Monday, April 22, 2013

Can it be a self-portrait if it doesn't look like me?

The answer is "YES" because when you're the artist, you can do whatever you want! Artistic liberty is a fantastic thing--something that, as I'm experimenting with different mediums and styles, all while trying to drop perfectionistic tendencies or expectations of greatness for myself, I'm finding freedom like I didn't know existed.
This image came to me as I was playing around with collage. Slowly, in my mind I began to see a person, then I created the leaves by painting around the papers glued underneath. The face was such a joy to paint, even though I had no idea what I was doing! I just knew I wanted her to have the feel of this drawing of a woman by Leonardo Da Vinci but with a modern look.  Mixing the colors to create flesh tones and highlights and shading was such a fun experiment! She doesn't look this jaundiced in person, thankfully. I enjoyed flowing with ideas as they came. I also liked that it turned out looking folk-artsy.
The idea of painting a crow came from being inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and the imagery of his taunting, visiting blackbird on his mantle, crying out, "nevermore", to the distress of the character in his story. Often, I feel like this character, trying to block out the taunting negative messages in our world--i.e.--The CROW. Only when I can learn to ignore the crow's voice, can I be free to live fully alive. 

The song that inspired this painting--while it was in formation:
Blackbird, by the Beatles (sung by Sarah McLaughlin):
Blackbird singing in the dead of nightTake these broken wings and learn to flyAll your lifeYou were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of nightTake these sunken eyes and learn to seeAll your lifeYou were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird flyInto the light of the dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird flyInto the light of the dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of nightTake these broken wings and learn to flyAll your lifeYou were only waiting for this moment to ariseYou were only waiting for this moment to ariseYou were only waiting for this moment to arise

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Illustrated Meditation on Mustard Seeds

Culturally, we love to do things BIG. Even despite the hard time Texans get about "big everything" in their state, I'm pretty sure it applies to our country as a whole. We want and seek:

High Quantity

Even in more progressive states, like Oregon, the desire is the same at the core: more organic, more green, more of everything "better than"...

And we love it when people can do these things--ALONE. The ever-pervasive individualist mindset affects us all, even if it consciously annoys us. We love individual success, don't we? I do. I enjoy seeing it in others and I want it for myself.

As I think about my faith-journey and examine how I've ended up in such a struggle to hold onto my beliefs, I feel like I have to consider how my culture affects me. Often, I'm comforted when I remember the truth that I only need one tiny "mustard seed". But I daily fight the internal sense that one is not enough.

In my thinking about mustard seed faith, I realized my story is tied with this metaphor in the context of our cultural influences--which gave birth to--MUSTARD GIRL! Allow me to introduce you to my cartoon self and share a bit of my story, in this illustrated meditation.


In my youth, I seemed to carry around a bucket-full of mustard seeds, I was so faithful. I loved reading about God, hearing about God, singing to God, talking to God. With Jesus walking by my side, my heart's flame would never go out, and if it did, well, then He would carry me and we'd go for a nice walk on the beach. (ya know the classic "footprints" image) The idea that a challenge in life could only build my faith stronger--well--bring it! I felt I could face anything with my full bucket of mustard seeds.

Not only could I face any challenge to cross my path, I could share these seeds with the whole world!! I could be like Mustard Seed Super-Girl  sowing seeds liberally throughout the land and growing vast crops of mustard plants which would only continue to multiply and fill the entire world! And I could do this with just me and Jesus--and my bucket of seeds of course. That every super-hero has their "kryptonite" failed to cross my mind.

I didn't know what it was to really suffer. I didn't know that enduring long periods of waiting for answered prayer would actually leave something that felt like a wound. I didn't know how sad I could feel even knowing I was on the beach in Jesus's arms. I didn't realize that the more I continued to learn about the Bible, the more questions I would have, and the more the questions, and the longer left unanswered, the more the doubt would grow. I didn't know that failing to overcome challenges in marriage and parenting would result in guilt, shame and disappointment in myself that would at times make me feel like giving up. I didn't know if I tried to carry the burdens of our broken world in my heart (starving children, trafficking victims, AIDS orphans, natural disaster victims, and on and on...) it would only lead to fear and brokenness in myself, if carried alone.
With each failure and disappointment and doubt, seeds would be lost or crushed. All the crushed mustard seeds mixed with the vinegar of disillusionment began to create a big mess and I began oozing yellow, acidic, MUSTARD. My faith of the past seemed to be nothing but naive optimism.

To be continued...

STAY TUNED! Who will save Mustard Girl from her squelchy mess of mustard before she begins terrorizing innocent mustard farmers!!??

Thursday, April 11, 2013

2012 Grand Review: Taking Stock and Slapping on Labels

2012 was a year of redefinition. I went on a quest to more clearly define my position in life in every area.

"Labels" are paradoxical in a way that I can't quite decide which side I want to land on:

 love them because they help define?
 or hate them because they box-in and divide?

Determinedly remaining unlabeled feels fun and rebellious to me, yet clearly labeling seems purposeful and brave. I'm not even sure the purpose for this driving desire to define. Maybe it's my age or season of life. Or, it could be that in January I prayed this prayer:

"Lord, make my spirit restless whenever I think that the ways things are is the way things have to be."

This turned out to be a quickly answered prayer in the affirmative, because "restless" seems to be a defining word for my spirit this year. I began to look at life from a different angle and started questioning many long held beliefs and understandings. With no sense of purpose, but only driven by my gut, I started a quest to tighten my political views and have gone through something like a political soul-searching, which then led to a flurry of theological questioning, which led to a full on faith crisis, filled with emotion and gut-wrenching doubt.

With all the questioning, which essentially had its basis in labels, I was debris blowing in the wind. I felt like labels would ground me. I would regrow roots and become a planted, thriving, living thing again.

Eventually, somehow, the landing happened and I feel more settled and okay with the ambiguity of how I label myself. Life is not as black and white as we want it to be, and I don't want to force myself to fit into an uncomfortable box. Years ago, I discovered this book, "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian McLaren. The cover sold me before I even read the description or knew anything about the author--it had the longest subtitle I'd ever seen and I now claim it as my official label:

I am a "missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvanist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN.

Maybe, the bigger label the better?