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Making Something Special, part 2

"Art is the act of making something special"

I was thinking more about this quote (see yesterday's post) and considered that there are 2 ways that one could interpret that statement.

First, the act of making something special could simply be the act of actually creating- making something- with your own energy, mind and hands.  I think of things like creating a painting, a song, sculpture, a special dish, etc.  The second interpretation, which I believe to be within the reach of  all of us, is that of helping to realize the full potential or capacity of something.  We might say, "She has the makings of an entrepreneur" or "He made the team".  Both of those statements suggest a certain potential.  So to say that art is the act of making something special, its to see the potential in every situation and help actualize that however possible.

I think about the things that I will do in the course of a day, and what it might look like to turn those ordinary acts into something special:

  • A conversation with a good friend becomes  art when I take the time to ask thoughtful questions of the heart, truly seeking to listen and to understand.
  • The last day of school for the kids becomes more than just the last day when I thoughtfully consider and execute a way of honoring all of their efforts, hard work and achievement in successfully getting through another year
  • Concluding an e-mail to a work colleague with a simple note of encouragement or appreciation
  • Getting gas and paying the clerk isn't just an exchange of money and goods, but one that leaves the person knowing that he or she was recognized as a living, breathing human being
Some people seem to just live this way naturally.  I have to think about it and be intentional about it.  I can get very task oriented and simply focus on "gittin' 'er done" and miss the opportunity to turn an everyday experience into art by making it something special.

I hope today that I will grow in awareness of the opportunities to make something special.

Making Something Special

Before "Making Something Special"
"Art is the act of making something special."

This quote comes from Ron Martoia, one of the more creative people I have had the privilege of interacting with.  He's one of those kind of people who doesn't do ordinary... seems like everything he is about is somehow turned into an art. Cooking, exercising, writing, speaking, vocation... you name it. He seems to know just how to put that extra spin on something, take it beyond what you'd expect and turn it into something special.  I'm always inspired by people like that.

Making something special means taking the ordinary to the next level, beyond ordinary. For me, it makes the difference between a day being filled with a series of mundane tasks, and one that has moments of art. I believe that we all have the capacity to make things special because we have the fingerprint of our Creator all over us.

Alot of my creative energy, or "making things special" went into ministry in the past.  So now I find myself turning my attention towards our home in this season of our lives.  Our floors have ugly green carpeting that was laid when the house was built, nearly 20 years ago.  Yes, you can imagine (see picture above).  So, this week I am tearing it out in one of our underutilized rooms, repainting the walls (also the same color since we moved in) and making this space into something special.  Yes, to me this is art and I can't wait to get going on the project!

May we all find ways today to turn something ordinary into art by making it something special.

Resisting Entropy, part 2

Yesterday's post was about the importance of intentionality in parenting.  The  principle that I referred to- that most things, if left to their own, will move towards disorder and chaos and away from beauty and order-  applies to just about anything in life that truly matters. You name it:  marriage, friendship, business, creativity, physical fitness, spiritual life, etc.  I can't think of a single thing that has any significance at all that can grow towards its full potential without a whole lot of nurturing, care, and intentionality.

I've been re-evaluating all of the parts of my life that are important to me.  What am I doing to care for, nurture and help grow those areas so that the full potential is realized? Part of the evaluation process for me is to also look at areas that I SAY are important, and yet I am not really doing much if at all to truly nurture those areas.  I'm only being dishonest with myself if I say that my marriage matters and yet I don't put forth the effort it takes to grow it, nurture and care for it. What I say and do need to be in alignment with one another, otherwise there is dissonance and incongruity.

Here are some of the things that matters most to me (not necessarily in order):
Relationship with God through Jesus Christ
My marriage to Charles
My kids and family
Fulfilling my call,  living out my destiny, and bringing my gifts to bear on the world around me.
Community, although that has been in a season of morphing and changing and I'm still figuring some things out
Creative pursuits like writing and design
More lately, pushing out new business ventures
Being exposed to the world through travel and reading
Physical fitness

Because I do have a high value on intentionality, it is an empowering process to evaluate what I say is important and take an honest look at whether my words and actions line up.

Resisting Entropy

I took a picture of this sign while in Venice
I've always thought that parenting is probably the hardest, most continually challenging  thing I've ever done in my life.   Of course it has its rewards and wonderful moments and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but overall the amount of energy that goes into being a parent exceeds all other roles I've had in life!

The concept of entropy has always fascinated me.  Said simply, its the idea that left to itself, most things will naturally move towards chaos rather than order and beauty.  A garden is a good example of that.... left to its own it will become overgrown with weeds but with care and nurture it has the potential to be breathtakingly beautiful.  Apply that same principle to my son's fish tank, as another example, and you get the idea.  So it is with all of us... without certain disciplines that nurture our body, mind,and spirit, we too will move towards deterioration rather than towards the beauty that lies within us.

As parents, Charles and I continually find ourselves in the middle of situations that require discernment to know how to help direct our kids towards the beauty that lies within them, towards their full, God-given potential.  It requires  intentionality on our parts to help guide that process and a whole lot of dependence upon God to help us guide them!

 Here's  a rock solid truth that encourages me as a parent:  "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."

Today I am grateful that we can tap into a source much greater than ourselves  to help us guide our kids towards the beauty that is within each of them!

The Way Up is Down

Down on your knees, that is.

Any time there's a "but" in a great story, I try to pay attention.  Often the real point, or rest of the story, or the story behind the story, is found in the part after the "but".

"Yet despite Jesus's instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.  But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." (emphasis added)

At the intersection of the contrast is the phrase "But Jesus..."  Just before that phrase, I get the picture of someone with great influence, crowd appeal, who has become quite popular and is drawing huge crowds.  A celebrity, if you will. But Jesus.....  appears to not be the least impressed with all that attention, fame and recognition. The vast crowds are not the main thing for him.  The popularity, the attention, the celebrity status... simply not it.  But Jesus... withdrew to a quiet place and prayed.  There's the main thing, the story behind the story.  That's the real deal.  The relationship that Jesus has with the Father.  Its as if the vast crowds and all that came with it are really quite peripheral to the main thing that Jesus was about; his relationship with the Father.

In a present day culture that places a huge value on celebrity status, I am super challenged by what I see here.  Believe me when I tell you that I can be prone to pursuing "the thing"... the thing that will gain status, recognition, leave my mark in the world. Isn't that  the message we are bombarded with day in and day out?  How quickly the main pursuit can become misguided.  This scripture tugs at my heart and says, "here's the way it works". Yes, its counter cultural. The world says go after it, make it happen, make your mark!   But Jesus's way models to me that whatever comes out my life, in God's way of things, it comes out of the correct center.  And whether anything comes comes out of my life or not really isn't even my deal.  My deal is to stay centered, keeping the main thing the main thing.  From there is the way up into all that God has for our lives.

There is so much to do and to be about today. But today, like Jesus,  may we each make time to get down on our knees.

Trite phrase for the day: "God Guides Us"

On the heels of the last blog entry,  I've been thinking more about God's guidance in our lives.  I considered phrases like the following for the title of the last post:  "God Guides us to be Successful", and  "God Guides us into His Purposes." (Read "Navigating Change" for the context).  I decided those titles sounded too trite and the problem with trite is that the truth just gets lost.

However trite those statements may sound, the truth is, I believe deeply in God's guidance. In fact,  my life depends on it!. I see the propensity in me to wreck my own life, and that of those around me,  if it weren't  for God's guidance and leadership.

This past winter we bought a house in foreclosure that needed some TLC  so that we could turn it around and sell it.  Early one morning, while Charles, my husband,  was already at work, I started out to go finish up some painting in the house for an hour before the kids had to get up for school. I had only driven about 2 minutes down the road when I clearly heard what I've come to recognize as God's voice saying to me, "Check for your keys."  Just like that.  Interpretation: make sure you have the right keys to the house to get yourself in.  I pulled over to go through my purse, literally dumping everything out to check for the keys, only to discover that sure enough I didn't have the keys to the house with me. I'm not one to forget stuff like that.  So, I turned around and went back and got the keys.  Given that the house was a 15 minute drive from where we live, had I gone all the way only to discover I didn't have the keys to get in, by the time I got back home (another 15 minute drive) I would have simply spent the limited time I had driving over and then coming right back.  I was saved a great deal of frustration and disappointment.

Later, I was reflecting more on this experience as I shared it with my family.  I thought more about what I had heard, how it was said, and even what I didn't hear.  What I didn't hear was this:  "You don't have your keys with you." God knew that I didn't have my keys with me and instead of just telling me, I was given the guidance that I needed to discover that myself.  I could have chosen to ignore that and assume I had them like I usually do.  Yet, I know God's voice well enough by now to know that I should pay attention. So, God spoke not the answer into my life, but the guidance that I needed to stay the course, to be successful, to walk in the path of blessing, to move forward on the path I believe he had laid out for us with this house we had bought.

Guidance isn't really about giving us the answers directly, which I know at times I really wish it was!  But its about helping us on the journey so that we discover, with God's help, the path he has for us.  I think this is way more interesting and engaging and rewarding because in that process, I have the opportunity to learn to know God's voice, and to recognize how he's leading and guiding rather than just being told what to do.

So today may we each open wide our hearts and our lives to all of the guidance that God wants to give.  And may we listen and follow, each day coming more fully into his purposes for our lives.