Essence

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I took a Chinese painting class last week, a completely new learning experience. Everything about it was new, the types of paints, the brushes, how you hold the brush, the type of paper, how you load the brush with paint. A new way to paint. A new way to look at things.

Many times the teacher said, “In Chinese painting, don’t worry about detail. You want to capture the essence. If you make mistake, let it happen. See where it goes. Don’t try to fix it.”

His Chinese paintings were so beautiful and simple. I asked him to paint a peony for me. In a few brushstrokes, he captured the essence of this flower I love so much. So beautiful, so simple. In such few strokes, such few colors, he created something that moved me to tears.

Why did something so simple move me to tears? With a few strokes of a brush, this artist connected to my soul. He laughed at my tears, saying, “You make more tears, I make more beautiful flower.”

So here it is, a peony by artist Lian Quan Zhen.

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Simple strokes, use of pure colors, light touch. Suggestion. Not all details.

Mixed in with painting lessons, life lessons.

Don’t force things. Let them be as they are.

Many things in your life you don’t understand. You do it first, then you understand.

Sometimes you give up things to get things.

After years of raising four children, my mind is not wired to think this way. There are many years of attempted control and order to reverse. Yet in this changing season of letting go, relinquishing control, I see the beauty of giving up things to get things. The peace of not forcing things and letting them happen. The joy of letting my grown children be as they are and blossom in their gifts.

The gift of living with someone with Alzheimer’s also teaches, for she sees things in the present, life in the small things. Through her I learn to see beauty in the shell, in the external that capsules what is hidden inside.

To see the essence, the purity of heart and soul now masked my amalagous plaques tangling the brain rendering captive the expression, the language, the emotions that once captured and endeared this person to the hearts of many.

The essence. Look at the essence.

The true beauty of this being.
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Through my art I hope to see clearly the things I love. The flowers familiar, landscapes and seascapes that heal my soul. Look deeply into them unmasked.

And in turn trust that the things I see are true.

Then, lightly, I will touch the paper with brush and ink, not force what I see, not try to control it.

Instead let it happen,

And capture only essence.

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unveiled

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The sun was setting, and in the distance

a curtain of rain

veiled a rainbow.

A pocket of clouds lay just beyond.

A whisper of hope veiled in the clouds.

A promise that everything would be ok.

We had just come from a service where a husband and three kids the ages of my children had said goodbye to their mother.

Their mother, now with unveiled face, healed from her cancer and resting in the arms of Jesus.

Their mother, whose greatest wish conveyed throughout the service is that her children would remain steadfast in Him.

I walked along the shore with my only daughter only hours after that service, my reflections mirrored in this veil

these words from Corinthians coming to mind as I imagined what is must be like to say goodbye to my children

But we, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 2:13

My friend is healed, beholding the Glory of the Lord.

And those of us left here somehow, after a glimpse of His glory behind the veil are left to be transformed into the same image, from glory to glory….

In the Greek, glory, doxa, one definition translates to this:

splendor, brightness

  • of sun, moon and stars.
  • magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace
  • majesty…a thing belonging to God.

In the dusk of that evening,

I reflect that my friend belongs to God
I reflect on the dignity and grace of her last days

the sun reflects in the sky and the moon rises

and my daughter
reaches beneath the moon, reaches forward, reaches for new possibilities… hope

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I wonder why some of us are left behind, and some of us are taken
and see how there is too much transforming left to do
so I too
will reach beyond myself
reach forward, stretching to places uncomfortable and unknown

and someday, when all is unveiled
I will behold His glory
and understand

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seconds measured

47.4 seconds.
That is my son’s best time in the 100 yard freestyle, the time he just swam at the 4A Florida State High School meet last Saturday.

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47.4 seconds.
a time when each breath was intentional
each stroke intentional
each kick intentional

The Warriors host two teams

47.4 seconds
not just halfway, but all out. Each stroke and breath all out, pushing to the limit, pushing past weariness and pain, driving body past barriers until he touched the wall to finish.

There was a flurry of movement all around as surrounding athletes pushed limits through resistance, water,  to record best times, driving at All- American speeds: 44 seconds, 45 seconds 46 seconds.

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Behind those seconds are hours and hours of work. Miles and miles of yardage logged to get the speed, endurance to be able to charge through those few seconds all out.

Hours put in early when the moon and stars still fill the sky.
Hours put in in pouring rain and cold temperatures.

Swimming ….a truly inspirational sport, one of true discipline
as the one standing on the blocks, poised to move forward, every muscle tensed, anticipating the start
is the only one who knows the preparation, the hours and yards and conditions endured to ready himself for that brief race.

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I have fought the good fight, I have stayed the course, I have finished the race….2 Timothy 4:7

It is the last push that determines the winner.
The last reach, the last stroke head down
lungs bursting
arms burning
legs burning
in the final reach for the wall.
The final time.

The glance at the clock that records time is only a measure of the discipline and perseverance endured to reach that mark of 47.4 seconds.

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In our own moments,  we endure those seconds of push in life where we are beyond ourselves
grinding through resistance, the churning waters that surround, laboring past the pain and weariness

that place beyond ourselves that is glorious and exhausting

that place where we can help another
or bring a smile to a face by a simple act of kindness
or see a terminal situation in a new light, though the situation has not changed

those are moments of glory.

Psalm 89:17 says, “For you are the glory of their strength.”

These are the moments,  lasting a bit longer or shorter than 47 seconds, that inspire us through the hard places,

These moments of inspiration push us to look beyond the pain to reach for something greater to better ourselves, or even greater, to better someone else.

There is great gain in launching into deep waters. In going beyond limits to do something impossible or unattainable. And whether or not that thing is attained or just beyond grasp there is victory in the trying, in the drive to get to wall to the place beyond your limit. To bring you beyond yourself into the unknown. To places beyond borders.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would find me

“Oceans” by Hillsong

We become tired and weary of the places we are called to go, determined by choice or by circumstance…to care for the widow, the orphan, to be the single mom, to juggle the finances, to walk with cancer.

We think we can’t propel past the pain and weariness to move forward, one motion at a time, one stroke at a time, one kick at a time.

Somewhere deep in our soul, we find the guts to move on.  Faith gives us the push to move forward.

Triumph comes not in the time or the medal or the accolade because most of the time there is none. Triumph comes in the strength attained that often times unknowingly inspires another to find the same.

The Warriors visit Boone HS