The Courage of an Artist

We converged on the opening from both directions. East coast and west coast family meeting in middle America to celebrate her creativity, her design and, I think most importantly, her courage.

What courage it takes for an artist to share the work they have created with others. To allow strangers to gaze at their creations projecting different, perhaps even opposing emotions, thoughts or conclusions than the artist had in mind when designing and creating the piece. To stand in the gallery and listen to the reactions of others surrounding the work you have on display while they do not recognize or realize you are the creator. To share your inspiration, your process and your emotions not knowing if you will be understood or accepted by those observing your work and you as an artist.

Yes, I have come to appreciate the courage of my daughter as an artist. She is fully living, engaged and contributing. I recently read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and she speaks of the courage it takes to be vulnerable.

“Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown

What a great picture this is of an artist displaying their work, allowing themselves to be seen. Literally.

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Give. No Give.

I have always been intrigued by social dynamics and interactions and perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy golf. It is a new experience each and every time in observing social behavior and group dynamics, especially when you play outside your regular foursome. There are few settings where you meet 2-3 total strangers, shake hands, exchange first names and then expose them immediately to your short comings in coordination, athletic ability and the emotions that follow the errant tee shot off Number One. In four to five hours you share your history, family life, joys, frustrations, eating/drinking choices, humor, manners and emotional health. By the end of the round you are no longer strangers. You have shared an afternoon and learned a great deal about one another.

My husband and I shared a recent afternoon in Las Vegas at Rio Secco with a nice couple from Seoul South Korea. From the exchange of greetings on the first tee I knew it would be an interesting day of golf and social interactions. They spoke very little English but fluent golf. We found ourselves laughing with one another, cheering for our putts to drop, searching for frequent lost balls and politely remaining quiet after an errant shot. All with little common language that was shared.

A universal golf tradition in a friendly round is to concede your playing partner a putt that is close to the hole. You can often hear “that’s good” between playing partners when a putt is near the hole. There can be a bit of gamesmanship around this tradition when the players know one another well, as each player tries to gain an advantage over the other. And that was evident with our new Korean friends. She was a consistent, steady golfer with a nice smooth swing. Her mannerisms on the first green gave away her competitive nature as she fist pumped after her putt dropped. After two or three holes, her husband had a short 18″ putt, well within his ability to make. My husband jokingly asked, “aren’t you going to give that to him?” She quickly and curtly replied, “no give”. Later in the round when I had a much longer putt she quickly offered, “give”, as she looked at Russell with her sweet, yet demanding, smile. We laughed as she was generous to “give” putts to us but was consistent with her “no give” response to her 71 year old husband.

I was reflecting today on those phrases. Give. No give. I so much want others to give me a putt, a smile, a compliment, forgiveness, grace or the benefit of the doubt. But I am also very quick to ‘no give’ the same to others. How often we hold onto the very thing we so desperately want from others. Is it our competitive nature, our desire to be right, our pride, fear. What is it that keeps us from quickly saying ‘give’. Am I afraid that you will succeed and I won’t? Am I concerned that in you being right, then I must be wrong?

The scriptures say that if you give your life away you will find it. Give. No give. It’s a choice we make each day, multiple times a day. Give. No give. It seems if we give we will actually loose something. Perhaps the chance to beat someone at a game. To win the hole. But in choosing to give, we actually find much more. Joy, happiness, friendship, love, and life itself.

Playing golf again on Saturday. You’ll wish you were in my foursome. My response all day on the green will be … “Give”

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Let justice roll

I never tire of visiting Niagara Falls.  I’ve gone countless times since we moved to CNY and each time I visit I find myself pulled to the same viewing point. It’s not the panoramic view of the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls in full array. Though that is an amazing sight.  It’s not the overhead view from the tower where you can hardly see through the mist that sprays up from the cascading water below. Though that is a spectacular view.  And it is not the view from the front of the Maid of the Mist where the sound of the falls is deafening as it thunders in front of you. Though that is an awe-inspiring experience.  No, I find myself drawn to the top of the falls just before the water drops over the edge.  That’s the view that captures me.  There it is not a falls but a river. A river that is quiet, determined and unable to be stopped.

 
 
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Amos 5:24
The picture that this scripture paints of justice reminds me of the water that flows over the edge of Niagara Falls.  It is endless, flowing winter, summer, year after year.  It is determined and defies anyone who would think to stop it.  It is powerful, unrelenting in its push forward.  Let justice roll down like waters.
I am just days away from embarking on an initiative of justice with my community.  May it be endless, determined, powerful and unrelenting as well.

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Look who I discovered in Ghana

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

Enjoy two boys I never spoke with but feel I know after watching them play on a warm June day in Ghana.

A pail.  And so the adventure begins…

Click here to watch the “silent movie”

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How to Prepare for the Olympic Games

Summer is reading a good book under the shade of a tree.  A good book… one that takes you to another place and time, grabs your attention and won’t let you go until you reach the conclusion, only to wish there was more to the fascinating story you’ve entered.  But this story is no fairy tale, science fiction or distant world.  It is true and continues to be lived today.

Running for My Life tells the story of Lopez Lomong an athlete that we will soon watch on television as he participates in his second Olympic games.  He will run the 5000 as part of Team USA in London later this summer.  But his journey as a runner began unexpectedly when he was just 6 years old, running for his life from the civil war in Sudan in 1991.  His escape from rebel soldiers took him to a refugee camp in Kenya for 10 years living with other Lost Boys from Sudan.  Syracuse, my hometown, was his first home in America joining the Rogers family in nearby Tully.  Our community is home to many resettled refugees and his story is only one of many that inspire our community. His running has taken him to college, the Olympics and given him a platform and voice to help his homeland of Sudan and the people there.

Many times while watching the Olympics we are given a glimpse of the athletes before they took the world stage with their incredible athletic ability.  Learning the stories of these athletes is one of my favorite parts of watching the games.  Lopez Lomong’s story is certainly one of pain, suffering and hardship but all that is overshadowed by his tremendous drive, hope and selfless endeavors for the people of South Sudan.  I was looking forward to the Olympics as a spectator.  But now, I am a fan.  A fan of Lopez Lomong.  And not because I want to see him win a race and stand on a podium for a short time with a medal around his neck.  I am a fan because he knows that the race set before him is one that includes much more than a gold medal.  It includes a life filled with loving God, loving those around him and loving his homeland and it’s people of South Sudan.

Let the games begin!

To learn more about Lopez Lomong and 4 South Sudan go to: lopezlomong.com/foundation

This book was received free for two honest reviews. (After reading it, I would gladly buy it)

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Sharing the extraordinary ordinary

Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15

There are many emotions that fall between happy and crying.  Most of our days are spent somewhere between the two, in the ordinary routine of life. That is where most of life is lived.  And that is where I have found myself in the last year with a group of young moms in my community.  Certainly crying together over the sad times and celebrating together the happy times, but it seems we have formed great friendships in sharing the routine everyday life of a mother that many times is neither happy nor is it sad.  It just is.

This week I find myself an ocean away from my home spending time with friends in Ghana, West Africa.  This week is different and yet it is the same.  I sat next to my friend Olivia a beautiful young woman from Ghana whom I first met when she was engaged to be married. Now 4 years later she is a wife, school teacher and mother of a 2-year-old.  It is where many of my new friends at home live, in the beginning stage of understanding what life as a mother can be.

As we talked for hours about nursing, naps, toilet training woes, sleepless nights, the demands of home and work, personal time and the dreams we had of ourselves that we now find buried amidst all the demands of motherhood the world seemed like a very small place.  More similar than different.  She is living many of her days in the routine, the day that just is, wondering how to still see those dreams for herself fulfilled.  My visit was an encouragement to her.  Maybe it brings hope that there is life to be lived when our children are older.  Perhaps it is in the camaraderie of hearing stories that are familiar the world over.  And it might just be that I was not weeping with her nor was I happy with her, but I was sharing the mundane routine “just is” with her as well.

I find these young woman at home and here so very far away.  I don’t think it’s that I am some great mom expert.  It’s that they are just starting and I am years on down the road, willing to sit down with them in the ordinary days and remind them how normal it is, how they will survive and just how extraordinary being a mom is.

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Customer Service Done Right

She returns home each evening and relays the day’s customer service interactions.  She wears a uniform and a name tag to work and “That”, she says, “has made me a non-person in the eyes of the customers.  It’s like I’m a robot, a machine or just a thing.  They don’t look me in the eye, talk to me or acknowledge that I am a person.  I want to wear a sign that says talk to me, I’m real!”

She accompanies me to the grocery store now and I lose track of her on every aisle.  When I backtrack I find she is having a conversation with the store clerk who is wearing gloves, stocking the freezer section. Not just “hey, how you doing” but a real conversation, listening and interacting. I find she looks everyone in the eyes these days.  Really looking at them.  Her pace is slower and she notices the people, all the people, around her.  She sees them.  She treats them like real people that she cares about.  She’s walked in their shoes, she’s one of them.  And they look back.  They smile.  And you see them respond, converse with her and become real people.

I saw this picture while the two of us were visiting NYC last weekend.  “Christ on a Train” by an unknown artist.  And I thought of her.  She has been demonstrating for me simple ways of being “Christ On A Train”.  Slowing down long enough to notice.  To sit with people.  To look them in the eye.  To see beyond their uniform, name tag or stereotype.  To see them as people created by the same one who created me.  Loved by the same one who loves me. And the very ones I am asked to love as well.

She’s teaching me a lot these days.

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