Thursday, March 31, 2011

Developing Genius

Taken from Ann Voskamp's blog A Holy Experience:
Geniuses make it look effortless only because they’ve faithfully practiced. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, posits that “extended deliberate practice” is the ultimate key to successful use of a gift. “Nothing shows that innate factors are a necessary prerequisite for expert-level mastery in most fields,” he says. Ericsson’s interviews with 78 German pianists and violinists discovered that by age 20, the best musicians had spent an estimated 10,000 hours practicing, twice the average 5,000 hours the less accomplished group practiced.

Genius is a long faithfulness.

So fingers stretch across ivories here, shoulders hunch over Latin, brows knit in mathematical quandary. Just two hours a day of concentrated practice over a decade stacks up to 7,000 hours of faithful stewarding.

What would happen if every Christian used the 4 hours daily spent in front of the television a day (more than 126 hours a month!) or the near hour a day the average American surfs the internet and spent two of those hours developing their skill in a particular domain ( woodworking, quantum physics, photography) and one hour more on the spiritual disciplines that lead into a deeper relationship with God, (prayer, memorization, Bible meditation, fasting) – only repurposing three hours a day from the five we spend on passive entertainment — and in one decade, our entire culture – and the world at large – would be entirely revolutionized. How are we being faithful stewards of our 10,000 hours?

Why not tenderly unfurl a gift?

We waste so much time on fruitless pursuits. I've taken Ann's admonishment to heart and hope to practice more to hone my gifts. Here's my quandary; I'm interested in many things. Do I narrow it down to one thing I want to pursue or do I practice each thing a little bit each day? If I do the latter, I'll only get a little bit better. BUT I'll be able to do all the things I like. Any thoughts out there on what the best thing to do would be?

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Pretty Quilt

I've changed the heavy winter comforter for a lighter quilt. Mama copied an antique quilt for this pattern. It's all hand-quilted. We don't know the name, but it has nosegays or bouquets all over. I loved the late afternoon sun shining on the heart pine floors and quilt. Thought you might, too.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Understanding the Lenten Season

I don't remember where I found this quote, but I like it. I'm trying to understand Lent better and this helped.

“As we begin it,” he writes, “as we make the first step into the ‘bright sadness’ of Lent, we see — far, far away — the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. And it is this vision, the foretaste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sadness bright and our lenten effort a ‘spiritual spring. [...] Paradoxically, Easter necessitates Lent. “For we may then understand,” says Fr. Schmemann, “that the liturgical traditions of the Church, all its cycles and services, exist, first of all, in order to help us recover the vision and the taste of that new life which we so easily lose and betray, so that we may repent and return to it.”

The Soul's Longing

I read one morning in a Psalm (I can't remember now which one) the phrase 'Deep Calls Unto Deep'. I thought, "That'd be a great name for a book." Then on someone's blog (I can't remember which blog either) I found this poem. It made my breathe catch in my throat. The deepness of it is almost too much for words, but the author of this poem somehow managed.

The Call of Deep Unto Deep
by John Wright Follette

Down in the depth of my nature
Where the issues of life are born,
From that unknown mystical realm,
Surviving through ages of storm,
A call is forever rising -
But its language I cannot speak.
It was born ere I had being,
'Tis the call of deep unto deep.
Our mother tongue here is awkward,
For no words can fully express
The needs in the depths of nature,
In bondage to sin and distress.
Our hearts in their depths surely ache;
They hunger; they call; and they seek -
Then silently wait an answer
To the call of deep unto deep.
Down deep in the heart of our God,
In mystical regions sublime,
In the Godhead's holy council
Long before our world or our time,
An answer was fully prepared
Every pain, every ache to meet,
In Christ, God's only begotten,
Is answer to deep unto deep.
The Answer indeed was the Word,
The Word when expressed was the Son.
Oh language of God how profound!
In answer what more could be done?
The heart of our God is hungry,
His portion, His people to seek.
"I thirst," was cried by the Answer -
'Tis the call of deep unto deep.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pat Conroy's My Reading Life

Pat Conroy's done it again; written an engaging, heart-wrenching book chronicling his life as a reader and writer.

I adore books about books and the reading life and he doesn't disappoint. He gives much more than a list of books, although he does do that.

Flowing through his life like a discordant melody is his father's influence, The Great Santini. Larger than life and scary as all get out, Pat still deals with the demons caused by this sadistic fighter pilot.

Also present is his gentle mother who would read along with her son every book assigned to him in school. Embarrassed by her lack of education, she was driven to improve herself through books. This mutual love of the written word was in many ways a saving grace for them both.

One chapter is called The Old New York Book Shop. Pat frequented this shop in Atlanta for many years and became best friends with its owner. While keeping the store one afternoon for his friend, he had a most unusual customer.

Mr. Conroy writes: Though I was reading O'Neill's most accomplished play, he wore me down in gloomy rain forests of dialogue that seemed both exhausting and fruitless. But the moment froze when the front door opened and three large, muscle-bound men walked into the store like an offensive line breaking out of a huddle. The largest man signaled someone outside in a limousine and a lithe, watchful young man with a terrific hat and expensive sunglasses entered the store. When he asked me a question, he appeared shy as a mollusk.

"Do you have any books on freaks?" he asked.
"We specialize in freaks here," I answered. "You ever met the owner?"
"Cliff, isn't it?" the man said, looking at me sidelong. "I bought some books from him last time I was in Atlanta."
"First room on the right after the bathroom," I said, pointing. "I know he bought a collection of circus books last week."
"Circus freaks?" the man asked.
"I haven't checked them out. He's got a couple of books on the Elephant Man."
"I bet I own them,' the young man said. "I tried to buy the skeleton of the Elephant Man last year in England. They refused to do business with me. It upset me very much."
"Those uptight limey bastards," I said.

I then went back to reading O'Neill, thus missing any further opportunity to meet Michael Jackson. When Cliff told me who had just bought several hundred dollars' worth of books from me, I remembered the man's hauntedness but also his innate sweetness. Michael Jackson was simply another celebrity who proved that fame could damage a human soul without even breaking a sweat.

Can you imagine selling books to Michael Jackson and not knowing who he is?

Pat Conroy's writing makes me want to swoon and cry at the same time. I've never met an author that moved me so. If I ever do meet him on Fripp Island, heaven help me! If two old people are seen running down the beach, one chasing the other, it'll probably be us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tim Keller Writes on Counterfeit Gods

The human heart’s desire for a particular valuable object (human affirmation) may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing “some great thing” in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God’s salvation does not require us to do “some great thing.” We don’t have to do it, because Jesus has.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Tribute to Stay-at-Home Mothers

The occasion was the 80th birthday party for my Aunt Carolyn. She's the one in the black & white photo. My Aunt Louise is the one laughing, and my own mama is the middle lady in the other photo. A small get-together to celebrate the life of one of my aunts.

I grew up down the road from Aunt Carolyn's family where three of my first cousins lived. Another set of first cousins lived between us. Mama's parents lived across the road from us, so I really had four mamas within half a mile. Sometimes I found that oppressive. Especially when I was up to mischief, which was often.

I remember one conversation with my Aunt Louise (who lived in Atlanta and was therefore much more knowledgeable about life) when I was in college and knew everything. It went something like this: Aunt: What are you going to do when you get out of college?

Me: I'm not sure yet. I don't want to be a housewife.

Aunt: Why not? (laughing)

Me: I wouldn't have anything to do. Don't you get bored?

Aunt: (Really laughing now) I don't have time to be bored.

I went away from that conversation a little shaken, partly because she was laughing at me, or so I thought at the time, and partly because I was afraid she might be right. I wanted a career. I didn't want to be 'stuck' at home.

I think that conversation was pivotal for me in opening up an avenue I had never before considered; that of a stay-at-home wife and mother. For the next few years, God brought different people into my life to show me what that would look like. They were also grace-filled women who were well-educated, created peaceful homes of beauty, and stayed home full time. My eyes were opened to the realities of this most important calling.

I saw that women could be appreciated and loved within the context of their homes. That children could be well-behaved and not little monsters, and that disciplined children were happy children. Thank God for these examples in my life. I think things would be much different if I hadn't known them.

This quote by George Elliot is what got me thinking about women in the shadows. It's from Middlemarch and is speaking of Dorothea: Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on these around her was incalculably diffusive; for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half doing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.

So this post is for the aunts in my life, and I have many more than the two pictured. You helped my parents raise me when I was a hateful, mischievous little girl. You loved and guided me into young womanhood, and you are still leading me into the unknown paths of middle and old age.

And when this world plays its siren song of You Can Be and Do Anything, you help give me strength to say back, "It's enough to be a stay-at-home mom. I do have it all. It's enough."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Coming Into Clarity

This excerpt is from the book From Clutter to Clarity by Nancy Twigg: "In my years of being a Christian, I've learned something about making time for God. I believe we are supposed to find God in all things. Although quiet time with God is essential, I now feel it is equally essential to see God in the midst of our busyness.

Am I busy with meetings today? Then there is probably someone in one of those meetings whom God is calling me to meet--someone who needs to be acknowledged or needs to see my example of being fed by God. Are there errands I need to run? As I buy groceries, pay bills, pick up clothes from the cleaners, I take that opportunity to thank God for my abundance. I don't wait until my quiet time. I do it minute after minute throughout my day.

Our digestive system works to deliver nourishment to our bodies between our meals. Likewise, I have found that acknowledging God keeps me sustained between my conversations with Him." Adela from Aurora, CO

I also find this to be true, and when I've walked with God all day long, then I find it so much easier to pay attention in church on Sunday. But if I've sped through the week with no thought of anything but my to-do-list, I find my mind still in that mode as I try to worship on Sunday. I just can't do it.

The photos were taken on Fripp Island, SC. We had a condo on the third story which pretty much hung out over an inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. The bird traffic was superhighway status. They were zooming right and left. I was standing on our balcony aiming my camera at the sky, but I had the settings wrong.

After taking photos for several minutes, I stopped long enough to look at what I had taken. It wasn't until I put them on the computer and could view them much bigger that I gasped in surprise. I loved them! They looked so ethereal and dreamlike. And if you know me and my photography style, you know that that's the look I mostly go after.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Tall Order For Wives and Painting the Houses

"Ah! the true rule is--a true wife in her husband's house is his servant; it is in his heart that she is queen. Whatever of the best he can conceive, it is her part to be; whatever of the highest he can hope, it is hers to promise; all that is dark in him she must purge into purity; all that is failing in him she must strengthen into truth; from her, through all the world's clamor, he must win his praise; in her, through all the world's warfare, he must find his peace." John Ruskin

Here's what we call 'the little house'. My husband's office and a pantry are on the first floor. My art studio is on the second. We recently had it painted green with white trim and red porches. I've seen this combination of colors many times and loved it. I think it looks better in town, though.

I think if we painted the main house like this, it would be too much. So it's going to be white with green trim; just the opposite of the little house. I sure hope I like it, because seven years is a long time to wait to paint it blue again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Refuse to be Killed

These words are the antidote for when people don't affirm you as a person or the things you make or do. They come from a book by T.D. Jakes called Woman, Thou Art Loosed. I found the whole book very helpful in combatting my insecurity and seeing my worth through Christ.

Here are some excerpts from the chapter entitled Refuse to be Killed---It's time we say to those in our family-both our natural family and our spiritual family-"I love you, I'm related to you, I care about you...but I won't let you kill me."

You had better adopt that attitude toward every person in your life, including your husband, your children, your friends, your boss, the people you work with, the members of your church. You need to say to them, "Jesus died for me. That's all the dying that needs to be done. I'm not going to let you kill me. I'm going to hide myself in Him. I won't let you kill me."

I'm not talking about the body. I'm talking about your resisting those who will attempt to kill something in your spirit and soul. I'm talking about people who will come at you to try to kill something in your emotions, your attitude, your inner life.

Others might say to you, "Nothing is going to get better. You might as well give up and sit down in your ashes, because nothing is ever going to change and nothing is ever going to be right in your life."

You need to say back to them, "No! I refuse to let you kill in me what God has birthed in me!" Get your praise out. Start praising God for what He has done for you. Celebrate the life He has given you. Declare to God and to every person who talks death to you--"My life isn't over. There's still more that God has for me to do and to say and to be. I'm choosing life. I refuse to go back down the road of death."

I hope that the next time I encounter a negative person that I'll remember what to do and what to think. I can't afford to waste any more time being depressed because I let someone bring me down. If I'm a child of the king, and I am, then I need to start acting like a princess.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I've Been Rejected!

Last week I applied to the John C. Campbell Folk School's gift shop to have my photos shown there. They wrote back that photographs don't sell very well. I REALLY want to be in that shop! I'll have to think of something else to make that will sell. I had my heart set on getting accepted. Boo hoo for me!

These are photos I took last summer at the folk school when I took a week-long photography class. As usual, the experience was great! I just happened to stay during Musicians Week. There was music all over the campus all day long.

When we lined up at the cafeteria to eat, there were people playing bluegrass on the porch.
During the morning get together before breakfast there was music. Before going to bed at night there was music. Music all day long.

The photo at bottom was the final Friday night concert with English folk dancing. So is the one with the cute girl in the doorway wearing her dancing boots. I was too chicken to dance, but maybe I'll have more nerve next year. I hope to go back during the same week. I just hope I can find a class I'd like to take during that time.

The red door is the entrance to Keith House, the oldest building on campus. This is where the dances are held, the offices are located, and you can get a cup of tea or coffee. There are dorm rooms on the second floor. The photo of the bed is in the room where I stayed.

I was assigned to a room with three other ladies; complete strangers all. I wasn't crazy about that, but it worked out fine. By the end of the week, we were all good friends.

I was also rejected by three more galleries on Saturday, but more about that next time. My wounds need licking first!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Decorating and Life

"Make your home as comfortable and attractive as possible and then get on with living. There's more to life than decorating." Albert Hadley

That sounds like good advice, and it is. BUT.....what if you take great delight in decorating? What if it's a passion of yours? Then I don't think you'll just decorate, be done with it, and go do other things.

I do love decorating. I also love so many other things. There's just not enough hours in a day to do all I'd like. So I do a little decorating here and a little there. It really never ends.

Take the kitchen behind me in this photo. Twenty years ago when we first built our house, the trim around the windows and doors was a Mary Engelbreit kind of green. I really liked the contract with the white walls. But after ten years, I wanted a change.

So I painted the trim Phillipsburg Blue from Benjamin Moore. Another ten years go by, and I'm tired of the blue. But this time I'm thinking of changing the walls, too. After watching Julie and Julia and seeing Julia's french kitchen, I think maybe the blue-gray walls and trim might look good.

So I painted one wall like that and am still considering it. Another movie, The Secret Life of Bees, had a kitchen painted yellow with white trim and red shelves. I loved it! I already have red shelves, so I painted another wall yellow. It made me happy until I stood in the kitchen and looked through the dining room into the foyer where those walls are a golden yellow. The contrast was not good. So no yellow walls. You can see the yellow on the wall behind me in the photo.

I'm probably going to paint the kitchen floor black and white checkerboard to match the laundry room floor which connects to it. That will require a week when most everyone will be out of the house, except me. Maybe when Darcie goes to summer camp?

So I'm still trying to decide what color to paint the kitchen walls. Oh, and then there's the ceiling. I had decided to paint it white again. After twenty years of woodsmoke from the stove and cooking without an exhaust, the ceiling is a little dingy.

But then I got the book Perfect English about English country decorating. I love, love, love that style. It's exactly the way we live and the look is perfect for this house; different textures and patterns that blend together without jarring the senses, comfortable clutter, and, of course, books everywhere. Wellies in the corner and a cat on the couch. So comforting.

Anyway, in that book they were talking about how sooty ceilings were just another wonderful layer of time, and I'll have to say that I agree with them. My two biggest inspirations when designing this house were the two houses of my grandparents. Their cabinets were handpainted with white glossy enamel with butterfly hinges. You could see the brushstrokes. So when it came time to order our kitchen cabinets, I made sure they didn't spray on the paint but painted by hand; and attached butterfly hinges.

My contractor looked at me as if to say, "You're kidding, right?" He rolled his eyes more than once during the six month building period. I'd just giggle and walk off.

I keep getting side tracked. So I'm thinking about NOT painting the kitchen ceiling. I still can't decide what color to paint the walls and trim. Maybe I'll just go ahead and do the floor first and then that'll help me decide on the rest.

I'd like to be done with decorating, but I just don't think it's ever going to happen, because I love the process. So I do a little bit here and a little bit there between my other pursuits, and that's the way I like it, uh huh, uh huh.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Learning to Live with Non-Affirming People

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

I tend to see the miraculous in everything and look at the world with childlike eyes. The task that I find daunting is having to deal with other people who look at life the opposite way from me.

I'll have to admit that I'm pretty fragile around certain people whose opinions mean too much to me. I would like to let their opinions just roll off my back, but I usually get depressed. Then it takes several days for me to recover. Then I may harbor bitterness for not being affirmed in something I'm passionate about. I don't want to be like that.

Here's an example: A family member said this about both of the above photos, "Yeah, they're pretty but too common. You can find tons of pictures just like those anywhere." Well, that may be true, but they're still special to me, because I remember the way I felt when I saw both buds opening up in the sun of a new day; how the dew looked and how the chilly air felt in the early morning.

For him/her to say that, I feel, is insensitive and unloving. Am I being too hard on them?

I've determined before not to show this person any of my photos again, but I always get excited about a good photo I've taken and show them anyway. I really think I'm going to try and stick with that resolve. I'm tired of having my feelings dragged through the mud and stomped on. And the amount of affirmation I do receive from this person is so small in relation to the negativity, it's just not worth sharing anything. I'll be more selective with whom I choose to share my art.

How would you handle this type of person? What would you do in this situation? I want to be Christlike in my thoughts and actions, but sometimes I just don't know how to react to what I perceive to be negative comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Art Leads to More Art

From The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt: Her response to any performance, any work of art, was the desire to make another, to make her own.

This is my response, too, when I do any of the above. If I'm away from home, I scribble the idea into a little notebook I carry just for that purpose. If I don't act on it soon, though, it's birth and death will be in that notebook.

When I think about all the art I could have made, all the stories or songs I could have written if only I had taken the time to act on an idea, it makes me sad.

But instead of dwelling in sadness (which isn't very conducive to making art) I'll try and put that attitude away and focus instead on what I have made. Better yet, I'll plan in my head the things I'll hopefully get around to making soon.