Wednesday, February 29, 2012

in clover: courage, in color

Brene Brown has this to say about courage: 

The root of the word courage is cor -- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.
Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.
Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn't get braver than that.

Recently I had the pleasure of shopping for art supplies.  They have been sitting in a bag in our breakfast nook, tempting Little C (and me) almost beyond comprehension but we’ve managed to restrain ourselves and tonight we break out the pristine paper and fresh markers, pencils and pastels.  Tonight the ChristCare group I lead will begin a Lenten practice inspired by the book “Praying in Color” by Sybil Macbeth.  Those who show up for Cultivating Mindfulness tonight will meditatively pray for friends and loved ones, through drawing and coloring.

We’ll express these prayers visually and in vivid color.  No words required.   In the weeks that follow we will intentionally focus on portions of our lives that we wish to pray for…in color.  We will pay attention to and acknowledge personal challenges, our growing edges...we'll even draw the whiny, stinky, childish parts of our lives that the author says calls for compost prayers.  We will name our gifts.  We will express our gratitude.   We will chronicle our spiritual histories.  In the end we will hold prayer filled visual images…icons, if you will…that not only represent the prayer that guided their creation but will also serve as a visual reminder to remain in or return to prayer. 

Some in the group are very excited.  Some have bought their own sketch books and markers and colored pencils, anticipating this particular prayer practice might just stick.  Some are quite anxious. They are concerned because they do not consider themselves “creative” or “artistic.”  Some are both excited and anxious. Some are afraid.  In her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd says, “I cannot tell you how many women I meet who say, ‘Oh, I’m just not creative.’   It breaks my heart, because every woman IS creative in some way, and every woman’s creativity is valuable.” 

It breaks my heart, too.  Over and over again, I have heard it.  Many times it has been my own voice, ringing in my ears.  

I have a couple of cameras and I truly love using them.  I know that material things can’t bring true happiness but there a few things I would really, really miss if I lost them.  My camera would top the list.  I can remember, as a pre-teen, watching my Dad use his Minolta SLR.  I wanted that camera.  Bad.  I had a Kodak Instamatic but to me, that small instamatic was not a REAL camera.  My Dad’s camera was REAL.  I wanted to thread film and change lenses.   I wanted the bag full of gear and I wanted that big, bulky camera hanging by a strap around my neck.  I took a photography class my senior year of high school and had access to a real camera, a Nikon, and a darkroom but it wasn’t until Michael and I were engaged that I graduated from owning an instamatic to a more real point and shoot 35 mm…a gift from his folks.  And it wasn’t until Little C was born that I finally splurged and bought a really real digital slr camera and a couple of lenses.  And a bag for all the stuff.  And a tripod.  It came with the strap. 

Once I saw a status on FaceBook that read, “Buying a camera does not make you a photographer.  Just sayin.”   

As someone who had finally acquired a real camera and was enjoying taking what I felt like were, for the first time in my life, real photographs, this really pissed me off.   I sat and stewed for a good long time.  And then I realized that as much as I hated to admit it, this person is correct.  Buying a camera does not make you a photographer.  But buying a camera and using it to capture images sure does.  Using that camera, no matter the results, absolutely makes you a photographer.  Just sayin. 

No one has an exclusive claim on creativity.  NO ONE. But it does take courage, the kind of of courage Brene Brown speaks of, to claim your creativity.  It takes a willingness to lean into, rather than run from, feelings of extreme vulnerability.  It takes turning a deaf ear to those voices in your head that whisper or perhaps shout, “You are not a REAL artist.”  

In her book, "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter," Sue Monk Kidd says that we must begin by acknowledging our creativity and then “Second, we must explore it.  Ask yourself, “What is my deepest passion, really?  What moves me profoundly?”  And let the answer float up from the truest, most vulnerable place in your heart.  Greet this answer like it is your newborn self being placed in your arms.  Love it.  Bond with it.  Feed it.  Don’t push it aside, minimize, make excuses, and starve this thing of beauty, because this answer is a window into your creative life.” 

Finally Monk Kidd acknowledges that we need to commit to our creative path. She says she meets many women “with books inside them they never write down….women with all kinds of dazzling projects their souls have concocted that for some reason they never get around to manifesting.”  She talks about the difference between “sacred dawdling” and “resistance to act” but in the end, she says, “The main thing is to stop struggling and nourish yourself.  When you nourish yourself, your creative energy is renewed.  You are able to pick up your lyre again and sing.”

And so tonight I look forward to being nourished.  I look forward to being with a group willing to abide to a covenant of vulnerability.  I look forward to connecting with God…to telling my story and listening to theirs.  We will be praying and meditating and drawing and coloring.  This group of creative and courageous women, despite their anxiety and discomfort and fear, will show up to pray for others…maybe for you.  And they will be praying in color.  




  1. Quite appropriate to begin this on Leap Day, don't you think?

  2. I love that it is Leap Day - I wish we had some kind of Leap Day tradition. I am going to think a bit about courage.

  3. Lisa,
    Love this! Great picture with the pink tights and shoes!!

  4. Thank you, Tanya! Those are the fabulously chic feet of my brother and sister-in-law, waiting for the wedding ceremony of yet another sister to begin.

    Thanks for commenting, Tanya, and for validating my amateurish photography skills. :)

  5. Me likes this post. Great writing and very entertaining.


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