creativity

A Bountiful Existence

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Early Summer mornings were mine. Looking back, my family’s acreage was modest but charming. A hat-tip to childlike innocence, though. To my way of thinking back then it was expansive and idyllic, just like the hot days and cool nights of Northern Michigan.

My Dad, a pharmacist and my Mother, an artist-turned-shopkeeper, owned a pharmacy and gift shop in town. When we were not pulled into the rigors of a family business, we were all about life on 30 acres of woodsy countryside, and the lake nearby.

There was so much to discover and explore, and my favorite time  was just after sunrise. The morning glories and hollyhocks would nod their greetings as I would venture out in my sleep clothes, ever curious what the new day held. Time would hold its breath while I picked lilacs and bury my face in their heady scent. Lilies of the valley and violets would poke their noses out from the beds along the edge of the house. There was always an abundance of beauty, if you watched for it.

Situated at the corner of the mowed grass, just before the stand of stately pine trees, was an old apple tree. It was perfect in every way; it’s long, low branches beckoned me to climb. My doll would join me at times. Oft’ recovering from her countless concussions from being waggled through my girly-girl-gone-tomboy-and-back-again existence, she was a quiet friend. I’m not sure she could get a word in edgewise anyway.

A rural life fostered creativity. The raw materials were so plentiful – whether berries or flowers, antique tools or something as simple hay baling twine – inquisitiveness was constant, the mystery of, “What’s next?” And what child would not be enthralled with an old phonograph, complete with records? Perhaps it belonged to my Dad’s grandparents. Nevertheless, we would wind it and listen to old music and climb the rafters of the old barn.

Of course we had horses. Some of us were more involved than others, with their livelihood. (And, by involved, I do mean hauling water from the house to the barn in the dead of winter.) There were the loads of hay that we hauled into the barn. Bales. I doubt I was 10 yet but I could hold my own. Once the hay was in, though, we had great fun making forts in the barn and being everywhere that our curiosity took us.

John Denver’s song, On The Road so aptly depicts our lives, however simple yet magical:

Back in 1958 we drove an old V8 and when it’d gone a hundred thou’ we got out and pushed it a mile
We didn’t know who we were, we didn’t know what we did
We were just on the road
Headin’ down from Canada on a gravel road a mile from Montana
Then my Daddy read a sign and took us in the wrong direction
I asked my Daddy where are we goin’, he said we’ll just follow
Our nose, so I looked out the window and dreamed I was a cowboy
We didn’t know who we were, we didn’t know what we did
We were just on the road
I met a girl in a truck cafe, fell in love almost right away
Then the Mercury was ready to go and I had to leave her
Shoo-be-doo-be-doo-Sh-doo
Shoo-be-doo-be-doo-Sh-doo-Sh-doo
Go home said the man in the moon go home
Go home
— On The Road, John Denver

 

While we didn’t push an old V8 anywhere, we most definitely followed our nose in car rides deep into the woods where we’d stop to pick berries, or watch the elk.

Nowadays, few mornings go by, that I do not sit outside and watch the sun come up. Even in wintertime, I’ll step out for a minute, fend off the drifts and catch a breath of winter-y silence. It doesn’t matter where we find ourselves, our lives are replete with the ingredients to live a bountiful existence. It’s about being enchanted by the simple things, the old phonograph, a fort in the hay barn, or the violets at the edge of the house.

~ Ciao!

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Beauty at Risk

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A gardenia bush blooms by the front door of the house. It’s fragrance evokes feelings of nostalgia. Without thinking I pluck a bloom whose leaves were bruised, and set it on my desk. To my delight, it’s fragrance filled the office, and I thought about something a family friend once told me.

Pauline had a gardenia bush that she kept in her home. In Northern Michigan a gardenia bush hasn’t a prayer outdoors with the weather-ly elements. But year after year, that small bush bloomed in it’s sunny corner of the room. It was Pauline who told me that a gardenia’s most poignant aroma comes from a bloom whose leaves were slightly bruised.

I cannot help but ponder the metaphor about life I’d just stumbled on. When looking at the white perfection of a bloom it seems impossible that bruising would have a purpose or function. Can it be true that the deepest and richest aspects of our lives are borne out of pain and loss? So often we put off grief and keep pain at arm’s length. Our walls stay high so we stay dry. Indeed. I’ve never been so dry, and crackly uncreative as those seasons when my walls were up. Arms flailing and inappropriate, silent gestures to the world at large … my pain. My world. “How dare you rock my boat?” These are words I’ve whispered in the direction of those who have hurt me. The petals of a gardenia are not bruised intentionally. But when it happens a deeper, even more priceless beauty is evoked: aroma.

So often we are desperate to retain that gracious, white perfection in our lives that we refuse to live. We refuse to try lest we make a mistake, lest we be the ones delivering the bruise to another. In order to really live we must learn to allow ourselves to make mistakes.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” — C.S. Lewis

I live life with a focus on the numerous gifts and goodness that have come my way, but I must admit I have experienced a lot of losses. I identify with Lewis’ train of thought. When so many loved ones have come and gone; so many failures outweigh so few victories. Then there are questions of whether or not the victories are the right victories? After a while it seems simplest to just stay out of it. Stay out of harm’s way. No more bruising. No more mistakes.

And then the priceless realization. Did you know that the oil from a person’s fingertip can cause a gardenia’s petals to bruise? Or the delicate visit of a hummingbird, a falling leaf, a raindrop? And so it is with our hearts. At times there is a truth that we needed to face, a season of maturing, or a chance to become less victimized. It’s a design for life. The elements that we genuinely need to grow and become will find us, no matter how careful we are, no matter how much we surround ourselves with ‘safe people’.

Our task is to receive the moment like the morning dew. Let God do His work in our hearts. We press past the yawning grief and fear, and we become the beauty that the season intends.

Ciao!

Entering the Creative Process

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The bird also has found a house and the swallow a nest for herself

where she may lay her young. 

Psalm 84:3

With a singular focus and deliberation the bird circles and circles until she finds a safe place in which to nest. She is stirred and on a mission until she finds what it is she is looking for: a place. And then she broods, rarely if ever leaving until her eggs hatch.

A woman intuitively looks for safe places in which to lay her young, whether it’s for the children of her womb or the artistic endeavors of her spirit. She longs to give birth to the verses and the stories and the melodies but until their appointed time they remain hidden deep within … taking form, growing, nourished through her until they are able to sustain life on their own.

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man,

All that God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Cor 2:9

Scripture talks about how the way of the Spirit of God is mysterious. I would venture to say that the way of the Spirit is not unlike the mystery of conception and birth. A baby is a twinkle in her Daddy’s eye … he’s got a great idea. But from the point of where the idea begins until he bounces that sweet-faced child on his knee … we can only marvel!

When we enter into the creative process we are partnering with God to bring the stuff of the Spirit into the natural realm. The miracle of birth is always God’s doing but every time His own DNA mingles with that of the child’s parents. And let’s not forget about the heart. God always mixes in love, an ingredient He never forgets. Whether a creative work or the much hoped-for wee child: all that originates in His heart bears His image, His thumbprint.

As women we are utterly consumed with the birth process: awaiting the day when our knowing look will give us away; carrying the planted seed within, stretching out our lives to prepare for its presence; yielding to the transition and then the inevitable, unavoidable birth process. If a mother does not give birth she will likely die and certainly her child will die. Birth is not optional. Her body literally changes structure, her emotions are all fiercely protective and locked in on one objective: to bring this child into the world. And so it is with the creative works that He plants into our hearts, designed to come from us. Beautiful and yet ugly; awkward and yet perfectly orchestrated, red-faced and slippery our little ones come into this world.

Just as a mother has a core-level connection with her infant so have we with our creative works. Nothing is so wildly beautiful to a mother than the face of her son or daughter. From the outside we observe and critique but a mother never hears friend or foe call her baby ugly. Her role and calling are to lovingly carry, lead, discipline and cheer her child until he reaches full maturity.

Revision upon revision, reshaped until it stands on it’s own. One day the song will sing its melody in hidden places throughout the earth. The story will tell itself to the nations                      … until the day in which the melody expands and the story’s seed is flung to the wind.

And Father’s heart will have expanded once again.

With dove’s eyes the Creative will again find a safe place in which to lay her young.

Ciao!

Yielding to Creativity

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It’s a glorious experience to watch the autumn leaves fall to the ground in flaming reds and yellows. I’m reminded of Genesis 1:2 that says, “…the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” I’ve heard it described that the Spirit of God was brooding over the waters.

The Lord gave me a picture of Himself brooding over the creative seeds and plantings He’s placed inside of us, until He sees them germinate and bear fruit.

There are words inside of us that only we can say. Yet those words when, in their due season, finally connect with pen and paper, they carry with them the very DNA of the Kingdom of God. They carry creative life. They are weighty words that pierce hearts. Phrases are turned and tuned in such a way that they become the anthem from a distant country. It’s not even the words themselves but the anointing of our very lives – the price that we’ve paid in hidden places, having submitted to transformation into the likeness of God. They are God-words with a mission known only to Him and, like heat-seeking missiles they pierce the hearts of the desperate ones, those who are parched for a drop of living water.

And so we invite you, Holy Spirit, to reach into the crevices of our lives and find something that would please you. Help yourself to whatever you find, and make it Your own – a scrap of something that you can transform. Breathe on the heartbroken; truly see the forgotten one, and embrace your distant son or daughter.

In like fashion we brood over those You’ve placed on our hearts, the artists, actors, vocalists, writers, and producers – lives laden with creative seeds, beautiful plantings designed to glorify You. Sift their hearts. Play through us the song of the Kingdom as we touch their lives. Bring Your lost ones home.

Uncharted Territory

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While driving through New Mexico and Arizona we were wildly aware of the terrain. We would easily drive for hours and see no inhabited civilization. Nada. For hours. We would see ghost towns, and long-vacated structures in the vast expanses but nothing would have caused me to off-road and discover them.

As hundreds of miles of desert and rocky bluffs passed by, we were grateful for the freeway even when the road quality was lacking. I-40 often ran in parallel to the historic Route 66, which was built in the 1920’s. To the side of the highway we often saw two-track etched into the rock, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that was some of the original road westward, first defined by by footfall and then wagon trains, finally by vehicles. Like an engraving it was a sure path if the sojourner could ignore all the questions and unknowns.

I think I held my breath from Albuquerque, NM to Victorville, CA, praying we wouldn’t have a flat tire or some other vehicular dismay. I can’t imagine the fortitude of the true pioneers who endured those jagged cliffs for months on end … based on a word from a distant land, or from a newspaper article. What if they had never left the colonies? What if they hadn’t believed that there was ‘gold in them thar hills’? What if the TransContinental Railroad had never been built? What if the Wright Brothers had lost their sense of curiosity? What if those pioneering women had not had the courage to become the wives of strangers, and create a nation?

As we drove through that space of two days I was keenly aware of how we are wired to be pioneers. We gain it from our ancestors no matter our country of origin. Someone, somewhere in our past travelled long, dusty roads to reach a place they called ‘home’. And they made it a home for us. They built up the land and invested themselves into making it a place of rest, a place of industry. They prayed as they tilled the ground. Our nation has a foundation of prayer and tremendous pioneered effort, always someone going further ‘west’ into a place that has never been discovered before. Not long ago, the dot.com industry had instant appeal and almost just as suddenly it collapsed. But look at online retail today! I recently reserved an apartment 1500 miles away, set up electricity, water, gas and internet for the apartment almost before I’d even seen it in person! Okay it wasn’t as slick as that but very close!

There are many challenges in life which cause us to say, “I’ve never been this way before.” Risks in business, next-steps in relationships, people testing our mettle, quietly sifting our character. Rise to the challenge. Be the pioneer! Step into that new dimension of who your Creator has designed you to be. Status quo has that stale achy feeling to it because you were never intended to stay in it’s space. In creative edginess, whatever that looks like for you, you will realize your connection with men of old, like Abraham who “went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, … for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

When we take on something that is bigger than we are, a dream that was planted in our hearts by God Himself, we step into something unique and great and powerful. And because it was His dream first we can trust that He’s more invested in it even than we are. And while we don’t always know the way, because it really is uncharted territory, we can trust that we know the Dreamer and He’ll see us through.

Entering the Creative Process

Posted on Updated on

The bird also has found a house and the swallow a nest for herself

where she may lay her young. 

Psalm 84:3

With a singular focus and deliberation the bird circles and circles until she finds a safe place in which to nest. She is stirred and on a mission until she finds what it is she is looking for: a place. And then she broods, rarely if ever leaving until her eggs hatch.

A woman intuitively looks for safe places in which to lay her young, whether it’s for the children of her womb or the artistic endeavors of her spirit. She longs to give birth to the verses and the stories and the melodies but until their appointed time they remain hidden deep within … taking form, growing, nourished through her until they are able to sustain life on their own.

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man,

All that God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Cor 2:9

Scripture talks about how the way of the Spirit of God is mysterious. I would venture to say that the way of the Spirit is not unlike the mystery of conception and birth. A baby is a twinkle in her Daddy’s eye … he’s got a great idea. But from the point of where the idea begins until he bounces that sweet-faced child on his knee … we can only marvel!

When we enter into the creative process we are partnering with God to bring the stuff of the Spirit into the natural realm. The miracle of birth is always God’s doing but every time His own DNA mingles with that of the child’s parents. And let’s not forget about the heart. God always mixes in love, an ingredient He never forgets. Whether a creative work or the much hoped-for wee child: all that originates in His heart bears His image, His thumbprint.

As women we are utterly consumed with the birth process: awaiting the day when our knowing look will give us away; carrying the planted seed within, stretching out our lives to prepare for its presence; yielding to the transition and then the inevitable, unavoidable birth process. If a mother does not give birth she will likely die and certainly her child will die. Birth is not optional. Her body literally changes structure, her emotions are all fiercely protective and locked in on one objective: to bring this child into the world. And so it is with the creative works that He plants into our hearts, designed to come from us. Beautiful and yet ugly; awkward and yet perfectly orchestrated, red-faced and slippery our little ones come into this world.

Just as a mother has a core-level connection with her infant so have we with our creative works. Nothing is so wildly beautiful to a mother than the face of her son or daughter. From the outside we observe and critique but a mother never hears friend or foe call her baby ugly. Her role and calling are to lovingly carry, lead, discipline and cheer her child until he reaches full maturity.

Revision upon revision, reshaped until it stands on it’s own. One day the song will sing its melody in hidden places throughout the earth. The story will tell itself to the nations                      … until the day in which the melody expands and the story’s seed is flung to the wind.

And Father’s heart will have expanded once again.

With dove’s eyes the Creative will again find a safe place in which to lay her young.