...and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

-Genesis 1:2-3



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Scent of Rain

I know I haven't been good at writing here. I kind of fell off the face of the earth and have been floating around in limbo. This may be both good and bad.

But I am drinking in the scent of rain tonight, my window open and receptive to the dance of drops that spin across the sky. I am soothed, and reminded of one of my favorite things on this earth.

May you all have a blessed and beautiful week, and remember to taste the rain and all the refreshment brings.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Sweet, Soft and Beautiful Dream

Was it all just a sweet, soft and beautiful dream?

Was I just sitting with my body arched to the sun, painting warm rays of light across my body, brushed with a bronze glow on both my skin and heart?


Was I just surrounded by the solitude of strangers, seeking comfort to burrow myself in anonymity, slinking through their skin to see into their souls, stories full of hope and hard work and the cracks and crooked lines they walk to find a place in this world?

Was I just so full of blood, heart swelling with my family and the love that radiates in every smile, every twinkle caressing our eyes, every touch of fingers that laced together in the quiet moments of a day slowly settling into night?

To watch the waves roll into one another was to break away from my body and become the spray of salt that licked the air among the blues.

To slide my bare feet into the grains of sand that led me to the edge of the world and freed me from the constraints of my mind was to run upon the clouds without hold of a hollow pavement.

To laugh, deep and wild and bright from my belly, was to understand what had been missing as a part of me.

I was so full with my family, so comforted, so secure and natural and happy. I was genuinely at peace, radiating a sense of belonging and wishing for a suspended eternity. With my family, in a state where the sun shines on all the day's corners and curves,  I holed myself up in a shimmering reality that came and went as transparently as the dusted sunset that breezed over palm trees and silence.

A cool, sharp river running away from the familiar, away from the fresh, clear rain that dropped along the pool's edge, soft and warm and massaging on my skin. I was sinking into the simple spray of water that curled into the edges of my hair. And in a charcoal swept evening curtain, drops dissipate into a black ink that stifles the air, breaks hard in the rest that swaddled me.

I do ache, a dull throb that ebbs and flows through me like the sea I dreamt about so many lifetimes before. And these longings that pried me open and scraped beneath my chest pour like vinegar in my wounds. I was surprised by joy, and terrified when it left me, washed when my poolside lounging launched me back between four walls, bundled up and bent over a desk.

Florida seems a distant memory. Flickering in florescent light, not quite a shadow, more than an apparition. I am alone again. I am forlorn and forgotten in a sun that rises once more on the pure and wide eyed morning. Waiting once more for that call of the cyan sea. For the rain that sings a song into the damp, slow sky. For the hearts of my loved ones to curve once more into mine.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Side Roads

Side roads.

Where do they find me? How do I always manage to reach them? Why can I never just drive exactly to where I want to go?

Even at the mercy of my GPS, I still somehow manage to get mixed up and miss exits, finding new roads that wind miles outside of my city limits.

All I wanted to do was drive downtown to find the coffee shop with a brick wall and high, open ceiling, pulsing with hipsters who take their coffee seriously and baristas that judge me by my order. I followed my GPS, who I have affectionately named Tomi, into the curves of the city, and just as smoothly out of them. Before I knew it the skyline was a scene in my rearview mirror and I was crossing over the river on an old, rickety bridge. An old, rickety bridge that veered and jutted in irregular angles and led me out of the city and around the downtown airport. There wasn't another exit for two miles, and the first one I took led me across wayside streets that stretched into developing land. Two roundabouts later, I merged myself back on the route highway I remembered wrapped around the river and spilled back into the city.

I decided to wing it once I made it onto one of the main streets of downtown, trying to recall familiar signs or buildings that had been shifting shadows in the twilight when I came here once before. I made a few squares, crossing the same streets over and over, gave up on the organic pathway to finding this place and pulled out my phone. It gave me street names, and from there I could determine where exactly I was and found 6th street, then the side street, then rolled onto 3rd. A parking space sat perpendicular to the cluster of buildings, and I quickly claimed it.

I finally made it inside, to the bustling, crowded café teeming with students and artists. Most made me feel super old, for the dawn was just beginning to shimmer its light in their souls. I like to disappear in crowds, but to find a seat I had to be bold and assertive, grabbing my latte and darting to a deep wooden table looking out over the street.

Finally, there are so many words and rumblings within me, so much I want to say, so much I need to ponder and form and stretch into the sound of my mind. But some things cannot be expressed, no matter how much I press them through my lungs.

Baristas are giving each other bro hugs, flannel shirts stitching together in the movement. The guy at the table next to me has a cup of coffee and a notebook, where he is scratching away pen to line and lingering his eyes out the window. Smattered across the rest of the room, girls dip their heads in concentration over textbooks, wrapping their fingers around the ends of scarves and covering the table with crumbs and Confucius.

And I am a girl in purple, pink and blue plaid with my heart against the keyboard, with a distant observance, unraveling brain and wandering eyes.

This place makes me pensive. Only in the city can I see two guys hauling queen size mattresses across the street to maneuver into the bed of a truck. Only in the city can I stand and stare at an expanse of sky that includes brick and window, that stands as a piece of history and clamors for its future.

I wish my friends back home could be here with me, sitting at this table, in this coffee shop, sipping espresso and daring to dream. This place could make me slip to spaces I've long since buried, bound to get me thinking and motoring my mind, and that is not a road I want to drive.

Yes, I've somehow gotten myself lost more times that I'd have liked to already here. But I have always righted myself, always found my way back to my destination. And as I gripped the steering wheel tightly, white knuckled, I found the space to breathe, to undo all that's wound me up and let the roads ahead just flow. I don't need to see where I'm bound to end up.

Maybe life is in the moments when you find yourself down a side street that doesn't look familiar. Maybe there is an unexplainable joy in the detour, a beauty riddled with cracks in pavement and a world of iron gates and bare branched trees beyond the light of a window. Maybe the crowds crunch you in just to see how far you'll push.

But maybe life's just meant to be savored. No gulping, no straining to see what comes beyond. Simply turning to the side road and idling your way around the bend. Simple navigation to linger, to soak in the scenery, the pulse of humanity and it's ever breathing hum.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Transcending Ordinary Life


Connection.

Heart to heart. Human interaction that goes beyond the walls of well wishes and dives to the depths of the soul.

I went out exploring another part of town yesterday with Heather. We drove a bit north and came to an older, quieter area that had a small downtown with a few shops specializing in the gift oddity and fair trade, hand crafted scarves, journals, decorative items. We walked through the shops and tucked our hands deeper in the pockets of our coats to ward off the dipping temperature, and then we made our way to a small locally owned coffee shop that sputtered to life with people wrapped up in conversations across the room. Fresh coffee permeated through the air, and homemade pastries lined the display tables. A stage stood raised from the ground, home to local musicians who serenaded crowds each Friday and Saturday night.



Immediately my eyes drew to the opposite wall, where beautiful seascape portraits hung. The colors, the swirl of the sea and sky, how they danced and the brush strokes that softened the blues and grays so reminiscent of Lake Michigan, it all swept through my eyes and sunk into my soul, erupted me in calming ways that pulled my heart in longing for the tranquil scenes, and amazed me that the artist could capture such divine beauty that went beyond the ordinary cyan and gray and lines that gave life to the earth and sky. They quite captivated me, and I associated with the artist and the breathtaking delicacy he took to create the fluid thunderstorm over the field and rays of God's light burst through the sky from behind a breaking white cloud.

The tall, long haired barista with bright eyes and thick rimmed glasses called out my latte and broke me trance. I smiled and took my cup, making my way over to the plush, oversized chairs and sat next to Heather. I had a view of the entire café and as we talked, I took in the surroundings- the coffee stain on the carpet underneath the table next to us, the line of tin cans across the counter, boasting local blends in eclectic arrangement, the spotlights perched from the ceiling, glowing and giving a slight warmth and homey feel wherever it shed its light.



About five minutes later, a man walked in, leaned over to the barista and mentioned something in his ear before striding over to the wall and began removing those beautiful paintings that struck me so fervently moments before. I watched his gate walking across the room and out the door, watched him place the paintings in the bed of his truck, searched his face to see his story. Something about him resonated with me, and a desire to speak with him welled within.

 
I watched him collect his pieces and trek back and forth from his truck, inside still stirred, the mannerisms of his face, which seemed to take him to be in his 40s, and the pulse ruminating underneath his chest palpable to my spirit. I just wanted to let the man know how much his art affected me. So as he moved towards the door with a painting in either hand, I lifted myself from my seat and met him in the aisle just before the door. He looked at me, eyes curious and open.

"I just want to let you know your paintings are beautiful. You have a talent. This is my first time in here and I noticed those paintings as soon as I walked in and they just spoke to me. They are so beautiful, really."

KenCookArt.com
He pulled back, surprised, before registering my words and shifting his eyes to an electric blue/green. "Thank you. That means a lot. I just started out in January full time painting. I've been a musician but I'm trying this out. I keep hearing my dad's voice in the back of my mind saying, 'You'll never do anything with it, your painting is no good."

A hum buzzed through me at his words, at the doubt and constant comparison he must have carried with him for a long while. I shifted my feet and dug in, pushing past the polite to passionate. "Good for you! That can be scary, I'm a writer, I know how it is. But you need to do this and your work is amazing and it's a gift."

The last words echoed and resonated in the air between us. A gift.. He smiled, glowing, almost radiant. "I needed to hear that... yeah.."

As his eyes dug into mine, I promised him with the sincerity of my voice and bright light in my eyes that he indeed would amount to something with his work. "You have a gift," I repeated. "And your paintings are beautiful. Thank you so much for letting me see them. It is a gift," I paused, letting those words last. "A blessing."

It was a human to human, heart to heart interaction that resonated deep into the walls of my soul. His eyes were bright and clear and open, allowing me to sink beneath the surface and dive into the innerworkings of his heart.

This is what life is about. To take a step across the room, look into another's eyes and read the story in the lines of the iris. To give a little God to the heart of mankind, to encourage and speak on behalf of the Creator to His creation.

It was a beautiful moment to transcend the ordinary life that folds in the walls of a local coffee shop. To break down barriers and burst into the beautiful, to intertwine with another breathing being's life... this is what we were made for. And we don't get the privilege to experience this everyday; or, at least, we don't take the option to look for the beating hearts and pleading souls.

Encourage the very best to shine into this world. We are all searching for someone to see our skin and bones, see what stretches and suspends us. And, every once in a blue moon, someone comes and opens up our heart and releases all that burns within us into the vast star-veiled canvas of the universe.

KenCookArt.com
 

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Miniscule and Miraculous


This has been a long week.

A long, tiring, trying week that attempted to knock me down, but by God's grace, I'm standing at the end of it. Clearing out the debris after the storm, so to speak.

The past week was a battle for me. I got down on the vastness of this new life, how much I'm not used to, the areas of the city I still haven't explored, and even venturing out to stop and see some apartments, hitting me with reality that it's more of a process than I expected. That I have to concentrate on location, safety, distance around the city to various places, all the while keeping it within a reasonable budget.

Over last weekend and through the early part of the week I was also hit with a lot of lies, lies I knew as soon as they broke into my brain they weren't true. I knew these were falsities, weak attempts to take me down, but I admit they were hard to shake. They settled into the soil of my mind and worked their way beneath the surface, and I began questioning everything about my journey these past few months, began wondering how I was here and blue thoughts shrouding the surface of the sun. And I began to think of all my favorite spots in Wisconsin- Port Washington, Lake Michigan in all of its shades and settings, all the ball fields I knew like the lines on my face- and of my family and how distant we really were. It doesn't help that I still don't have a church or life group to get settled in, to learn and grow and fellowship. All I know is that the days drew long and listless, and I cried out to Jesus to get my eyes off of myself and move them to Him. Because He was my true source of comfort, even while my heart flailed and searched in every corner to show me something familiar and soothing.

I know I should have asked for prayer request to help get me through my mind and the rough adjustment to falling back to earth as my "honeymoon phase" came to a close. But I couldn't bring myself to share, and I kept grasping at the small blessings God gave me throughout each day. To see the glass half full takes more belief and faith than to go about the pessimistic way of thinking. It's a good life, and I know that in the big scheme of things I am where God wants me. He has a bigger purpose for me than I can see, though I desperately long to have my reasons for being in this position in life revealed to me. But I was reminded a few times this week that some secrets are the Lord's and He will reveal the mysterious to me when He knows the time is right. And all I can do is take small steps, one step at a time, and tenderly go about each moment reveling in its breath and all I have then is enough for me.

Why is it so easy to focus on the futile, depressing thoughts that appear for only a few moments when the rest of the time is free and full of color? Why can we not see the microscopic blessings that float around us all day and turn our attention so quickly to the tragic that rolls in for a few moments and breezes back out the way it came? To see what is before us requires strength and perseverance, and an abundance of trust to let light into our hearts.

I am going to make it a point to find the beauty in the day. To savor the small things, examine up close the tiny tricks of light that play across creation and be thankful, fully invested in gratitude and throw up my insecurities into the air to come down and shatter in crystal shards across the ground, freeing me to be in favor of the miniscule and miraculous.

 

Light come softly to those who let their eyes lean into the sky.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stagnant Stretch of Words

I'm stalled. Stuck, so sick of pounding my fingers against the keyboard and getting nothing but incoherent letters and punctuation, run-ons and ramblings. If I even get that fortunate. Lately, it's mostly my mind slipping into such a wake of despondence with sentence after sentence that is jumbled in my mind but lodged inside, refusing to slip to paper.

How many times I have come to coffee shops, soaked in the interior and marveled at the curve of wooden tables, string of lights and stirring atmosphere, quiet murmurs of other patrons. How many times I've nestled into a corner and hunched over my laptop, eager to savor the sanity rolling over me as I cling to the familiar I have in an unknown city- coffee and words. I find the music that sets the tone of my mind, take that first sweet sip of espresso and bid my mind to open to the world writing itself inside me.

And I wait, an uncomfortable fidgeting blooms along the flowerbox of my heart... weeds springing up to trample the flowers of fiction. They take a tight hold, and the color of creative writing dulls and drains into the soil, stagnant and helpless at my feet.

Where is my lifeline? Where is the consistency that has always kept me sane? I don't know why this is occurring, why my writing eludes me and why I'm left grasping in the dark to tie down a few errant thoughts that don't dig deep enough to form a foundation. Why am I consistently staring at page after page of white? I know what I need to do, what I need to write, and in my tentative heart the embers continue to smolder. Still the sprockets of my soul spin and whir along, pushing me forward. I scrape at the sky hoping to pull down a stream of sentences that fall to my flowerbox, once again breathing life, renewing waters to the well of words within.

Lights still shimmer, caffeine still swims through my system. My eyes are wide with hidden hope. I promise myself that these words will come, the scenes will rise and stories unfold. I keep my eyes to the horizon, hold my hand to shade the sun and squint to see the storm swirling in the distance, bringing the downpour.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Outer Rim

This morning is an adventure morning. I woke up early, unable to fall back to sleep, and pondered my day. My roommate is driving me around more of the city this afternoon, but until then, I have time on my hands. So I decided to do a little exploring to find a new coffee shop I hadn't tried yet, in an area I hadn't stopped. Pulling out my laptop, I looked around the wonder web and found a few places and wrote their addresses on a piece of paper. I got in my car, headed towards the general vicinity of one of them and made my way into the correct parking lot.

This place is called Revocup, an Ethiopian café specializing in pure brewing methods and close knit, community feel. They're working with their home country to provide for the people and creating  sustainability. This is a place where older groups gather to catch up on the week and chatter on about the news. I'm in a little corner at the front, sitting in some striped cushion chair, coffee and cinnamon scone close by. It's a very welcoming and nurturing place- cozy and full.



I'm hoping to get here and clear my mind and put to words all the thoughts tangled in me. Maybe work a little on my Bible study, even write a few paragraphs in my story.

I bring up the Bible study, find a section to begin and type. About four sentences. And then I'm frozen. I've run into a few road blocks. First, everything I want to describe or say resonates with my life in Wisconsin. I keep trying to think present tense about the quiet, beautiful gifts of God and my brain stalls. Here in Kansas City, I can't relate to what was so full inside me a few weeks ago. Everything that comes to mind doesn't mesh with my mood. However I want to encourage comes from my memory of Wisconsin and the life I used to live.

When I think up the emotions and settings of my story, I'm at a loss because I'm thrust into the unknown, dropped in the middle of the ocean and expected to find my way to shore. How can I begin to create anything when my canvas is muddled and I'm seeking somewhere I feel familiar?

Words. Where are they? Where is my heart that is the stream from which they flow? If this is where I'm supposed to be, how come I can't feel it? I move my words and mind to stitch together, to find my place and pursue what constantly eludes.

They days are consistently cloudy and gray. On the Kansas side, there's a tint of yellow across the fields. I don't know why, maybe to match the corn? But it illuminates an eerie feel, a wide continuous vastness that has no end but filled with space to imagine.

If I were home, my brook of connections and wisdom would be overflowing. But I'm not. I'm in the middle of that yellow field, hazy silhouette, face shrouded.

This chair is comfortable and the chatter of more patrons keeps the buzz ablaze in this coffee shop. The people around me are all familiar with one another. They smile and wish good tidings to the days to come. Bodies and skin, all tethered together and warm, blood veins and palpable connection.

Everyone knows someone. And I am far along the outer rim.

This is where I am to be for the duration. Lost in the disappearance of my stories and on the search to one day claim them.