Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Morning Surprise

This morning, a Sunday morning, my husband Danny roused me from a deep slumber by telling me to hurry and dress for early mass because he had a wonderful surprise for me.  Danny had had little sleep himself because he arises each morning at 4:00 to set out on his job as a newspaper deliverer to the Veteran's Home and to the residential home called Parkview.  (He arrives home at 6:30, and so affords himself another half hour to full hour of rest before he begins yet another part-time job which, depending on the season of the year, can be either guarding a pool at the local Venetian Marina, or working the counter and kitchen at a local McDonald's restaurant.  He likes to keep busy, and plays a lot of golf, so winters are a challenge for my McDanny.) My husband is 73, looks 43, and has enough energy to be 23.  For him to slow down enough to notice the delicacies of Nature is priceless, to use a cliché, and for him to share the wonder of them with me is a precious gift I will always treasure.  Another incredible hoarfrost had draped itself over the landscape.  I took many photos from which to later paint.  Here is what he wanted to share:

This is what is called the Chaussee, a bar of land and sand on which our road is built between two sides of the bay at Lake Erie.  Hoarfrost covered the willows that border the Chaussee and Danny and I trudged in the deep snow to capture this moment.  Isn't God's creation breathtaking?   Aren't precious moments of sharing joy like this an opportunity for the spirit to soar?

We saw three adult bald eagles perched in a tall tree along the Chaussee.  They are likely watching the frozen lake and bay for a spot where they might fish.  Right about now, their mates are sitting on eggs that will bring new babies into the world later this spring, and food for them will be a top priority.  The eagles are majestic, another of God's miracle creatures, and whenever we see them in the wild we are reminded of how things that seem to be very much endangered can in God's time come to flourish.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Clean Start

It is SOOOO cold this week, frigid and snowy, fresh drifts everywhere, typical winter weather around here this February.  I am so blessed to have a warm house, a cozy bedroom, hot tea whenever I need a mug to heat my hands in the evenings, and a wonderful husband to come home to each night.  It is still dark when I leave for work in the morning, and often dark again when I return at night, but I can tell that the hours of sunlight are beginning to expand little by little.  Soon, Spring will begin its slow advance here on the North Coast.  Winter will fall back, and gradually give birth to tiny signs of warmth like the crocus that will wriggle upward through the cold. 

One of my good friends, a favorite painting, left me this week and went to its new owner.  The name of the painting is Fresh Start.  It is a colorful rendition of a group of buildings in Beijing.  A clothesline stretched among sports wet clothing drying in the air.  This scene was so typical of the Asian city dweller's I observed in China, but I have also seen this kind colorful display in France, in Russia, in Italy and among the Amish in Ohio.  I remember hanging clothes on a summer clothesline myself when my children were small.  It gave me a thrill to see my family's clean things getting their share of sunshine and fresh air.  They smelled like happiness and there was a certain feeling of satisfaction that I derived from the exercise of hanging, waiting, taking down and folding those clean clothes.

I want to remember how my own behavior stains, soiled choices, and muddy decisions are repeatedly cleansed by our Lord, hung out in the fresh sunshine of the Father's love and mercy, and flap in the healing breeze of the Holy Spirit who guides me.  Each time I go to him, after repentance and forgiveness, I believe God can see the bright, new colors of joy and relief in my life, and I know that He will continually be with me to hang my cleaned laundry on His line, which is made of these words:  I love you.  That's how I see Him:  Through the Cottage Door.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Going Blank?

I read a meditation this weekend that meant a lot to me, as an artist and as a follower of Christ.  The comment concerned the scripture in the gospel of Mark when Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John and was ushered to the bed of Simon's mother-in-law who was very ill with a fever.  "He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them" (1:31). 

So many times I go "blank" with trepidation.  I sense this when I am staring at a page of stark white watercolor paper, hesitant to mark it, trying to plan perfectly what the composition should be, with or without a sketch or thumbnail to guide me.  There is something about the unknown there that paralyzes me, sometimes.  It can be the same with other life experiences where I feel afraid or unsure of myself or my skills.  I find myself "going blank" and unable to take one little step, for fear of failure.

Perhaps it is precisely in these "blank" paralyzing times that I need to remember that Christ is beside me, standing near me as I lay in my bed worrying, as I sit at my desk at work, when I am intimidated, or when I fail.  Jesus "approaches" me, and he approaches you.  He extends his strong, muscular arm to us.  Can't you just see it?   He "grasps" (what a wonderful word) my hand and your hand in his own warm and sure hand.  Can't you just feel it?   And he pulls us upright again and encourages us to put our trust in him.  We look into his deep set eyes that seem to peer right through us, to read our minds, to hold our souls and pull them close to him. 

Christ can heal the blank moments we experience.  And then, with great thanksgiving and confidence in his powerful help, we can paint.  And live.

That's how I see it, Through the Cottage Door this morning.  Have a Blessed Day.

Monday, February 2, 2015


All night and most of today snow fell here, piling up drifts in driveways, sidewalks, everywhere.  I prayed that I would not have to travel in it, and God was merciful in that my workplace was closed.  What a blessing.  I made a fire in the fireplace in my studio room and did a lot of reading of scripture and prayers, drank a cup or two of coffee, and thought about my many blessings.  With homemade soup on the stove, and skies beginning to turn blue again after days of grey, my mood was serene, even though there is much work I need to do ahead of me this week.

I took time this afternoon to re-polish ten chapters of my 10-year-old manuscript-- my novel Dancing on My Daddy's Toes.  I have sent this manuscript to author and speaker, Heather King, whose writing in Living Faith has inspired me.  She has agreed to professionally edit this story for me.  The book has already benefitted from extensive revision over the last several years when I worked with author Sharon Darrow, Vermont College, on a true rewrite from the original draft.  My prayer is that my work with Heather will again produce fruit and that the novel will someday find its place in the hands of a good publisher.  I am currently reading Shirt of Flame, by Heather King, which are her reflections about St. Therese of the Little Flower.  It is so insightful and well-researched.

I pray that all of you fellow bloggers are safe, warm, healthy and that you have projects about which you are enthused, even if they are simmering like homemade soup on the back burner or my 10-year-old manuscript finally rising from its sleep.  From inside this Cottage Door, All Blessings to You.



 20 of my paintings from the series China:  Beyond the Wall are home at last from their January exhibition in Sandusky at the beautiful and historic Grace Episcopal Church gallery.  One, Dragon, was purchased.  It is a happy moment when one of my paintings finds a permanent home, but it is a little like saying goodbye to a friend, bittersweet.  It is a lesson in humility and in priorities for me.  I want my work to bring joy to others.  However, when I am painting I grow too close to my "creation"--I should say "our" creation because certainly the Holy Spirit does most of the critical work.  I am too possessive, perhaps. So I said goodbye to my Dragon and I wish it well on its journey.  We need to create with a roar and then let the work live its own life, right?  Anyway that's the way I see it, Through the Cottage Door!

Dragon from China:  Beyond the Wall, a series of 21 watercolor paintings of China, Elizabeth Roth.