Sunday, March 8, 2009


March 8, 2009 pause

It is the comma; the moment between inhale and exhale; that space where words and shapes are not. I remember taking an art class from my friend and neighbor, Rebecca Mann. The basis for our lessons was a book called Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain. One of our lessons was an exercise that required us to draw the spaces around a chair. Of course, in drawing what is known as the “negative space”, the “positive space” of the chair emerged. It looked a little skiwampusy, and I certainly would not want to sit in the one that ended up on my paper, but it was indeed a chair. It was interesting to participate in the creation of it though, because my focus was so intent on capturing the chunk of air between the rungs of the seat back, and the painted wall behind the legs, that it took a blink and a shake of the head to re-focus on the spaces I was not drawing, which in the end became the chair. I remember sitting in Rebecca’s basement and thinking here was life, on this sheet of paper, and the pencil in my hand was my gift of choice. I can choose whatever I want to do…to think…to plan or imagine…it’s my gift from God. I wake in the morning and decide for myself if I want to talk to God. It feels like a one-way conversation, but I usually decide to do it anyway. It is my pause, my “negative space”, the portion no one sees in my life sketch. Only me and God.
I pause on purpose nowadays. Maybe it’s my age and out-of-shapeness. Maybe not. Maybe its wisdom. On the back of the door to my bathroom (maybe I am revealing too much here), in a place you would only see if you were sitting on the potty in your own private space, I have three little reminders to pause. It started with a teeny little red foam heart I found on the floor and stuck up on my door. Every time I see it I offer a prayer for my Sarah Love, because at the time she was struggling, and I was so far away and felt so helpless. But I knew God could do things her mom could not, so I figured since that room is used more regularly than any other room in the house, and it is certainly private, I would beg God’s forgiveness for praying to him in a non-traditional un-kingly setting and ask His help. When Kate came home from her mission and left for Houston to immerse herself in the agony of Jr High in an inner-city school, I added the sticky backed luggage strip from the Hong Kong airport to the door. It underlines the heart. Then, on a random day not too long ago, after Sophie had been visiting, I found little Post It Notes stuck all over the house. Some people would see them as a mess, but I saw them as love notes she left for me. As I stacked them back on top of each other, clearing some room in my bedroom and bathroom, I saved one and opened the door to my pause space. Above the Hong Kong luggage strip, and the little red foam heart, there is a post it note that says Sophie to me. It speaks of all my little ones, of Soph and Park and little Ruby, and of Timo and Anna who are so far away right now. When I see that Post It Note I pause and ponder. I let the angels tell me who needs a prayer for what; but it always begins with Sophie. I could cover the back of that door with a thousand little reminders of people I love and want to pray for. But something tells me to keep it to three. There are other places that bring me to pause for other people.
I could hurry and get things taken care of. Rush from here to there and have my life all figured out. I could focus on all the positive spaces as I draw my own life sketch. But what kind of composition would that be? The moodling moments, the afternoon dreams, the idling engine of my heart that leans on the kitchen counter and thinks of absolutely nothing in particular…these are the pauses that help define me. They not only give me rest from the do-ing; they set the really visible and well crafted moments apart. If Sophie were to draw the sun and she took the whole page, we would not see nor appreciate the beauty of it. It needs a large empty sky, save maybe a cotton candy cloud or two, to make it so wonderful.
Thank you, Rebecca, for teaching me about negative space. I needed that lesson as a songwriter, and I needed it as a mother and a wife and a daughter and a friend. In the end my life is defined as much by the pauses as by the music.


  1. Your moodling on paper is truely amazing and an inspiration to me. I am so glad I found your blog.

  2. As much as I needed John as a husband I really believe that I needed you as a mother in law. You have taught me so much about pausing...something i am actually terrible at. thank you. And you made me cry. Something about knowing someones else loves and prays for your kids is just priceless. i hope i can learn to pause and talk to god the way you do. you amaze me and i love you.

  3. i have big tears streaming down my cheeks! love you!