Discovering Radiance

Living starts in-between your ears. It was something like this that my hometown pastor said during Sundays message. He was saying how sometimes before a week even begins, the list of things that must be done can be overwhelming and make you feel far busier or more rushed than you even really are. With my last post being about devotions or meditating on God’s word, for me through sketching, reading various books and making connections, I had to share my thoughts on “living between your own ears”.

In the evening, after that morning message, I was reading “Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. I loved how she cited other artists and writers who, whether directly or not, seemed to have this call for the movement of Slow Art. We are surrounded by all these tools these days that are supposed to speed up processes of everything, from cooking to contacting people, but somewhere in that mindfulness has been lost.

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It has taken me twenty-eight years to sort of barely just figure out a little bit better how my own mind works. As an artist, introvert is often a blanket term tossed around, and I am comfortable with that term. Essentially, for me, it is being comfortable with solitude, being alone with out being lonely. In reading Claire’s book, I couldn’t help but connect my solitude, and working in it, with mindfulness. Taking the time to think through a project, a drawing, a painting, a series, gives me a chance to engage with it, sort things out beyond the project and get things sorted out between my ears. The author says something about the long amount of time it takes for her to regain concentration after engaging with external digital media, and I couldn’t agree more, as it can make me completely lose momentum in a drawing or painting.

Beyond my art, connecting more with the idea of lists or schedules like the pastor was pointing out, it can be so distracting to live fast. We can see twenty people’s opinion on a news story on Twitter in under twenty seconds, we can scroll through hundreds of pictures in less than a minute on Instagram, and we can start a group message with people all over the United States and get dozens of replies with in a matter of seconds. Actions that used to take a whole day, like to research or write to someone or about something now can be done in less than fifteen minutes. On this overload of media and images and messages, it can be hard to leave room to take things slow, to meditate on good things, or to be mindful.

Pslam 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This Psalm is how pastor finished his message, and I love it. In the context of today, we have all seen that person in distress from their hectic schedule, trying to keep up, they look exhausted. On the flip side, someone who has just taken the time to get a massage, or a weekend trip, or something, anything that is very deliberately un-rushed, always seem to glow, do they not? Well, what if every day, we took the time to meditate on Him, find that time to be mindful, make deliberate choices, wouldn’t we daily glow?

Start between your ears. Quiet your mind. Put the cellphone away. Pull out a pencil, a needle and thread, a paintbrush or a book and take it slow. You might just find yourself beaming!

 

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Thanks Best Friend

I told myself that I would finish three books by the end of December. When it comes to December goals, being the salt, giving, adding finishing three books didn’t seem like a stretch. The only issue is, I get distracted fairly easily while reading, because a point from the book will remind me of a song, another book, or a Bible verse and I will head off in that direction to look up those lyrics, line or verse.

It seemed important I set a goal on these particular books because I’ve been immersed in two for some time now. The first one “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller was a pre-wedding gift from my cousin and bridesmaid, Carlie. “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas is the second that I began soon after Scott passed, and am very close to finishing it. Finally, I am half way through “Be the Gift” by Ann Voskamp. While all of these books are handling a different topic, I am thoroughly enjoying the overlapping facts I am discovering.

Ann’s book has challenged me to be the gift through word or action, living a life daily given. Meanwhile, Robert’s book, more about prayer, really challenged in chapters six and seven to live on the border, to serve those who we might not normally serve. I combined those two ideas to how can I give to those on the border, how can I reach out and give to those I wouldn’t normally. This has been a challenge of sorts as I have shared how I can be shy and it is far easier to stay with in our comfort zones.

After reading a chapter about friendship in Timothy Keller’s book, I couldn’t help but begin to draw lines between this idea of giving from Ann’s book to giving in an intimate relationship such as a marriage. As the marriage book put it, a relationship where your partner should be your best friend, willing to be there for each other during your christian walk, help each other, and have the ability to be truthful with each other.

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I’ve come to really find out, you give a lot when you are in a marriage. Giving of yourself requires mercy, pity, and kindness, all carry a sense vulnerability. What if you show mercy, pity and are kind and you get no acknowledgment for those actions given? Giving and receiving no thanks can jade us towards the opportunity to give again. It can be an easy cycle to fall into of giving, getting hurt over the thankless response to our kindness, then with-holding a gift of kindness, and finally, in turn, becoming bitter and thankless ourselves. Something couples can easily fall back on is the go to statement of, “You don’t appreciate all I do.”; in other words, you don’t appreciate all the time and effort I give. I give up my time to make our lives better, your life better, and when is there a thank you given in return?

With these three books ideas really beginning to weave together, I thought instead of getting hung up on the thankless part, what about me giving thanks? For I am certain I do not say thank you for everything Shane does. When it comes down to it, I feel blessed that Shane often does come to the dinner table and says thank you for cooking, so what is something I can thank him for daily? Because I want to give in our marriage too, I want our marriage to benefit from my December goals of being the salt and giving.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

If I can gift that appreciation to him daily, well, studies show that can go a long way. Out of the many studies on gratitude, one  found that couples, after receiving gratitude, noticed that their partner was more responsive to their needs; overall, they were more satisfied with their relationship. Meanwhile another study reported that saying thank you strengthened a women’s marital commitment while it protected them against the negative effects of poor communication during a conflict. Could it be that just kicking things off by saying thanks can get the ball of communication rolling?

With Shane being so great at saying thank you every time I cook, maybe I can start there and say thank you for noticing and giving me feedback on what I do make. It may seem small, but at the end of the day, I love that I am married to my best friend and I do get to go along my christian walk with him and we get to help each other shine. Our marriage isn’t void of thank you’s, but when reading study after study of the positive benefits of being grateful has on a couple, it couldn’t hurt to add a pinch of thank you’s here and a dab of gratefulness there.

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Picture’s from a sort of engagement “shoot” we did while on a hike with my folks