Fiber Art

Shimmering Contrasts, India Part 9

Speeding through the streets of colorful metropolitan Kolkata, we slow down and stop near the hippodrome to let a small flock of about fifty goats cross the street. Through the car window I watch a man in a bright orange tunic and pants, wearing a turban and carrying a mat under his right arm walk out onto a nearby soccer field. He is not bothered by the two dozen men chasing a ball up and down the green. He walks into their midst, opens his mat and sits. He is an orange beacon in a green sea and the soccer game parts around him, continues almost uninterrupted, different cultures occupying the same space.

This week we take two mornings to visit freedom businesses. These are businesses that exist to give people work, choices, and dignity. The two businesses we visit are specifically aimed at releasing women caught in the sex trade.

The first one we visit partly because we are considering using them for t-shirts. Shandra wants me to make a logo that can be used on t-shirts that will be sold to raise funds. To do this I need to understand what this company can and cannot do. The company is called FreeSet and you can find them online here: http://freesetglobal.com/

I meet the art-prepareres, the color-mixers (with their rings of Pantone color cards!), the fabric cutters and shirt-assemblers, and then I buy several t-shirts. I want to know how much drape there is in the cloth after it is printed. I am delighted to say that these shirts become personal favorites. They are soft and maintain their hand.

The logo I dream for the House of Light Project incorporates these things: a flame in an Indian-like pattern because their word for light is the same as their word for flame, a house within the flame and the word jyoti (flame) in Hindi inside the house. The house is filled with light and it emanates light. Beneath the flame is the website address where people can donate to the project. It is a little website I set up for them that they will maintain as they grow. The donation portal goes through Cru, which is the established and highly regarded non-profit that employs the feisty Shandra. The address is: houseoflightindia.com

The second freedom business we visit is Sari Bari. I have loved their products for many years, and we think it might be a good connection for the nuns at the House of Light. Sari Bari creates products--mostly blankets and bags--from used saris and straight stitching called kantha embroidery. The atmosphere among the women in the workplace is one of easy camaraderie and dedication to the work. There is something light and beautiful about the place. It feels like an oasis. You can find them online here: http://saribari.com/

Sister Dorothy, the smallest, youngest and newest sister in the house, comes with us to our meeting with the president of the company. One day I will create art to honor this most amazing woman. She does everything with her whole heart. This earnest woman, speaks to a tall, quiet earnest man with a heart for justice, peace and healing. I watch God stitch the ends of their fabrics together as they speak and I still don't know how He does it. Words are insufficient to describe that afternoon as we sit cross-legged together, grateful for the mats beneath us and the kindred spirits before us.

Sacred ground in the middle of the largest sex trade district in India.

Different cultures occupying the same space.

Playing With Dolls, India Part 8

I have spent a lot of time studying trauma this year. Enough to know that I don't know hardly anything. This is a complex field of study and the science has started to move quickly. Part of the reason for the complexity is that there are so many varied factors in creating trauma. Why do two people experience the same event and yet one is traumatized and the other seems to take it in stride? Trauma is not just something that happens to someone, it is very much more than that.

We do know that one factor in the level of trauma sustained by a victim of sexual violence, is the reaction of people who receive her afterwards. If her people overreact the trauma is deeper--this includes overreactions on both sides of the spectrum. We would expect that rejection by her people would be traumatic, but so is excessive sympathy. And what would excessive sympathy even look like? Well, that's another thing that varies from person to person.

Enter entrainment. Here is a short video to illustrate the concept:

In physics, entrainment is associated with conservation of energy. When two objects of like vibration are in close proximity, they will begin to move together in synchronicity. Two objects moving together use less energy than two objects moving in opposite directions.  

When we dance or sing to music we use entrainment to play together. Music therapists have used this concept for decades to teach muscles to work again, to help brains of stroke victims to make connections again.

We see this in nature as well. Biorhythms synchronize. Fireflies blink on and off together. And, when we sit next to one another and do art or craft, we breathe together. And you know what happens when we breathe together? We don't feel alone anymore. We feel accepted without feeling smothered. We just exist together, breathing together. 

Another thing we know is that having permission and space to tell our stories in our own way, rewires us. It gives us power over the story instead of the story dominating us. Before I left for India, my daughter and I talked about the many ways that dolls had given her personal stories voice throughout her childhood. She put together a doll-making kit for me to take to India. There in the House of Light, a truly safe space, our team sat with the girls and care-givers and crafted dolls together. Breathed together. Relaxed into rhythm together.

And girls who had missed out on childhood played with dolls. By the next day breathing became laughter and they were creating bouquets of pipe cleaner flowers and gifting them to one another.

Synchronicity. Moving together. It's good for healing.

And it's less lonely that way too.

1 in 6, India Part 7

The television was always on in the hotel restaurant. The large flatscreen at the far end of the room was most often tuned into the news. The news was (understandably) Indo-centric and skewed slightly in India's favor, so I was shocked one morning when I heard the anchorwoman preface a story with:

One in six girls in India does not survive to reach the age of fifteen.

One in six.

One in six?

And the girls we were working with? They were girls who did survive. They made it to fifteen years of age, but they have endured so much in their little lives.

One in six. I am not a numbers person. I had a hard time understanding the statistic. I needed a visual. How could I wrap my mind around the meaning in those numbers?

One evening some new friends took us to visit various sites around Kolkata. It is truly a beautiful city. We saw civic memorials and religious sites including a Hindu temple and the Anglican cathedral of St. Paul's. We found relief from the Kolkata heat in the cool interior of the cathedral. Behind the baptistry, at the back of the church, was a framed quote from John Donne. The words were so familiar to me, but standing in India with a heavy statistic pressing on my heart I read them, heard them, as if they were brand new:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

We are all a piece of the same cloth, together we make a tapestry. That statistic is not just a number. Because we all participate in humanity, we are all diminished by the death of another, all diminished by the hurt of another--even if we don't know it.

So, here is a piece titled 1 in 6. It is a visual for myself to see what that number means. Two broken eggs from a box of a dozen. When I was finished with this textile piece, I took a sharp blade and tore 6 holes into it in no particular pattern. I was trying to mar the piece without symmetry or beautiful placement of the ripped places. Because our tapestry, our humanity, is marred by the death and misfortune of others.

1 in 6, Michelle Winter ©2016 polyester & rayon thread with cotton print fabrics on natural cotton twill, stitch mounted to 16x20" museum board

Whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we understand it or not, when lives are lost, we all lose.

I Am Disturbed, India Part 3

I pushed open the door from the hotel and stepped into the Kolkata heat. Immediately, my glasses fogged up. As I stood wiping them, I could feel sweat collecting between my shoulder blades. By the time our driver dropped Shandra and I at the sewing machine shop, our clothes had melted into our skins.

But inside the shop, the atmosphere was quite chilly. Neither the manager nor his assistant smiled. When he spoke, the manager was careful to look pointedly away from us, mostly out the window, so that we became most familiar with his right ear and shoulder. He asked us a lot of questions, he didn't answer ours. The assistant brought us tea. The manager didn't drink his. I didn't drink mine.

"I could feel the steam coming out of your ears in that cold room,"  Shandra would laugh about this for weeks. And it was true. My anger was growing and I was struggling to contain it. This man, Lord! He is so condescending! How? How is he going to be able to do the things we have contracted him to do? How can a man this arrogant teach the women at the House of Light? His arrogance is a wall... And suddenly I realized I was catching a glimpse of another invisible story. There was so much I didn't know about this man, so much I would never understand; however, it was clear that he was woven into this tapestry. To discount him would be to leave a hole in the fabric. That's when the Holy Spirit broke into my own arrogance.

"There is much I don't know," I leaned forward. "Teach me."

He turned and looked at me for the first time. He waved at his assistant and thus began an hour of "training." I let him show me the machine features and I cooled down. He let me ask questions and he warmed up. We embroidered several samples onto black cloth and with each stitch our conversation became more real. Then he asked me to step into the back room. He wanted to show me the machine I should have bought. It filled the room. He showed me that it operated in exactly the same way as the smaller one but moved significantly faster.

"Tell me why you prefer this machine," I asked him.

"It's so much faster! You cannot hope to be competitive in the industry with the machine you bought!" He took a breath, "Tell me why you prefer that machine."

I laughed, "Because it is so much slower! That machine will go to a home for girls. They will learn on it without losing any fingers and then have the skills to get jobs later."

"A home for girls? It is going to a home for girls?" He looked at the floor for a second. He spoke very quietly, "Then you have purchased the correct machine." When he looked up he was smiling.

Shandra signed the papers and we packed up the boxes. She would laugh later, "I don't know what you did but you gained a friend in that shop." The Holy Spirit wanted to use the stones in my own wall of arrogance to build a bridge. As we were leaving I picked up the black cloth on which we had stitched out several samples, "Can I have this?" The assistant snatched it out of my hand, but the manager gave it back to me, "Of course you must have it, there is no problem." He gave us several business cards, "You must please disturb me for any reason. If the sisters at the House of Light need anything, machine maintenance, lessons, any question at all! I will look forward to being disturbed by them."

This textile piece is titled The Holy Spirit Disturbs Us. I wanted to do a textile piece to remember that moment. I loved that the manager used the word "disturbed" because it so accurately encapsulated all of our feelings that morning. We were negatively disturbed by one another, then we were positively disturbed by the Holy Spirit who invited us to try again. The piece is entirely hand-stitched to honor the effort, one stitch at a time, one word at a time, that it takes to choose to build a bridge.

   The Holy Spirit Disturbs Us,    Michelle Winter ©2016 cotton thread on cotton fabric stitch mounted to 16x20" museum board

The Holy Spirit Disturbs Us, Michelle Winter ©2016 cotton thread on cotton fabric stitch mounted to 16x20" museum board

The gray background fabric felt chilly to me, like the atmosphere in the shop when we first arrived. The orange square is the Presence of God, which is always there. The straight stitches are a nod to a form of traditional Indian hand embroidery called kantha. They form lovely undulations in the fabric (and texture is the reason textiles are my first art love). I chose white embroidery floss because I wanted something that didn't stand out too much. I wanted the stitching to feel almost atmospheric. The straight lines at the bottom are about the paths in which we are often stuck. The undulations are the unintentional ripples those paths can create. The scattered stitches are the times when the Holy Spirit explodes us out of our paths. The curved stitches are the times when we are merely nudged to see things in new ways. Anything can happen when The Holy Spirit Disturbs Us. I used a mounting technique that was new to me. Though it was a pain-staking process, I am so happy with the result and will definitely use it again.

The House of Light

My friend Shandra hates injustice. That's probably true about a lot of people, but Shandra beats it with a stick. Last year she went to Kolkata, India to partner with an international NGO. She wanted to save girls from the sex slave trade. The NGO only prosecutes cases they think they can win. Between them they came up with a plan to grab girls from perpetrators they were sure they could put away. The problem was that they needed an adult witness to testify to having seen a crime committed. Do you see where this is going? They needed some mighty brave women to risk their lives by going into very dark places.

Where do you find women like that?

They visited churches Kolkata asking if anyone would consider doing this. A woman in a golden sari stood up. "Look no further. My sisters and I. We will go." They explained to the woman that her life would be in danger. She waived them off. "Our lives do not belong to us. We gave them to God already."

Shandra wrote this:

I met some nuns who were all about Jesus and justice. We call them the Ninja Nuns because they run alongside ... on rescues into brothels. When I met them, Sister Lissi told me of her hope to turn their home into a place to love and care for the young girls who were being rescued.

I became a contributor last year. One of the many things I love about this project is that Protestant organizations joined hands with Catholic nuns to love the hurting. This kind of unity is what Life is about and it is what I have been praying for since 2000. Unity, not so that we can all believe the same thing, but so that we can love in a big way. Unity was Christ's last prayer for us before He was arrested. We are better together. Loving big.

A few weeks ago I met Shandra for coffee. "I'm going to India in July and I need you to come with me," she said. I listened while she described what she needed: a textile artist who could also help them purchase and learn to use an embroidery machine, someone who could offer soul care using the expressive arts. Then she said the magic words, "Michelle, what I really want is to take a dreamer." 

I'm going.

This is exactly what I signed up for when I became an artist missionary in April. This is what I do. I walk beside those who are doing a good work and offer some creative tools. 

Want to join the adventure? If you would like to contribute to the project or to my ministry you can do so HERE.

If you would like to join my prayer team, you can fill out the form HERE.

Here is an email excerpt from India:

"Greetings and thank you for this help. I am sure that this would be seen as a great step in the history of missions, to know how the Evangelicals and Catholics can come together to give freedom to the oppressed. Please let your partners and friends know our gratitude towards the expression of love and commitment to the girls in Kolkata. I know that much effort from your side have gone behind the scene and may God bless you for all efforts."

And He does, you know? God blesses all efforts.

Abraham's Stars Part 3

And after all that preparation, after sharing our stories and playing together, it got hard. In order to stabilize the weavings we had to sew every warp piece to the one next to it—by hand. There was no other way, no short cut. We had to show up and put in the work, we worked side by side and we built relationships. We were in the lobby every day except Sundays, for 7-9 hours a day for 4 weeks. 67 different people showed up to volunteer. Many came numerous times.

This is the part that scared me. I knew it would. Much of my work I do alone. Community pinches me. At this point the tapestries held my fears: that I don’t belong and would never be able to break in, that I would fail. But early in this process someone came and she sewed quietly. I worried about how to entertain her, what to say? After several hours she thanked me for providing a space where she could sit with women and just be, where she didn’t have to talk. And just like that the Lord released me. Instead, I prayed every morning that He Himself would offer hospitality, that the lobby would be a safe place and that everyone would feel welcome here. And every single day He brought people who needed one another to sew next to each other. We shared lives, good books, good movies, recipes...

While I stitched in the lobby, a man came by. “You’re listening to stories? I have a story.” “It’s too late to write it into the tapestry,” I told him, “but if I can keep working while you tell me I will stitch it into this piece.” A total of 73 people over 4 weeks stopped by just to tell their stories. Their stories are just as much a part of this work as the ones written and they bring the total number in the tapestries to almost 400.

The lobby became a sacred space. One woman walking through said, “There is a stillness here, a peace. I can hear the women talking, so it isn’t quiet that I am feeling. No, it’s stillness.”

 
 Part of a stitching crew. Each of the three looms could accommodate 4 sewing volunteers at a time. The Navajo-loom-inspired-Olivia-and-Larry-designed warp tightening mechanism worked well for rolling the large pieces and keeping them tight while we worked.

Part of a stitching crew. Each of the three looms could accommodate 4 sewing volunteers at a time. The Navajo-loom-inspired-Olivia-and-Larry-designed warp tightening mechanism worked well for rolling the large pieces and keeping them tight while we worked.

 

Someone said, “When you get these pieces up no one will know how much work really went into them.” But isn’t that true for every single ministry in the church? How many people really know how much work is done behind the scenes to pull off any act of love or kindness, any ministry, or even a sermon?

This started as an offering to the Lord, and a project to illustrate community. It became a love letter to my church:

To all those people who said, “I would never put so much work into something” as they walked through on their way to put just as much work into preparing for their ministry. I see you. To those people whose stories filled my heart. Yes, it was a love letter. But, in the end, I was the one most blessed. By your courage as you face every day. By your faith as you hold onto God’s promises. By your love for your families and neighbors. And by the dear people who came and sewed beside me, offering their friendship. Thank you. I see Jesus in you.
 Some of the dangles made by the children. I was just getting ready to put them on when teenagers started arriving in the lobby for youth group one night. A few asked if they could help, which inspired the rest of them and the job was soon finished. Their spontaneous generosity rounded out the statistics for this project. Now every single demographic in the church could claim to have had a hand in it!

Some of the dangles made by the children. I was just getting ready to put them on when teenagers started arriving in the lobby for youth group one night. A few asked if they could help, which inspired the rest of them and the job was soon finished. Their spontaneous generosity rounded out the statistics for this project. Now every single demographic in the church could claim to have had a hand in it!

 The weavings in place in the main lobby above the doors into the sanctuary.

The weavings in place in the main lobby above the doors into the sanctuary.

 Our stories woven into and through God's story.

Our stories woven into and through God's story.


praying twice

This is the playlist we used off and on while we sewed. In many ways our songs were prayers. The songs are related to the stories, people and hopes invested in the weavings.

Abraham's Stars Part 2

And then we played...

See, the thing about three gigantic looms in the lobby is that they are hard to ignore. They are, in fact, so hard to ignore that people who would normally avoid involvement in such a project became caught up in it.

We had God's story in God's words written out on the warp fabric, our stories written on the weft fabric, the looms were warped and the weft pieces rolled and organized into baskets. Here is a portion of the email instructions I sent to volunteer loom monitors and paint helpers:

Thanks so much for agreeing to help out! This is a true community project! So many people have contributed stories, time and effort already and this Sunday we get to help even more to participate. What we are doing is offering hospitality. The default word is, "Yes!"
Here are the general guiding principles:
* We want to include everyone. Please encourage cooperation. Shorter persons can weave the lower end and from underneath, those with mobility issues can weave from the side, etc. The looms are large so it will be very difficult for someone to weave the entire length alone. That is intentional. We are all a part of one another's stories.
* Have FUN! Lots of it!

There was so much joy in that lobby. Both weeks, people lingered long after each service. Adults and kids played together, crawling under and into the looms, others weaved from the outside. We laughed a lot, caught up with people we hadn't seen in awhile and talked to some we had never met. Did I mention that we laughed a lot? Yeah, that's a beautiful sound.

 Little hands sticking through the tapestry help the fabric along. In this project, everyone made a valuable contribution!

Little hands sticking through the tapestry help the fabric along. In this project, everyone made a valuable contribution!

Meanwhile, on the patio Leslie Dugas led kids in a painting project. I wanted people to look at the tapestries later and know that they were "in" them, that the weft pieces represented their stories. I felt that adults would be able to make that leap, but that kids might need something more concrete to understand the concept. I asked Leslie, an amazing watercolorist who has a heart for sharing art with children, if she would help kids to create dangles for the finished tapestries. We had plywood stars, circles and swirls. I was hoping that each one would be distinctive so that kids could look at the finished project and find their pieces. Leslie has always come through in a big way. She helped kids find their voices and translate them into unique and beautiful painted pieces. I love them so much! Thanks Leslie!

There were four older men who had not turned in stories, and made it clear that they did not want to weave. However, they were fascinated by the loom construction and had lots of questions about the fabric preparation. I answered all the questions to the best of my ability and then became involved in something else. Later, I noticed that they had deputized themselves as unofficial docents and hosts.  All four of them had little groups in tow and were giving tours filled with loom construction and fabric preparation trivia. I heard them call this "our project," "our looms," "our tapestries," and it made me so happy. We all participate in our own ways!

If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

Abraham's Stars Part 1

The leadership team at CMBC asked me to come up with a project that met this criteria:

  • include people of all ages and skill levels in a large art project
  • correlate with the sermon series on the life of Abraham
  • illustrate and encourage community
  • fill a large empty wall over the sanctuary doors

I offered them several ideas for a community project and they decided on this tapestry weaving project. Everyone of any age or skill level can weave. The colors represent the night sky and the stars that Abraham saw when God told him that his descendants would be like the stars. The entire piece would be approximately 40 feet wide (including the white spaces between) and 25-30 feet long.

 
community quilt mock up20150624_18231960.jpg
 

I sketched a design for 20ft by 10 ft looms on a napkin and asked Larry Haggin if he could build three. He answered with the most magical word, the word that opens doors and gives wings to ideas, he said, "Sure!"

 Loom #3 in the hallway.

Loom #3 in the hallway.

 Loom #1 in the lobby, loom #2 would be in the gym.

Loom #1 in the lobby, loom #2 would be in the gym.

I mixed white acrylic paint, pearl interference paint and fiber medium in a squeeze bottle and wrote out the story of Abraham from the book of Genesis onto 1500 feet of fabric. God's story in God's words would become the warp for each loom.

We invited the congregation to participate by sharing their answers to any of the following questions:

  • Describe a moment of revelation.
  • Describe a time when you felt strong even though you were clearly weak.
  • Describe an experience that made you feel like part of something larger.
  • Describe a time when you knew you were in the right place.
  • Describe a time when you felt called to something other people considered strange or silly
  • Describe a time you gained or lost someone or something important to you.

We received 244 submissions and we wrote them on the fabric that would become the weft. There were stories about miraculous healings and the mighty power of God, stories about long suffering with no end in sight and the carrying presence of God, stories that asked where is God in this?

Olivia and Larry devised a warp tightening mechanism for the looms based on a Navajo-style loom, and then she, Nick and I warped them:

 
 Sweet Olivia, my favorite art intern (don't tell the others), warping a loom.

Sweet Olivia, my favorite art intern (don't tell the others), warping a loom.

 

When we warped the looms, we didn’t worry about keeping the story in order. God is outside of time. However, we saved out the first and last line to use as binding. The first tapestry binding furthest to the left is the first line of Abraham’s story: “Terah set out with his son Abram from Ur of the Chaldees…” The last binding, the one furthest to the right is the last line of Abraham’s story: “And Abraham breathed his last…”

I sorted the stories submitted by the congregation into baskets that went with the parts of Abraham's story. I started doing this because I noticed how relevant Abraham's life and experiences were to today and saw some similarities in our stories. ALL of the stories submitted fit into the Genesis story! We rolled the weft pieces into manageable rolls and set the baskets by the correct looms and we were ready for Kid Friendly Summer Sundays!


All That Is Seen

I live in rural Oregon. Everyone out here has a dog. Most have several. We have herding dogs, leading dogs, guardians, hunters, nannies and friends. The commands we use to train them are all different, reflecting both the dog's job and the owner's personality. Except for one command. And we use it often, for all sorts of reasons. We all have taught our dogs this one command, "Go home."

That one command, "Go home," resets everything. The dog calms down and turns towards home. It is almost magical. This week's verse is from Matthew:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~Matthew 11:28-30

There are so many ways to rest in God. I have spent much of the past two months working on a fiber art piece. I first mentioned it here. A lot of soul work went into this piece. By the time I was ready to finish piecing the eyes, I was ready to be seen. Wanted to be seen. Knew I was seen. And loved anyways. I worked slowly on the face, but this week I was suddenly impatient to do the eyes. I finished the piecing today:

Art Quilt All That is Seen

Now it's time to sew it all down and embroider the eyebrows and eyelashes. I don't know how it looks to anyone else, but what I see in this piece is acceptance, kindness, gentleness, Home.

House of Prayer

A few years ago, after reading in the book of Mark, I became fascinated with the cleansing of the Temple.

Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves. ~Mark 11:17

I have long been fascinated by this passage because it is the only recorded instance of violence by the Prince of Peace. Jesus was certainly controversial, He didn’t shrink from telling the truth. There were so many things he spoke for and against, taught about good and evil; but the situation in the Temple incited righteous anger. This was not a spontaneous outburst of rage, it was a methodical vandalism, a purposeful cleansing. It seems so incongruous, doesn't it? And yet, this moment has been a bridge for me between God in the Old Testament and God in the New Testament. It has helped me to see that God's concern for His people is deep and wild.

There is so much I don’t understand about this passage, but I do know that in this moment, I am His House. I know that I am to be called a house of prayer.

I entered this project with these questions: Am I a house of prayer? Or am I a den of thieves? How can my body be a den of thieves? Am I self-seeking? Am I a life-giver by my words and actions? Or a life-stealer in word and deed? What qualifies a temple to be called a “house of prayer?

I created this piece a few years ago, but it seemed appropriate to share it here now as we have been exploring the concept of Sanctuary over at His Kingdom Come this month.

I wanted to connect the stone House of Prayer to the corporeal House of Prayer, so I tried to incorporate components reminiscent of construction materials. The fabric print is "stoney."

I found the central image online. This was the first time I used a photo reference that was not my own. I spoke here about the only other time I have used some one else's photo as a reference. This is how I learned that I am not happy with the results when I do that. I feel I am not speaking my own story, which is the only story I really know. It is a great photo. The information attached to the photograph says the photographer's name is Peter Brutsch. Her posture says "house of prayer." I enlarged the photo and traced it onto the back of some contact paper. I cut it out and applied it to a large screen. The paint is Golden heavy body acrylics in burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw umber and fabric medium. I completely mixed the fabric medium with the raw umber and burnt sienna, but left some blobs of burnt umber unmixed. This produced a kind of striated effect when I pulled the paint through the screen that almost gives the impression of wood grain. 

Then I screen-printed some gold dots in the space above and around the figure (I've added arrows to help you see them as they are hard to see in this photo). These dots represent God's voice in the prayerful conversation.

Next, I added some free motion quilted stones for her to kneel upon.

Here I've added her portion of the conversation with God as hand embroidered random straight stitch that raises up from her spirit. I used different colors (red, tan and white) for different types of communication. I've sewn frayed organza (in Bordeaux, I believe) to either side of the space above the figure. This symbolizes the torn veil from the Temple. Because the veil is torn, the flow of communication is open. 

I layered various fabric prints that had a construction material-feel to them.

And here (sorry for the poor picture) is the completed piece. I sewed across the strips and caught some of the layers into the horizontal stitching to reveal other layers below. I did this for several reasons: I wanted more texture, more visual interest, I wanted to think about the many layers of the Veil, how my body has become a House of Prayer and the wild ways God guards this temple. The edges are unfinished and the piece is sewn to a section of copper pipe using thin wire.


Remembering Sanctuary

The week before Easter I started a small fiber piece that I titled "He Is Alive!" I knew what I wanted to do and I thought I could be done by Easter. That was five weeks ago. Every time I work on this piece time slows. I spend hours working and when I look up, I have made almost no progress. This piece refuses to be hurried, and I have finally surrendered to it. Here is the picture I took of it two weeks ago:

 

Here is what it looks like today:

 

See? Slow going.

More confessions:

  1. I knew what I wanted the piece to be. Eyes are such a metaphor for Life. I didn't want an entire face. That would be entering territory I wasn't prepared to enter. I don't know what Jesus looked like and I don't want to speculate at this time. I just wanted eyes. But, once I got started I was afraid of them. As you can see here, I have saved the eyes for last. Honestly, I did everything else first because I felt vulnerable under that gaze. In fact, the thought made me so uncomfortable that I was forced to really consider what I might be trying to hide from God. I worked on the piece with this question hovering near. It has been an interesting month.
  2. I wanted to do this piece using solid cottons because I didn't want the skin color to be obvious--Christ belongs to us all-- and because I wanted to do some hand embroidering. I couldn't pull this off. Turns out I am so addicted to printed cottons that I cannot get through a project without them. [Sigh]. This is going to seriously limit the hand stitching fun I was hoping to have.
  3. This stubborn little piece has reminded me why I love to do this. I am so enjoying every minute spent on it. This is worship for me. This is play. This is healing. This is good.

A friend asked me not too long ago how I manage to "do it all" (which I don't, by the way). This quiet making, this is Sanctuary. God is here. We meet. Talk. Argue. Lean in. Rest. Renew. Here. Sanctuary.

Studies for The Garden: Sketch for the Left Panel

This week, I have been reading and studying. In addition to reading commentaries on this pivotal moment, I have been looking for symbolism that will underscore what is happening in the Garden. Below is a working sketch:

 
 The tangle of branches in the sky is a symbol for struggle. I am going to enlarge that section and write Christ's prayer for unity into the sky. I'll slide the sleeping guy up about an inch (he symbolizes those who don't see the point in being watchful and make themselves comfortable while they wait) and slide the guy on the far left down and to the left about 2 inches so that the disciples form more of a curved line (the seated guys tried to stay awake but could not). This sketch will form the top 3 feet of a 10 foot panel. The rest of the panel will be stones. The stones are symbols of the Temple. The wall is crumbly as the old is giving way to the new. There will be deep browns and greens peeking out from underneath and between the stones because there is Life in God's way whether it is old or new.  I am also going to slide the drooping brome grass (isn't that a great name, especially for those drooping disciples?!) down to about the halfway mark of the length of the panel so it appears to be closer to the viewer and lighter. That will let me make it more colorful.

The tangle of branches in the sky is a symbol for struggle. I am going to enlarge that section and write Christ's prayer for unity into the sky. I'll slide the sleeping guy up about an inch (he symbolizes those who don't see the point in being watchful and make themselves comfortable while they wait) and slide the guy on the far left down and to the left about 2 inches so that the disciples form more of a curved line (the seated guys tried to stay awake but could not). This sketch will form the top 3 feet of a 10 foot panel. The rest of the panel will be stones. The stones are symbols of the Temple. The wall is crumbly as the old is giving way to the new. There will be deep browns and greens peeking out from underneath and between the stones because there is Life in God's way whether it is old or new.  I am also going to slide the drooping brome grass (isn't that a great name, especially for those drooping disciples?!) down to about the halfway mark of the length of the panel so it appears to be closer to the viewer and lighter. That will let me make it more colorful.

 

My library had a dozen or so interesting books on the events of Holy Week. The two most enlightening books so far are Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI and Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson. Here is an excerpt from Peterson's chapter on the Garden of Gethsemane:

A few hours before Jesus is hanging on the cross in agony, he is in agony praying in Gethsemane, The two agonies are the same Agony. The agony is given a name: "this cup." A cup holds liquid that is drunk. The peculiar property of the cup is that we hold it with our hands, put it to our lips, tip it into our mouths, and swallow the contents. It requires taking the contents into our entire digestive system, distributing them throughout the muscles and bones, red blood cells and nerve ganglia. The cup is a container from which we take something that is not us into our lives so that it becomes us, enters into our living.

The cup that Jesus holds in his hand in Gethsemane that night is God's will--God's will to save the world in a final act of sacrificial love. The cup that Jesus drinks is a sacrificial death in which Jesus freely takes sin and evil into himself, absorbs it in his soul, and makes salvation out of it--drinks it down as if from a cup. Jesus' name is, translated into English, "Yahweh saves." As Jesus drinks the cup, he becomes his name.

I am struck by the deliberateness in Christ's choice. He very consciously chooses surrender and all that it entails. Pope Benedict discusses Jesus' humanity and struggle and says this: Just as Jesus will take all of our sin onto/into himself to redeem us, at this moment in the garden the totality of our "resistance to God is present within Jesus himself. The obstinacy of us all, the whole of our opposition to God is present, and in his struggle, Jesus elevates our recalcitrant nature to become its real self." Essentially, Jesus is wrestling not just his own very human battle with fear, but also he has begun to take on our sin and he is wrestling with our collective NO to God. His obedience "draws us all into sonship."

One of my stretching disciplines is a prayer of surrender. I have been intentionally choosing surrender the past five weeks. I can't really claim success. It's hard. Very hard. I am a fighter. I want my way. I want control. This week, I choose to stop looking at (and judging) the disciples and turn my gaze fully on Christ surrendering in the garden. I want to look with my eyes wide open. With my hands open. With my heart open.

Take Me Deeper: Journey to the Cross and Studies for the Garden

I am taking some liberties with the study at His Kingdom Come's Take Me Deeper Project. The theme for the month of March is Journey to the Cross, and I have decided to focus on that broad theme rather than work on each week's individual verse. I want to give myself some space to work on the Garden of Gethsemane piece (which I introduced here)

Much of this week was spent pondering. Jesus went a stone's throw away from the disciples. Exactly how far away is a stone's throw? We threw a lot of stones this week. I also consulted google. The question still plagues me. A stone's throw is mostly used as a metaphorical distance to mean not very far. The same person can say, "The grocery store is a stone's throw away from the house," and mean 6+ blocks away, and then in the same conversation say, "My sister was only a stone's throw away from me when she was mugged," and mean about 2-3 feet away. So, how far away from Jesus were the disciples, and more importantly, could they see and hear Him clearly? 

I played around with where to put the disciples in relation to Christ and the viewer. I thought about putting them in the foreground because they are us. How many times has He asked us to stay with Him? To remain with Him? To watch and pray? And yet we fall asleep, just like the disciples did. But, I decided to put them in the background to give the viewer a chance to say yes to God. If I leave the foreground empty, with nothing between Christ and the viewer, then we are invited into the moment. We can listen to His request for our companionship, and we have the opportunity to engage. So, I am now planning 3 panels for this piece, a large center panel with Christ in the mid-ground, a skinny left panel with the disciples in the background and a skinny right panel that is empty of figures and invites the viewer to step into the story. 

I also did some rust dyeing experiments. I want to use cloth dyed with rusty nails somewhere in this series, so I played around with it. It wasn't about the rust, so much as the nails. I only used nails (ok, there might have been a couple of screws in the pile). I asked my son to bring me some rusty nails from the barn (barns are good for rusting things):

 
 To wash or not to wash, that is the question. I ended up just blowing the big dust and leaves off and leaving the rest of the dirt alone.

To wash or not to wash, that is the question. I ended up just blowing the big dust and leaves off and leaving the rest of the dirt alone.

 
 I rolled rusty nails into bundles, wrapped a piece of rusty fence wire around one of them and soaked them in vinegar. This is stage one, less than 24 hours after dousing in vinegar.

I rolled rusty nails into bundles, wrapped a piece of rusty fence wire around one of them and soaked them in vinegar. This is stage one, less than 24 hours after dousing in vinegar.

 A few days later, the fabric is almost ready!

A few days later, the fabric is almost ready!

 Isn't this great?! I love how it turned out! It is slightly more brown in real life.

Isn't this great?! I love how it turned out! It is slightly more brown in real life.

 I think I will use this one as part of Christ's robe in a later Station. I love the folds and wrinkles.

I think I will use this one as part of Christ's robe in a later Station. I love the folds and wrinkles.

The rust dyeing project was simple and satisfying. I can see lots of rust dyeing in my future. I usually limit my dyeing projects to the summertime when I can work outside. This project was easily manageable indoors.

I still have a few more details to audition before I launch into building the quilt. A little more studying, a little more pondering, a little more experimenting...

Take Me Deeper: Love Yourself and Studies for the Garden

This week at His Kingdom Come the verse is about loving yourself. We are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves, so how do we love ourselves?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away;
behold, new things have come. ~ 2 Cor 2:17

But how do I draw out this new creation? How do I participate in uncovering me? Years ago I took a class called Equipping Caregivers. The first trimester the focus was on learning about yourself so that you could get out of the way of the Holy Spirit working through you to encourage and love the person in front of you. I learned a bit about my weaknesses and the areas of particular temptation. Lately, I have been reading about specific spiritual disciplines that stretch and nurture my personality type. I decided to spend the week loving myself by encouraging myself to stretch and grow.

One of my nurturing disciplines is to worship through creativity (surprise!). I have been wanting to explore the Scriptural Stations of the Cross more deeply and took advantage of this week to do so. The first station is Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. My plan is to create a piece that, when hung at eye level, will pile onto the floor, and is wide enough that the viewer can imagine participating in the scene.

I love Christ's prayer recorded in John chapter 17 because He is praying for unity of all believers. Unity is what I have actively prayed for the past 15 years. It is a deep heart desire. I know I need to include the words of the prayer in the air around the central figure.

 
 

I found this hymn and have been playing it over and over this week. These are Christ's words to his disciples: Stay with me, wait with me, watch and pray.

In the Garden in Genesis, God walks with Adam. And when Adam sins, God goes to him. He calls to him, "Where have you gone?" In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ asks his friends to walk with Him, to keep Him company. God desires our companionship. Singing this hymn all week has torn at my heart. God desires my companionship. He wants me to stay with Him and that is my deepest desire as well.

It is this moment in the Garden, when He asks his friends to stay with Him and they fall asleep, that has always made me sad. We just don't get it. We can't see what's coming. We don't understand him. We don't--we can't--understand what's at stake. It feels so very lonely. His Father has already started to withdraw Himself from His Son...and yet, he sends a sacred presence to comfort Him. I want to show that Presence as wind. My friend Valerie is smiling right now because she knows that wind is hard for me to depict. I can show some movement of his hair, perhaps some movement in the grass; but, what I really want is to create leaves that rustle. I tried several different materials, and I am not sure I've made a decision, but I like these leaves:

 They are cut from fabric, soaked in GAC-400, and dried. I left them on the rim of a coated paper plate as they dried so they would have some shape. I tried embossing the leaves on the left with copper embossing powder and I don't think I like those as well as the plain ones.

They are cut from fabric, soaked in GAC-400, and dried. I left them on the rim of a coated paper plate as they dried so they would have some shape. I tried embossing the leaves on the left with copper embossing powder and I don't think I like those as well as the plain ones.

 Here are my crispy leaves on the fabric I've chosen for "dusk." I will build a palette around this gray-blue to depict early evening.

Here are my crispy leaves on the fabric I've chosen for "dusk." I will build a palette around this gray-blue to depict early evening.

This is a long project, but I'm not in a hurry. Immersing myself in this study is nurturing to me. When I come up for air, I feel healthier, filled up, better equipped to love.

Take Me Deeper: Love Your Neighbor

This week at His Kingdom Come, the study is about loving your neighbor. There are many verses about this in the Bible. All of them are commands, not suggestions. That's how they are framed--as commands or commandments. It's interesting isn't it? Why would it be so important to both repeat and command us to LOVE each other? We are told to forgive, to love our neighbors, to love our enemies and to love one another over and over again. Here are the verses for this week:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. ~John 13:34-35

I find that I am particularly bad at this. When my feelings are hurt I tend to withdraw. Forgiving is hard work. Repetitive work. My memory is long and I have to continually forgive and re-forgive before the hurt works it's way out of me. This makes me hesitant to engage with others. I am afraid. There. I said it.

But, this is a command. Loving. Engaging.

I prayed about this on my daily walk this week. The Lord had mercy on me. He started me out small. He brought people to mind. People I know and love already and people I don't know yet, but find I love through Him. Each day I asked Him to show me my "neighbor" and to speak to my heart. I made several fabric postcards this week. This week the Holy Spirit brought to mind people who are pursuing Him, people who are struggling, people who are sorrowing, people who fear, and people who are courageous. And as He brought them to my mind, He embedded them in my heart.

He taught me about surrender again this week. In order to get so many little fiber projects out I had to surrender my perfectionism and my ideal vision. That is difficult for me, and so I had to constantly think about surrendering while I was working. Thinking hard about surrender while at the same time praying for the people in my heart was a connection too close to be coincidental. I listened, but I think this is going to be a long lesson. There is much for me to learn.

Here are some of my fabric postcards:

 The yellow one behind is fused, stitched, hand embroidered and embellished with some size 6 beads and a button. The brown one is fused, stitched and oil painted. The green one is oil painted.and stitched.

The yellow one behind is fused, stitched, hand embroidered and embellished with some size 6 beads and a button. The brown one is fused, stitched and oil painted. The green one is oil painted.and stitched.

 I also used some handmade paper fused and hand embroidered it to a fabric background. The weather isn't right for making paper right now, but I had some in my stash. These pieces were made with cotton lint, grasses and ferns.

I also used some handmade paper fused and hand embroidered it to a fabric background. The weather isn't right for making paper right now, but I had some in my stash. These pieces were made with cotton lint, grasses and ferns.

 This is a hand drawn pattern I made, cut, fused and stitched. The verse was printed on an ink jet printer.

This is a hand drawn pattern I made, cut, fused and stitched. The verse was printed on an ink jet printer.

 This is a detail of the oil painted bottle. I used Shiva paintsticks which I love. I'm always looking for more reasons to use them.

This is a detail of the oil painted bottle. I used Shiva paintsticks which I love. I'm always looking for more reasons to use them.

 Here is a little leaf embedded in the handmade paper.

Here is a little leaf embedded in the handmade paper.

I think it's interesting that the studies on love have been so much more difficult for me than the studies in January on transformation. I wonder if I've always just assumed I knew what love meant and so I hadn't delved deeply into these verses. Or perhaps it's that the topic is truly vast and deep and so hard to pin down. 

Take Me Deeper: Love God

This week at the His Kingdom Come website, the study is on a verse fragment:

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of you soul,
with all of your mind and with all of your strength. ~Matthew 22:37

I don't think we really know what these verses mean. I think we live into them, but I don't think we really understand them. This makes it difficult to accomplish. Perhaps that is the point. We can never cross this command off our to-do lists.

I started by trying to plumb the depths of the first part: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart. I remembered another verse, Matthew 6:21, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be." Loving with all our hearts means that we treasure God above all else. I decided to embroider a treasure map, and purchased these coins for embellishment:

Then I changed my mind and decided to embroider a compass rose as a pendant. It was a plan that seemed easy enough, so I set it aside for later.

Next I tackled "with all your mind," because it seemed like an easier section than the others. Our brains have an analytical side and a creative side. We are to love God with both. I found a brilliant mathematician-beader named Gwen Fisher whose bead patterns are based on mathematical and scientific principles. I purchased one of her spiral patterns (she referred to it as an Archimedean spiral, but named her pattern "Slugs in Love" --gotta love that analytical mind!) and set to work beading what I intended to be the spiral dangle for this pendant.

17 hours and three attempts later, I had learned a lot. But, I failed to produce anything usable. The pattern is for an earring. It says to make a larger pendant "just do the same thing only bigger." I wanted a pretty large pendant, but I started with the earring to try to learn the technique:

 
    So far, so good. Yes, it took me four hours, but now I've totally got this!

 

So far, so good. Yes, it took me four hours, but now I've totally got this!

 

I got started on the large pendant:

 This is the second attempt. It took me six hours to get this far. I realized I had made a mistake that I couldn't fix so I abandoned this one too and started a third time.

This is the second attempt. It took me six hours to get this far. I realized I had made a mistake that I couldn't fix so I abandoned this one too and started a third time.

 Third attempt! This one I finished in seven hours. The problem? It looks like a bejeweled appendix instead of the spiral seashell I was going for.

Third attempt! This one I finished in seven hours. The problem? It looks like a bejeweled appendix instead of the spiral seashell I was going for.

Artists need lots of time and space to experiment and try again. That's part of "it." The tools in our toolbox get there through lots of playing. Some might call this trial and error, but I think that puts the emphasis on the wrong part. The point is to learn how a medium behaves and how a technique works so that in the future it can be used effectively.

At this point in the project I decided that this particular piece wasn't going to happen in time to meet the deadline. However, I enjoyed the study, I enjoyed the time spent creating and time spent silently with the Holy Spirit. I needed that quiet of just being in His Presence and working with my hands. This week doesn't feel like a failure even though I have nothing tangible that is beautiful to show for it. Instead, there is much that is beautifully intangible here right now. I might dissect that weird bejeweled appendix looking thing and try again this weekend. I am fascinated by the pattern and I would like to conquer it.

Or, I might do something else....

Take Me Deeper: Love

God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. ~John 3:16

When I saw the verse for this week, I was worried. John 3:16 is perhaps the best known verse in the Bible. I didn't want to just illustrate the verse, I wanted to own it.

And yet...I think I ended up illustrating it. All week I waited for an image. Instead, I was captivated by the simplicity and depth of this single verse. God so loved...that He gave. I couldn't get away from the sacrifice in these verses. God so loved that He gave. I went through the cans of nails in the barn.

I asked my son Gabe if he could shape this nail for me. He brought me this:

It's all primitive and perfect, isn't it?

God so loved the world. The world. All of us. Every single one. I thought I was pretty open minded, until I tried living with this verse all week. God loves the world. Playing that constantly in my mind while listening to the news, navigating a difficult week and interacting with people who push all my buttons...God loves every single one. Not just loves, So Loves.

I pulled out fibers from around the world, saris from India, a brocade from China, a Maori print, Bolivian alpaca yarn scraps, etc. Textiles are a universal language. Every culture produces textiles that speak identity.

 I cut the fabric into strips and laid them out on water soluble stabilizer.

I cut the fabric into strips and laid them out on water soluble stabilizer.

 Here is my little bundle of fibers including wool, all wrapped up in the water soluble stabilizer. I did some free motion stitching with gold thread to hold all the fibers together.

Here is my little bundle of fibers including wool, all wrapped up in the water soluble stabilizer. I did some free motion stitching with gold thread to hold all the fibers together.

The stabilizer rinsed away and I assembled a cuff. A verse illustration.

 
 

 

Take Me Deeper: Transform Purposefully

This was a tough one. I admit that this one took me significantly longer than one week. Most of that time was spent wrestling. Here are the verses for the week:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ~Phi 2:12-13

I wanted to show that transformation is a partnership, God has a part and I have a part. But, it is a grossly unequal partnership. I considered many, many possibilities, but struggled to find something that highlighted the inequality while also highlighting the connection. Until I remembered this photo I took of my daughter when she was a toddler, dancing on her papa's feet:

I love this photo. I used have used it in various ways in my work, and I used it in this blog post. Olivia was a delighted and willing partner, but she wasn't really walking yet. Todd had to hold her from above and below for the dancing partnership to work. The verses for this week reminded me of  this: I have a part in working out my salvation, but God carries me from above and below.

Then, I got stuck. I couldn't move forward, couldn't decide on colors, size, anything. Finally, I realized that this photo reminded me a lot of my relationship with my dad. We had a complicated and often difficult relationship. For a long time, I thought he was the villain in my story. Then I chose love and our relationship began to heal. Last year, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. I packed up the kids and our school books and spent a few months with him. He blew my world apart. I prayed Life for him, and instead he gave Life to me. He healed every hurt. It turns out that I knew nothing of the man he was, that I had made judgments that only a self-righteous teenager can make. The whole time I thought I was building a bridge to him, he had been the one building bridges to me. He was doing the heavy lifting, I was just doing the walking. And just when I was getting to know him, he died.

This father-thing, this carrying, this is what God does for me. This is what my husband does for my son. This is what my dad did for me. I wanted to honor this effort in some way. I decided I wanted to write into the quilt the text of some of the letters my father and I had exchanged. I sat down and read through those letters. For the first time, I saw. I saw him loving me. I saw his humor, his values, his bridge-building. It was a hard week. A good week.

 The quilt before adding text.

The quilt before adding text.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I wanted to write his words on my quilt. I tried photocopying, but his script was so spidery it didn't come through. I tried making it into a font. I tried out various fabric markers and dye/paint applicators. I ended up writing my father's words in my hand. I mixed white acrylic paint with fabric medium and used a squeeze bottle to apply it.

I pieced this quilt in oranges. I had intended to do it in blues and I'm not sure what happened. The last quilt I posted here was also in oranges and yellows. Maybe I'm in an orange period. In the color symbolism I use, orange is a symbol for mercy. Perhaps that best describes this unequal partnership. It's all mercy.

Take Me Deeper: Transform Faithfully

And now for something completely different:

This is Petal. She is needle felted from Shetland and Merino (but we don't talk about it because she is a little bit afraid of sheep). She was super excited to begin the Transform Bible Study because she really does want to grow closer to her Lord . . . until she realized that transformation meant change.

She began to shiver and shake. Change is scarey!

But then she remembered that God has always been faithful, in her own life and throughout the Bible. She thought, "God's Faithfulness makes me feel brave."

 

She took a deep breath, put on her very best muck boots,

 

 

 

 

 

her favorite tutu,

 

 

 

 

 

Petal-makes-a-cape-saved-fo.jpg

and asked me to make her a special item. She wanted to wrap herself in God's Word to remember that He is faithful. We settled on a cape in her favorite color with her favorite chapter from John.

 

 

 

She is ready now for this adventure!
Whatever that means.
Whatever God brings,
she knows He will be there too.

  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful       ~Hebrews 10:23.

Just a word or two on process: My sweet daughter loves to make dolls. Olivia really is the doll expert around here, and I think I see the powerful potential for metaphor in them. They sort of stand in for "us." This week I was feeling vulnerable and I wanted someone to stand in for my "shivering and shaking" who could also stand in courage. Olivia kindly walked me through the steps to needle-felting and let me choose wool roving from her stash. She offered lots of encouraging words and was suitably delighted with each success. Everyone should have an Olivia to cheer them on.

Hand sewing is comforting to me, and so I wanted very much to sew Petal some nice clothes. Unfortunately, Petal was very opinionated on this topic. She was already wooly and warm. All she wanted were muck boots, a tutu and a cape. So, I had to content myself with just hand sewing the boots. The tutu is knotted tulle over ribbon. For the cape, I afixed a piece of fabric to an ordinary sheet of paper with 505 temporary spray. I taped the leading edge with ordinary Scotch tape and ran it through my printer. I have never had a problem with printing this way on fabric.

Olivia and I have long talked about collaborating on a doll project and I would really love to pursue that. I think it could make a fascinating study to read through the verses that describe us through God's eyes and make a doll for each one. And it would be a lovely excuse to spend lots of time with my favorite daughter.

Take Me Deeper: Transform Submissively

This week at His Kingdom Come, the verses for the Take Me Deeper Project are again from 2nd Corinthians:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.       ~2nd Corinthians 3:18

The image for this art quilt clicked for me immediately. I know that where my eyes point, my feet walk. How can I expect transformation if I don't discipline my eyes and point them in God's direction?

I recruited my dear, long-suffering family who are always willing to pose for photo references for me:

 It was cold outside, so here is my farmer-man keeping his arms warm in a dirty sweatshirt.   

It was cold outside, so here is my farmer-man keeping his arms warm in a dirty sweatshirt.

 

 We tried various poses. I like this one of her eyes. Her gaze is clearly on her papa.

We tried various poses. I like this one of her eyes. Her gaze is clearly on her papa.

 We took many pictures, trying different poses. I settled on this one because: I wanted more of the bare arm with its shadows and highlights; I wanted the reference for the strands of hair; her gaze is still clearly on her papa while giving me more room to play with the hair (easy) but less room to try to define the face in fabric (hard).

We took many pictures, trying different poses. I settled on this one because: I wanted more of the bare arm with its shadows and highlights; I wanted the reference for the strands of hair; her gaze is still clearly on her papa while giving me more room to play with the hair (easy) but less room to try to define the face in fabric (hard).

Keeping my eyes on Christ is a truly difficult thing, but also the only true humility and therefore the only antidote to pride. Every one struggles with pride. It is such an internal thing that I don't think anyone can judge whether or not someone is suffering from it. So what is it? I believe that pride is taking my eyes off of God and placing them anywhere else. Only I know when I have done that. I can look "holy" on the outside, but God knows I have lost my focus. I can look arrogant on the outside, but God knows I am gazing at Him. This is an issue that requires self-monitoring. This posture is the only one that leads to real transformation. These beliefs influenced my design decisions. I usually put more into my backgrounds, but I wanted to minimize distractions and really emphasize the gazing. I enjoy analogous palettes, and I decided to go with yellows for Grace. Every time I blink or turn my head, it is a "leaving home moment," and, like the prodigal, I need to find my way back. Each time, God the Father runs to meet me and welcomes me Home. Grace.

One of my personal rules when working on this type of quilt, is that I do not "edit" my fabric pieces once they are cut. I make a pattern, cut my pieces, and however the pattern lands in the cut piece is how it goes into the quilt. This is one of the reasons I like commercial cottons. The way the print displays on a cut piece can be unpredictable. There is a gray mark on the face. It bothered me at first, but I kept to my own self-imposed rule because it is often these little spontaneous blips that the Holy Spirit uses later. I still don't love it, but I don't know its story yet.

My Lord, I want to keep my eyes on You alone. I beg you to open my ears to Your Voice calling me back when I get distracted. Thank You for Grace.

Amen.