Daily Write 2

A porcelain horse stands on my bookshelf, Guardian of the Books. His coat is mossy gray, cold and slightly scuffed to the touch, like something that was once smooth as a round marble but has been roughened by the dust of years. I don’t actually know how old he is, but I could imagine that he is a hundred years old. His black eyes – satin black gems of some sort – seem to be quite ancient, in an introspective sort of way. If I look into them, I think of all the days they might have seen, of the fields and cities, of battles and celebrations, of rooms and people far beyond my own. But when I look into either of his, for I cannot stare deeply into both at once, being as they are placed on opposite sides of his head, I see nothing but a distorted reflection of myself, and thus his mystery deepens.

I wonder how many other admirers have touched his flowing black mane; it has a touch of green to it, as if someone painted his mane emerald before it was painted black. His bridle, too, is green, but a dusty, hazy bluish-green the same color as his saddle pad. And the saddle itself, as porcelain as the rest of the horse, is the color of the Grand Canyon walls, a dull brown with hints of red and purple.

Indeed, the seat of the saddle is the smoothest part of the entire figurine, much like a saddle on display in a museum, worn nearly through the seat from years of use. The rest of the saddle may be cut, scratched, patched or worn through, but that seat is smoother and shinier than the day it was made.

But nobody has ever ridden this porcelain horse, have they? He’s a figurine, a decoration, an item at a garage sale.

Ahhh…now this is when that glorious human ability comes into play – “imagination.” Because how many other fingers have rubbed over that same seat? How many horseless children have placed this figurine upon a chipped windowsill and ran their fingers across the saddle, squinting their eyes until the skyscrapers become mountains, the streetlights campfires in the valley below, the honking cars bleating sheep, the rushing traffic the roar of a waterfall, the smell of car exhaust the stench of an enemies’ fires…and suddenly the children are no longer in their bedroom but sitting astride a mossy gray horse, watching over a war-torn valley from a secret, private overlook. They hold the blue-green bridle reins – soft as twisted curtains in their hands – and feel the black mane whisk upon their cheeks like a gentle breeze.

You know the rest of the story, I’m sure, so I needn’t detail here how the children ride off on that imaginary horse.

 

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Unpredictable

Psalm 40:4a – Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust….

I guess that if there is one thing that I have learned in life, especially over the last few years, it’s that I really can’t trust anybody here on Earth. As harsh and critical as that sounds, it’s true: people are simply untrustworthy. But God isn’t. When He does things in my life that I don’t want, or when He doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want Him to, He is actually working in my best interests. He has not, does not, and will not let me down in the same way people are bound to do.

God is not untrustworthy. He’s just unpredictable.

It’s like riding a horse. I can trust my mount to always act like a horse. That doesn’t mean that I can trust her to do what I think she should do, or what I’ve asked her do, or what I think is the sensible thing to do. My horse doesn’t think like a human, so she won’t act like one. Simple, right?

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Neither does God think like I do:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8-9

God will always think and act like God. Scripture tells me that God is trustworthy and always working in my best interests. I might not understand His ways – oftentimes I won’t – but I can always trust that His ways are ultimately better than mine and that even if I feel like He is letting me down, He is actually building me up.

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Because I can always trust a horse to act like a horse – which includes being unpredictable – I always have to stay alert when I’m riding. If I don’t then I’m probably going to get dumped. I wasn’t prepared; I wasn’t watching; I wasn’t listening to my horse’s cues; I wasn’t ready to respond….

My relationship with God is the same way: I can’t just go along for the ride. God is unpredictable, and He might throw something at me I’m not ready for. And then what will happen? If I’m not prepared, my faith might be shaken. I might not handle the situation to the best of my abilities. I might mistake His unpredictable nature for untrustworthiness.

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I have to be prepared; I have to be ready to ride. My relationship with God isn’t like my relationship with people, whom I tend to relate to at arm’s length so that I’m always somewhat protected if they somehow break my trust, and to protect them from my breaking theirs. My relationship with God is more like my relationship with my horse. I can’t work with my horse at arm’s length if I really want to know her well enough so that we can both grow as a team. The only way for me to understand her nature and to be prepared for her unpredictable ways is to be as close to her as possible, both physically and emotionally. To ride with close contact on the bit rather than on a loose rein. To watch her ears and not the clouds. To learn her reactions, her habits, her means of communicating. To build up our trust in one another. To create a relationship with her that nobody else has.

That’s when trust in the face of unpredictability is enacted. That’s when faith comes to life.

And that is how I want my relationship with God to be….How it should be….

The most beautiful, trusting, epically-glorious, and truly unpredictable ride of my life.

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Completion of the Borders Project

So now I’m finally posting the final production of my art class “borders” project! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to this.

To start with, Dr. Salix gave me a previous student’s board to use for my project. I had to tear off the initial artwork, which consisted of drawing paper thickly glued onto the board. I didn’t take any pictures of this process, although I should have because it ended up taking way more time than I expected. And I learned two lessons: 1) Remove glued paper by scrubbing it with a rag and water and 2) remove the excess glue by scraping it off after it has dried. Of course, I learned this the hard way by trying to scrape the paper and wash off the glue…oops.

Once I had removed as much paper and glue as possible, I painted the entire board (which is over four feet tall and three feet wide) with white gesso. So this is what I had to start with when I came to class on Monday morning.

To begin with, I sketched a jumping horse (taken from a photograph) with graphite.

Next, I traced over the graphite with charcoal.

Then the painting began. Here’s the first wash of charcoal and gesso.

He’s coming to life! Next comes more shading and definition. I also deepened his barrel and drew in the fence rails for him to jump over. This was the end product of three hours of work on Monday.

On Tuesday morning, I decided that the rails were too dark, so I painted over them with gesso. I was going to completely white them out, but the first coat of paint didn’t completely cover them, and Dr. Salix and I agreed the faded look actually suited the picture. They gave the horse something to jump over, but their color didn’t detract from his. I also added in some background elements (the grain of the board and the remaining glue gave the sky a fantastic texture) and continued to finesse my horse

Then, more detail work. I added more highlights and shadows to the horse and the fence rails, added charcoal lines for tiny marks, and made the mane stand out more from the mountains.

Finally, after more shadowing, highlighting, and blending, the piece was complete.

So it was a far cry from my initial idea, but Dr. Salix was very pleased with it and I was excited with how well it turned out. As for the idea of a mysterious border theme…well, I guess it doesn’t have much of that. But, at the same time, if you think about it, there is some concept of a border. The horse is jumping over a fence, apparently out of a pasture, but what is he jumping into? And why is he jumping at all? Is he jumping away from something, or toward something?

Regardless of how you interpret the drawing, the horse is crossing some sort of boundary. Maybe, for me, this painting is almost a reflection of my past year in college. I stepped outside of several of the borders I was accustomed to — my home, a primarily Christian community, a room to myself, home school, a safe and secure environment without tons of sinful influences. It was a giant leap, and there were so many times when I wanted to run back to my “home pasture” and just stay there. Sometimes the “hurdles” I had to surmount seemed too great for little ol’ me, and only God’s grace helped me to clear them without knocking down too many poles.

At the same time, I know that there are more borders ahead of me which I must eventually pass over. New steps I must take, new obstacles to surmount. College, work, writing, relationships…only God knows where my future may lead. But He is offering those new opportunities to me, like a fresh, green expansive pasture, and I hope that I will leap toward them as eagerly as this horse appears to be leaping out of the old pasture and into the new one. The jumps themselves may be frightening, but I believe the landings themselves will be worth it.

What about you? What border and boundaries are you facing…or avoiding…in your life?

The “Borders” Project

I can’t believe this school year is almost over! It’s so exciting that I’ll be heading home on Thursday!

This last block I’m doing now is a drawing class, and our final in-class project consists of painting/drawing an image on a large sheet of paper, canvas, or wood. Dr. Salix has given us the theme of “border” — physical, psychological…you name it. It just has to have a personal implication as well. And, since it’s personal, he’s actually letting us do horses, which means, of course, I’m doing a horse. (Me? Pass up an opportunity to draw horses? Nuh-uh!) We have to come up with our own scene and idea, which is the hardest part for me, since it has to a) meet all the requirements in the rubric, b) show some sort of border, and c) have a very subtle and mysterious message. I’m used to having strict guidelines to follow for class projects, so thevague openness of what we can do left me pretty blank for a while. Dr. Salix gave us time to brainstorm in class, and this was my first idea:

Basically, the horse and rider would be jumping over the fence, sort of from one world into another. The fence and landscape would show the difference, as well as the two halves of the rider’s apparel. Dr. Salix said it was a good start, but to go home and do some sketches and play with it some more. So that evening, I did several sketches and studied different pictures to come up with my second plan (click on the image to see it more clearly; I apologize for it being so washed out in the center):

So I brought that into class, but it is a little too long. Also, Dr. Salix says that it’s too literal and the message needs to be harder to grasp. So I brainstormed for a little bit and…I’m back to square one: a jumping horse. And that’s pretty much all I have at the moment. Dr. Salix told me to leave it at that for now, practice drawing charcoal and gesso horses over the weekend, and then we’d see what happened after I painted the horse for the actual project. So here are my products of the weekend practicing; the two standing horses are from live drawings, while the jumping horses are from photos:

So, tomorrow I’ll actually paint the jumping horse for the project…and then I guess we’ll see where it goes from there! I’ll try to photograph the process so that I can post it here. It should be interesting, especially considering that I only have two days to complete it!