Friday, March 28, 2014


And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: "Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I'm through blooming."

(read the rest of Parker Palmer's poem, Camas Lilies, here)

Consider the lilies, he saidWe hear the first instruction peripherally, hurriedly, as mere set up for the final instruction of the saying. And in so doing, we miss something great, perhaps even something vital, both in the means and in the end. With our rationalistic sensibilities, we gloss over consideration of the lilies; ironically, in an attempt to consider the real work Jesus is asking us to do.But what if considering the lilies is the work, the antidote to anxious, preoccupied lives? What if attending to beauty, to the ephemeral, to the fleeting details of a distracted world is a command Jesus wants us to take seriously in and of itself? -Jill Carattini, A Slice of Infinity: Consider the Lilies

Saturday, March 22, 2014

time and enough

I had a dream this week of a tension-filled day at home. There was a lot of action and noise, everybody talking at once, me feeling angsty and stressed, worried about getting done everything I was trying to do. My grandmother was there, and for some reason I was arguing with her (ha!) and my friend Tana was there, sitting back, observing, and then she got up to leave and she said to me: There is enough time. (Such a wise one, that Tana).

And then the dream was over, and I woke up. And all week I have been thinking about this and trying to live in the reality of enough. Enough time. Like manna- only enough for what I need for each day. And only enough to do what Christ calls me to do. Abiding in Him is the only way to know what that is. 

Which is why I love this, the best post I read this week (and a great new-to-me homeschool blog!)-  Recognize Your True Task: at Amongst Lovely Things
uch of our anxiety in homeschooling could be side-stepped by simply acknowledging, every day, who we are trying to please. It sounds too simple, I know. But consider that your day (what you prioritize, what you don't) will likely look different depending on whether you are doing it all for His pleasure, or doing it all (or even some of it) to please Grandma, the neighbor, or anyone else.He isn't asking me to succeed. He's asking me to faithfully do the work.

Faithfully do the work- all for His pleasure.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

the wide white empty

Today the earth is pressed against this wide white emptiness and there is still this gap in me, this hesitation.

I've been thinking about painting.  

I remember in college making the best art when given many rules.  
The still life was constructed.  The lighting already determined. 
 Stand here.  Paint that.  
And so I did.

My fear was the blank canvas and nothing to paint.  
No model, no instructions.  
A painting.  
I'd cringe.  
I still do.

I think I tend to live my life that way, feeling for the boundary.  
Just tell me what to do and I'll do it, I'll find a way to make it mine. 
Whatever it is- make the best of it.  

I like limits.

Like the nights when I haven't bought groceries in weeks and our pantry is nearly bare and I see that we have potatoes and I think, ah, potato soup .. . and then I remember I still have a little bacon in the freezer, and a bit of cheese, and I'll bake bread, and there is that cake mix I need to use, and frozen peaches, and suddenly this is sounding like the best meal all year.

But I can walk through the grocery store unable to think of one thing to make for dinner.

This is Art- 
This is Life:
you find your materials:
the still life of junk-
the ugly sweater-
the lump of clay-
the useless, the forgotten, the awkward, the ordinary- 
the lonely-
 and you work, and rework, and see, and see again, and change directions and look, and turn it upside down and step back and see again . . . you get a cup of coffee and find a new cd and sit down and stand up and look and wait and see

and then you dip your brush and your hand is shaking just a little but you're getting a little bit excited too because you're thinking that maybe you've found something- and you keep digging, you keep painting- aware now that you are the magician, redeemer, the fairy godmother . . . releasing, liberating the thing, it's up to you . . . but you're sure now that it's in there . .. the beauty . . . now it's all you can see . . . and you keep painting, or sculpting, or writing, or maybe just waking up every day with all of the life that is in you and trying, believing, again . . . 
until the beauty comes.

Tonight I am still sitting and looking.  

It is the hardest part: the waiting, the empty canvas . . .
 the search for beauty in what is not beautiful, meaning in what feels meaningless.  
There is no lonelier place than before a blank canvas.

It is an act of faith, 
this making art- 
this making a life.
A long and usually lonely process of waiting,
and looking.

Of believing
and seeing again-
the beauty finds you.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
-Wendell Berry

(This is an old post from 2011, dusted off for today)

Friday, March 14, 2014

nightly art

It's my favorite time of day- dinner. However the day has been, supper is my anchor. All of the ages have found their way, nightly, here. To nourish.

The kids know the routine by now, it is their hour to play or be put to work and so they avoid the kitchen and usually as the sun sets the kitchen is all mine. My sink faces west and I've watched the sky in every shade, all of its seasons.

First is the question, the endless one: more with less. It is the question of the cook and of the artist and the question of living: to use what you have, make do, stretch, appeal, reimagine. We still are trying.

Begin where you are, with what you have. Start small. The humble onion. Does every art begin like this- some ordinary fragment which we find is layered: a thought, conversation, suggestion-- some scent or memory or two words which bump together and there they sit, stirring, in the mind.

This is where I live, the stirring. A realm of circles and cycles and turning, cups filling up, the emptying and washing, gathering, holding. The ebb, the bowl, the roundness of things.

And this is art: to stir, to taste, to wait. To soften or deepen or listen. Knowing when, the delicate proportions of vinegar to oil, a pinch of salt, grace and truth.

It is about color and flavor and all of the textures of the earth. It is memory and comfort, ritual and season and celebration. It is to pleasure and to Life.

It is the end of the day's labor and the fruit of the day's labor.

It is the end of the day and the hallowing of the day.

It is using what I have and what I have to give.

It is the best art I can make, supper.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

the art of imperfect

This year I am making art for Lent. I spend a lot of time thinking about and making art in some form or another, but I don't always share my art. I don't think that is a bad thing, not everything needs to be shared of course.

But often what holds me back is what holds everyone back, the need for perfection. Or, fear of imperfection.

I noticed the other day the beautiful imperfection of organic apples. I love the spots and blemishes of these apples because they tell me they are real. 

Other apples, the perfect apples, are frightening and ugly in their perfection. Perfection is a form of ugliness, it represents something false and unnatural. 

Art is beautiful when it is quirky and easy and honest. And I find I love people more, too, when they are a little bit odd and authentic and wonderful.

I find this is true in all of living: perfection, or the pursuit of it, sucks the life out of the thing- whether parenting or friendship or marriage or spirituality or art. It's all art.

Again, the little boy's lunch: would I have dared give Jesus a lunch so small and imperfect? He does not ask for our perfection, but our life.

My first week of Lent is about letting go of perfect.

I am making art every day, though maybe not on the blog every day. One way I am enjoying searching for daily art is on instagram- jesstock25. (Yes, I finally got an iphone and yes I love it! -wink)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Art

{acrylic on canvas}

Best words:

Teachable Cynics: Practical Theology for Women
"If you're regularly willing to give a critique, but not willing to take one, you're not a leader, you're a cynic." - @edstetzer 

His painting pulled me into a conversation I'd apparently been longing to have. It came at me with a force I will never forget and it began very simply. I looked at it. It looked at me, and all it said was, "Me too!" — and Cezanne and I have been talking ever since.

Best dinner (last) week: Quinoa, Sausage, and Egg Breakfast bowl
This is a recipe from Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist and one of my favorite recipes from the book. The best part is how quickly it can be thrown together, and with ingredients I usually have on hand. (I found the recipe on the web here). 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The way of Fluffy


This is our bunny (who ran away). Alas.

I remember a day when two of the girls were fighting. Fighting fighting fighting, all morning long. And then, we sat in the grass with Fluffy. And these same two sisters who had been at odds all day suddenly were shoulder to shoulder. 

Fluffy changed things. The atmosphere shifted, the children had something new to give their energy to, together, a distraction from their fighting.

Art is a worthy distraction.

More and more I find myself avoiding the debates. I suppose there was a time when they were helpful but lately they just- aren't. 

I am weary of the divisions, the arguments. They make my soul hurt. I don't need any more we and they and them.

I need art. 

I need stories and texture and humanity. I need the light in your eyes and the touch of your hand and the contagion of your laugh.  Your opinions are fine, but I'd rather hear how you fell in love or what you regret or what does it mean to be saved. Saved? From what? 

Tell me about that and I will tell you mine and we will belong to one another and no longer to our opinions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Forty Days of Art

On Sunday Josie came home with a little bag from Sunday School- five crackers and two fish. She was supposed to share it with her sisters, like the little boy who gave his lunch. (Cutest Sunday School lesson ever).

I have been thinking about Lent and what does God want to do in me this year, where is He prompting me to change or give or let go? Every year, I am so in need of Lent.

And so I thought about the little loaves and fish, such a small thing, and also, to the little boy, everything. And how his little-small-everything became multiplied into something so much bigger...

My everything at any given moment usually is some small thing. I could almost call it insignificant, and hide it beneath my coat.

It's small, but it's mine. Mine Mine Mine.
That thing I most want to protect, am most afraid of letting go . ..

My time.
My opinion.
My liberty.

The best sermon I've heard on the roles of men and women went something like:
Men, you're charge, here are all of the reasons why that's your right. . .
Women, you are equal. Here are all of the reasons why that's your right. . .
Now . . .

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.(Phil 2:5-7)

You are at liberty, but submit.
It is all yours, but give.
You are justified, but let it go.

I can't tell you all of the details, but one of the greatest miracles I experienced this year began with the smallest letting go. This thing that was mine. I thought I needed it. And I had a right to it- I did. But something happened when I let it go- that small thing- it grew. It multiplied in another way, some life-giving way I hadn't expected.

When we let go, Jesus multiplies.

And what does this mean for Lent this year?
What small thing am I clinging to that Christ is asking me to give?
What small thing does it require faith to give?

Somehow the thing I feel most prompted to give to Jesus this year, that small thing in my hand that I hold onto in fear, requiring faith, is art. I feel compelled to create, to search for the story of redemption in daily life.

I am an expert at all of the reasons to hide my art and there is a time to make art in the dark and a time to pour the art at Jesus' feet. This year feels like a time for pouring out.

I love this reflection on Ash Wednesday at A Slice of Infinity: Sleep and Ashes- Maybe the most countercultural thing I can do is to get more sleep.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.'"  (OnBeing)