s turned upside down and I like what I’m seeing, but I don’t understand it.

I find myself consumed by a need to organize. Now I’ve never been a messy person, but Grandma’s mantra about “a place for everything and everything in its place” just hasn’t worked in this small house. I didn’t notice until after we moved in that the builder apparently didn’t think closets were necessary. The inability to devise any sort of working organization scheme overwhelmed me. It overran my very being.

Until just the last couple weeks. Something, somebody, I don’t know what, inspired me to take control of my life. No more waiting for the world to come right. All of a sudden, I realized that the difference between what I see and what I want is what I do. What I do. Me. Why didn’t I ever grasp this before?

But something else is going on here. Cool gifts have come, totally out of the blue. My husband appeared last week with a beautiful, framed mirror which just fits in my entryway. A small stack of books from my favorite author came home in a discarded box. A lovely chest, the perfect size to house my oldest son’s treasures, was given to us just as he left. In the past, I’ve dreaded Christmas because I didn’t have space for anything more to come in. Now, each gift is so clearly from God and, like that mirror, brings new light into the dark corners of my world. That’s the only way I can explain it.

Is this God? You’d think, as a Christian, that I’d immediately spout grandiose praises of any blessings that come my way. I do know He is behind all this. But I’m human, too. I’m confounded by watching changes happen in me that I did not instigate. I watch the children get into yet another trivial argument and I want to throw up my hands and quit. But then I watch myself walk calmly over to them and handle them wisely. Who is this woman in the mirror? Where is her stress?

It’s just not there. Just like the toddler outbursts, it is disappearing before my very eyes.

Something else has become clear: even if what I do is small and insignificant, it is not worthless in the larger scheme of things. Every single positive move I make brings my world that much closer to goodness. And that is beautiful. It is the ray of light that originates with my Maker and moves out, one step at a time, until a glorious wake is left behind me, which in turn emanates outward to others.

I thank you, my beloved reader, for the ripples your life has washed into mine. They are no small part of who I am and what I do.

Happy Kids

Something must be wrong.  I’ve had no deep intellectual thoughts today and no great spiritual revelation.  The light bulb that has been popping over my head for the past five years was silent today.  Whew.

So the best part of my day was the manicure.  Pips is always in my shadow and caught me looking at my nail polish collection, considering which color I’d prefer this weekend.  “Mom, can we paint my nails?”  She’s Mommy’s girl.  No, maybe she’s my little sister’s girl.  She’s a clothes horse extraordinaire, with 5 pairs of shoes and wanting her nails perpetually painted.  I may be like that now, but I was never like that as a kid.

Sure.   So, while mine still aren’t done, hers are, and she’s happy as a clam.  Big brother came along just in time for the camera moment and had to be with her.

And maybe that’s the most important part of any day.  Catching happy children, just as they are, being who they are around Mama.

(Day 27/365)

My Foray into the Art World

School’s just about over.  We have a few math pages to finish up and final English papers to write, but then we are done for the summer.  I need a break.  This is only the second summer that I will have taken off in the twelve years I’ve homeschooled.   And while I don’t like having to re-establish routines at the beginning of the school year, I do need to devote some time to the house.  Because it’s not teaching that does a homeschool mother in; it’s the laundry and dishes.

I’ve devoted all my time since last fall to teaching and basic subsistence.  The house needs some focused attention.

I’m not sure why I never thought of it before, but decorations don’t have to be purchased at the art gallery.  Fairly recently I was lamenting how expensive artwork was when I noticed that these were photographs I was considering.  Of beautiful flowers.

I have shot, on my own camera, some amazing flowers.  I have thrown up on Facebook, willy-nilly,  some awesome prints with my name nowhere branding them.  It is time to decorate my home with the fruit of my own hands.  My mom has always said that we are craftologically challenged;  I think I’ve just never recognized what I do well enough to display.  A girlfriend posted a blog about how she arranged her children’s artwork on a single theme into one large frame.  It looked awesome.   Hubby brought me home some 24″ x 36″ frames from work.   As I stared at them and wondered where I had enough vertical real estate to hang those buggers and what exactly I wanted to put in them, it occurred to me.  My flowers.  The images that catch my breath every time they cycle across my screensaver.   Those need to be collected and framed so that visitors can catch their breath as well.  Other stuff can move for these – they make me smile.

So this afternoon I began sifting and sorting and printing.  It’s going to take me some days to put this together, because I am not versed in decorating and putting things together in a pleasing way.  This just doesn’t come easy to me.  I don’t do Photoshop, either.  I capture what I see in real life and the extent of my talent is cropping out the ugliness of the world from God’s beauty.  I want to isolate what I see for others to notice it the same way.  But to gather and arrange a group of them?

The project has begun.

(Day 25/365)

True Love

I grew up thinking true love was just like the Cinderella story:  I’d meet some dashing prince who was completely enamored with me and he would place me in my flowing, train-bedecked dress on the back of his gleaming white warhorse to gallop off into the golden sunset to his glorious castle on the hill, never to have another worry crease my alabaster brow.  I’m starting to think that might not be completely accurate.

I met the handsome prince, but the horse, the castle, the balls have never materialized.  Children and unending work were not a part of my visuals.

So is this it?  Did I win the prize and my greed won’t let me see it?  How do I know what real love is?

There used to be a test: “If you love something, set it free… If it comes back, it’s yours; If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.”  Really? Just like my dog, if after feeding him, my man comes home at night, it’s proof of his love?  Seems a bit shallow for a covenant relationship.  And while it sounds secure, it doesn’t inspire me to songs of praise.  There has to be more to Cinderella’s smile than that the Prince came back.

Love for my children is the easiest to see and analyze:  care and commitment are keywords. Will I be available in the middle of the night, for anything great or small? Will I take care of them even when they’re dirty and grouchy? Love for them boils down to reliability and availability for whatever, whenever.  It is also intensely gratifying to watch them grow and see my fingerprints on their lives become apparent.  I will put their needs before mine until I have nothing left to give….and still give more.  This has to be a clue to what true love is, because Jesus mentioned that we need to die to ourselves. This kind of commitment definitely requires dying to my selfish desires.

He also said that whoever became as a little child would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  I have yet to meet a child that doesn’t give a lot more than he expects in return.  My little ones have overflowed with gifts for me, for no other reason than that they want to express their love for me.  My glance lights up their days, they sing songs about me, and they make and build me things.  If they’ve been grouchy, they quite often vacuum my room or create beautiful cards to make it up to me.  Am I this genuine?  Generosity of this sort has to be a part as well.

So now what does all this mean in the context of marriage?   The relationship of Christ and the church is supposed to be reflected in the marriage of a man and his bride. In that perfect union, it does look like Cinderella. I’ve even heard that the original tale was designed to teach that – selfless, cheerful service is rewarded with subsequent redemption and living happily ever after.  We, however, are imperfect humans. I must face the fact that, just as I am no Proverbs 31 woman,  I may not see Christ clearly in my husband’s life, either.  We are both clearly in need of redeeming.

I am a  mop-maid, scrubbing endless acres of tile on my knees.  Calloused knees and dishpan hands have replaced the hope that’s looking more and more like a fairy tale.  I know I must be lovely in spite of my surroundings, but I can’t seem to help myself.  I still want to be singled out, made new and clean, so I may join the masses of beautiful taffeta and lace on the dance floor.

And then the simplest thought occurs to me:  Cinderella’s allure comes precisely from what flows out of her.  Although she runs quite low at times, she manages her home and resources well.  She finds beauty and  encouragement in the lilting songbirds nesting on the porch, the soft gray mice scampering in the barn, and the delightful fragrance of the trees outside her window.  She finds a certain satisfaction in caring for the wicked, useless stepsisters who are so wrapped up in themselves they don’t even realize how much they need her.

Cinderella has spent time soaking in an eternal source of joy.  Her generous father taught her well before leaving her on her own.  Her love for him bubbles over in work done as for him; she would serve the devil himself cheerfully from that well.  And whether anybody notices her or not, her inner beauty has a softening effect on all around her.  She loves everyone in her path like a child and a mother combined, and there isn’t a soul who doesn’t want to be in that path of pure devotion.

In spite of her sequestered position, truth and love always shine forth, and she is noticed by the most influential man in the kingdom – the future king.  The one her father prepared her for.  He sees that she is clearly the only woman qualified to be his queen because she loves and cares for his people just as much as he does.

If I become disheartened with the evil around me, it is a sign that I need some more soaking in what my Father left me.  I need to read his writings, steep in his values, and hope in his promises.  I must seek out the glories around me, care for those in my sphere, and do what needs done as he did.  I need to know that I’m not invisible.  The secret to true love is within me: it is his spirit, worked out.   I would do it all anyway for him.  The Prince will someday carry me off to our castle and surround me in everlasting love and joy.  I will spin and float around the ballroom, laughing and singing with him.  And all that I do is merely appreciation in advance for the invitation.

Gotcha!

Saw an article a few weeks back about things that tend to trap women.  I’m gathering that, by ‘trap’, the author meant ‘things that draw one away from God’.   Every one of the culprits mentioned:  control, food, and beauty, has influenced me at some point.

In college, when my life was crumbling beneath my feet, the psychological theories of achieving control over situations intrigued me greatly.  I needed something to grasp, and my bedroom furnishings became a study in control.  Because it was the most inviting, most people were drawn to the overstuffed Danish chair by the window.  I would then sit on the bed across from them for conversation and about 3 inches higher.  If they sat on the bed, or even leaned against the dresser, I would lounge comfortably on my barstool between the two, putting me always just a bit above.  Since my desk was a freestanding bar, it was a very natural, but quite imposing, place to sit.   It was only later in life that I learned the art of control the way powerful people do it.  Bring in lovely dining chairs that are very proper, but inappropriate to the room.  I loved watching George and Barbara Bush, reclining on the comfortable couch across from some reporter who hoped to guide the conversation from his perch on a chair where the coffee table obviously normally stood.  The Bushes maintained complete control of the situation, an interesting study in the aspect of  ‘at home’ being a control position.  I never got much chance to play with people’s reactions to that.  As soon as my life gained some footing, I lost my need  for the power point – but not the fascination.

As kids took over my days, food took over me.  I love to cook, and baking is a form of relaxation for me.  The children have been very willing guinea pigs for my trials.  Most memorable were the banana pancakes flambé for breakfast (almost burned down the kitchen with that one, but it sure tasted good.  They still remember it – even a couple who weren’t born yet.)   I pour myself into every meal, and I could not let a toddler’s pushed-around pieces of chocolate chip waffles with strawberry jam go to waste.  I might as well have just glued them to my hips. But too much is too much, and I learned to let the dog carry the extra weight of love instead.

Now beauty is an interesting question that I’ve never really paid much attention to until recently.  Quite addictive.  It’s defeating, in school, when everybody’s more popular and nobody pays attention even when you do speak.  Once you’re a mother, it’s just a given that you’re not attractive.  The waistline is gone, the quick ponytail shows lack of care and, as all focus goes to the wee ones, the wardrobe and carriage quickly head south as well.  I could see it so easily in my peers, but it never occurred to me that we mirrored each other.  One day I realized I didn’t want to wait another month to pick up the armchair with my hips when I stood up.  No.  No more.  Within a year of deciding to dress for success every day, I began experiencing something completely new to me.  People noticed me.  Strangers smiled and said, “Hello!” in the grocery store.   Men in traffic pulled their shades down, Foster Grant style, to give me another look.  As I laughed to myself, the smile gathered even more.   Oh, this could definitely be intoxicating!

But I had to stop and look at what it was I truly sought.  Love?  Respect?  Honor?  Commanding attention from those I desired it from was shallow.  Feeding the hole in my heart with food for my stomach was deadening to every nerve in my soul, and yet still didn’t fill the craving.   Flaunting for looks came close, but still didn’t cut it.  It was just a look, never really interest in who I am inside.

And then the article asked another piercing question.  In determining what traps me, what loss would cause me to lose the will to live?  

I think the best answer to that question would be Love.  Anything I love, but also being loved.  The true, abiding, regardless-of-my-stupid-stunts kind of acceptance.  Despite what Hollywood has fed me, people are human, and there isn’t a single one out there that won’t let me down at some point.  Even my dad, saint that he was to me, never took me to the races at Santa Anita like he promised.

There is only one that can truly love me, because he knows me better than I know myself.  He fits that hole in my heart as though it were made for him, because I inadvertently yanked him out of it when I chose to follow my own wisdom.  When I turn back to him, I find he’s been waiting for me the whole time.  Mercifully, He fills me with His Spirit, which then allows the very character of Love itself to run through me.  Not only am I full, but my cup runneth over.  All I had to do was let go of the “my way or the highway” mindset and He led me right through the traps.