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Spectra – Tell Your Story Part 2

September 17, 2017

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In part one I shared I shared our story of hope and healing after infertility. It’s enough of a story and I will share it as much as possible as long as I live. But I kept feeling like there was something more to the story of this painting. I wanted to go deeper and connect how this painting and my story specifically relate to the gospel. And finally realized – it’s in the contrast.

The gospel is truly a mystery. Because of the cross – at the exact same time my shame and darkness are present, God’s light and grace are there.

The way our eyes see things separates light and darkness. We have to have the contrast for things to take shape. We cannot put them together; they have to be separate. But somehow God sees both at the same time; this is something we cannot grasp. The cross brings together contrasts that make no sense to us.

Beauty out of ashes. Grief turned into joy.

The poor and needy lifted up. Freedom in surrender.

Peace through humility. Gaining by giving away.

Grace and forgiveness for shame. Life from death.

Our human nature really struggles to live with these contrasts. I want to hold on and not let go, try to be free without surrendering, try to gain without sacrificial giving. But I think that’s the power of the gospel. It’s why it makes sense – because it makes no sense!

I’ll never be able to truly understand this or find adequate words. Which then made me thankful for art – it’s another way to try. The necessity of contrast in art forces us to look at contrasts and see them together. Dark darks make the lights stand out. Contrast provides depth. Without contrast the painting is flat. I can tell the more I develop as an artist, the more I am able to use contrast and the better the paintings become.

Contrast is what I wanted to depict in this painting. Life and beauty coming out of an ashy dark background. The contrast in the painting shares the contrast of our story – purpose and hope coming out of pain and grief.

It also shares an ongoing story. The longer I live, the harder some things are, and the bigger the contrasts. The deeper the darkness, the lighter the light becomes. And the more clearly I see the gospel – the only reason it makes sense is because of the profound contrasts. The darkness in my humanity does not want to surrender, be humble, serve, give. But it’s the only place to find true life and peace. And in this world full of pain and confusion, I really need the contrast of peace.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:2

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Spectra – Tell Your Story

September 15, 2017

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Tell your Story. Share your Faith. This was Spectra’s theme for the artist challenge this fall.

When we got this challenge, I thought – oh this is easy. Every piece of art I create tells my story: I started learning to paint after a long season of grief over our infertility. Everything beautiful that comes out of that period tells that story again.

I love to tell this story, and I tell it a lot. But for some reason, I guess since the assignment was to tell your story, the pressure was on and I got writer’s block. This time the painting was easy and the words were not.

Maybe because part of my story is that sometimes I struggle with faith. What do I do with that part of the story?

When I struggle with what is true about life and God, I always come back to three main things. First the beauty and rhythms of nature – the fact that the sun comes up every day and spring always comes after winter. It’s just too amazing and perfect. Not to mention the vastness and detail of the animal kingdom. Second – the complexity of the human body. Truly extraordinary. I just can’t believe the intricacies of our bodies are happenstance.

And finally – stories. My story. Your story. There is no way I can take credit for or discount the things God has done in my story. And seeing God in other people’s stories helps me see more of God. Which really helps when I’m struggling with what is real and true about God. Actually all I have to do is read back through my blog.

Our story is still amazing to me. God did a miracle for us – removed the desire to have our own children from our hearts and filled us up with joy. It’s a miracle that our hearts could heal from such pain and confusion in a deep desire that had been there for so long. There was a bigger plan for us to be parents in many other ways. Have I mentioned my 8 nieces and nephews with more on the way??

So that’s what I painted – the story of something light and beautiful coming out of an ashy dark background. It tells my story and strengthens my faith. Let’s all keep telling each other and writing and painting our stories!

 

P.S. I’ve also realized – there’s more to the story in this painting. Part Two – coming soon…

Extravagance

February 10, 2017

We’ve talked before about how this journey God is taking me on – learning to paint as an adult – brings up all my issues. Control, fear, shame, control, perfectionism, anger…control. A big thing I often struggle with is using my supplies, knowing that I’m still learning (and always will be), it’s not going to be perfect, and I most definitely will waste some paint in the process. My mom raised me to bargain shop and be thrifty with my money, an excellent characteristic that is mostly good. However sometimes I take it to the extreme and fear spending money and using my resources.

Spectra’s theme this month was Extravagant Love. The art challenge was to represent this topic in whatever way you are inspired. The medium for the piece I shared is Pebeo on canvas.

Pebeo is a fantastic, expensive, pourable paint that I bought but struggled for a long time to use for fear of wasting it. As I was praying about the theme Extravagant Love, God reminded me of Matthew 26:6-13 where the woman anoints Jesus by pouring out expensive perfume near the end of his life. While the disciples reprimanded her for the waste, Jesus commended her faith and the specific purpose for her extravagance.

For many years I sided with the disciples, thinking they made perfect sense and she should have used that money for the poor. But over the past several years and especially with my art supplies, God continually reminds me that his riches are abundant, his resources will not run dry, and his love is just that extravagant. When he asks you to use your resources, obeying is an act of faith in the abundance of God and his extravagant love. This painting is the result of trusting God and pouring out some Pebeo!

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Crazy

September 12, 2016

Push yourself. Take a break. Go backward. Push forward. Tighten up. Loosen up. Add more detail. Lose the detail. Keep working on that painting. Paint over that one.

The process of art making – it’s enough to make you crazy!

And on that note – I don’t think artists are crazy anymore. That traditional stereotype of artists – which a few significant artists in history may have propagated – I just don’t think it’s true. I am beginning to think artists are actually extremely courageous.

So courageous it is scary. And uncomfortable. So we just call it crazy.

I now see that artists have the courage to face their crazy – which most of the time we work meticulously to hide. Artists consistently pursue creating – which brings out the crazy. Artists keep showing up. Artists are brave.

God created our bodies and minds to work together. To flow together. But fear causes our bodies to restrict and tighten up in order to defend and protect ourselves. Fear makes us try to control our surroundings to reduce pain and vulnerability. This anxiety blocks creativity. This anxiety makes us feel crazy.

If you are brave enough to take the risk of art making, it will make you crazy at times. If you have the courage to let yourself feel, you will have to learn to tolerate the feeling of something creative stirring within you and take the risk to see what comes out. To start the process even though you don’t see the end result yet. To go through the struggle to get your hands and brain to communicate. To fight through the pain and your lack of control. To make yourself take a break and rest from the process.

Then comes the breakthrough. Something better than you even imagined at first. Even if you scrap that piece and try something new. I say often in my office – the bigger the breakdown, the bigger the breakthrough.

There’s a lot of value in the crazy. It can show you what you’re trying to control and where you need to let go. It can give you a deeper understanding of your fear, which ultimately can set you free. It can help you learn to live in the moment…trust the process…make peace with your anxiety…enjoy your life.

So embrace the crazy. And then choose courage. Ultimately – it’s what will keep you sane.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Romans 8:20

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Going Backward to Move Forward

September 5, 2016

“Ripping out is part of sewing,” a dear wise mentor shared. A lesson learned from her mother in the art of sewing. Sometimes you have to go backward before you can move forward. It’s just part of it. In sewing. In painting. In life.

Painting over is part of painting.

In art class our teacher often makes us paint back over something in order to do it better. What? What about all the time we spent on that? Precious time. What about the cost of those art supplies? Precious pennies. Noooo. But she asks – do you want an ok painting or a great painting? Fine.

It’s so counterintuitive. Go backward in order to move forward? It doesn’t make sense. However if we keep moving forward in the wrong way, we actually spend more time stuck and frustrated. We move forward with a limp. An obvious problem that really needs attention. Which is actually slowing us down and holding us back as we determinedly try to plow forward. And the further we go without attending to the problem, the more obvious it becomes.

And it doesn’t just impact one area, it impacts the whole piece.

We have to let go of what we are holding on to so tightly and go backward. Go back and fix it. Give it what it needs. The time. The attention. Then we are freed up to move forward – even faster than we could have imagined.

It’s the same with life. Sometimes we have to go backward in order to move forward. Unhealed wounds don’t go anywhere. They cause a limp. They impact more than we realize. We think we can get away with ignoring them. We try to cover over them and think we’re moving forward, but we know we’re not getting anywhere. We feel stuck and frustrated, and we don’t even know why. And the more we try to plow forward, the more difficult it becomes.

If a wound is tended to properly – acknowledged, validated, cared for and fixed up – it is free to heal and the body moves forward without hindrance.

An unhealed wound doesn’t go anywhere because our losses and our pain are important. If we cover over the pain, act like it wasn’t important, avoid giving it the attention or acknowledgement it needs…try to make a pretty painting around it…it stays unhealed. It stays there and impacts the entire picture.

Going back helps us organize our experience and see the details more accurately. Going back helps redefine that area with truth and validates our losses. Going back and seeing the truth brings freedom and healing to the pain. Going back clarifies how the wound can be incorporated as a beautiful part of the entire picture.

So take the risk. Go back. Take the time. It’s worth it. It impacts more than you know.

Then you will move forward with freedom beyond comprehension. A picture more beautiful than you could have imagined.

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C is for Choosing Fun!

August 26, 2016

A video of Laighla and me from her recent trip reminded me of this blog post that I wrote last year over Christmas break but never posted! Probably because it’s about vulnerability – and that video Patrick posted of us dancing that I hoped everyone would quickly forget about. I actually tried to put the video here in this post, but – conveniently I guess – I do not have the technology to support it. But I still choose fun – so here goes!

December 2015

One of my favorite things in life is spending time with my nieces and nephews! It fills my heart up to brimming over. My niece Laighla and I had the best time practicing a dance to perform for Mema! We videoed it for a few other family members to see. Or so I thought…

When Patrick told me he posted it on Facebook, I thought he was kidding. A video of me dancing is really vulnerable. There’s no way I would allow something like that out there. The perfect snapshot – OK. Every once in a while. But 3 minutes of me dancing – way too much time to see way too many imperfections. I would never allow it. He knows that.

When I realized about an hour later that he actually had posted it, I was horrified. HORRIFIED. So embarrassed. So much shame.

When I looked at the video, I only saw my imperfections. Old body image issues flashed back. Old perfectionism and performance issues reared their ugly heads. If I had known it would be on Facebook, I would have fixed my hair better. I would have practiced more. I would have actually learned all the words.

But it was already out there. And I was frozen. Some people had already liked and commented on it. (which I couldn’t believe!) I was paralyzed. I couldn’t make a big deal out of it now. Then my pride and shame issues would be even more obvious.

I realized I had to hold on to myself. Had to let it be there. Had to press into the shame and work some more on accepting myself. Be ok with my imperfections. Allow others to love me, even with my imperfections.

Coincidentally – I just happen to finally be reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I have been fascinated with the concept of shame for a long time. Even more since sharing my vulnerability and infertility shame on my blog brought so much healing and freedom.

Brown talks a lot about shame resilience, how sharing our shame is what heals it. I totally agree. My experience completely backs that up. I texted a friend and shared how embarrassed I was. I went to the bathroom and cried. And then I resolved to embrace it. And embrace a deeper value represented here that is way more important to me – Fun! I could face and share my shame – and choose fun!

Fun with my nieces and nephews is one of my greatest values. Fun is more important than perfect. Fun is a value I want to pass on to them. Fun is the best! Fun is what I choose.

And I’m actually thankful that Patrick posted it. He sees my imperfections and my shame more than anyone – he has to live with them! Yet somehow he sees through them and loves me deeply. He thought our dance was cute and fun! And that fun is worth sharing.

Yes it is. It absolutely is.

Finish

July 30, 2016

Recently on a trip to Ozark Natural Foods, I noticed a new art display in their café featuring local artists. As I was admiring the art, an older couple started a conversation with me. She was a lifelong artist and upon discovering that I’m a beginning artist, they both gave me some advice. Her advice was “Don’t compare your work to others. Don’t compare your place in the journey to anyone else.” Such a good reminder.

His advice: “Finish your paintings. Push yourself to see what you can do. You won’t know what you can do unless you finish.” I thought that was great advice. I was happy to take it. If you are older and wiser, you can offer unsolicited advice to me anytime.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but later his advice came back to me in a deeper way. Finish your paintings. See what you can do. You won’t know unless you push yourself. Oh yeah – I have a lot of unfinished paintings and a lot of unfinished blog posts. I mean – a lot. Maybe it’s time to finish some. Push myself to finish. Ugh.

I’m not known for pushing myself physically. My husband, an Ironman – speaking of the ultimate way to push your physical limits – has mentioned a time or two at the gym – “I think you’re supposed to sweat when you work out. Isn’t that the point?” The last 5K I signed up for was a November race, and it was very cold that morning. Too cold – so I picked up my T-shirt, got back in my car and drove home. There’s just no need to push yourself to run in that kind of weather. Or to run at all really.

Also ever since I started to understand this whole grace thing – God’s love for me is not dependent on my achievements – other people can love me for who I am, not what I do – I have been set free from pushing myself constantly to achieve. I got off the performance treadmill! Which has been SO good for me.

However there is a need for balance. There are times to push. To finish strong. It’s called discipline. The difference is the reason. Push yourself to see what’s in there. To see what you can do. Not to gain love or out of fear of rejection. Just out of freedom and fun and for the challenge.

Of course there is fear. What if it hurts? What if I fail? What will people think? What if it’s not good? Well I won’t know unless I push myself. And finish. I wish I could thank them again for their advice. It was more profound than I realized at the time.

I recently finished a couple paintings that have been hanging around for over a year now. I think I’ll finish a few other things too.

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