Mapping 2015

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I have been resistant to mapping out this year. I think it is because last year went so far off the rails with dealing with aging and ailing parents, my husband was in a bad accident and is permanently injured, and we moved to our dream home. Last year was nothing like what I thought it would be. This year I am very firm in my resolve to go with the flow and not “should all over myself,” so making a map of the whole year seemed like trying to get too tight a grip on it all.

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I was feeling terribly guilty, because I committed to my friend Jill Berry that I would participate in Mapping 2015. I just couldn’t’ come up with anything. This morning, however, I realized that my daily morning doodles are a sort of a map, and I believe they are expansive and far reaching enough to apply to the next year, and probably beyond. I do these doodles as a part of my morning meditation and prayer. Most recently, I have been asking God to show me what he wants me to see, and I have been just closing my eyes and letting my hand take the pen where ever it wanted to go on the page. What I am getting from these doodles is that I am in a safe and very good place, that I have grown, but there is much more expansion to come. There is a promise of new adventures and fresh revelation. That sounds like a map to me! Maybe a treasure map really.

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Things Get Too Real Sometimes

Monday morning this week was the official beginning of summer for the kids and I. I was so looking forward to slowing down and just being able to rest. I have been very intentional about keeping our schedule pretty open for the summer. I woke up around 7:30, got my coffee, started reading and responding to email. About 8:15, the house phone rang. When I answered, it was my husband, Matt. I could hear right away that something was wrong. ” Sweetie, I am OK, but I was out on my bike, and I have been hit.” The room spun. My hands started to shake. All I could get out was “Where are you? I am coming.” I woke the kids out of a sound sleep. I was staying calm for them, but shaking like a leaf. He was just down the road. We turned the corner. There was the fire truck and ambulance. “Is that it?” My son said. “Yeah, that’s it. But, he is okay.” I left them in the car and jumped out. The fireman directed me to go down the road and cross. I couldn’t see him. There was a knot of firefighters and rescue workers around a duffle bag on the side of the road. No, not a duffle bag, my husband in a small, still pile, right on the white line at the roads edge. He was completely conscious, and completely lucid. Blood was everywhere. They were putting him onto a back board. At that moment the thought of spinal injury crossed my mind. I pushed it out. Only the facts you know, nothing more. I held his hands and prayed out loud. I thanked God for sparing him, and asked for more grace. I told Matt, I would find a place to take the kids, and meet him at the hospital. They rolled him onto a backboard, strapped him onto a gurney, and loaded him into the ambulance.

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In the middle of all this, my kids stayed remarkably calm, I guess because I stayed remarkably calm.  I don't know if it is like this for anyone else. When trauma happens, I climb into a box. I only let the now and here and what I know in. I shut down the parts of my brain that might put me into a panic.  Things happened at light speed at the hospital. It took less than three ours for them to find out that he had no broken bones, and no serious injuries and send us home. It was nothing short of miraculous.  I have been thanking God over and over.
 

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So, now we are on day three. He is in pain. His back is very tender. He is on pain medication, and it is not entirely eliminating his pain. He is in a narcotics fog. He is suffering. It is too real right now. I want my box back. The one that shuts out scary things. Matt is the healthy, strong, active guy. Now he is really, really hurt. What is this road going to look like? How long will it be? He wants his life and his body and his mind back. I know it has only been three days. How many more? Will he get back to normal? I can’t sleep. I want this to go away. I want it to never have happened.

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I am so very grateful that my husband is still alive. If any one variable had been different, we wold not have him here today. I covet your prayers for a speedy recovery, and that he will be his whole, healthy self again soon.

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Who I Am

Life has gotten to be a little nuts for me lately. It is all good stuff. I am just having to re think my time, my priorities, my schedule. I have started assisting with the online promotion for the Graceful Artist Online Event. I will be doing the majority of the blogging, and online promotion there. It really is a part-time gig, and I am having to carve time out from each day to attend to it. This is new or me. I have not worked for anyone outside our home for almost fifteen years. I am excited about it, and welcome the challenge. The kids are at an age where they need me less, so it is old to begin something new.

I have been giving a lot of time in the past month plus to filming my own class for the Graceful Artist. My Prayer Pouch Necklace class begins May 16. It has been fun. I really enjoy the process, but other things have been pushed aside. One of the things I have let slip is my Documented Life Journal.

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That has been a bummer. I have really been enjoying this project. So, I have been trying to carve out time to get caught up. Just last week, I was able to complete the challenge that was given for the week of March 1. The challenge was to “make a list of the things that make you YOU.

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I had fun with this one. I have begun to learn to be honest with myself about who I am and who God calls me to be. I have spent a lot of years wallowing in who I used to be, an lies about who I am still.

Another thing that is happening in the Smith home recently is that we are trying to prepare our house to go on the market for sale. The reasons are something to tackle in a separate post. So, I must declutter! In the process, I found a list I wrote about myself several years go in a class I took with my then Worship Pastor, Ben Kennedy and his wife, Lori. This class was a turning point for me in understanding that my art was not just a little side thing that I do when I should be giving time to my family and ministry. My art IS my ministry.

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(The flip side of this page has notes about prophetic things that were given about me during the same class, I will share those someday soon too.)

It was so cool to come across this list after doing the work in my Documented Life Journal. Remember the old cigarette ad, “You’ve come a long way, baby”. Well, I really have. I remember the dawning on me at that time of how I had really been hiding my light under a basket. I was called and gifted to do this art thing. Now, I am living fully in that and pursuing it daily. I am so grateful for God speaking to me at that time, and to Ben and Lori for being here to facilitate that. I am so excited to realize that it is bearing fruit right now, even if the fruits are making me have to rearrange and shift and stretch and grow.
It is all so much goodness!

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Prayer Pouch Necklace Online Class

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I am super excited to invite you to join me for my first online class. I will be teaching my prayer pouch necklaces over at The Graceful Artist. The Graceful Artist is a new format for online classes that puts faith in Christ front and center. The environment offers students a place to learn and grow artistically while also sharing authentically about their faith. I am very pleased to be a part of this new venture. Elizabeth Johnson is our host for the event.

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My prayer pouches are designed to carry written prayers or verses so the wearer can keep them close by to meditate on. The pouches are made with painted canvas. I will teach you a variety of different techniques for getting interesting color and pattern onto your canvas. We will learn how to design and assemble all the pieces and stitch them by hand or machine. You do not need to have a sewing machine, as I will share a hand stitching method of construction in addition to machine stitching. I will also show you how to make your own necklace cord out of a variety of materials. We will cover some basic jewelry construction and wire wrapping to finish off the necklace.
The class opens May 15 and runs through July 11. The cost is $55. Our wonderful sponsor, Jerry’s Artarama is offering a 20% discount on supplies for the class to all registered students!
I hope you will join me. Have a look at some of the other class offerings. There is a great variety!

Thirteen Years Ago Today

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Thirteen years ago today, after night of labor and no progress, I was laying in the hospital listening to the sound of a little heartbeat on a monitor, and I heard it stop….and start again. A bunch of people ran into the room and turned me onto my left side and slapped an oxygen mask on my face. The little heart kept beating. I kept listening. A little bit later the doctor came in and said that they were going to have to take me down for a C-sect. In prepping me to go, the took the monitor off his scalp. I could not hear the heartbeat. Once I got to where I was going, the nurses could tell I was scared to death. They got a monitor on my belly so I could hear him. He was born a little after 9AM that morning. Matt was there. He watched them take him out. I heard one of the nurses say “Oh my God.” I have always thought it was because of his size, 9.5lb. His hands looked huge to me. That was the first thing I noticed. The second was that he looked like Liam Neeson

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That evening his doctor came to check him out. My big, pink healthy boy had a bit of a heart murmur, more than the doctor felt comfy with. He ordered an echocardiogram for the next morning. That morning, I waited for the nurses to bring my boy to me, I waited a long time. My dad was with me. I asked him to help me from my bed so we could go see what the holdup was. We turned the corner just in time to see them wheeling my boy away from the nursery, away from me, toward the NICU. A doctor I did not know was coming toward me. He saw my face and knew I was the mama. He took me back to my room. Dr. Boals was in the nursery visiting another newborn when Adam’s EKG was being done by a technician. He glanced over and said “Is that what I think it is.” The tech said “I think so.” Dr. Boals called our doctor Immediately and asked permission to send Adam to NICU. If he had not been there it may have been hours before the results were reviewed by someone other than the tech. He carefully explained to me that Adam’s pulmonary valve was not functioning. He said that there is a vessel called the ductus, that moves blood from the heart to the lungs before birth that had remained open to do the job. Normally that vessel closes right after birth. Adam’s had not. He was taken to NICU and hooked up to monitors. He had an IV in his little hand to pump stuff in to keep the ductus open, and an extra line in his little foot in case something happened to the one in his hand. If the ductus closed he could have died.
He had to go to Chapel Hill in order to have a life saving surgery. They talked about air lifting him, but decided to go with an ambulance instead. Meanwhile, I just had abdominal surgery the day before. When my doctor came to see me I said, “I am going to Chapel Hill with my baby, and you won’t stop me.” He said, “okay.” Matt and my mom followed the ambulance. Dad took me to get clothes and prescriptions. Thank God for Percoset! We met Dr. Frantz, a pediatric cardiologist at UNC-Chapel Hill. He explained that the next day, they would insert a balloon through A vessel in Adam’s leg and feed it into his heart. They would try to push it into the pulmonary valve and inflate it to open the valve. I have to interject a bit about my state of mind during this trial. You might think that I would be a basket case. If you know me well, you know I am capable of that. However, I was calm as calm could be. We had tried for several years for this baby. I just knew He was not going to take him back so soon.

Needless to say, the surgery was a success. They opened the valve, and it began to do it’s job immediately. Adam was born on Wed, Jan. 3, transported to UNC on Jan.4, had surgery on Jan.5 and was home on Jan.7. He was wonderfully healthy at that point. Mama, not so much. I got very, very sick, and had my life saved by Dr. Byron, and my amazing, wonderful mama. Sparing you the gory details, I saw Dr. Byron every day for two weeks for wound care. he met me after rounds, after hours, during rounds at the hospital, whatever I needed. My sweet mama also took care of my wound morning and night, while simultaneously caring for my son in a way that I was not able do to my weakened state. She stayed with me for a month. The hands and feet of Christ.

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Adam still has a slight murmur, but he is perfectly healthy. God was so with us in so many ways during this difficulty. The ductus stayed open. Dr. Boals just happened to be there to see the EKG. The care I received after I got home. The fact that I was still able to nurse Adam and bond with him despite such difficult circumstances. So, Adam Eleazar’s name is appropriate. Man is dust, but God is our hope.
If you stuck with me this far, thank you!
Happy thirteenth birthday to an amazing young man! I am so very glad that I get to be your mom.

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Taking Refuge in the midst of difficult times and situations

I have tried to write this a hundred times today, I don’t think I can get it just right. I have been talking with a lot of friends who are really struggling. Some of it is the holiday season, but mostly it is just life. Life can be really hard. So many of us are wrestling with anxiety. I am right up in it myself. I am trying, trying, trying, to get some peace. I know the drill. I know what to do. I have done it before. There is an other side. I will see it soon.
Last night, I was describing to my massage therapist how I had lain back and floated in the hot tub the other evening. I tried desperately to relax the muscles in my shoulders and back. I could not. The tension would not release. She said, “of course not. You are protecting everyone. You are the sentinel, you cannot relax at your post. That is so true. She said “sentinel” and in my spirit I heard “watchman.” This morning I searched through the Bible for “watchman.” There are many verses, but I am not going to share them here because I quickly realized that they have nothing to do with me. I am not supposed to be the sentinel right now. I totally took that post out of my own will and volition.
So, here is here I landed…

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8 ESV)

Refuge. I am supposed to be taking refuge right now. That is not to say I should not be on guard. We always need to guard ourselves. I just don’t have any business taking on responsibility for guarding my whole camp. We are under attack, yes, but we already have a sentinel. I can trust him to handle the battles while I take shelter and take time to get strong again.

Sisters, be encouraged We do not have to carry the whole weight of the defense of our family on our shoulders until we feel crushed beneath it. We can take refuge. It is safe.

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Recycling Old Written Journals

I am a journaler. I do journal visually, but I find that nothing can compare to the stream of consciousness tumbling of stuff in my head out onto paper. Forgive me.
Most of my journaling is prayer. I try to start each day in conversation with God. Since I tend to be a little distractable, it does not really work for me to bow my head and pray silently to myself. Sometimes I speak my prayers out loud. Most often, I write them. The physicality of writing helps me keep my head where it is supposed to be instead of floating off into thinking about what to make for dinner, or how to handle an issue with one of the kids.

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I have kept my journals over the years, so I have a pretty good stack of them.

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I had the idea that I would read back through them at some point, but that just never happens. I thought I might alter them into visual journals, but for the most part, they are not sturdy enough to take it. So, I am ripping them to shreds…. To use in my artwork of course. I created a couple of pieces on canvas using ripped bits from my old journal notebooks in the background collage. Then I sketched and painted and stitched, and viola

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On a side note, as I was ripping into one particular journal, I found an entry I made just prior to going to Ethiopia to meet my daughter for the first time.  I read it to her, and have set it aside for her. She will have it as a remembrance of how much we loved her before we even met her.

Do Over

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I have been struggling with this canvas for the past couple of days. It won’t go anywhere interesting. When that happens I will sometimes lay a canvas aside to look at later. Usually, when I come back, it will turn into something entirely different. Looking at this one this morning I realized it was becoming a “do over” canvas, and I did not want to lay it aside to come back to it later. I want to fix it now!
SMACK!
What a gorgeous illustration of repentance and forgiveness. I don’t have to hold onto or wallow in any of the mess I create. I get to ask for a do-over from the one who holds the power to grant my request. Just like that, it is done!
That does not mean there are not consequences. I will likely leave bits of the old painting to show through the new. Those are there to remind me what it was so I can be even more excited about what it is becoming.