The Gamecock Cottage – Dreamy Beach Memories

MarciaGladwish_GamecockCottage_16x20
The Gamecock Cottage, Marcia Carole, original watercolor, 16×20

Life was crazy busy on Long Island, NY, right next to the Big Apple – the City that never sleeps. I lived there nearly twenty years, often living life too fast, too full. In those days, I had a busy husband along with four lovely, fun-loving, beautiful, busy daughters. We lived and worked at a private, busy boarding school. I worked part time jobs AND raised my daughters. I set my art-making aside, something I regret, but I put one hundred percent into caring for my husband, my girls, and my home.

During that season of my life, busyness could often be confused with significance, especially for this growing follower of Jesus still learning how much I was accepted and loved by God apart from my efforts. I read through my Bible fast, over and over. (Now I meditate on one or two verses per day, slowly.) I drove fast, I ran fast, as fast as I could to train for a half-marathan. I ate fast, I talked and listened fast. Life was fast.

Disc9Cottage267x400
The Gamecock Cottage, high tide

Sigh. Breathe. All the busyness and fast pace living would ebb away as I piled my four daughters in one of our old cars and headed to the beach – hopefully by mid-morning. Each summer day. We lived minutes away. Running away from busyness to live on the beach was our dream. We packed sandwiches that wilted, snacks that gave out too soon, and beverages that had to be replenished at the beach water cooler.  As we pulled into the Bookhaven Bathing Association, simply known as the BBA, my tense shoulders would fall slack, and sudden joy would permeate by soul. We had made it to the beach once again, and we would be OK. My daughters would spill out of the car laughing with brightly colored shovels and pails, ready for deep exploration in shallow pools.

We set up beach chairs and blankets, being careful to keep sand off, knowing full well the blankets would be full of sand by day’s end. The girls would scream and run into the water on hot days. I entered more slowly. On cooler days, the girls kept on their sweatshirts until the heat reached our swath of the beach. I’d set up my low chair right near the waters edge to dangle my feet in the playful tide. Friends would call out to each other; the kids would spot mysterious sea creatures and shout happily to each other to come look. I always found a fellow mom there.

il_fullxfull.127392204

One big highlight of the day was for Vinnie, the ice cream man, to arrive ringing in with his cheery music. The girls would beg me to stay long enough for Vinnie to come. I usually gave in. (I was happy to get my cold, cardboard-like nutty cone!) The girls would get snow cones or bombs or popsicles if we only had dimes that day. What joyful memories I have of their bright red or purple tongues and lips from their late afternoon beach treats. Their hair might be blowing wildly as they licked their delicious, sticky, sandy treats.

Gamecock
Heading to the Gamecock Cottage while inner-tubing

As the girls got older, they enjoyed inner tubing on the inlet waterway across the street from the BBA. A spit of water would begin there and then lazily curve around the Gamecock Cottage and onto the edge of the Long Island Sound. The trick was to stay close to shore when your inner tube went around the Gamecock Cottage. This was high adventure, and a sort of rite of passage if you did the inner tube around the cottage trip. We have one or two harrowing stories of that not quite happening, and the girls needing rescuing by a passing boat! Legends were made on those days.

Shipman'sCottage
High tide – perfect for tubing around the Gamecock Cottage, but stay close to shore!

The girls grew up, and life changed. One day, when I had started painting again, I walked down to the shore’s edge of the Gamecock Cottage. It had just finished raining; the tide was dead low. With the sun coming out, I thought there might be a reflection in the water. I slipped and slid through the grasses and mossy sand. I was not disappointed. There was, indeed, the reflection the sun had made possible. I had slowed down my busy life, enough to catch the first glimpse of a brand new reflection on the water’s surface. No one was around. It was quiet. It was sacred. I sketched a little, I photographed the moment, and headed home as the now, full sun, beat down on me. I finished the painting on my kitchen table.

MarciaGladwish_GamecockCottage_16x20
The Gamecock Cottage, Marcia Carole

Today, I received an email that my 16×20 museum quality gicleé prints of the Gamecock Cottage are being shipped from my printer in Seattle. (Of course I’ll give each daughter one.) It was probably 20 years ago that I painted this, but my dreamy beach memories are as fresh as if they were yesterday. I am so thankful for these memories with my girls, and for all the sacred “slow” times we had at the BBA along the Long Island shore. Well, except for those near drifted out to sea memories!!!

2F7B4001-2
My four beautiful daughters!

 

On Planning My Own Memorial Service

Surprisingly, when my pastor, Hilario, his wife, Lois, and my second daughter, Katie, sat with me today to map out a memorial service, after my departure, I felt a weight had been lifted. Yes, I cried my way through some of it – I hate leaving loved ones. Truly, I love my people and wish never to say goodbye. However, before I knew it, I was laughing at the idea of joy and celebration (with Indian and Italian food and festive international flags) being the over-arching feelings during the service. Additionally, I sat with profound gratitude that these three dear ones would take the time from full and rich lives to do the hard work of helping me prepare my own memorial service.

P1100789
Joyful Dancers, Marcia Carole, acrylic on canvas

It was actually fun reviewing Scripture I wanted my two older grandsons to read. I could just picture them, taking a break from Legos, snacks, and their Seahawks shirts, only to don their khaki pants and nice shirts to honor their Gigi. They are both about to be baptized, so I know the Words they read will mean something important to their hearts. Those who gather that day will hear that “I have been crucified with Christ; it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…and, there is no longer any condemnation for Marcia because she is safely in Jesus – right into eternity.” Marcia has Jesus as her Rock and her redeemer for this life and the next. My young grandchildren will lead my people into these truths.

2F7B4143
Katie with her boys – my grandsons!

My friend, Judy, calls my departure, “Going Off Planet.” My friend, Gretchen, has reminded me, more than once, that when we get to Heaven, we will see that life on earth has been living in the low-rent district in contrast to the speech-defying beauty, goodness and glory we will be a part of in an Eternity with Jesus. By me remembering these sort-of jokes, coupled with my cancer, I am helped to press on in making my final plans.

I think we long to not die, on planet earth because, aside from the unknowingness of it all and the lack of control we possess over dying, I think there is a part of us, deep in our souls, that remembers the Big Story and how life was in our first Garden, our Home. There really was a beginning point in time when there was no death. Somehow, we know. There was just beauty, fearlessness, a vibrant garden, a totally transparent, loving couple, a tree filled with life, and rich community with God. However, the enemy of our souls snuck into our perfect Home and snarled, lied (God’s holding out on you), robbed and darn near destroyed us and everything around us. I think, we have this deep, unfulfilled longing for that Home. An angst. I’m just saying it’s there.

So, I got to do some planning today – important planning. As I was encouraging Pastor Hilario to really preach the Gospel during the service, my heart was gripped, my tears flowing, because my passion since nineteen years of age has been: there is a God, He faithfully loves you and me, He proved it by coming to earth as God with skin on – Jesus. He lived a perfect life. He died in our places for our evil thoughts, words, deeds. We can be forgiven for all our just plain darknesses of hearts and for believing that first lie that God was holding out on us. How? If we turn from trying to find Home apart from God and run to Him. I want Pastor Hilario to be sure to let everyone know; we are given Jesus’ righteousness when we run to Him, when we reach past our doubts and faint remembering of Eden. When we run and reach out to Jesus, and HIS palpable love, in faith, then Eden, Home is won back in our hearts. It’s a gift – a gift of being eternally Home with God.

And that is where I will be when the celebration of my life happens.

images
Sunflower, Marcia Carole, watercolor

One song I hope to have at my memorial service: Give Me Jesus, by Fernando Ortega.

 

Listening Is Loving

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
― G.K. Chesterton

P1050840

I’ve been working on listening – being quick to listen and slow to speak. I figure, I have time and it’s a loving thing to listen well. I’m not rushing anywhere. I can do this. I’ll be a more loving, listening person.

True confessions: I can easily finish other people’s sentences, wrap up what they want to say, or just put words in their mouths they never intended to say. OUCH! I interrupt right when my friend has a good sentence going. However, on this cancer journey, I have had a lot of alone, quiet time. When someone comes to care for me, I am excited!! First, I might interrupt their speaking a lot. I’m so excited that I become a monster, poor listener.

Then, out of respect for them, and because I really am working on being a good, loving listener, I find I am holding back from speaking, holding back my excitement tiger, just so I can listen and not dominate the conversation. However, when you’ve been in a dark hole (see above collage of said dark hole), you have lots to say! (It’s been bad, dark, hard, lonely, sad, etc) How do I not talk over other people? How do I not interrupt? How do I not dominate the conversation? How do I become a good listener?

 

P1050841
My little bird is fighting his way out of the dark hole – so much to say!

Let me just start out by saying, having all my alone time has caused me to be OK with quiet spaces in conversation. It’s OK if there are pauses and no one is talking. No one IS talking in my apartment! That is a good start for listening. It gives listening some breathing room. Listening has all kinds of breathing room in my cancer fight, when it is quiet in my apartment for hours on end!

2F7B3957
My 5 year old grandson, Calvin.

Then, when someone does come to visit me, after the initial celebration, 1. it’s OK if there are quiet spaces in a conversation. Let the speaker determine the pace. In fact, I think being OK with quiet spaces is good prep for going into any conversation. People may actually be taking time to form ideas or opinions. My grandson, Calvin, has helped me here. He often talks really, really, really slowly, almost like stuttering, often repeating what he has just said, I think, to stretch out our time together. If I try to speed him along, he starts with, “No, no, no,” very fast, and then begins ALL over again. I’ve learned it is faster and better if I leave him a lot of quiet space to fill with his stories, at his pace. People have to talk at their pace, and our listening has to slow down or speed up accordingly.

P1070422
My three grandsons, Calvin, Micah and Caleb.

In fact, spending time with Calvin, and each grandson, really,  has helped me with the second thing we should do in order to be a good listener; 2. put down the phone or other device, and actually LOOK at the person you are speaking with. I know, I know, it’s hard not to check email or a text 24/7 when talking with a 5, 9 or 11 year old, but chalk it up to good practice for conversations when some one tells you, point blank, they hate talking with people who are always on their phones. This practice will save you lots of red-faced moments later on with big, mature adults. Little people can be much more forgiving.

10920958_840470396014770_550660486815718600_n
My friend, Judy, has taught me a lot about listening.

My friend, Judy, who just came to visit for my seventh chemo, says 80% of what is being said is non-verbal. She does peacemaker mediation, so I pay attention when she talks about communication. This fact means, I can’t glaze over my eyes while looking at the person I am listening to, and think of what snack I am going to get after this conversation has wrapped up. I actually need to 3. pay attention to non-verbal body language, tone of voice, fidgeting of hands, etc. What is the person saying with their hunched over shoulders or clenched fists? Have you shared an awkward moment when someone is quietly tearing up in front of you, and you freeze? Now, because of Judy, I move into the person’s space, and give them a hug and verbal encouragement to continue sharing. 4. I empathize because of their non-verbal clues. (Or verbal clues.) I remember, they may just not have words for 80% of what they are sharing.

When you empathize, my number 4 for good listening, you are deciding to put yourself right where the other person is emotionally or intellectually. You don’t offer a solution; you just have a moment of where they are, and you honor their place of suffering or excitement or retelling of an event. You sit right with them, in that space, and you let them define and describe the space. You don’t share your story; you stay out of judgement. You show them they are not alone. You empathize.

Here is a great video on listening in this way.

12190104_980171315378010_8470795361195078028_n
My friend, Paula, asks great clarifying questions.

After a time of real listening, and when there is a genuine pause, 5. ask clarifying questions to help you better understand the story being told. This shows you are truly listening, and you care enough to go deeper if the person you are listening to wants to go there. My friends, Blythe and Paula, are really good at asking questions to go deeper. They don’t walk away from a conversation without some really thoughtful questions being asked. “Why did your doctor say that, Marcia?” “What were the side effects?” “How did that make you feel?” This questioning is a way of giving the speaker feedback, and it assures them you are really listening. It shows you’re not just waiting to say something about your own story or experience. It keeps you engaged in being a good listener. Next conversation you have, make yourself ask 3 Blythe and Paula-like clarifying questions. It’s a loving way of listening.

12278752_10156212100500175_6202678140084137405_n
Blythe asks good clarifying questions.
11836716_939496939445448_5558866619641969403_n
Ladies honoring others by listening in Peru.

I only have one final thought on being a good, loving listener. It’s something I do when I hear women share their stories with any of the art I do to engage story. 6. I thank the speaker for the honor of hearing them. When we look at listening as an honor and not a bother, chore or interruption, listening is elevated to a high place. Which it should be. My friends, Tricia, Alice and Vickie are always so honoring in how they finish conversations. They thank the speaker for sharing, and often will pray with the speaker as a further way of honoring. The speaker has taken a risk, become vulnerable or transparent on some level. They are sharing themselves, and we should thank them for that, and perhaps, bring some things to the Lord’s care in prayer.

Let’s try to be better listeners! Listening is loving. I am determined to be quick to listen well and slower to speak. And, honestly, my underlying motivation is: I know God is the most loving, perfect listener, to me. (In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3) He is my loving example, and I want to be like Him.

Loving In Listening

1. It’s OK if there are quiet spaces in a conversation. Let the speaker determine the pace.

2. Put down the phone or other device, and actually LOOK at the person you are speaking with.

3. Pay attention to non-verbal body language, tone of voice, fidgeting of hands, etc.

4. Empathize because of their non-verbal clues. (Or verbal clues.)

5. Ask clarifying questions to help you better understand the story being told.

6. Thank the speaker for the honor of hearing them. We can pray for them.

Her pace, Her face, her body, You Empathize, You Ask clarifying questions, You Thank and Pray.

11390269_905108376217638_8871765068005390442_n
My friend, Trisha, who thanks people for sharing their stories, and prays with them.

 

 

 

 

 

More Grace Needed Here!

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
“That there are dark, dark places that have to be faced and excavated in my heart. I can never dust off my hands and say, “There! Nearly done.” Not even close. Grace becomes more precious by the day.” -Kathy Keller

DSC_0119

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…In love… (Ephesians, chapter 1) Using bubble wrap for texture.

This past week, my friend, Judy, chose to come and help me during my seventh chemo infusion. She and I laughed and cried, watched movies, discussed books, listened to sermons online, ate good food, bemoaned American politics and extended grace to each other each day. She was wonderfully encouraging, and I worked past my crabbiness, from chemo, to try to be kind and grace-filled. Being sick is no excuse to be unkind. I’m intensional about that, because I want to see if my faith, and thus grace, can be certain in the dark and hard parts of my story.

DSC_0124

I am working on a new painting, which Judy had to tuck away for me during my hardest days; I was too weak and nauseous to paint. This painting started with an idea a pastor, Jason, gave me. He would like me to paint: Creation, The Fall, Redemption and Consummation or Heaven. He’d like 4 paintings, or perhaps, one painting with all four concepts. I really like his idea for a painting. I took a canvas to practice on, so this is my first practice piece. I decided to begin painting some textures that might suggest a time even before creation.

DSC_0127

Then, I added the tree to suggest the dawn of created earth within time. I am still working on the tree, and I hope to add new textures for the leaves, etc. I’ll have some realism and some abstraction. Just like life!

DSC_0137

I am using the sun to represent grace, something God provided before our time began(see Ephesians 1) and something He provides, in Jesus, moving forward in history – even during the Fall, and even in our own personal dark times. I am adding layer upon layer, just like layers of amazing grace.

DSC_0154

The second part of the painting represents the darkness of The Fall, and, on a personal level, our separation from God because of our own evil hearts. As Kathy Keller has stated above, our own hearts need grace, redemption and healing constantly, and in new places. I have marveled at the areas of pride, self-absorption, and self-pity I have spotted with the Lord as I lie quietly in bed, recovering from yet another chemo treatment. God and I tussle over who is God, I tear up and repent. I’ll have a flash of a thought of someone who was cruel to me, and my unkind thoughts in return unnerve and sadden me. I repent and ask God for mercy, forgiveness and freedom from that judgement. While lying still. Maybe that’s why we have the “Be still and know I am God.” verse in the Bible.

12715498_1030890060306135_3527887511134157051_n

Here you can see the contrast of the Creation and The Fall more clearly, and yet, I am suggesting that grace and forgiveness is available in the darkness – in Jesus. Because He came, took the punishment for our evil hearts, rose from the dead, and is preparing a place for us in Heaven, we can ask to have Him as our Savior and receive grace, forgiveness and freedom. We can never work our way into absolute goodness on our own, nor can we attain perfection or nirvana and master all our shortcomings or wicked thoughts. We aren’t being honest about our hearts or realistic, if we think this way. And, gosh, Jesus, His love, His forgiveness is free in exchange with our authentic repentance from our wrongs and acceptance of His free gift. Well, free to us, costly to Him. Why wouldn’t we take that gift of GRACE?

I am so thankful for God’s grace – His unmerited favor, since before time and all the way forward into eternity. And, I’m with Kathy and her assessment of my heart, and the endless need of grace we have and then can receive, in Jesus, for healing and redeeming our hearts. 

“That’s no tragedy for me because I don’t cling to my life for my own sake. The only value I place on my life is that I may finish my race, that I may fulfill the ministry that Jesus our King has given me, that I may gladly tell the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

Love In Italia For Valentine’s Day

12670162_1029873897074418_707010300684508834_n

I have had the thrill of painting in Lucca, Italia during several summers, in recent years. I love to paint a balcony scene that is on a large square with an important cathedral. The real windows are often closed because of the hot, summer sunlight. When I have painted the scene, I have flung open the windows and added a couple in love. Love on Valentine’s Day – or in Italy, any day! I have museum quality gicleé prints on German etching paper available for sale, as well as blank cards, of this lovely scene.

DSC_0140

Here is the young couple in an embrace. The curtain is blowing to represent life and love. The days I have spent in Italy have been grace-filled days. They have been days filled with beauty, good food, kind friends and lovely color everywhere. Such beauty has been restorative to my soul, mending fragile areas, and encouraging my heart.

DSC_0141

This particular balcony has many pots of bright red flowers and flowers hanging on the stucco walls. The lively reds help me to see past dark days fighting cancer, and dark days healing from hard parts of my story.

DSC_0142

I have seen the windows open when I was on one, maybe two, of my trips to Lucca, and it was fun to see the long white curtains blowing a bit in the breeze. Such life! I have exaggerated the blowing of the curtains in this watercolor. The wild curtain expresses my joy I have experienced in this town.

DSC_0145

I’ve used washes of sienna to suggest shadows under the pots. A blue vase is casually tucked by one of the window shutters.

DSC_0049

Here is a photograph of the real balcony in Lucca with the windows closed. It’s a much more lively scene to have the windows open! This photo must have been taken during the heat of the day, or when I was wandering around early in the morning. If you’d like to buy a print or a set of cards, please let me know at marcia2010@swissmail.org. The prints are 11×14 for $40 / includes shipping costs. The cards are 10 blank 5×7 cards for $25 / shipping costs included. Please include your hard copy address when you email, and I’ll give you an address where you can mail payment. I only have 10 prints in this edition. Enjoy love in Italia!

lp.aspx

The front of my art cards.

preview

11×14 gicleé museum quality print.

Gift Bag To Give When A Friend Is Going Through Chemo

gift bags

We all want to help when someone is diagnosed with cancer. But, where do we start? What do we do, especially if we are not in the person’s inner circle of friends? (Or, if we are.) How do we show up? One thing we can all do is make a gift bag with goodies for your special person’s chemo infusion sessions and for their days of recovery. Many have asked me what should be put in a gift bag, so here are a few suggestions for a “blessing bag” for someone in a hard place, especially for those fighting cancer.

DSC_0100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A colorful gift bag of your choice, is a great way to start. It could even be a fabric bag if you’d like. There aren’t any rules here, except to try to bless and encourage. Fill the bag yourself or with a group of friends. This is a great project for several to pool their resources and gifting. The more the merrier!

DSC_0104

Start off with some comfort lotions for the inevitable dry skin from chemo, hand sanitizer for those endless office visits, tissues for the tears that will come, and tuck in essential oils if you know your person would like them. Think pampering and comfort when selecting lotions and oils. Everything hurts during chemo. Remember cozy, fuzzy socks for cold feet – chemo often takes a long time, and your person’s feet will cool down.

12115617_970490426346099_8918387838180267335_n
I have a friend who makes very special products to heal and soothe. These would be great to add to a blessing bag. Her website is Picket and Oak.

DSC_0102

Tuck in some mints, gum, and sweets that will help with any strange tastes or nausea during chemo. Ginger gum and ginger mints are also good ideas to help with nausea. My doctor has suggested Tums for the lighter nausea days.

gingermints-2

Next, you can add gift cards to Panera or Starbucks, or any of your local coffee shops and restaurants that might encourage your person. I’ve gotten $5 Starbucks cards when I am making many gift bags; a friend purchased $10 Panera cards for some of my gift bags. These are a really huge addition because they allow a caregiver or your person to take a break from cooking or to actually get a little treat.

450starbucks-gift-card

 

DSC_0105

 

 

Then, you can add a favorite book to encourage or cheer your person on her journey. Kara Tippetts, who fought hard throughout her breast cancer journey, wrote a book with Jill Buteyn about showing up for your people who are sick or hurting. I highly recommend it! If someone likes making bookmarks, add one of those to the book. (Audio books are great, too.) Then, you can add little gifts of beauty: bracelets, earrings, a pretty necklace, a handmade scarf or hat. Of course, it helps to have a group to add extra items like this, but, one of your friends might make jewelry, and just maybe, they’d love to donate a few items to your bag. If a friend knits or crochets, maybe she can donate a hat or scarf. After someone fighting chemo looses his or her hair, a soft, handmade hat is a very special, well used gift.

DSC_0112
Another important item to tuck into your gift bag is some lip gloss, vaseline or lip balm. It’s fun to find different flavors of lip balm, but the more practical gloss is well liked as well. Chemo patients’ lips are always dry in the winter.
DSC_0107
A soft hat to sleep in or wear through the winter is a lovely item to include.

DSC_0108 DSC_0110

A couple of other ideas to include are emory boards and nail hardener type nail polish. Chemo patients often have fragile nails, even to the point of loosing them. I know. That scared me right into using nail hardener! (I’ve asked for prayer so I don’t loose my nails.) Some folks use Jamberry nail wraps, and they might be a help as well. Also, bath salts and bubble bath are just wonderful items to include. A cancer patient often does not have the energy to stand up in the shower, and the soaking bath helps remove toxins while giving comfort to your person’s achy body.

P1090895

A final idea is to add some blank art cards or thank you cards. Your special person will have so many thank you cards to write – and half they will never have the energy to get to. I have so many people I need to thank for helping me, I feel I should make an announcement over a national public address system, and thank everyone at once! In fact, thank you to everyone who has helped me on my cancer journey!!

These are just some ideas. These items have helped me on my journey with stage 4 breast cancer. They just might bless your person. And remember, don’t dash off right after you have handed your person their gift bag. You will cheer them so much by hanging out for a bit; maybe crack a joke, share your news and help them to feel they are still in the land of the living! Your presence is really one of the biggest gifts you can give them! You can be a curative balm in their time of “hard.”

11219672_972733336121808_8677741519089171886_n
Katie, sharing the journey with me, often comes down to my apartment in the evening to check on me and give me the gift of her time and her presence!

A joy-filled heart is curative balm,
but a broken spirit hurts all the way to the bone. Proverbs 17:22 The Bible, the Voice version

Here is the link to the Just Show Up book: “JUST SHOW UP”

Here is a link to Picket and Oak: PICKET AND OAK

 

 

Loving Community

11899920_944349825626826_1859176999367029664_n

Loving community. Your people who love you, just because they do. Doesn’t that sound like a nice, safe and happy place to be? I know from my own story, I truly want to be known, encouraged and loved in intimate community. I also want to have mutuality in these loving relationships, each of us freely using and appreciating the gifts and talents God has given us.  My life is substantially richer because I do have intimate, loving community with a group of friends in Seattle.  Family and friends in other parts of the country tell me, time and again, how blessed I am to have my people. They say Jesus is really obvious in my loving community. (You guys are real Christians, they say.)

I don’t take my people in Seattle for granted; it has been much harder to find community in Colorado. I’ve been told it takes one to two years. God is so kind to have given me a handful of friends here, over time, and because I was community starved, their friendship is all the sweeter. Doing life alone, in a new town, is a hard I didn’t think I’d experience as a follower of Jesus. I’ll just go to church, make some friends, it will be fine. It didn’t happen. 

576219e996ed2833dd49fb86287a211b

So, I’ve thought a lot about community, during my two years in Colorado. Thinking about how community might more easily happen, has captured my thoughts late into the night. Books like, A Meal With Jesus, suggesting forming loving, Christ-centered relationships around the dinner table, have peaked my interest in doing church and community in new ways. Not that I had anyone to do it with!

Here are a few thoughts on how I would like to approach life in order to be a grace-filled, loving community person for others:

1. God is a sovereign designer, THE Artist of artists, and He designs gatherings of people (church) because He knows what He needs and wants to create within a group of believers. He also knows what the group NEEDS to grow to become more like Jesus. When someone shows up at my church, I will assume God has brought her or him there as part of His fantastic design. I will assume we must need their gifting, their story, their pain, their joy, yes, and even their art, for the flourishing and maturing of our group. When someone shows up at my church or within my group, I want to say, “This is great! I wonder what God is up to. Let’s see who God brought to us!”

P1030285
My people praying for a woman in a hard place.

2. Who were Jesus’ people? (Who will my people be?) Jesus hung out with people who had hard stories, embarrassing stories. He spent lots of time with those who had been marginalized, abused, were sick, wicked sinners or had special needs. He liked children. He formed community with these people, and He restored these people to their communities.  If our personal stories include: brokenness, divorce, domestic violence, loss, addiction, violation, evil, hurting children or chronic illness, Jesus moves in closer. Oftentimes, these folks are the point people Jesus calls to lead evangelism in larger communities. I want these to be my people, too. Do we move in closer, or do we feel uncomfortable and run from these folks?

10703785_10152335253831540_8243973587517011855_n
Art to help form community – Getting to know each other by telling our stories through art making.

3. Forming community takes some of our precious time(I don’t think a year or two, however, as I was told in Colorado); it takes eating together, playing together, really sharing our stories with transparency, (who have you really done that with?) and, sometimes, sitting quietly saying nothing. As fast-paced, independent, self-sufficient, overachieving Americans, we don’t have time for sharing a meal, let alone sitting with another, saying nothing. As Christians, we have put our idolatry of achievement, making money, independence, and “being busy” to earn significance, above the Biblical mandate for community, empathetically loving our neighbor, being still, and knowing God. I understand this because I was one of the fastest paced, independent, overachieving, idolaters before several things, including cancer, stopped me in my tracks. I want to work intentionally towards a new normal. Can I relinquish my American idols for the Biblical mandates given to us by Jesus?

I can only speak for myself, but I am going to try to establish patterns to embrace the Biblical call for unity and being a part of the grand design of people coming to know Jesus “by our love for one another,” in place of my idols. And just maybe, this kind of love will replace the cheap idols of self-sufficiency, independence and busyness I cling to. I pray I leave room in my margins of energy for brothers and sisters – to really know and love them. I pray I save some emotional energy, so I can be grace-filled with those folks God brings along my path outside of my usual group of friends. Thus, I pray I leave open spaces in my heart and with my time for new friends in my circle of friends. I want to remember the person who just moved in.

A friend once said, “Watch a military family to see how fast they reach out to others in their neighborhood. They know they have a total of two, maybe three years in their town, so they make friends fast.” It’s typically true.  I’ve watched my daughter, Katie, the new person in the neighborhood, bring cookies to all the neighbors because she is working to meet people and form friendships quickly. I marvel at her joyful intentionality!

DSC_0032
My daughter Katie, as a military spouse, is joyfully intensional about forming friendships quickly.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

Art To Engage

523294_422759961119151_565631137_n
Marcia Carole, graphite on paper

Some of the art I create, does indeed tell a story. However, for the above piece, I am actually drawing to start a conversation – to engage the viewer into thinking, feeling, and responding on the soul level. Hopefully, discussion of the content of the piece, follows. This is a drawing I rendered so I might engage viewers to turn their attention to women trapped in the sex traffic industry and for discussing justice. Many glance at it and turn away quickly. Others look more carefully.

May I help you to look? I wanted to draw to show a tension that exists in these women’s lives – those caught in all forms of sexual enslavement. (This woman could be in the porn industry, prostitution, or an enslaved, unpaid worker. Her residence can be anywhere in the world, including your town. She is trapped because she has little or no income, owes money to her keeper, her john has her IDs, she is undereducated, ashamed of herself, often comes from an abusive home, and has no hope of escape to anything good.)

Here is the tension in my drawing. The classic high heels symbolize the idea of beauty, femininity and even womanly poise and power. However, there she is, slumped over in pain and despair. Her hands and wrists are locked together as if by an invisible, but certain, set of handcuffs. She is trapped. Her beauty cannot save her. Her beauty is being stolen night after night, until it is replaced with disease and despair.  She will need something stronger to save her – she will need many empathetic, selfless advocates: law enforcement, justice workers, rescue workers, care providers and yes, musicians to sing her story, writers to tell of her plight, and artistths. These artists will have to have the courage to draw or paint her story and help the viewers to engage. She will need community.

Will we just turn away from her plight, or will we engage in her story? Will we act in such a way that we show what she is enduring, at the hands of evil people, is truly evil? And must stop. Each of us has an important choice today. Will we support those who are fighting for these women; will we become one of those fighters? Organizations abound for each of us to work with, support, encourage and pray for, nationally and internationally. Use your gifts to fight. Connect with organizations like International Justice Mission, IJM, to see how you can get involved. Justice is possible. One important woman at a time.

P1070987
Marcia Carole, sketching a portrait of a prostitute in Thailand to extend worth and value to her, and share that Jesus loves her, and so time could be obtained for co-workers to invite these women out to a care center. This woman has hopes and dreams, like my daughters, and I want to help restore those hopes and dreams.

 

Fighting For Grace; Joy Snuck In

Today, I have spent a good chunk of my handful of waking moments, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I am weary of this road. It seems to go with the cancer journey – at least for me. I am so awful tired of chemo and it’s side effects….really DIRECT effects. I hobble with my numb feet, dragging my overwhelmingly tired body to the fridge for the start of breakfast at the ungodly hour of 10:45 a.m. Gone is the energy I had to travel the globe, listening to women share their hearts in Thailand, India, Cambodia, Cameroon and so many other fascinating countries. Gone are the nimble fingers ready to create art or play with my grandchildren.

DSC_0088

Now, I fumble with my glass of lemon water; my neuropathy-filled fingers can’t handle the weight. I crawl back to bed, exhausted and no longer hungry after making the lukewarm oatmeal. Why did I even bother getting up to fight for a little oatmeal? I rarely eat it anyway. I recover in bed with a rest. I catch my breath and work up the energy to try the next thing. A bath.

I fight for a bath. I haul my limp, uncooperative body up the stairs to the bathtub. While running the hot, steamy water, I pour in a detox powder a friend gave me. (If only it would remove all traces of chemo and its effects.) I moan and groan as I lower my bone-tired body into the comforting, hot water. I cry. I cry because I can’t be the mom and grandma I want to be. I cry because people have asked me to serve women in faraway places, and I won’t be going. I cry because I hurt all over and my heart hurts in places I didn’t even know were there.

DSC_0089

A new friend, Blythe, texts me as I return downstairs to try to dress. “Try” is the operative word. She’s “praying for me, calling out for mercy on my behalf” and she’s meditating on Scripture for me because she knows I don’t have the strength for it. She gives me Matthew 11:4, 28 Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side….”Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest….learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Blythe is grace and kindness in my hard, hard morning, reaching toward me, being with me. I just cry.

This new friend showed up in the middle of my hard, hard, stupid crying day. She is believing and trusting the heart of Jesus even when all I can do is cry. I texted her that I would fight to see grace. I’ve seen the love of Jesus melt the hardest of hearts and change the darkest situations.

DSC_0092

My daughter, Katie, and another friend, Hannah, both kindly respond rapidly to texts for help with food and bath salts. Grace quietly moves into my day, like cats’ feet, and I feel loved and cared for in my crying, bad day. It takes loving community, and I vow to be the person who reaches out to broken, crying people when I am well enough. I take another nap.

I make another meal; it takes way more energy than I have, so I rest on Katie’s sofa. There, I see a little set of books written by my grandson. I have time and energy to read them, and so I do. When I get to the third book, my tears flow again, but in a strange way, they are happy tears. My very first grandson shows me I have meant something to his story, and I am thankful. It’s a quiet moment of actual, pure joy. Joy snuck in.

DSC_0093

DSC_0094

DSC_0095

DSC_0096

DSC_0097

DSC_0098

I’m not going to go all preachy on you and say all is well, because I am still having a crying hard day. But, somehow, with grace-filled family and friends, and my grandson, my day was redeemed in some mysterious and important ways. They have the courage to believe that God is good and for me, even on the darkest days. And, they had the courage to “show up” for me and show me what they believe.

“Joy is the heart’s harmonious response to the Lord’s song of love.” ~ A. W. Tozer.