Framing the Fragments ~ A Giveaway {Take Heart…in Kinship & Community}

When I take in her words, I go away pondering, considering. Sometimes a piece is so moving that I leave it on the screen and come back for a second read. When I see her artwork, I feel like testing my (child-like) skill with the paintbrush. It’s the sign of an authentic artist in my book, one who inspires others to consider their own life in light of the work and one who inspires others to create works of their own. That is Annie Barnett. I am honored to have Annie as part of our Take Heart series today, sharing words and watercolor and letting us in on the way one friend’s honesty helped her go deeper as an artist.

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She lives in faraway Texas now, but these little-ones-playing-wildly-in-the-background days we talk on the phone nearly as much as we did in junior high.

It was autumn when she told me, gently: “I love your work, I really do. But it lacks some of the tension and messy brokenness that makes your story yours.”

I wasn’t expecting so much honesty, but wounds from a friend can be trusted, and few people know (and love) me so well as this particular one. She knows I draw little birds and acorns, favorite lines of Christmas hymns and a whole series of eggs, all expectant, full of April hope. These are the pictures I want to hang on my fridge, to call me towards home and invite me in to a place of daily abiding.

I shuffle around her words, awkwardly mumble something about not adorning my walls with images of a bleeding heart twice flattened by a Mack truck.  And this wise friend, she didn’t pull her words back or defend them at all. She just let those words sit a while.

We ended our call, and I sat with the words. Days and weeks slipped by, and the words stayed, grew.

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Since I started painting again, all my work centered on good true words I needed to hear and see, speak and remember. These were not simple niceties, rather painted during hard days, when the call to abide and dwell was a lifeline in the midst of grief.

I set out to paint a shadow of that brokenness and filled a sketch book. In the end, I pursued a nest filled with eggshell debris and a fragile heirloom marked by hairline cracks. I worked water and pigment over weeks instead of hours. Often, this is how I learn, pouring over a painting and learning from the image as I create.

I let the brush wrap moss and string and branch into a crown of twigs: the little nest to frame the fragments that once housed life.  I have carried babies in my womb, and I think twice about such fragile eggs sustaining and nourishing an unhatched life. The broken pieces left behind are the only evidence of something fully alive, taken wing.

Sometimes brokenness is part of the birthing.

My toddler insisted I add baby birds to the nest. But this nest, it speaks of the broken places, where neat little bows don’t tie up the mess because our hearts are made for walks in the cool of the garden, and we don’t always see the whole of redemption in the midst of brokenness.

We wait and we sit with those who wait. Like my dear friend, we ask the hard questions and we learn to listen. And sometimes, when we are quiet, we see a shadow of something new unfurling in those hard places.

annieathomeAnnie Barnett is a creative soul who pours her days into her family and her art. She writes sporadically at AnnieAtHome.com, chronicling her broken, grace-infused journey of playing house and centering her heart on her true home. She loves to make a good mess – whether it’s curry, painting, or play. In the last few months she’s stepped tentatively out into a new space, offering her prints on Etsy and slowly entering the conversation about art and faith at BeSmallStudios.com. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

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And now for this week’s giveaway from Be Small Studios!

nestprintSimply comment below for the chance to win your own 8×10 print of “Nest: A Study in Brokenness”. (I plan to use my print as a focus point while laboring to deliver my baby girl this April!) For extra entries (include a separate comment here for each entry): 1. subscribe to Message in a Mason Jar via email or RSS feed, 2. like Be Small Studios on Facebook, 3. share this post on Twitter, 4. share on Facebook, 5. and/or share on Pinterest. This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, February 23.

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Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

Take Heart Series ~ Feb 2013This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about kinship/community. We’d love to have you link up with us and share how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles in anything related to extended family drama, difficult ministry experiences or conflict in friendship. The link-up is open through Friday night. And don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win our giveaway from Annie at Be Small Studios today!

Writing Butterflies and Brokenness {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 11}

I combed through gritty words and searched for my own like a beachcomber after high tide. I pictured this particular shell opening up to look like a butterfly with wings spread. I imagined the swish of the surf, like young love, and then straight away came the weight of the cargo ships in bay. If I was going to write authentically in response to this part of Gift from the Sea for my summer book club, I had to write about the days of swollen eyes and headaches and doubt.

I would have rather taken the whole experience, tied a rock around it and thrown it out to sea, but something told me I had to write it down. I had to write my brokenness. Maybe sharing about a confusing and embarrassingly immature time in my life could help some other young woman choose true love over fear, just as a mentor’s wise words had helped me.

We don’t want to hide behind the happy highlight reel or go around looking like a 50s sitcom star vacuuming in a dress and pearls, but neither do we want to be the girl without a filter, spewing teenage angst on our readers.

Before I went to Influence, I weighed in with other attendees on Nish Weiseth’s final preparations for her talk “Blogging Dangerously,” asking how we can decide what’s appropriate, how we can discern the difference between just trying to be edgy to get attention and writing something hard or thought-provoking that could really make a difference.

Sometimes, in order to speak authentically on an issue or experience, and to let people know they’re not alone, we have to write outside the lines and share stories of our own failure or brokenness. But even when we write dangerously, we need to do so with some sense of caution.

Nish wisely encouraged us to begin with praying about our idea, asking our Counselor for wisdom. Why share this particular story? Is the risk of conflict or misunderstanding worth it? Next, we ask permission from others who may be affected by the story. How do your people feel about it? The trust and security in our closest relationships should always come before any supposed benefit for our wider circle of readers.

It took me a whole day to edit “The Butterfly Effect”. I shared it with my husband and had him redline anything that made him uncomfortable. I shared it with my mom who had prayed me through the drama to begin with. She did some more redlining. They became the filter I needed when emotion had clouded mine.

Finally, when I had permission to publish the piece, I wondered if readers would make false assumptions about the validity of my relationship or make judgments about my emotional stability. Yet, I felt the risk was worth the possibility of reminding people like me that strong love is based on trust and that while the butterfly sensations of different phases are not illusion, neither are they are a fit foundation for relationship.

That day after I’d put my story out into blog world, I followed a random string of links and comments and more links that led me to three other blog posts covering similar issues. I felt a camaraderie in my writing when I had just hours ago felt odd and alone. Here was a little group of us synchronized by the Spirit to put this truth into the blogosphere that particular day…to challenge those who mistakenly believe that romantic feeling is the substance of relationship, when it is really just an accessory like a seashell on a shelf.

{How do you decide what sensitive topics and personal struggles are publishable? What stories of others’ weakness, failure or brokenness have ministered to you? What stories have you shared from your own life and what has been the result?}

This is Day 11 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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