Monday, April 20, 2015

"Release" 36x72, Oil on Canvas

"Release" 36x72, Oil on Canvas

“Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.”
  - Philip Yancey

Many of you know my waterfalls come from the theme of grace. It began a few years ago when I had surgery on my ankle. It was the 2nd time to repair a tendon (later they would discover it was a ligament and bone problem too). After the surgery I was told I would need to be on crutches for a time and then have 8 weeks physical therapy. Although I had had surgeries in the past I was confronted with my inability to not be mobile, free. Suddenly, I was incapable of helping my kids make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without several extra, extra steps. It's impossible to hold a plate of food and walk on crutches. I began to not only feel frustrated and angry but depressed. I had let my "doing" for the family define my role. I was also combating pain on a daily basis and pain does something to the mind. It wearies it.

Gratefully, I started my physical therapy after getting off the crutches. My favorite therapist, Dennis, would push me to where my leg would shake with weakness and then say something like, "It's looking good today." He would have me sweating, grunting and shaking all in one session. I dreaded it and loved it at the same time. My favorite part was when I would stick my foot in the whirlpool that pumped water right at the sorest spots of my ankle. The water was warm and massaging. He would ask me almost every time, "Need a magazine?" and I would say (with a smile), "No thanks." It became our joke. No magazine dude. Just me staring at water for 30 minutes! I wanted to watch the water swirl around my ankle. It was beautiful, this image of healing. God was trying to tell me something and I knew it.

I remember that summer as my ankle was getting better I would sit on the studio floor with a small palette and easel on my lap and paint. I couldn't sit at the bigger easel yet as I needed to have my foot elevated. The first image I wanted to paint was water. It captivated me and still does. It started me on a journey of waterfalls that defined the word, "grace" to me. I had read a book, What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey and it made a huge impression. Particularly his words on "Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part." I was captivated by it. This idea that water flows into the cracks and crevices of mountain rock just as grace flows into the cracks and crevices of who we are. I realized I hadn't been giving myself much grace. I had been frustrated at my "lack" and not accepted the healing process.

There was another aspect to it too. As I meditated on the ripples that swirled around my ankle I realized that God was talking to me about grace. It not only falls into the cracks and crevices of who we are but it ripples out. Yancey's book was achingly poignant on this. Grace falls on me but it also must ripple out to others. Yancey wrote how Jesus readily sat with sinners because they knew they were fallen and in need of help. It was those who thought themselves righteous that eventually sent Him to the cross. It made me think about those ripples. Have I been a barrier to His grace or have I let it flow freely through me?

A friend of mine, Matt Guilford, challenged me to not make my waterfalls so centrally focused but to "skew" the perspective. I made some attempts but knew I wasn't hitting on it. I finally started on this elongated one hoping it would help me push the perspective and the light and dark. I shared it with Matt and he said something very interesting to me in an email, "I love the questions that are inside that dark space." I realized that was it. Grace allows for the questions and, at times, the darkness. Philip Yancey said something about this piece too, "Grace flows downward but doesn't leave us there."

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