Archives for category: HOP

How do I begin the attempt at writing about this particular quilt?

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It carries for me a sense of closure, and yet into its making I poured so many complexities of my heart, feelings and wrenchings and delights and great sorrows, that that closure is superficial at worst, temporary at best. Though life has layered many profound experiences since its making, still a dull ache remains, like the ten drops of wine removed from a Seder glass in recognition that some sadness, while not significantly affecting the feast, is still there. Yet we do not cease to celebrate because of it.

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I miss a land that was mine for a moment, a family made quickly, friends who forever changed me. Northern England did a number on me.

And so I made this quilt for the Mama of the house in which I lived and served. She requested one, and I planned the design, bearing in mind her tastes. At the last minute, I felt it needed to be hand-tied, reflecting the choice to give the best of me, piece by piece, knot by knot.

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Originally I entrusted it to a certain friend, a fellow American who came home just long enough to get her visa in order. But circumstances changed, and thus, though I completed the quilt in March of last year, it took another friend’s visit – this one with plane tickets already in hand – to carry it safely home to its intended recipient.

A few days ago, my inbox surprised me with a short video from Sunderland: Mama of the house receiving her quilt, sending her love, brought to tears by the gift.

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Even now, I do not pretend to comprehend all the impact of those months in England. But I have a sense of settling, deep within, and a knowing in my bones that I have been through fire and seas and come out again, having given the best from the depths of me, and coming out richer for it.

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Over the summer, my then-friend now-brother posted a few paintings to our favorite social media. I suggested a sibling date to paint together. At the time, he little realized I’d be coming back as an intern, and as I’d not been offered the position, I’d not publicized my intent to return. As it turned out, my brother and I had many opportunities to minister in the HOP together, and we often spoke of finding time to paint. On one of my last nights in Sunderland before flying back to the States, we finally made it happen.

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Another intern asked to join us. She and I have a history with art together as she had led worship at a summer camp in which I taught on prophetic painting. I was happy for her to join us!

That night I painted my heart – the sense that I am heading into unknown territory where the only constant is the confidence that no matter where I am, I am held in the peace of the eye of the storm.

As I said my goodbyes, I bequeathed my paints, paper, and many brushes to my brother. I gave him instructions on the paintings I left, those donated to the HOP for sale and to fill the space with life and dynamic color. Three unnamed oil canvases remained drying in the balcony.

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As I left the prayer room that night, paintings drying on the step, I walked out to the fellowship hall and was met by my beloved English family. I had already been crying for 5 days straight, anticipating this last goodbye. But my eyes welled up once again as they prayed over me.

Then my brother did something special. He held out a single £1 coin, saying it is a deposit and symbolic investment, a sign of giving back to me for all I’d given to the HOP, the community, the land. And it was a sign that I’d be back. The gift was profound for, unbeknownst to my brother, I’d returned from my initial trip in April carrying a single £1 coin, knowing I’d be back. I brought that coin with me in September, but just that evening, before heading to the HOP, I’d divvied up my remaining bills and coins among friends, and I’d specifically chosen to hold nothing back for myself. I told all this to my brother in the hearing of the others, complimenting his perceptiveness and giving him a last hug.

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I’ve not painted since returning to the States. I did, however, receive a new watercolor tablet and gift card to an art supply store for Christmas. I teared up at these gifts, sensing the kindness of God to restore my heart in all I’d given up.

I am not returning to England in the near future. My year began turning into a semester from the day I got off the plane and customs stamped me for a firm 3 months. But while I was determined to overcome obstacles and fulfill my commitment, the leadership at the HOP sensed a different wind. Six weeks before my flights, they approached me with the choice: if I wanted, I might be absolved of my commitment and return home. They firmly believe in the power of strong marriages, and with an ear to my unspoken heart’s cries, knowing me to be an ocean away from the man I love, they only felt it right to allow me the choice.

Suffice it to say my world turned upside down. Nothing was further from my mind than the thought of not completing a year in England. And yet, after prayer and conversation with family and friends, the decision, though anything but easy, was clear. Let’s just say I won’t be returning to England without my Mister.

Today of all days I find myself reflective, for this has been an experience so far outside of anything I could have imagined that I would not have believed it, even if I’d been told. This wild ride that began April 1, 2013, enabled by a beginning on September 7, 2012, made possible by a whisper in 2011, reflecting a moment in 2007… is an adventure unlike any I could conceive or hope for. And to come through fire and water restored and healed, to find myself living more than I could ever dream, and through it all encountering the infinite Glory of the Person Jesus… There need be no words.

So here’s to this magnificently wild ride that was 2013. Changes ahead, from glory to glory, with hope and expectation, confident that the best is yet to come! Happy New Year, and Happy New Beginnings!

The back hall of the House of Prayer needed a quilt. It was a joy of a journey conceiving, cutting, sewing, and sourcing materials for it. The top is made predominantly of Moda Bella Solid in silver and features a bit of my favorite Sunkissed by Sweetwater print. I brought all the fabric for the top from home, and the back is a 100% cotton sheet picked up from TK Maxx. The batting – or “wadding” – is a woven cotton from Dunelm Mill. I figured the weave would negate the need for dense quilting, and sure enough, it was fine. I self-bound by tucking and turning under the excess backing, threw it in the wash, and let it dry over the radiator. The quilt gets a lot of use as folks curl up on couches or snuggle close to the radiator. I’m so thankful for the ability to share my heart with my beloved HOP through my favorite art form!

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Last Saturday we rallied the troops (ie 10 interns, 3 staff members), piled into a minibus and minivan, and roadtripped to Manchester. We’d agreed to partner with Prayer Storm, a group that brings together believers every quarter for corporate worship and intercession. The event stretched from noon until 7 pm. Pastors Ken and Lois were asked to lead towards the end of the evening, specifically encouraging those who feel called to a life of intercession to take action.

When we arrived, I did a quick survey of the auditorium. Some gatherings like this are open to artists, but I didn’t see any. Thankfully, as part of the HOP team, we had access to event staff, and one of them was able to secure permission for me.

Throughout the event, we worshipped and prayed. I found myself at the front when one speaker called for dancers. Two other interns joined me, as well as the Prayer Storm dance team.

Later in the afternoon, I pulled out my watercolors. When curious children drew close, I handed them paper and brushes. Soon we had taken over the space at the foot of the cameraman. My prayer is that these young ones walked away with an understanding that visual art is a powerful form of communication, and as prayer is simply communicating with God, that creating art is a legitimate form of prayer.

Below are photos from the event, including stills from videos and screenshots from friends’ Instagram feeds.

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Six Americans couldn’t do without a Thanksgiving meal. One of us will be in London for the actual day, so we celebrated early. We normally have all the interns together for a meal on Wednesday nights. This seemed like a logical time for it. We then whittled down the guest list to about 30 people, planned our menu and divided the work. I took the lion’s share as most of the recipes came from my family cookbook.

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A few folks had allergies, so we had a whole section of foods dedicated to them. This presented a little bit of a challenge, but as we were making things from scratch anyway, it didn’t add much to our time.

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It was all hands on deck when everything was finally ready. It was sleeting as the turkey breasts and casseroles were carried from our flats to the HOP. Thankfully dessert was ready ahead of time, and we weren’t too late getting started.

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The sweetest thing about sharing Thanksgiving with our Sunderland family was realizing how few British understood the roots of our American holiday. Most seemed to believe it was a celebration of independence. They were surprised to learn about how the Native Americans succored the pitiful Pilgrims through the winter. Many of us natives of America here can trace our ancestry to various American Indian tribes. In a way, we enacted the reverse of the original holiday – now Americans finding home and refuge in a foreign land.

Recently the HOP has met a few challenges, and celebrating Thanksgiving when we did served as a precious reminder of loving one another through rough times. We need each other as no individual has the full picture. We are two cultures coming together to celebrate the goodness of God and thank Him for His bountiful blessings in bringing us together in this time and season.

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They raised their glasses to me as the head chef – and I dedicated it all back to my grandmother. Happy Thanksgiving to all my precious family. I love you, miss you, and look forward to when I’ll see you again.

Oh – and keep watching this blog as by popular request I’ll be posting a few recipes!

Folks from Catch The Fire London came up this past week for an International Leaders School of Ministry. I took the opportunity during worship to paint. I also had some of my original watercolor paintings for sale, as well as sets of notecards I had printed of a few of my favorite paintings. For legal reasons, I donated these to the HOP. That way, all proceeds can go straight into the interns’ funds and distributed amongst the dozen of us.

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The conference itself was intense for a lot of reasons. As an intern, I found myself serving lots of coffee and tea and keeping the toilets stocked with paper products. But I also has some profound experiences with God, identifying and unlearning things I’ve believed about Him and working through misperceptions based in a hurting heart. I love forgiveness. It’s totally worth letting go of the need to be right or denial of mistakes. And the freedom of owning and admitting those mistakes is amazing – like letting go of a tractor tire’s weight of shame. The power of sin is in shame and hiding. Admitting to the shameful behavior completely obliterates that power. Freedom like that is addictive! It’s the difference between state park air and stuffy office air, or sunlight and halogen. So good!

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Of course, having world revival leaders pray for you personally is always a blast. John Arnott of the so-called “Toronto Blessing” is one of the gentlest, kindest people I’ve encountered. He reminds me of a hickory fire in the fireplace – warm with that something extra in the smoke that fills the house with richness and heat. He and his wife Carol are close friends of the Gotts, under whom I’m honored to serve in the HOP, and also mentored the pastors and leaders of the ministry school I completed last year. What a difference a few months has made! The Arnotts taught at my school the week before my initial trip to Sunderland. To see them again reflects the magnitude of the changes in my life, as well as the rapid succession in them, in just 8 months’ time. I hope to have time to reflect more on the course of my life. I get the feeling that rapid change is the new norm – from glory to glory to glory!

My birthday monkeys went on a tour of the House of Prayer, paying special attention to the prayer boxes in the balcony. These boxes were inspired by little prayer grottoes on Prayer Mountain in South Korea. Inside is space for one to kneel, sit, or awkwardly recline (depending on stature) and pray, journal, read, or generally spend time with God. The feeling one gets inside is unique. For me, it is reminiscent of the sweet, still gentleness found floating down my favorite Tennessee river in summer. With a little trial and error, I seem to have found the warmest box, shown here. That warmth is extra important given one must remove shoes before entering a box. Fifteen boxes line the 3 sides of the balcony. One can imagine the atmosphere of prayer and worship this creates, and it’s always fun to recognize a pair of shoes indicating the identity of the occupant. I love filling the pages of my journal while in the boxes. Going in them feels a bit like baking Christmas cookies – the warmth and love of the tradition builds with each iteration, and while the “recipe” is the same, each time is a different. Come to think of it, maybe around Christmas I’ll go around and drop sweets into folks’ shoes!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of the HOP!

God does not create the storms of life, but He is with us through them. Though He may seem asleep in our boats, still His presence calms our hearts, and we are safe whether we know it or not.

Original paintings from the HOP.

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Original paintings from the HOP evoking invitations from God to engage with Him in new ways.

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Original paintings from the HOP evoking places in heaven from an earthly perspective and places on earth from a heavenly perspective. Enjoy!

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