December 26, 2010

Photo Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

This photograph was taken mid-September on top of Mount Scott, in the Wichita Mountains. It was a quiet, early fall day, and time allowed for my mom, a dear friend, and I to venture there for the afternoon. We ate a Meer’s burger, drove through the wildlife refuge, and did a bit of romping around. Even as I sit here now, I can recall the feeling of lightness that I felt that day. Much life transition had accompanied that particular weekend, and our hearts were given leave, to breathe the air and feel joy again. Climbing the little mountain gives just enough perspective to evoke a deep awe and humility.

This season, I am re-learning the beauty of solitude and the goodness of self through time alone. It is from the high places that I can look out and see all the possibility of life ahead. There is a freedom from all that hinders, the illusion of flight, and the hope of something great in the plains below. There is a deep desire in me to wander, and be lost in discovery. This photo speaks to possibility, to potential, to a dream.

I think it also sheds light on who I am in my best moments: quieted by love, and by things greater than myself. A dreamer, and a sojourner. Free.

I am reminded of this exhortation from Anne Lamot, speaking in her candid tone,

But you are not your bank account, or your ambition. You’re not the cold clay lump you leave behind when you die. You’re not your collection of walking personality disorders. You are spirit. You are love. And even though it is hard to believe sometimes, you are free. You are here to love, and be loved, freely. If you find out next week that you are terminally ill — and we are terminally ill on this bus — what will matter are memories of beauty, that people loved you, and that you loved them.


reverb10:[lesson learned]

December 17, 2010

Lesson Learned What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

This year, I learned that there is a strength that courses through the deep places of my heart, that I did not know was there before. It is as if I was digging and digging for water, and finally the liquid gave way between the shards of rock and clods of dirt, and geysers exploded forth.

From where does my strength come? From the maker of heaven and earth.

I do not believe that this strength grew of its own accord. Rather, it is rooted in many experiences, many people, God. It began as something small, and manifested itself when it was needed most. This strength was birthed out of much difficulty and testing. It is only when we are pushed the hardest that we find out what our fabric is really made of.

This strength feels young, unrefined, even ruthless. Yet, it feels like a friend that I never had, an ally. And there are moments when I trust it, and moments when I still feel unsure. It is a something that I can feel in my chest, a tangible presence.

In the year to come, I hope to understand this strength more. Move through its rooms, become familiar with its walls and doors. I want to understand the source. I want to exercise it so it does not atrophy. I want to be strong against all that is not good, against unkind words and thoughts. I want to be strong emotionally. I want to be strong for others, because so many have been strong for me.

reverb10: [action]

December 13, 2010

Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

The most prevelant future goal/aspiration that I have, aside from making art and working with kids, is to work in, and someday own a bakery or small café. In attempts to learn more, I would like to do three things this year:

1. Take a class, or two (moving toward some sort of Baking/Pastry Arts program).

2. Bake through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible and Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery

3. Send my resume to 10 bakeries/cafes world wide, that I would like to work in or learn from such as Magnolia Cupcakes: New York CityLa Brea Bakery: Los AngelesPleasantown Brick Oven Bakery: Traverse City, MIPearl Bakery: Portland, OR, and just see what happens.

reverb10: [things]

December 11, 2010

Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

1. Self-criticism
2. Chaos
3. Negativity
4. Excessive multi-tasking
5. Complications
6. Over-thinking
7. Crowding my time, my mind
8. Perfectionism
9. Worry
10. Baggage (physical, spiritual, emotional)
11. Toxins
How? Prayer, quiet, steadfastness, and common grace.

reverb10: [wisdom]

December 10, 2010

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

To simply keep moving forward, each day. And remembering to breath. My words cannot wrap around the decisions of the year yet, so I rely on this poem.


And so we must begin to live again,
We of the damaged bodies
And assaulted minds.
Starting from scratch with the rubble of our lives
And picking up the dust
Of dreams once dreamt.

And we stand there, naked in our vulnerability,
Proud of starting over, fighting back
But full of humility
At the awareness of the task.

We, without a future,
Safe, defined, delivered
Now salute you God.
Knowing that nothing is safe,
Secure, inviolable here.
Except you.
And even that eludes our minds at times.
And we hate you
As we love you,
And our anger is as strong as our pain.
Our grief is deep as oceans,
And our need as great as mountains.

So, as we take our first few steps forward
Into the abyss of the future,
We would pray for
Courage to become what we have
Not been before
And accept it,
And bravery to look deep
Within our souls to find
New ways.

We did not want it easy God,
But we did not contemplate
That it would be quite this hard,
This long, this lonely.

So, if we are to be turned inside out,
And upside down,
With even our pockets shaken,
Just to check what’s rattling
And left behind,
We pray that you will keep faith with us,
And we with you.
Hold our hands as we weep,
Giving us strength to continue,
And showing us beacons
Along the way to becoming new.

We are not fighting you God,
Even if it feels like it,
But we need your help and company,
As we struggle on.
Fighting back
And starting over.

(by Anna McKenzie, from Good Friday People by Sheila Cassidy, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991)

Artwork: Cut Line C. Abi Joy Lessing. 2010. Dress patterns, glue, oil paint, wax on board.

Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

It is important to have a sense of self, and to love who you are, but it is also important to constantly be evolving towards being a better person, stronger, more whole. I am learning both.

It is each person’s story that makes them different – their history and family, education, and religious experience. There are a variety of threads, layers, rips and tears, patches and glue, holes, and whole parts; a collage of sorts.

I am an observant person, a listener, and lover of beauty. I hope to offer kind words and truth. I hope to inspire wonder in each day, bringing light into dark through the observation of simple, life-giving things. I hope to give genuine love, full embraces, and subtle kindness.

Make meaningful artwork.
Be kind to myself. Be kind to others.
Be motivated by compassion.
Challenge mediocrity.
Cook meals that nourish and inspire.
Ask questions in conversation.
Laugh often with others.
Eliminate self-criticism, and criticism of others.
Offer perspective, affirmation.
Grow spiritually, as to be more peaceful, connected and loving.

reverb10: [make]

December 6, 2010

Make: What was the last thing that you made? What materials did you use? Is there something that you want to make, but you need to clear some time for?

Making is the act of putting pieces together to create something that was not there before. I spend my days making cupcakes at a small bakery, I spend my nights making new recipes in an outdated kitchen. From time to time, I make art, gluing and painting and getting things together.

Making a life for oneself does not happen in a moment, or an afternoon, or maybe even a week. It is not an instant act that creates a life, but rather the culmination of movements toward something that is good.

Make a friend.
Make a memory.
Make an investment.
Make dinner.
Make do.
Make artwork.
Make love.
Make or break.
Make cookies.
Make the right choice.
Make money.
Make dreams.
Make believe.

Using what?

Glue sticks, wax, thread.
Red wine.
Burt’s Bees.
Open hands.
Blank pages.
Green dutch oven.
A good book.
Flour, butter, sugar.
Warm socks.
A jade plant.
The Essential New York Times Cook Book.
Grey flannel bed sheets.
Cupcakes and espresso.
Good black ink pen.
Hot tea.

reverb10: [let go]

December 5, 2010

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…
-Annie Dillard

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
[Letting go of all that hinders, binds – and of gathering all that is light, beautiful, and treasured.]

This summer, my family vacationed in Arcadia, MI, located on the serene waters of Lake Michigan. The common lore of the land includes the much coveted Petoskey stone. The stone is made of fossilized coral, and when it is wet, the coral forms a beautiful, sparkling pattern on the surface. Not being from Michigan, my Mom and I set out to go Petoskey hunting, hoping to gain our status as locals. We rolled up our pants, and wadded in the cold northern waters, turning over stones.

We quickly picked up a rhythm of gathering a handful of stones, examining, and then tossing them back. The progression only seemed natural then, that as we reflected about the story of hardship from the past year  we eventually were throwing our rocks back with much force. We began hurling large rocks into the heart of the lake, yelling a name or word, and letting go. The larger the rock, the better, as it took more strength to hoist the mass over my head, gather breath, and simultaneously let go of the rock and the burden.

The rocks that I threw on that summer afternoon carried perfectionism, disappointment, and the grief of loss, among other things. The physical act made the spiritual act of letting go more tangible, more real.

At the end of the day, the joy of letting go exceeds the initial feeling of loss. With the burden removed, I am free to grow and stretch in new ways. After all of our stone throwing, Mom and I both found Petoskey stones, something that many people spend years looking for. Hers was large, magnificent, and prime paper-weight quality. Mine was a small pebble-like stone, perfect to fit in my pocket. It serves as a reminder that letting go of the large rocks results in the beauty of a small stone, sought after and full of worth.

I hope that after a year of letting go, this next one is a gathering small Petoskey stones.

Photo credit: ojoyous1

reverb10: [wonder]

December 4, 2010

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Cultivating a sense of wonder is an intentional task in a culture of wonder-less, wandering folks, who have, by and large, lost the ability to find wonder in the everyday. We so easily cling to the sentimentalism and nostalgia of our youth, groping for the child-like awe and surprise that once filled us.

It seems not only good, but absolutely essential to cultivate the ability to have open receptors to wonder. I have spent the last year refining my wonder receptors in the area of food. It is at the market or grocer, on the pages of a cookbook, and most poignantly in the kitchen, where I am brought back to the awe that brings life…

The joy of living with an urban gardener, who with her own hands, cultivates the ground to bring forth edible plant life, which we have the joy to eat.

The phenomenon of adding yeast to water, flour, and salt, and watching a loaf of bread be born.

The color of summer produce, in all its variety and boldness.

The potential of a new recipe, a new method, or a new ingredient.

The aroma of onions browning in butter, a fruit pie baking, or grinding fresh spices.

The pleasure of experiencing texture, color, smell, and taste, while being nourished.

The excitement that comes with each season’s bounty.

… and the closeness among people as they share a meal together.

reverb10: [moment]

December 3, 2010

Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on the year and manifest what’s next: using the end of the year as an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened, and sending out reverberations for the year ahead. There is a new prompt everyday, December 1-31, and it is my goal to offer a reflection each day, beginning today.


Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Medicine Falls is an unlikely place to find yourself. The strange, small town is near the Wichita Mountains in southern Oklahoma. It claims to be the definitive American cobblestone community – rightly so, because all of the buildings are made of a round sand-colored stone. The town is situated around a quaint lake, which they call the Bathtub and if you pay an entire two dollars during the summer months, you are allowed to swim in the cool waters.

What most people probably do not know, is it is quite possibly the best two dollars one could ever spend. On a miserable, hot August afternoon, myself and a few friends stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped in. The refreshing water immediately took us to a past-time of country life and swimming holes. In a spirit of exploration, we went past the indicated swimming area, down the river that feeds the little lake. To our sheer joy and pleasure, we came upon what appeared to be a small waterfall. Though it was no more than an eight foot drop, the pressure of the water was enormous. It took all the strength we could muster to force our bodies under the falling water. We would turn our backs on the water, avoiding the slippery algae, and find a rock to lodge in, allowing the rushing water to pelt our heads and shoulders.

This summer was difficult, and the hottest that I can remember in recent history. As my body withered into a small thing over the months, with strength sapped, sweaty and dirty, it was the harsh, cleansing waters of Medicine Park that made me feel so very alive. The loudness of water made it impossible to talk to the girls next to me, and we all held our breath when one of us would get swept under, praying that the power of the water did not hold us there.

To be under the water, having the wind knocked out, and mustering up all my strength to fight the rush, was how I regained my breath in this body and found my alive again.