Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…


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Hope chest.

Before I knew what it was, I began filling mine. I had overheard some older cousins and aunts talking about it around my grandmother’s kitchen table. From what I knew of hope, you couldn’t actually see it, nor did I see any physical “chests” within this conversation, so I took it literally, as children often do, and assumed it was my own chest, the chest that housed my heart, and this I thought, was the place to put all the hopes that I could carry.

I walked around the farm that day. And I listened. My grandfather hoped for rain. I put it in my chest. My mother hoped for peace and an appetite. They fit in nicely. It felt exciting to fill my hope chest. I hoped my older cousins would pay attention to me. I smiled and put it in my chest. I felt safe, and almost powerful. And surprisingly, lighter. With everything I put in, I just became lighter. This was the real treasure, I suppose, learning that hope will never weigh you down.

Even when I learned the so-called truth of these hope chests years later, I stuck with my own version. I went to France with almost no belongings. They would have cost a fortune to ship. But what the airlines didn’t know, didn’t weigh, was “my hope chest” — my hope chest that was completely full, bursting even. Loaded with every story, every life event, every day survived, every smile, every dream — every, well, hope really — all still within me. 

And in my hope chest, there are no expiration dates. Everything remains fresh, light, and new. A small cage of ribs protects them easily. They are mine. As long as I’m willing to carry. 

You have one too, you know. Oh, how I encourage you to use it. Fill it. Walk with it daily. And see it for the real and only treasure there is – a heart filled with hope.


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Freedom.

It’s remarkable, I suppose, but there has never been a time in my life when I haven’t felt free. Imagine that. Oh, sure, there have been so many obstacles and challenges. Churches that said you can’t come here. Schools I couldn’t afford. (Lots of things I couldn’t afford.) But in my heart and mind, I have always felt free to make a choice, sometimes a different one when one path failed, but always free to make that new choice.

Maybe it’s because I had a mother, who passed by the inexpensive levels of the department store and dared to believe that she deserved something beautiful, sometimes even if it was just to look. Maybe it’s because I had teachers who, without knowledge of my position or circumstance, said you can be a writer, you can be something, anything. Maybe it’s because, even in my darkest hours, the sun had the audacity to rise each morning, and dare me to come along. Maybe it’s because in those sunlit mornings I could see that even when some of those churches, schools, country clubs, stores, were maybe off limits or out of my budget, I could see that the roads were always open. So I took them.

Not to be all Pollyanna. There are no free rides on these open roads. There will be days you have to fight your very soul to take that next step, only to climb over the next road block. But keep moving. Keep moving. Rest when you need to, but never quit. Freedom isn’t given, it’s worked for, step by step.

Yesterday, here in France, we were having a family barbecue. I learn a little more of the French language, word by word, day by day. It used to feel like drowning, being in a group of people all laughing and talking when I had no idea what was going on. But each day I kick and thrash and burst my head above the water and I join in the conversation, because I want to, I need to, and I am free to do it! What a glorious feeling that is – to be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than my own country even – this is freedom! And even though it was only the 3rd, I laughed and smiled and I celebrated! I hope you can do the same. Today, and every day after. Happy Fourth of July!


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Passing through.

Yesterday, after posting my daily blog, I learned something new about one of my friends. The news itself was not expected, but receiving news, getting information, learning with each story told, this is not unexpected. Because, I suppose, that’s what these posts are about — these words, an entry to discussion, a connection to others. Opening doors.

I think I’ve always been fascinated with doors. These symbols of coming and going. The ever changing aspects of life. The letting in. The letting go. The moving past. Moving on. The learning. The adventure launched. The welcome home. Open doors.

I hope with each word that I write, each stroke that I paint, you can feel the turn of the doorknob, hear the creak of the hinge, see the light of the new day, and make your way through. Finding a safe place to share your story, opening another door for someone else. Allowing the sweet breeze of life itself to pass on through.

“Let someone in. Let someone go. After you’ve seen it all, you won’t remember the windows and doors, but who passed through.” Jodi HIlls


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Yellow

For a brief moment when I was a young girl, I had a yellow bedroom. It was all mine. I got to pick out the carpeting and the bedspread. All yellow! It was the most cheerful place in the world. It was my world. Until one day, not long after, I could probably count the sleeps, I came home on my bicycle and there was not just a “for sale” sign next to the driveway, but it was flagged with “sold.” I didn’t know we were moving. I didn’t know the “we” only included my mother and I. The house, my father, the yellow, the cheer — all gone. For a long time I was sad about this. I didn’t want to love things. Afraid to love people, because they, like my father, could leave. They, like my house, my yellow, could be taken away.


But could they, really?


It took a while, as most good things do, but I came to realise, I still have the color yellow. I still love it! I love the cheerfulness. And so I paint it. I paint the lemons and the pears. The suns. They can never be taken away. The yellow on my pants, my canvas, my fingertips, my soul – all mine! Forever. My choice.


I didn’t know that yellow would not only give me joy, but freedom. The song is playing in my head now, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…” And I don’t – have anything to lose. I am free. Free to love. Free to live. Oh, the yellowness of it all! I grab my brush and smile. I give my heart and beam.


I had a yellow bedroom. That will never again make me sad.


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The good seeds.

Words are like seeds. They all grow. You tell someone something good, and they think about it. They smile. And those seeds are watered. But you must know, the same thing happens when you say something bad. And I’m not sure why, but those seeds, man, do they have the power to grow fast.

You can get yourself so entangled in their stems and leaves and branches, and soon, there you are, just stuck in them. I don’t want you to be be stuck there. I know what they said is hurtful. And it makes me sad…well, truthfully, it makes me angry. And I think maybe you need a little truth now. You need to know that you are really something.

And I’m not going to wasted my time here saying, “Oh, they are just ignorant, or living in fear…” Whatever. What I know for sure is, they are wrong. They are simply wrong.

I know you. I see you. I see your heart. You are beautiful, inside and out. Done. That is the truth. I will never tire of telling you the truth. And I will cut those hurtful words down. I will pull out every weed. You are free. They say the truth will do that, and I guess they are right. You are beautiful. You are bound by nothing. The wonderful thing about good words – the good seeds – you can just let them grow. And on the days that you need a little reminder, there they are – in full bloom. Just like you.