Artistic and Creative Endeavors
I’ve never been good at journaling. Let me be honest, I have always wanted to be a journaler, and it made sense, I have a passion for words. But even with my love for creating a world out of paragraphs I never have taken the time to let my pen be apart of the everyday, from the mundane thoughts as I walk to class, or in the deep soul churning revelations the God of the Universe whispers to my heart before I get up out of my half-conscience, post-alarm morning nap. A heart and mind together have so much to go through in a day, at least mine does. But I’ve been realizing more and more in my failed attempts at creating this new lifestyle that maybe reflection, though beautiful, can be almost bitter-sweet. That a life constantly in the why and what is harder and more tiring than being on auto-pilot. Numbness and the mundane are enticing, something a college girl like myself can invite in pretty readily. But though easy, a deep sigh of peace never seems to fill my lungs as I sit mind turned off in front of a screen. The mundane isn’t cutting it and maybe the pen to the paper is much more than an exciting lifestyle change. What if real peace is met in a life constantly stimulating the brain towards a greater connection? What if it comes from taking each moment captive and tossing it high towards a loving Creator? What if the greatest peace you will find, Lily Jones, is when you are trying to fall asleep back against the cold dirt of the mountains of Washington, listening to the pitter patter of rain against your tent and asking to the quiet, who are you really God and who am I to be in the midst of that?
This summer STEP with Ohio State gave me the opportunity to travel out West with a friend for a part of our summer in a tiny red Toyota with a tent, some paints and canvas, bread and PB&J and a journal and Bible in hand. Have you ever had expectations be not only met but succeeded? That was this trip out West for my friend and I. We had the opportunity to travel through as many national parks and major cities as we could hit throughout the entire western side of the United States. New cultures were put in front of my eyes, cultures that were stunningly different then mine though they were in the same country that my very different culture existed in. I was placed time and time again in front of such a diversity of scenes, whether that be the wonder of a mountain range or the vastness of an ocean, and each time I would simply state, “Has this been here all along? I have lived a life where this and I have existed separately?” I was hooked, my heart intertwined with the west coast each day I spent there. My vision I cast as I daydreamed about this trip years, turned months, turned days in advanced was one of my lonesome and I, accompanied by a journal and Bible atop a mountain. I believed the beauty I would see and maybe even the height of this massive rock would bring me the closest to my Creator I have ever been. To sit would be enough and no step on my part was necessary besides the climbing itself. I would physically take my body to strengths I had never tested to reach my God yet I would not ask myself to take my mind and heart anywhere further than the thoughts that flew throughout my subconscious as I climbed and eventually sat. I begged my mind and heart to understand God more fully but in the midst of my plea I was asking God to do all the work. I was asking for His masterpiece to change my heart as I sat and thought about how in the world I would be able to capture this on a camera for my friends and family back home. But what if the times where I felt like my face couldn’t be any closer to my Savior without smashing together with His was when I sat in traffic in the middle of South Dakota listening to a podcast about a heart becoming whole, or when I lay awake in a less than ideal hotel in the middle of Nebraska allowing myself to be honest with God about fears and doubts I have grown to befriend the past couple of years? What if the heart of mine that I had caged, and tamed for years out of my fear towards its rebellious nature broke free not atop a mountain at all, but in the midst of my reflection beneath? For a daughter had a dream of knowing her Father, a dream of her heart bursting into praise atop a mountain, into the worship her Father finally deemed as worthy. For this daughter would be healed because she finally understood. Her heart would be new. But this Father had a different plan, and this plan didn’t begin in the funny way he surprised this daughter in meeting her in the mundane of a road trip, but it began much earlier atop a hillside called Calvary.
I am a girl who never enjoyed the silence, this personality of mine thrives off the beauty of relationship with humans. And even though my friend and I knew each other well, to only be with her for this length of time invited in many times of quiet. As I walk out of that I realize now I just didn’t know how to let my soul rest in the beauty of being in the quiet, to see the goodness of letting a mind truly wander. To sit in a truth read about my Creator for longer than a few minutes, what would that do to my body? Usually the silence was met by a constant knock of a familiar companion of my heart and mind, a companion that a lot of the times sounded great, creating stories of a better life that enticed this daydreamer to set aside the book in hand and walk through the painting being put in front of her. A painting of a girl who was enjoying the blessings of the Earth in fullness, the gifts she yearned for daily, for that one relationship to happen or that aesthetic of life to be achieved. Or the days when this heart would read a hard truth which was met with doubt to then be walked down a path with this companion to show her a painting of a girl who knew how to love her God perfectly in the midst of what she read. As time went on in relationship with her God this heart and mind of hers walked so often down these paths with the companion. She recognized the companion was not a friend at all, and each time she walked with him shame would create a shadow behind her. Her time set aside for her Creator was tainted and broken, for she knew she was choosing something before Him. Did she run? Oh boy did she run. She caged her rebellious heart and mind. She taught herself that to love God was to hate what her heart could produce in the process and to push it away each day. She would daydream about when she could finally stand atop a mountain in Montana and that which her eyes would see would fix this evil heart of hers and perfect worship would follow, a worship that wanted God alone. But what if this God of hers was in the quiet, asking her to practice coming to Him before mending things by sight alone or in conversation with a human, to choose Him first? But how could she arrive at his arms with a mess of sin in her own, she wouldn’t be able to return the embrace. But what if in the mundane of a road trip, the God of the universe painted a new picture for her heart to see, one of Him taking a look at the mess in her arms and scooping her up to hold her close. For He held her as she still clung to the broken pieces in her arms, and softly whispered, “My dearest child, do not be afraid of being a broken thing.”
Maybe a heart transformed and made whole is different then what I had imagined. Maybe this God loved despite my rebellious nature, and maybe even, he chose to love this broken thing in full awareness of the harm it could produce. That a heart made whole does not have a finish line I believe I will eventually reach one day, but what if that marker is in fact behind me? Sitting atop the hill called Calvary with a God turned man, choosing to suffer and die so He may take this heart into an eternity of relationship and intimacy. Maybe this in fact isn’t a maybe at all but a beautiful reality. There is a new way to live, a way that was in place since the beginning, one of better hope in intimacy with God, this new way being the truest desire of the human race, to know God and enjoy His Presence. And the God of Creation whispered these things to a heart of a scared girl, through His book and books of people that love Him so, to start from rest and walk forward in this intimacy. What would life look like then? What about when she still takes those deeply engrained paths with the companion trying to bring her back to the old way of blessings? What would life look life then? Relationship? “Yes, sweet child, relationship with me.”
This daughter is free in the midst of a mind and heart that will never understand. I will never understand why this is the way the Creator is, my heart cannot comprehend it. As I sit atop and even below the mountain I hear myself say, the mountains in my life are far too big, the suffering is too great, will I ever make it up and find relief? The pieces of my life are shattered and jagged. As I sat on a plane headed home, with eyes that had seen so much beauty, I fell into doubt once again and watched as the shadow of shame begin to form behind me. I, in little strength, brought this to my Creator and he chose to paint something in front of my eyes. There I sat with many broken pieces of glass, these to my understanding represented my life, undeniably broken. I sat in a room a corner behind me filled with darkness and above me shone a bright beam of light coming down. I further understood that I had two options. One, I could take my broken pieces and bring them to the dark and try to make them into a whole piece again. I of course attempted and try as I might I could not put them together on my own in that dark corner. So I turned to the light beam thinking, ah yes, I can use this light to fix these pieces. Then God stepped in and asked me something that didn’t make sense. He wanted me to take my broken pieces and simply hold them up to the light. Hesitant in seeing how this would solve anything I reached my arms up and placed these pieces of glass where the light could hit. What produced shocked me. These pieces, because of their shattered state, reflected and refracted creating a beautiful masterpiece. The understanding flooded through. Wholeness does not come from myself fixing my brokenness. Wholeness does not come from freedom through a life without brokenness. It comes from the light of the Father. I have to recognize my brokenness to then not ask for the blessing of my life here on Earth to be fixed, to gain a smooth piece of glass, a comfortably life free of suffering and hardship. But, I can accept my brokenness and hold it up to the light of God’s love. The Lord then began to pick up the most jagged pieces from the pile. An interesting combination began to flood through me of the familiar pain of knowing exactly what part of life they represented, the parts that had hurt the most and stayed with me the longest, yet a warmth came of knowing how much I had learned about my loving Father in the midst of them. He would then hold them to the light. He sweetly stated, “Look how they shine sweet child, look how far the light they produce reaches!” They would reach to places they could never obtain if they were made into one pane of glass.
The Lord has a plan to reveal Himself to my heart and others in the midst of brokenness, in a way I could never and would never want to understand if my life was full of ease. As I stood the last days on the tops of those mountains, I didn’t fully get it, and I still don’t. But, I could stand and say the best life is one in relationship with my Creator. Blessings, though sweet, are not my greatest treasure. The heart of God in relationship with my own is the better way, looking towards the better hope of heaven. As I sit now in this truth I can rest. My heart is a mess but how much I can understand my Father in the way He knows this fully, yet scoops me up and simply whispers in love, “How I adore you child, do not be afraid of being a broken thing”.
This project may have seemed different than what one would think to give me an academic experience. For me, I desire to go into full time ministry after school. This trip gave me an experience with God that I will carry for the rest of my life to use in my career with students on campus ministry, teaching them the things I learned on this trip and the ways I learned how to study the Bible on this trip as well. Also, I desire to paint as a side job in my life and this trip gave me the opportunity to use new mediums of art and scenarios that I have never tackled from an artistic viewpoint. This type of art was challenging for me in a new way and broadened my horizons that I will use for my paintings later in life. This trip transformed me in so many ways, transforming my skills and my heart. I was able to become comfortable in my own skin in the midst of what I learned here and I think that trait I will carry with me in every aspect for the rest of my life.