Willing to Embark

I thought I knew what I was going to write about tonight. However, the idea never quite settled in, or locked into place as the day progressed. I stayed open, and early in the evening, just as I was about to prepare dinner, I suddenly thought about my altered book, the one I am using as an art journal. I have not created a new page in it for several months.

As potatoes roasted in the oven, I flipped through my journal, waiting for the tap of inspiration that whispered here…create on this page. The book is called Captivating…Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by Stasi Eldredge. This is a duplicate copy of the book that I have read several times. I stopped on page 19, captured by these words mid page :

You can find that life—if you are willing to embark on a great adventure.

I had found my inspiration.

Willing to Embark

Before that sentence, Stasi writes that most women end up living two lives. Outwardly we are busy, efficient, professional, getting by. Inwardly, we lose ourselves in a fantasy world or give ourselves over to food or other addictions to numb the aches of our hearts. But our hearts are still there, longing to be set free, to find the life our desires are hinting at.

You can find that life—if you are willing to embark on a great adventure.

As soon as I read those words, an image popped into my mind. Two years ago my word for the year was Surrender, and my symbol was the River. I learned much that year about surrendering to the flow of life, and going where that flow took me. I could easily compare Life to a Great River, and imagine myself in a canoe, being swept along from adventure to adventure. I didn’t try to resist the River’s current, or take up an oar to navigate. I trusted in Divine guidance, knowing the Dream Giver was just around the River Bend, calling to me.

I knew what to create on this journal page.

Willing to Embark

I used a sketching pencil to quickly outline a rising sun, full of promise, and a canoe being carried down a river. I am riding in the canoe. Those lessons in the manga workbook are paying off! The sketch came together easily, and drawing from my imagination used to be difficult for me.

A black gel pen with a fine tip defined the components of the drawing. I was ready to color. This is the part of art journaling that I most enjoy. I gathered 100 colored pencils, Crayola and Prismacolor brands, and created a color palette that relied on blues for the river and yellows, golds and pinks for the sunrise.

Coloring is meditative for me, soothing and relaxing. As I colored and shaded, I thought about my journey. I have lived as two people…the quiet, correct, do-what-others-expect woman…and the wild spirit who kept her desires hidden deep within her heart. I reached the point of being willing to embark on a great adventure, which first involved an inward journey, to rescue and free my heart.

The outward expression of who I have become has been, and continues to be, the greatest of adventures! It truly is about living as the woman I am and embarking wholeheartedly on that journey called Life.

I just looked up the word embark. It originates from the French word embarque, literally meaning in a ship. My illustration is amazing, in light of that definition. And the unexpected connection between the word and the image that came to me is itself symbolic of my magical journey. Yes, I was so willing. I have embarked.

Willing to Embark

Surrender 3: Gifts from the River

Today was Artist Date day, as set out by the book that I’m working through, The Artist’s Way. After a two week break over Christmas, I was excited to get back to this weekly practice. In keeping with my desire to surrender to life, I decided to go where I felt drawn this afternoon. And I felt drawn to walk along the river, specifically Shoal Creek. 


I have not seen the river since last weekend’s massive flood. I was surprised to find low water bridge still closed, due to two uprooted trees caught on the structure. Everywhere I looked, there were signs of how powerful the river is when it overflows its banks. 


Trees were down along the river. Picnic tables were clogged with debris, and empty concrete pads were stark reminders that tables had been swept away, in spite of being bolted down. Empty freshwater mussel shells covered the ground near the walking trail, along with river rocks deposited by the tumbling waters. 


The air was chilly and the sunshine welcome  as I slowly strolled along the river, thinking. The river did not intend destruction as it overflowed its banks. It was simply being what it was. The overflow happened because the river became full, filled beyond what it could contain. As I studied the churning water, still at an elevated level, I thought about how that happens to us too. We get full…of joy, of love, of anger, of fear…until we can’t contain it anymore either, and it overflows, spilling out. Sometimes the force of our emotions overtakes everyone around us. It reminded me that what’s in our heart is revealed and comes tumbling out when we are flooded with challenges. I want to overflow with peace, love and joy and leave evidence of these in my wake. 


My inner creative child asserted herself. Enough with the reflections. When I left the house, I grabbed a canvas tote to serve as a makeshift possible bag. As a child, I loved to walk along the creek in Noel and pick up treasures…interesting rocks, pretty leaves, sturdy sticks. Back then I had boxes of nature collections. I thought it would be fun to scavenge items today as I walked Shoal Creek. I looked past the devastation and began to notice the beauty around me. There was a tree wearing a woven garland. And little pools of water appeared in unexpected places. 


With the delight of a child, I picked up several rocks, a shell, and a piece of bark with grayish green lichen growing on it. Just as I was about to start the return trek to the car, I spied something interesting down near the river, at the base of a tree. The adult in me was willing to leave it there. The artistic child wanted it! 

Carefully I made my way down to the tree and inspected my find before I picked it up. Made of metal, the object was heavy and slightly rusty.  I didn’t know what it was, but my imagination immediately raced with what I could do with this treasure. 


Back home I happily cleaned up my little collection.  The piece of metal reminds me of a sign, a marker. I wrote 2016 on it with a white sharpie. Interestingly, the next chapter in The Artist’s Way, which teaches about having compassion for my inner child, suggests selecting a totem to place in my creative space. A totem is an object, imbued with spiritual meaning…an emblem or symbol that serves as a reminder. I have my totem, my reminder, of all the promises 2016 holds. The river gave it to me. 

Surrender 1: A New Year and a New Adventure Begins

Today as I enter into a new year, I am embarking on a new adventure! I completed my Year of Journeys ready to take what I learned in 2015 and go further. As I shared in yesterday’s blog post, one of the most significant aha’s I had last year was the awareness that I am invited to go on adventures, and as I accept those invitations, I am guided in my journey by the Divine. Through signs, synchronicities, my intuition and the unfolding of life itself, I am led. 

As I approached the end of 2015, the word surrender began to surface repeatedly for me. I am given a new word for each new year, one that defines what’s to come. Surrender was shown to be 2016’s theme, by way of repetition and synchronicity. 

I looked up the word. It doesn’t just mean to give up. It is defined as giving over to another, yielding to a higher authority or power. I always research the origin of my chosen word. Surrender is a combination of two words. Sur, which comes from Latin, means “over and above”. Render, originating from the Latin reddere, means “causing to be or to make”. Surrender then literally means “over and above causing to be” or “over and above making it happen”. 

That’s what I desire for 2016. I want to be over and above making things happen. I want to allow what is, to be. In surrendering, I am relinquishing control of my life. In reality, I can’t control anything anyway except my reactions to what happens. I am allowing life to unfold, as it will. I am an active participant in my own life, however I am open to what is brought to me and to where I am led. 


The symbol I was given for 2016 was the river. What a perfect visual of life. I lived in McDonald County for nine years, near Elk River. I have floated and canoed down that river many times and I can relate to the experience of being in the flow. 

When I am flowing with the water I am moving forward with little effort. As I stay in the current I am taken exactly where I need to go. I can attempt to paddle upstream, against the flow, which uses enormous amounts of energy and wears me out. I can paddle out of the flow and move to shore. The water will continue to roll past me.  I can camp out on the edge of the river for as long as I’d like, becoming an observer of the river, of life, without participating in it. I choose to remain in the flow. 

I’m excited to see what the Divine has for me this year, and what adventures the flow of life will take me to. I’m laying the paddle to my canoe at my feet, and surrendering to the river, to life, to what’s just around the next bend. It’s an unknown journey. In the past two years I’ve set up many of my firsts and journeys in advance. This year, I’ll be exploring new territory, mapping out new regions, in my world and within my heart and soul, without knowing in advance what that will look like. Curiosity will continue to serve as a guide and trust is my companion. 

This morning I experienced in a small way the promise of what’s to come. On this first day of a brand new year, I wrote my three pages of free writing. It happened that I had filled up my previous notebook yesterday. And so I began this day with a fresh notebook, full of clean blank pages. The timing was remarkable. How symbolic of the journey ahead because I didn’t arrange to start the new year in a new notebook. It happened. It arranged itself. And I had the awareness to recognize the significance. 

I am canoeing down this river called Life, eyes and heart wide open, taking in every detail, learning to navigate well, appreciating the beauty along the way, ever surrendering to the relentless flow of water. The journey, the surrender, is fresh and new each day. 


Journey 346: A Symbol for 2016

As this year is winding down, I’ve confirmed that my new word for 2016 is “surrender”. I’ll share more about the significance of that word later. I’ve been considering what symbol to use to accompany the word and represent 2016. Two images have come to mind…a river and a flower unfurling from its bud.  As a result, I’ve been asking for confirmation on which symbol to choose. 


As I was straightening up my stash of coloring books, I picked up the first one I had purchased. Although I’ve colored several pages in it, I haven’t opened the book in a while. I flipped to a page randomly and looked at it. And smiled. There was a drawing of a river, flowing alongside a road, through grasses and trees. 


If the river is my symbol for next year, what fun it would be to color this page and use it in social media and on my blog. Or frame the finished picture and hang it in my studio. Looking at the drawing, I felt I was being nudged toward the river as my symbol. I see so many apt comparisons between the flowing river and the flow of life. So many truths and analogies leap to mind. 

In this mindfulness coloring book, each picture has an accompanying quote on the facing page. Curious, I checked to see what words the artist chose for this drawing. Here is the quote:

And there was my word, surrender. Of all the quotes that could have accompanied the picture of the river, the artist chose one about surrender. I love the quote and the connection between the river and my chosen word. It’s perfect. And, just as perfectly, the symbol for 2016 was brought to me. The river. 

I’m so excited to have these two key elements for next year in place. What an extraordinary adventure it promises to be. But first, I will finish out 2015 with great joy. I’ll journey to the end of December, before surrendering to 2016. As I complete my year of journeys, I’ll slowly color in the river picture. It can be my work in progress. What a beautiful meditation, as I color, thinking about all that Life, and the river, mean to me.