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.