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a glimpse of the piece “Fully Alive,” I recently created on a 24″x36″ canvas.

my heart is full after the past few weeks. so much goodness. to marry my best friend in a place my heart loves was one of the best experiences of my life.

settling back into routine and figuring out next steps without being totally overcome by fear has been a bit challenging for me at times. there is such a thin line between being paralyzed or being motivated by my fears. now that I am living life as a professional creative/artist solely, I find myself walking that line for a period of time each day.

yesterday was my first full day back in the studio. decided to get to work on some large abstract canvas paintings I have been adding layers to for a couple of months.  it was good.  it was exactly where I needed to be.

earlier last week I attended a panel conversation at the Menil, “The Influence of Gandhi & Dr. King on Hip Hop,” and a number of the ideas spoken stirred me to think more deeply about the work I do, as well as the life in which I live.  the work I am creating now is my continuation of that conversation and the truths revealed regarding the complexity and beauty of the human experience.  last night I finished one of the pieces.

each stroke on the canvas was a sentence about vulnerability, fear, need for communion & hope, each layer a chapter on the goodness & messiness of the soul fully alive.

today, I sabbath.

I remain still so I can know and listen for direction.  I trust that no matter what is done today or left undone today, I am enough.

as for tomorrow though… I look forward to time with paint & canvas and returning to the grind necessary to turn my dreams into plans.

tomorrow I will…

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She turned her can’ts into cans, and her dreams into plans. -Unknown

Abbie Preston and I have been friends for about 3 1/2 years. We met while working for The Art Project, Houston, a project of the Bread of Life that empowers mostly men and women living on the streets of Houston to tap into their creativity, heal and re-imagine life.  It was there that our friendship began to bloom and dreams of future collaborations were soon born.  I remember a number of times we would sit after work and dream over coffee of what could be.

Earlier this year I was forced to stop.  The stopping creating space to be still, heal, discover new artists for daily inspiration, be exposed to a whole new world on pinterest, listen to life, be revived by grace, and begin re-imagine life without fear being louder than love.  It was beautiful.  Once I started to trust and surrender to the unfolding, things started to take shape in ways I had not believed were possible.

In June of this year my creativity found a home at Hardy & Nance Studios, where I share a studio with Abbie and Carole Sconfitto.  Amazing!  This step towards our dreams in this particular space created the opportunity for one of our dreams to become a reality… Stamps & Stencils!

Last weekend we hosted our first Stamps and Stencils, a mixed media workshop experience where each participant is provided the supplies and the instructions necessary to allow their creativity to flow. Each person was able to create stamps and two stencils that they used to make square or rectangle masterpieces by the end of the 2-hour experience.  Abbie and I use these techniques in the art we create, and found so much delight in sharing them with others and seeing what flowed from their creativity.

It was fabulous… a dream come true!

Special thanks to Abbie for sharing the journey with me, Cleve for being my partner & cheerleader in all of this, Andrea Sawyer-Gray (photographer & creative), Chap Edmonson (filmed & produced our Stamps & Stencils video), all of the friends who helped us set-up & breakdown, all the participants, my family for encouraging me to be the artist I am, the artists of TAPH for teaching me to be brave and all  those who invested in this event.

So thankful I do not have to go through this life alone.

Our next workshop experience is scheduled for Saturday, November 1 (7-9pm).
Stay tuned for details and reserve your space early, it is going to be a fun one!

You can view the Stamps & Stencils video on the Workshop page of http://www.larartphotography.com.

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stamps & stencils photography by Andrea Sawyer-Gray

Mother Theresa was once asked about her prayer life.

The interviewer asked, “When you pray, what do you say to God?”

Mother Teresa replied, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”

Believing he understood what she had just said, the interviewer next asked, “Ah, then what is it that God says to you when you pray?”

Mother Teresa replied, “He also doesn’t talk.  He also simply listens.”

There was a long silence, with the interviewer seeming a bit confused and not knowing what to ask next.

Finally Mother Teresa breaks the silence by saying, “If you can’t understand the meaning of what I’ve just said, I’m sorry but there’s no way I can explain it any better.”

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset“Teach me how to pray.”

this well-known request made to Jesus by his disciples in the Gospel of Luke has come to me often over the past 2-months, in those moments that I feel invited into intimate, one-on-one conversation with God.  It’s come to my mind because, really, right now I’m just finding it hard to pray, I’m wondering what I should say in prayer—is there a better formula?—and I’m wondering whether to pray at all…

it is not the first season in life I have struggled to pray.  it is not the first time I have felt as though I really do not know what or how to pray.  it is in these seasons I turn to sojourners of the faith, both dead and alive, for direction.  I turn to coffee conversations, ancient words, art and books, seeking a word that resonates and makes sense in light of the journey I am on with God these days.

I think I am starting to understand what Mother Teresa meant when she spoke of prayer being a mutual listening between her and God.

I am starting to understand the words I found on the Work of the People website today:

Often our listening is at the surface of things – we hear what we want to hear.  This practice of deep listening is what allows us to become aware of the patterns and shadows of our life.  Deep listening is a disciplined mind and attentive.  Deep listening is seeing that our emotions and our thoughts are not who we are.  Deep listening leads to a liberated spirit.

I think I am starting to understand that silence in the midst of a chatter-filled world and mind can be a gift that offers rest, clarity, healing, and a deeper understanding of Love’s presence in the world… in my life.

I am definitely starting to understand and vibe with the thought that prayer is not asking or trying to convince God to create a world… my life is that of my own choosing… prayer is becoming a practice where I open my heart and mind to God, being honest about my doubts, pains and, even, my fears of entrusting my heart and mind to a Love beyond my understanding; it is listening to God’s voice that resides deep within.

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it didn’t hurt to see her. I must confess I thought it would, but it didn’t.

when kate, who is less than 1 month away from giving birth walked into Blacksmith Coffee, I exhaled the anxiety and inhaled gratitude that the flood gates did not break. I saw her unexpectedly exactly a week before coming out of a bookstore across the street as I sat at the Blacksmith Coffee bar with another dear friend, and it hurt. hit me fast and hard that day. right there in that coffee shop an emotional land mine went off. thankfully that time Cleve was only a couple of bar stools away. it is always easier to make it through the explosions when he is near. this time, however, he was not and I was going to have to receive these moments on my own.

good news though… no explosion.

God knows, I did not want to cry up in that coffee shop again. I had, with some doubt, sent out two S.O.S. prayer requests before entering into the space. I was determined not to privilege that space with my tears again… I did not want to appear weak or out of control. strange the responsibility I often feel these days to sound or act as though I am ok or not often overcome with sorrow.

but that day, I was ok. I even found myself a bit giddy when she came close, reaching for her oval belly almost forgetting how invasive the act of robbing a woman’s stomach without invitation can be.

dang… I almost forgot.

it was all good though, and for that I am relieved. Kate is super cool and I really needed time with her wise beautiful soul. she is one of the women whose bullshit radar is just as keen as my own, so our time was filled with moments of transparency and truth. I crave that.

to be honest, I have never been good with small talk. Lately though, even 2-minutes of small talk drains me and if it goes on too long I find myself getting angry or at best frustrated.

but no small talk at Blacksmith that afternoon. we talked about normal things… health, pregnancy, work, routines, dreams, longings, house renovations, college plans, our loves and weight.

oh yes, the weight…

I told her about an encounter with someone at work the week before. I had walked into the work and was greeted by a staff member with lots of love, “Hello! How are you? When is the baby due?”

she had not gotten the memo.

shit, I thought in my head, but out of my mouth came “Oh, I loss the baby on December 4. She was born and died shortly after. So, no future due date.”

I could see the compassion in her eyes, regret and loads of discomfort. I was able to filter through my hurt quickly to recognize she meant love. I was not surprised by the quick sting that came with the reminder that I once moved around the halls of the BOL bearing a life within me. that sting has become normal, though not any less painful.

but I was surprised by the embarrassment and discomfort that hit me at the thought that I must still look like a person who could be pregnant. yet another battle I need to conquer for more reasons than vanity and health.

anyway… I told Kate about that encounter and jokingly she suggested I might want to carry a placard around with me that states:

“Before you speak, I am not pregnant anymore and here are all the things I have learned are not really helpful or encouraging to me…”

I had been thinking about the need for a placard, a sign on my forehead or something letting people know “Take Caution, please!.” I have actually been keeping a journal list of things that, though the motivation is good, are just not that helpful. Here are a couple, in no particular order and no commentary:

Oh, so sorry to hear that. Well, at least you still have your husband.

God was just needed her to be home with Him.

Sorry to hear about your baby. But hey, make another one. Try again.

When is the baby due?

Don’t cry, God has a plan.

the list goes on and on. just yesterday I added a comment.

death and loss is just one of those realities of life where our words will for the most part fall short. I have accepted that and it helps me listen with grace and most time gratitude. I get it, but it still doesn’t make the comments sting, piss me off or even hurt sometimes. each one takes my mind down a rabbit hole, only to get back to it is the fact it is all apart of getting through.

one thing my time received with Kate made evident, is that I am indeed getting through. our coffee time was a gift and one more step on this life-long journey. I look forward to more time with her and their little one due to enter the world next month. I am thankful for that. I am also extremely thankful that when I saw her walk through the door Monday, it didn’t hurt.

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Once again fear paid me a visit.

I gracefully packed his things

and told him it was time for him to leave.

He takes up way too much room, plus Love said She needed more space.

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The Place God Calls You To
Frederick Buechner

There are all kinds of different voices calling you to do all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego, or self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is the following: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you most need to do, and (b) that the world most needs to have done.

If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you’ve probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by your work, the chances are that you’ve not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

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I’ve tried to stand my ground
I’ve tried to understand
but I can’t seem to find my faith again

like water on the sand
or grasping at the wind
I keep on falling short

please be my strength
please be my strength
Cuz I don’t have anymore
I don’t have anymore

I’m looking for a place
that I can plant my faith
one thing I know for sure

I cannot create it
I cannot sustain it
It’s Your love that’s keeping (captured) me

Please be my strength…

at my final breath
I hope that I can say
I’ve fought the good fight of faith

I pray your glory shines
through this doubting heart of mine
so my world would know that You

You are my strength
You and You alone
You and You alone
Keep bringing me back home

-Gungor, please be my strength

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“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Lift
and
step.

The door has been opened for generations. Sometimes in the midst of the journey, the thick of it, I forget testimonies of the saints & sinners around me and those who have gone before. I can quickly forget my own and the grace that has helped me to lift and step, greeting me at the door.

Today I am thankful to have a testimony. I am thankful to be wrapped up in a community that has a story to tell and Ancient Words that always guide me to fully embracing the possibilities of life within and before me despite my fears, anxieties and insecurities.  Daily they bid me lift and step.

"Christianity is a way, not a state, and a Christian is never something one is, only something one can pray to become." W.H. Auden

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