Carefully Planned

I am reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh book, War Within and Without. It is the last of her “diary/journal/memoir” five part series of books starting with her flight adventures with aviator husband Charles continuing through the kidnap, death and publicity craziness and grief of their first born son, then their living in England and France in “exile” to escape the prying eyes and now settling back in the states at the beginning of WWII when Europe is engaging into war.

Found book at a "Free Little Library”.

Found book at a "Free Little Library”.

It is a fascinating look into the mindset of Americans during this period of history (the time before America entered the war), especially as Anne writes as the history is unfolding, almost in a “real time” viewpoint all the while we are reading it knowing the outcome of history. While Lindbergh has been vilified at times and definitely found with feet of clay (a decade or so ago it was disclosed of his three mistresses and their collective families). It is an honest look at a flawed hero and heroine of our time.

I am finding many parallels to our current political situation and while it is alarming (we as a society should take note), it is also comforting in knowing that if things should happen again we can prevail.

One light hearted anecdote occurs early on in the memoir. Anne is describing a delightful weekend that Charles and she experienced with a French diplomat. Anne, who was the interpreter for Charles and the guest thoroughly enjoyed the visit as this gentleman asked questions of her too, as a writer and about mutual books. The intellectual exercise in their discourse and discussions was enjoyed by all three of them.

At one point in the recounting, Anne says that all three of them were having a deep and lively discussion as they were driving from one location to another. The car suddenly stopped. The reason- out of gas. Charles had forgotten to fill up before they took off!

Anne doesn’t elaborate too much only that it was astonishing for Charles to be so unprepared and only underscored how intrigued he was in their discussions. After all, aviator Charles A. Lindbergh was the king supreme of the check-list. In fact, the preflight checks that are standard with airplanes were designed by Charles. He had checklists for everything. Even his discussions with his children and their goals and plans were kept in checklist form on index cards.

Just goes to show you that to ere is human.

I enjoy hearing about human foibles. Not for the purpose of gloating but more for the purpose of identity: we are all in the same boat and we are all in the position of needing humility. Any human who seems “perfect” is not. Just look at the news and the darling of yesterday is the scourge of tomorrow.

I also am encouraged when I hear that even planners forget to plan and that even the best laid plans can go awry. It is another way of remaining humble: we may carefully plan situations but most often they may take another turn. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t plan what we can. It is just that we need to be open to whatever turns the plans may take.

The Bible has many verses talking about acknowledging plans and asking for guidance:

“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper and not to harm you.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Ask and it will be given you” Matthew 5; 7

Although I think many people might view these verses as “ask the genie in the bottle”/fairy-godmother type verse. God is not like that. He is powerful and almighty and deserves and expects reverence. The thing is, His plans are the best. In our limited viewpoint, we sometimes think that we know the best for ourselves. After all, isn’t that what all the self-help books are about- the individual helping his/herself? Not that there isn’t good information in those type of books. It is just that while we are to “know thyself”, we need to rely on the One who created us and His knowing of ourselves.

I sometimes need to be reminded that it is in the spirit of humility when I ask, then I receive. When I trust, I do not worry about harm.

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 16:19 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Proverbs 3: 5,6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

What about you? Are you a planner? Do you have trouble relinquishing control of your life? Have you ever had an incident where the very thing for which you are known, you negatively experienced? (Like planner Lindbergh running out of gas?) How did that play out? Was it embarrassing? Did you laugh it off as another humbling incident?

I have recently taken Proverbs 19:21 to heart. While I have many plans in my heart- for myself, family and friends- I recognize that God’s purpose will prevail. And I choose that.

"No Accountin' for Taste..."

Vivien Oswell's,   Little Petunia in an Onion Patch

Vivien Oswell's,  Little Petunia in an Onion Patch

All art should inspire and make us think about life in a different way.  This little artwork does so for me.   Currently it is hanging in front of me as I sit at my desk. I know that it is an odd image (as my brother-in-law would say, no accountin' for taste...) but the whole process of acquiring the painting, the life and value of the artist and the subject itself speaks to me and encourages me. 

I know that it is not very aesthetically pleasing.  But some things in life are not.  As much as we want things to be otherwise, we can get stuck in the muck and dirt.  It can be very humbling especially when we picture ourselves as a beautiful flower in an idyllic setting and think we are above the mud.  The reality is that we are more in the dirt than we think.  Humble and humus come from the same root words- from the earth. Humility is not a weak character trait;  it is one that cultivates growth. The painting reminds me to be humble in all my endeavors.

Sometimes we are placed in situations that just don't seem to fit.  We are flowers that for whatever reason- circumstances, choices, temperament- we find ourselves growing in a totally unlikely place. We may want to cry over our situation but we can also think of our placement as necessary.  Necessary to maintain balance for ourselves- remaining humble despite what we think we deserve.   Necessary for others to see life in a different way- one can bloom even when the environment seems hostile.  We are called to make the best out of our lives and sometimes we have to live that adage, not just say it. 

The artist always felt that her talent was God's gift to her.  She has been faithful to that gift most of her life, continuing to paint even in her nineties. I first saw this painting three years ago when I had strolled into an artist's guild studio in one of the little villages on the Cape.  At the guild, each artist takes a turn at the sales desk so on the day I visited, Vivien happened to be behind the desk.  I liked her other paintings but was struck by the oddity of this subject, flower and onions against her boating, beach and floral scenes.  When I asked her about it, she said that she wanted to try something different.  She even sang the song to me, "I'm a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch" on which the picture was based. We had a lovely conversation about art, the sense of calling and how one needs to persevere in the art practice.  At the time I debated purchasing the painting.  It wasn't "attractive" so I didn't.  Yet over the last three years, I would think about it and think of Vivien.  I would recall her story and it would encourage me.  "Next time I am at the Cape I need to see if I can get it." 

The original sheet music.  Click here to hear it.

The original sheet music. Click here to hear it.

This year, I decided to go back to the guild and purchase it.  When we went in, we found Ms. Oswell's collection but this painting wasn't there on the wall.   I was so disappointed.   When I asked the artist in attendance about the painting and if Ms. Oswell was still painting (I didn't want to ask if she was still alive, for she is 95 after all)  she said that Vivien had suffered a cardiac incident but was recovering at home. She then suggested that I contact Ms. Oswell to ask her about that specific painting.  When I finally got up the courage to call her (it is daunting to contact an artist, especially one not well), Ms. Oswell answered the phone and said to come on over to her house/studio. She was all excited saying she had the original.  We made an appointment to meet at her house.  When we got there, she was up, alert and didn't look at all that she had any health issues.  She was sitting in her living room/art gallery.  There were wooden bins of prints and paintings all around the perimeter.  Various sized canvases were stacked against the wall.  There appeared to be hundreds of her works scattered all around.    She proudly showed us a painting of a bowl of petunias. While the painting was beautiful it was not the one I wanted.   I was crestfallen!

I then asked- what about the one with the petunia in the onion patch?  Generally I am not that bold as to make specific requests of others but at that point, I was not going to let any stone be unturned.  She thought for a moment and then immediately sprang out of her chair- no walker for her- and sorted through a collection of paintings leaning against her fireplace and produced it.  I felt such relief,  joy and satisfaction in purchasing it.  

Sometimes we need to pursue that which inspires us and makes us happy.  The item might not be hanging where we first saw it and so we have to ask questions and do a little digging.  We need to pursue those inspirations because we need reminders of why we are doing what we are doing.  We may find ourselves feeling out of sorts and in the wrong place so we need that encouragement of a word, a quote or even a picture. And sometimes we need to remain where we are and bloom regardless of how things are situated around us. 

What about you?  Have you ever been inspired by a painting, picture, quote or word?  What was it?  Why do you think that it struck a chord with you?   

Another Vivien Oswell's in our upstairs hallway.

Another Vivien Oswell's in our upstairs hallway.

One Hand

This week I committed the cardinal sin of kitchens. I placed a sharp cutting knife in the soapy dishwater and forgot about it.  Only when I was washing the dishes did I come upon it- by slicing the tip of my left-hand, middle finger.  

Yikes.  Talk about blood. God love my "faint upon seeing blood" husband. (He now has a sticker in his medical chart.  He must lie down with his feet preventively above his head when he gets labs drawn.  Too many times when he passed out giving a small vial to check his hemoglobin,etc.) 

Once I got the bleeding somewhat under control, he helped me put a butterfly bandage on it. He always amazes me.  He knows just what to do and does it.  Part of it comes from his first aid training in Boy Scouts.  In fact, he was the one who taught the class at Boy Scout camp.  I always wondered how did that work?  Didn't he faint as he taught the class?  "Purely theoretical", he replies.  (It is after the crisis is over, will he have to lie down and let the color return to his face.) 

I now have 2 butterfly bandages on my finger, plus a flexible fabric bandage to contain the antibiotic ointment and another knuckle bandage over top of it all.  It really extends my middle finger so that when I move my hand, I look like I am perpetually ticked off at everyone. (which some days describes my mood)

The thing is, having limited use of my left hand is a big annoyance.  It is just a small appendage, but I have to rethink what I am doing.  I don't want to get that hand wet because the soggy bandages have to be continually changed. I don't want to use it when I garden because I don't want dirt in my cut.  So many things I do, require that I use both hands and for the time being I can't.

"Two hands are better than one".  That is certainly an apropos adage. Two hands can provide strength, support, and symmetry. For us as individuals we need to have the balance of both sides.

It makes me thing that in the global sense, we need two hands;  we need the balance of both sides.  We need the strength, support and symmetry that comes when there is more than just one idea, one way of doing something, or one solution.

With my one handedness, I have to ask my husband to help.  I find that it is quite a bother because I am, as I have mentioned before, an independent cuss.  It is humbling to have someone else button a button or fix a clasp. 

But isn't that what we are asked to do?  Help others?  Give support?  Provide strength? Be humble? 

Just like we need two hands, we need one another. 

What about you?  Ever have trouble with your appendages?  Temporarily or permanently?  What did you learn with that experience?