All fear is a paper tiger, my dear friends. All of it. If something you fear is drawing near you, some suffering, pain, or torment- if it’s coming to you like a ghost across the water- know it is our perfect, All-Knowing and All- Loving Lord that can lead us to a higher path.
We’ve had a stretch of weeks that have been difficult, to say the least. They just are what they are. The circumstances underlying why they’ve been hard won’t change any time soon. We all face seasons like this, some of us longer than others, some deeper than others. All you can do, essentially, is to continue to live. To put one foot in front of the other, to take one breath after another, to string one prayer after another. Fear tends to stop us in our tracks. I think I’ve gotten stuck more times than not in the last two years, holding my breath.
My dear friend, mentor, and chrismating priest, Father Stephen Mathewes, gave a homily on fear this past Sunday. Tuning in with my children on Monday morning as we began our school day on a very rough morning, we all sat quietly and listened to the broadcast as part of our morning’s school work in religious studies. We tend to draw or color quietly (all of us, even me!) as we listen to his homilies. As Fr. Steve joked with the congregation at the opening, we all laughed along, noting with glee the laughter of a dear friend in the background, as this church family was our own for nearly two years before we moved. Father Steve began into his homily and the children kept scribbling furiously at their drawings. I, however, found my hand dropping from my sketch as I leaned in to catch every word. Eventually my pencil rolled on the floor.
I’ve been having a lot of arguments with myself about fear over the last month or so, and I was rather shocked to hear that Fr. Steve had apparently been listening in on my inner dialogue. His answers were pretty bang on the money, my friends. Funny how that works. (It’s a good quick listen if you have ten minutes or so!)
Given what I’ve gone through in the last two years, I realize that so often fear has overtaken me quicker than I can recognize it coming, and it’s not till I’m in over my head that I sort of gasp for air and let go of the breath I’ve been holding. I wondered about this as I listened to Father speak. What sort of radar might I have, what sort of an early warning system could I put in place? A “you need to pray NOW” blazing sign, if one could be had? It puzzled me.
Picking up my pencil off the floor as Father finished his remarks, the answer was quite literally staring me in the face. Little delicate flowers stared up at me from the page.
There’s reams and reams of commentary in the world about creating and fear- about how fear and perfectionism block us from getting to the page. I absolutely agree with them. But also ask any creator, and they’ll tell you that they create because they can’t not create. It’s like ants in their pants.
I know the feeling well.
I also know how destitute my life has been of creating in the last two years.
It’s no mistake that within the last month and a half I’ve sketched, painted, collaged, and scrapbooked more pages than nearly the last five years combined. While our life is still quite difficult, the children’s health has finally stabilized, giving us all more time to think, to sleep, to dream, to just be. Fear has a much harder foothold to find now.
It’s my giant neon sign: if I’m not creating for days, weeks on end, I’m holding my breath. If I’m holding my breath, I am not abiding in Christ, and fear has stopped me in my tracks. Creating helps me push back the darkness and take a deep breath. I won’t ever starve myself of it again, if I can help it.
Dear friend, you may not be wired as I am, but I’d bet you’ve got a early warning system you might not have considered yet. Maybe you love to read but there just hasn’t been time. Maybe your brain fog clears when you’ve taken a long hike, but it’s been months since you’ve strapped on your boots. I’m not sure what it might be, but I think you’ll be able to identify it by how starved you feel when you don’t have it. If it’s missing, if you’re starving, your PRAY NOW sign is blinking a bright, startling red. It’s your sign to remember Who is holding you, to take a deep breath, and to shred that paper tiger that’s got you all wrapped up. Ask me how I know.
It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.
This canvas has taken on such a deep meaning to me. I didn’t know where it was going when I started- it originally looked a bit cloud-scape and I could see it leaning towards an Emily Jeffords-inspired direction. It ended up leaning far more celestial. I remember painting the starscape on a particularly troubling night, feeling angry and bereft and a bit at a loss for words, and how calming it was to bring that vision of stars to life. And then the woman arrived, a total surprise, as I tend to lean more towards abstract collage. The shape of her and the way she was hugging her arms to herself suggested loss and fragility; the snippet of verse came quite soon on her heels. When I finished over-painting the drawing, it still didn’t feel finished to me- in need of more texture. I borrowed from my Poobah Jocelyn an embellishment technique with hand-stitching- and then- it was just right. I’m so pleased with the final product. It really took me out of my comfort zone in many ways, but I kept following the thread of the story, and am better for it. As odd as this sounds, I needed to prove to myself I could commit to the long haul of doing it for the process and showing up. Start to finish, this canvas took me six months.
Speaking of doing it for the process, Emily has started a wonderful new Instagram account that I have absolutely been loving, called none other than… @DoItForTheProcess. Go follow! It is full of lovely inspiration.
(Wonder and Inquiry will return next week.)
There’s another layer on the canvas. I was really surprised when the woman appeared. Usually my layers tend towards abstract-ness, and yet, here she is. She’s definitely not finished yet…I wasn’t sure at first. She needs more detail. Overpainting. We’ll see.
When I started this canvas I had no idea how introspective it would become…these are all mysterious journeys to me. What I think I’m making in the beginning is never what I end up with, and that’s half the fun. But this one? This has a story emerging. Something I needed to tell myself, I think. I feel the pull to get back to it and get another layer going, which usually doesn’t happen. Most of the time I’m just playing with things, a smidge of a minute here, fifteen minutes there. This one though…I need to make some big time very soon.
I’m often listening to a playlist of my own design lately, if I’m not catching up on my love affair with all things British (Downton, Who, Broadchurch, Sherlock). And before you ask, yes and yes to the last season of Downton (sigh!) and the second season of Broadchurch, and absolutely NOT to Who, and a very qualified frustrated don’t bother to the Abominable Bride. I usually love BBC Sherlock. I wanted to throw something at the screen for this one. I’m sure others loved it. Anyways. (Sorry, tucking the fan girl back under!) The whole point of this was to say that this particular song of Josh Garrells has been heavy in the rotation. The whole Home album is excellent. But this one? Something about it.
It appears I’m struck by all things celestial these days. After finishing the stars, I immediately knew what the next layer of the canvas was. I was painting this while catching up on Doctor Who, so I’m pretty sure the TARDIS had something to say about the color. Don’t get me started on this season. BLEH. Thank goodness there are nearly fifty years of re-runs to enjoy. I have no idea where this canvas is going- I never do. It’s the journey to the finished project that I’m interested in.
It was definitely inspired by Annie’s sky that she shared on Instagram a few weeks back, but it seems I’ve been collecting a lot celestial inspirations, period. Something about light in the darkness has become quite a theme for me.
Two other artist crushes these days:
Heather Slightholm (Audrey Eclectic)