Jul 3, 2013

Precious Project in the Making

I have this beloved old wooden box with its original gray, weathered paint still on it, that I find myself "displaying" it instead of tucking it away out of sight. While I know it is the "in thing" with artsy gals to love the old, the chipped, and the worn, but I didn't grow up that way at all. Something like this, my mother wouldn't have allowed in the house. It may not even have made it into the shed, but instead, straight into the garbage can.

But I digress. 

As I am still on my new, little adventure, which I will be able to share with you in the near future, this box does play a part of it. As I sort through my various treasures, of all kinds, I needed to find a place for those few lost souls, that I couldn't part with, but I am sure, I "will need them for a project." But I am trying very hard to organize and sort my treasures and really eliminate those that have been waiting for such a project for years now, and let's be honest, some of those projects I am either not interested in any longer, or they aren't "me" any longer, or, I just can't remember what the heck that fab project was going to be in the first place!

But for those few trinkets, that I am still convinced that belong within arm's reach for that sudden spark of frenzy when I am sure my next idea is exactly what I need to do...I needed a place for those trinkets that I never tire of because if at the very least, I love to look at them, touch them, and remember where, when, and how I came across them.

Sometimes, I think the older I get, the more simpler I get. Not to be confused with simple-minded, mind you. Although, there are those that may argue that. And it seems that the more complicated the world gets, the more I rebel against it. The elderly are becoming a lot more understandable to me in their way of thinking as I get older, it seems. I remember hearing dad, sometimes grumbling about the world, and its lack of morals, or how people just don't talk to each other anymore (ha! way before the invention of cell phones and texting!). But then again, he rode his mule to school and graduated with only 12 kids from a one-room school house in rural Nebraska. But for the most part, he adapted pretty darn well from riding a mule to owning a Harley Davidson for about a week when I was about 13, for what I am assuming was his very short-lived mid-life crises that mom quickly ended.

But I digress again...

I remember one time, many, many years ago, while living in Texas, when I was seeing a wonderful counselor who was helping through a very difficult and painful time in my life, he had me do a break through exercise. It was the coolest exercise...

Here you do it and then I will explain:

Have someone read the following to you, you need a partner:

(In order for this to really work, you HAVE to stop reading right now, and go find someone to read this following. If you read ahead to my experience, then your experience will be tainted, and I promise you, you will be mad at yourself, because this is such a cool exercise, and you will have ruined it for yourself...so stop right now...come back when you have someone and the time to do it...it really is cool!)

Have your partner and you get relaxed and have her/him read:

Close your eyes and relax. Now imagine a box, any kind of box at all.(Pause) Take your time and really, really study your box and really see it. Don't rush, take your time and really see it. Do you see it? (Pause) Study it really well. You got it in your head? (Pause) What size is it? What is it made of? Where is your box? After several minutes of really seeing your box, keep your eyes shut, and just watch it for a minute or so and see what the box is doing.

Now, look inside your box...what do you see? Look around inside and really study what you see. Describe in detail what you see. Does it have a lid? Look at the inside of the lid if it has one. What do you see?  

Now before you leave your box, take note of the environment around your box. Is it outside, inside, the weather, anything you notice all around the box...scent, noise, everything that has been going on the entire time around the box...

Okay...open your eyes and tell your friend exactly what you experienced that you didn't already share...starting with the beginning of this exercise. Go over the list of things I asked you about your box and go over in lots of detail...take notes...

I may have forgotten some of the exercise, as it was years ago, but I will tell you what I saw, as I will never forget. Remember, I had no idea what this exercise was for or for what reason we were doing it...this is how I described my box at that time:

My box at that time was covered in precious jewels, emeralds, rubies, diamonds and covered in gold. When I opened it, it was lined with purple satin, but there was no bottom, and it was floating, actually, sort of being whipped around a little in the wind. Inside there were tons and tons of papers that were falling out of the bottom, one by one and flying away. I wasn't grabbing at them at all. When asked to look at the lid, there was a mirror and when asked what did I see, I saw myself! I was just normal, not crying, not laughing, just looking. The sky was blue and sunny. The box never landed or crashed to the ground.  

Okay, what does this all mean? The exercise is to help you sort out that whatever you saw inside, is the answer to whatever personal issue you may be having. You (or the counselor) will have to decode it. How you described your box, is how you are currently feeling about yourself at this moment. What your box is "doing" is how you feel about your issue and how you feel it is taking place in your life. And other details can tell you (or predict) how you are going to (or may) handle your issue. So now that you saw how much detail I had, go back and fill in any other details you may have left out before you read on.

Well, I can only tell you how my therapist decoded my descriptions, and it helped me more than I ever thought a silly exercise ever could for self-awareness:

He said that he was extremely happy that I described my box with so many "precious jewels" and gold...that meant that I still valued myself and I had felt I had self worth (I had been going to therapy almost year, and that was not the case when I first started). He said he liked that I used the word "precious jewels" and not just "jewels"- which words we actually use to describe this exercise really tells us things about ourselves. The purple satin inside meant that I hadn't turned hard like I thought I had (something I worried about at the time) and "purple" which was not my color at the time (nor now), but a color of royalty, meaning that my heart was still true, pure, even though I felt I had been tainted by this hard and painful season. He was trying to show me that my real self had not died. I remember tearing up when he had told me that, and he said, he hadn't told me that, I was telling myself that with my very own words...

He said that he was not surprised to hear that my box did not have a bottom, as my problem still seemed overwhelming to me and not having a bottom means I was feeling that my issue would never end. But when he asked what was I doing, I was only looking at the papers...not interfering with them...which is good, letting life take its course. So you see, what you were doing is important in the exercise too.

However, he felt very encouraged that my box was in a bright, sunny, blue-sky environment, which meant that I was more hopeful about the future than ever before. However, it was whipping about somewhat, but not blown apart. That shows that I am still anxious but not out of control. The box was in tact, and showed no signs of falling apart (he asked me during the decoding session if the box showed any signs of weakness, and it didn't).

He said he felt very happy that I wasn't grabbing after the papers that were falling out one-by-one. He said he had wished they were falling out at a much faster pace, which would have meant I was shedding my hard season of life quicker, but they were leaving the box all the same, and I wasn't grabbing on to it, thinking I could still save/do/change/ the situation. I was letting go.

And finally, he said the good news is, I was realizing that my hard season of life was almost over, and it was up to me to move on - hence my reflection in the mirror. I am the answer to moving on. No one else but me can do this. He was glad that my reflection just showed me...no one behind me, no shadow, me not crying, just me. That meant that I was willing and able to handle this on my own. 

These are all subconscious thoughts I was having, which showed me I had more strength than I realized and helped me to grow in that moment.

I was so impressed and excited with this exercise so many years ago, I remember doing this exercise on my brother. Of course, he had no idea what this exercise was about, and I just said, "hey, do something for me..." and I had him relax and did the whole thing and did it very slowly and so on. My brother had just been through an emotional divorce, was trying to get back on his feet, and tends to keep things to himself. He tried to pretend that all is well by joking all the time, but this is what he told me about his box:

Here is how some of it went:

Imagine a box, any kind of box. Got it? See it?
Okay, tell me about your box.

It is a cardboard box. Sort of medium size.

What else? Is it a strong/sturdy box?

No, it is beat up. Dented. Like it was kicked around

Where is your box?

In a garage

What kind of garage?

I don't know, it's pretty dark

Well, you can see where this is going! He went on to say it was empty. Nothing inside, and so on. He was floored when I told him what the exercise was about. And very eye-opening to him, as he was convinced he was doing okay, but actually, I could see he wasn't. And he then could see he needed to take better care of himself and do some things to make himself happy again.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I am not sure, except all I know is, that when I got out my beat up old gray box with my trinkets, I had very strong sense of contentment. And for some strange reason, admiring its rough exterior, its very sturdy bottom, and feeling its heavy weight as I placed it in a very happy, new area, I had a flashback of that box exercise so many, many years ago during a season of pain. 

And how ironic that during that season of pain, I described a jeweled box of gold, lined with satin. And now, during a season of contentment, joy, and happiness, I should find such pleasure out of a rough, worn, old, wooden box filled with old things. But this season of happiness is following a short season of much, much physical pain and some unexpected changes in life. 

And maybe, this time, at this moment in life, this box just simply means that a little worn and a little rough on the outside, only means there is a really precious project in the works on the inside.

And maybe that is my true project...

May your precious project always be in the works from The Greatest Protector of all...Christ who saw me through all of my life projects.

from my house to your house



Sandi said...

LOVE this...so insightful. Thank you.

Burlap Luxe said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I had no one to do this exercise with so I did read on, self ex resizing myself while reading :)
I imagined myself as to what I would have answered and what my box would have been filled with, so not sure, I mean I am so sure it would not have been jeweled and lined of prettiness as yours. A box of mine would have taken on what I am seeking or doing creatively now, the now in my time of creating and thinking it would have had to have been something that was of desire with a rustic euro chic find.

I was so jealous of your box answers, I would have liked to imagined that your therapy session could have been mine and wished is was mine so I too could truly be measured for goodness, or some sort of crippling life I was setting myself up for.
I almost certain my box would have been filled with odd extra paint brushes, wire, drawer pulls antique of course, twine, burlap, upholstery nailheads, tacks, nails, hooks, and I now am wondering if I am hanging myself here with my box.?
Elizabeth this is a beautiful exercise, and I so may have said my box was bejeweled back in the 80's for that Victorian look was so fashionable and I had a vivid imagination for a perfect dreamy life as I do now, but the now makes me dream of simpler organized life as you said getting older. I do love seeing the beauty in the old, embracing it wisely and excepting every inch of it. So with having read on without a partner to fulfill this excessive with me, I am not sure i am totally fulfilled with my life, I do know that lack of what does not fulfill it is left in the hands of God, for he will fulfill all my needs and my wants can just wait.

You know it does take me back to being rustic, and shabby refind only adds to the creative thoughts one has over someone of things store bought, new! And Shinny!
And I am not so sure that empty boxes like your brothers is so bad after all.....I see something much deeper here, that he has room in it to live all over again, room to fill it with his new joys, and tucked away in a dark safe place where no one will throw it away waiting for it to be used when need be to store something in, or to ship something off in, or gift someone something in it.

I am almost certain your brother will find his box filled with love and joy again, it's a box waiting , if I were a box this is the box I would want to be, waiting and listening to what will be.

Thank you for touching my heart today, that you for letting me see a side of your brother that I too experienced in my season of pain, thank you my beautiful friend for being just like me, one who thinks outside of the box.

Lots of love to you for listening.

Blessed are those with a heart.
Your heart is big and full


Rhonda said...

Your words have lifted me up today.
Bless you.

Jillayne said...

SO I did this - a tad nervously... my box was small, old, and made of wood, worn soft and smooth but with dents and nicks - also worn smooth. The box had a sheen, as if waxed rather than varnished.
The lid was hinged and it was lifting... the inside of the lid was lined with old paper, typed like newspaper, yellowed and torn away in parts - the bottom was lined with pretty floral paper, still old, but not worn away. In the box was a pair of very old white, worn out baby shoes, a dried carnation, a ribbon and scraps of lace.
The box was outside, floating within the confines of the front porch of a very old house on a warm summer day with a window open behind it. There was a misty curtain moving softly and you could sort of see through it into the house but not quite, and the box moved slowly, up and down...
Interesting exercise Elizabeth. I have a penchant for boxes and am always drawn to them - I think I like the idea of opening them to find interesting treasures inside...

Laraine Lord said...

Being 66 and a little old, brown and battered like your box I still think I'm Ok. You never know what you may find inside!

Petit Coterie said...

Elizabeth, I have been a follower of yours for years. Always love your photos and enjoy reading your blog. Especially your post "Crime of Passion". I'm still laughing and can relate. Something just drives us to search for all our treasures as if we would not survive without seeing them. Then trying to figure out exactly what we are going to make out of all of it. I think it's a mental inventory. My dear friend Cathy Penton posts your beautiful photos on Pintrest and I know immediately they are yours. Such a distinct style. Thank you for blog, it always inspires me.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Elizabeth. Enjoyed your insight.

{oc cottage} said...

oh! love the conversation! have had similar SO many times before! hilarious!

m ^..^

Elizabeth Maxson said...

How fun to read all the comments....makes me wonder a little more about my readers....hmmmm,,,lol. I have the BEST readers, ever!

Dore, I could totally get your description, and then I laughed when you said that maybe it might be a hanging in the making....ahahahaha. I will play therapist (now THAT is dangerous...) and will say that by your description, you seem very content. But content doesn't mean finished. It just means you are happy where you are while you wait and keep your eyes open for what God may have in store for you. That is a good place to be. Nothing worse than being so unhappy in the current situation, looking forward all the time. Your "odd extra paint brushes" is what tipped me off. You are content, happy, but those "odd EXTRA paint brushes" are ready for something extra waiting in your life and you are ready and willing for whatever that may be....you go girlfriend ;-)))

So, how did I do? Did I come close? And I do like how you saw my brother's box. that was many years ago, and now, he is very happily married, two beautiful little children (very loving, funny and super smart) and lives a happy life...so that empty box is now filled to the brim!!

Lots of love and hugs and thanks for playing along,

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Ooohh, Jillayne,

What a cool description...I could see it. I am going to play therapist with you too...

But I like that your dents and knicks were worn smooth. I thinks that means you have been "through it" but whatever "it" was, it didn't win. You came out not only smooth, but "waxed" to a sheen. You became better of it. You are the epitome of wisdom comes with age....because inside are little baby shoes....protected by a worn box (but a smooth one). But the baby shoes were worn....the person wearing those grew up and experienced life. But with the box being on the front porch of an old house says comfort. Maybe wherever those baby shoes have stomped and experienced in life, you are now ready to stay put. But I like that you were on the porch and not inside, that tells me you don't want to miss out, but are content to be on the side to cheer others on.

How did I do? Am I even close? No matter, I think you are one very special lady,
Lots of hugs and thanks for sharing,

Elizabeth Maxson said...


I think you being 66 is just the beginning of a new season and as you say, "being a little old, brown, and battered" sounds like a very favorite pair of shoes of mine...I ALWAYS take them on long trips with me because I know they always make me feel good. And I think that's the gift of mature people, they tend to make others feel better about themselves because they already "been there done that" and pretty much know what is ahead for us....and have a way of softening the blow when needed! lol :-)

Big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Michelle,

Is Cathy not a doll or what? I just love her, I feel like she is a sister. Thank you so much for writing, it gave me a chance to visit you and oh my! I will have to spend an evening visiting again when I have more time....so much to read and catch up on...you are one very interesting gal and I think we could become fast friends. I feel so blessed when other visit me via another blogger friend...sorta like a recommendation - haha.

Big hugs and visit again

Elizabeth Maxson said...


I typed too fast, and never meant to skip! I am always happy to have my readers comment and happy that this post touched you. Thank you for stopping by!

Big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...


Thank you for stopping by and letting me know. I appreciate that very much.

Hoping you are having a great week!

Big Hugs

Burlap Luxe said...

Thank you Elizabeth, you are on the right track with me, keeping my life happy and open for new things in my path.

I love that your brother found happiness and his box is full of joy and memories.

I adore and love your new header, of course I say that everytime I see you change to something new, this is because you soulfully create.

Lots of love


Anne Lorys said...

Hmmmmm.....my box is pretty beat up right now. Nothing of value in it, a little bit dirty.

It's one of those seasons of life, I suppose.

I miss you, my friend.
And I love you.

thopkins1202 said...

You are such a gem. God works through you.


Valerie (Favorite Stops Along the Way) said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I have been a fan since I discovered your website. My son is getting married in August, and I wanted to show him the pictures of your beautiful carriage house wedding, but find I'm unable to view them anymore. They already have the decor for their wedding, but the rehearsal dinner will be at our home, and I love the way you set up the food tables, and want him to see them. Can I please get an invite to your website? Thank you. By the way, my 2 younger sons are in St' Louis this week for a youth conference, LIFE 2013, for our Church denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance. They are going to the arch, but is there any other sights around town that you would recommend? Thank you so much.

Legacy of a Single Girl said...

Wonderful thoughts, and your photography is as always the most beautiful sights I've seen!! You have such a gift dear Sister! Time has gone by, and I hope you are well and healing and plowing forward! Would love to catch up!
Blessings and hugs to you!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Anne

We've been out of town in the country and no cell service so I am now catching up with comments and emails. I am always happy to hear from you!

Maybe your box is actually an undiscovered treasure box waiting to be filled. And I can't think of anyone better or more creative to fill a treasure box than someone with your talent. But like anything worth having, it takes time.

Know you are loved by many.

Love you

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Tracy,

What a lovely thing to say. I appreciate you sharing your heart, and know that your comment warmed my heart.

Big hugs to you

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Valerie!

I must say how beautiful your blog is! I so enjoyed visiting it. I have been out of town on vacation and had no cell coverage so I got your comment too late to offer suggestions to your sons' visit. I hope they had a great time! I had a few wedding photos up some time ago and took them down to resize them and work on them. Then, my computer crashed and I just haven't had the energy or time to reload them all and start all over again, but if you email me, I will be more than happy to share with you any ideas you might need. Congrats and you can find my email address on my sidebar.

Big hugs to you

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hello Margo!

So nice to hear from you always! I hope all is well and I do think of you very often. Thanks for checking in - I came across your card just the other day and it made me smile. It is amazing how such a small gesture can make someone's day. :-)

Big hugs to you

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