When the Ash and Smoke Settle

Life can get hard.  It can get so very hard somtimes.  Our scars are a reminder of just how hard this life can get.  We have days that leave us feeling too rubbed raw to pick ourselves up and start again.  Other days we are faced with the unrelenting demand for answers we know we can never have.

I have a rule that I don’t explain my artwork.  I tend to do more abstract art, so I get asked a lot to explain.   I think the beauty of art is that it speaks to each of us individually. Each person sees what they need to see.  I don’t want to ruin your interpretation by forcing my own upon you.

Which is why I created my rule (the one I am about to break).  Only I am not going talk about all of the symbolism and such.  Instead I want to talk about the inspiration behind this series.  This series is about a topic that has been on my mind a lot the last year.

This series is our human ability to mend and to bounce back after incredible defeat. These paintings were inspired by my trip to Africa, were hope and despair are found in equal abundance.  They dance around each other like a perfectly stepped waltz.  You can’t have hope without despair.

There is a Russian word Toska, I think it is one of the most hauntingly beautiful words I have ever found.  Toska as defined by Vladimir Nobokov:

No single word in English renders all the shades of Toska.  At its deepest and most painful it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.  At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long form a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning.  In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness.  At the lowest level it grads into ennui, boredom.”

That feeling when hope dies, and we feel lost without any hope of being found.  This painting pulls you in with its fire and anguish.

Burning and consuming.

Turning life into ash and smoke.

Turning hope into a distant memory that was never meant for our lives.

Toska

Photo Credit: Lori Rensink

There is also a beautiful Portuguese word -Saudade- which as defined by Dictionary.com “A deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent.”

The budding leaves gives us a picture of a better world coming our way. The moment when we first allow ourselves to believe that there is more, that there is something better.  Although it may be out of our grasp, we can feel how close it is.  It is a chance for something better and we are hungry for it.  

It’s this hunger that causes our greedy fingers to pull tomorrow’s promise into today’s reality.

Saudade

Photo Credit: Lori Rensink

And finally like a breath of fresh air, hope draws us in with its childlike whimsy.  The ashes and smoke has settled replaced with raw unadulterated hope.  We thought we would never be okay again, but then subtle and without notice one day we were.

Hope

Photo Credit: Lori Rensink

People are made to mend. It’s what we do. We can’t stop ourselves from hoping again, from falling in love again.  Our hearts are made to be malleable.  They were made to break and mend and change and grow.

Strangers will become friends and friends will become strangers.  Hearts will break and hearts will mend.  On the days when you feel broken into so many pieces that you don’t believe there is a way for the all of the pieces to ever find each other, remember this – people were made to mend.  You were made to mend, and mend you will.  

Just Words and Just Music

I remember the first time that I listened to Ed Sheeran’s new album.  I didn’t really know who he was before that, but I stumbled upon it on spotify.  A sign of a good song is when it causes you to stop everything you are doing and just sit there and listen to it.  I did this with the entire album.  I just sat curled up in my favorite chair and let Ed sing to me about love, life, and loss.

His songs still get me a little bit emotional when I listen to them.  They are just words and just music, only they aren’t.  They are so much more because music is so much more.  The arts are so much more, because they touches a part of us that nothing else can.  They drive our human existence. They drive humanity together, because in that moment your realize that someone else gets it and we are not truly as alone as we feel.

Science may create the medicines that keep us alive, but with the arts we struggle and thrive. With the arts our broken hearts heal.

Poetry

I grew up listening to my father sing.  Sometimes it was playing hymns on the piano and other times it was singing along to Simon and Garfunkel in his office.  It didn’t matter where he was, his voice loud and strong filled the whole house.   And I suppose I just got use to always having music be there in the background of my life.

I have been doing a lot of self-exploration into what I want to do with the rest of my life.  And every time I come full circle back to the arts.  I can’t escape them.  Just like listening to my father sing, the arts have always been in the background of my life.  I tell myself that they aren’t practical, then I remember that is exactly why I need them. Because practicality will silently lull us to our grave.  Practicality will cause me to wake up one more when I am 50 with realization that I never chased any of my dreams.

It has been about three months since I have started writing everyday and posting a new blog at least once a week.  I didn’t originally plan on writing that much.  I find that forcing myself to write steals my creativity, and I am left looking at a blank sheet.  I just started doing it more often.  Then I started wanting to do it all the time.

The more I write the more I love it, and the more I realize I have to write.  I have to write because it is my oxygen, and it feels as natural as breathing.  I write because it keeps me sane.  I write to heal.  I write to forgive.  

I write because there is so much in this beautiful life that inspires me, and I am desperate to not let it slip through my fingers. 

My Art’s Journey to the Other Side of World

One of the things I love most about life is that it is full of moments.  Beautiful moments and terrible moments, both of which are capable of bringing tears to our eyes.  If we are lucky one day we will wake up and find ourselves in a moment that, if we let it, will sweep us off our feet and give us exactly what our heart has been searching for.  My last moment like this was back in June when God placed on my heart the call to paint for women everywhere who had been reduced to objects through sex trafficking. Here I am 8 months later in awe of everything that has already happened with Scribbles of Hope.  That is the secret about trusting God.  We learn that if we are willing to trust Him, He will write a far better story for our lives than we ever could.  I was not selling as many paintings as I had originally hoped.  Some of my friends and family seemed a little disappointed when I told them this, but I wasn’t.  I knew that no amount of money could ever fix the problem, because money can’t fix a heart.  But I knew that my art had healed my heart in ways I could not explain, and it was my hope that it could help heal the hearts of others too.  Art has a way of affecting us like that.  It was been humbling to watch my art affect those who see it.  While this was more than I had ever dreamed for Scribbles of Hope, I still felt that something was still missing.  I don’t mean to downplay the hurt that is in Sioux Falls because it is there, but I also knew that there were women across the globe who were also hurting.  I wanted to give them my art so that they could know that someone cared for them.  I had no idea when I woke up this morning that I was going to have another moment that would sweep me off my feet.

The SoHo art is currently on display at the Ransom Church this month.  It just so happened that Micah Kephart the Founder of Poetice International in Zambia would be speaking this morning.  Poetice International is a multi-facted organization, but one area they target is sexual exploitation.  So when I walked into Church and saw Micah talking to someone by a couple of my paintings, something in my soul told me that it wasn’t a coincidence.  During the sermon, Micah told us the story of woman named Elena.  I was so touched by Elena’s story that I wanted to run to the lobby and grab one of my paintings off of the wall and put it in Micah’s hands to give to Elena.  I didn’t though. Instead I waited until the sermon was over to approach Micah.  I wanted to give him four paintings, one for Elena and one for each of the three houses they were planning to build.

I was so nervous as I waited to talk to him.  My palms were sweating and my pulse was racing.  It didn’t help that he kind of looked like Jesus, which was both comforting and intimidating.  But I knew it wasn’t that I was nervous to talk to him.  I was nervous because I understood the magnitude of what was about to happen.  The harder the resistance, the more fear present, the more important the task that is about to happen.  When it came time for me to talk to Micah, I expected him to act slightly awkward about this random girl approaching him and her ridiculous idea to have her art travel half way across the world.  But he didn’t, not even the least bit.  He just listened with all of his attention as I nervously rambled and he said yes without any hesitation.  He told me that nothing would mean more to them than to know that someone cared.  I excited began to talk to him logistics about getting the paintings to Zambia, and we decided that the Ransom team would just bring them when they went on their yearly trip to Zambia in the November.  Then Micah paused.  Smiled.  Looked me in the eyes and said, “Why don’t you just bring your art to Zambia yourself in November.”  I wanted to cry, because I wanted to meet these women, listen to their stories, and be able to tell them that they weren’t broken they were beautiful.  And I wanted to be able to give them my art so that they could understand how much I cared for them.  But I never dreamed that in only 9 months I could be in Zambia doing exactly that. Like I said, if we let Him, God will write a far better story for our lives than we could ever imagine.  And right now he is writing the story of a girl and her art that will travel to the other side of the world to be in the lives of beautiful Zambian women.

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Photo courtesy of Poetice International

“You Have a Gift, Don’t Waste It.”

I first started my blog because my brother in law and I made a pack to start a blog at the same time.  Tonight I read a blog that my brother in law wrote in which he tells the story of a man who told him, “You have a gift, don’t waste it.”  These simple words spoke to my brother in law by a man I don’t even know really hit home with me.

As some of you may know, I am currently in the middle of trying to start an organization called Scribbles of Hope.  What most of you don’t know is that I constantly feel like I have no idea what I am doing, and have no confidence in my ability to pull it off.  Yep its honesty time.  I have no confidence in my painting ability and that people would actually want my paintings; andI have no confidence in ability to get people’s attention about the issue sex trafficking (I don’t really see myself as the type of person that people pay attention to).  So needless to say as I am planning to launch this organization in about a week, I am a little, ok a lot freaked out.  Despite all of the wonderful people God has put into my life who believe in me, I still don’t believe in myself.

This last Sunday at church towards the end the service, there was time were we could come to the front of the church to kneel and pray.  I went up to the front, determined to tell God that he had made a mistake, that he had picked the wrong girl, the wrong time, or maybe both.  Instead I just knelt and cried.  And cried.  I hadn’t intended on crying, I didn’t even feel sad.  But there is something about going to your Father asking for his help and in return being held in His love.  And that is what happened.  I flat out told God that I have no idea what I am doing and I cannot do this. And do you know what He told me?  He told me, “Well of course you can’t do this.  You were never meant to, that is why I am here.  I WILL take care of everything.  I just need you to be your crazy passionate self and do what I made you to do.  The rest will fall into place.”

Can it really be that simple?  That God isn’t asking for us to “have it all together” but that all He is asking is for us to be who he made us to be?  Could it be that we already are everything that we need to be, but that we just don’t have the courage to believe in it?  Could it be that all God is asking of us is that we don’t waste the gift that we already have in us?  We don’t have to search to find our gift, and we don’t have to spend years hiding in our closet perfecting our gift.  We are our gift, and our gift is us.  It is one and the same thing, made inseparable by the one who made us.  He isn’t asking anything from us other than that we follow Him and believe we can be who He made us to be.  You have a gift, don’t you dare waste it.

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Scribbles of Hope

In highschool English class we watched the movie Amazing Grace, and ever since then I have had this dream that I will grow up to be someone like William Wilberforce.  Someone who fights against all odds to battle the injustices of our world.  The older I get the more crazy and unrealistic this dream has become, but it is still there I just silence it with reasonability and responsibility.  But now I have this idea that I love but think is stupid, crazy, and will never work. But isn’t that how changes starts?  When someone dares to hope that their stupid idea but just be crazy enough to work.  No one can ever be practical when attempting something crazy life changing venture.  I mean Esther didn’t just go up to the King and ask him to only save one or two of her close Jewish friends. So I am sitting here thinking about my idea and how ridiculous it is that I could believe this could work.  But I bet Esther probably thought that too.  Worse case scenario at least I won’t get killed.

So here it goes.  Many of you may not know this, but I am a very passionate person.  If passion could be a spiritual gift then it would be one of mine.  And one of my passions, which is the injustices and horrors of sex trafficking, has been growing like a fire in my soul. I guess as a bruised and broken woman my heart goes out to women who are even more bruised and broken than I.  And then recently I stumbled upon this book Undaunted by Christine Caine .  I haven’t finished it yet, but she addresses the issue of sex trafficking and our belief that we are too insignificant for God to use us.  Boy did that one hit home (Isn’t it crazy how God sneaks the right things into our laps?).  Over the last year I have been telling myself that once I start my career as a tough criminal justice something or other then I will join the fight against sex trafficking.  But what about now?  Am I just suppose to ignore the cry of my heart that aches for the women who have been silenced and reduced to a commodity? Well I can’t wait anymore.  Only I wasn’t really sure what I could do.  I can write . . . kind of, and I can paint . . . kind of.  But I am not very good, and I am just me what could I really do?  Only I am not just me now am I. That is the point of trusting God to use us.  We give Him our scribbles of words and paintings and hope that He can use them to impact someone.  so are you ready to hear my crazy idea?  Are you sure??  Good.

So I can write, that is a start.  This is start to me writing about this issue I am so passionate about, and hoping that some of that passion wears off onto you.  Secondly I can paint, and I plan to paint about sex trafficking.  And here is where I need your guys help.  My hope is that you guys will actually want my paintings.  I have this crazy idea that you will “buy” paintings and I will donate all the money to The A21 Campaign which is an organization that fights against sex trafficking (more info on this in later blogs).  I figured this way everyone wins.  I get to paint and share about something I am passionate about.  You get a painting that can remind you to pray for all of the victims around the world, and yes even here in Sioux Falls.  And some women will get the hope that someone somewhere cared enough to help her.

So that is my crazy idea.  I still have a lot of kinks to work out, mainly being I still don’t know if I like my first painting.  But I wanted to throw my idea out there.  As I mentioned my first painting isn’t done, but I have one I have already done that I feel fits quite well. So while I keep praying and figuring out the kinks I want to leave you with a few lyrics from the song Boston:You don’t know me and you don’t even care. You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains. No one knows my name.

These lyrics gave me chills after I thought about how real their meaning is for so many women.  My hope is that I can change that for at least one woman. Want to help me?

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