First… now… next!

It’s been an interesting weekend!

Painting. Appliance repairs. A slumber party. Stories… mostly of change!

Five years ago, I was engaged in a journey called The Black Madonna Pilgrimage. My FIRST Intentional Creativity® adventure. My first painting.

(Well, except for walls with rollers!)

In the midst of that enormous learning experience, my friend, from the first day of 7th grade, was having surgery for a brain aneurism in the midst of hurricane season.

I made prayer dots, layers and layers of them, until the weather cleared enough that I could go help.

My first hint at how much my life was changing was how much I missed my canvas – my Black Madonna becoming manifest – and my dots!

My friend is doing well now. Blessed be! And we had an old fashioned slumber party to celebrate and catch up. Life has been a bit hectic for both of us!

We told stories. Not the cool kid stories so popular in middle school slumber parties where everyone is trying desperately to fit in.

The real, deep, authentic, questioning journeys of both our lives, now. Surrounded by all the paintings on my walls. And by dreams.

The photo at the top of this post begged to be included.

A giclee’ print of The Fiercely Compassionate Grandmother, aka my Black Madonna Pilgrimage painting. And, yes, the original hangs in my friend’s home which is as it was meant to be.

Then, my current w-i-p… Insight. She’s still choosing her forever name, even as she’s becoming. And teaching me soooooo….. much!

And, what looks like a white background, but is actually my next Legend painting. That starts tomorrow, after my recent beginning found a new home!

All of this memory/vision energy sent me on a hunt through photo land… and I found what was calling me!

The intention. The very first layer of that very first painting.

It came from an old quote in the Quaker tradition…

In order to learn, we must be willing to be changed.

I first encountered that notion at Eckerd College, while I was filling out seminary applications.

I was both resistant and intrigued.

After a whole lot of struggle to be me, through the terrifying single mom initiation, and the what will I do with my life questions, I wasn’t so sure about letting something change me.

Those words took root, nonetheless, deep within me.

They are, in many ways, blooming now.

And, yes, it has a lot to do with the whole bit about input and filters and maps.

Though the map has recently become a basket. A medicine basket!

Among the essential things in that medicine basket… perceptual tools, mark making supplies, and a big ball of Red Thread!

And, just in case you’re in a place that feels like a mysteriously important journey, I can help!

THE FIRST STEP is an adventure in Zoom Land. You. Me. Less than an hour. Red Thread. And some help from the calendar elves! It’s my gift to you!

Or… if that sounds too big, CLICK HERE for some guiding questions you can ponder deep inside!

ps… Legend the next has decided that willing to be changed is an empowering intention for now, too! That means we’re already on the way! Who knows? Another slumber party may be involved!

The thing called “reality”…

Half a lifetime ago, when I was a seminary student, I encountered the then-bizarre notion that language creates reality.

It freaked me out! (And was something definitely not covered during my previous years in nursing school!)

At first, faced with that enormous notion, I dangled my inner editor toes in the kiddy pool with the possibility that language proposes reality.

Later, I dove in head first!

You see, I lived a whole lot of my life as a word person.

Then, about 5 years ago, I discovered that I am also an image person!

And realized that images can create reality, too… especially if they’re attached to words. Words of Intention!

And you, clever soul, already see where this is going on this work-in-progress Wednesday!!!

My externalized journey with this round of Intentional Creativity® Insight painting is circling for a landing.

Every cell in my being knows that my internal journey is headed on a whole other adventure!

I know… she probably doesn’t make much sense to you.

The what are we trying to accomplish bit is pretty easy.

All three primary neuro-processing patterns working together to help us get from here to there.

There, in my case, being intentionally re-framed by these words from Frederick Buechner with which I’ve been obsessed recently:

The place where you are called is where your deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet!

So… let’s start, visually, with the bottom left corner of this w-i-p. Home of the Critic and the Muse. The two chatty voices in all of us, playing tug-of-war over the next right thing.

If you squint, you may be able to spot the initials M and C in what insisted on becoming a stock pot.

Yep… predictable for me. Go ahead and laugh!

I do, indeed, have a thing for broth. Veg. Bones. Fish heads & shrimp shells…

It’s healing. It’s comforting. It’s alchemical!

And the magic happens when energy is applied to an intentional container.

That’s what I do!

In the kitchen, for sure. But in my journey, as well.

It’s about creating a safe container for the old stuff and the new… the scary and the thrilling… to be honored and nurtured until they become something that wasn’t before.

Often, a bay leaf is involved! Literally or metaphorically…

For now, an invitation…

A Red Thread Circle. Zoom. Me. You. Your Muse & Critic. A scrap of red yarn if there’s some handy. And a cuppa. Maybe a bay leaf! 45 minutes. My gift to you.

Click HERE & the Calendar Elves will find you a time!

ps… stay tuned! My Insight buddy will clearly have more to share!

pps… Thank you, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, and all those who came before us and walk beside us.

Season 3. Episode 1. Again!

Yep! The West Wing! Source of much wisdom and comfort in my universe.

And, yes, I have much of it memorized.

We watch a lot of Jeopardy at our house, too, and the Legendary Husband is often amazed at how many answers to random things I know because of Aaron Sorkin and the gang.

Sometimes, though, I visit The West Wing in my dreams. It happened again this week, in the midst of my homework for the Intentional Creativity® program for wannabe Red Thread Guides.

This bit probably won’t be a surprise for you, either, if you’ve been reading along for a while.

Questions and Context were involved!

The particular project of the moment was an adventure most frequently known as Vision Plan.

I’ve done this one before. Several times. I’ve led others on the journey as well. One of the reasons I love it is because I find new answers, depending on what’s going on in the world and in my heart when I pick up the markers.

First, supplies…

A big sheet of heavy watercolor paper and a basket full of markers. Also, a handy mixed media journal for sorting and organizing.

Eight panels, each with a specific question to ponder. In this case, things like PROJECT & MISSION & COMPASS.

I’ll admit to getting a bit lost in all the possibilities.

Then… the dream.

Season 3. Episode 7 is also known as Isaac & Ishmael.

It was an add-in episode which was the first one that aired after the 9/11 attack on America.

As the story goes, a class of high school political science students were visiting the White House when a terrorist threat left them herded into the mess (aka dining room) until the building could be secured again. And it left the Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman, in charge of answering questions and warding off panic.

After passing around the go-to White House snack of peanut butter and apples, Josh offered to answer questions.

The conversation turned to terrorism and to extremist politics, especially in the Middle East.

About that time, First Lady Abbey Bartlet wandered in to help.

Like the good grandmother she was, Dr. Bartlet answered a question about terrorism with a story… the biblical story of Isaac & Ishmael.

If you don’t know the story, you might want to look it up. In my opinion, it matters even more now than it did in 2001.

For this moment, let’s skip along to the point where one of the kids asked how to beat the terrorists.

Josh responded this way…

If you want to drive them nuts… to really get them where they live… keep looking at things more than one way. Keep accepting more than one idea!

So, long story short… I realized when I woke from my dream, early Monday morning, that looking at things more than one way was exactly the reminder I needed to make my personal vision plan work for me, in this world, now.

And for my Beloveds… the folks with whom I feel called to work.

As for my homework… the learning is huge! The actual paper and marker outcome is still a work-in-progress, and that feels like a really good thing for living in this world, now.

There’s still a bit of journeying to do between vision and form.

I’m excited! And looking forward to sharing. (You might want to stock up on red thread!)

In the meantime, though, there’s a whole bunch of politics goin’ on in this world. Run-offs. Subpoenas. Court cases. At home and abroad. And in, with, and under it all, Josh Lyman’s voice:

If you want to drive them nuts… to really get them where they live… keep looking at things more than one way. Keep accepting more than one idea!

As long as it takes!

ps… ready for some ideas about what all this might look like in your world? CHECK THIS OUT!

pps… and, just in case you need an intentional, externalized reminder… I’ve got you covered!

A brief glimpse at the “Grace” section of my inner library…

Or, time to stock up on tissues!

On Monday, one of my personal hero/saints passed from this world into the next. That news left me camped out in front of my favorite shelf in my literal library… letting the memories leak from my eyes.

I met Frederick Buechner during an event at Columbia Seminary, years and years ago. I had “known” him much longer, through his words.

He helped me through my seminary student fears that the “proper” interpretations of my faith tradition often felt like answers to exam questions rather than inspirations for life.

I even bought one of his books for my parents who were struggling to grasp what on earth made me think I could enter the ministry.

His passing has wakened a whole bunch of the voices and memories from my journey.

First, the surprise voice in my head… Whoopi Goldberg! It took me a minute to figure it out…

Not Whoopi, exactly, but Sister Mary Deloris in the movie, Sister Act.

Quoting the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, she told a young student who longed to be a singer, If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing… then you’re supposed to be a writer.” (Or singer.)

For me, Buechner was a writer like that.

His version was this:

The place where you are called is where your deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Then, this, from Wishful Thinking… A Theological ABC

Doubt: Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.

Mysticism: Mysticism is where religions start. Moses with his flocks in Midian, Buddha under the Bo tree, Jesus up to his knees in the waters of Jordan, each of them responding to Something of which words like Shalom, Oneness, God even, are only palid souvenirs. Religion as ethics, institution, dogma, ritual, Scripture, social action, all of this comes later and in the long run maybe counts for less. Religions start, as Frost said poems do, with a lump in the throat — to put it mildly — or with a bush going up in flames, a rain of flowers, a dove coming down out of the sky. “I have seen things,” Aquinas told a friend, “that make all my writings seem like straw.” Most people have also seen such things. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of their lives, most of them have caught glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by. Only then, unlike the saints, they tend to go on as though nothing has happened. We are all more mystics than we choose to let on, even to ourselves. Life is complicated enough as it is.

There’s much, much more, of course. I picked the bits calling most loudly in me, just now.

And one more voice from my inner chorus… from a sermon Walter Brueggemann preached at Columbia close to 30 years ago. The occasion was the decidedly “un-Reformed” All Saints Day.

Saints, Walter said, are all those who believe for us, even on the days we can’t quite believe for ourselves.

Now, I don’t know for sure about you, but I suspect I’m not the only one who has days when it’s hard to believe for myself. Days when life seems too complicated, indeed, for hints of mystical awareness. Days when blocking any sense of call seems like the safest way to go in a world full of such deep hunger.

That’s when the Grace section of my inner library — which is a lot like a Red Thread — gets the most use.

Whatever words you choose, you might just want to have a section like that in your library. It feels even more helpful now than it did when I began collecting all those voices along the way.

For now, a moment of silence where the links to click often are. And a note that the painting, above, is a stealth-mystic work-in-progress! (Believe it or not… it’s a tree!)

ps… I so hope you’ll let me know where that place is for you… where your deep joy and the world’s great hunger meet! You can comment, below, or email me at suesvoice@gmail.com

The road from here to…

A huge portion of my childhood was spent in the back of a station wagon, on the way from here to there.

Here was wherever we lived at the time. Six states and at least eight houses by the time I turned eleven.

There was either the next place we were going, or back to visit relatives. Mostly Granny & Grandpa in Minnesota.

Minnesota, you see, has lakes and lakes have fish and fishing was what my dad did on vacation.

Many of those trips happened in the dark of the night, my sister and me (hopefully) sleeping in the back of said station wagon, long before seat belt laws.

They all involved interstate highways… the fastest way to and from Granny & fish.

Boring exits with fast food and cheap gas. And my dad’s motto… “Pee now. We’re not stopping again!”

(Trust me… he was serious!)

So, somewhere in the 1980’s, not too long after it was published, I was pretty amazed at the book, Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon.

It felt like a whole other world!

A world I seem to be exploring again, in these days.

Not through prairies and over mountains, so much, as on an adventure to explore new things.

Choices.

A lot of the exploring is happening in my head, which is – realistically – easier on my knees.

And it doesn’t matter how long it takes or how often I take a break.

It’s a whole lot like learning for the sake of learning instead of learning to pass exams and get degrees.

It feels spacious. Way more than nursing school or seminary.

Conversations about myths and legends. Yes!

Crystals. Essential oils. Local organic food… in my medicine basket… Yes! Yes!

Creating out of what I’m learning. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Honestly, it takes a bit of editing.

Editing filters and strategies.

Editing the way we’ve always done it!

And here’s the surprise for me…

It turns out that it’s all been part of the journey because, now, I know more about how to choose for me.

And that may just be the message of our time!

So… there is a painting calling for the next right thing.

And – gulp! – a book hatching inside.

And some really good smoked salmon in the fridge.

I’m liking the blue highways!

ps… do you hear a new path calling? It might just start HERE!

pps… looking for some inspiration along the way? See “who’s” calling your name at FierceArtWithHeart! Just type in BLUEHIGHWAYS for 15% off the inspirations of your choice! (Great gifts, too!)

If we keep doin’ what we’ve been doin’…

Yep! “We keep gettin’ what we’ve got!”

And, it’s a useful strategy if what we’re getting is what we want.

You may have noticed, though, that it doesn’t always work! Here’s an example…

I’ve spent a good bit of my life thinking I was learning new things. And I was. I still am.

Remember back when calculators were new?

And microwaves?

And beepers?

Even antibiotics!

And the world has done a pretty great job of convincing us that new is inherently better than old.

Recently, though, I’ve decided to make intentional space for some old things.

Honestly, it hasn’t been easy.

It’s not as simple as new is good and old is bad.

Old is good and new is bad doesn’t work either.

Instead, we have to make choices. Choices in context. Choices based on what we’re trying to accomplish.

So, I’m celebrating the fact that one of The Legendary Husband’s new health strategies is helping.

And, at the same time, I’m learning really old strategies, like essential oils, to help with some of my challenges.

I’m learning Red Thread Circles even more deeply than before because they help with clarity and connection and community, which are huge needs in this world.

And early this morning, while I was dozing/pondering my hearth tending strategy for #work-in-progress Wednesday, I had an ah-ha moment.

In the world where I grew up – if you ignore Geometry class for the moment – Circle was a word for what church women did with coffee, while men set the budgets and made decisions and, well, preached sermons.

At some level of un-awareness, when I first began to sense a call to ministry, I seem to have left any notion of circle behind.

I traded what felt old for what felt new and brighter and shinier and more powerful.

And now I’m grateful to realize that we need both/and way more than either/or!

We need people – whatever their notion of gender might be – who can be in intentional communities where it’s safe to inquire and share and witness.

And we need people – whatever their notion of gender might be – who who can be in intentional communities tasked to assess and discern and lead.

It’s the feeling that we have to give up one to belong in the other that tears us apart and tragically limits all of us.

Part of living in a both/and world view is claiming our own ability to choose. For ourselves.

And also realizing that others will make different choices for themselves.

It isn’t easy. And, yes, it can be scary.

But, last week, the girls and I held our very own March on Washington. And, yes, I had my Good Trouble button on!

Because the world needs us – people who truly value each other and creating connections – to lead.

If you’re wondering how to move forward, I can help! JUST CLICK HERE … and bring all of you along on the path! Maybe even some red thread, though we can work up to that!

ps… today a new friend gave me an easy opportunity to practice a skill which still feels a bit scary sometimes. So, I’m going to practice again and invite you to come check out all the hope at FierceArtWithHeart! From original art to mugs and posters and archival prints, wander and wonder!

The return from Far Far Away…

Or the land where your family, your myths, and your legends meet!

Okay, here’s the short version… the being in Grammy Land was delightful.

Well, except for the whole air conditioner initiation!

The getting home bit, way less delightful. Though, I am, indeed, here.

Grandmother Moon, apparently, missed me. She had a whole lot to say this morning!

The story she insists I share will feel familiar to some of you. I’m really hoping you’ll read it either way. You see, I’ve never before shared it in the context of this moment…

This is my re-telling of what I learned as an ancient Sufi teaching story, long, long ago in a hypnotherapy training.

The Wise Old Man at the Top of the Mountain

Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, there was a farmer. The farmer lived in a small village in a far-away land, near a mountain.

One morning the farmer got up and went out to care for his animals. As he went about his chores, the farmer, who was very poor, noticed that his cow was missing. “Oh, no!” cried the farmer. “Whatever will we do?” The farmer was very upset and he had no idea what to do next. As the day went on, the farmer became even more unhappy. Finally he decided that he had to do something. There was only one thing he could think of to do.

He walked sadly down the little road until it started to lead up the mountain. The farmer climbed and climbed up the mountain. His feet hurt and it was beginning to get cold, but still the farmer climbed. When he got to the top of the mountain, he found a cave where there lived a wise old man.

“Farmer!” called the wise old man, for he was used to having visitors like this. “Come in. Sit by the fire. Have a cup of tea. And tell me what brings you here today.”

The farmer bowed to the wise old man and accepted his cup of tea. And then, with a shaking voice and a tiny tear in his eye, the farmer told the wise old man that his cow was gone. Disappeared.

“How will my family live?” the farmer asked. “We need the cow for milk and to plow our fields. Without her, we will starve.”

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands, as he looked deep into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

The farmer leaped up, dropping his tea on the floor. This man wasn’t wise! Clearly losing their cow was terrible news. And off the farmer went, stomping down the mountain and muttering to himself about the crazy old man.

Several days went by. The farmer spent a lot of time telling his neighbors about his trip up the mountain and how strange it was that the old man just said, “We don’t know if this is good news or bad news.”

The next morning the very worried farmer got up and went out to begin his work. There, much to his surprise, was his cow. And not only his cow, but a big, strong bull as well. The farmer was so surprised and so happy that he dropped his tools and went, as fast as he could go, back up the mountain to see the wise old man.

“Come in,” the wise old man greeted him. “Sit down. Have a cup of tea.”

The farmer was so excited he was nearly bursting with his news.

“Tell me what brings you here today,” said the wise old man.

“Well!” said the farmer. “I got up this morning and there was my cow. She came home! And not only that, but there was a beautiful, strong bull in the yard as well! Our family is saved! We’ll be rich!”

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands as he looked into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

The farmer had never heard anything so silly in his life! Of course this was good news! And off the farmer went, stomping down the mountain and muttering to himself about the crazy old man.

Some more time passed.

One day, the farmer’s son, who was just learning to use the plow to dig up the earth for planting, hitched the big, strong bull to the plow and began to work. It was a nice, sunny day and the farmer’s son was thinking about many things. Suddenly, a very large bee flew up and stung the bull right on his nose.

Well! The bull bellowed really loudly, as bulls are known to do, and began to run. The farmer’s son wasn’t strong enough to hold on to the plow. He fell over right in the field and heard a loud sound coming from his leg. Suddenly his leg began to hurt more than anything had ever hurt before. All he could do was sit in the dirt and watch as the bull dug up the earth and ran, as fast as he could go, right through the fence and away down the road.

The farmer, who loved his son, heard him crying and went running to see what was wrong. There was his dear son on the ground. The field was destroyed where it was all dug up. The bull had clearly crashed through the fence and run away. The farmer did not know what he and his family would do so he did the first right thing. He went and got the village doctor who came and cared for his son.

The boy’s leg was broken. The doctor tied tree branches to each side of it, as they used to do long ago, and wrapped it tight with some old pieces of cloth. The farmer and the doctor carried the boy to a small porch on the front of their tiny home. The doctor said the boy would have to stay there for many weeks and would not be able to walk.

The farmer was more and more upset. In fact, he was more upset than he’d ever been. Finally, because he didn’t know what else to do, he went and climbed slowly up the mountain.

“Come in,” the wise old man greeted him. “Sit down. Have a cup of tea. Tell me what brings you here today.”

The farmer was so upset he could barely talk. Finally he managed to explain what had happened. His field was ruined. The bull was gone, and with him the plow. And his dear son’s leg was broken and would not heal for many weeks.

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands, as he looked deep into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

With that, the farmer flung his tea cup to the ground and went stomping down off the mountain, threatening to tell everyone he knew that the wise old man was not wise at all, but mean and just plain crazy.

The farmer was so angry he could barely do his work. A few days passed as he cared for his son without crutches or wheelchairs or any of the things we might use in our time.

Then, one morning, the farmer woke to all kinds of noise in the village. There were soldiers from far away on the road, with wagons, capturing all the young men of the village to go and fight in a war. People were crying and begging that their sons not be taken.

The farmer’s son couldn’t go, because of his broken leg.

When the soldiers had left the village, the farmer went and fixed tea for his son and himself. And he pulled a bit at his long, skinny beard and said, with a light of understanding in his eye, “We really don’t know, do we? 

(Boardman, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope)

ps… if you’re still reading, thank you! And there’s a prize… help on your path up & down whatever epic mountain you’re facing! Just CLICK HERE!

pps… the featured painting is from my wonder-full wanderings with Maria Yraceburu… my version of up & down the mountain, leaving some old things behind and claiming some new! The story for the painting just below is for another day. Stay tuned!

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach