Let me show you just how much God loves me. First I have to take you back a few years when Dave and I were at the REI garage sale shopping for raincoats. Sorting through all the racks of styles and sizes we came up with a dark grey coat for him but the only coat in my size was an incredibly ugly green. I’m not kidding, the color on the tag said “Bog/Moss.” At 50% off I figured I could live with it, but I was definitely not a happy camper. We bought the coats and when we got home Dave had the brilliant idea of checking the online outlet. Miracle of miracles, for the same price they had the same coat in my size, but it was brown with rose accents on the sleeve. We bought it, returned the ugly green thing to the store and I breathed a great sigh of relief.
Fast forward to 2016 which finds Dave and I preparing for a long walk in northern Spain, the Camino de Santiago. This, of course, involves properly equipping ourselves for the journey which means REI is now our new favorite store. First off we needed sturdy, lightweight boots. One more a trip to the REI garage sale and Dave got great boots in his size at half price but this time there is nothing for me. As we waited in the incredibly long check-out line I found a good pair of boots on the clearance rack in my size. And they were brown with rose-colored laces. It’s a sign, I just know it.
Now to find our backpacks. Dave did weeks of research to find the perfect balance of size, style, and weight. Off to REI once more and we discover those backpacks come in male and female versions. And the female version sitting right there on the shelf is a lovely shade of rose. Wow, it matches my boots and my raincoat. God loves me!
Since we will be carrying everything in our backpacks we needed to buy small lightweight travel towels. And so we can tell ours apart we bought two different colors. Dave got blue and mine is…you guessed it rose pink.
Lastly I knew I needed some sort of close-toed sandal to wear as an alternative to the boots. Scouring the shelves on all the outdoor stores in our local area we came up empty. Then one afternoon we happened to be in Roseville and stopped into an outdoor store we rarely frequent. Without much hope I asked at the counter about the sandals. As the sales clerk quickly walked to the back of the store, she called over her shoulder, “What size?” Now you have to understand here that while I am about 5 foot 4 inches tall, I wear a whopping size 10 shoe. I am definitely under-tall for my feet! The store was practically empty so when I yelled back, “Size 10,” it felt like it echoed endlessly off the shelves. Talk about embarrassing! By this time the clerk had reached the shoe section and she called back, “Wow, we have one pair here on the sales rack and they’re your size.” I ran back to find her holding up a box of closed-toed Keens and guess what color they were? A beautiful shade of rose. I am not kidding. These big boats match my backpack and my boots, and my raincoat perfectly. Unbelievable.
And that’s how God showed me just how much He loves me.
Many of you know that I play the cello. I began as an adult and have been taking lessons for nearly seven years now and although I can see progress, I still can’t bring myself to claim the title of cellist yet.
The learning curve for this instrument is steep. For each note the fingers of my left hand have to press an exact spot on the string to produce the correct pitch. Depending on the sound I want and what the next notes will be, I have to choose which finger to use and whether to press just my fingertip or a flattened finger onto the string. Do I hold it steady or rock my hand to create vibrato? Meanwhile to form the purest tone my right hand controls the pressure, angle and placement of the bow as well as its speed across the string. So many choices with each and every note.
Truth be told, practicing is not always a pleasant experience…for me or the other inhabitants of my house. If I know my practice session will include work on some horribly hard stuff, I try to schedule my cello time when no one else is home. If that can’t happen I warn my family with our code phrase, “It’s going to be two-door bad.” That’s means I not only close the door to the room where I am practicing, but I also close their door in order muffle the sound as much as possible.
Over the years I do see improvement in my playing but it’s a painfully long and slow process. Sometimes that’s discouraging. Cringing as I hit yet another awful note can be debilitating. If I stop my bow, the note is gone but its memory lingers to mock my attempts. I often think, “Should I just give up now and spare the world this agony?” Thankfully God whispers life lessons to me in odd moments like this. It struck me recently that each time I pick up the cello I have a choice. I can’t do anything about the bad notes I played before but I can make each note I am currently playing as beautiful as possible. Those past regrets take away from today’s beauty and I need to let them go. Learn from them but move on. A valuable life lesson indeed.
Maybe it’s my “almost-an-empty-nester” stage but more and more I find myself taking stock of where I am in life, where I thought I would be at this age, and wondering what I will become in the future. And of course those dreaded comparisons and regrets start creeping in. The what-ifs and why-didn’t-I’s can all too easily overwhelm me and take away the joy of the present.
A while back I came across a line about allowing God to transform the broken places in your life into prisms. Can’t you just see that? What a beautiful word picture of redemption and hope. That idea has been rolling around in the back of my head for a while and so I began to review my life again. What if I start looking at my faults as prisms reflecting God’s beauty outside of my selfish little world? How this happens I don’t know but I’m holding onto God’s goodness and grace and letting Him be in charge, or at least I’m trying to.
I love when God whispers His truth to me through my art. I love it even more when I pay attention and actually listen. Over the years I have collected quite a pile of broken eggs. Some were completed and accidentally cracked. Some didn’t turn out as I’d hoped and were abandoned partway through the process. I couldn’t bring myself to toss any of them so they just sat in a drawer collecting dust. Every time I opened the drawer they shouted at me that I had failed in some way.
Now what if I used those broken bits somehow? Could I really transform them into something more? After a lot of experimentation I can finally say yes.
These egg mosaics have been a challenge and a delight to create. I’m still discovering new ways to improve my designs and having fun in the process. Not only that, I will be teaching a class on this technique at the Pysanky USA retreat in Pennsylvania next week.
This time of year often brings thoughts about new beginnings but a profound insight hit me recently. As I reached for a fresh egg to begin yet another project I realized that each egg gives me another chance to have fun, to change my approach, to improve my skill, to make a completely different egg than the last one. In other words, every egg is a “do over.” And I am so thankful that I don’t have to be stuck with the past, but can grow and change and develop as an artist as I work on the next egg.
Here’s the amazing thing though. This principle applies not just to egg art, but to life as well. All of life is one big “potential” when you think about it. Each day is a “do over” that waits for me to move forward one small step at a time. I really like that perspective. So look out 2012, here I come.
Creating these eggs is a never-ending adventure in experimentation and I’ve made my share of poor color and design choices over the years. It took me quite a while to realize it is okay to dislike a piece enough to destroy it and try again. Now I give myself permission to cut my losses and move on sometimes. It hasn’t always been this way, though.
Let me tell you the story of what we refer to in my family as “The Ugly Cake.” Years ago when my oldest son, Ryan, turned 14 I decided to try making an ice cream roll birthday cake like the ones at Baskin-Robbins. The yellow cake part baked without incident and I dutifully rolled it up in a towel when it came out of the oven just like the cookbook said. As I finished rolling it, I noticed a wrinkle in the towel so without thinking, I stretched the two side edges to get rid of the wrinkle. Unfortunately the hot cake was firmly attached to the towel at this point and it split crosswise into two rolls. Oh well, I thought to myself. I can glue it together with the ice cream filling. No one will ever know.
Once cooled, I gently unrolled the cake to find that not only had it split into two rolls, it unrolled with a series of cracks so deep that I could see the towel below. Still believing I had a chance, I dutifully spread softened chocolate ice cream over the pieces of cake and rolled it back up as I went. I could tell it looked pretty pitiful at this point, but hoping for the best, I stuck it in the freezer.
When I checked later, I realized the ice cream must have been too soft because the weight of the cake caused it to ooze out of all the edges of the cake. Alarmed, I yanked it out of the freezer with perhaps a little too much vigor. Because the ice cream wasn’t hard all the way through the cake, the top half slid right over the edge of the pan and onto my arm.
Ever the optimist, I scooted the pieces back together and decided I could still save it if I just made a chocolate glaze and covered up what I now referred to as the “Ugly Cake.” I quickly threw together a decadent shiny chocolate glaze to try to hide the many mounting flaws. However, I forgot the cake was cold and instead of flowing gracefully over its sides, the warm glaze just sat in a lump on the top of the mess.
Desperate now, I spread the glaze as far as it would go, shoved the cake back in the freezer, and drove with Ryan to Baskin-Robbins where we chose a cake from the many beauties in their freezer. I did finally show the “Ugly Cake” to the rest of the family and we had a good laugh at my adventure.
The lesson here? There are definitely times to admit your mistakes, give up, and move on. You might even laugh about them someday.