Sunday, July 28, 2013

Home again, home again...

After my last post I made a spontaneous, last-minute trip back home for the weekend. I think it was the best decision ever. It was filled with time with loved ones, visits to my churches, chinese food, and just that lovely feeling of being able to recognize someone you know everywhere you go. And the familiarity of the landscape and seeing how beautiful it was...I felt like I had been holding my breath without knowing it and was finally able to relax and breathe normally. I feel so refilled but am still homesick. Who would have thought the mountains would feel so like home? I cannot say how wonderful it was to see everyone again. I guess 13 years in one state is enough to make me feel attached. It is very bittersweet because it is so nice to feel like someplace is home although I can't really be there.

After such a whirlwind weekend I am tired and think that there is lots to think through and pray about. I think the past month of being in a new place has opened my eyes to how good God is to us. I am so grateful for life.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

West Virginia

I miss it. I miss the mountains. I miss the sunsets. I miss the ability to drive 15 minutes or less away from home and be out in the quiet places that offered such beautiful views of our shabby little town. There were so many spots that allowed you to get up high enough to look out over the city and see it sitting in the mountains with the river running through it. That little town that was my home and the place where I learned so much. Not just academically. Funny, academics is the reason I lived there, but academics seems to play such a small part of all that I learned in the four years that I lived here because some of the greatest lessons I learned during my stay here were these:
1) Jesus loves me...and I don't deserve that.
2)Joy and happiness and being content are rooted in gratitude.
3)Gratitude is rooted in the knowledge that I have been forgiven and loved by the Creator of the world and that is everything.
4)Blessings do not equal money, ease, and comfort. Hardships have driven me straight to God and have been instrumental in spiritual growth.
5)I can trust this Savior who loves me.
6)Patience...trials are a chance to practice joyfully trusting and obeying my Savior.
7)Friends and family... they try your patience and you try theirs. They also provide joy and love and you don't realize how much you love and depend on them until they are hundreds of miles away.
8)Forgiveness is something I need frequently for messing up on all those lessons I've just begun to learn.

Those lessons above are never fully mastered. They are always being learned in new ways and they have levels that constantly become more intense. But in the past few years I began to understand those things in ways that I never did before. And I really believe that being out on my own a bit was part of the reason I learned those things.

When I think of West Virginia I don't immediately think of a poor economy and the problems associated with the state. I think of a place where I began to really fall in love with  my Savior and of the people who challenged me and encouraged me and have been a part of my life. I think of a place so beautiful that it's impossible to see it without gaining a glimmer of insight into the God who created such beauty. I didn't used to care for the mountains. It wasn't till I left them and came back that I realized that they felt like home. It's not my place of residence anymore. It probably never will be again. But it will always be a place I think of as home.

I guess I am missing it a lot right now.

Some quotes I have been thinking about lately.

Some people think that the Christian faith is a message that comes along and tells bad people to become good people. But it's actually much more radical than that. The Christian gospel is something that comes along and where Jesus Christ tells us we are actually dead. All He wants to do is make us alive. Have you ever known that life because it's right at the very center of what it means to be a Christian?

--Michael Ramsdon

Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger--according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.

--C.S. Lewis 'Mere Christianity'

Friday, July 19, 2013

Little something

Almost finished with my volunteer hours. Hoping to try out a few new ideas this coming week. :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Last night I dreamed I was back in China

It's been almost three years since I left to go to China. I loved China. I cannot really explain it, but I felt God's presence so keenly while I was there. There was a line so clearly drawn between those who loved Him and those who did not. I was the only Christian on my trip. I usually have a church to be involved in or a Bible study to fall back on whenever I am here in the States, but there I had none of that. For me being a Christian in America with a church and friends was way different than being a Christian in a different country with a group of people whose attitudes toward God varied from disinterested to hostile. It made me very aware of my insecurities, my weaknesses, and my vulnerabilities. It taught me how much I needed God. And it taught me that my relationship with Him was, indeed, my own. It was me and Him. He taught me so much in that semester. It was one of the most amazing and difficult semesters of my life and it took me a long while to process that experience and understand it. I think sometimes I still am learning from it. I still dream about it pretty regularly. And when I do dream about it Xi'an is almost always part of it. I loved Xi'an. Of all the cities we visited and stayed in besides Jingdezhen, Xi'an stands out more boldly than the others. Something about Xi'an engaged all my senses and somehow imprinted itself on my memory. Also I met a Christian man while in Xi'an...the only Christian I met on the entire trip with the exception of a brief visit with a very dear friend who happened to be there at the same time. We randomly met while I was at Starbucks one time and we chatted over tea. After three months without a church or Christian friend there with me I cannot say how much this really blessed and encouraged me. And our conversation, though very short, left a big impression on me. I guess being there also taught me that although our walk with God is personal having a church that functions together is so vital! It was the most refreshing part of the whole trip.

Yesterday while at Starbucks (coincidentally) I read an article in the paper about China, and Xi'an in particular, which I have no doubt is why I dreamed about it last night. It and its people and culture have a hold on my heart. I miss it.

Sun set

Last summer we had some really beautiful sunsets back home and I got into the habit of photographing them. As it happened there was some pretty color here tonight as well. Capturing color or a scene behind the silhouette of trees reminds me so much of the old Asian style block prints. I used to think they were slightly cheesy, but now I like them.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Back to the studio!

 This kid has a new ceramic studio to work and play in! And new ideas too!
 I am officially the volunteer studio tech at a local art studio which means I get to be involved in helping maintain the studio and fire the kilns. I also get to play and make new things. It's a good opportunity!
This sounds crazy, but there is something about wearing a little clay on my clothes that gives me a sense of pride. It's a clue about who I am and what I like to do. I love ceramics and I don't mind if a little dust or slurry gets on my clothes. It washes right out anyway. :)

Thoughts on home.

I realized during my final semester of college that the main idea behind all the work I make and the reason I am inspired to make objects is tied to the concept of home. Ever since I was little a lot of the playing, crafting, and planning I have done has been subconsciously linked to home. Before art school I knitted and sewed. I tried my hand at making some of my own clothing (nothing was very successful) and made a quilt for my bed at college. I really wanted to make hats and booties to donate to the hospital for cancer victims and preemies, but unfortunately was not disciplined enough to make that happen. But those ideas of home, nurturing and meaningful objects have always been important to me. They remind me of my Grandma and her practical, useful crafted objects. Grandma wasn't your stereotypical "let's bake cookies and read stories" kind of grandma. But she could make a simple quilt in afternoon and she made dress-up clothes, doll clothes and blankets for me and my siblings. Although my other grandma is a water-colorist I always attribute my crafty genes to my Grandma Betty. Because she was a homey person. And we both shared a wicked sweet tooth. Whenever she came to visit the house would somehow end up full of candy and baked goods. Apparently the same thing happens when I go visit my parents now.

When I was younger I was so fascinated with Laura Ingalls Wilder's story of how her family packed up their life into a covered wagon and headed out to start over new. If you had to fit all your belongings into a little wagon, what would you bring? This is something that I have thought about quite a lot when making objects. I want to make the things that would be important enough to be in the wagon.

Actually, I kind of got to experience this just a few weeks ago when I was packing for my move. Bringing all my belongings wasn't an option. So rather than be bummed about throwing away lots of things or re-homing lots of objects I tried to think of myself as Laura Ingalls Wilder...carefully paring down my belongings to start life over. All my art supplies made the cut. :) Actually, most of my belongings are art supplies, art, and my clothes. If you got rid of all my art supplies and clothes there would have been soooo much more space in that car. And after carting all my stuff out west in my covered-Toyota-Corolla-rental-wagon and setting up my space I felt quite at home surrounded by pieces that were made by family and friends. Because I think home is more than just a's about memories and relationships and history and love. I changed spaces, but bringing memories and familiar objects instantly helped my room feel more homey.

Anyway, back to the sketches. They're just another part of my home-concept art/craft. They say write what you know...well, the same applies to art and craft. Make what you know. And for the past 3-4 years I have not felt that I have had a home to really settle into and make permanent. I'm not even sure it is meant to be part of my future. But it's something that tugs at my heart and is the reason I make things. I don't want to be materialistic, but some objects are imbued with sentimentality and made with true love. And those are the objects I will pick whenever I have to load up my covered wagon (now a red Honda Civic...vroom vroom...yay for a new-to-me car! Double yay for a moon roof!) and go someplace new. Those are the objects I will do my best to make and share with others.

And that's the story behind these poorly photographed images from my sketchbook.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lake days...

The sky stretched out and met the water.
Together they ran as far away as they could
Til we could no longer make out which was which.
Gently they played...the wind and the waves.
Water rippling while the clouds shifted above.
Beautiful and playful, yet solemn and powerful.
Both much gray as far as the eye could see.
To the place where the sky and the water swallowed the horizon.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Playing in my sketchbook.

I have been playing with my sketchbook some more. It seems to entertain the kids as much as it does me. Win-win, yes?
The good thing is that going somewhere new and being with the kids creates new subject matter and it means I have tried some new things. Like these little illustration like drawings. They are really fun for me to do. I want to paint them sometime. On real canvases...not the boards.
Also, I have been allowed to trade volunteer time for studio access at the local art studio! Yay! So hopefully there will be some ceramic-y making happening in the near future!

You might be an art(ist/isan/crafter) if...

If you have ever eaten your dinner with or stirred your cocoa with a writing or art making utensil you just might be into artsy things. I mean pencils are almost like chopsticks, right?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Just because...

Here is a photo of a cute family of ducks we saw by the lake.

Natural light

The other night the light was coming through the window and it was all golden. My sister bought these flowers at the local farmer's market. I have never lived in a town with such a bustling downtown scene.

Anywho...I didn't edit this image at all. The photo itself isn't that good, but the good.

New Places

I moved. Bye bye Mo-town. You were my first home away from home and I'll always love you! But change is good, right? Even if it makes you sad? According to every book and movie ever produced you have to have a conflict or trial to overcome before you can live *happily ever after* so I figure shaking life up and moving should hold some good things once you get past the initial shock and sadness of leaving everything and everyone.
I had a lovely last weekend at home and was reminded of all the people and places I have to be grateful for. Also, I drove a lovely Toyota Corolla on the 8 hour drive to my new home and not only did it fit all my stuff (not sure if that means I did a great job of purging items or if it's a testament to how big a Corolla is...either way it was great!) but it also had cruise control which made for a very pleasant drive. Cruise control might be my favorite invention ever.
So I have been enjoying being up here and exploring a new place and spending time with family. It's good. I'm anxious to find a job and get to work! And to meet new friends and feel settled. I have to admit I'm a little homesick and I miss my friends. Just a few short months ago we were all nearby and saw each other frequently. Now we're all about 8 hours away from each other. So I drew a little drawing of my ideal neighborhood with everyone there.
I still couldn't fit everyone into my little neighbor hood. I guess I need bigger paper. Olive has been urging me to draw in my sketchbook so she has something to look at when we go out in the car which is proving to make me more productive. And she says some funny things that I want to draw.