Today I learned about a woman who lived along the Cane River in Louisiana on the Melrose Plantation. Clementine Hunter was a farm laborer and never learned to read or write. She lived from January 1887-Janurary 1988. When she turned 50 years old, she decided she would paint. Her paintings reflected the life of the plantation. She is well known today for her work as an American Folk Artist.
The guide who shared her life with me made one comment that has stayed with me. She shared that the reason Clementine Hunter’s paintings were so famous is because she painted from the inside; from the inside of her heart and from the inside the culture of the Creole people on the plantation. From the inside she shared her experience of the world in her own way through painting.
We may often spend more time than necessary tending to our outsides. Clothes. Hair. Makeup. Image. But what about the inside? Patience. Acceptance. Listening. Prayer. Love. These are the things that really matter. Connecting with God and others really matters. Who we are on the inside is what we are called to show the outside.
It is good to pause now and then to take an assessment of our spiritual life on the inside. When we stay busy and distracted by calendar items that are necessary but not life giving, we can easily silence our inner voice or inner thoughts that are inviting us to connect ourselves with our God. When we go along enough days only living from the surface of our selves, we begin to believe that that is all there is to life, when in fact there is so much more. What has been stirring in your heart lately?
Clementine Hunter found purpose and power in turning inside out. I imagine we can do the same when we stop listening to outside voices and start listening to the God who dwells in all of us on the inside.
If you insist on saving our life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live. Mark 8:35
On the sidewalk, just outside our tent the other day, I enjoyed a “glimpse.” It was one of those days with nothing really to do. It was too early to start cooking dinner (but I really haven’t been cooking much lately because it is so nice outside…just being honest…cereal is a life savor!) And kindergarten homework just does not take up much of our precious time, so we journeyed to the sidewalk. On the way, I picked up a bucket of chalk…sidewalk chalk.
We spread out down the sidewalk and spontaneously added our artwork to each section of the sidewalk one square at a time. A rainbow. A flower. A heart. A butterfly. Once we ran out of ideas, I started to just look around. The weather has been beautiful here in Texas for many weeks. Just beautiful. A few weekends ago, I visited our ranch and the wheat in the fields was so high that it was hiding the new baby calves. It was truly a perfect spring sight.
On the sidewalk, I saw another perfect spring sight…flowers, green trees just showing off, birds…red birds, butterflies. It was all there just outside our door and on our sidewalk. Just there waiting for us to notice.
In a time when we are overwhelmed with disturbing news all around us we can chose to take a moment and step away. One of the ways we can step away from what we think is important (work, technology, perfection, phones, drama) and step into what is important (family, friends, solitude, peace, faith) is to just step outside. Walk on the sidewalk and discover nature again. Follow the path and let go of your agenda…just for a little while. You will be surprised at the lasting effects. Try it. And don’t worry. If dinner is not ready on time, there is always cereal!