the Rocky Soil of Grieving


I did this work back at the start of October.

se me ha marcado, mixed media 2016

This is some of my first work with a palette knife, because I needed a raw tool to scrape and give it the raw feeling that I wanted for the work. The title “it has marked me” reflects both my personal experience in Ukraine and the reality that these orphans live in. Their life experiences have marked them. This is a girl, who passes as a boy as a form of protection from abuse. A form of protection that failed her. It hurts me to look at her knowing this, knowing how she is hurt. That is why this photograph by Іринка Шевель is so powerful, it captures the girl’s vulnerability and lack of hope.

I wanted to do a second painting featuring this orphan in another context, but I wasn’t ready for that yet. You can’t rush or force a conclusion to grief, though you may want to. I needed to see Tanya on my wall, like this for some time. I had to live with what grieved me, and to accept it in my space, as is, with no hopeful conclusion. And in this space I prayed, I reproached God, I clung to Him, and I listened.



This came next, in that same space.










Finding Spaces, Mixed Media 2016.

This was my first time working with gold leaf foil, and to be honest I am only semi-satisfied with the results. This work resembles a map in many of its shapes but it is unclear what is land mass and what is water, what is solid and what you may become immersed in. Grieving is like that. Sometimes what you think was rock becomes loose soil. You find yourself treading water where you thought it was not deep, or you take a few steps forward and are surprised to find your feet touch the bottom. Things that you did not think would be hard for you mentally, emotionally, physically, you have to wade through or fight against the current in. Other experiences you navigate, past or present you anticipate to be so hard, impossible even, and inexplicably you are standing on Someone more solid than yourself where you did not expect Him to be.

The tiny dots that provided the unity that the painting lacked before, led to this:



He holds all, mixed media 2016.


I knew there was a second painting coming, with this photograph, also by Іринка Шевель who is the photographer for Hope for OrphansHere is the same orphan, getting a piggy back ride from one of the leaders of our American team, Hunter. I am referencing Colossians 1:17 with the title, and here the dots become sub-atomic particles to me that God is as faithful to hold in Himself, as He was faithful to hold these orphans with our arms and legs. What a gift it was to participate in Christ that way, to physically hold these kids is something I miss so much, sometimes I ache for it. This and the other painting, se me ha marcado, hang right next to each other. They share the space. And I think that is what it means to grieve well.

This is the most recent work I have done in that space of new understanding:


It is not done yet. I recently studied Makoto Fujimura’s Consider the Lilies up close and wanted to try the same thing with water that he had done, let it direct itself with the slight tilting of the paper into a plant-like shape.



I am still layering the champaign gold acrylic over it. I like this pale gold for the way it is both solid and refracts light like the surface of water depending on where you stand.


These rocks are fairly beautiful antagonists, and not as solid as they appear. As I think of the forms my faith is taking now I am thinking of the seed that the sower cast on rocky soil. But I am not fearing that my roots will try up.


Rather I am looking to see what kind of desert plant, succulent or yucca grows up in this soil. I am not looking for the ferns, or moss, or roses of my faith that I have seen before.

I am waiting for my desert flowers to rise next to the Joshua trees of this world.

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