Beautiful El Morro

This post is just a test for my blog posts –  but still, it’s a good time to say how much I appreciate this beautiful part of our country. This was taken at El Morro when I was living in Arizona.  What an amazing time of my life!

 

Encouragement for a Lifetime

“Everyone has inside them a piece of good news.  The good news is you don’t know how great you can be!  How much you can love!  What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.” Anne Frank

My thinking is…. why not take time to contemplate this with God?  What you hear will be the most encouraging words you could ever hear!

Life-giving Waters

Whidbey Island 2013

Research suggests living near the beach can improve our health!   Now I know why I am so drawn to being near the water…

http://nbcnews.to/2viXE4K

Some of us can go to the beach for this kind of relaxation, but all of us can use “visualization” and our listening skills to make a difference. I have found that as I establish a daily practice of these disciplines, the “concerns” I have are no longer my primary thoughts – they do not take the position from which I see the rest of my life or my world. I am then able to relax, let go of the many “voices” that distract me, and receive the “breath of God”.  I begin to notice the rhythm of my own breath and as I look and listen in that place, I am cleansed and refreshed – my energy is restored.

What is delightful for me in this process is that this opens up much more to me.  It is like rivers of living water (John 7) that flow out from within me.  If I listen and look even further, I may begin to receive an impression, a clarity about a concern, or a word that heals.

The “waters of life” flow in and through me – and refresh.

When I am encouraging others in this practice in my coaching or art therapy ministry, I direct the client to visualize the most pleasant place they can think of and “go there”.  I often ask them to sit or lay in a comfortable position.  Once they can see themselves in that pleasant place, I ask the to look and listen, and see what comes.  Then they just receive and listen, and receive and listen.  The voice of the Living Waters may come.  The voice that is upon the wind of God may come.  Then, they can receive all they need and be at rest in a new way for that day.

I am so grateful for this practice.

They Told Their Stories

Everyone knows the value of a good story. I am so thankful for the storytellers.  I don’t consider myself a writer. You writers will surely say, “She’s right about that!”  Even so, we all have a story that should be told. Some of us tell our stories through pictures, songs, or poems.  Whatever the “means or medium”, stories should be told.  This leads me to begin to share my own.  I think it’s what the Spirit wants me to do.

In 2010, I facilitated a gathering in Lancaster, PA with approximately 50 women. It was a “Beauty for Ashes” prayer gathering, a ministry of ManyWaters that had been meeting annually since 1997. The focus was about the importance of telling our stories ~ important for ourselves to express and important for the spread of the gospel message of hope. I was excited to see that the women mentioned in Luke 8 had been so touched by their experience with Jesus and those whose stories they had heard, that they left the comfort of their lives and joined in with all they had.  Our prayer gathering was well received. Many had the opportunity to share their own personal story of how their lives have changed for the better by knowing and growing in relationship with God.

One of the most encouraging insights was that we could see more of God’s love and care for us as we listened to each other’s story.  Professionals might call this encouragement a form of good “pastoral care”. It truly was that!  We heard stories of hearts being softened to forgive, and healing of strained relationships.  We resonated with others whose story seemed to tell our own story.  Most of all, we saw more of the love of God through each other and in many cases, received restored hope.

Some of us felt that the topic, “They Told Their Stories”, would continue on with intention when we went from that gathering back into our ongoing routines and work.  I wondered if the title would one day become a book!   One of the speakers was so inspired that she launched a radio program as a platform for other women to share their stories.  She hoped much needed support might be given to other women, and it was the “means” she had available to her.

So here I am now seven years later thinking about this again and sensing the Spirit prompting me to explore the topic here on this platform.  I am saying “yes” and hope that it’s okay to just begin and see where it takes me – and those who might join in.  It’s my hope that my own story will be of encouragement, and the stories of other women that I share will spark an insight or prompt a story from the reader to pass on, too.  Look for stories to be told in the weeks ahead, and do let me know if something touches you ~ perhaps you’ll be prompted to tell a story of your own.

With anticipation, Carol

 

Stations of the Cross ~ a focus beyond ourselves…

Stations of the Cross

This creative visual expression of the ninth and tenth “Stations of the Cross” was a group activity of Color Me FRIENDS and some members of St Francis Episcopal Church, Manakin-Sabot, VA this Lenten season. The two stations are part of a series of coloring pages from Illustrated Children’s Ministry by artist, Adam Walker Cleveland.   I wanted to provide a creative response to a presentation I gave on how we hear God through creative expression.  I also wanted the response to deepen a sense of “belonging” and “community”.   In my own experience and what I know from others, as I engage in the creative process, my mind is quieted, my perception opens up, and I awaken more deeply to the Spirit of God.  One might say, “the eyes of my heart are opened”.  Working together as a group on any project, especially an art work, can provide a sense of belonging to something “bigger” than myself, as well as, provide a way for my values to be expressed and more deeply experienced.

“During the season of Lent, the Stations of the Cross are often focused upon – to help us see beyond ourselves, our own egos and agendas, and to walk with God.”   Images of the Stations are found in many forms in churches and gardens throughout the world.  They are associated with Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem by the early Christians who would physically travel to Jerusalem.

The ninth Station on the “left” is entitled, “Blessing”.   Here in Luke 23:27-31, we learn that this is where Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, and he says these strange words: “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore… (Luke 23:29).  I would like to share with you what the authors of “Illustrated Children’s Ministry” have written on this account. “These words are exactly opposite of what we hear at the beginning of Luke’s gospel when Gabriel announces to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus:  “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).  Perhaps the words in Luke’s account of the Passion are a reminder to us that every moment of our lives, even those places that seem the most forsaken, can be places of God’s blessing.  And it is precisely those most human of conditions that Jesus wishes to bless, to transform, and to take up into the divine life.”

Is there something in your life that is difficult right now?  As you ponder the ninth Station of the Cross, ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart to hear his words of blessing upon you.  Perhaps as you listen and watch, you may see a picture in your mind’s eye.  Write down what you hear and see, then take one more step and consider how you might visually, musically, or find some other form of creative expression for this blessing that has come to you.  Let yourself rest in this joy.

Carol

 

 

Winds of Time

I took a trip to Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona and like so many others on this trip, I took many photos. They are one of a kind every time because of the time of day and season of light one visits this amazing place! What you see is truly in the “eye of the beholder”! I have been looking at my photos lately and find myself taken with the beauty of this special place. The more I gaze, the more my soul is at peace. This time as I gazed upon this photo, I saw the waves embedded in the rock that were formed from the sand that the wind gently blew across the rock.

In my art therapy groups and expressive arts coaching sessions, I encourage the participants by asking three questions: What do you see? What do you think? What do you wonder? Then, after reflecting for some time, the journaling begins. Sometimes I will ask for a “title” as a starting point to journal writing. I might say, “give your image a title” and then tell the story. What comes from this kind of reflection can be powerful. It can help us see things and consider how what we see can give us fresh insight and open up possibilities. Sometimes when we feel stuck, this “gazing” can enable the light we need to see the way forward.

I titled this photo, “Winds of Time”…. now to reflect and see what comes. Why not join me?

What do you see? Where is your eye drawn?

Celtic Trinity Knot

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Artist, Mary McAndrew, has created this beautiful design using the Celtic Trinity Knot. It’s simple design so delicately colored points us to a powerful and very personal story that can be embraced by all.  The Celtic Trinity Knot is a visual symbol of the Christian belief of the Godhead, the Trinity ~ Father, Son, Spirit as ONE.  There is really so much in this symbol to see and ponder. The “three pointed” knot has no beginning and no ending. The overlapping spirals come together in the center of the knot which reinforces the strength of being “centered”.  The flying doves in the blue sky of the circle lets us know that the Spirit hovers over all of creation bringing beauty and life. This flow of ideas I am sharing only scratch the surface of what would come to me as I meditate upon this design and take time to journal or creatively express them.

I encourage you to create your own design as you meditate upon the beauty of the Trinity in your life and I leave you with this Celtic Blessing…

May the God of gentleness be with you, caressing you with sunlight and rain, caressing you with rain and wind.

May His tenderness shine through you, to warm all those who are hurt and alone.

May the God of strength be with you, holding you in strong-fingered hands.  May you be a sacrament of his strength to those whose hands you hold.

May the God of gentleness be with you, caressing you with sunlight and rain, caressing you with rain and wind.  Amen.

Listen with your heart

Wanda's Mandala Wanda’s Mandala 2016

Coloring in colored pencils has become a way to relax and encourage quiet “pondering” on whatever seems to be an important focus at the time.  I invited my art therapy group at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women here in Virginia to join our on line coloring group, Color Me FRIENDS.  The invitation was to encourage developing a lifestyle of listening ~ working in the arts can help us release anxiety and the “cares of this world” ~ and if done intentionally, can become life-sustaining, creative energy.

Wanda is especially talented artistically.  She loves drawing and stained glass work.  She is learning many new techniques with the small amount of teaching I am able to provide.  She draws out of me my best teaching.  This is a coloring page mandala taken from one of the many coloring books one can purchase today.  Sometimes using a coloring page like this can help us get “centered”.  Wanda used this one as a coloring meditation that helped her focus on her God-given strengths.  She is the “deer” in the center walking in the beauty of creation all around her ~ “she walks in beauty”.  As she makes art work, she is creating beauty.

Beauty is a powerful and real God-given attribute and gift. Listening deeply to that presence within enables her to walk in beauty ~ a strength that Wanda wants to live in all the time.  What a powerful desire!  Wanda inspired me to share it.  Thank you, Wanda.

Valentines for more than 70 years!

Valentines for more than 70 years!Aunt Nina's Valentine to DadValentines for more than 70 Years…. yes, that’s my parents’ story :)…  When a couple has shared that many years together it is something to talk about and celebrate!  On Valentine’s Day 2016 I had the privilege of being with them as they shared cards from friends and family.  Some cards were “sweet” like the one my mom gave to my dad. Other cards were fun and clever, like the one my sister and her husband gave with Charlie Brown and Snoopy.  Two cards were handmade ~ the ones made by my dad’s sister, Nina.  All special.  All encouraging love we share.  That’s a blessing and blessing one another spreads the love all around ~ more than 70 years!

Irises & Artists in Bloom

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Irises & Artists are Blooming at Symphony Manor Memory Care in Richmond.  A new opportunity for encouraging creativity and art therapy began in December and will run monthly.  Carol chose Van Gogh’s Irises as the subject for the January session.  The 10 residents that participated learned about Van Gogh’s life, his style of art, and how painting helped his quality of life.  As they painted their watercolor irises they talked about the beauty of colorful flowers, and explored using cake tempera and black oil pastel.  Aren’t their mixed-media paintings beautifully expressive?  IMG_1597 (1)IMG_1599 (1)Here are some photos of our class, too.IMG_1591IMG_1595It brings me JOY to have the privilege of working with them. Carol