In My Camper, Along the River

Journal Entry for Wednesday, November 29, 2017

It’s amazing to think of what my life is now and of my journey to get to this point. Here I am in a beautiful camper sitting along the Mississippi River watching the swift current as I bask in the lovely warm sun and drink tea from a handmade mug from my favorite spot in Florida.

I remember being in the throes of motherhood – dishes, diapers, runny noses, dirty floors, constant school work to grade, mounds of laundry- all the while feeling ill and wondering if I would ever get through. There were joy-filled moments, but because of my illnesses, I was often depressed and just hanging on. My being was filled with unexpressed creativity with no time to release it. I saw people travel to interesting places, but we always visited family, not only because we wanted to see them, but also because it was affordable. In my spare moments, I escaped through Christian novels to things new and exotic. The older mothers told me to cherish those times because they go so quickly and you long for them later. I really thought I might drown in overwhelming exhaustion before I would get to that point.

But here I am. My beautiful, energetic boys have grown to handsome, successful men. They have grown and flown. Our nest is empty. I admit to having struggled for a time without my boys. And still at times missing them startles me with sudden waves of pain. I have, however, made it through the mid life transition. I almost felt like I had to free myself of “the homeschool mom” mentality by getting rid of all our homeschooling materials and the bookcase after bookcase filled with books. And ultimately, I needed to sell the house in order to move on. I couldn’t figure out who I was in that house without homeschooling. And the boys I had trained to clean it weren’t there to help anymore! Lol.

So the books have found new homes. The home has found new occupants. And I have found a new identity: Traveling Artist. Creativity has always wanted to pour from within me. And new places have beckoned me to “come, explore.” So, here I am in my camper, watching the barges traverse the rapid waters and clinging to God in this new phase of life. The life after little kids. The life that doesn’t seem to have quite as much purpose as raising the next generation, and yet is filled with time. Time to rest and rejuvenate. Time to heal my body. Time to meet people, look them in the eye and listen to their stories. Time to see my husband as more than a life-line that shows up after a day away at work when I am at my rope’s end. Time to learn how to reign in my thoughts and enter in to joy.

And time to draw ever closer to the one who made me to be the creative person that I am – my Father – THE Creator and Lover of my soul. He has blessed. There is Hope. There is Joy. I will enter in. I will embrace this new phase of life and live it with abandon, with the excited expectation of God using me again, even if my life is so very different than it was or even than other women my age. And that’s okay. I am right where I am supposed to be. Along the river. In my camper.

Maine and Watercolor Painting

I’m planning our next adventure! Ever since 1999, I have wanted to go to Maine and I’m researching campgrounds and activities. My, oh my, there seems to be a lot to do in Maine. But what happened in 1999 that has brought on this Maine bug? So glad you asked!

Our three sons were just youngsters then and I was homeshooling them. They were finally to an age that we needed to do some real art rather than just color and paste. So, I bought a book about watercolor painting.

We didn't have internet in 1999, so I endeavored to learn watercolor painting from books.

We didn’t have internet in 1999, so I endeavored to learn watercolor painting from books.

I had always remembered the title of the book as, Watercolor Painting for the Artistically Challenged and have told the story with that title. But as I was sorting through the art books, I came across the wonderful gem again. It is actually Watercolor for the Artistically Undiscovered which is a MUCH better name! This little book gave our sons and me the confidence to try it for ourselves!

These are just a few of the watercolor paintings that our sons did for homeschool in 1999.

These are just a few of the watercolor paintings that our sons did for homeschool in 1999.

It didn’t matter that we had no clue what we were doing. We were artists..but just undiscovered! I practiced right along with them and found that I really enjoyed it! So, I bought more books, practiced some and then decided to try a real painting. A favorite photo from my childhood was just begging to be painted.

One of my favorite photos from my childhood.

One of my favorite photos from my childhood.

This sunset stroll was captured by my dad. I’m that itty bitty baby girl between my mom and my four big brothers. Such a tender moment and two of my favorite things: family and sunsets. I always wished my dad was in the photo too. So, I set out to paint this gem.

I placed a hat on my dad because he loves hats. It was wonderful to see the whole family together, but I wasn’t too happy with the painting. In trying to get sunset colors, it just got muddy looking. I did frame it, but it has been in our bedroom where people can’t see it. I probably would have stopped with art right then except for my dad.

My first attempt at a watercolor painting.

My first attempt at a watercolor painting.

It was nearing Christmas time and he oooed and awwwed over this painting of our family. Then he said those exciting but terrifying words. As he hugged me good-bye, he whispered, “Paint me a lighthouse for Christmas.” WHAT?! How could he think I could do that? Obviously, my painting skills were lacking. But I sure wanted to do something special for him. He has always made incredible works of art and given them to me for Christmas. So, I looked at photos of lighthouses, picked my favorite one and gave it a go.

This is the lighthouse that I painted for my dad.

This is the lighthouse that I painted for my dad.

It was so much fun working with more colors rather than just sunset colors! I still really didn’t have a clue what I was doing with watercolor painting, but I was happier with the results and inspired. Inspired to try more artistic endeavors. Inspired by a dad who knew just when to urge me a bit further.

Since then, I have always wanted to go to Maine and take my own photo of this lighthouse, Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth. I’d love to sit on the shore and sketch it too. Can’t wait to go!! And in the meantime, I hope I have encouraged you to just give it a go. Is there some form of art that has been calling your name, but you have been afraid to try? I’m whispering to you now, “Paint me a lighthouse!”