Author Archives: Traci Smith

Day Thirteen: Reclaim #NPCAdvent

Today’s Prompt: Write about something you wish to reclaim

reclaimNPCadvent

For me, Bible art journaling has helped me to reclaim the wonder and joy of scripture. Because it’s Sunday and I’m exhausted, I’m not going to write any more, but I’ll refer to other posts on Bible Journaling HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Twelve: Perspective #NPCAdvent2015

perspectiveupsidedown

Today’s Prompt: Write about perspective 

 

I’m embarrassed to say that when the above photo was taken, I would have rather stayed inside. I was snuggled in our cabin, reading a book, drinking some tea. We were about to eat dinner.

Mama can we play outside? Mama? Maaaaaaammaaaaaaaaa! Can we play outside?

I got outside and couldn’t believe that I wasn’t already out there. The sunset took my breath away. I closed my eyes and gave thanks to God for the beauty of nature, and two little boys who weren’t content to stay inside.

Oh, and since this day is all about perspective, I’ll tell you: I turned that picture upside down. (the sky is on the bottom) 🙂

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

 

Day Eleven #NPCAdvent2015 #Burn

burn

Today’s Prompt: Write about a time you were burned.

 

Stared at the screen for five minutes trying to decide if I wanted to write about being physically burned or burned in that other emotional sense. Decided on the physical sense.

Mama always says Don’t forget the sunscreen.  She means it literally because our skin is so, so fair. But she means it in a more figurative sense. Be prepared. Bring what you need.  When I went to Nicaragua in college for a work trip, I’m certain I brought sunscreen. Problem is, I didn’t expect the van to break down. (Maybe it was a bus, don’t remember).

I remember sitting on the side of the road feeling the sun on my bare shoulders knowing that it was burning me. I remember looking around and there being absolutely no shade. No trees. No structures. Just open air. In retrospect I wonder why I didn’t get back in the vehicle for shade, but maybe I couldn’t. I don’t remember.

What I do remember is how much worse the burn was than I thought. It wasn’t just red, it blistered. I was burned on an oven in college, too, and burned from putting my foot on the edge of a campfire ring, and this was worse than both of those. I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t want to shower. Couldn’t decide the next day whether to wear a sleeveless shirt and expose myself to more sun (how could I put sunscreen on the blisters?) or endure the pain of having a shirt on my shoulders. Can’t remember what I chose.

I’m not sure what lessons there are in this story, I’m just following the “rules” I made for myself and writing about the topic at hand. I’m almost out of time. I will say this: never, ever, have I been sunburned so badly as I was on that day. I think it was that awful burn, not mama’s reminding, that causes me to never forget the sunscreen now.

— 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

 

 

 

 

Day 10 #Ancient #NPCAdvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about something ancient.

ancient

The words of scripture are ancient. Two thousand years old. Yet I read them, and paint them, and seek to understand them. These ancient texts, these old, old words. What do they mean?

 

PS – I used my 20 minutes yesterday painting this, not writing. I don’t regret it. Some days have too many words, already.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day 9: Delight #NPCAdvent2015 #Advent

delight2015

 

Today’s Prompt: Write about a great delight.

It has been a spiritual challenge for me to reflect on the word delight today. Today I’ve felt much more pensive, even sad, than I have delighted. Today there was a hearing in Austin about licensing family detention centers as child-care facilities. It felt so sad to me because I remember last advent feeling this certainty that family detention was not long for this country. Certainly, I thought people will learn about how awful this is and shut it down.  It hasn’t been shut down. The government is trying to institutionalize it.

I started out the day trying to write down some feelings about all of the hate-filled anti-Muslim speech that is flying around the twitterverse. I stared at the screen and wondered how scared my Muslim neighbors might be in these days.  I plunked out some words that felt wholly insufficient.

I had a lot of work to do today and I worked through it steadily, but I needed a break.  I kept getting distracted by the enormity of the world’s grief. (I know I’m not the only one who experiences this, amen?) Something reminded me about the fact that the Sandy Hook Massacre happened during my first advent in Texas. I cried through the entire sermon and my parishioners did too. My boys were both still drinking from bottles at the time. Sandy Hook + immigration detention + hate speech = Monkey brain. I decided to re-arrange my day and pick up Clayton from school, pick up Sam and Elias and go walk the Salado Creek trail. I figured I could come back to work late to finish up, which I did. It was the best decision of the day.

We let the boys run a few feet ahead of us and we saw them stop and point excitedly at the sky. When we caught up, we heard them saying “Rainbow! Rainbow!” It wasn’t a rainbow, just some wispy clouds streaked across the sky in an arc. They skipped along. We saw deer.

I thought about my responsibilities here on earth. Can’t I just ignore the fact that the world is full of hate and injustice and walk outside instead?  I wondered. I was reminded of this famous rabbinical phrase: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” In other words: we do what we can do. I can’t ignore the fact that immigration detention is still here, even though I want to. I can’t ignore all of these other things weighing on my heart this day either. But it’s not my responsibility to solve it all.

Today my delight was in seeing Clayton and Samuel skipping ahead of me, finding rainbows in the clouds and grabbing each other by the neck. They inspire me to do what I can do to make it so for other children too.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Eight: Fearless #NPCAdvent2015

fearless

Today’s Prompt: Write about a time when you were fearless.

This is one of those prompts that has me staring at the screen, blankly.

The times that people have called me fearless have been the times I’ve been the most scared.

My friend Kyndall taught me a lot about the relationship between fear and strength. When you corral your fear and focus it, it becomes your superpower. She told me a story about that one time. It had a werwolf and stairs and an attic for sure. I think there were wings involved as well, and maybe a mirror. I think she will publish it one day.

It’s hard for me to write about a time when I was fearless, but it might have been the first time I ever read a poem I had written out loud. I didn’t think it was very good at all but I wanted Kyndall to read her poems, so I proposed this crazy idea that we do a poetry event together. It was magical. The people loved the poem. It was about my son Clayton and something he said to me when he was getting dressed. I’m a pastor and so I speak to people every week. It’s just a poem I said to myself. Just words on a page. But they aren’t just words on a page. They’re my words about my little boy and what if everybody thinks it’s a stupid poem. 

At the end everyone said “awwww.” They loved it. It was the moment I transformed from a person who plunked out awkward writings on random files in my computer to a poet.  Fearless.

I’ll always be grateful to Kyndall for writing such beautiful poetry that I would risk throwing my mediocre poetry up alongside it just to have the opportunity to speak in the same space as her. She’s fearless, but I am, too.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Seven: Hope #NPCAdvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about something hopeful or hopeless.

hope

I can’t remember who said recently “this advent seems particularly dark,” but I agree. So many things on the news. Lots of emotion on social media. Worries. Fears. Our family has been burdened this week by the suffering of friends in Colombia. I’ve been grateful for some time in nature and time with family.

As a pastor I’m regularly asked some variation of “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” I never have a satisfactory answer.

It’s at times like these that I think of St. Augustine’s lovely quote: 

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

It’s a reminder that when we see things in our world that lead to despair, we are to work to change them, to make a difference, to stand up. I struggle sometimes with how to work for peace and justice in the world in ways that seem authentic and compassionate. I want to be clear about what I believe and bold about advocating for the changes that I think will make a difference in the world, especially when it comes to making the world a better place for future generations.  I’m aware that not everyone sees things in the same way I do, however.

I love John Mayer’s song Belief  on this topic. The lyrics in their entirety are worth listening to, but the first stanza is this:

Is there anyone who ever remembers changing their mind from paint on a sign? Is there anyone who really recalls ever breaking rank at all for something someone yelled real loud one time? Everyone believes in how they think it ought to be. 

It’s such a reminder that the changes we seek in the world don’t usually happen because we yell loudly or tweet a lot or hold up billboards (though there is a time for yelling and tweeting and billboards, of course… to every thing there is a season.)

Advent hope… I’m not sure what it means for me this year, so I light a candle, drink some tea and wait.

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Six: Solo

Today’s Prompt: Write about what the word solo means to you. 

solo2015

Some things we do alone… solo.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Five: Restore #npcadvent #advent

restore

Today’s Prompt: Write about a time when you were restored to health or wholeness.

We’re a few hours away from leaving our two day retreat with my parents at Mo Ranch. We get to see each other in person so infrequently, that we decided the best way to use the time would be to spend a couple of days out of town, to connect with nature. It’s been so wonderful and beautiful, and so soul restoring. We’ve been (mostly) away from our phones and internet. If we want to use them, we have to get in the car and drive to where there’s access. That, in itself, has been a gift. It’s been like having the phone on “do not disturb” the entire time.

Thus, I’m not going to spend much more time writing this morning on restore, other than to say, I’m living and experiencing it as we speak. When I think of restore, I think of Psalm 23 “You lead me beside still waters. You restore my soul.” Don’t those waters look still?

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try. 

 

 

Day Four: Destination #NPCAdvent2015 #advent

 

npcadventTMSDestination

Today’s Prompt: Write about a time when you failed to reach your destination.

Solvitur ambulando is a Latin phrase that means it is solved by walking.  For so many of the problems we face in life, be they physical, mental or spiritual: solvitur ambulandoI think this is one of the reasons I love walking the labyrinth so much. The labyrinth is a walk that has three parts: walking toward the center, sitting in the center, and walking out. The shape of the labyrinth is strange but wonderful. The walk takes you near the center, far outside it and back to the middle, several times. One must focus only on the steps immediately in front, otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

I’ve walked many labyrinths and come away with different insight each time. Sometimes the insight comes right away, sometimes it comes days later. Most of the time the simple process of walking the labyrinth is meaningful…solvitur ambulando.  

They mystery of the labyrinth is, for me, in the process of walking. The destination is unclear, the journey is the destination.

I’m on a retreat with my family through tomorrow, so I’ll leave it here for today. See you tomorrow to talk about restore. 

To learn more about labyrinths go HERE.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.