I'm not sure if you've noticed my social media bio but it says this:
Artist | called to create, in any form necessary | wrestling fear, chasing beauty, pursuing peace | learning to rest at Jesus' feet
That last part - learning to rest at Jesus' feet - goes back to the account of Mary and Martha. It's a story I revisit often and one that I continue to receive the gift of fresh revelation as the years unfold. Two years ago I wrote about it here. And as we enter the season of Lent, I have been brought back to lovely Martha with fresh eyes (for I do think she is lovely, although misunderstood and quickly judged). I see afresh that the retreat happens in the midst of the to-do list. In the middle of preparing for the guests, in the middle of busy lives, in the middle of the mess, in the middle of our weaknesses... that is where the resting at Jesus' feet happens. I often considered it an all or nothing type scenario that had me wondering, "Who cleans the toilets if everyone's with Jesus?!" As much as I know it is so good to hang out in the garden, retreating with Jesus, I am convinced there's a way to also sit as His feet, receiving His peace, while I'm scrubbing away. Now I'm trying to navigate exactly what that looks like.
Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent: the 40 days before Easter (not including the Sundays). This season serves as a time of preparation and a reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What a perfect time to retreat. I am choosing to carve out more quiet space in my day and spend more reflective time in the studio. All of which will require a very intentional look at my schedule and a very mindful shift in perspective. I still have obligations and responsibilities and deadlines and demands and requests, but I'm determined to retreat in the middle of it all. The key to this, for me, is taking this time to create quietly. I've decided I'm not going to share what I'm creating... at least not during this lenten season. And perhaps, it will continue to be an entirely personal project - we shall see! I'm going to let it all unfold each day and savour those moments, unconcerned with perfection or a business plan. I'm not checking out, I'm just taking another step back in retreat. I'll still be checking messages and working, meeting those deadlines and interacting with fine folks - I'm just shifting gears for 40 days and hoping to learn a little more about resting at Jesus' feet.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
A new year means many things to us. A fresh start, new opportunities, a clean slate, renewed goals, big dreams and the wonder of what is to come. I'm watching the Tournament of Roses parade right now, one of my own traditions for January 1st. The theme of this year's parade is, "Find Your Adventure" - what a great way to start off a year with active anticipation! We're not just bystanders in our lives, there certainly is an adventure before us, waiting to be found.
As much as I love the fresh start of January 1st, I have come to adopt the philosophy that every moment is a fresh start. The adventure of our lives is a collection of all these moments: good, bad and ugly - all working together to tell a story, all for a purpose. I wonder, what will the chapter about 2016 say?
What adventures await you this year? What are you leaving behind? I'd love to hear about your hopes and dreams for 2016! Here's to a peaceful, hopeful, joy-filled new year!
It has been a busy autumn, hasn't it? Sometimes it feels like you're drowning in the sea of your to-do list and you just don't know when you can take a break. "I have so much to do" becomes your recurring mental dialogue and you don't even know where to start most days.
I hear you.
Every time I get to this place I know it is time to schedule myself a time-out. I figure that time-outs aren't just for toddlers who've gotten themselves into mischief, but for busy adults who need to reset their focus too. I choose to rebel against that never-ending to-do list and take a breather. Goodness, even sitting quietly in the corner sounds like a welcome break! The punishment is not allowing myself to take that time-out, regroup and figure out what's really important.
And you know what's amazing about carving out the time for these moments of rest? I most often feel refreshed, more focused, calm and joyful. All from stopping for a minute to have a mug of tea in the corner! But, of course, the reset button really gets a reboot if I step outside. Last weekend I even dug the bike out of winter storage to make the most of out of my "time-out".
These images were created during a twilight outing with the photography club - a night where we had to scramble to get out the door in time, leaving a mess of dishes and a pile of unfinished tasks behind. But then, in the presence of good company, golden grass swaying in the breeze, and the glow of the setting sun, all those tasks were forgotten - if even just for a few moments. We lingered until long after most of the crew had already departed. And then, as we continued in fellowship, a magnificent Great Horned Owl flew over my shoulder. He perched himself on a branch that had us crouching low in order to view his silhouette but there he waited - just long enough for me to create an image before he was gone into the night.
If we had listened to that running mental dialogue about how we're too busy to do anything but work, this beautiful evening would have been just a dream. It has become one more affirmation to me from Heaven above, that I must carve out these moments for rest - a lesson that I relearn over and over and over. The tasks set before us are not just the busy things in our day but also moments of rest and stillness and restoration.
And on that note, I'm way past due for my time-out. When did you last carve out a moment for yours?
What Am I Doing With My Life?: Designing Your Life - CBC Podcast
I was listening to this episode of "Tapestry" on CBC Radio yesterday. This is relevant for all of us, at any age, but I found myself wishing that I had heard these thoughts from Bill Burnett twenty years ago. There is so much pressure to chart a path for ourselves at such a young age - and a pressure to stick to it. But I was surprised to learn of the statistics that show that a stunning majority of us do not stick to that plan. When I chose to chart a new path for my own life by leaving the career I had gone to University to have, it was (and can still be) really hard. It turns out I am most certainly not alone.
I hear my young friends talk about the stress of University or trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. And I hear their panic when things don't work out as planned. Why is it important to stick to this one idea - this one plan? What if we change and grow? What if our interests change and grow? And truly... shouldn't they?
"I don't see why you'd want to let your 18 year old self, who picked a major, dictate what your 55 year old self is now doing. Because the likelihood of that being the right choice is pretty low." - Bill Burnett
Years ago, I had a friend relay a story to me: she came across something on the internet that, upon initial sighting, caused her to think was me. She thought she had come across a new venture of mine - something completely out of left field. She called out to her husband across the house, announcing my latest undertaking. As it turned out, it wasn't me but she relayed the story to tell me that nothing would really surprise her in regards to my life's adventures. She didn't question her initial thoughts because she knew me to be continually taking on new things. And you know... that story still makes me smile.
The funniest thing to me is that I don't see my life path being scattered or random. I can see how one decision leads to another, which leads to another. Sure, I could have kept on the straight and narrow - something much more predictable - but I have allowed whispers from uncharted wilderness to lead me off that straight and narrow many times. I can see the imagery very clearly... Have you ever gone hiking? There's often a trail that will lead you to a destination and it's fairly well marked. But then there's these other little trails that branch off, created by curious people or animals who know of somewhere else. In my life, I keep wandering off the well marked trail (the one that I had marked out for myself when I was still a teenager) to explore what else is out there. And often, I surprise people because it seems to come out of nowhere. But I know. The wandering is intentional and purposeful. I keep allowing myself to change and grow and that's rather liberating.
"Can you help me solve the problem of, what do I want to be when I grow up?... Maybe that's not the right question. Maybe the question is, what do I want to be next?" - Bill Burnett
I had the great privilege of being asked to collaborate on the latest issue of "NorthWord: A Literary Journal of Canada's North" as the cover artist, with guest editor Russell Thomas. The theme was surprise! As I first considered the theme and how I would visually portray this with paint, I thought about all the elements of surprise. Surprises can be wonderful or horrific - you usually love them or hate them.
Personally, I am not the biggest fan of surprises. Although, one of the best birthday's was when I turned 19 and I had three surprise parties thrown for me amongst various groups of my University friends. Those were good surprises, making me feel loved, special and valued. But, with more frequency, we experience surprises that are not nearly so pleasant - things that bring stress and panic and new deadlines. Ultimately, it all boils down to the unexpected. Most of us fear the unexpected. We don't like change. We like our lives rather predictable. We thrive in routine but things can get stagnant in a hurry.
I approached the painting with a sense of expectancy rather than fear. I began with the image of the jack-in-the-box because we often approach surprise the way we do this downright creepy toy. We start churning that handle, bracing ourselves for the inevitable surprise. We know it's coming - at some point - but we cringe, not knowing exactly when it will come or what sort of freaky looking thing will pop out and nearly give us a heart attack! I decided to let go of the fear that comes with all that anticipation and imagined what that would look like instead... what if the surprise surprised us? What if I not only expected the surprises but I had hope and faith that they would be something wonderful (even if not at first sight)? What if all the unexpected things in our lives could be beautiful - leading us to growth and change and freedom from fear? Would I dare to invite surprise in my life?
These thoughts resulted in the cover artwork as well as a poem that I was delighted to discover had also been selected for publishing in the issue. I just picked up my copy today and am looking forward to reading it cover to cover. I know I will be surprised with all the different writings and angles used when approaching this theme!
Pick up a free copy of NorthWord around town (I picked up mine as I headed out the front doors at MacDonald Island) and join us for our "Surprise Party" on February 26th!
It is difficult to watch the news. There is so much death, destruction, devastation, hatred and evil in the reports we hear - the images are too much to bear. We shake our heads in bewilderment - How...? Why...? Our questions ring out louder at Christmastime, when choirs sing of "peace on earth, goodwill to men". Every day we see the struggle between good and evil - and we wrestle with how the two can co-exist.
Our hearts are fertile ground and whatever seeds we allow to grow will take over. Seeds of envy, bitterness, hatred, entitlement, and the like, will root themselves deep into our hearts - if we allow them. BUT, the same goes for seeds of peace, joy, hope and love. If those are the things we plant, water, and nurture, they will prevail.
I choose these latter things: peace, joy, hope and love. The reality is that my human condition requires a daily tending to the garden of my heart, digging up the roots of darkness and turning to God to transplant His light instead. And at Christmastime I think about Jesus, the Light of the World, coming down into darkness - coming into the middle of the evil in this world. Evil threatens to command our attention and show that it has won the day, but it is on its last legs. Goodness and Light will prevail. So, even in the midst of darkness, I will join the chorus to sing of "peace on earth, goodwill to men".
"The Wrong Will Fail, The Right Prevail"
Erin Stinson 2014
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tomorrow marks the first day of Advent, a Christian observance that marks the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a season of preparation that refers to both the birth of Jesus as well as the second coming of Jesus. It is a time to quiet our hearts and minds - to wait in anticipation. This year, as I put up the Christmas tree, I asked myself the point of all this Christmas "stuff" (meaning: trees, decorations, baking, presents, etc)... did any of this matter? And more importantly, for me, does any of this actually have to do with the reason I profess to celebrate Christmas?
We have so many demands for our time. Ironically, the weeks before Christmas are often filled with endless to-do lists, outings galore, credit-expanding purchases and much obligation in it all. How can I quiet my heart and mind when I'm so busy "doing" that I don't have a moment to just "be". Even in the best intentions to spread love and Christmas cheer, I feel overwhelmed with all that I had hoped to do and realize that it'll take me until June to get it all done. And as I strive to simplify the season I observe the world getting madder still and I feel all the more pressure. What has this season become?
I was bracing myself for the first holiday commercial to make its appearance and guess when it first aired... October. Yep, October. But stores had long before cleared their seasonal shelves to make room for boxes of Christmas lights and trees. Oh, I'm supposed to call it a holiday tree now, aren't I? And we can't forget Black Friday, a day of super sales that has people stooping to new lows as they literally fight one another to get a good deal on a new television. I'm pretty certain that if there are people being trampled to death in order to get a good deal, it's safe to say that we aren't celebrating "Christmas". What happened to "peace on earth, good will to men"?
I have wrestled with Christmas for quite a few years now, trying to reconcile traditions with what I think actually matters - and I keep finding myself asking, "What does this have to do with Jesus"? I have this feeling that if we all put away the trees and the tinsel, put our wallets back in our pockets, did away with the fairy tales, cast off all obligation and made time for advent - for actually preparing our hearts - we'd start to see Jesus in the season a whole lot more. I fear that we've created too many distractions and we say He's the reason for the season but our busyness says otherwise. And if we remove Jesus from Christmas then what on earth are we celebrating?
Two years ago a friend had forwarded me the following video, a movement working against commercialized, consumeristic Christmas. It is as relevant as ever. Just to be clear, I do not believe that Christmas trees, decorations, baking, sending cards and gifts, parties and all the rest are inherently bad - I partake in them all. I hope that you see that it all has to be entered into with the proper motivation. Why are we putting up the tree? Why are we shopping? And have we created space to enjoy this season of anticipation?
I am writing this today for myself more than anyone else. I want to figure out a way to slow down in the midst of the hustle and bustle (which, frankly, is one of my big life goals) of the season, making sure that my heart is still. My to-do list is still long but I will check in with my heart with each task, resetting my focus. And most importantly, I need to carve out more time to reflect and meditate on the miracle of Christmas - the astonishing, mind-blowing love of a God who saw us in need and came down to save us from ourselves. For this is Christmas.
Have you watched "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"? I think it has to be my favourite movie of all time. Things inspire me, resonate with me, and speak to me all the time, but this film has really stayed with me. There's a thought-provoking scene where an exceptional photography opportunity is intentionally passed up so that the moment can be truly savoured and enjoyed.
There are many times inside the mind of a photographer where you see this epic shot but you don't have the right gear (or any equipment at all) and you feel this pang of regret over a missed opportunity. But my philosophy has long been that not every moment is meant to be photographed and the camera can, at times, be a distraction from the life/moments/beauty before us. And in those moments where I am kicking myself for not being ready to photograph anything at any given moment, I take a deep breath and a mental picture, drinking in the perfection of the moment. It's an interesting juxtaposition of seizing and savouring moments and opportunities - and I loved watching that unfold in this film, letting it affirm my own philosophies.
Today I went on an unplanned adventure. The plan started as an outdoor run, which turned into an impromptu bike ride through our fantastic trails, with no plan except to sweat. I packed bear spray and a water bottle but that's it. Almost immediately I began to think about all the things I should have considered bringing - bug spray, more water, a snack...and a camera. I considered turning around but knew that it wasn't the time for photographs (but a sandwich would have been nice).
This rain and humidity has made our great outdoors lush and alive with activity. The trails are lined with wild rose bushes bursting with pink blooms, a forest floor blanketed with white flowered bunchberries, delicious smelling clover, dainty bluebells, towering yellow dandelions and white daisies, trumpeted red and orange honeysuckle, and a myriad of other blooming delights! I rode along to hear the loud, triumphant songs of sparrows, chickadees, and sapsuckers - and I interrupted more than one magpie convention. Butterflies fluttered and bugs of all sorts went whizzing by. I had the misfortune of one fly firmly attaching itself to the back of my throat, not to be convinced to be swallowed nor expelled but the derailment was only temporary and I continued on in my exploration, zooming past bizarre mushrooms and the predictable dumps of poplar fluff. Beautiful, intriguing, and peculiar sights to photograph - just not today.
Hi, my name is Erin and I'm a recovering perfectionist. My athletic journey has been a key part of my "recovery" as it teaches me lessons that have finally begun to sink in and shape how I face each day, not just my workouts. I will write this post in sections, beginning today with how my fit life came to be. I bet you'll get a kick out of it.
And by the time I didn't have to choose gym class as an option, I was more than happy to find another class to fill its gap. We weren't taught about progress, we were expected to perform perfectly - naturally. I felt awkward and out of place. But, as I entered adulthood a new spark of interest was ignited and I felt a desire to be active and fit. Unfortunately, I took an all or nothing approach with me to my first aerobics class at University, busting a move until I was hunched over in cramps. I expected that I'd just be fit. I'd go to aerobics and that'd be that. I continued my bursts of activity followed by longer periods of inactivity all through University when I had decided, upon arriving in a new city in my first teaching position, that I'd become a runner. I tied up my cross trainers and bolted out the door - and guess what happened? I walked home defeated, clutching my cramped up sides and feeling rather nauseous.
Perfection, not progress. Get it right from the get-go, or don't bother.
A number of years later, in another new community, a big career shift and now a husband by my side, I made another attempt at entertaining this fitness bug, yet again. I had been working out at home for years, using videos for all sorts of things (dance, Tae-Bo, aerobics, yoga, etc), trying to motivate myself to be consistently active. And then along came the Wii Fit. I have to laugh now when I realize that a video gaming system was what finally got the ball seriously rolling for me. True story. I'd select a workout and sweat in the comfort of my basement, working hard to make my avatar do whatever the Wii told Mii I needed to do! And the big lightbulb revelation of progress over perfection came when I had to run around a "track" in these workouts. The game forced me to pace myself and I was finally succeeding at running. I wasn't being rewarded for running as fast as I could. Sure, I was running in one place in front of a large screen, looking at a cartoon digital version of myself but the silly Wii approached fitness in a way that I had not previously encountered. Hilarious, but revolutionary.
I had also been walking outdoors and making that time for myself was huge. I found myself wanting to test my indoor Wii running skills in the "real" world. I realized that I had never paced myself and felt like if I could keep myself in check, like the Wii did with my avatar, maybe I could finally become a runner. It was at that point that I asked my friend Jess to teach me to run. She nearly fell over (as she has known me for many years: I had long professed that running was stupid and pointless and I've never do it based on my previous experiences.) But after she picked her chin up off the ground she told me that we'd start the next day. She arrived at my house with a couch to 10K program and I was petrified. How, on Earth, would I ever run 10 kilometres? Would I fail, yet again? Could I handle this failure? But, now I was in a world of progress not perfection. She was often telling me to slow down (not because I'm a fast runner, but because I was pushing too hard out of the gate) and that pacing is what brought me from a lifetime of athletic bursts and inconsistency into a consistent lifestyle of fitness.
It is good for me to look back and remember where I started because, as much as I desired it, my previous experiences told me I'd never be able to do it. With this program I ran 1 minute and walked 1. I ran 2 minutes and wanted to lie down - seriously. And now, I've ran 2 half marathons, numerous other 8k's, 10k's, 5k's, 2 mini-tri's, a sprint triathlon, 2 obstacle races and continue to run for fun and fitness, setting new goals as desired. I am not the fastest (and I admit I find myself feeling self-conscious when I see my name far down the list of runners in a race), but I choose to be pleased with my times because I know how far I've come and how hard I've worked to get to a place where I could run 1 kilometre let alone 21 in an organized race with other runners. There's a lot of fear that has to be conquered and perhaps only those who aren't naturally skilled athletes can truly understand. With every new goal set and challenge I enter, a tremendous internal battle begins. I have to fight to embrace progress over perfection, being content in where I am and setting goals that make sense for me. I cannot compare myself to anyone else (but it's tough, especially in races/competitions).
Last year I created an art piece for the community gallery's "About Sports" exhibit entitled, "You vs. You: The Sport of Fitness". I have realized that, for me; for my life and my goals, I only have myself to compete with. I push myself to improve because I want to, not because of any standard I feel I have to achieve. And the more I embrace this way of thinking in my athletic endeavours, the more it begins to take shape in the rest of my life... stay tuned for part two. : )
Walkout songs are such an interesting concept. They are often used for athletes as an entrance song, psyching them up, announcing their arrival, setting the tone for who they are and what they are ready to bring to the field/stadium/ring/etc. I think a walk-out song can tell you a lot about these athletes or at least about how they want to represent themselves.
For over a year now I have developed a relationship with kickboxing. I was hooked after one class. It's an awesome workout but even more than that, I love learning the technique and fight strategy behind every move. It's a lot to learn but I keep working towards the goal of my imaginary fight. Honestly, I struggle with the idea of ever fighting but am fascinated by it, all the same. And MMA fighters definitely have their walkout songs. It may even be my favourite part of watching a fight.
One day, before kickboxing, a discussion began about walkout songs and we began to joke how we all need a walkout song for our everyday lives. Just imagine, the door opens and as you take your first step outside for the day loud speakers are blaring your song - announcing your arrival to the world. Hello world, I'm awake and I'm coming!
I love it! Here's my walk-out song, what's yours?