A Chat with my Blogging Muse.

Delicious Autumn!

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Thankfully my muse arrived for a chat…

So, Michelle, where have you been?

I could ask you the same question!

What happened to blogging everyday in October?

I had all good intentions until day six and realized the goal was unrealistic. We had a Phil’s 50th birthday to celebrate (I’m 44 – have I mentioned that?) The celebration began with an open house at our place for two days when 200 lovely church members dropped by to wish the main man a happy birthday. Great to connect with so many Willow Park people. Many cups of tea later we drove up to Sparkling Hill (on our own!) The celebrations continued with a week of fun times with friends and family. We quickly moved on to celebrate Josiah’s 9th birthday. Josiah did wonder why Phil was getting all the attention – after all 9 is a great age…

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AND during all the celebrations I had a 3000-word essay to complete.

So I did write everyday – I just didn’t blog everyday.

Remind us again of why you write…

Communication and connectedness are my strengths. I love to be able to weave and paint a picture with words. I am startled by beauty and the experience of finding grace everyday. I am predisposed to see the world sacramentally and I love to share these glimpses. I carry hope and for me writing is the best avenue for this. My ultimate passion is to tell other peoples stories of hope and of finding true faith in tough places.

I am reminded again today that to write well I must fully embrace living.

Live first, create second. Art is born from life.

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How is your creative writing degree?

It moves slowly, but doesn’t stop and that’s the main thing!

I have learned that writers need to be readers. That I can’t be a writer if I’m not a reader – writers teach us how to write – or how not to.

What are you reading?

I am currently reading for an essay I am writing.

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer, ‘Walden’ by Thoreau and ‘Walking Home: The Poets Journey’ by Simon Armitage. Lots of creative non-fiction – I find myself on the pathways of the Pacific Crest Trail, the raw beauty of Alaska or crying with Chris McCandless mother on a green abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail. I have yet to join the poet on the Pennine Way.

Have you had time for anything else?!

Of course…

As you know my passion is our Hope Centre, we are currently re-imagining what this ministry looks like. Realizing what we are not as much as anything else, focusing on what we can do well and how we can best serve our wider community.

We just held another Encounter God – the God given vision to see a community transformed, made whole and living out a listening life is happening in our church.

This past week we attended the Hope International Development Agency Film Premiere and Dinner with our life long friend Lowell Sheppard who is Asia Pacific Director for HOPE. I was moved by the story of Chan whose life was changed by the provision of a water well though HOPE. She has seen the health of her family improve; her children attend education and food security in growing and selling vegetables. All through the gift of clean water. Her words ‘we now have everything we need’ on are on repeat in my mind.

Last night we met with a group of our adults who are passionate about prayer. It was a moment when God was smiling. A moment to mark as we discussed prayer rooms, a week of constant prayer in January and 21 day focused time of prayer and fasting. Watch this space!

What are you excited about?

Christmas of course! It’s the first time since we moved to Canada that we’ll be in Stourbridge (our hometown) for Christmas. I CANNOT WAIT to spend time with my loved ones.

So that’s me! Thanks for reading.

Praying that you’ll know God’s wrap around presence, protection and peace over your life.

Stay in touch,

Love, Michelle x

Trees.

Day 29.

IMG_3712‘Serene’ Ponthus Beach, Broceliande Forest, France. Photography by Christophe Kiciak.

It’s -2 and Bella is busy throwing wood on the fire for the evening,  I remember a conversation I had with Andy Donaldson a few weeks ago and then I think of my big bro, who creates from wood – making jewelry, furniture, drums. His eye catches the grain to release the art, although he does feel that wood holds much more beauty when it’s alive than when it’s dead.

These three bring todays prompt. Trees.

In the beginning I wrote about roots, but let’s backtrack to a different beginning. In Genesis God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.” And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—Day Three. Gen 1:11-13

In this beginning, when trees were spoken into being, Jesus was there. Taking part in the art, delighting in detailed design. A vision of the tiniest of tiny becoming towering trees. The spoken order of seasons, of planting, of growth, of prunings, of dead wood, of life, of fruit. I’m sure He knew we would desire to hold onto the vibrancy against dark skies a while longer as the leaves blow towards a harsh winter, the whiteness of dormancy. Of waiting.

The trees of creation become the trees of expecting.

I see Mary and Joseph sitting under a tree, vine-like emotions winding their way around new life. A quick breeze blows through the branches as questions fill their conversation. Leaves fall as fears are voiced to each other then… sunlight breaks through the branches, a gentle reminder of their angelic visitation.

The tree of expecting becomes the tree of the carpenter.

The babe is born, Jesus, cradled in a wooden trough from trees he had spoken into being. Boy Jesus sits and watches Joseph, learning from the carpenter. He watches him carve, saw, file, create. He learns to strip back, smooth the rough. He knows wood, its texture, and its smell.

He sits high in the tree pondering his earthly Father and his craft, pondering his heavenly Father and his creation. His craft. He looks at his own hands, rough with scars from his own woodwork.

The tree of the carpenter becomes the tree of teaching.

Leaning against the tree on the mountains, surrounded by roses of Sharon, he speaks to his friends, teaching and guiding. They have heard him speak to fig trees and about mulberry trees. He has described the mustard seed, his favorite, the weak to the strong, the lost and the found, the last shall be first.

The tree of teaching becomes the tree of purpose.

The garden of Gethsemane offers an uncomfortable pillow for weary heads; Jesus knows agony among the olive trees, dark and shivering, he’s alone with his Father. The wait is over as a different light shines though the trees.

Exhausted, beaten, tormented…Jesus carries the tree to Golgotha. The dead weight of creation on his back, enduring the wood. The tree. Our tree. Our splinters, cuts and pain, the rings of our life running through. Mary watches, she has followed his journey, from a distance, understanding the will of the Father.

There’s a reason dead wood was used for the cross. Dead wood is thrown into the fire.

The tree of purpose becomes the tree of salvation.

It’s Day Three. New Creation. A fruitful life. Your gift.

Happy weekend y’all, enjoy the trees.

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

Cheers!

Day 21.

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Angelic clay creations were in full flight in the Hope Centre this week. I decided to put my sculpting skills to good use and invited Ken to help me. Ken is a regular to the Hope Centre although he doesn’t usually engage in crafts. His first words to me were ‘I can’t do that’ but as people watched Ken work and encouraged him, he continued his scoring and shaping. As Ken saw that his creation was good, he continued and smiled. By the end of our craft time he was reshaping what I had done – apparently my angel was too muscular. We joked about who would take the angel home when it was fired, I’m sure Ken’s angel will take pride of place in his quiet home this Christmas.

Debra is our Wednesday day manager, a teacher and a potter, she has worked with many of our visitors since we opened 2 years ago.

I asked her:

Why do you offer arts and crafts at the Hope Centre?

Picasso said “Art washes away the dust from everyday life”- I would agree with this.  However, I believe there are intimations of the divine whilst engaging in creative activities.  A significance that points towards the giver of life and breath, the One who breathes inspiration into our hearts and minds – our Heavenly Father.

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What does your art session look like?

We gather around a white wooden table with our coffee and muffins while children dance excitedly around our feet. Amidst the chaos, it is here that the divine unfolds: planning, discussing and implementing the art & craft project; healing and a form of catharsis takes place.  Participants (and HC volunteers) feel their defensive walls collapsing and a sense of peace and safety replaces the cold fallen bricks of the wall. Much is discussed: we share our hopes and dreams; challenges and sorrows; or perhaps, whether or not the color blue should be used instead of green for the foliage in the painting!

Over coffee, paintbrushes, and glue, we laugh, empathize and sometimes cry.  The safe HC environment allows for repressed thoughts and feelings to surface; where they can be given a voice and then simply be received by listening hears with tender hearts. Feeling the emotion, processing it, they can sometimes move on.

Arts and Crafts are a vehicle for expression and communication of our innermost thoughts and feelings.  Feelings that perhaps words cannot express can be sometimes reflected in a piece of art. Artistic endeavors allow for our individual human narrative to be told and shared with the world. Our art piece, whether it is a grand acrylic painting or macaroni glued on the back of a cardboard cereal box says:  I was here and that it matters.

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Can you share any stories of hope from your sessions?

A new/drop-in participant was having a particularly hard day. She decided to participate in the day’s art activity:  creating an African collage/painting.  Tears began to well in her eyes and she told me that I couldn’t know it, but being there that day being able to feel joy and have the ability to express herself in a visual way, “saved her life that day-literally”

Another group lady who has a large brood of children and struggles to make ends, meet told me that she looks forward all week to spending her Wednesdays at the HC where she feels love and friendship.  She said it confirms to her “she is not alone in this”. The support she receives from both the HC volunteers and the other visitors builds her up and helps her cope with difficult life issues she faces when she returns home.

One of ladies needed help with getting donated clothing to the church.  I went to her house and after loading bags in my car; she gave me a tour of her modest home.  Scattered throughout her entire home, were her arts & crafts treasures that she and her daughter made at the HC.  She proudly displayed the items on glass shelves; a fireplace mantle and her paintings were hung on the walls.  Her proudly displayed creations revealed something of the goodness in her soul.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Art connects us to the divine; to our Heavenly Father who delights in our creations.  By creating, we honor God, the Great Creator! It is here that I find fulfillment and joy while sharing my skills and blessings.

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Thanks Debra, we appreciate all you do.

Back to Ken, who sits with us, eats with us and often falls asleep in the Hope Centre.  I see more than a man who is having a go at crafts as he put it ‘like a girl’. I see this verse all around him… and for everyone who walks through the doors.

‘Still, Eternal One, You are our Father.
We are just clay, and You are the potter.
We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.’ Isaiah 64:8

I asked a few visitors why they came…

*Because I like to meet new friends, get free clothes, go on the internet and play piano sometimes.

*I come because its cozy and for the good people.

*It’s a safe place and I wouldn’t ever go out otherwise.

*Because the resource centre sent me.

*Because I’m cold.

Then one man sang me a song:

 Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

 Where everybody knows your name,

and they’re always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see,

our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows

Your name.

You can see why this is my favorite place – I hope this inspires you!

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

**Hope Centre is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10-2 at Willow Park Church.

We serve a free, healthy hot lunch daily at 11.30 at ‘the table’. All welcome!

We also offer baby supplies to families in need – diapers, formula and wipes.

Hope to meet you there!**

All of the above art completed by Hope Centre visitors.