You Will Be with Me {A Reflection on the Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross}

HaydnsSevenLastWordsSketchesLisaScottLast week, several musicians, writers, and artists from my church gathered with our congregation on St. Patrick’s Day to share a contemplative selection of music and meditations in the tradition of Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross. It was a moving experience. My 6 year-old daughter sat on my lap after my segment, and whispered the rest of the time about the things she heard and saw. After the meditation on Jesus’ loving words to Mary and John, the string quartet began playing the sonata to match. Farah looked at the artwork on the screen, swayed to the lilt of the strings, and then whispered in my ear, “They’re still talking about Mary and John, they’re just saying it in a violin kind of way.” After the “I thirst” reading, she moved her arms and whispered in rhythm, “The strings are saying, ‘Give me water. Give me water.'” Through the old melodies and Scripture, and the fresh words and original art, we children and adults anchored ourselves in the moment and marveled at how Jesus actively loved through the worst of pain. Below, you’ll find the words and audio recording of my piece reflecting on the interaction between Jesus and the repentant criminal in Luke 23:39-43. I pray it helps you pause and consider the wow-factor of what Jesus did on the cross, how he conquered the “fight or flight” instinct and stayed present in the pain until it was finished. Continue reading

The Chain Reaction of Art in 3-D {A Less Digital Life…Day 30}

I think we all know the feeling–we go searching Pinterest for inspiration, maybe a new look for the mantle this season, and we end up coming across a pair of slouchy knee-high tan boots that make us want to go shopping, a must-try pumpkin bread recipe and a tutorial on how to make felted soap. There are a dozen or a hundred things we could be attempting, but we feel exhausted just trying to make a decision. When we do pick a project, we often end up copycatting what we find rather than letting our true art out into the world.

When creative work comes in bulk disconnected from its creator, when we see the results of someone’s labor without considering the labor itself, when we compare our own unadorned lives with all of the accessories on the screen, we find ourselves stuck in place like a feed that keeps recycling the same images again and again. That’s the Pinterest Effect.

Today, my friend Jessica is sharing about a whole different effect, one that helped her to stop pilfering away her moments pining over what she saw on Pinterest to find a better way of living. In my early days with baby Gracia, Jessica blessed me with a meal and good conversation. We took some time to swap stories about family and previous churches. When I mentioned the name of my good friend who leads worship at Jessica’s parents’ church, she sat up straight and told me how that very friend had taught her the true meaning of inspiration, unknowingly helping her to move from being a spectator to becoming a real artist. Here is her story…

As a tired and strung-out mom of two little ones, I recently I took a counter-intuitive leap, a step towards doing something that would require lots of time, effort, and energy…very limited commodities during this stage of life. I felt compelled to step off the sidelines and start actively and intentionally pursue my gifts. Continue reading

Framing the Fragments ~ A Giveaway {Take Heart…in Kinship & Community}

When I take in her words, I go away pondering, considering. Sometimes a piece is so moving that I leave it on the screen and come back for a second read. When I see her artwork, I feel like testing my (child-like) skill with the paintbrush. It’s the sign of an authentic artist in my book, one who inspires others to consider their own life in light of the work and one who inspires others to create works of their own. That is Annie Barnett. I am honored to have Annie as part of our Take Heart series today, sharing words and watercolor and letting us in on the way one friend’s honesty helped her go deeper as an artist.

 

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She lives in faraway Texas now, but these little-ones-playing-wildly-in-the-background days we talk on the phone nearly as much as we did in junior high.

It was autumn when she told me, gently: “I love your work, I really do. But it lacks some of the tension and messy brokenness that makes your story yours.”

I wasn’t expecting so much honesty, but wounds from a friend can be trusted, and few people know (and love) me so well as this particular one. She knows I draw little birds and acorns, favorite lines of Christmas hymns and a whole series of eggs, all expectant, full of April hope. These are the pictures I want to hang on my fridge, to call me towards home and invite me in to a place of daily abiding.

I shuffle around her words, awkwardly mumble something about not adorning my walls with images of a bleeding heart twice flattened by a Mack truck.  And this wise friend, she didn’t pull her words back or defend them at all. She just let those words sit a while.

We ended our call, and I sat with the words. Days and weeks slipped by, and the words stayed, grew.

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Since I started painting again, all my work centered on good true words I needed to hear and see, speak and remember. These were not simple niceties, rather painted during hard days, when the call to abide and dwell was a lifeline in the midst of grief.

I set out to paint a shadow of that brokenness and filled a sketch book. In the end, I pursued a nest filled with eggshell debris and a fragile heirloom marked by hairline cracks. I worked water and pigment over weeks instead of hours. Often, this is how I learn, pouring over a painting and learning from the image as I create.

I let the brush wrap moss and string and branch into a crown of twigs: the little nest to frame the fragments that once housed life.  I have carried babies in my womb, and I think twice about such fragile eggs sustaining and nourishing an unhatched life. The broken pieces left behind are the only evidence of something fully alive, taken wing.

Sometimes brokenness is part of the birthing.

My toddler insisted I add baby birds to the nest. But this nest, it speaks of the broken places, where neat little bows don’t tie up the mess because our hearts are made for walks in the cool of the garden, and we don’t always see the whole of redemption in the midst of brokenness.

We wait and we sit with those who wait. Like my dear friend, we ask the hard questions and we learn to listen. And sometimes, when we are quiet, we see a shadow of something new unfurling in those hard places.

annieathomeAnnie Barnett is a creative soul who pours her days into her family and her art. She writes sporadically at AnnieAtHome.com, chronicling her broken, grace-infused journey of playing house and centering her heart on her true home. She loves to make a good mess – whether it’s curry, painting, or play. In the last few months she’s stepped tentatively out into a new space, offering her prints on Etsy and slowly entering the conversation about art and faith at BeSmallStudios.com. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

 

And now for this week’s giveaway from Be Small Studios!

nestprintSimply comment below for the chance to win your own 8×10 print of “Nest: A Study in Brokenness”. (I plan to use my print as a focus point while laboring to deliver my baby girl this April!) For extra entries (include a separate comment here for each entry): 1. subscribe to Message in a Mason Jar via email or RSS feed, 2. like Be Small Studios on Facebook, 3. share this post on Twitter, 4. share on Facebook, 5. and/or share on Pinterest. This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, February 23.

 

Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about kinship/community. We’d love to have you link up with us and share how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles in anything related to extended family drama, difficult ministry experiences or conflict in friendship. The link-up is open through Friday night. And don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win our giveaway from Annie at Be Small Studios today!

Finding Islands {Gift from the Sea 3: Moon Shell}

Within the first ten minutes, while the hood of the van cooled under the shade of a palm tree, she broke free from our grasp and went for the deep end. She steadied herself upright in her life jacket and churned her legs through the water like the blades of a boat motor. If she would have known the phrase, she would have said, “Told you so.” She had kicked in our arms, pushed for freedom, demanded that we let her swim with the cousins without us holding on. And she did it, swam until her tiny fingertips were “all raisins.”

At night, we  kissed her sunwarmed cheeks and watched her heavy eyes finally give in. But a few hours later, her scream tore through the sound of soothing waves and bolted us from our sleep. We cradled her, two pairs of arms and hands sweeping away bad dreams. The next day she jumped right back in the pool and buzzed around in the middle of the action.

Night two was the sleepless sequel. This time she wailed for 45 minutes straight, inconsolable. Her cry echoed out to the beach until my husband pulled the storm door on the balcony. We calmed her and put her back in bed, only to be shaken from our sleep an hour later. We talked her through, offered water, hugged her. She hyperventilated.

After a long night of short bursts of sleep, I awoke in the morning with puffy crescents under my eyes, like the moon hanging over too long into morning. We needed an intervention. I packed two lunches, strapped Farah into the car and waved to the boys as they walked off to another day in the sun with the family. We headed toward the bridge.

When my husband’s grandparents first brought their young family to vacation here in 1957, they had to wait in line at the old swing bridge to get to Fort Myers Beach. And to get from here to Sanibel, you had to take a ferry. “How wonderful are islands!” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote from Captiva, “Islands in space, like this one I have come to, ringed about by miles of water, linked by no bridges, no cables, no telephones.”

At a stoplight, I fiddled with the map on my phone and studied the pulsating blue dot that told me exactly where in the world we were at that moment. Our islands are so connected now. We are never out of reach. And how can we expect to live “like a child or a saint in the immediacy of here and now” when we are busy thinking of how we will document the moment and share it with a few hundred friends on social media?

I turned off the radio, listened to the sound of rubber tires flapping over road seams. Farah asked where we were going. I glanced down again at the interactive map. We were headed deep into Sanibel, off the main stretch to a place of calm. Even as we approached, there was a sense that we could be wasting the day, one of our mere seven days at the beach.

But before we know “the quality to fullness that the Psalmist expressed: ‘My cup runneth over,’” we have to start toward the beginning of Psalm 23: “He makes me lie down.” First there is this giving up of overactivity, a giving in to stillness. We must lie down and rest and admit that the world will go on without our scurrying about.

Farah needed to rest today, to find another rhythm. And I learned from this, too. For weeks, I had spent my creativity on ideas for our road trip. And these couple of days at the beach, I had been worrying myself with a whole new set of challenges. After all, our vacations have changed since we welcomed our little ones to the family starting almost five years ago. There is more to fuss about now. Gone are the days of taking a novel and a towel out to the sand. Now we load our arms with life jackets and cans of sunscreen to keep the kids safe, and we turn this way and that to make sure we don’t lose anyone.

We pulled into the parking lot of the shell museum and toted our lunch to the garden area. A bench waited for us among glossy leaves and delicate flowers. We listened to the sound of trickling water. I felt it in the quiet: “He restores my soul.” Inside, we sauntered slow, touching everything, taking it in. We marveled at a clam shell bigger than Farah. We traced the growth of a mollusk from baby to adult. We matched lettered olives and conches and channeled whelks with their friends.

This felt like the purposeful giving that Anne Morrow Lindbergh noted. As I walked with Farah in this quiet space, and even as I was not fully alone, I experienced the benefits of solitude. This “belongs to the natural order of giving that seems to renew itself even in the act of depletion. The more one gives, the more one has to give–like milk in the breast.” The author wrote more, “Even purposeful giving must have some source that refills it. The milk in the breast must be replenished by food taken into the body. If it is woman’s function to give, she must be replenished too.”

Why does this sound so audacious that we should carve out some time away to be refilled? After all, “Every paid worker, no matter where in the economic scale, expects a day off a week and a vacation a year. By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off.” And doesn’t this time off makes us better fit for work and relationship when we return? Whether it be a run in the morning or reading time at a cafe in the evening or a personal retreat sometime during the year, we serve ourselves and our families well when we set an appointment for time alone.

In order to find fulfillment in whatever our calling may be, we must carve out an island of time for contemplation and creativity. And in order to be truly away, it may not be a bad idea to turn off our devices, those bridges that keep us over-connected. Anne Morrow Lindbergh said that we should “…consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, or study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work, but it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day….” We women come back from solitude with souvenirs of a clear mind and renewed spirit…and maybe even a piece of art.

When we arrived at the pool, Farah ran to the family to show off her shell bracelet. It was her little memento from our refreshing day away. The night was my souvenir, my little girl sleeping through, every deep breath rising to the rhythm of ocean waves.

{This week’s post is based on Chapter 3, “Moon Shell” in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. View all entries in the series here.}

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So, what’s your take? Pick one or more of the reflection questions in the comments section and enter a reply to share your thoughts. All subscribers’ comments on the weekly Gift from the Sea posts (shared on Mondays in June and July) will be entered for a drawing at the end of our Summer Book Club 2012.

Creative Christmas Gallery

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Our homespun artwork on this year’s Christmas card was inspired by two artists: Charles Schulz and George Louis Wiley. The season just wouldn’t be the same without Schulz’s famous holiday favorite, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. And Christmas for the Wiley … Continue reading