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.

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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!

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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

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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!

A Fine Frenzy

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Perhaps it seems incongruent to speak of one you know so well with glowing words. I, who day in and day out, know his weaknesses, endure the frenzy, observe his frailty, can say in all honesty that I live with a poet. Yes, he is a pastor. Yes, he is a musician. And yes, he is husband, father and friend. Yet in and through it all, he has the poet’s eye.

I’ve known he was a poet for many years, perhaps before he even knew, or was willing to admit and stand fully inhabiting that calling. To be a poet may sound lofty. But Shakespeare’s description is rooted and tangible–one who sees from heaven to earth, earth to heaven, and brings forth the shapeless that he sees into shapes we can recognize.

His poet’s eye has certainly seen a lot in his years as a pastor. Death, brokenness, pain and suffering, alongside the joys of baptisms and weddings, keep a poets’ feet firmly planted on the earth. His singing heart opens him to a music that comes from somewhere else, calling him to live in rhythm with its beat and lyrics. It is not an easy task to stand every Sunday holding heaven and earth, trying to help us, as well as himself, to grasp them both and then body forth into our weekly lives, the beauty we’ve collectively seen. Yet he takes up the mantle, the poet’s eye as well as the pen, daily.

I’ve been in the lovely front-seat position of observing him inhabit this poet’s mantle more and more in recent months. It is giving our days a different shape as we, together, labor to turn the beauty of heaven and earth into shapes on a page. Though he gives this airy something a local habitation in words, and I in image, we both walk with the name pilgrim, our feet on the earth with all our weaknesses and frailty, and our eyes glancing to heaven and back.

With you, dear poet husband, this journey is indeed a fine frenzy.

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To read some of his poetry, visit backwardmutters.wordpress.com.

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#Inktober is underway! It’s  a super way to drawcument this daily pilgrimage called life! Jump in if you can! My daily drawings are here.

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In case you are unable to read my writing up there…:)

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

-William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The View

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I’m sitting here at my window overlooking the back yard and on into our neighbors’ yards. Leafy spires, from the usually well-cropped hedge just under the window, are blocking my view.

I note how apt a picture this is of my life today. Numerous things on the to-do list (both creative and otherwise) are clamoring for my mind’s attention, waving their flags in my face. I can barely see the view beyond for all their wiggly waving.

As a pilgrim, I keep thinking that the path before me must surely be open and free of obstruction, well-marked and manicured for sure footing along the journey. But this jumble is often my view at the trail’s head, at the start of a day’s walk. As my pen moves around the page, recording the view, this notion begins to take shape:

THE VIEW is not merely the open lawn beyond the overgrown brush,

but rather all of this…THIS is the view.

This is the way forward today…stepping into and among those leafy spires keeping one eye on the ground at my feet and the other eye at the open space I see through the high-as-an-elephant’s-eye weedy growth.

As I begin to walk, I reach out to touch one of the spires. It is marked “errands”. Another is marked “teaching”. I look around at all of them and my heart begins to open to the fact that all of this is my view today. And I embrace the wonder and beauty of an overgrown hedge.

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May you walk your camino today embracing the view, whatever it may contain.

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I’m getting warmed up for #Inktober, an online participation in drawing every day with ink and sharing it somehow, either on Facebook or Instagram or blog. It starts in two days…I hope you’ll consider participating as well! I’ll definitely be posting on Instagram and I hope to pop in here with reflections from that journey. October will surely offer some amazing views from the end of our ink pens! Let’s #Inktober together!

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jenniferedwards.com

Dance in Stillness

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I walk out on our deck this morning, coffee and journal in hand, and I stop at the surprise. It appears as if a party has happened overnight. Birch has danced through the night shimmying and shaking her golden hair till it fell across all surfaces of the deck..chairs, table, planters. I took my seat to soak in the view, the breeze, the sunlight peeking through the trees.

I long for this. The stillness of morning. The hope of nature’s party. The falling of leafy confetti in shades of yellow, rust and brown with a few greens cast here and there. To sit and listen, breath in and breath out…stillness…a daily practice I never perfect, but which grows in desire.

The breeze I listen to has an ebb and flow. Much like the ocean. Same with my need and desire for stillness. I note in my journal that when life ramps up in velocity and concerns, my desire to be still increases as well. When I’ve created something at a high level of intensity, then I experience a longing for “just this”, or “just that”. As in–all I want is to sit outside and just knit. Or just draw. And then there are times I only want to sit and listen, growing increasingly aware that I am here in this moment, alive, well, beloved of God, held and upheld by His grace and mercy. The party all around me is evidence of this. A golden bit of confetti falls on my shoulder, one in my hair, and two on the white page. Love coming down to rest on me. Mercy from above, grace on the surfaces all around me.

In this posture let me live, Father. I long to carry this stillness with me into the fray of a day’s work, a mother’s emotions, an artist’s vision. Would that I, this ordinary pilgrim, could then dance to the tune, not of worry and strife, but of beauty and grace. And in the dancing, might there be golden confetti fluttering around me as the breeze blows hither and yon.

Can I dance in stillness? The birch knows how. I watch her. Her three-pronged trunk stands unmoving while her long slender arms sway gracefully in the breeze. I need this practice of stillness to anchor my feet to the ground while the winds of life, love, and the Spirit blow through and all around me.

I gather my things to leave the party deck. Wistfully I wonder if that stillness will be shattered once I enter the house and go about my day. But no. I remember…the stillness is within.

And there’s a golden leaf still clinging to my shoulder.

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Whatever your Camino looks like today:

May you walk through your days strengthened by stillness;

listening to His still, small voice in the breeze;

scattering golden confetti around you.

Catching the Light

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I tried to catch it. Grab it by the tail or the torso and pin it down to my paper so as to remember it. To revel in the beauty of watching the sun kiss the trees, bushes, yards behind our home. I was just sitting there in quiet, listening and watching the light show.

In a flurry of activity, I grab my pastel box, towel, and board with paper on it. Quick! Get down the golden light in all the places it is glowing right now, build the areas around it- bushes, driveway, tree, house, etc. Oh my…look at that, it’s now creeping over more of those bushes, seeping through the limbs of that tree!

I work rather furiously but with pointed attention and deliberateness. Almost every half a minute, the scene before me is changing. What began as gold in some areas, has diffused to a mint color as it lay over dew laden grass. I couldn’t reflect all these changes in my sketch. I just had to let the light go on its merry way while I added a few more touches to the quick sketch. It doesn’t need to be resolved. It is only a record of a fleeting moment of joy as light invaded the morning. Even now, at this moment of writing in my journal, I’d love to draw for you the sparkling display of shadows now strong and beautiful in morning’s light. I ache with the desire to hold it all, to freeze frame it, to say STOP for a second so I can get all this down, ingest all the beauty, so it comes out my fingers and toes, transforming me from within! But the light marches on and I’m left to try again another day…or later today…to catch in a jar, as it were, a golden moment of simple living.

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I am aware through all of this, that I’m watching a picture of life. Light and beauty is ever-changing, evolving, morphing with every second and every hour and as I walk throughout my pilgrim days I feel its ever-changing glow and the ache of not being able to fully take it all in.  My calling is to catch as many of these moments of light as I can and pin/pen them to paper. Record their glow. Trace the contours of where light meets dark.

I’m headed out for a Monday morning walk now. Ready to just soak in more of this morning’s light and let it take me into the day and on into evening… glowing, ever-changing, morphing from gold to mint to so many other colors I will note along the way.

You come too!

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I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan’t be gone long. — You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan’t be gone long. — You come too.

-Robert Frost

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Walk in the Light!

jenniferedwards.com

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Artist Note: Sometimes, when we sketch/draw/paint totally in the moment, quickly, without much thought, letting our fingers just react and respond with color on paper, we may look at what we have done afterwards with disappointment. As I brought this sketch indoors, the pastel colors appeared dark and the overall look was…well…quite sketchy. But when I turned the light on my drawing table, there it was…that light I was so captivated by. There was the scene, perhaps not exact in its representation but at least enough for me to remember it by. This is what we are after as we draw our lives. Drawcumenting your life is not about creating masterpieces of art, but rather attempting to catch an essence, a hint of what captivated us in the moment.

Keep walking and drawing, dear fellow pilgrim.