Note: The paintings pictured in this post are not the subject but are meant to enhance the subjects that are written about.
I have gained a new appreciation for winter as the time to do indoor projects, plan for spring, continue producing as well as taking time to rest and reflect. This month, I began a new thought-provoking book called The Clarity Winter Brings in the Cultivate series by Cageless Birds. In the first reading selection, the words that Melissa Helser wrote about winter spoke to my heart. She was going through a difficult time, and in the drabness of winter, Jesus brought a special thought to her mind: “Don’t you love how far you can see? Don’t you love the clarity that winter brings?” Living in West Virginia, I have come to appreciate the expansive views we have in the winter that we don’t have in seasons with the trees and bushes in full foliage. What a different perspective we have when we can see so far! This is a great time to reflect and plan.
For the last few years, my plan for January has been to have personal/work/spiritual retreat and reset month. The days in the year seem packed with work and family events, and my year tends to accelerate in the fall with art events and holiday orders to ship. By the time the new year rolls around, I’m ready for a big change of pace. I need to slow down, take inventory of my past year, and plan for the year ahead. I also need to catch up on any business details that I haven’t made time for during the very busy season. This has to be intentional or I would get caught right back up in the push to crank out work. It has been very beneficial to my sense of well-being as well as for my business to take this time. It’s not exactly a time out or a break, it’s focusing on other important aspects of life and work in a more concentrated way. Some of the concrete ways I do this are to finish up my commissioned work by Christmas time and not schedule commissions for the month of January. I have had a waiting list for commissions for the last few years and it would be easy for me to tell people that I can start in January, but I know that this is valuable time for me and my business in order to succeed during the busy year. I make it my practice to work on only one commission at a time in order to have time to create paintings for exhibitions and to take care of the business end of things. In my younger years, I tended to take on everything and burn the candle at both ends. In my "wiser," older years, I know that burning the candle at both ends gives you a burned-out candle (life) and that’s not good for much.
Leading up to this month, I began thinking that I should re-evaluate and re-emphasize what I call my pillars – the things that make up who I am. What do I value most and take time to do or develop that build into who I am? These are the things that you will read about in my blog entries and my posts. They are: my spiritual walk, relationships, healthy living, nature and being outdoors, doing my art – five main things that encompass most of what I do or am about. (I will expound on each in the following paragraphs.) Balancing all of these things is a goal I aim for that I probably won’t ever quite perfect. Of course, these things all overlap and I couldn’t have any of one of them without the rest to have the balanced life that I desire.
I have learned that when I begin my day sitting quietly with God and my Bible, everything goes more smoothly and I am better tuned in to His voice for direction as I go about my day. Of course, I miss days when I’m on the road or people are all around, but I still meet with Him as I am able and know that He is with me through every day. I also do my best to show love and grace to others, following the teachings from scripture. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
I love alone time and could fall into the false belief that I don’t need anyone. But if I spend too much time alone or not in communication with others, I notice a sort of melancholy growing within myself. Taking time to build and maintain relationships is important, and spending time with the people I love feeds my soul. Relationship is not just for my benefit as caring for others is a valued part of life as well. We go through things so we can pass along what we have learned and be a help and/or comfort to others. We were created for relationship and no thing is more important than people. While I do have boundaries such as putting my phone in work mode, saying no to some things and events, and guarding my time to have balance, if my work is interrupted because someone needs me (or if my grandchild wants to Facetime), I consider that to be more important than my plans, and trust that things will work out so that I’ll accomplish what I need to in the time that it needs to be done.
I have always tried to eat healthy and exercise. I do my best to implement what I’m learning from new research to be the healthiest that I can. I had been eating mostly pescatarian (vegetarian who eats fish), no processed foods or artificial ingredients, and very little sugar for years, but having breast cancer caused me to double down even more. As I learn about toxins we daily encounter, I have made decisions to eat more locally sourced and organic foods, use clean skin and hair products (including making my own moisturizer), and I even quit coloring my hair! I am not rigid about any of this, and I don’t expect others to adhere to my choices. Even for me, sometimes it’s impossible and sometimes I allow myself a treat, but I am conscious of being as proactive as makes sense for my own health. I have always valued exercise, and as I age, I realize that it is not optional if I desire to be healthy. I have osteopenia (likely exacerbated by cancer treatment) which is a pre-curser to osteoporosis, and we know that weight-bearing exercise helps bone density. Some of the things I do are walk 2 miles almost daily (in good weather), go to Zumba – super fun way of exercising, and Pilates workouts in my living room via YouTube with an instructor who is also a physical therapist and explains everything in a very helpful way.
Being outside in nature makes me feel most alive and also close to God. I absolutely love to get into the woods, or along a mountain stream, or a beach whenever possible for a good hike! This is different than the fast walking I do for exercise. This is a take-it-all-in kind of walking. I listen for birds, smell the air, feel the breeze, stop to inspect small insects crawling across the path, maybe pick up a unique stone, and look at the natural beauty that is all around me. I often take pictures, some of which are used as reference for my paintings. I also like to put the camera down and just be in that space. It has been scientifically proven that the ions in the air near water and woods are more negatively charged, which helps to ease stress. It has also been proven that looking at green and blue are relaxing to a person. Hmmm, it makes good sense that when God created people, He put them in a garden. I also love working in my yard and garden, which could be another whole paragraph, so I'll leave it there for now. I always feel stress melt away when I am in nature.
The last pillar, doing my art, is the thing that I believe I am called to do. I don’t know why, but it has been in me from the time I can remember, and I am so very thankful that I am able to make it my career during this time of my life.
I hope this has helped you know me a little better and also encouraged you in following through with the practices that you believe are your pillars for life.
Paintings in this post are: Riverbank on a Winter Afternoon, A Bite for the Flight, Barefoot Solitude, A Good Rock, Canning Days, Almost Spring, and Inspired. Some are available, some are sold, all are available in Giclee reproductions and note cards. For more information Click below: