Unheard Melodies of a Heart in Hiding

Friday, June 23, 2006


Beau is our golden retriever. I painted this a couple months ago when I was back in the habit of painting. I started working yesterday on a business card for my custom pet portrait business idea...we'll see what happens with that!

I just always have so many ideas in the works. My current project is to finish all the unfinished projects that are lurking around our house. LOTS of painting to do...We are planning to put our house on the market in July. Though my husband and I are pretty much home-bodies who like to be safe and comfy in our own little house, we feel that the Lord may be calling us to move to Colorado. Just the very fact that we WANT to move seems indication enough that the Lord is leading us, because this whole thing is pretty scary. What about jobs? What about a place to live? What about MONEY, about our bills? What about the house we have lived in for only fourteen months? But in my devotions the past week, I keep running across encouragements to be RECKLESS in following the Lord. Here's one that seems to make God's direction very clear.

From Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest June 18, entitled in one version, "Don't think now, TAKE THE ROAD" (Can you believe that title???):

(Matthew 14:29-30): We step right out with recognition of God in some things, then self-consideration enters our lives and down we go. If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances. The things surrounding you are real, but when you look at them you are immediately overwhelmed, and even unable to recognize Jesus. Then comes His rebuke, ". . . why did you doubt?" ( Matthew 14:31 ). Let your actual circumstances be what they may, but keep recognizing Jesus, maintaining complete reliance upon Him.

If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, "Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?" Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all.

We have been debating about whether or not we've actually been called to go, or if we just want to go. We keep telling each other that it would make more sense to stay here for at least another year and be "responsible" by sticking with the jobs that we already have and working to save money and pay off debt and fixing up our house some more. Maybe that's what God really wants us to do. But then God reminded me that Jesus did not call us to be safe but reckless in our love for Him. Last Sunday, this devotion made that very clear to me. I love how Chambers advises us to recklessly abandon ourselves to God even when we only think that we may have faintly heard his voice. We visited Boulder, CO over spring break, and it was really weird because as we got closer and closer to our destination, I kept feeling more and more like we were going HOME, not on vacation. You know that feeling you get after a long trip away and a long drive home, and then you begin to see the Tulsa cityline? I turned to my husband just as we crossed over from Kansas to Colorado, and said, "It's weird, but I feel like we're going home." He agreed.

Now, everytime I think about Colorado I get a nervous butterfly feeling in my stomach. So we will stick a sign in our yard in July and see if the house sells. I guess that will be our definite answer!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

the deep sigh of summer

The body feels in glimpses, through momentary catches in the soul. Slight rememberings of dreams waking and asleep, of touches felt and words said, of glances shared, lashes quickly lifted then lowered and lifted again and pupils widening to invite a river of unknown and terrifying possibilities. How can I capture these moments, these instances so fleeting they seem to have never existed? They are only half-thoughts, butterfly thoughts, evading my understanding then and my memory now. How can I venture to pretend that these moments might mean something to you, when I’m not even sure that they ever meant something to me? I want to tell you a story, but do I have a story to tell? There is something inside of me on the verge of breaking, a well churning and bubbling, yearning to spring forth and wash away these feelings of emptiness I cherish. Emptiness is easier. It is work to fill the page with words, easier to remain blank.

It’s almost midnight during a mid-May cool spell. Eyes closed, she feels the cool breeze play at her neck and eyelashes and inhales deeply to capture the melancholy hint of rain leftover in the air from that morning’s thunderstorms. This is the momentary prologue to summertime, the last breath before the suffocating plunge that still tastes of damp, earthy leaves and musky smoke from distant fires, of melting snowflakes and warm cinnamon mixed with evergreen. This is the time of year when nature has just finished its re-birth and tulips stand at proud attention in their colonnades down the sidewalks and across the front porches of houses cool and shaded in the mornings under the shimmering green of trees. How do I explain the foreboding that chills her? This unusually cool weather cannot last, and soon the shaded front porches will stand abandoned as people retreat into the dried-out, air-conditioned space of their homes as the afternoon heat transforms everything into a vivid pulsating neon that blinds the eyes as the sun burns the skin.

What scares her is the super-reality that awaits her, the clarity of every moment re-lived and re-felt since the moment that the sparkling white gravel glared at her under angry purple skies from the window overlooking the hospital rooftop. What terrifies her are the visions always lurking around the corners of her mind, waiting to lurch into view at any moment when she closes her eyes: Her mother's milky skin, smooth and healthy, was marked with the same contellation of freckles she counted and re-counted as a child. The fingernails, always so carefully polished, glowed sheer pearly pink while shiny black hair framed brows she had watched her mother groom just the night before.

This was the flesh and blood that had nourished her unformed body, that had rocked and soothed her to sleep, that had held her hand at every pivotal moment in her life. Visions of this beautiful being, her mother, dance before her closed lids. Phantoms, these visions. The cool human shadow who should be sheltering her from the July tears is just that--a shadow and a memory.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Wanna Play?

Wanna Play?

This is my special little furry friend, Jessi. She's my baby.

A couple months ago, there was this article in an art/home decorating/shopping magazine I subscribe to that featured pet portraits. I guess this is a popular thing right now, and the magazine gave websites for artists who specialized in pet portraits and charged BIG BUCKS for commissioned paintings. I thought, "hey, I could do that!" The paintings and screenprints and sketches featured in the magazine article were so creative and varied--some artists created more sopisticated and serene portraits of animals, while others drew from the quirky and playful attitudes of the animal and communicated the personality of the pet in a fun, funky way.

That's what I was trying to do here--the fun and funky thing. Jessi is such a spaz, and she's always ready to play. Of course, I had to paint this from a picture I took of her because there's no way she could ever hold still for this. But I did grab ahold of her periodically so I could capture things in paint that my photo couldn't show me.

Anyway, I've been wondering if there'd be a market for something like this around here. I know if at least one sort of "up-scale" pet store in town, and have been thinking about talking with them.

But I'm scared.

I mean, it's a painting of a dog. I love to paint simple, happy things and I don't know if this is the kind of art that people would even like and want to pay money for. But I figure, people (including me) love their pets, and this seems like kind of a practical way to get some artwork out there and maybe start working my way into my dream of making a living at this.

But again, I'm scared.

Who knows, though. I was reminded not too long ago on my sister's blog that my mom used to say to us all of the time, "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." I mean, I remember always being encouraged to "do what I loved," but I had forgotten the part (the best part!) about how doing what you love can feel almost like you're not working at all. Don't get me wrong--I completely enjoy, perhaps even love, my job as a teacher. But hmmm...does it feel like WORK to me? Um, yes. EXHAUSTING (but rewarding) work. And speaking of my sister, she's so courageous in performing her music and giving of herself and her gifts to people. She inspires me, makes me feel like I can follow my dream too.

It's not like I'm trying to get out of doing hard work, but when I'm painting or working hard creating in some way, I can work for hours on end without stopping to eat or even get a drink of water. I'm just so absorbed in what I'm doing and loving every minute of it! It makes me tired but it's addictive and it's the one thing I would do if I had the opportunity to do anything at all in the world and be successful at it.

So tell me what you think. I would love honest constructive criticism. This is scary...I am always afraid to show people my work. But a special thanks to my friend LiteratureLover for her inspiration!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Once upon a time there was this REALLY LONG day...

Ok, so I've been here at work for WAY TOO LONG and am ready to go home. Can't leave yet and I'm burned out on grading papers, so here's the fun list I've compiled from my random "Sarah needs" search on Google:

Sarah needs a different vehicle. This one is so true, especially since at this moment school has been over for almost an hour and I am still stuck at work because my husband took our only vehicle to have the tires replaced and has not come back to get me…and doesn’t have his cell phone…so I couldn’t call him to tell him I could get a ride to the place where my co-workers are hanging out after school today so that I wouldn’t have to just sit here and wait for him on the Friday afternoon that kicks off Spring Break. Grrr. But I’m thankful he went to have the tires replaced.
Sarah needs to play. AMEN!!!! And it’s SPRING BREAK! No work for me!!! (Unless I’m stuck here in an empty school building all weekend…If only I could get out of here….what’s the point of having cell phones if they are useless in a moment like this???!!!)
Sarah needs friends – she has to learn how to make them. How true, how true. I’m still working on that one. I have lots of good friends, but I’m not totally sure how those friendships happened…I’m a little shy.
Sarah needs Mexican. Well, that will work. I have some leftover Mexican food in the fridge at home I can eat tonight for dinner.
Sarah needs a place where she can safely wonder at God's promises and question God's prophecies. I think I already have that place (Rivendell), and I’m so glad!
Sarah needs to be able to relate to someone else. It really sounds like I must have some relational issues.
Sarah needs to have more CDs. I know, I haven’t purchased any new music in at least a YEAR!!!
Sarah needs baby basics at Babies R Us. I do?
Sarah needs a family to cuddle with. A baby? Ok, do you know something I don’t know….?
Sarah needs to learn... but she's willing. About being a mommy?
Dear Lord, Sarah needs your guidance, love and direction. Of course I always do, but is there a special reason I especially need this now?
Sarah needs more. Of everything, of course.
Sarah needs to lighten up and dig deeper. That’s an oxymoron.
Sarah needs a different vehicle. There it is again!!! And yes, I am STILL stuck and work with no ride home. Grrrr.
Sarah Needs a New Home. No I don’t. Not yet anyway. I still like my house and still have lots of work to do on it.
Sarah needs little introduction. What, am I famous or something?
Sarah needs to pick the most expensive dress so if she loses, she can sell said dress on eBay and make a lot of money. Oooh. Maybe I’m going to be in a beauty pageant. I like the making money part.
Sarah needs money. Again with the money. And it’s true.
Sarah needs to keep ahead of her faceless pursuers. Is that a threat? Kind of scary…
Sarah needs to suit up in her new winter coat. Could be true, especially since we’re going to Colorado this weekend.
Sarah needs to convert her cookie recipe for her cousin. Random. Though I do have in-laws in Germany, and I guess they would need to convert my recipes to the metric system.
Sarah needs to be an only dog and probably no small children. She walks nicely on a leash. HEEEYYY….
Sarah needs to trust that her tears do mean something. So it’s ok that I’m in tears now because of how long I’ve been waiting to GO HOME???!!!???
Sarah needs to have had the experience that enables her to chop down trees. Hmmm. Now there’s a thinker.
Sarah Needs More Sleep. Yes, I’m sure we could all use more of that.
Sarah needs to get ready to get on the bus and go home. I AM ready!!! My bus just isn’t here yet! I think the bus driver needs to be fired.

I think I’m going to go stand outside and wait now. I have that same lonely feeling right now that I used to get when I was little and waiting in an empty schoolyard when my mom was sometimes late picking me up. :(

Well, never mind. Here he is. He just ran into my classroom and collapsed on his knees begging for forgiveness. And he's saying it's the tire place's fault he's so late. I guess I'll forgive him this time. :)

As an afterword, I'm glad my husband was late, because this was really fun. And I promise that these are the word-for-word discoveries I made when I searched for what I "needed" through Google. They occurred in this very order and I did not alter any of them to fit my (very) minor situation today. It happened the way it happened, and it's funny that everything connected so nicely. What would be really scary is if I came back and told you that I was pregnant and Google knew before I did, or if you found out that I was, in fact, overcome by the "faceless pursuers" that Google warned me about. Prophetic Google. That would be scary.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

From the mouths of high-schoolers

I know it's been too long since I've written. But I'm trying to take to heart the advice Monk-in-Training gave me in a comment on my last post: Most often our own perceived "failures" are self-imposed. Yes, it seems that the Lord does ask much of us, but He certainly doesn't expect us to be perfect. After all, He does say that His "yoke is easy" and His "burden light." Though I guess we ought to be aiming for perfection because the things we do matter, I don't think God is putting a little "check" by our names every single time we miss the mark. And for some reason that is too often the picture I have of Him--that He's constantly "grading" my performance.

I've heard that some Amish crafters use a little trick in order to continuously remind themselves that God is the Perfect One--as they are quilting or sewing or whatever, they intentionally make some small mistake, one usually perceptible to their eyes alone, so that everytime they look at the beautiful piece they created they will be reminded that nothing they do can be perfect in comparison with the Perfection of the Lord. I think that's a really neat practice, and I often think of it myself when I leave so many things unfinished or imperfect in my own life.

I was reminded of this same idea this week as I was re-reading John Milton's Paradise Lost and preparing to teach it in one of my classes. It tells the story of Satan's fall from Heaven and his plan to ruin God's favorite creation--humankind--in order to achieve revenge. But Milton claims his purpose for writing the epic poem is to "justify the ways of God to men" and to show that what Satan intended for evil God was already planning to salvage for good and for the revelation of his greatest attribute--mercy--and his greatest gift--the sacrifice of his Son. Of course, like we've heard so many times, this gift of mercy isn't an excuse for sinful behavior. But it is such a relief to know God is so good that even our failings can bring glory to Him because of how our best efforts pale in comparison to His great mercy, wisdom and strength!

The following is something one of my British Lit II students wrote in response to one of the free-write prompts I give at the beginning of class. We were reading Frankenstein at the time, but our general objective this semester is studying the English Romantics. The Sublime is one of the Romantics' favorite topics: the sublime is sort of the height of human emotion and experience, anything awesome and terrible all at the same time that threatens to overwhelm human beings with fear or rapture. The Romantics most often point to the sublime in nature, but this student made the deeper connection with the sublime that hints there is something “other” than human beings—that the power of God is so much larger and powerful than our human existence. This student writes,

"I think the sublime is too often associated solely with nature (although that may be emerging as a retaliation to the relentless gushing of Miss Mary Shelley). The sublime is often bound up merely in a human, relieved and pained at the realization that he is imperfect, he is meaningless, but he is at the gracious peak of redemption. Knowing that mankind is frail and without weight, yet being given meaning and influence through an awe-inspiring, weighty, and holy grace.

"Man belongs in nature, in a place where he is challenged, weighed, tried, and exulted. He belongs in a place where to win the beauty that surrounds him he must live a life of constantly hashing it out. Man belongs in the sublime. Everything else is homesickness." -- J.L.

I love that--"to win the beauty" that surrounds us, we "must live a life of constantly hashing it out." I don't think this means that we have to do anything to earn that beauty; it is a free gift, but we have to work to keep our eyes and our ears and our hearts sensitive to the quieter beauty around us. There is a sense of struggle that goes on in the soul as we attempt to come to terms with the free gift, because our human natures tell us that nothing is truly free, that there is a catch, that there is someone watching who will zap us everytime we take a small step in the wrong direction.

It seems like a struggle to simply maintain the innocence and trust of a child, to take things on faith, and to not complicate everything with the "wisdom of the world." But that struggle is a beautiful thing--if our hearts are longing for something more, it is evidence that there is something more, that we are displaced children of the King who are just hanging on to the glimpses of beauty and glory we find in this life because it reminds us of home. The beauty that surrounds us and infuses us as we seek after Christ is only a hint of the glories of our true homeland.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I think I can, I think I can

Ok. So I'm going to push through this and make my second post. I am. I really am.

Every time I resolve to begin journaling again and promise myself I'm going to write daily-ish I fail miserably. My first entry in a long while will always say something like "it feels so good to get this all out. I need to write more often. I commit myself to doing this everyday." Yeah right. So often when I say the word "commit" it turns out that it doesn't mean anything. I want it to mean something, but it doesn't.

I think part of my problem is that I am a perfectionist. I struggle with this mindset that everything I do has to be perfectly elaborate and involved and amazing. And if I'm not in the mood to do something perfectly elaborate and amazing, I'd almost rather do nothing at all. Like exercising. I used to be an athlete. A track star. For 10 years through high school and college I ran everyday, really fast, and lifted weights like a madwoman. So now that I am not competing and have gained 30 pounds, a 20 minute walk is what I call exercise. And I often don't even do that because I get depressed and feel like a weakling because I can't do more.

See, even now this post is getting longer because I can't just be happy with something short and sweet...But I'm proud of myself that I'm writing something when I actually felt like I had nothing to say.

This day was BEAUTIFUL! 90 degrees! Went outside with a couple of my classes today...the south courtyard at the high school looked like an elementary school playground because so many teachers had the same idea! :)

I love to spend the evening with the doors and windows open when it's like this; watch dusk settle in and feel the breeze getting cooler. The dogs and cats also like when I leave the door open so they can run in and out. Then, sleeping with the windows open is bliss. We have a windchime that is tuned to the first two bars of "Amazing Grace," and when the wind blows just right the notes chime in the right order: "A-ma-zi-ing Grace, how sweet the sound..."

OK. Gotta go grade some papers. Fun times. Oh, and Project Runway's season finale is tonight!! Yeah, I have some favorite "guilty pleasure" T.V. shows...Oh, this makes me laugh: One of my students was asking me today what I do at home, and he seriously thought that I was the kind of person who "sat in a chair, drank tea, and read books all night." :) I do love to read, and this very description fits me perfectly at times during the week, but man I need to UNWIND and indulge in some mindless T.V. now and then (no, not now and then...every night). So that's what I'm going to do now...and grade papers at the same time. :)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Unheard Melodies

I heard about this "ring" of bloggers today and decided I wanted to be part of the community. :) I really like this idea that cyberspace can be a place where we can experience community and give us the opportunity to be a part of each other's daily lives.

Lately I've been craving community and family, especially since my sister is so far away...(though we talk on the phone for hours and hours). I also want to get to know Rivendell better, to really be able to call myself a part of this family, and this seems to be the perfect way to get started!

So, today I've been trying to think of a name for my blog. I know I could have just used my own name or something like that, but noooo, I have to make it so much more complicated and come up with something literary and symbolic (I'm an English teacher, of course). So two of my favorite poems came to mind. (And please know that these are two of my favorite poems from my English major days, days when I rarely read anything fluffy or more accessible...Truthfully I don't sit around reading Keats and Yeats and Hopkins etc. for fun, though they're great if you want an intellectual challenge or want to sound really smart when you say to your friends, "So I was reading Keats last night, and was intrigued by his discussion of the truth we can find in the beauty of art.")

Yeah. So I guess that's what I'm saying right now: Tonight I was reading Keats and was intrigued by his discussion of a piece of pottery. "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, / Pipe to the spirit ..." Keats, in his "Ode on a Grecian Urn" http://www.bartleby.com/101/625.html is contemplating the truth he finds in the beauty of this urn (if only I could come up with something this profound by staring at my dollar-store bargain ceramic rainbow-colored coffee mug). Keats is talking about how art can capture a moment in time and preserve it for eternity; about how the quiet truth and beauty we see in the world around us speaks to our souls more than to our physical ears and minds, and is so much more profound than any complicated explanation we could compose.

But there's the irony. In order to express this sentiment, this idea of quiet, eternal truth, Keats had to write this deep, lenthy, wordy poem. He put words to something that he's saying needs no words of explanation. And I guess that's how I feel sometimes--you see things or hear things or feel the rustle of the Lord's whisper in your soul and the truth and beauty of the moment is so overwhelming it seems futile to explain it in words, but what else do we have? How else are we to share these things with each other?

Back to the Grecian Urn--the urn Keats is describing pictures two lovers leaning in for a kiss, but they have been locked in this moment of anticipation for eternity. There's another idea I like about this assertion that "unheard melodies are sweeter": there are many moments of joy and beauty on this earth, but that feeling of homesickness, that anticipation of eternity, is even sweeter than the sastifaction of our earthly longings. It always hurts, but that feeling helps us remember that we are made for something more.

That brings me to my blog's name--"Heart in Hiding." Well, for one thing, "unheardmelodies" was already taken. Grrr. So I went for a quote from another favorite poem, "The Windhover," by Gerard Manly Hopkins: http://www.bartleby.com/122/12.html

The speaker in this poem is watching a beautiful Falcon, the prince of the sky, gracefully ride the waves of the wind. The Falcon represents the beauty and majesty of Christ, and the speaker's "heart in hiding / stirred for a bird," inspired by and yearning for the Falcon's beauty and freedom. My heart is also "in hiding," anchored to the ground and covered up by all of the crap of the world so that it can't fly. But it stirs for something better, yearns to take flight and soar with Jesus!

Well, thanks for bearing with my big long explanation of my blog's name. I sometimes over-analyze things ;). But I guess that's kind of what a blog is for...right? It's exciting to have kind of a forum to express some of those quiet "melodies" that the Lord sings to my coax my heart out of "hiding," urging me to fly with him! I've already been inspired by many of you, and am looking forward to getting to know you all better!