Thursday, December 2, 2010

Growing Is Beautiful: The Collage, Part 4

(If you missed any of the previous posts on this collage, catch up here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Finally I am sitting down to pen the final chapter in this saga.  It's not that I'm tired of writing about this, but I'm sort of afraid you might be tired of hearing about it.  Every time I write about my art projects, I worry that they will be sheer boredom for anyone but me--but that's when I remind myself that I am writing, in large part, for my own benefit.  I want to remember my process, my challenges, my lessons learned.  want to remember what inspired me in the first place, what I discovered along the way, what I hope to do differently in the future.

And if you aren't that interested in all those things, that's perfectly okay.  I'll just continue on as if I'm talking to myself.  I do that in real life anyway.  Don't you?  No?  Oh.  Well, that's perfectly okay, too.  We can still be friends.

Ahem.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.

When I first had the idea for this collage, way back in the beginning of 2009, I thought I wanted to attempt some kind of artistic representation of who God was to me.  At the time, I was in the midst of a spiritual reconstruction project.  Which is a nice way of saying that God had successfully torn a part my life and I was standing in a pile of ruins, trying to figure out how to rebuild--or, rather, how to be rebuilt.

Because even then I knew I wouldn't be the one to bring something out of nothing, to turn ashes into beauty and loss into gain.  I knew it would be Him.  The One who had brought me to that place.  The One who had promised to carry me through.

The only problem was that I didn't know who He was anymore.  Everything I had previously thought or believed about God had been challenged and, for the most part, blown out of the water.  I was hurt.  I was scared.  I was angry.  And oh so lost.

But when I sat down to try and generate some sort of "picture" of God through words and art, I knew right away that I wasn't ready.  Yes, I needed to process.  Yes, I needed something to help me move forward.  But I wasn't ready to redefine God.  I was still trembling and grieving from the loss of the God I had loved and clung to for most of my life.

Instead, I decided to create a reminder of the truths I still knew, the things I wanted to remember in the midst of so much struggle and loss.  Simple things.  Little pieces of hope and aspiration for a very weary soul.

And these are the phrases that spoke to me:

Growing Is Beautiful:  This, of course, became the namesake of both my collage and my blog.  And it gave perfect voice to what I was trying to draw attention to in this art piece.  I wanted to remind myself that there was still beauty and hope and grace intertwined with the hard business of growing, changing, letting go of the past, and choosing a different path for the future. 
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  (1 Corinthians 3:7)
 And suddenly, it all becomes clear.  Growing is beautiful.  Because it is God who does it.
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Praise Even When the Sky Falls:  As much as I was struggling to do this at the time, I still knew it was important.  I still knew I wanted to live a life of gratitude.  I wanted to stand with the Psalmist and say:
Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5-6)
 I am still working on this, still needing to be reminded.  And thankfully, after 18 months' time, these words now hang on my wall to help me remember.
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Laugh More:  I love to laugh.  I have always been a "loud laugh-er."  But I am also prone to grief.  And as a person in the midst of her longest, deepest stretch of loss and grief, I wanted these two simple words to shout at me and say, "I know it hurts.  I know you can hardly breath.  But laugh, Child.  Laugh more than you have ever laughed before.  Choose joy in the smallest ways, and trust that it will make a difference."
Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  (Philippians 4:4)
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Create Stillness Inside and Let Silent Nights Inspire Emotion:  I am putting these two phrases together here because they are both, essentially, about the same thing:  Being quiet when everything around and inside of you is screaming for attention, telling you to worry, warning you to stay busy so you won't have to face the thoughts in your head or the emotions in your heart.  The first phrase reminds me that I have to choose to be still, to make room in my mind and heart for Truth, for Hope, for Gratitude--for the One Who is these things.  The second phrase reminds me that I am more open, more vulnerable, more able to connect with God and with my deepest self when the dark of night descends.  Perhaps I am too tired to keep my walls up.  Perhaps I am less afraid to reveal myself under the cover of quiet darkness.  Regardless, I still must choose not to fill up those precious hours with things that distract and busy and pull me away from what matters.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  (Psalm 46:10)

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
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 Choose Extraordinary Life and Find Adventure in the Everyday:  Believe it or not, I don't have aspirations of being a superhero or a rock star.  I do, however, think we are called to live an uncommon life.  One that is overflowing with things this world doesn't often value:  Grace, forgiveness, love without strings, humility, integrity.  That's the kind of "extraordinary life" I'm talking about here.  It isn't easy.  It doesn't gain us the kind of kudos or recognition we might hope for.  But that's because it isn't meant to.  It's meant to point to the One from whom all things extraordinary originate.  And just because it's hard and painful and sometimes thankless, doesn't mean this extraordinary life can't be an adventure.  You just have to look for it, expect it, find it.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  (1 Peter 2:9)
 Now doesn't that sound like an extraordinary adventure?
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Tell Your Story and Be a Poet of Truth:  These phrases are my reminders to be the person I was created to be.  I was born a writer.  I was born a poet.  I was born with the desire and the courage to be real about who I am, where I've been, and what I've learned along the way.  But I often doubt the impact of telling my story, of telling the truth, of creating art that expresses my journey.  I need to be reminded that it isn't my job to make an impact.  It's my job to be the woman God created me to be and let Him take care of the impact.
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14)
I hope someday I can say with every ounce of my being, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I know that full well."

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Save Space for Mystery:  This, perhaps, is the crux of what I have learned these last difficult years.  As much as we want answers, as much as we want to understand the how and the why and the when, as much as we want to know God and His ways--most of the time we just can't.  And really, that's what makes God who He is.  He is different than us.  He is greater and wiser and more full of love and grace than we can even begin to comprehend.  But this is a good thing.  It means we can trust His unfailing love, His unchanging nature, His unwavering goodness--things no human being could ever offer us.  But first we have to let go of the desire to know and understand.  Only then can we be grateful for the Mystery that is our God.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:8-9)
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Phew!  Not even I expected to have that much to say about one piece of art.  I guess it's a good thing I don't make things for myself very often.  I seem to have a lot less to say about the ones I give away!

And for those of you who are still listening, don't tell anyone I talk to myself, okay?


1 comment:

  1. Your story is beautifully told and displayed in your collage. It's been amazing to watch your journey, and see what God is creating. You are beautiful! I love you, Mom

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