While the visual arts are my first love I am also very fond of the written word. The expression of feelings and ideas through images is sometimes all that is needed, however there are other times when words really are needed to communicate. As I try to develop my skill with the pen in this different direction I hope to get more confident about sharing my words in the same place as I share my images.
I have tried having a separate blog but it didn’t really work for me. I have decided to import the few posts I had there into this site and see if I like that better.
In September of 2011 my husband and I unexpectedly had the opportunity to be the owner/operators of a Mexican restaurant in a small town in North Georgia. Within a few weeks he had resigned from his job and we had placed our house for rent and moved ourselves and our children to a brand new place for a new adventure. And what an adventure it was, for 14 months we put everything we had, and then some, into turning the restaurant around and getting the numbers to turn black. We weren’t able to do it. The restaurant is now closed with sad brown paper covering the windows, but neither of us regret the experience. It was an amazing journey that taught us so much, not just about food and hospitality, but about ourselves, our neighbors, and human nature. But I do regret that I didn’t write about it all as it was happening. Even the events that seem to be unforgettable as they occur fade with time as life continues to throw us new trials and triumphs. As we start yet another completely different chapter of our life I would like to do a better job of recording it. And I hope that as I do so I will also find that I am able to further process and sort out the experiences that brought us this point and share them as well.
There is a place near the end of the book of Luke that I keep coming back to. After the Lord’s Supper and before the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. He said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 NIV) Peter’s failure that night is completely different from my own failures and I have no delusiones of changing the world by blogging about what its like to be an American woman working in restaurant kitchens dominated by Mexican men. But I do feel like I know what it feels like to be sifted and realize that you are nothing but a pile of dust, and as I try to turn back I would love to be able to have the chance to even in the smallest way strengthen my brothers and sisters.
The main focus of our team’s week in Mexico was the Health and Beauty Clinic we held near the Escuela de Nogal in the Lázaro Cárdenas neighborhood of Nava. Hands and Feet Ministries has built relationships with many families in this neighborhood through the school. Several times a year they reach out to the community through various events. A small kindergarten building and playground near the school that has recently been donated to Hands and Feet was the perfect place to hold the clinic.
Monday we divided into groups and walked around the neighborhood giving out fliers and inviting everyone to come for free manicures, pedicures and haircuts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We did some basic set up on Monday and discussed who would be filling what role in the clinic. Since my Spanish is pretty good I was asked if I wanted to be the one to share the Gospel with the ladies who were waiting their turn for beauty treatments. I said I would. I tend to be more outgoing in Spanish than I do in English. I find it easier to start a conversation with a stranger in Spanish in a foreign country than in English with the people who live in my own neighborhood. (I think it has to do with having the excuse of not being a native speaker and being expected to make mistakes that somehow takes the pressure off.) But when Ramiro suggested I make a circle of 7 or 8 chairs to sit and have my “platicas” with the ladies I got pretty nervous. He also reccomended that I have a page with applicable Bible verses to hand out. I liked that idea and when we got back to the hotel Deanna and I spent some time looking up verses on beauty and God’s love for us that might offer encouragement to the ladies attending the clinic. We decided on 1 Peter 3:3-4, which seemed the perfect choice to remind the women that though it is nice to feel pretty on the outside God sees and values the beauty we have on the inside.
The message I wanted to most communicate to each person that came to the clinic was that God made them and God loves them, and I wanted to do so in a personal way. By washing their feet, painting their nails and cutting their hair we were helping to take care of their outside appearance, but I did not want anyone to think it was because we found them lacking. Instead I wanted to be sure that they left feeling loved and accepted by us and by God. To help make the personal connection, and also to help with my nervousness, I decided to combine my love of drawing faces with God’s message of love and acceptance. I used my trusty Sharpies to draw a picture of a hand holding a small mirror surrounded by my signature swirls. Leaving enough space to write a name at the top I wrote “eres hija de Dios, una creación admirable,” which translates to, “you are a child of God, a wonderful creation,” and then smaller added 1 Peter 3:3-4 at the bottom. We made plenty of copies that I took with me, ready to be personalized.
Over the next 3 days I drew portraits of over 40 women, children and even a few young men. As they waited their turn for the other stations they sat still in front of me as I drew their face in the mirror and then wrote their name across the top of the paper. Drawing someone’s portrait is a very intimate experience. You have to look closely at them, really see who they are. For some of the women looking me in the eyes was almost impossible, and one of the young men absolutely would not meet my gaze, but the children loved it. They unflinchingly looked right into my eyes and smiled at me, realizing that I was really looking at them, seeing them, and that I appreciated what I saw. When I finished each portrait and made sure I had their name spelled correctly I read to them what it said and told them it was true. The experience of carefully studying each of their faces, looking into their eyes and then being able to tell them with certainty that they indeed are the children of God, beautiful and wonderfully made was amazing. I would even go so far as to say it felt holy. I felt like I was making a connection, that they believed me, and that most of them would keep the paper with their portrait and the reminder that not only did I see them, but God continues to see them, accept them and love them.
Our week in Coahuila has given me so much to think about. I am still trying to process it all, but I think the power of eye contact and the human desire to be seen have been what I have pondered the most. I think all of us want to be seen, to be noticed, to be appreciated. We think that this desire can be met by other people. As the drawing went well and I got positive feedback from the people of Nava as well as the people I was serving with I was pleased, but also wary. I was reminded of Galatians 1:10 and that while being seen and appreciated by other people is nice, it is to our Lord God in Heaven that we should be looking for approval. It is from Him that we should seek and find acceptance reassurance, and love. It is Him that really sees us as we are, fearfully and wonderfully made.