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

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