Friday, February 5, 2010

At Journey's End

A part of me certainly wishes I hadn't let go of blogging for so long (both this space and One Hungry Soul have been entirely neglected for a record number of days, weeks, etc.). Finding that perfect balance of pausing to document and focusing each breath into its present space is often hard, and in such circumstances I tend to swing hard toward the breathing part.

All that to say, please forgive my absence.

In this time I've been gone, I've been gathering up each "brain photo" of once familiar eyes having grown older, of small-town dairies and reverse round-a-bouts, of shattered shells on Pacific shores, and of windy highway roads ascending into chilly fog. Of course my camera came along for most of these experiences, but the flick of a shutter can't always capture the awe or joy or heart-tugs of a moment. So, I bottled them up, have gathered a few pictures as well, and am going to try and summarize my internship and my time in New Zealand as a whole without writing a complete book.

I left off on this blog with my practice of recording things I had found to be grateful for each day, and now that I know I'm on number 331, I'll pick up the ritual in my bedside journal. It's a beautiful way to daily see the hand of God at work and then look back and remember his provision and the joys that the little details of the day have brought. I also left a post on January 3, which was a brief reference point for the emotions whirling around inside me, enjoying the dance of thanksgiving even if it would mean letting go in a few weeks.

So, I suppose the best way to wrap this all up is to share the paintings I left behind at North Shore Church of Christ and include a few pictures of the faces I grew to love so very much.

Painting I: Close-up midway through process.

I mentioned in a post at the beginning of November that I needed to fill more of my time with a measure of responsibility, and so I was going to undertake these two paintings for the church. The hall that we meet in on Sunday mornings has tall, mostly bare, beige walls, so I was looking to bring something in with bright, joyous color and a depth that would bless and inspire others.

While I wanted to paint an image(s) that would be widely applicable to its viewers, I had to draw on something personal in order to impart authentic emotion and message into them. The best way I knew to do that was to look at the things God had been teaching me and bring them before him, asking that I be able to communicate these lessons in a universal way. I will always pray that he succeeds in working beyond my limited imagination and paintbrush strokes to reach others with his personal touch.


Paintings I & II: Each 36''x40'', acrylic on canvas.

The lessons I was (and am) slowly learning are ones he's been trying to teach me for years, ones of trust and care. The eleventh verse of Isaiah 58 was incorporated into one of the base layers of the paintings: "The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." I knew it probably wouldn't show in the final image of the painting but was fine with that, as I often like my pieces to be less blatant. The laying down of it in the foundations of the layers was enough for me.

Also, the message of care was important to me. As a small church body and a group of individuals living lives that are ever guilty of not looking at our surroundings with God's observant eye, I wanted attention to be given to the details in our daily environment. Redeeming the beauty of the oft-forsaken. Giving sacred value to the mundane. As I gave time and attention to things around our church building like the sink in the women's restroom, a light fixture in the hall, the doorknob into the kitchen, and upholstered buttons on the back of the old couch downstairs, I hoped to remind viewers to give value to the people and objects we pass by in our everyday life. Even more, to remind ourselves of the beauty God finds in us, ordinary and neglected as we feel sometimes.

The geographical place of the North Shore was also important to this piece because our congregation is a diverse one, and it's beautiful to see how God draws together people from so many different areas of the world and helps them find their common ground and collaborative ability to show his glory. Giving attention to the broader North Shore community was a natural aspect to incorporate on a personal level (because of my affection, planted more than fifteen years ago, for NZ and its people) and an important one for the broader interaction between residents of the North Shore -- not just in an evangelistic way, but in a mutual need of each other, especially within the broader body of Christ's churches. All of this I took and represented in the structure of the root system on the second painting (the longest root representing Motorway 1) and, in the first painting, in collaged pieces of road maps of different neighborhoods in the area.

These were the foundational concepts of my two-piece series (in their most expanded explanation), but the journey from start to finish contained so many unexpected layers and colors that it was a joy to play the role I was able to assume in its creation.

Painting II: On easel midway through process.

My time in New Zealand was concluded with a visit from my mother for the last three weeks. She arrived on January 9th and on Sunday, the 10th, we had a barbecue at my lovely Rothesay Bay "home". It was a chance for her to meet the amazing people I got to know in my three months of interning and an opportunity for me (and Elise) to say good-byes.

Here are just a few people in the church body who my heart so effortlessly swelled for...


Thank you so much to all of you who supported me financially, and prayerfully, in this endeavor. I will forever treasure the memories, the lessons learned, and the perspectives shifted and broadened. I thank you for your part in this journey.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Today my heart hurts from all the loving this place has so easily pulled out of me. Loving when there is an end in sight hurts the worst. Still, I wouldn't have loved less and I wouldn't wish anything different. I'm ever grateful for the faces, the places, and each gust of wind; for all I've received, and the ways I've learned to give.

Besides, I don't really believe in endings. Not the hopeless kind.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baking Preparations

minty icing

1000 gratitudes...

318. Being reminded of the value of this ritual.
319. Getting to sleep next to a sister, jabby elbows and all.
320. An ever-memorable yesterday on Waiheke.
321. Ferrying across Kiwi waters.
322. Conversation with strangers.
323. Oohing and aahing to no end.
324. A safe time in our rental car.
325. Smooth cooperation between travelers.
326. Beaches that never lose their appeal.
327. Turquoise water between speckled islands.
328. A view of the Sky Tower from a vineyard's balcony.
329. Breaks for tired feet.
330. Fabulous food.
331. A wonderful beginning to this holiday season.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Art

christmas printmaking

1000 gratitudes...

308. Thumbing through new unknown books.
309. Sipping coffee while reading an old but new-to-me one.
310. City streets filled with God's creativity in faces and languages.
311. Being able to give Christmas gifts out of His abundant provision.
312. Soul stretch-marks.
313. Beautifully intelligent, creative people who inspire me - friends and strangers.
314. Honoring the concepts of age and repair.
315. Conversations that stir up bursts of belly-laughter.
316. Sharing in the baptism of a girl I've come to know through the church's youth group.
317. The familiarity of a sister.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shards in Ritual


1000 gratitudes...

295. Getting to cream and chop and measure away the morning (i.e. make cookie dough) at a leisurely pace.
296. Rosie Thomas's voice and stories.
297. How this love of music was fostered in me from birth.
298. An amazing camera to capture the details of the mundane.
299. The familiar shops of Birkenhead.
300. My walking school bus routine, which has now ended.
301. The amusement of drinking an iced latte in December.
302. Hours to paint on large canvases.
303. Experiencing the application of knowledge gained in university art classes.
304. My favorite form of transportation: walking (unless the roads are in quiet countryside - then it's biking).
305. Humour!
306. Never knowing true physical starvation - bountiful provision of food each and every day.
307. The excitement held in tomorrow.

Summer Sun Within

Caffe Massimo [takapuna]

1000 gratitudes...

282. Beginning my day at my favorite cafe, skyping with a favorite person.
283. Sweet Kiwi kids (whose accents I forget about these days).
284. Lunch with a family I love.
285. Hours to paint and aspire to beauty in chaos.
286. The texture of dry paint against canvas.
287. Yellow ochre - a favorite color to see on my palette.
288. Derek Webb's honesty in joy, pain, and controversy (love all his albums).
289. Sharing art with a friend.
290. Walking beneath brilliantly red Pohutakawa trees.
291. Being brave.
292. Having so many wonderful people in my life to miss from afar.
293. Sharing Four on a Couch with friends.
294. A late night at the kitchen table, dipping fruit-nut balls in chocolate.

[I seem to have lost my rhythm here, folks, but here's yesterday's list. I'll try to pick up and get on top of this thing, as it has become a peaceful place to go for moments in the middle of my day as well as at the end of the day when my weary body needs to recapture all the beauty.]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baking Day

fruit-nut balls 3

1000 gratitudes...

271. The giant stuffed tiger in this borrowed bedroom.
272. Missy Higgins as today's baking soundtrack.
273. Conversation with a friend who knows me so well.
274. A beach saturated with beauty.
275. Hearing the word "quid" again.
276. Having Someone to express and trust my desires to.
277. Filling a kitchen with the smell of chocolate.
278. Handy measurement conversion websites.
279. Discovering how photogenic frosting can be.
280. Gluten-free Christmas goodness for sister.
281. Funny confusion because of differing pronunciations of the word "egg".