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 Fairytales….

Megan in Wonderland by Dawn DuffieldThere are times in our lives when we all need stories. We recall fairytales from our childhood, favorite stories we could not grasp or fully embrace at the time. Then our adult lives are torn asunder. Tragedy strikes, painstaking plans run amuck, or we slowly grind to a halt. When life turns topsy turvy, we truly comprehend the transformative power of the story. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Dawn. I love how relaxed Megan looks in the midst of a fantastic, over the top scene. The only concession to the fantasy of her surroundings might be her tutu. Perhaps Megan is a modern day princess, resting before she goes off to slay the dragon on her own. This surreal garden may simply be a detour on her long and arduous journey. Tomorrow we will attend the funeral of a friend who passed from this world very suddenly and unexpectedly. She was away on business at the time, so the funeral was delayed for about a week. In the midst of this tragedy, my husband and I bought a lake home, the culmination of a lifelong dream. Our lake home feels a lot like this garden, an oasis in the desert. I ended up at the lake for the business side of buying a house. I spent the morning waiting on technicians to sort out the phone and utilities. I found myself lost in the view, lost in my emotions, lost to the world as we know it. I was transported out of the nightmare into a safe corner where the dreams are still sweet, where kings and queens still slay dragons, where wood violets still bring a smile to my sad face. Make time today to nurture the sweet dreams of your soul. Water and till the garden of good memories. Weed out the nightmares that seek to creep in and choke out the brave and the innocent and the compassionate. Let the tiniest of flowers stand guard at the gate of your heart.  And always remember, all it takes is one story, a story that reaches across time, to quiet your mind before bedtime.  Text by Connie Chintall ©2015, photo by Dawn Duffield©2011, entitled ‘Megan in Wonderland’, to see more of her work, go to http://www.projectdawnphotography.com

Reflecting on Sisters….

SONY DSCFor the first time in many years, I have had occasion to spend time with all three of my sisters. We do not live close by, and rarely have much time to visit. Recently we have gathered to celebrate a graduation, then a bridal shower and a wedding. As we worked together, I was pleasantly surprised by how the years melted away, and we fell into familiar patterns and roles. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of two sisters, taken by their father Ryan. I am reminded of my own father when I see Ryan with his daughters at church, but even more so when I see photos of their camping and kayaking trips. Each day we build memories, and our actions determine if those memories will be good or bad. So on this rainy winter morning I am blessed to recall family boating trips to Burlington Island, when we would swim and picnic. My youngest sister always seemed to go missing, but the island was small enough that we could easily find her. My sister that is now a civil engineer would pull plugs of clay out of the shallows, to bring home and use for her projects. My sister that is the mother of the bride would play in the sand, and gather up insects and tiny creatures to examine. I mostly swam and played in the water, talking to each in turn, and watching what was going on around me. Some would say these trips were a waste of time, that we would have been better off reading a book or honing a skill. Yet we were learning something you can’t find in a book on those sunny afternoons. We learned about each other, learned how to work as a team, learned how to be together yet give each other room. We are a group of independent, opinionated women, and often disagree. Yet when we all are pointed in the same direction, motivated by love and devotion, God help anyone who stands in the way. What I find even more amazing are the women we each call friends, often friends to more than one of us, who have also become our sisters. Make time today to create a lasting memory. Take a walk with a friend or family member, or play a game together. Pay attention to how you each react, respecting individual perspectives and methods. Accept one another as God made us, each different, each unique, each made especially for God’s purpose. Allow the Holy Spirit to bind you together in God’s will, rather than your own. Learn to work together, to understand the whole is more than the sum of the parts. And always remember, we are children of the Most High, sealed together by Christ’s blood, rather than our own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Sisters on High’ by Ryan Wick

A Memorial Day Remembrance….

For many of us, Memorial Day is a tough holiday. We may have lost loved ones in conflict, or experienced combat firsthand. While we are called to remember those who served, some of us may prefer to forget painful experiences. Unfortunately, for those that survive, forgetting is not always an option. Something small can key a long buried memory, something simple. Perhaps a news item about someone that looks like a person long gone, or a place or situation that seems ordinary to everyone else, yet menacing beyond belief to a combat veteran. So I was touched by this photo of Mr. Coty’s grave. He served in Viet Nam and the effects of that experience haunted him and affected his family. Not every day, or all the time. Yet perhaps the randomness was the toughest part. His daughter and grandson visited the grave this weekend, and left flowers. So today we remember, because for those who serve, it may be too painful to remember. With humble hearts we thank you for your service, not knowing the price that was paid. With faithful hearts, we pray for healing and wholeness that is only possible through the grace and mercy of God. Text by Connie Chintall ©2011, Photo by Renee Coty

Reflecting on Companions….

It’s a cold, grey day filled with steady rain. I rarely get much accomplished on days like this, preferring to curl up with a book or let my mind wander to other times and places. So I was drawn to this photo of a father and daughter by my friend Luis. I love the beautiful clouds and setting sun, and how this pair has stopped to soak in the scenery. They are together, but separate, not needing to say anything at all. They chose to simply share the same experience, basking in the glory of God’s creation. I recall a walk on the beach with my father, long, long ago. Sometimes Daddy would take me with him to work on Saturday mornings. I would occupy myself with a coloring book while the engineers puzzled over a particular problem. If I managed to be quiet and patient, I was rewarded with an adventure. One warm spring day, I asked Daddy to take me to the beach. We headed for Sandy Hook, a barrier peninsula at the northern tip of the New Jersey shore. Not long after we arrived, the weather turned windy and cold. Now most parents would have simply turned around and gone home. Instead, Daddy wrapped me in a blanket and we headed down to the beach, spotting birds and watching the sea turn wild. Just when we thought it was too cold to bear, the clouds parted, softly reflecting the setting sun. How often are we tempted to turn back, to let a little wind or rain stop us in our tracks? Yet when we persevere, holding fast to our promises, we may find ourselves basking in God’s glory. Take time today to recall what it means to be loved, a time when you stopped to enjoy another’s company, a time without words. Make an out of the way place your own, a place of companionship and joy, a place to be with God. And remember, neither time nor distance can diminish such memories, or destroy such love. Photo entitled ‘Companions’ by Luis Gonzalez, ©2012, used with his permission

Reflecting on Fluff….

It’s a bright, clear morning, much colder than yesterday. We seem to be oscillating between winter and spring, uncertain how to dress from day to day. We may need a heavy coat this morning, only to find that same coat a burden by early afternoon. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my new friend Gailen, capturing cattails as a strange mixture of the whimsical and the sturdy. Cattails stood watch over many of my childhood adventures, lazy days spent messing about in the creek. I loved to see the birds take shelter in the stands of cattails, sometimes growing over ten feet tall. In the early spring, birds would pluck the fluff to line their nests, spreading seeds that closely resemble their own feathers. It can be difficult to distinguish between the whimsical and the sturdy, between wants and needs. What appears to be excess may be truly necessary, something my grandmother called ‘holy waste’. Time spent in what others consider frivolous pursuits may be healing to the soul, allowing an old wound to transform into a new creation. One person’s fluff may be another’s substance, bringing beauty and joy into an otherwise drab existence. Take time today for your fluff, to sing instead of speaking, to dance instead of walking. Let healing light shine in your heart, opening your soul to new beginnings, claiming the promise of abundant life. And remember, if we can let go of the burdens that weigh us down, we can float like a feather in the wind, spreading seeds of new creation. Photo entitled ‘Cattails with Flying Fluff’ ©2012 by Gailen Mapes All Rights Reserved, used by permission

Reflecting on Balance….

Calm winter mornings bring back old memories, of good times and bad. Yet what endures is the arch of our lives, how we live, rather than the particular circumstances. We may feel on top of the world, as if no one and nothing can touch our high spirits. Then perhaps we receive sad news about a dear friend, carefully laid plans are torn apart by unseen circumstances, or a long desired opportunity is laid waste. We soldier on, certain we can handle the big challenges of life, only to crumble in the face of a silly detail. So I was drawn to this haunting photo entitled ‘Unbalanced’ by my new friend Michael. I love how the path works its way around the tree, with branches all to one side. I imagine strong winds bending the tree into its present form, with roots deeply anchoring the trunk. And I especially like how the snow clings to the furrows of the fields in the distance, waiting for the warmth of spring to begin again. At first glance, this lopsided tree may seem unbalanced, but closer consideration reveals a greater stability. Rather than struggle against the prevailing winds, this tree grows in a more favorable direction, swaying to keep from breaking. Perhaps we lose our sense of balance when we work too hard to remain firm, to stand strong. Our hearts can break if they become too brittle, or simply bend if we allow ourselves to remain vulnerable, to lean on those who love us and care for us. Take time today to soften your heart, to allow the Holy Spirit to flow through your life. Lay your burdens at the foot of the cross, trusting whatever you ask is but a little thing to the same Lord who conquered sin and death. And remember if you remain deeply rooted in your faith, swaying with those you love, the good times will be defined by what you bring to life, not what life brings you. Photo by Michael Ebbrecht, used with his permission

Reflecting on Memory….

The morning is damp and grey, and the clay soil is spongy from all the melted snow. As the New Year begins, I seem to float between the past and present, considering what has changed in the last year and what lies ahead. So I was drawn to this fabulous artwork, entitled ‘As if in a Distant Memory’ by my friend Jeanne. I love how the colors blend into one another, interacting and altering elements of the picture. I am always surprised at how the same experience is recalled in such different ways by different people. We may think we are all sharing the same experience, yet how it affects each of us is unique. We may be limited in our perspective by past wounds, or influenced by personal expectations or prejudices. One experience shades another, or blocks our ability to enjoy the present. What we had hoped to put behind us emerges once again. It seems that letting go is like peeling an onion, one layer at a time. Take time today to consider how the past affects your view of the present. Step back and allow your view to broaden, to let go of expectations and judgment. Rather than allowing the past to affect today, let each new experience slowly heal the wounds of your past. And remember, when we are gentle with ourselves and others, even difficult memories become like this watercolor. Art by Jeanne Mischo ©2011, used with her permission

Reflecting on Toy Trains….

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, with a hint of snow in the air. The slate grey sky is banded by icy clouds, reflecting the winter sun. So I was drawn to this amazing picture of a toy train by my friend Jeanne. I love the vibrant colors and the size of the train next to the trees. When I was a small child, we had a beautiful toy train set. In those days, we asked for trains the way children these days ask for an iPod or laptop. We weren’t done decorating for Christmas until the train set was up and running. The adults may have focused on the tree, but all we saw was the train. Jeanne has drawn a child’s perspective – every else pales by comparison, no matter how colorful, no matter how bright. Perhaps the magic of the train set was offering a new perspective. We lived near train tracks and often would wave to the locomotive engineer, or train driver, as the train slowly crept through our neighborhood. Even at a snail’s pace, the train seemed huge, too big to take in all at one time. The toy train gave us a chance to see the big picture, from above, all at once. Take time today to step back and look at an overwhelming concern from all sides. Pray to see through God’s eyes and hear through God’s ears, to forge a solution that is good for all concerned, for the long haul, rather than settling for a quick fix at the expense of others. And remember, it may take more than one trip around to find the right answer. Art entitled ‘Toy Train’ by Jeanne Mischo

Reflecting on Military Service….

Four years ago my daughter’s middle school class offered a touching and memorable ceremony to honor our veterans. We live near Washington, DC, so many active duty military were present. A letter was sent home asking if family members would like to be included in the ceremony. That day I did not ask to be remembered, although I served 11 years on active duty and another 6 in the reserves. Instead, I asked my father to be remembered for his time in the Navy during World War II. My father’s health was declining and he had limited energy on the best of days. Yet he chose to stand through most of the ceremony, to honor the children who chose to honor him. The band played patriotic songs and a medley of service marches spurred a friendly rivalry. Then a number of students took the stage one by one. Each student briefly offered their particular hope or dream, to become a doctor, or a fire fighter, or ballet dancer. Then they thanked the veterans for giving them the chance to live out their dreams. My father had admired a number of quilts that lined the walls, each block made by the students to reflect an American value. Much to his surprise, he went home with one of those quilts, deeply touched by the personal nature of this tribute. We did not know it at the time, but that was Dad’s last Veteran’s Day. Take time today to thank a veteran for serving our country, for wounds seen and unseen. Consider the impact of their service and sacrifices on your life, each and every day. And remember to pass on the stories of those who have gone before us, for we stand on the shoulder of giants. Photo by David Buckwalter © 2011

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