“The sweetest thing in all my life
has been the longing …
to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
CS Lewis ‘Til We Have Faces
As one who prefers ink and paper, I’m a writer who reluctantly blogs and occasionally speaks. Heidi L. Paulec, here, I welcome you to this fresh space of my more present thoughts.
My first focused writing project spanned two decades of research and soul-searching. The Shadows Project gathered dust for a number of years. The subject: the tender topic of a family’s intimate grief… my family… our loss… our wrestling the shadows.
The delay? A combination of living life and tarrying in timidity.
The release: Beginning in January 2016, we began releasing weekly our family’s Perspectives (written in first person) as well as my thoughts in the process of plowing through this enormous undertaking as well as emotionally vulnerable project. A deep thanks to those of you who’re participating with us in the progressive release of that work…more on that in a bit.
Through this incubating project period, various tensions vied for my personal energies and focus… My own branch of our family tree needed tending. My high school sweetheart husband and I married. We earned degrees. And we continue to prioritize lifelong learning whether formal education or otherwise. We’re readers and dreamers and do-ers who enjoy making lifelong friends. We intentionally parent and nurture our three children encouraging academic and athletic wellness as well as cultivating their distinct interests and gifts.
All this to say, no matter the season, I write every day. I think through my hands. And I still prefer my own eclectic, whimsical cursive to less personal fonts and flairs. The practice is as necessary as breathing for me. Clarity. Calm. Reflection. Sips & Savors. As well as questions, yearnings, angst, and silence. All spill out.
In the process, I sort and sift. Over the years, I’ve learned not to demand summations every day. My finite mind may be tempted to overanalyze or oversimplify often just to tuck something away. But, those things seem to resurface time and again, so I’ve granted myself a slower pace of processing.
“I will walk with the Lord in the land of the living.”
Developing a daily writing regiment consisting of a whole host of miscellaneous thinkings and inklings (with distinct fondness for history, literature, nature studies, and philosophy) while washing dishes, folding laundry, reviewing curriculum, enhancing lesson plans, coaching dance and teaching fitness classes, keeping up with entrepreneur husband, stirring inspiration among our children, participating &/ hosting within our community… you get the idea… was an easy challenge as long as I kept those inklings hidden in personal notebooks, journals, white paper, and yes, napkins.
Overtime, friends and family called out my ability to paint vivid scenes, translate complex into simple terms and vice versa. Several dear souls continue to encourage me to share. Quite honestly, fears got in the way. I let them win far too long. The thought of sharing this process and actually composing more on an actual computer… seemed supremely crazy to me.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus as recorded in John 15:4-5
However, beautiful connections are rising through The Shadow Project. Our connecting illustrates our silent struggle often keep us in silent, but heavy shadows. These connections helped me see how our past pains and pursuit of wholeness drive … and deadened many of us. We find courage through encouragement. And encouragement is contagious. While the tensions tug, bountiful beauty remains… elusive, at times, but as we seek – we find.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength… And love your neighbors as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus as recorded in Matthew 22:37-39
Loving Him with everything, including my joys and my questions… He can handle it all. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion…therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
He bestows life that is really life, and we get to respond to Him in our quiet solitary places as well as together.
And the “together” aspect has become huge for me. We find together in present face-to-face, “May I borrow some sugar?” community. We find together across cyberspheres. We find together in bloodlines and familial legends. We find together in classic literature and world history. We find together as we plan for the future. We find together in moments. We find together in fears and vices as well as courage and virtue. Ultimately, Hope and healing find us together.
Hence, the “orchids & aloe” concept – the webspace reserved for living, wrestling, plowing, cultivating, thriving despite the tensions. Thoughts in progress. Two distinct and lively plants. Delicate and hardy.
Aloe– a useful, hardy, regenerating plant symbolizes the balm of the ordinary, every day. Sometimes, we might be tempted to refer to the ordinary as mundane. And we’re often tempted not to invest adequately in the unseen and the routine, especially in an era of flashing images, short attention spans, and immediate gratification.
Orchids– a vibrant, delicate, delightful, and tender plant that symbolizes the extraordinary, the daring, and most wonder-flowing. We’re created for truth, beauty, and goodness. We may be tempted to settle for less or to exchange excellence over time for mediocrity or maybe temporary notoriety for enduring integrity. On this side of heaven, the delicacies rarely last. And we yearn for more. Yet, the contrast tugs point us continually to the time and place where we join the choir of the ages declaring~
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty Who Was and Is and Is to Come.”
“O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine oceans depths its flow May richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray, That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that sleekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain. That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee. I lay in dust life’s glory dead, And from the ground there blossoms red Life shall endless be.”
O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go by George Matheson
A present-tense processing… the seeking, plowing, finding, sharing, planting, returning thanks. Thank you for sharing this journey.
Again, welcome to orchids & aloe.
My prayer for our shared space:
Oh Lord, Thank you for eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to catch but a glimpse of your Mighty and tender Majesty. Creation reflects You and cries out to You. We are weak, but You are strong. Thank you for the Scriptures and the Spirit. Our desire is Your Joy would be our strength.
Etch rememberings among us, so we may encourage one another.
Awaken fresh delight… “for Great is Your Faithfulness.”
Root us in You- our Living Hope,
Heidi L. Paulec