Servant’s art

scuplture of woman with green trees

scuplture of woman with green treesI recently had an thought-provoking conversation with my friend, Jenny McGee. She talked about changing from an artist who used painting as self-expression to becoming an artist whose work serves others. Her focus has widened to encompass a participatory process with multiple people.

I have been turning over this nugget of an idea in my mind ever since.

There is art I make because I have so many feelings that I need somewhere to put them. This is art as self-expression, art as an external container.

There is art we make because others need our art. It fills an individual or community lack.

An example of art for others is the Field of Empty Chairs. The 168 chairs represent the lives taken on April 19, 1995 in the Oklahoma City bombing. Each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. (from the Oklahoma City Memorial)

This art is a testament to both agony and healing; we mourn and we endure.

A world in need of your art

See what you can do to fulfill a need. You can be a translator of our existence. Where are common stuck places? What is often confusing? Use your abilities to bring light where others are in the darkness.

When you do art for others, you make them feel worthy of living in a world of art.

Your art is a gift. There is no more “my work isn’t good enough.” There is only “my offering.” Aspire to follow the little drummer boy as your guide.

Right now is your time. The chair with your name on it has a person in the world who can move, give and serve. People need your art.

Paint, take photos, sculpt, throw pots, crochet and draw for others. Show them what they have forgotten. Your symbols will remind them of eternal truths.

Sing, dance and act for others. Let them hear you. Your song will lighten their day.

Write for others. Tell them what they need to hear. Your words will clarify their experiences.

You, my readers, bring me joy. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you with this blog! 😀


Lord, use our hands
to make the pictures
people need to see.

Lord, use our voices
to sing the songs
people need to hear.

Lord, use our arms
to make the quilts
people need for rest.

Make us your servant-artists,
coloring the world to match your
brilliant vision of abundance, kindness and love.

Tell me your thoughts!

Where can you share your art as an act of service? If you let go of “not good enough,” what kind of art would you offer to others?

Romance of the hook

afghanHow easy it is to fall in love!

Beginnings carry their own rushing wind, as if we start every adventure at the top of a hill and coast down. Then the bike slows and we have to pedal. The thought comes, is it worth pedaling in the direction we’re going?

I started this afghan more than a month ago. Ah, the excitement of the start! I decided to do an afghan to honor my great-aunt. I gathered together my leftover yarn.

This was going to be an amazing afghan! I would use up my leftovers and have something happy.

I grouped the skeins together: purples, brown, sea foam, white, black and khaki.

Missing those bright 1960s colors, I stopped at the store. I got cherry red and orange.

What’s better than the first loop, and the chain to start the afghan? I could pick the size. Of course it should fit our queen size bed! I chained 140 loops.

Pretty Little Moss

This is going to be the greatest thing I’ve ever made! Better than the forest floor prayer shawl. With that project, I had it in mind that I wanted to look like I’d rolled on the forest floor and come up wearing the shawl. It did turn out that way. Unfortunately.

Have you ever seen a six-foot woman wearing a shawl modeled on a forest floor?

I imagined I would look earthy, warm and natural, something from picturesque glades in Northern Europe.

What I looked like in reality was more unkempt—possibly rabid—squirrel than stylish Scandinavian.

All I need is a few twigs in my hair when I wear that shawl and I could pass for a veritable wild woods woman.

Give me a black kettle and a falling down cottage and the look would be complete. So that’s how that project went. I still wear the forest floor prayer shawl. Almost as a dare to see how people respond to it.

I used green fun fur in the shawl, so it’s super soft for hugs. It even feels like a forest floor, mossy and inscrutable!

But this afghan, it’s going to be marvelous!

The need to pedal…and shop

As I started to work on it, I realized I needed more colors. I went to the store for bright yellow and a neon variegated yarn called Blacklight.

Because I’m impatient, I went with double crochet instead of single as my great-aunt did. I figured she was retired; she had the time to single crochet a bed-sized afghan. I have two jobs to work and high school football to watch so double crochet it is.

My ideal timeline for a project is two weeks. Then I’m ready to be at the top of the hill again. Even with the double crochet—and excessive tea drinking that keeps me up in the evening to work on it—this afghan is looking like it will demand three or four months. I’m in the pedaling phase.

I’m six weeks in with more than 9,000 stitches done. Only 18,000 more. But such a big number overwhelms me. Better to think of the fabulous finished project—so happy, so colorful!

This afghan, it’s going to be splendiferous!

I needed more colors for it to truly radiant the 1960s zeitgeist. I got some green and variegated blue.

My son said, “You bought six new skeins of yarn so you could make something that was going to use up your leftover yarn? Do you see a problem here?”

I don’t remember what I answered. I was too busy thinking…

This afghan, it’s going to be magnificent!

These are your last 5 years

The larval stage of dragonflies may last as long as five years. The adult stage when they have wings and can fly only lasts as long as five or six months. (Wikipedia)
The larval stage of dragonflies may last as long as five years. The adult stage when they have wings and can fly only lasts as long as five or six months. (Wikipedia)

Imagine that today, June 19, 2013, is the beginning of your last five years. Imagine your life will come to a peaceful end on June 19, 2018.

How do you feel? Is it less time that you expect, or more? Does it seem like enough time?

What will your contribution be?

What do you still have left to do that will make your life complete?

Live in the time you have

A person of zest and vitality is present. Older people are often happier because they know they don’t have much time left. They appreciate small moments—wild daisies next to road, the antics of a squirrel or a playful baby in the grocery cart in front of them. They let go of worry over insignificant things.

Wild daisies

The happiest people pay attention. As you slow down, your sense of time stretches out like a summer evening on the porch as the sun reaches across the pasture, brushing the grass seed heads with gold.

We often chase imaginary moments and conditional circumstances. When I am like this, then I will be like that. When I am thinner, I will be happy. When I am richer, I will be secure. When this is settled, then I can relax.

Be happy now. Feel secure now. Relax now. Don’t neglect the moment you already have. Live inside it, make it your home. Occupy it with your own sense of style. Deepen your experience.

Be silly

You might as well have the most fun you can in your last five years, right? Do you want a lack of embarrassment or stories to tell? As my friend Debbie does, make your own dance floor. Bring your own party.

Playfulness makes joy!

Name your places, things, actions

In your last five years, where would you go? Would you keep living where you are? Make a date to move if you’re not in the place you belong.

Is there someplace you want to visit? Set a travel date during the next five years.

What have you longed for that you don’t have—a talking parrot, a yacht with a chef or a beauty pageant crown? Right now, make a list of what you want but don’t have, and then write why you want it.

What do you need to do with your last five years? Are you doing the right work? What do you still need to learn or read or make? Write it down.

Will your spiritual practices sustain you as you face the end of your life? Make a note of what you need for strength and grace. Include notes on how you will pursue these practices.

The people of your life

Who do you need to see more of?

Who do you need to stay away from?

Pledge that you will surround yourself with only those who support your true self and you will avoid those who tear you down. I’m not saying to only be with those who agree with you. Conflict is natural. It’s good to be challenged by differences in perspective and personality. But protect yourself from those who hurt you and treat you as if you’re worthless. Your time is valuable. You are valuable.

What do you need to say? Make amends where needed. Put your heart in words to those you love.

Who needs time with you?

All the important people in your life will treasure more connection, more memories and more experiences with you.

Be with them. Bless them with your presence.

Live your life as if these are your last five years. Make it meaningful. Make it count.


Trust the empty spaces in your future

muffin and tea

muffin and teaGauzy white curtains from ceiling to floor sway from the easy breeze coming in through the window. The honey-colored wood floors gleam in the afternoon sunlight. You don’t have anywhere you have to be. As you sit in grey cotton clothes and slippers, you relax in languid laziness.

Someone has brought you tea along with a fresh baked muffin. The tea rests next to your journal and you watch the steam swirl as it rises. You feel loved and well-rested.

In the room, there’s only your writing table with chairs and a couch. Friends describe your house as spacious.

You make meal plans and follow them. You own few things so you travel light. Your finances are in order with no debt. You’re like a Buddhist monk, structured and disciplined, detached from the chaos of fortune.

You live according to plan and follow a simple schedule. Your life is a wide expanse, like fields of snow that go on as far as the eye can see: clean, white, sparkling.

You live in the moment. Time, space and your sense of peace seem unending.

This is my fantasy.


Heavy black-out curtains hang still. I can’t open the windows because it’s too hot or too cold. On the four days the weather is decent for window opening in Missouri, I don’t dare do it because the screens are missing and the bugs are bad.

I’m late or rushing for the next place to be. Without the help of generous friends, my life wouldn’t work. For the rare hours I’m home, I catch up with laundry which never seems to get put away so I pick outfits out of baskets. The stained carpet should have been replaced seven years ago.

My kitchen table is a jumble of cracker boxes, mail, school papers plus a collection of things that don’t belong anywhere obvious as if the table doubles as a shelter for homeless items. Friends describe my house as cozy and “interesting because you have so many different things to look at.”

I sometimes have crackers and cheese or fast food for dinner. My student loan debt is a big number.

We have three people, two dogs, two cats and eight houseplants in a thousand square feet.

Every room in my house is full of books, games, shoes, stacks of papers, toys, clothes in baskets, dog supplies, horse supplies, cat supplies and yarn (which also doubles as a cat toy and could be categorized in cat supplies, if you asked the cats. They might also categorize yarn as a decorating item, based on how the house looks on our return when I’m absent-minded and leave a yarn ball out. Remember how we used to teepee houses as teenagers? Now our cats do that to us with yarn).

My mind is in the future or the past. I worry about who and what I’m neglecting.

This is my real life.

Can you relate?

Are you like me? Do you fill the rooms of your house with unneeded items? Your closet with more clothes than fit in it? Your schedule with more activities than are comfortable? Your budget with more expenses than income? Your mind with more fear and criticism than peace and kindness?

We have a fear of the blank page and the unseen future. As fast as we can, we color the empty spaces in the coloring book of our lives. We don’t like pauses so we fill them in with ums instead.

We can teach ourselves to act in a different way.

Just for this week, what part of your life could you leave intentionally blank?

For me, just for this week, I will welcome the unexpected like a snow day, the quiet from a power outtage and the times of waiting. I’ll ease up on my push to produce, procure and perform.

I will give myself time to be at peace. Does this mean I stop moving? Doubtful (see previous paragraphs about pets who like twice-daily food). Peace doesn’t have to be an artificial stillness or a forced serenity. I will look for peace in the motions of my daily life. I’ll take a deep breath and smile. I’ll accept each moment as it is.

Rest is part of God’s plan for us. We don’t have to do it all and fill it all in.

Remember the words in Psalm 23 are in present tense, offering you revitalization right now,”He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”

We can trust in the empty spaces. Goodness is there for us even if it doesn’t have a visible shape.

Let the peace that transcends understanding give you room to breathe. A room with gauzy white curtains swaying…

Put your dream in motion!

What is your dream? Take a moment and see it in your mind’s eye. What does it look like?

Movies instead of snapshots

You might see yourself sitting on a beach, standing at the altar to be married or getting an award. I had a dream of living in the country and having my own horse.

But after that moment, what next?

Too often we dream in snapshots, seeing only a static picture of what we want. Make your dream a movie. Visualize your future in depth, detail and motion. Using your imagination to its fullest will help make your vision a reality.

Passive fantasy, active dream

Fantasies are flat and demand nothing of us. Fantasies allow you to sit. Fantasies fulfill us for a moment.

A dream motivates us to pursue it. There’s an irresistible nature. Even if you want to forget, your heart keeps reminding you. If your dream doesn’t pull you toward it, then you’ve got the wrong dream.

Like a brave retriever goes after a stick in a lake, we must dive in and swim toward the dream. Quit the shore and the old ideas of shouldn’t, can’t, impossible. We must leave the solid sand under our feet and paddle out.

Depth and motion

I didn’t give enough depth to my dream. Life is always changing. Powerful dreams should incorporate change.

When I dreamed of a horse, did I imagine paying the vet bills? Did I imagine bringing buckets of hot water from the bathtub out to the pasture in 20 degree weather in a February night to soak his abscessed hoof?

Flesh it out. More than just a flat picture of a horse, imagine how the barn both fills and empties of hay. Imagine how the horse both nickers at the sight of you and needs to have his stall mucked. Imagine the warmth of his neck under your palm and the weight of his hoof on your boot.

When you think of living your dream, how will you feel? What will you wear and eat in your new reality? What sounds do you hear? Look around and imagine the details of your surroundings. Give breath to your vision and picture yourself breathing, talking and moving.

Effective visualization builds belief that you can change your life. As you become more comfortable with your dream, it starts to feel more real.

Your future is coming to meet you

We are people of possibilities. You can make choices and decide how you want your life to be. It starts with a vision of what you want. Make your idea more than a flat, still picture. Add motion and sound.

Your dream is galloping toward you. See it coming closer. Turn your dream into a movie, and then into reality!

I invite your comments!