how do you make art?


I’m reading Emily Freeman’s book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live with The High Calling book club.

Emily writes:

Maybe you live confidently in the midst of scary situations.

Maybe you are brave enough to listen, to wait, to trust.

Maybe you see potential in situations and in people that others aren’t able to see.

Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.

You have the power to influence, to move, to make, to become.

You have the capacity to perform the human act of making art, of doing work that comes from deep within you and touches something deep within me.

We make art with our lives.

Emily is describing my friend, Carolyn Counterman. (I’m still waiting for post 203.)

Carolyn makes art with her life.

She shows up every single day as a poem.

She creates beauty right where she’s planted.

She’s like a tree that stays put and drops deep roots and reaches its arms toward the heavens.

She’s got a heart that’s as big as the world, and it beats to the rhythm of the Word.

She wears the skin of the Word.

She cares for seven grandchildren 24/7 and embraces other extended family members within her walls.

She gives of herself in a million different ways.

Back in December, she threw herself into Dressember. She wore a dress every single day throughout the month and shared photographs on Facebook. She paired these with touching posts in order to call attention to the issue of human trafficking. She changed her cover and profile photos to graphically depict herself as a battered and bound human slave.

I shake my head at her creativity.

Carolyn learned to make wire trees at a Laity Lodge retreat last year.

“I can’t stop making wire trees,” she said.

“I want a tree,” I told her. “Would you  make me a tree?”

She made me a wire tree, boxed it up and shipped it from Texas to Michigan.

But she did not just make me a wire tree.

She made art that came from deep within her and touched me deeply.

This tree blooms with symbolism, and she wrote it out for me.

Carolyn's tree7

Dear Sandra,

Thank you for asking me to make a tree for you. I enjoyed creating it. I wanted to document the symbolism for you, because the details can be hard to remember sometimes.

1.  The eight branches represent your family: You, Dennis, Jeremy, Lexi, Abby, Lee, Grace and Lillee.

2.  The beads on the branches are just some pretties I saw at the bead store, and I thought you might like them.

3.  You had asked for one red bed “for hope.” That is the red heart bead that is shooting out of the top of the tree. Where better to have hope than in your heart?

Carolyn's tree6

4.  The tiny bird hanging from the tree is a match for the bird on the Prayer Warrior necklaces that Amanda gave to each of us in the prayer group.

5.  The stones on the roots of the tree are tourmaline. Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone that forms in long crystals. My favorite kind–watermelon tourmaline–is green at the base, a milky white in the middle, and pink at the tip. I have a ring that has several rows of watermelon tourmaline that I just love. When I saw the little stones at the bead store, I just had to have them to put on one of my projects. I’m glad they are on your tree.

Carolyn's tree5

6.  The berry bush started as me just messing around to see what I could put together. When I saw the finished product, it tripped a memory for me from the movie Girl, Interrupted. In one scene an instructor is leading the girls through a movement exercise where they are stretching upwards to be like a tree. One of the girls sits on the floor and declares that she is a shrub. That memory made me giggle, and so I decided to add the bush to your piece just because it made me laugh.

Carolyn's tree2

7.  I painted the base dark green. As I put the tree on the base, I thought that the dark green paint was overpowering the colors of the tree somewhat. That is why I put a layer of sand (sealed with a varnish) on the base–to lighten it up. That sand is some that I actually collected from North Padre Island here in Texas. I grew up near there, and the location is dear to my heart. I would not share my sand with just anyone, so consider that as another token of my affection for you.

8.  The 13 pebbles that are lying on the sand are the ones that I collected from the banks of the Frio River when we were at the Laity Lodge in November 2013. You’ll remember that I let you pick them from a handful that I managed to find on a very cold, wet day. They represent the 13 members of our prayer group who met each other (in person, finally) at Laity Lodge.

Carolyn's tree4

9.  The flowers coming out of the side of the base were just for fun. I did not like having those open holes on the base, so I filled them with pretty.

10. The underside of the base is covered with felt so that the wires won’t show, but before we drilled the holes in the base, I wrote a small blessing for you on the inside. It might be covered with wires and glue and felt, but the blessing is still there.

Uncover the Art

Carolyn closed with the words “I love you.”

And she share these verses from Psalm 1:1-3.

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither–whatever they do prospers.”

This is a gift that gives me all kinds of hope and joy and happiness. And I see even more symbolism besides what she wrote for me. I’ll treasure it always.

I love you, too, Carolyn.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I’m grateful for you.

how do you make a tree

How do YOU make art?>

Still in awe of the Artist and His art making art,


Note: This blog may be down for a few hours at some point over the next few days. We’re getting a facelift!



  1. says

    Wow. I love all the thought and care and time that went into the tree (and now I want one). I am so, so blessed to be a part of the prayer group you mentioned. I can’t believe my good fortune sometimes–but isn’t that just GRACE.

    Loving Emily’s book, at least the little bit I’ve read. And I love you!

  2. says

    What an awesome, meaningful gift! It’s beautiful and I’m sure you’ll treasure it. Any art I create doesn’t usually include symbolism, except maybe when it’s a poem. I did oil painting for years — mostly landscapes — but haven’t painted since we moved more than two decades ago.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your upcoming facelift here. I’ve always loved the woods and water scene that is the backdrop to your posts.
    Carol J. Garvin recently posted..People Watching and Developing Fictional Characters

  3. Paula Game says

    What a sweet friendship you two share! I love how you so beautifully put it into words. So many gifts here!