I spent the first day of the year working on my my art, my hope was to start the year by finishing a painting. I felt like it would have been a good sign of an artistically productive year ahead. I did not finish one that day, but I am happy to report that I finished several last night in time for them to be taken to the Sautee Nachoochee Center today for the next show. Three new pieces in the first half of the first month of the year seems like a good start.
The first two pieces are part of the Painting Eyeballs on Chaos series I have been working on. Though I have been slowly reading my way through Dogen’s essays I still have not gotten to that passage yet. I find the reading difficult, but it feels important to me to see the phrase in its original context. There is more I need to understand about it. I think I have just barely scratched the surface of what I feel like I need to learn. I already have a new board on the easel with some more eyeballs and chaos starting to get roughed in. This series may go on for a while.
I started the largest painting (Dawn over Chaos) on Christmas in my normal way, drawing in a basic design and then adding solid colors one by one, but before I got very far I had some technique conversations with the illustrious Anthony Coffey. I asked him about how he layers his colors and gets such a nice glow to them. He shared some of his secrets with me that I decided to start experimenting with right away. I took “in progress pictures” all along and the first three (in the gallery below) are my usual technique, then the next three show his influence. The final paintings do not differ hugely from my normal work, but I do think they may glow a bit more. I am going to continue to play with this new way of “glazing” and see where I can go with it.
The last whimsical little piece is more of a drawing than a painting. I have been trying to revisit meditation, but so far blankness of mind has alluded me. The contrast between the calm position of the hand and the swirling mass of colors around it was supposed to be about that, but once my children pointed out that it looks like a picture for the Circle Game I had a hard time continuing to take it seriously. The audience at the SNCA will probably see it as a mudra, but if it ends up hung in the tattoo shop all anyone there will see is the meme.
During the past year and a half while our family tried to own and operate a restaurant everything else fell by the wayside. In fourteen months I only finished two paintings and didn’t even notice when my server crashed and my entire website was lost. I am now ready to get back to the studio and rebuild my online presence. Hopefully if you return soon there will be much moer to see here.
Tonight when I got home from work I sat down with my brother-in-law, his wife, and daughter to talk and drink and talk. He drank wine, they sangria, and I tequila. My brother-in-law put on Radio Quelite on his computer which plays Mexican music from all different regions and times. Huapango, danzon, rancheras, chachacha, I love it all. There wasn’t a song they played that I didn’t enjoy. There really is something about Mexico that touches me deeply. I really hope that I have the chance to live there again someday. I want to go back, not to Cancun, but to the heart of Mexico, to live in a colonial town or city and really be able to soak in the culture completely. How odd is it that the thing that most keeps me from being able to do so is my Mexican husband.
During our week in Piedras Negras each evening we helped with Vacation Bible School at Templo Monte Calvario (Mount Calvary Church), a small Methodist church in a working class neighborhood. This summer they are doing a Biblical Marathon to give the children a complete overview of the Bible from Creation to the Resurrection. Each mission trip team that comes through Hands and Feet Ministries helps with a week. Ramiro Yanez does an amazing job leading the songs and telling the stories. During our week he told them the stories of Joseph and Moses with an enthusiasm that had everyone there, even the often elusive tweens, engaged and participating. The children all sang and danced, and called out the answers to his questions with excitement. It was obvious the children were not only learning a lot but having tons of fun.
Because of the way Templo Monte Calvario is located right in a residential neighborhood the children can walk from their homes to VBS. Some of the children’s families are members or regular attenders of the church, but many are making their own decision to spend their evenings at the church and are walking several blocks by themselves to attend. It was neat to see children waiting outside the gate to the church when we arrived. Over 40 kids took part each night we were there.
Our team from Mountain Lake participated by joining the Hands and Feet interns in leading the songs, acting out the Bible stories as Ramiro narrated, helping with the crafts and handing out snacks. Part of the money we raised for our trip went to buying all the supplies needed for the week we were there. It cost between $100 and $150 US for a week’s supplies. This summer there are several weeks without teams coming and financial help is needed so that the Hands and Feet interns and staff members can keep the Biblical Marathon going. Even if it’s not possible for you to go on a mission trip, you can be a big part of helping children come to know Christ by helping a fund a week, or part of a week of VBS for the children of Templo Monte Calvario.
If you didn’t get a chance to buy one of my Light in Darkness prints to help me raise the money to go to Piedras Negras you can buy one now and all the proceeds will go to Hands and Feet Ministries work in Piedras Negras and Nava. Or you can donate directly to Hands and Feet. If you use their PayPal be sure to click on “Add special instructions to the seller” and let them know it is for VBS in Piedras Negras.
And of course even if you cannot give right now please pray for Pastor Julian, his wife Betty, the Hands and Feet team, and all the children whose lives they are touching.
More about Templo Monte Calvario and a message from Pastor Julian
The majority of our week’s work was not actually in Piedras Negras, but 30 miles away in the neighboring town of Nava. Hands and Feet Ministries has inherited and is running a primary school in the neighborhood of Lázaro Cárdenas. This private Christian school serves children in grades 1 through 5 in this low income neighborhood. Not only are the children taught reading, writing and arithmetic but by attending school the children are given the structure that is missing from so many of their lives.
Unlike most private schools this school is completely free for the children who wish to attend. Not only the tuition, but uniforms, books, and 2 meals a day are offered to the children at no cost to them. When the school lost its funding a few years ago the teachers and staff tried to keep the school open themselves. Hands and Feet Ministries is now running the school but there is so much more they would like to do as funding is available. If you are interested in making a commitment to really making a difference in a child’s life I don’t think you could make a better choice than sponsoring a child that attends this school. Donation Info
The construction part of our week was helping to build a new cafeteria and pavilion for the school. Lunch is currently prepared and served in a room that is needed as a classroom. I did not personally lay any block, but several members of our team did. I enjoyed seeing how much progress our “albañiles” made over the course of the week.
Hands and Feet have put together the following video to share more about the work they are doing at the school.
Our first morning in Piedras Negras we got up and went to church at Templo Aleluya. The church is not far from where we were staying in the Centro of Piedras Negras, but it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere because of the desert landscape and the unpaved roads we traveled to reach it. When we arrived we found a vibrant congregation already praising God through song.
Worshipping at Templo AleluyaA troupe of preteen girls in white dresses and blue sashes danced with tambourines as the pastor’s wife and daughter led us in song. After a time of prayer members of the congregation were invited to come forward and share testimonies, needs and praises. It was very moving.
The sermon was preached by a guest preacher, Pastor Eddie. He spoke clearly and paused often enough that I was able to translate what he was saying in a whisper to my team members around me. He stressed that though Christ’s sacrifice was for us all, and His free gift of salvation is open to every single person that it is only those who accept it who are called the children of God. It is difficult to explain how the Gospel message is both inclusive and exclusive at the same time but I think he did a marvelous job. Pastor Eddie also reminded us that we are not required to clean ourselves up before coming to Christ, that He accepts us just as we are, and then through His Holy Spirit the changes we need to make in our lives become possible. It was a great message to start our week with.
After the service was over we toured the grounds of Templo Aleluya. Adjoining the sanctuary is a kitchen and dining area where free hot meals are offered to the community. Over 60 children and mothers have lunch and devotions each week day. Previous groups (55including ones from Mountain Lake) have built what will soon be a school, and a carpentry workshop. The carpentry workshop is run by Assistant Pastor Flavio Hernadez, who also lives on the property with his wife and daughter. Flavio is a master craftsman, an artist really, who creates beautiful wooden crosses that are sold in San Antonio and on the internet to help raise the money needed for the feeding program and other outreach projects. As the ministry grows Flavio is training people in the community to help him with the process.
I had the honor of being able to spend some time talking with Flavio about the creation process. As fellow artists we seemed to make an almost instant connection. We talked about creating something we think is our own design as opposed to starting with prayer and meditation and asking for the Holy Spirit to inspire a piece and then work through our hands to bring it to fruition. The designs of Flavio’s crosses are full of symbolism and meaning and I truly believe they are inspired work. I would have loved to bring home one of each. I ended up choosing “Solace” because of it’s beauty, symbolism and the captivating way it balances itself. Anyone familiar with my artwork will not be surprised that I chose a cross with a bird on it.
My team members and I gave up a week of our summer to serve God and others. The interns we met while we were there gave up their entire summer. Flavio and his wife, Sister Mari, have devoted their entire lives to serving the Kingdom. They have left the world and gone to live at their church and devote all their time and energy to serving. It was a blessing to be able to meet them and see the work they are doing for the Kingdom.
To see more examples of Flavio’s crosses and order one for yourself or to give as a very meaningful gift you can visit aleluyaministries.blogspot.com. They also have a facebook page where there are lots of pictures of the the church, people and buildings that make up Templo Aleluya.