Posted in Arts and Crafting

New Mercies

Today was a cold and blustery day. It began with a sunrise as beautiful as I had ever seen, but by the time I pulled over to grab a shot of it, it had been consumed by gorgeous purple clouds. So that is what I painted today, in my own whimsical way.

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

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Posted in Arts and Crafting, Chronicles of The Country Girl Experiment, Things To Contemplate

Chasing Your Creative Calling

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It has been a while since I posted here at the Country Girl Experiment. I went through a bout of Illness and recovery was slow. However, I am on the mend and thought I’d drop by and tug at your ear for a bit and share my creative testimony, at least as it applies to the last few months.

 

I have always been obsessed with art. All mediums, all surfaces, all the time. It gets my gears spinning to try a new thing, get in the zone and drown out all the stress and worries. For me, Artistic creativity is a communion with God. It is a silent sacred place where the language between me and my Savior is spoken in color, texture, and design. It is a place where healing enters in, the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart, my hands and my mind and I can just feel the Father’s presence and peace. The zone.  It has been my private retreat for many years and it is something that I have guarded and kept close to me, selfishly hoarding all that time for myself, ravenously devouring one new technique , one new medium after another, studying and practicing, until I master or at least become proficient in it and move on to the next. It has been a way of replacing bad memories with good ones, sorrow for joy, chaos for peace. If I am not creating something, with my hands, in my mind, in my prayer, in my soul and spirit I am depressed and cranky…. And up until now, it has been very personal and very private.

Lupus is a rough customer. It comes and goes like an a thief and steals your time and your energy and  your joy if you let it. I have been through one such flare over the last year, the longest one I’ve ever had, that left me utterly fatigued to the point where I would spend days in bed, sleep 15 hours at a time, unable to  do much.  No trips to the art table, the kiln room, the sewing machine or even a sketch pad for days on end. But… I could dream and dream I did. I would paint and create in my mind. I would dream about it and wake up with an inspiration for a canvas or a doll or a book that I wanted to bind. In my dreams I was dying wool and spinning art yarn and creating buttons from clay. In my mind I could see a  collage or a stack of handmade paper brilliantly colored.  I knew this was happening all along, that the Holy Spirit had been my muse, but I was so busy with kids and life and all the material things and petty things and ridiculous things and… that I did not recognize it until I got quiet and still and only had God to talk to. I began to heal up physically and spiritually, but life did not return to business as usual. I have only so many ” good” hours a day and I have to nap in the middle of the day to regain energy to keep going. I had to learn to eat differently, exercise daily, re-prioritize my time and priorities and focus on what really matters. I had to let some things go that were stealing precious time and invest in things that I was neglecting.  I had to seek forgiveness and forgive. I had to shake the dust off my feet sometimes and sometimes eat crow.. lots of crow.  And for the Love of God, I’ve had to learn to control my tongue ( still on going) and my attitude about the behavior of others… Hence the crow.  I am learning to keep my eyes on the cross. Mathew 5 :24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

As soon as my energy began to return, I would wake up with a painting in my head and run straight to my sketch pad so I would not forget it. I would hear worship music and an entire art journal page would emerge. I began to pray for inspiration and direction in my art. I committed time every day to it. … and then it happened. That moment when God called me out of the safety of my little art table to share what I was doing with others.

Exodus 35:10 And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the LORD hath commanded;
Exodus 35:35 Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.

At first I just showed off a little on face book and then people began to ask me questions and so I answered. People wanted to learn techniques so I showed them. They wanted art, I gave it away, astonished that anyone would want to have any of the odd art that was produced from my little table. People were as amazed with my process as anything else  and I began to see that I was not the only one who was wrapped up in the beautiful vision of this creative drive.  This art that came as a direct result of my relationship with Christ has become known to me now as my creative calling.

1 Corinthians 15 :58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

So now as I write this, as I feel the aches and pains of this disease creeping around, I am smiling because it reminds me to go to my knees and get quiet and  listen. It reminds me that Jesus longs to be with me, to have a relationship with me,to be a part of me. It reminds me that this gift was given to me to be given. It is so intricately a part of who I am that I sometimes take it for granted but my prayer is that I wont. I pray that I never forget how empty my life was without it. It’s something I have to do.  I can feel a nap coming on and I can’t wait to dream.

What is your creative  calling?

Posted in Things To Contemplate

I went to a strip club

I was just so touched by this I had to share this. Thank you Anna for your amazing bold heart and your willingness to allow God to be Bigger than all our sins, all our attitudes and narrow thinking. Thank you for being a lover of broken hearts.

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strip clubA while back I was asked by a group of pastor’s wives to go with them to strip clubs.

That sentence alone sounds strange. But hang with me.

At first I was a little hesitant. And not for reasons you might think.

I love people. Especially ones who are broken; it’s part of my calling. But, given what I’ve walked through, I know how fragile broken people can be.

And I know how insensitive the church can be.

And I was uneasy.

But, these weren’t just any pastors wives.

They had a vision.

One that longed to love on women that society had thrown aside.

It reminded me a lot of Jesus.

So, I jumped on it.

Their plan was to visit these clubs once a month to deliver a meal and gift baskets. I joined them the first night and I’ll be honest, I had NO IDEA what to expect.

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Posted in Things To Contemplate

The Love Umbrella or how to wipe the B.S. from your chin.

I am a doodler. I doodle whatever form of artsy thing I am studying at the time. I do it when people are talking, lecturing, or whatever. I do it if I am listening to a radio or taking notes for a class. To some people this might seem rude but it helps me focus. I am a bit ADHD and it helps to to keep from being distracted by environmental stimuli that sometimes make me zone out. If a guy walks by with a blue comb-over while your talking to me about Trump politics, the blue comb-over wins every time.   So I mindlessly focus on my doodle with my ears open and take notes.  trump

When my pastor teaches, I follow him in this way. I understand his rules of engagement. He greets us and talks about our lives and what is going on in his life as he prepares to teach to create a warm comfortable environment for us to learn in.  I open my bible and follow whatever scripture he is teaching with notebook in hand ready to  take notes. I know that he will tell me for example, ” there are three points I want you to know about….” I know when he starts numbering, I will have sub categories and points to remember, so I note and doodle and draw and focus on what I hear.

But then there is a point when there is a shift in his voice, he moves away from his notes and the teaching will change to preaching. At that moment, I put down my pencil and my head pops up and I make eye contact (because I know that he will),  also because I know at this point, he will be saying what God put on his heart to tell us about the passage he just taught. He will sum it up. He will say to us in plain ole’ New Mexico English… how the cow ate the cabbage.  The Umbrella instruction.

He’s done three things here that nurture relationship:

  1. He’s created an environment of love and acceptance to translate his message. The pastors, praise team and church members go to a lot of trouble to do this. It’s valuable.
  2. He’s given relevant information in order for me to understand the message in a way that is clear and repeatable.
  3. He’s concluded his message with a shift from rules to transaction, where it is time to engage and apply the Word.

I use this example because it is, to me, a picture of a healthy love umbrella: The creation of an environment of love to relay information to nurture or further a relationship.

Where Christ sets the bar, the rules of engagement under the umbrella of love become limited. Not just anything goes.  Love itself is not a transaction but rather an environment in which to create relationships.  The transactions themselves, the give and take, the if /then, the reciprocation of thoughts and feelings and the application of the message, whatever it may be is covered in  an an environment that is safe and focused on love.

Here is what the Umbrella looks like:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Some of us need to work on our umbrella before engaging in relationship at all. It is absolutely the groundwork for whatever else you engage in your life. Parenting, marriage, friendship, business, recovery, healing, creativity and even quiet stillness of just being together are defined by it.

It’s hard work to learn to think like Christ.

It means tearing apart your current way of loving and living and deciding if it’s love at all.

It’s about calling yourself on the carpet and wiping the BS off your own chin.

It’s about getting the plank out of your own eye, accepting your responsibility in your relationship failures and working to make amends.

It is about forgiveness whether the other person deserves it or not, even when they are sure they did nothing wrong.

It’s about leaving your gift at the alter and making it right.

It’s about keeping your mouth shut when God is not filling it.

It’s about creating an environment to love in.

It’s about choosing to trust God to remove all the dirt, hate, muck, unforgiveness that is hard wired into us as a way to protect ourselves and allowing God to protect us. Its about getting up close and personal about things we cannot change or remove in our own power. It’s about stepping out, getting real and swallowing pride. It’s about choosing to be changed by a power greater than your own, by Grace.

 

I woke up this morning with this on my heart. Having to tear down and look at my responsibility as a Christian in my relationships has been a rough puppy for me this week.   No excuses.  Just calling a goose a goose. Boy, do I have some work to do.

Posted in Things To Contemplate

Rethinking my 60 before 60 list

I stood at the mirror looking at my face and the new lines that had appeared over the last year, a few new strands of silvery glitter in my hair and the strange color that my eyebrows were turning and proceeded to work.  A few days before Goliath had hit, an epic record breaking snow storm, I had treated myself to a few handfuls of age defying products to combat the new face in the mirror. 12509545_10208353677742442_8200120312772787011_nDue to the snow storm, I had been distracted by staying warm and being stuck in the house with teenagers and a pubescent tween for days and failed to even remove those items from the bag, but today the roads were finally clear enough to head to town so I layed out the items on the counter, ready to create a new work of art on my head. Some concealer,a face primer, lip plumper, a cream or two, pencils and age-defying foundation and I was off to the ball park.

I loaded up the mini-van and headed off slipping and sliding down the road with a loud crew of 6 and a mission to make it to that 5 dollar cup of glorious java that awaited me at the coffee shop of my choice. As i rounded the corner and hit the 1/2 mile incline of dirt road, the van began to slip and slide and ping off of snow drifts which provoked a chorus of roller coaster screams coming from inside the van. I could hear my own voice as well in the screaming mess but it was not because of the road conditions. It was about then that the lip plumper kicked in. Apparently hell-fire is one of the ingrediants in that stick of torture. It was do or die, my kids or my lips. There was no stopping and taking my hands off the wheel to comfort myself or to try to stop the skin from peeling from my face.  I thought I might pass out or throw up so I just screamed to keep myself from doing so.   I was praying in my mind ” sweet Jesus, this must be what it means to burn forever in hell and not die. I’m sorry, Dear God, I am sorry for whatever and everything I ever did ever”. When I finally reached the bottom of the hill and passed the first cattle guard, the pain had started to decline a bit and I had enough sense not to mention this to anyone in the car.  I had broken into a sweat and was not sure I could Hide it so I opened the window and turned on the radio and they thought I was just having a hot flash. I’m not sure if you know what happens when teenagers are aware of your insecurities and old age concerns but they are witty and intelligent and trained by you so the things they will say and do just to laugh at you are horrific.  I did however, manage to look in the rear view mirror expecting to see a burn victim and was pleasantly surprised that I only looked like I got stung by a swarm of bees.

The things we do to combat the onset of age is nothing short of insanity. Seriously, I have bought so many products to keep the wrinkles from coming that I could treat a raisin back to its former self.  It occurred to me at the bottom of the hill, is this really worth it? Why not instead just hang out with people who don’t think your ugly?

All I really need to do is eat right, exercise and drink lots of water. But instead I talk my husband into taking me to the winter park to ride an inner-tube down a mile long section of the mountain to prove I can still do it. ( I don’t know why I am attracted to inclines). As i was bouncing around off of glaciers and praying to Jesus not to let me die, all I could hear getting closer and closer was the resonating laughter of my cowboy at the bottom of the hill.  I don’t know why this made me so mad. I was hoping that I had gained enough momentum to fly up and knock him down with my tube but I got distracted by my bloody nose and the chunk of snow in my eye. He was saved by the 20 extra pounds I had put on over the holiday season…. And I had proved nothing to anyone, except the guy at the top of the hill who copped a feel as I was trying to get into my tube without plummeting head first down a mountain, who said I was kinda old for this.

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I am thinking my glory days are over and are being replaced with slowing metabolisms, stool softeners and greens. I don’t know why I care. Its just that I am  having to rethink my 60 before I’m 60 list. Maybe I don’t need to hike the entire Grand Canyon or go to the longest water slide in the world. Perhaps I don’t need to hunt an elk with a bow and arrow or go to Florida to pick my own oranges. Maybe no on the monster truck thing.  Maybe I could  slow down enough not to die and keep going enough that I  am able to enjoy my life without being in traction.

I am just astounded by the things I have done in the past year or so that I never, ever though I would do like mindlessly removing layers of clothes and standing in the open freezer door or putting my naked skin next to the sliding glass door when its 27 degrees outside to relieve a hot flash or forgetting what I am doing while I am doing it and walking out of the room to retrace my steps and realize I was in there to take a nap.  I’m eventually going to get arrested or committed.  I’m afraid I am going to get to heaven and Jesus is going to slap me on the back and say ” thanks for the entertainment, that was a hoot”.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Things To Contemplate

Just Miserable Enough

Joy took me to the woodshed.

WOOSH… as the sliding glass doors opened automatically, there was a blast of fall air that caught me by surprise as the merry couple entered.

” Oh stop it, Bill!” I heard her say as she frowned and giggled all at once.

I looked up to see a little balding lady dressed in red and jingle bells with a Santa hat upon her bald head come limping/skipping through the wide doorway of the office. Standing next to her was a tall, plump man with a Santa hat upon his own newly shaved head poking her in the ribs in a playful, husband kind of way. He looked at her like she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.  They made quite an entrance with all their noisy banter and obnoxiously pro-Christmas cheer and took their place in the chairs next to me under a sign that read Cancer Treatment Center.

They annoyed me the instant I saw them.  I am ashamed to say that I wanted to throat-punch a little bald lady with cancer. I did not want to be reminded that my circumstances were not really that bad. I was quite content being miserable and sad and feeling sorry for myself. And they ruined it.

I don’t have cancer, I needed lab work done.  But she did. I was not dying, But she might. I was there simply because I was uncomfortable and needed a blood test. Bill and the Jingle Bell Lady were making me  even more uncomfortable and I could not wait to get out of there. I was sitting next to two of the happiest people alive and they were completely encroaching on my alone time which I chose to use at that moment to be irritable.  They giggled and jingled and laughed and talked and smiled and smooched. UHHGGG!!! The last thing I wanted at that moment was to see happy people who really didn’t have anything to be happy about as far as I could see getting their happiness on me while I was working so hard not to be happy.

You See, I have made an art out of  being just miserable enough to hold onto my own miserable junk, pretending that I might need said junk for something later, perhaps to help another soul such as myself that would like to dance around in misery with me. Perhaps we could even mix our miseries together and create a perfect blend of poo soup to share.  We could feed off each other.

Of course I was not consciously thinking this, but my old pre-Jesus nature tends to creep up when my circumstances are not conducive to my happiness. It pulls up all the crap I keep buried deep down, as if my circumstances and my crap are somehow connected.  Then up it comes like projectile vomit, getting all over everything and everybody.  Knowing all I know about grace, still I keep trying desperately to be somebody. To matter. To shine. To be good enough. To have all my sin, all the sin that others have poured upon me and all the horrific, unspeakable effects of it to do just one thing: Be very very important.

It ain’t.

Let that notion go right now if your goal is to be Joyful. We all want to be happy but happiness and Joy are not the same things. Happiness is temporary and it’s based on  where you are, what you have and who your with at the moment. But Joy… that’s another matter all together. Joy has nothing at all to do with your circumstances. Joy is about the hope and faith we  have that God has got this whole thing in his hands. Joy is a celebration of our belief in his promises.  It’s gratitude for every second, every breath of air in our lungs, His presence in our tragedy and loss, His hope. It’s truly magical. Joy is spiritual.

Now if your just looking for a place to hang out with your junk, then by all means stop here. The coffee is always on and I will be happy to talk to you for hours about how miserable we have all been and how it’s effected us. I am still working on letting it go and apparently I am still get so wrapped up in my own self that I don’t see the pain and suffering of others sometimes.  But if you are looking for the Joy of the Lord, you will have to keep moving toward the cross and stop telling yourself the lies I’ve been telling my own entitled spirit.

Things like; What I’ve been through has made me what I am… I can use this stuff to help others…It’s my roots… It’s family… I can’t have gone through all this for nothing, it has to matter.

The truth is this; What I have been through made me the old sinful person I was, Christ has made me what I am; forgiven, redeemed, adopted, healed. I can’t use anything to help anyone, I don’t have that kind of power, but God can. I only have the power to choose where to plant my seeds so that my roots grow down into that place, I can choose to place my roots into Him. And No it does not have to matter…. why on earth we choose to relive our misery over and over is a crazy thing. But I have done it for years. It’s time it didn’t matter. It’s time that it was dead and gone and a new life with hope and joy and laughter and excitement begins. LET IT GO.  Choose Joy instead. Choose to work with God to create the life you would be giddy to live. Choose to create. Choose to laugh. Choose to trust, to forgive, to believe, to hope, to wipe the slate clean. Choose Joy. No matter what your circumstances are. Let go of the drama, mama.

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Finally, they called my name for lab work and as I walked through the door to the lab, I passed a room filled with chairs and I V bags and I realized that in just a few moments that is where Jingle Bell Wife would be sitting. I’d never seen that before.  A sorrowful lump formed in my throat at just how ungrateful I could be.(  Not because she needed my pity, certainly not. She had joy, she had doctors and a loving husband and jingle bells) but because once again I failed to recognize my worth to Christ  and traded it instead for a few moments to play with my old, dead, dry bones.

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Posted in Things To Contemplate

No explanation needed!

I don’t particularly remember the trip from the ceiling to the floor but I remember the feeling of cold paint oozing from beneath me and covering my entire back side. Before I even opened my eyes I knew that I was lucky, there was no pain and  I was alone in the room. As one eye flickered open and then the other I could see that the ceiling fan was quite dirty and in my mind I was cleaning it. That’s the way my mind works. Talk about denial.  After a few seconds my entire family  was standing around me, mouths open, chins on chests. Not alone anymore.100_5366

Pumpkin spice was the color I chose for that accent wall and now it accented everything from the bounce of the container that I  was  holding and the sploosh of the can I landed on. How festive. My couch, my lamp shades, the printer, the rugs,…orange spice.

Utterly humiliated, I took the hand of the man who was just a few seconds earlier minding his own football business and stood to my feet anticipating agony at any second. The only pain was the dripping of the paint from my  hair to my favorite hippy-meditation yoga pants  to my favorite sandals and the sight of the newly decorated couch in orange pumpkin splotches which now matched the curtains.

With eye rolling effort, the entire family jumped in to help clean my horrific mess and try to restore some semblance of peace to this Sunday afternoon. No one asked for an explanation. They knew that sometimes my joints don’t do what they are supposed to. They know that sometimes I give out without any notice at all. They also know that everyday I am going to keep trying and savor all those moments that my joints don’t give out, that I’m not too tired or that I have not contracted the latest infection or virus.  They know I will keep climbing up ladders  during my good 3 or 4 hours a day in hopes of a normal day. Sometimes I get normal and joyful, in spite of lupus.

It is bliss to be in a place where everyone ( most of the time) is mindful of  my junk, I am mindful of theirs and we love each other, care for each other and we don’t have to talk about it or give explanations 20 times a day. One of my kids said to me, recently regarding my illness. ” Stop feeling guilty about being sick mom, you don’t have to give everyone an explanation of why you can’t be there or how come you gave up your post here or there or why you need a nap in the middle of their crisis. You don’t owe anyone anything. You have always been a care taker, and now you’re not. It’s just that simple. So the rest of the world can just suck it up. Its time for you to make some changes  and be a caretaker for yourself.”  I raised wise kids.

There are places I don’t go and people I don’t talk to anymore because of how angry they are with me for having to change. I am through giving explanations. I know its hard to understand a disease you can’t see. So what if they think I am lazy or selfish. I know it’s not that and the people who depend on me know that. So I am taking my good hours everyday to take care of my most important, my priority stuff, my mom and wife stuff.  I am taking out some valuable time to laugh, make art, heal up, and do things on my 65 before 65 list. Got a roof over my head, food in my fridge, art supplies, wi-fi and my bible. My husband, my besties and my family get me, love me, and accept me. My God is doing an amazing work in me. That’s kind of all I  need.

And my pumpkin Spice accent wall that went with my pillows and color scheme? I did go take that nap before everything was cleaned up. I told them I would finish it when I regenerated. But when I got up it was done and my tragic orange wall was a beautiful shade of blue, perfectly painted and gorgeous. Turns out I got outvoted. Cowboy hated that pumpkin spice paint.  Well-done family.  It worked out for the best. Orange makes me fall down. 100_5369

All that and no one cleaned the ceiling fan… Where did he put that ladder?