Reflecting on Questions….

Toy Train by Jeanne Mischo

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is never easy for me. Each year there are less and less people who have known me my whole life, and it seems most of them passed on during this Advent season. I feel like the family is shrinking until I take a good look around. My nieces have their own children now, some old enough to be in high school. Others remind me it is my turn to be the older generation, to be the one who has known them and prayed for them since before they were born. Yet despite the wrinkles and grey hair that welcome me in the mirror each morning, I don’t feel that much different inside. I wonder if I am up to the task of being an elder. I wonder why I don’t know or understand more than I do. Then I think back to a conversation with my father years ago, a conversation I dreaded and put off for way too long. I called home hoping to get my mother, only to find him working from home. I was calling to say I was getting divorced. I was ashamed, disappointed in myself, and terrified of disappointing my father. Of course once he answered the phone it all came tumbling out, all of the raw emotions I had bottled up in my heart. When I stopped crying and had calmed down a bit, my thirty year old self said I thought I would have figured out more answers by now. My father’s reply remains with me thirty years later. He said ‘I don’t have more answers. I simply have learned to ask better questions’. If better questions define wisdom, then I may make the grade after all. If I am required to listen more and talk less, then I still have a challenge ahead of me. Perhaps the greatest comfort is knowing we are all a work in progress, waiting and watching for a bit of divine inspiration to take human form. Christ told us the Kingdom of God is realized through each and every one of us. What if that Kingdom of God is a lens, a way of seeing and hearing that is first and foremost about relationship, about listening deeply to one another with our whole hearts and minds and souls? What if the questions are more important than our own answers? What if the questions are about each of us finding our own path, not in the sense of anything goes, but rather by walking in the path God has prepared uniquely for us? Make time today to be vulnerable to a different answer than you expect. Continue a difficult conversation, trusting in the relationship more than the uncomfortable message that might be easy to avoid. Allow the divine spark to bring forth a physical reality in a different than what you envisioned. Watch and wait, asking the questions buried in your own heart as you listen to the eternal and never ending heartbeat of the Almighty and ever living God. Art entitled ‘Toy Train’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013-2016, used with her permission, text by Connie Chintall ©2016

Reflecting on Depth….

Tree of Life by Jeanne
The soil is tough to work in this part of Virginia. The clay and the rocks form a natural concrete, only softened by slow and steady rains. You garden on nature’s schedule rather than your own, outdoors in the damp and cool rather than on warm and sunny days. Add the century old oaks in our yard, and you find the soil a maze of roots and surprises. Yet there are days when my soul needs to be outside, too weary to bear another day behind a desk. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Jeanne, a friend who passed from this life last summer. A number of people have asked me why these posts have become more infrequent. In pondering Jeanne’s photo, I have found at least part of the answer. Jeanne’s work always challenges me to go deeper, to look beyond the obvious, to ponder the true meaning of her work. When does photography become art? For me, the answer lies in the emotions evoked by the work. Jeanne sent me this image in January 2013, and I am still uncertain I can find words that do justice to what this image means to me. I do know Jeanne has always tapped into the most vivid memories of my childhood, not memories of birthday parties or trips to the beach, but rather solitary memories of me exploring and attempting to understand the world around me. Trees have always fascinated me. Even as a child I can recall digging in the dirt, fascinated by the complexity and length of the roots. I have always had poor eyesight, so the tree most of you see eluded me. Until I got glasses, I thought we drew trees like a cloud because that is how we all saw trees until we got up close. Downed branches were the other way I ‘saw’ a tree. I loved to look at the way the branches divided, then divided again. Yet the branches had nothing on the roots. A mature tree has thousands of leaves, kilometers of roots and hundreds of thousands of root tips. So for every leaf there are a hundred root tips. What we see is only a small fraction of reality. Get up from your desk or sofa to take a walk today. Stop to count the leaves on a single branch. Consider how a hundred roots feed that single leaf. Give thanks for the roots that feed your soul, even the roots for the branches that have fallen away. And always remember, a leap of faith can be reduced to a baby step when we ponder the depth and breadth of nature. Text by Connie Chintall©2016, photo entitled ‘Tree of Life’ by Jeanne Mischo©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Jeanne’s work, go to https://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Jeanne Mischo

Jeanne Mischo has been featured in this blog for a number of years. Her art always challenged me to up my game, to be sure my words did justice to her amazing and multi-layered creations. Jeanne passed from this life last week. I kept thinking I would know what to say, but perhaps the best tribute is this post from March of 2014. Sometimes there is nothing we can say because words fail us. Only art can convey the complexities of our hearts. Jeanne began with this photo…

by Jeanne Mischo

Jeanne ended with this art…
Ma in the Community Garden by Jeanne Mischo
Reflecting on Lost, originally posted 14 March 2014

The cold, harsh morning is giving way to a warm, mild afternoon. March is alternating between the lion and the lamb, often in the same day. So I was drawn to this exquisite work of art by my friend Jeanne, entitled ‘Ma in the Community Garden’. I love her choice of colors, the brilliant blue sky, the vivid orange of the blossoms in the foreground, the muted colors of the foliage and the tiny mother. I can see myself drawn in by the flowers, especially this time of year. It would be so easy to pluck a bloom for my table and drift along without taking in the rest of the scene. This winter has been harsh in more ways than one. The relentless cold has been only one unpleasant aspect. Families have experienced death, sometimes after a long decline, sometimes too quickly to comprehend. Like most of us, I never know what to say to the grieving. I heard again and again, ‘I am sorry for your loss’, but am not sure what that means. I feel like a small child once again, hearing the neighbor across the alley ask ‘Have you lost her again?’ After moving into town from the farm, my grandmother took up an allotment in the community garden. Often when my sisters and I returned from school or playing with friends, we would find the house empty. I would reassure my sisters that we were just fine. Nana was simply off working the allotment. Perhaps grief is a lot like that childhood conversation. After all, we know the soul lives on beyond the frailty of the flesh. We know our loved ones are with the Holy of Holies, perhaps in a lush, vibrant, garden we can only see dimly now. Yet we also yearn for the physical, the touch, the smell, the warm embrace. It can take time to absorb the shock, to comprehend the reality, to accept the finality of death. It takes time to let go of those we love, even if we are to giving them over to God. Make time today for those who grieve, to lend an ear, to offer a prayer, to just talk about everyday life. Give them permission to celebrate the joys this life brings in the midst of sadness by giving them space to mourn. Pray for the Holy Spirit to soothe their souls, guard their hearts and guide their minds. Most of all, pray for God’s words rather than your own. And always remember, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, Art entitled ‘Ma in the Community Garden’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, to see more of her work, go to All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Storms….

Yurt - Girl Faces the Storm by Jeanne Mischo

It’s a beautiful summer morning, yet I am drawn to this amazing drawing by y friend Jeanne. Her art is often featured in this blog, art that challenges me and enhances my personal devotions. It’s difficult to say if the drawing is set in the distant past or distant future, if the storm is made of snow or sand, if the scene is a remote village or a planet from another galaxy.  It may seem odd to focus on storms when the weather is just the opposite.  Yet how often do we carry around a storm inside, despite the apparent calm that surrounds us? Inner turmoil has a timeless quality, persistent beyond all reason. You aren’t sure if it’s day or night, or even what is going on around you. The gloom can blot out everything, leading to self absorption and social isolation.  We may turtle in, hoping to wait out the storm, not realizing we take the storm into the shell with us. Others may choose to place themselves in difficult situations, to mirror their souls in their surroundings. Some even convince themselves they deserve to suffer. Yet all the while, the answer lies within, a healing has been prepared, abundant life awaits.  We must simply open our hearts and souls to the Holy of Holies, to lay down our burdens at the foot of the cross, to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Most High. Make time today to look beyond the storm within.  Allow yourself to rest in God’s love, to accept the peace of God that passes all understanding. Let go of what you have come to expect and allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and ears.  And always remember, the path to healing is never what we expect, yet we must trust in healing for that path to be revealed. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015 Art entitled ‘Yurt – Girl Faces the Storm’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2011

Reflecting on Energy….

Study of an Energy Field by Jeanne MischoMy energy level is not what it used to be. I think back to my younger years and wonder how I managed to get all that done. Then I remember how terrible I felt all the time. It seemed even my bones were tired. We only have a certain amount of time and energy. If we push ourselves in one area of life, another area of life pays the price. We can be successful at work while sacrificing our health. We slowly give up things that matter to us as our lives become consumed by a single goal. Over time we forego a good night’s sleep, we stop exercising, we fail to set aside time for family and friends. Such single minded pursuits become a self fulfilling prophecy. We love and hate our work, loving it because it has become the only thing we are good at, hating it because the cost has been too great. Perhaps someone we love tries to talk to us about it, but we do not have the time or inclination to listen. After my daughter was born, it felt like I had two babies. My work was very important to me and I had hired practically everyone I worked with. Every day was Groundhog Day. I put on my makeup while my daughter ate her breakfast. I answered calls on the way into work after dropping her off at daycare. I worked on personnel reports after putting her to bed at night. When she was about two years old, I doubled over at work in intense pain. It still took six months to figure out what was wrong because, yes, you guessed it, I was too busy working. I had complications from her birth and required surgery to correct the problem. Yet the pain was more than physical. I was just too tired to be able to tell anything was wrong. There was a big red flag in front of my face, and I was too tired to even notice it. Make time today to look up from the endless list of things that have to be done. Sit outside to eat your lunch, take a walk with a coworker, call a friend or family member to catch up. Invest your time and energy into matters of the heart, focusing on what brings you joy. And always remember, we do not live to work, we work in order to live life to its fullest. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015, Art entitled ‘Study of an Energy Field’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2015. To see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Relentless….

Heading Home by Jeanne MischoI often find myself caught in my own little world. I miss the obvious because all I can see is what I already know. My mind fills in the answer before the question is asked. This photo really brings home that message. For a long time, all I saw was the veins of the eye. I worked on lasers in the military, so part of my annual physical was a photo of my eyes. Each year the powers that be had to determine if my eyes were still intact. The doctor would shine an awful light into my eyes then take the photo. My medical records contained writing on the right, and a photo of my eyes on the left. It seemed part and parcel of every doctor visit. Fortunately for me, my friend Jeanne took this amazing photo of a tree with the moon in the sky above. I can imagine her lying on the ground to get the proper perspective. I wonder if she used a flash, or if a street light has lent its glow. I love the depth and intricacy of the branches, the way the tree divides and then divides itself again. It seems the tree is inviting us into another world, a world of our imagination, a world separate from our earthbound reality. On this Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the humility of our Lord. Christ washes the feet of the disciples, despite the protests of Peter, despite everything we are and were and will be. God draws us in, again and again, relentlessly seeking communion. After countless rejections of his prophets and angels, God sends his own Son to reconcile us to him. God becomes man to be one with us, to experience all that this life offers. Make time today to step out of the comfortable. Let go of the familiar and let in the annoying, the perplexing, yes, even the startling. Hold open a space that makes room for growth and greater understanding. Lie down when you would rather stand up. Step aside when you would rather rush ahead. Look up and around rather than keeping your head down. And always remember, when we open our minds before we open our eyes, we embrace the relentless intimacy and endless possibility of our all loving God. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015. Photo entitled ‘Heading Home’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Lost….

Ma in Community Garden by Jeanne MischoThe cold, harsh morning is giving way to a warm, mild afternoon. March is alternating between the lion and the lamb, often in the same day. So I was drawn to this exquisite work of art by my friend Jeanne, entitled ‘Ma in the Community Garden’. I love her choice of colors, the brilliant blue sky, the vivid orange of the blossoms in the foreground, the muted colors of the foliage and the tiny mother. I can see myself drawn in by the flowers, especially this time of year. It would be so easy to pluck a bloom for my table and drift along without taking in the rest of the scene. This winter has been harsh in more ways than one. The relentless cold has been only one unpleasant aspect. Families have experienced death, sometimes after a long decline, sometimes too quickly to comprehend. Like most of us, I never know what to say to the grieving. I heard again and again, ‘I am sorry for your loss’, but am not sure what that means. I feel like a small child once again, hearing the neighbor across the alley ask ‘Have you lost her again?’ After moving into town from the farm, my grandmother took up an allotment in the community garden. Often when my sisters and I returned from school or playing with friends, we would find the house empty. I would reassure my sisters that we were just fine. Nana was simply off working the allotment. Perhaps grief is a lot like our childhood conversation. After all, we know the soul lives on beyond the frailty of the flesh. We know our loved ones are with the Holy of Holies, perhaps in a lush, vibrant, garden we can only see dimly now. Yet we also yearn for the physical, the touch, the smell, the warm embrace. It can take time to absorb the shock, to comprehend the reality, to accept the finality of death. It takes time to let go of those we love, even if we are to giving them over to God. Make time today for those who grieve, to lend an ear, to offer a prayer, to just talk about everyday life. Give them permission to celebrate the joys this life brings in the midst of sadness by giving them space to mourn. Pray for the Holy Spirit to soothe their souls, guard their hearts and guide their minds. Most of all, pray for God’s words rather than your own. And always remember, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, Art entitled ‘Ma in the Community Garden’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

 

Reflecting on Tides….

Shipwreck by Jeanne MischoSpring has flown and summer is upon us, which means sticky, hot days here in Virginia. So rather than face the heat, I return to the blog after a month long absence. Please forgive my neglect. It has been a month filled with happy activities surrounding my daughter’s high school graduation. So it may seem odd that I am drawn to this haunting image by my friend Jeanne. Like most of her art, it takes time to find words worthy of her craft. For almost a year, this drawing has been my screensaver, sometimes welcome, other times an abrupt collision with reality. I am uncertain if it is dawn or dusk, if the tides are rising or falling, if the ship has just arrived or is long abandoned. All I know for sure is the ship is stuck in the shoals, rather than floating along in the channel. Will the ship be able to break free if the tides rise high enough? Or is it shunted in the shallows forever? Is the ship weighed down with rust and ruin, or simply covered with a thin film of leaf litter and grime? I, for one, hope we are viewing the dawn, rather than the dusk, a diversion rather than a destination, a short reprieve rather than final sentence. Like F Scott Fitzgerald, I choose to reserve judgment, because ‘Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope”. I trust the hull remains sound even when the surface has weathered one too many storms. Make time today to clear the litter from your soul, to make your way back into the deep channel, instead of remaining in the stagnant shallows. Allow the Holy Spirit to lift the tides of your life to a new level, to show you a way beyond a situation you thought was impossible to cope with or move beyond. Trust in the sovereignty of the Almighty to guide your steps and guard your heart for what lies ahead. Let go of your meager expectations and make room for more than you could begin to imagine or even hope for. And always remember to look with the heart and not just the eyes, or you might miss the beauty that lies beneath a weathered exterior. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Art entitled ‘Shipwreck’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Resilience….

Spiral Migration by Jeanne MischoWe had a warm spell recently that even fooled my garden. Bulbs began to burst forth, flowering shrubs began to bud, and then the weather turned bitterly cold. Today the skies are a brilliant blue, with just a few wispy clouds. Looking out the window from my desk, it’s hard to conceive how cold it is. I’m captivated by the strong sunlight, rather than dwelling on the obvious signs of winter. So I was drawn to this beautiful art by my friend Jeanne, of birds migrating in a spiral. I love how Jeanne combines math and science with images of nature. A tree grows out of the center of the spiral, a tree that reminds me of the Shaker tree of life. The birds swirl around the tree, moving ever upward, ever closer to the Architect of All Creation. Life is messy by definition, and seldom what we expect or plan for. The happily ever after of fairy tales doesn’t describe most of the paths we follow. Perhaps we are too married to the idea of a straight line path, the idea that we can always see the way ahead. We call the unexpected in life sharp corners, or say we have been blindsided, or simply feel lost and alone. Some of us even allow the vagaries of this life to bury us under a succession of small sadnesses, accumulating into an existence of gloom and despair. Others are like the birds in this image, or the scene out my window. All is well, even when it’s freezing cold. What fuels this ability to persevere? What allows some to bounce back, to recover readily, to seem to defy gravity? I don’t know about you, but I cannot manage such strength alone. It takes more than just personal prayers, more than time in scripture. I must be part of a community that draws me to the center, that reminds me of the Source of All Life. I need someone to pray for me when I cannot find the words or motivation to pray for myself. I need someone to remind me that all will be well, to ease the burden, to keep me on the path ahead. Make time today to pray for those you love and cherish in this life. Ask what to pray for, and let them know you pray for them. Reach out to others and seek their prayers, trusting that God has prepared a way out of the corner you feel painted into. Let the Almighty mold your sharp corners in to gentle curves, to turn darkness into light, to show you the good in even the most dire of situations. Trust the promise of Matthew 7:7-8

            Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

And always remember, when we trust in the Lord our God, we become like the tree whose branches bend and sway in a storm, remaining flexible and strong amid the challenges of this life. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Spiral Migration’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Health….

Good health is something we all take for granted, until there’s a problem. Perhaps our health deteriorates over time, part of the inevitable decline of old age. Some of us may experience chronic health concerns, issues we may have dealt with since childhood. Yet what we struggle with most is a sudden, unexpected illness or injury, leaving us or those we love grappling with debilitating consequences. So I was drawn to this mesmerizing drawing by my friend Jeanne. I love how the bird is perched at an odd angle, deftly clinging to the branch against all odds. The compass rose is the centerpiece of a roulette wheel, with the needle missing. Instead of indicating true north, our direction is determined by sheer luck. I find myself wondering if the bird plucked out the compass needle, or if the bird holds the roulette ball in its beak. Then of course there is the background. This capricious scene plays out against solid wood, a firm and strong foundation. I’m reminded of a quilted wall hanging I made for my sister years ago, using fabric from garments I had sewn for the family. Each square contains a different birdhouse, but there were no birds in the original pattern. So I added them to the quilt, using the smallest of scraps, mostly from ties I had made for my father as a young girl. Somehow the bird pattern was reversed, and the birds in her wall hanging are upside down. I began to tear out my work to start over, then thought better of it and left the birds as they were. There was a playful quality to their odd orientation, a suggestion of motion that would be missing otherwise. It seemed the birds were swooping down, frolicking on the wind. It can be difficult to see the wonder of creation when ill health comes your way. Your body becomes the birdhouse without a bird, a burden instead of a joy. We become lost in the details of caring for ourselves or others, struggling to get from one place to another, to perform simple daily functions, to bathe and to eat. It takes someone from outside our encapsulated world to set us straight. Make time today to call a friend or family member who is recovering from ill health. Offer to bring them a meal, to run an errand, to just stop by and break up the day. Share your own story of healing and redemption, and how others helped you in your hour of need. Lift them up in prayer, helping them to hold fast to the healing that has been prepared for them. Most of all, recall we are all anchored to a firm foundation, entrusted to a God that offers healing and mercy without beginning or end. And always remember, when true north seems all but lost, and we know not where to turn, that same God eternally draws us ever closer to him, until we are one with His heart. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘A Little Disoriented All of the Time’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

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