Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a council of women. This council came as part of our regular block of Sunday meetings that I participate in as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The purpose of our council was to consider this question, “How will we use our sisterhood this year to bless the life of each sister in our community?” We talked about our responsibilities and privileges and each of us was given the opportunity to consider our own resources and impressions and consider how we might go forward with an action plan.
This council was a meeting of the Relief Society. Our purposes are to strengthen each other and our families and our community…to extend relief. We used as the foundation for our discussion, a talk given by President Russell M Nelson titled, “A Plea to My Sisters”. This talk was inspiring and powerful. It called for us as sisters to be articulate. In fact, at least 12 times in the talk, we were encouraged to “speak out”.
So part of my action plan is to do just that. I am reading a book entitled “This I Believe”. It is a compilation of essays written by a variety of people who responded to the invitation to carefully consider their own, very personal and very fundamental Beliefs. I choose to take that challenge and send the invitation on. I realize that there are many many heartfelt beliefs I could express, so I will just begin. This is that.
There was a time when I felt overwhelmed and anxious. I realized that my life was bigger than me and that I was not capable of what was being asked of me. What I have come to believe is that this is true. This is profoundly true. This was an important realization for me to come to….a place to begin something completely different. Rather than trying to run faster to catch up, I believe I can accomplish more of the really essential things by slowing down. Why is this true? It is when I slow down that I am able to connect with the power of God. I believe God is my Father and his purpose is to help me reach my potential. He can inspire me when I open myself to His tutoring. My son Nathan is taking an accelerated course in computer programming. Each day the professor introduces a concept to the
students and then gives them a challenge to incorporate that concept into a project. Their experience with it will teach them far more than he could otherwise offer. There is no failure, only experience. I see God working with me this way. I study concepts and then when I have experiences, I recognize the application of the concept. Often, my experience shows my weakness and my mistakes. This is so important for me to understand and consider. If I will allow for processing time, I will gain from every experience. I have the added advantage of a professor who understands me and my subject matter
infinitely better than I do.
To get the full advantage of this kind of education, I have realized that I need to not only make God a part of my life, but to put Him first. He has unlimited abilities and perfect understanding. He condescends to be my partner and use what I offer and make something of it. The beauty is that by putting Him first, which means trying to put Him in the center, I am able to do more with less and see His hand in it. I gain a new level of freedom and joy while being stretched. My belief is that God is completely capable; that he loves me perfectly, and that he is profoundly interested in my education
and its purposes. At once I am nothing and everything.
After some thoughtful consideration of my life these days, here are 6 taken from my list of things I am sure about.
1. I want Jesus to own me.
2. My life is best when I am more thoughtful and concerned at home.
3. I need to pray more earnestly more often.
4. There is great safety in obedience to God's laws. I cannot afford to have my own agenda.
5. My most valuable blessings are those things that bring me to Him. (they are not usually the most fun)
6. (and best) God's mercy is much greater than I had supposed.
Recently my friend Crista and I had a conversation that came out of a podcast she had listened to. I believe the title was “opening and closing ceremonies”. With the little information she gave me about it, I’m not sure I understand that author’s intent, but I would like to explore the thoughts I have had since that conversation.
So the podcaster was, as I understand it, talking about holidays and how to be more deliberate in our lives; planning an opening event and closing event which would help us define the celebration. I’m thinking about other undertakings that might happen more regularly. I’m going to lunch with a friend. What is my purpose? What is the best thing I could hope to come from this time spent? How will I make the most of the present? How will our time together bless our lives? This is deliberate living and I believe that it is an important way to value this significant resource of time.
I didn’t always recognize time as my greatest resource, or think much about the “budget”. I think all that changed for me when I decided to go back to school at the age of 44. I knew at the time that I wasn’t ever sitting down wondering what to do with the time I had. Somehow I would have to stretch what I had to fit in more. This was a great opportunity to evaluate priorities because of course we don’t stretch time, we just choose more carefully. I had to learn when to “run” and when to “sit still”. My commute to school was about an hour each way. During this time I learned how to visualize myself actually getting to the studio and starting to work. I would brainstorm about project ideas and work out details. This became a real mental workout time. Other days I would spend this time in prayer, thanking God for everything that came to mind as I drove along. Sometimes my prayers were problem solving, counseling sessions. I had to be deliberate about what that ride was going to be about. When I sat in a class, I was determined to gather up as much from the lecture as I could. If I felt like the topic no longer applied to me, I chose to “disengage” and work inside my mind.
One thing I learned from this time was to be deliberate about what I would be focusing on and when. For example, in my life today, I wake up and study scriptures each morning. I want to give my whole mind to this study. It is pointless to just go through motions, I want to be wholly engaged. If I find my mind wandering, which it often does, I stop and refocus. Then I go to the gym. There I want to appreciate a time to work my muscles and feel my blood pumping. I try not to think past the moment and really live there. If I have a chance to visit with a friend, I hope to make our days better by the conversation. Often I disappoint myself and recommit to do better next time. I have committed to “talk less and listen more”, but I fail most of the time.
So back to the ceremonies idea…I’m thinking about the Christmas season. In our family each year, we make a large calendar for the month of December and put it up in the kitchen. Then we share and write down all the things we love to do to celebrate Christmas. We take that list and plot it in to the calendar. This way we can make sure that the things that matter to us happen. This is a good time to consider what you might also let go of.
A couple of years ago, I started a tradition that came from this kind of pondering about Christmas cards and the value or non value of them. What was my reason for sending them out? Did I have a purpose? After considering, I changed my plan and came up with something that was meaningful to me. Sometimes what has value one year might not be something you need to take up again the next year. After all, you will be a different person in a different place. This will require deliberation and asking the question, what do I hope to make of this time I have been given? I like to visualize the best thing I can imagine for myself and then think about the road to get to that.
This past Friday I had the opportunity to show at Finch Lane Gallery with 2 other artists, Namon Bills and Elise Ostraff. We each had a few minutes to speak about our art and I would like to continue that here.
The title of the Show was Sacred Texting which came out of a mash up of "Sacred Texts" and "Texting". A sacred text, or scripture, is a record of God's communications with man. Texting is a record of people communicating with people. This show is an opportunity to consider the sacredness of these interactions...to be aware of the messages we are sending, and what our communications with each other can mean. Each piece is a record of a communication that I want to send out.
I also had an opportunity to speak a little bit about my process. My phone is the vehicle I use to send out a text. My artist voice speaks through a set of self imposed parameters that are coming from deep in me and consists of at least 3 parts.
The first is a love for the challenge of using the "unusable". I want to "mine the piles"..those things that once were mined from the earth and used and then discarded. They are most often found in piles. When I am able to use these resources, not only do I feel rewarded creatively, I feel good about cleaning up the mess. To take something messy and compact it and organize it and then hang it up to look at where it will take very little space..this is something I am driven to do. I have even fantasized about walking into a doctors waiting room, gathering up all of the magazines and screwing them together into one beautiful solid square. How satisfying!
Many years ago, I took an art class at BYU from a graduate student who had a love for building. (I think his name was Shoels...anybody??) He took us to the old B66 building and taught us how to use basic power tools. He changed my life. I acquired a drill and felt the power of tightly bonding two objects together. I have loved that construction process ever since.
The 3rd imperative is my love for philosophy...finding meaning in life and talking about it....connecting with people. I want to share what I have to say and I want to hear what you have to say. I like a conversation that consists of "thinking out loud". Apart from studio and study hours that I LOVE, I am mostly drawn to be with people. Art has opened up great opportunities to meet great people and have good conversations.
So my process consists of gathering up, tearing down, building up and looking for meaning. This is my version of sacred texting. The show will run through November 17, 2017. If you get a chance to see it, send me a text!
I have a friend named Jim who has a dream of being a playwrite. He has a room in his house with a computer where he goes to write. His wife has commented on trying to give Jim time alone for his writing. This past summer, Jim's wife took the kids out of the country for the summer. After about 2 months, we had Jim over for dinner. I thought about a summer alone and started to fantasize about what I would do with myself. So I asked Jim if he had been doing a lot of writing. His answer surprised me. "No, I haven't done any writing, but I do golf every day." Wow! that was unexpected. It turns out that Jim was in a company golf tournament last year in a group with 2 rather good golfers. Jim decided to sign up again for the tournament at the end of this summer, and enjoy it much more after a summer of practice. What does this mean for Jim?
I have a dream of playing the guitar..really well. So I can take requests.
I have the guitar.
I have learned that practicing the guitar NEVER comes up as my number one choice of things to do when I get to choose. I think this means I don't really want that thing.
What do I actually work hard to make room for consistently? Studio time. Art making opportunities drive me to get up early and go all day. There is one thing though that trumps time alone in my studio where I feel I have escaped the planet. What is this thing? Making connections. If I run into you at the grocery store and we have a good conversation, it will likely be the highlight of my day.
When I went to school to get an art degree, there were two things I really wanted to do. The first was to be challenged and see what I could do. One of my very favorite parts of school was walking out of Jo Ostraff's mixed media class thinking, "I have no idea how I'm going to do this assignment."
The second thing I really wanted was to work my way into the art community so that I could connect with people who had this same crazy passion for creating. One of my favorite experiences came when I sold a piece to Salt Lake artist Jody Plant. She wanted to know where to send the check and I said "I'll come get it from you!" I loved getting to visit with Jody in her lovely home with all her passion and drive. We were old friends in an instant.
I guess what I'm saying is, there are things I admire about other people, like their ability to sing and strum Cat Stevens. But that admiration isn't causing me to do anything. I can't say I really want that. I guess I should pass the guitar along.
I keep feeling a need to make a record of the things I am learning. I am interested in the idea that as I give time in my life for more pondering, I will be able to do more with less. I don't believe that I am meant to run faster and faster because there are unlimited things to run after. This summer I grew a garden. There were lots of seeds that wanted some space there. I had lots of small green things coming up and had to choose which ones to keep and cultivate. The price of cultivating is my time and attention. I want to spend that on the seeds that will give me fruit. I cannot afford to keep them all.
I want to create an environment that allows for greater and more frequent "insight", or seeing inside my head. I recommend the book "The Art of Insight". Some of these thoughts have come as I have read it. I believe insight comes not so much through acquiring new information as it comes from seeing what I know in a new way. This requires unhurried thinking. The "creation" will be a combination of what is physically in front of me currently combined with past experience and importantly "inspiration" which comes from God to me through His spirit. What I get is something wonderfully fresh and deliciously fruitful. This 3rd element comes most frequently for me through scripture study and prayer which help me get to that slower place of meditation.
The beauty of living each minute of our active life fully present, is that it allows us to take in raw information that can then be distilled later. I recently spent some time with a painting I wanted to "ingest". For me this means giving it my full attention for several minutes, trying to take it in without verbal dialogue. I want something of that work for myself. It is not enough to have access to it outside of my head because it is only when it is in me that it can be part of this combining process that brings about fresh thoughts. This is something I am really working on...not thinking past what I am currently about, but living it fully. Work smarter, not harder. My quality of life depends on how I well I am able to do this. I cannot afford to be hurried.
Three things I am passionate about...family, creating and Jesus. These are the things that make my life rich.