AWAKE: fully conscious, alert, and aware : not asleep.

We have been leading teams to Guatemala for nine years now through the Athentikos documentary projects and now the I AM ART camps. Over the last 5 years, we’ve led eleven camps in Guatemala with 6 different partner organizations, 120 artists/volunteers, and nearly 2,000 at-risk children to transform pain into purpose through creative arts and God’s greater story of redemption. I have the honor to lead a camp each year and I love it! It’s a highlight of my year. It has been humbling to see this vision grow as well as how others participating in and facilitating the camps experience something new within themselves. I love showing others the beauty of Guatemala for the first time. I love seeing the team bond, as it’s significant that most people come on these trips not knowing others. I love seeing the kids get excited about their art projects and hearing stories about God’s healing in all of our lives. I also love the fun times of dancing, playing card games, and site-seeing with the teams. It’s all significant and each camp leaves a deep impact on my heart.

While some aspects of the trip may not be as awe-inspiring to me anymore… like seeing an active volcano or all the colorful textures in Antigua. I always leave these trips with a new sense of life stirring in my heart. As we led our teams through some mindfulness exercises to be in the moment, I sought to understand the impact on my own life. What is it about these trips that stir something new in my soul? 

After returning from the trip, we were singing a song in church that deeply touched me because I felt that the song’s message is what happens to the soul when experiencing a trip like this. I went to look up the Chris Tomlin lyrics and then came across one of my favorite songs by Mumford and Sons with the same title: Awake My Soul. It’s a different song than what we sang at church, but these lyrics deeply describe me:

“How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul”

Part of my soul re-awakes each time we travel to Guatemala. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m removed from my day-to-day routine and connecting with God, others, and myself in a new way, or if being in a different culture allows my perspective to shift ever so slightly. Maybe it’s because hearing stories of great heartbreak and amazing healing is inspiring. Regardless of the triggers, part of my soul awakes during each trip. 

 I had a hard time writing this blog because it’s hard to explain the feeling of your soul awakening as it’s difficult to explain the powerful impact of our I AM ART trip. Many times I have said that it’s hard to express our experience in words. And that is the power of art: to express an inner abstract idea. Throughout time, people have used art for this same purpose— to communicate their stories, to worship God, and to express the thoughts of their soul. Dance, music, painting, sculpture… all of these and more allow the soul to express itself in ways our words cannot. And sometimes  you have to find yourself in the journey of creation.

In addition to leading the team, I taught a water-color class this time around. I love the fluid nature of the water and the paint. I  love putting water on the paper and adding color and watching it create with some direction. You can kinda direct the outcome of a piece, but for the most part the nature of watercolor technique is to allow it to “develop” itself.  You have to really let go of control and watch the beauty unfold. And the creation is beautiful!! While I LOVE this and think it’s really a simple medium, it was difficult to teach and for the most part, it was difficult for the girls to work with the water instead of controlling it. We did a variety of techniques and projects that followed our  themes, but in the end the essence of the teaching was in working with the water and how it relates to our relationship with God. As I sat and worked with the girls, I felt a connection to my soul that I rarely experience back “home.” The simplicity of creation allows the soul to feel, explore and breathe.

As I look back on 2016, I am very grateful for the four I AM ART teams in Guatemala. Like the creation of the watercolor pieces, our leadership team took steps of action to put “water and color” on the paper, but it was God that created the beauty that unfolded through the camps. The people on our teams are the core of the experience and the reason we are able to offer the I AM ART camps. I love the deep sense of community we feel during our time together as well as getting to know so many different types of people. I am grateful for the kids who willingly follow our direction in the creation of their art projects and humbly share parts of their stories with us. I am also thankful for our partnership organizations: Vidas Plenas, Lemonade International, Se Luz, Ten Fe, Kids Alive, The Oasis Home, Casa Bernabe and Friends of Children Everywhere who generously opened their communities to us. 

I hope in this New Year that our collective “artwork” will develop even more into a grand piece that only God can direct. It’s difficult letting go, listening to the depth of your soul, and taking steps in and towards God. Even though we love the I AM ART vision and want deeply for this vision to grow, at times it is extremely scary to trust God in this. We need money, people, and leadership to accomplish the great vision God has laid on our hearts. Our hope is that we will all continue to be the color that God is using to create this beautiful piece of art. While this blog isn’t necessarily about an opportunity to give, I do want to make that offer: If you have joined us on an I AM ART trip in the past, you understand the power of art and you know the sense of your soul awakening in new ways. We need you to continue to be a part of this by financially supporting the vision, please consider joining our monthly financial support team at http://athentikos.kindful.com/. If you have not yet been able to go on a trip, you can still support us! You can donate using the same link listed above and/or follow us on social media. Be on the lookout for future I AM ART camps you might want to join or other ways to support Athentikos. Your investment will make a difference in the communities we serve.

“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker
Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker”

To get the full lyrics to this song click here.

Many, many, many thanks to all who are a part of our community, who have shared stories, invested, loved and listened. You have left an impact on my heart and many more.  Happy 2017 to you all!

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