Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Super Lady of Ephesians

Sometimes, like many of you, it is easy for me to become discouraged.  My desk at work is piled high with things that need to be done, supper needs to be fixed, my house needs to be cleaned, piles of laundry surround me, and I have about 14 thousand or so projects going and several of them must be done by this weekend. My job is stressful and full of worry.  I worry about some of my kids leaving school for the night.  I worry about if I'm making the right choices for their education.  I worry if I'm handling multiple situations a day in the best possible way.  I worry if their learning.  I worry that I', not giving them what they need.  I worry about the new laws in special education and how I'm ever going to meet the new standards.  I worry.... all.... the... time.  It makes it easy to become worn down.  It makes it easy to want to give up and find a new life.  But I've found that in the moments that I just start to feel these awful things, I only need to take a moment to pray.  Have you ever heard that song, "If our God is with us, who could ever stop us?"  It's awesome.  I sing it when I'm stressed at work.  I sing it when I run.  I sing it when I start feeling depressed over the little things.  It helps to lighten my load.  

So I say all this back story to update you on one of my newest coping strategies.  We've been doing a study of Ephesians at church.  This past Sunday was chapter 5 (which will probably hit you just as hard as it hit me if you go take a little time to read it).  I was rereading it before bed on Sunday night and pushed on ahead and read chapter 6 as well.  OMGoodness.  I'm sure I'd read it before.  I'm sure I've actually heard it all my life.  However in that moment Ephesians 6:10-18 was exactly what I needed to hear.
Text pulled from Bible Gateway using the NIV translation.  If you prefer a different translation then by all means read it in that one, this just happens to be the type of bible I had my hands on last Sunday. :)

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people

Is it just me, or does this put the image of a Godly superhero in your head too? "Be strong in the Lord, put on the armor of God and stand against the Devil,  the belt of truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, take up the shield of Faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  Holy Cow Ya'll! did you really read it?  Because the first time I think I actually read it was Sunday, and I've gone to church my whole life.  Where do I get a shield of faith?  How do I put on the armor of God?  Hook me up with it all, because I want to be this person right now!  I started to think about the things that were worrying me, and about how much they resembled those flaming arrows in this passage, and I've been digesting this passage ever since.  Honestly, I still don't have everything I believe God wants me to gain from this passage, but each time I read it, I get a little more. 

This evening after work I was sitting at my desk about to have a mini crying party.  I was just so overwhelmed.  I began to pray and the armor of God popped into my head.  I googled it since I didn't have my bible handy, and I began to sketch my idea of what a visual representation of this passage might look like.  

It's a very loose interpretation of reality and very much a first draft, but I've got ideas for her.  I'd like for my kids to someday have a super hero that I'm comfortable with them looking up to.  I'd like for them to have a character that will teach them Godly things, and lately I've seen less and less of an opportunity for them to have something like that in the world we live in.  For now I'm just going to call her Super Lady of Ephesians - but it's a bit long, so I'm open for suggestions. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Art

For as long as I can remember I have loved art.  I've loved creating. I've loved to imagine.  I've loved making something new.  Over the years I've gone through phases of art, and as I have grown and changed through the years, so have my creations.  Just like everyone else I got my start with a crayon.  The smell of a new box of Crayola's is still an instant inspiration full of memories and possibilities.  As illustrated by this painting I did last fall.
"Jared's Gift" Crayola on canvas, 2013
Jared surprised me with a new box of crayons and a sweet letter. In return I made this "painting" for him by coloring and then melting crayon onto canvas.

Through the years I've fallen in love with many forms of art.  I once made a Pluto the dog bust completely out of plaster of paris. But sadly he did not survive the years and multiple moves since high school. My senior year of high school I finally got to take art as an elective.  My major painting from the class was of my dream car at the time.

"Pink Bug" Acrylic on canvas, 2008
It's angles are a little off, but I love it.  Excuse the poor quality photo, but in person it has a very pop art appeal to it.  It reminds me each time I look at it of the teen girl I once was, and I smile.

My freshmen year of college I majored in art and took several classes: drawing, painting, clay, and 2D design.  I first fell in love with charcoal.  I enjoy the mess of it.  I really feel like I'm involved in the creation of a charcoal drawing.  I use my fingers and spend hours upon hours on any final piece.  My first semester I really learned the basics of creating good art pieces.
"In My Life" Charcoal on paper, 2008
This was my final project for drawing.  It's a still life portrait of Jared, using objects that represented his personality to me: Plant- a love of nature, Books - Knowledge, Pens - love of writing, Flower - romantic, Antique hutch - love of his roots and history, Photo of us - Our relationship (again excuse the poor photo, it is much sharper in person but the only working camera we have is on my phone.)

I had a great time in my clay class and considered making it my primary focus before switching to education.  I'd love to someday get back to working with clay, but that will require a kiln, so for now I can only reminisce.
"UnNamed Popular Turtle" Clay, 2009
Seriously - He is Epic, but to be honest I've never figured out what to do with him.  Anyone want to buy a turtle bust?
"Frog Pot" Clay, 2009
This was my favorite creation from my experiences in clay.  I love the form and hint of nature.  I think it speaks volumes more about my style and personality than any thing else I managed to produce in the class.

I also took an intro painting course.  I wasn't very good at the time, and most of the things I created aren't worth showing, but over the years I have reworked a few of the pieces, and I'm working out a few updates for others.  Looking at the things I created then I feel like I can see that I wasn't being true to myself at the time.  I didn't feel comfortable in the medium.  I didn't feel comfortable with myself.  I made almost every piece flat and boring - which was honestly how I felt at the time.  Today I am different and so is my art.
"Self-Portrait" Acrylic on Canvas, 2009
This was my original self-portrait for the class, the only part I didn't hate was my eyes, so the next year I dug it out and made it look like this instead.
"Updated Self Portrait" Acrylic on Canvas, finished 2010
During the time that I finished this portrait, I was battling depression.  I felt smothered.  Depression is a battle I first began to fight in my early teen years.  It haunted me throughout my teens and crept back up during the first years of our marriage.  I feel like this painting is the epitome of my struggle with it.  I wasn't being myself because I didn't know who I was. Today I am a different person.  With the help of God in my life, I realized that everyday I have to make a choice to be happy.  So each day I make a conscious decision to smile and be thankful.  I make a decision to see and believe that God can find good in all things.  I make a decision to let a light shine from me that only God can produce.  I try to be the sunshine in a dreary world.
"Palette Knife of Thomas Cole's 'The Oxbow' " Acrylic on canvas, 2009
This painting was the only one I completed during my class that I was happy to look at in the end.  It's a recreation of Thomas Cole's 'The Oxbow'.  Our assignment was to choose a master painting and recreate it using only a palette knife - a challenge at which I excelled.  I'm still not totally comfortable with a brush.  In most of my paintings you'll see the use of my fingers and palette knife mixed in.  I get frustrated when limited to a brush.  I used to get in trouble in my painting class for using my fingers, but now I do what I want. :)
"The Road Not Taken" Acrylic on canvas, 2009
This was one half of my final project for painting.  The assignment was to use two canvases to create a sort of series.  I was inspired by Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and created paintings of the two options. One was this surreal, colorful, if flat, option, while the other was the painting below, a darker more realistic option.
"The Road Not Taken" acrylic on canvas, 2009
The flatness of these paintings has always bothered me.  At the time I just couldn't get what was in my head onto the canvas.  This past spring I dug out the colorful option and finally fixed it.  The darker option is on my list to play with soon.
"The Road Taken" Acrylic on canvas, finished 2014
To me this painting symbolizes the road I decided to take in life.  I chose color.  I chose happiness.  I chose life. 

A friend of mine recently took a little art tour at our house.  She pointed out something I had never noticed about my art.  I have a color signature. Throughout my paintings I use a similar theme of colors and textures.  I love colors.  All of them.  I use them liberally and with little regard to nature.  I squeeze them right from the tube (another thing I used to get in trouble for in painting class, using colors straight from the tube in my paintings, they felt they were too vibrant) Sometimes I use a plate to mix the colors before they find their way to my work, but often I don't mix much at all until they are on my canvas.  I love to play and mix colors right where they will live.  I work with my paint wet.  I get messy, and sometimes I turn out something brilliant - but often I get frustrated and let things sit for a few years before I get back to them.
"Unfinished Love" Acrylic on canvas, started 2010, unfinished and frustrating
I started this painting years ago.  I'll finish it someday, but for now it festers in my mind and waits for inspiration. 

I show you all this to say.... God gave me a gift.  Through his gift I get to bless others, and hopefully through my art you too will see his love.  My art has helped me cope with many things through the years.  It has grown and changed with me.  It is a part of me that until now I haven't shared with many.  It's personal.  God says we are to use our gifts for his glory, and while most of my paintings are not overtly religious, I can see and feel his presence in my most recent works.  I pray while I create.  I think about the use of color and the fact that God blessed us with more colors than my mind can even imagine.  I think about the way God created my hands - the perfect tools to create and form so many things - perfectly formed by a loving God.  I think about the beauty of the world I see around me and the creator who created it all.  I pray that the people who see my work, will see all of that in it.  I may not be a master, and I may never be famous for my artwork, but it is mine.  It is a part of me.  It is my gift from God to you, and I pray that you find joy and love through it.
"Reigning Love" Acrylic on Canvas, 2010