After putting our little ones on the school bus last Friday morning, my Wednesday study gals and I packed-up two mini-vans and made our way to the beach in Sandbridge, VA.  This was our second annual retreat and each time, I have been amazed at how smoothly these weekends come together as we offer-up our individual gifts and resources. It might be the location (Thanks to our fearless facilitator and beautiful friend who managed to snag a condo for FREE this year!), yummy meals, laughter, a sunset pontoon boat ride, or, in my case,  art-time!  Knowing my love of creating art, these ladies are such good sports to allow me to share my passion with them on these weekends.  So, when one of my girlfriends described our art-time as “art that is more than art,” it seemed to sum-up my feelings in a nut-shell.  For me, the process of creating art is just as meaningful to me as the end-product.  I often see it as a metaphor for life.  Through making art, I have learned so much about myself both on and off the canvas.  I remember what is feels like to be a kid again.  I allow myself to try new things,  to make mistakes, and to trust that it will all work out in the end.  I am messy!  And I am fearless!  (at least most of the time.)

Curled-up on the big leather couch overlooking the ocean, I sat-down with my girlfriends to do some brainstorming around the idea of “soul mantras,”  or words that speak to our souls in the form of comfort or encouragement.  Whether found in scripture, song lyrics, poetry, or other random places, soul mantras provide visual reminders of what our souls yearn to hear as we move through our lives.  After completing an exercise focusing on  particular persons whom we admire (another source of inspiration), we each came-up with a few new mantras, playing around with the words used to describe the characteristics of these persons.  Breathe Gently.  Inspire Grace.  Be Still.  Trust.  Spiritually Strong.


Now tuned into our spirits, we set these words aside and declared our intentions as we prepared to play.  Sitting-down to a blank canvas at a table filled with paints and no paint brushes can be pretty unnerving for some, so I felt it was important for each of us to give ourselves permission to remember what it was like to be our six-year old selves again.  That self that delights in trying new things.  That soul who embraces imperfection.  We gave ourselves permission to play as we wrote reminders on our hands or on sticky notes.  Be 6 (years old)!  Relax.  Be messy.  Work Fast.

And then we played.  We chose colors that delight us and rolled their goodness across the canvas with brayers.  We mushed paint with our fingers.  We created drippies with a spray bottle.

We added texture and life with bubble wrap, toy car wheels, forks, toothpicks, and stencils.  I heard voices exclaiming, “This is fun!  I’d never do this on my own.  It’s so messy!”  And I admired each of my friend’s courage to “just do it.”

Encouraging each other not to get too attached to those first layers, we alternated between adding more paint and creating texture until it felt “done.” How beautiful to witness the unique ways that each person tackled this project!  One worked slowly, gently blending paint with her fingers.  Another found bliss in swirling a toothpick around in the paint.  Each person surrendered to the process in her own, unique way.

Once the canvases were declared, “complete,” we added the finishing touches, our soul mantras.  Using an array of rubber alphabet stamps, letter stencils, and pens, we recorded these spirit reminders right on top of our beautifully messy canvases!

While packing-up the paints and tools, I stood admiring my girlfriends and their works of art.  Not only the art that they created with me, but the art that they live each day.  And I hope that one day, when we find ourselves in need of a little comfort or encouragement, we might catch a glimpse of these soul mantras propped on a shelf or hanging in a closet and smile and remember what it feels like to be six again!

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