Archives for the month of: June, 2010

My first piece of paper is finished! What do ya’ll think?

I am a mixed media artist.  Most commonly I use different types of paper along with paint to make my paintings.  Seeing as I buy my paper from rather well known art stores here in Nashville, I have run into other mixed media artists and had that sinking feeling where I recognize the paper they use.  Now at first this didn’t bother me, but lately it’s been making me more and more uncomfortable.  I want people to relate to my art, but never look at it and immediately think, “oh I think I bought that paper to wrap my great-grandmothers birthday gift in!”

So today started a new season in my painting world.  Instead of purchasing already designed sheets of paper, I’ve decided it’s time to make my own!  Now making paper itself isn’t a hard process but it’s indeed a process, one that I have very little patience for.  Thus, I’ve decided to compromise and create my own designs, rather than the actual paper itself.   Today was a day of playing lots of ink.  The smells reminded me of my print making days and joy that brings me is something I can’t even put into words.  I’m so excited about this paper I can’t even begin to tell you!  It’s not finished yet so I hesitate sharing these photos, but I know many of you have said you enjoy seeing my creative process.

Here are a few photos of my new paper!  Tomorrow I’ll go over it with a fine ink pen and create detail and texture.  After that comes the fun part; tearing it up and putting it into a painting!    Enjoy the photos and I’ll be sure to update ya’ll as this paper turns into a fabulous new painting for the East Nashville YMCA.

This summer I am hosting a women’s bible study in my home.  We are trudging through the deep waters of Beth Moore’s book, “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.”  Last week being the first time to meet most of these fabulous neighbors, someone asked if I would prefer that they take their shoes off.  Being a new homeowner and admirer of the most magnificently beautiful hardwood floors, I said yes without hesitation.  As the last of the women arrived, one walked in and after seeing the pile of shoes said loudly, “We are standing on Holy Ground!”  A few laughed, and I’m sure none have pondered the statement again as I have many times.  I logged her comment away in my spirit, knowing that it required more attention from me later.

Many of you are not aware of my new found relationship with Compassion International.  As a part of the relational wooing process, they took a group of representing artists to El Salvador last month to get aquatinted with them first hand. I have a years worth of blog entries to share in regards to that trip, but for some reason they are pouring out of me slowly.

One of Compassion’s new programs is called the Leadership Development Program (LDP).  The top performing students of each area get the opportunity to attend University on a full scholarship.  The weight of this in the life of that child and their community is almost too large to put into words.  This gives the child an opportunity to not only provide for their immediate family, but to then become a part of their developing professional community.  Compassion believes that the fight against poverty can be won through holistic child development where emphasis is focused on educating in truth, and biblical truth at that.  Through the Child Survival Program, Child Sponsorship Program, and Leadership Development Program, Compassion gets the honor to walk with these children from the womb to adulthood.  Not only will their physical needs be met through Compassion but they receive a continual biblical education as all Compassion projects are run out of local churches.  When a child gets the opportunity to grow up in an environment where they are taught truth in word in deed, they then grow up to be adults and leaders in their communities who believe that a different way of living is possible.  Change the mindset and you can change poverty.

While I was in El Salvador I had the honor to meet Nixon, an LDP student and his family.  A few of us spent the afternoon in their home, sharing a meal with them and learning about their lives.  Nixon’s father abandoned the family at a young age, leaving the burden of raising he and his sister, Sandra, to his mother, Marta.  To earn a living, Marta embroiders pillow cases and sells them at local markets.  Sandra told us how their mother never came home without food for them, even if it meant selling herself to men on days where business was slow.  Marta held her head down in shame and embarrassment as her family shared  these stories.  I held her as close to me as possible as if in some way that my touch would remind her that she was not unclean.

A silence came over the room in a way that I can only explain as the presence of God.  My friend Nate then spoke up telling the story of Moses meeting God in the burning bush.  He said that Moses was standing on Holy ground because God has made it Holy by his presence.  Through tears we all watched as Nate took his shoes and socks off and stood on the dirt floor of their home saying, “We are standing on HolyGround.”  Her home was indeed Holy Ground because the God was there.  No amount of shame or fear can hide the presence of God.

Part of me cringes at even attempting to tell this story because there is no combination of 26 letters to convey the power of that moment.  I have had my own moments of overwhelming deep shame and sorrow where God has sent a stretcher of grace to my aid.  It’s humbling, it’s breath-taking, it’s life giving.

If you want to know more about Compassion International and their work, or sponsor a child much like Nixon, click here.

I’m learning a lot these days, friends.  God is honoring my desire to rid my life of unhealthy things (what I affectionately refer to as gluten of the heart and mind).  I have let too many unhealthy things creep into my spirit without question.  Things like the lie that I am my own worst enemy.  I don’t know if it’s my experience in 12-step culture or years of self-actualization through counseling, but I often would openly state that the first thing to hold me back in any situation, is myself.  Now don’t get me wrong, I may be a close second, but I lost all sense of this prowling lion that Scripture speaks of.

Someone once told me as a child that to write the name of Satan is the ultimate glorification of him.  That by just mentioning his name, we give him power.  I have come to see that this is ridiculously incorrect and perhaps even the greatest manipulation created by Satan himself.  Ignoring our enemy does not weaken him.  In fact, it only gives him more freedom to roam about unhindered.  We live in a day of the glorification of self.  I’ve heard time and time again from beleivers, “I know God extends mercy to you, but it’s hard to realize He extends it to me.”  It is as if forgetting we are in a fight for our lives that we have also forgotten our power.

It’s frightening to think that this war has been raging against me and I have just flipped it the honorary bird of silence.  How can we stand against an enemy that we don’t even acknowledge?  Do not the military and sports people alike spend significant time learning the ways of their enemies?  How also can I stand against Satan when I have forgotten that the victorious power of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is inside of me!  In ignoring my enemy, I see now that I have ignored my God.

This was on my mind all day yesterday.  Last night when I crawled into bed I heard fireworks in the distance.  I sat and listened as if some battle cry in the distance was heading my way.  The fight is here, and now.

I know I know, everyone is gluten-free these days.  I’ve thumbed through more g-free cookbooks and blogs than you can even imagine.  And yet, today, right  now, I sit here having failed day 2 of my official g-free lifestyle.

This all started almost 5 years ago.  When I first moved to East Nashville I had a six month period where I was vomiting most every day along with just plain feeling miserable.  I was exhausted all the time, prone to headaches, growing depressed, and loosing weight.  Now don’t get me wrong, every girl would love to loose a few pounds, but this was most definitely not the way to do it!  I had test after test only ruling out various forms of cancer.

Meanwhile,  I decided to move to Sylvan Park with my childhood friend Jan.  Living with her I started to feel better.  No reason why in particular (at least to my knowledge then).  For that year and a half I ate a seriously modified diet.  There was no method to my madness, I just started eating mainly fresh fruits, veggies, and lean proteins for dinner.  I have found that cooking for one person is less than enjoyable.  Cooking for the both of us was more fun.  I enjoyed knowing exactly what was going into the food I was eating.  There were a handful of sick moments thrown in there, but they were few and far between.  Most of them were associated with eating out.

Fast forward through that year and a half and Jan and I decided to move to music row.  After being robbed at gunpoint outside of our apartment, my peaceful home became an anxiety  nightmare.  It was time to move on.  It took us about three months to settle in.  We left for a weekend to celebrate my upcoming graduation from college and came home to  a charred shell of what used to be our lovely apartment building.  Add together the stress of losing your home, graduating in a declining job market, no longer living with my friend who is more like a sister, post traumatic stress issues from my mugging, and all the other typical dramas of a twenty something, and my wonderfully healthy unknowingly gluten-free diet went out the tubes.  Now I still eat healthier than the average Joe but the convenience of processed foods eventually found a home in my diet.  Not to mention, my lovely god-daughters came into this world at that time and somehow I found myself snacking on PBJ’s and mini corn dogs.

This last year and a half has been one of continual sickness for me.  My vomiting spells are increasing. My headaches have returned.  My stomach bloating and distention have nearly ruined my trips to New York City, Alabama, Denver, Chicago, and El Salvador.  Mercy.  I’ve had pneumonia twice and ear infections seemingly every other month.  My skin isn’t clear and my eyes don’t look as bright to me as they once were.  My newest symptom is severe low back pain.  Muscle relaxers, massages, and ice compresses don’t begin to take the edge off. I can deal with not feeling well, but it got to the point where I’d go three and four weeks without painting.  I’d miss fun opportunities with friends because sitting was too painful or I was too busy throwing up. I started to wonder if this was just how my life is going to be.  This is my new normal and I just need to accept it.

These last few months have been littered with blood tests, endoscopies, ultrasounds, biopsies, more blood tests, and more ultrasounds.  All signs point to Celiac Disease.  This little thing called gluten has reeked havoc on my body and on my spirit.  Getting a diagnosis and a plan of attack have brought me hope, until today that is.  I’m day two into this gluten-free lifestyle and have made a glorious mess of it all.  I was unexplainably hungry today.  Something about eating mass amounts of fruits and vegetables did not make me feel full in the slightest!  I’m not strong enough or determined enough yet to start cooking new things and money has been too tight to go spend my life savings at Whole Foods for g-free foods.  I was naive to think that fruits, veggies, and bland proteins would be the best way to ease into this new way of life.  I was naive to think that purging my life of gluten would only affect me physically.

I know good foods are out there, and I know that in time I will find the ones that suite me most.  The thing I dislike most about being g-free is the way that food has taken over my thoughts and many of my actions.  It dictates when and where I can go places.  I read labels that say nothing about wheat and yet are still gluten loaded.  This fear of food is not good.  Fear in general is not good.  I’ve spent so long feeling bad that today I opted to eat my gluten filled crackers because misery has become some sort of familiar safe place.

Oh the parallels this has to other time periods of my life.  Times of bondage to ideas or brokenness.  I have had many other seasons in life where I believed the lie that the misery of just surviving was all I was destined for.  I have recently been convicted that I have not honored the life story that God has given me.  I have made it something to heal out of instead of reflect in on.  The remembrance that the good hand of God shaded me along the journey is what I cling to as I look to tomorrow. Purging my life of gluten has become more than just a new diet for me.  It’s requiring me to purge my gluten of motives and desires and lies so-to-speak.  Ready or not, here’s to a new healing journey,  one of spirit, mind, and body.