I am about a week away from traveling to Guatemala with Athentikos for I AM ART Fall 2015. How did I get here? It’s already been a wild journey …
I was, sitting in my home church of Heritage CRC in Byron Center, Michigan. By the way, I am a charter member, which makes me: 1) boring, 2) blindly loyal, and/or 3) totally in love with my congregation and not wanting to leave. Pastor Joel VanDyke spoke to us in early May and mentioned this thing called “I Am Art” in Guatemala. I have been the “artist” at my church for over 23 years so that caught my attention. Perhaps there would be a place for a middle aged neurotic, artistic woman to go on this trip and use whatever God has gifted her with in reaching peoples of an entirely different culture. Painting? Tile murals? Set design for drama? Character roles in a play? Music? I’m comfortable in all areas. Many people came up to me after the service telling me I “need” to go. I told these people “I’ll think about it”, but I was busy. Right? We’re ALL busy. Is this my fearful excuse or is it legit?
More time went by in my ‘forgetful fear’ stage, and after 2 weeks, a good friend phones me and says she had been prompted to call me and urge me to go on this journey to Guatemala and use my gifts. Once again, fear takes over and this time it’s accompanied by an over-whelming sense of inadequacy. This is entirely foreign to me as I am about the least insecure, fearful, non-self confident person you’ll ever meet. I tell her I’d think about it and once again, I don’t take action. However, the opportunity lurks around in the back of my mind and I can’t shake it.
This has been, in the past, God’s way of getting my attention. I’ve learned to not let a lot of time pass when He does this, so I focus. As another few weeks go by, things start happening in my life that turn my attention to this trip, such as: my granddaughter asking me to learn Spanish, several art projects I am doing that involve international thinking, and imagining myself in scenarios that make me laugh out loud. Scenarios of being covered in paint with 20 kids who can’t understand what I’m saying! THAT’S funny! I guess when God allows Nebuchadnezzar to share his wall-writing experience with you, pay attention.
I sign up. I’m accepted. I pay my entrance fee. Yet, I am petrified.
Typically, I’m a daredevil and will try anything once or twice if it’s exciting! Why am I so afraid? I’ve always been the first-in-line kinda gal and I find myself even crying at times when I think about committing to this trip. I speak not one word of Spanish. The farthest “out-of-the-country” I’ve ever traveled is Canada and the Caribbean. I have a husband, 8 kids, seven grandkids, an overweight cat and a dog on Prozac for pity’s sake! They all need me here, right?
Suddenly I’m not so sure and I begin to entertain the idea of bridging a gap between my outlandish way of creating art and a dozen kids who can’t understand me! I again laugh out loud and begin to get a bit excited. Maybe part of the process can be in our resolution of a language barrier and how we’re all “one” with God understanding our hearts using the language of ‘art’.
At this point I download Duolingo at my team leaders request. It takes me four days to master “Mujer.” I begin to pray about mastering fear by giving it ALL to God; seriously giving it all. I think Christians do a great job of lip service when they say “I’ve given it all to God!” Not all. Perhaps most. For me at this juncture, it meant I’d enlist the support of some good friends in prayer, verbal encouragement, and take a good look at my finances.
Peculiar things started happening. I began talking to the Spanish family who just joined our church. Sketchy on my side, and they are gracious. I acquired several more clients and my bank account has a surplus. My friend tells me my passport picture is the “best she’s ever seen!” Okay. Okay. I’m also gently reminded of events in my life when I was forced to fall on my knees and simply let time play out. God’s timing. I have to just let go. Seriously, just like that. I did NOT pick up the fearful/inadequate thoughts again. I focused on not fretting! Overnight? No, but gradually EVERYTHING seemed to now be coated with a warm feeling of ease. I am no longer apprehensive when I talk about going on this trip. In fact, I’m so calm, I write a letter explaining my purpose and the Athentikos mission and am prepared to send it in early October to over 200 friends asking them to pray for me and my team. I’m geeked! Guess the “total surrender thing” works.
Probably the coolest thing that put me at ease was the formulation of my art project. At this point, I didn’t even know if my team leaders needed or wanted me to submit an idea. But if they did, the one that kept bouncing off my brain was one that had sprung from the death of my oldest child and the valley I had to walk through. I had shared it in several banners and projects for various areas of mine and other churches. Even a speaking engagement to a couple hundred people. I think I have something to share. God guide my mind….
I began to mess around in my studio with various forms of “fun-art-stuff” that I have done with kids for years. The things that make me smile are the ones I will move forward with as well as the pieces that came out of my personal tragedy.
As I share my early fears with my husband, he prays for me and we laugh at how things are answered in a timely manner. We laugh a lot! The months pass with very little contact from my team. I’m fretting again. Rats. Here I am, heading to a foreign country, eager and somewhat focused, and I have not had one iota of contact with one single soul going on this trip. It’s been weeks. Oh boy. Here comes my new neighbor Fear, closely followed by his brother Apprehension and cousin Inadequacy. I again concentrate on turning to timely-trust, as my husband and I have begun to call it.
Within days, my team leader David schedules an individual meeting with me on Google Hangout. As I’m not very computer literate, my old buddies knock on the door. However, David is so totally welcoming and accepting of my computer shortcomings that once again, the gang-of-fearful-three run and hide. David also promptly sends me a link and I log-on and we chat. He is going to be my friend! I already love him and his gifts. He lets me ask a zillion questions and I’m sure some of them were redundant and rather silly. He doesn’t laugh and repeats his answers as frequently as I repeat my questions. I find out I’m necessary and am encouraged to formulate a lesson art plan for the kids. In his chatting, he mentions areas where I know I’ll be able to help others on my team. Drama, music, sports and games. All things that encourage me and he didn’t even know he was doing that. God is a complete kinda guy and had this conversation all covered before it even took place. Nice!
My prayers have been primarily with my husband as I prepare for this journey. As we do a devotional time over coffee each morning, I Am Art has become our focus. I know my prayer warrior friends are also praying for me and all of us. I find myself repeating these very simple yet powerful words:
“My Father who knows me completely: help me to know You and discern Your will. My thoughts are racing and my plans are many. Set me on your lap and and open my ears to hear your gentle voice guiding me on the perfect path You’ve already chosen. Your will be done throughout the entire earth. Help me as I branch out in trust and faith. Thank you, my faithful God.”
And by the way, Soy una mujer!!!