Signposts

If you are a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, you would see little scallop shells on signs along the way. Painted yellow or blue, these markers let the pilgrims know that they are on the right path, that these roads have been walked before, and that there is provision along the way.

When you go hiking on a blazed trail, there are markers, usually on trees, letting you know which trail you are on, and encourages you to keep walking to the next marker.

The Israelites, in their pilgrimage through the wilderness, also had markers and signs to lead the way and let them know that God was with them on the path. A cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, manna from heaven for making daily bread, quail in the morning, water from a rock…on and on, they received signposts from God, provision for the journey. And still they struggled to find gratitude or rest in what had been provided.

I find myself to be just like an Israelite, impaired by my shortsightedness and in need of seeing the daily signposts that God is with me, and that He has provided what I need. This discipline of drawing ordinary things through Lent is reminding me that these small things are indeed signposts along the ordinary path…small bread crumbs leading me home…tiny lamps to light the way.

There are birds providing a song of joy, chairs inviting me to take respite from the daily grind, socks to warm my tired feet, mugs, cups and coffee makers for soothing drink, and yes, a lamp for light in the darkness. Such simple things, but all necessary for a pilgrim’s walk through life.

I want to keep drawing, and so to somehow be drawn into gratitude and to rest in the provision of these daily, ordinary gifts. I hope you are finding this too!

Buen Camino friends!

Waiting

A dear fellow pilgrim who sends me pics of her drawings via email everyday, noted that she realized she is in a waiting pattern…again. Last year, during our drawing pilgrimage she was waiting on a new well to be dug. This year she is waiting on a new-to-her-but-old house to be renovated. It made me wonder…

Are we always waiting?

Waiting for winter to end and spring to finally arrive. Waiting for summer break from school. Waiting for that tax return. Waiting for Friday to get here. Waiting for the car to be fixed. Waiting to pick up your child. Waiting for dinner to be ready. On and on it seems we wait for so many things. And wrapped up in all the waiting can be, as Tish Warren words it, “small pressures and needling anxieties.” pg. 54 Liturgy of the Ordinary.

I am forever desirous of changing my focus from that for which I’m waiting, to the moment at hand. Herein lies joy, in my humble opinion: To orient my heart and mind to where I am right now. These drawings of ordinary things aid me in pinning (and penning) my focus to here and now…

sitting beside this tree, walking along this curb or sidewalk, looking at this bush or canister of kitchen utensils. It is good to have anchors in the form of pen and brush, rooting me to now.

And yet I still wait. This is our human condition. Moving from here to there, waiting for the next “there”, yet cycling back around to the same places, even drawing the same spots year after year. I’ve drawn this very tree numerous times, along with countless other trees where I  live, as well as my sidewalks and curbs. Marking the seasons has become for me exactly that – marking on pages in a sketchbook, drawcumenting the moments of life as I wait.

Alongside John Lennon’s quote – “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans”… I might offer this –

Life is what happens while you’re waiting for life to happen.

I’m helped by these words:

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:23

Waiting can feel a lot like groaning inwardly. But I’m with Warren here…

“The call to contentment is a call amidst the concrete circumstances I find myself in today. I need to find joy and reject despair in the moment I’m in, in the midst of small pressures and needling anxieties.” pg. 54

Let’s keep drawing the ordinary as we wait for Easter, marking our days and finding joy in our moments of ordinary grace.

Buen Camino!

Mirrored Moments

I looked at the mirror to draw the mirror, tracing the curly-cew lines around its edges on a white expanse of paper. I was concentrating hard, having difficulty keeping up with the circuitous dancing lines arcing here, swirling there, blossoming in places, leafing in others. It wasn’t until my focus turned to the reflective oval itself that I began to see beyond and through.

There, in this spare bedroom mirror, I saw, aside from my own reflection, another mirror. My childhood dresser holds atop of it another oval mirror in which I could see, once again, or twice over, the robin’s egg blue mirror on the wall that I was drawing. Had I keener eyes, I suppose I could’ve gone on seeing from one mirror into another forever.

Is everything we draw this way? Is every object, place, or person a mirror into which we can see so much more? I’m of the persuasion that it is so! Yet sometimes a mirror can simply be a mirror. We don’t always have to see beyond and through something, forcing the metaphor or squeezing meaning out of it just for its own sake. But I am finding through Lent that so much of what is ordinary, even overlooked, in my life, becomes a looking glass as I draw, through which I can get a glimpse of the beautiful, true, and even divine.

In my favorite movie, The Way, Jack from Ireland, a blocked writer, is walking the Camino to make sense of the “metaphor bonanza”. A fellow pilgrim suggests to him that “a dog fight near a cheese farm” might simply be a dog fight near a cheese farm. True. Very true.

Tish Harrison Warren, in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, says this –

“As busy, practical, hurried, and distracted people, we develop habits of inattention and miss these tiny theophanies in our day. But if we were fully alive and whole, no pleasure would be too ordinary or commonplace to stir up adoration.” pg. 135.

And then on page 139 –

“These tiny moments of beauty in our days train us in the habits of adoration and discernment. And the pleasure and sensuousness of our gathered worship teach us to look for and receive these small moments in our days. Together, they train us in the art of noticing and of reveling in God’s goodness and artistry.”

If there was something to which I could pin the entire scope of my life, a trajectory or daily vision or goal, it would be exactly this:

To look for, recognize, see, and exonerate these tiny moments of beauty, noticing and reveling in God’s goodness and artistry in and through every moment.

The sketchbook is my training ground, my path on the Camino. A pen or a brush is my walking stick, penning each step, each moment, in such a way as to see through it and beyond to where all moments point – the Beautiful One and His heaven.

I want to see in every “dog fight near a cheese farm”, in every mirror, meal, wall plug and mess, the hint of heaven…”the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited”, as C.S. Lewis describes. (Read the entire quote HERE.)

It requires strength to do this. Commitment and discipline. God had to make me an artist so that I could see. I draw to uncover this beauty, and I have to do so daily, as an ongoing practice. Tish Warren says it so very well –

“But it takes strength to enjoy the world, and we must exercise a kind of muscle to revel and delight. If we neglect exercising that muscle – if we never savor a lazy afternoon, if we must always be cleaning out the fridge or volunteering at church or clocking more hours – we’ll forget how to notice beauty and we’ll miss the unmistakeable reality of goodness that pleasure trains us to see. We must take up the practice – the privilege and responsibility – of noticing, savoring, reveling, so that, to use Annie Dillard’s phrase, “creation need not play to an empty house.”

-pg. 136. (Annie Dillard reference is from “The Meaning of Life, The Big Picture”, Life Magazine, Dec. 1988.)

Buen Camino dear friends!

*Just finding this now? It is never too late to jump in on drawing your way through Lent, sketching ordinary stuff from your daily life! Drawing prompts and overview HERE.

**Want to develop a practice of drawing your life? Check out my ebook & video course designed to help you do just that.:)

Ordinary Routines

Day 1: Bed (Made or Unmade)

Day 1: Bed (Made or Unmade)

I’ve been amazed this week at how much of my daily routine is automatic. If I’m the last one up in the morning, I make up the bed hardly without thinking about it. Perhaps this is due to that early morning fog which needs a mug of coffee to clear, but even brushing my teeth and raking gelled fingers through my hair is as automatic as riding a bike. I would love for the loading of dishes in a dishwasher to be as automatic to certain members of our family (ahem). Yet even in loading our colorful Fiestaware dishes, the placement and arrangement of them comes without thinking too hard about it…large plates here, bowls stacked side-by-side there, water bottles upright back there.

Day 2: Brushing Teeth

Day 2: Brushing Teeth

I love drawing these ordinary things. It seems to exonerate the daily rituals in some way, and makes me slow down and consider why I do them. Surely there are practical reasons: care for my teeth, order out of chaos, clean stuff upon which to eat. But I love how Tish Warren puts it:

“We don’t wake up daily and form a way of being in the world from scratch, and we don’t think our way through every action of our day.We move in patterns that we have set over time, day by day. These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship.” pg. 30. Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren.

Warren calls these habits and practices, these ordinary automatic routines, our daily liturgies.

“Examining our daily life through the lens of liturgy allows us to see who these habits are shaping us to be, and the ways we can live as people who have been loved and transformed by God.” pg. 32.

Day 3: Brushing Hair

Day 3: Brushing Hair

 As I drew my hand on Day 3, I was struck by the amazingness of hands. Hands make the bed, brush teeth, comb through hair, load dishes, prepare food, drive a car, put on clothes, etc. I realized, watching my hand drawing, that even this daily ritual of making marks on a page in a sketchbook has become for me a liturgy. It is a routine that opens a door to seeing beyond what I’m drawing into a world where beauty reigns in the ordinary, light and love come through repetition, grace is revealed in monotony.

“It is in the repetitive and the mundane that I begin to learn to love, to listen, to pay attention to God and to those around me.” pg. 36

Day 4: Dishes

Day 4: Dishes

These are early days for my drawing pilgrimage through Lent. But I am so excited to apply this daily liturgy of drawing to the typically unnoticed places of our lives. As the prompts move along, they will encompass small and insignificant places in our dwellings and yards. I would not normally draw my sink, a shower head, or the contents of my freezer. Ha! That will be interesting!

Today, the first Sunday in Lent, is a Feast day and is therefore not counted as one of the 40 days of Lent. I will probably still draw today, as this liturgy of drawing is becoming almost as automatic as brushing my teeth. Whether you draw today or not, I hope you are finding this ordinary activity of sketching ordinary routines and things, a good way of focusing for the journey.

May this simple, repetitive act of drawing in a sketchbook be something (as Tish beautifully describes) that enlarges “our capacity to see wonders where true wonders lie.” May our daily routine of sketching form us “as people who are capable of appreciating goodness, truth, and beauty.”  (pg. 34)

Buen Camino!

Jennifer

*****

It is never too late to join in the pilgrimage of drawing through Lent! Just print off the downloadable PDF of drawing prompts and jump right in with us!

CaminoShell

Empty to Fill

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I was given a beautiful silver-plated bowl from a friend at Christmas. I eagerly placed it on our breakfast table and started to think what I might fill it with. But it looked so lovely just sitting there empty, all that silver surface reflecting the light and colors around it, shadows and shapes mirroring the landscape of its curved interior. I just couldn’t do it. I could not fill it up. It represented how I wanted to experience life – open, free of “stuff”, clean, reflective.

I still want this two months after receiving the gift. The bowl still sits on our breakfast table without anything in it, despite another friend giving me a bag of yummy Dove chocolates specifically to fill this very bowl. I still can’t bring myself to fill it up. I love it just as it is, empty, shining, receptive.

I am now on the eve of Lent, on the cusp of starting a reflective journey to Easter. Lent merely means “lengthening” as in the spring days lengthening due to the light lingering a few more minutes each day. I am considering the ways I want to empty, to lengthen the space in my life for this reflection to occur, to create an open space or receptacle each day in order to receive. A stuffed-to-the-gills life has no room to receive something. And so I consider how to empty and I ask for wisdom and strength to do so.

I am intending to fill some of the empty space by setting in front of me an empty page in a sketchbook. And then to fill that page with a simple drawing of something ordinary in my life. Something that I pass by each day and typically do not notice. Something that would not otherwise draw me to draw it. In setting myself this task each day I’m anticipating seeing these things afresh. I will be looking for meaning in the mundane, for purpose in the plain, for hope in the humble things and places in my life over the next six weeks.

emptytofill1

I have companions for the journey. My husband Randy, friends near and far – Stacey, Cheryl, Deborah, Sheri, Joyce and numerous others who have written to let me know they are in…wanting to face an empty sketchbook page and then fill it with a simple drawing of an ordinary thing.

We are reading a book to inspire us. Tish Harrison Warren’s book Liturgy of the Ordinary will provide some ideas for us to draw. We are hoping you will join in too! Doesn’t matter if you’ve ever drawn or sketched before!! This isn’t about being Rembrandt. It’s about being an ordinary pilgrim walking the ordinary days of life sketching the small and unassuming things we see along the way.

That’s all. If you’d like some prompts, as in ideas, for each day of Lent, print out this PDF. If you miss a day, no worries! Jump right in the next day! If you’d like help in learning to draw or make marks in a sketchbook, check out my new drawing course. But above all this…make space, empty your minutes, or at least ten to twenty of them. Cup your hands around your sketchbook and receive a little gift for that day’s walk.

Buen Camino!

***

I’ll be back within the week to report on my daily reflections in drawings and writings. You can follow me on Instagram for each day’s drawing, and you can post your drawings using the hashtag #drawtheordinary. I will also post using #apilgrimsdraw…feel free to use that one also.

CaminoShell

Unplug to Plug In

unplug

My sewing machine pedal sits unplugged on the floor underneath the machine’s cabinet. Something about the plug resting there in disuse is appealing…could I unplug? Completely? Probably not. Nor would I really want to. Partially? Yes, that might work. But what would it look like? There are so many ways one could unplug from life – Go to Spain and walk the Camino de Santiago, stay off social media for a while, reduce a day’s activities to only what is necessary for basic living, stay away from chocolate, caffeine and sugar as the necessary electrifying juices to keep going through the day, etc.

When I think of unplugging in any of these ways as a means of moving through Lent, I also think of what I might plug into in place of the unplugging. Certainly contemplation, prayer and meditation are good to insert in one’s life, if they have been missing from a daily practice. But tracing the lines of this old sewing machine pedal, coupled with a book I’ve just finished reading, has me thinking of a specific focus for my upcoming pilgrimage through Lent.

In Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren poses the question -“What if all these boring (ordinary) parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us?” pg. 22 (parenthesis mine)

This is what I’d like to sink deeper into for the 40 days of Lent. To seek out, to dive into, to discover more fully what the boring, ordinary things of my life have to offer me. Though I’ve spent years drawing this ordinary stuff in a sketchbook, there are still so many places yet to be drawn…this sewing machine pedal is an example. I don’t recall ever drawing it before.

This will be my Lenten Pilgrimage this year. I will still walk in my neighborhood as I do year-round. But instead of drawing from that half-hour morning walk, I will draw from the plain, simple ordinary activities of life and places of insignificance in my home and neighborhood. I know there are treasures awaiting me in these humble places.

I invite you, once again, to join me in this drawn Lenten pilgrimage. You might purchase and read Warren’s book as inspiration for seeing the ordinary from a fresh perspective. If you’d like to draw with me, you can follow the prompts I have set for myself each day through Lent, including Sundays (which are actually Feast Days) and Easter.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. I’m aiming to make simple, ordinary sketches of simple, ordinary things. I’ll be posting the daily drawings on Instagram using the hashtag #drawtheordinary. Once a week I’ll write my reflections here and post all the sketches from that week.

I may very well unplug from those electrifying juices, or at least some of them. But I will, in their stead, plug into the ordinary places in my life in order to see, to listen and to be transformed.

40 Drawing Prompts for Lent

I hope you’ll join me! Feel free to download/print this PDF of drawing prompts for the 40 days of Lent. Use them however you’d like – draw them from 1 to 40 in order, or switch them up, or make up your own! Maybe designate a small sketchbook just for this pilgrimage. If you are wanting inspiration for how to draw your life in a sketchbook, I have a brand new ebook & video course to teach and inspire you on your journey!

I’ll be back in a week, on the eve of Ash Wednesday, the starting day for our drawing pilgrimage through Lent. I’m so excited to be going on pilgrimage again! And I do love having companions for the voyage ahead.

Buen Camino!

CaminoShell

All These Things

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Today I will stand around a bounteous table hand in hand with my family. Like the first pilgrims, we will gather as wayfarers, sojourners in this life, for a bit of respite and feasting along our individual caminos. If I could linger a while before our heads bow, I would like to look at each face, draw every contour, touch their eyes and cheeks like Grandma Bowen used to do in the years she was blind – trying to ascertain how we had grown and what our features were like now.

Each of us standing there in a circle is a testament to mercy, a totem pole of grace. Our collective history shakes me to the core, yet strengthens my feeble bones in the reminder that it is only by God’s grace that most of us are still standing here. Numerous cancers, heart attacks, bypass surgery, bicycle accidents, major eye issues, a missing colon, a pancreas that no longer produces insulin, a limp or two, a divorce, two murders and ongoing health and financial issues. All these things in some way, define who we are individually and as a family. Not because we are in any way exemplar for having endured such things, but because of how these things have shaped us and continue to do so.

From another perspective, as I look around the circle, I see artists, poets, actors, musicians, makers, teachers, mothers, fathers, pastors and entrepreneurs. The beauty that this family has crafted and continues to offer in the world is staggering. Each totem pole of grace is a thing of immeasurable beauty even with, and dare I say because of, its scars and mars.

This is what God does. Only He could take broken vessels and display His beauty in and through them. Yes, there has been repair. Yes there’s been incredible healing. But we are still a broken lot who can claim no hand in the beauty wrought. It is only grace.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:35-39

Gratitude is not easy. Being thankful in all these things is not a flippant, God-is-good pat answer. It is hard work, heart work, to stand fully in your story as a pilgrim, scour the landscape for Beauty, and raise hands to heaven in thanks for all these things. I’m looking forward to doing this with my fellow pilgrims today.

Happy Thanksgiving to Pilgrims everywhere!