I struggled to titled today's entry as it spans two days, Saturday and today. I also struggled to decided what to call this blog because both days were different --like most days, no two are alike. So we have subtitles
Saturday, "Bustling and Blessings"
Well, Saturday I had planned to work just a few hours while the boys and my husband headed to Crete to see the grandparents and prepare their cars for next week's Awana Grand Prix car race. I was thankful for something for the guys to do while I was painting. Helps ease some of the mommy guilt for the week. After an exhausting Friday, I wasn't sure if I had the energy to be at the mall Saturday. As with most malls, I'm sure, Saturday was quiet until 10:30 and then it was as if someone opened the flood gates and people piled into the space rushing here and there running errands or filling their need for more. In the midst of the bustle -- which was super over-stimulating to this artist, I had a few visits that breathed life into the day. Two were people I work with at Lincoln Berean Church and their families. It was great to have them there to encourage me and to see what I do outside of my work at the church. I also had a visit from a cousin of mine which was encouraging. There were others who stopped to watch me paint black lines around the colors already on the bulb but many just buzzed by as if the bulb was just another seating area or kiosk. I began to have comments like, "I thought you were done already."
"Nope" I would respond with a smile and then explain how the black lines who emphasize the colors. (Which someone did comment on during the work today.) I was keenly aware of how much time some of my walking friends spend at the mall. Many are faithful to walk ever day!
I finally learned the name of another maintenance man at the mall -- even though we've had brief conversations the past three years. A neighborhood woman who recently lost her husband stopped and introduced me to her son and daughter-in-law. And there were many others who tell me stories and share their lives whether related to Lighthouse or not. By 1:30 pm I was ready for coffee and a chat with a good friend before heading home to the boys smelling like a fry-cook.
Monday, "Miracles and Unlimited Time"
So, today's story starts yesterday when my five year old wasn't feeling well because of a cold. Here, I am, usually flexible with schedule and the week I need to finish a project he is sick! It's par for the course, really, and after fretting about it, I finally decided to pray about it. The answer seemed to be to call my mother-in-law. When my husband called, she agreed to come and watch our son so I could paint today. Relieved that it was taken care of I went to bed still praying God would do what only He could. My son was a bit better by bedtime, but I expected his cold to return in full force this morning. Much to my surprise, other than a stuffy nose, he was just fine this morning and had no complaints what so ever so he was able to go to school!
So instead of only getting till 1 pm to paint I got till 3 pm. I very much wanted to get the black lines done today so I started as soon as I arrived at 9 am. The traffic at the mall was super slim today so I was able to work quite a while at a time between talking with folks. I was visited by the mother of a highschool friend of mine. We chatted about how God directs our paths and sometimes uses accidents and diseases to alter our life path and how it causes us to focus on what is really important. I was visited by the neighborhood woman again today and this time we had a longer discussion about our lives and about how faithful God has been and how when we choose to obey His leading He takes us on amazing journeys to challenging and wonderful places that grow and stretch us in big ways. It is true as I have learned to hear His voice and obeyed when He called me, even to the challenging places out of my comfort zone, I see Him in big ways and remember I can't put God in a box. He is able to do so much more than I can imagine and every time I am left speechless. To close out time together, she leaned over the stanchions and gave me a hug. In that moment embrace she prayed for stamina for me and strength for the remainder of the day. The exact prayer I had prayed this morning as I was so tired before leaving the house this morning.
So God brought people I needed at just the right moments today and provided space and time to work. I was 2/3 done by 1 pm and had the lower 1/3 to line. I started praying for God to extend time -- I have experienced Him imparting His limitless time (for God is not bound by time as we are) to me in the past and I prayed for it again today. It was a relentless prayer and during some moments I would stop and talk to people including one of the security guards and then continue back praying for extended time. As 2:30 pm rolled around I still had a bit to go but I kept praying excited to see God do His thing. And as the alarm rang at 3 pm (an alarm so I don't forget to get the kids from school) I was super close to done. I hit snooze -- and 15 minutes later -- DONE! Completely done. The black lines were done. I did one of those pulled in punch "yeses" (or fist pump or yes-fists) Anyway, I was super excited -- God had provided the time to complete the project -- He had stretched the minutes and blessed the hours. The lines were done and my hand was aching BUT it was done! The only thing left -- to clear coat it Wednesday and Friday.
I had so much fun talking with people today about the project, about where the bulbs are going and that there are 50 that will be all over Lincoln between May and October. Many were familiar with projects like this and are looking forward to the auction in October at Haymarket Park. It has been exciting to meet people associated with Lighthouse and to tell people who know nothing about the organization about the amazing work that they do. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my gift of painting with my mall family and use the opportunity to get to know many of them on a little bit deeper level. I have been amazed and encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response by those at the mall and those who have watched the process through Facebook. I am thankful for all the comments and all the encouragement along the way. I am blessed to have so many cheerleaders in my corner.
So the hard work is done on this one but I ask that you keep in mind the other artists working on their bulbs at this time. Pray that the sacrifice of their time to create a bulb for this project will help bring awareness and funding to the Lighthouse in Lincoln so more teens can find a safe place during after school hours. And I hope you will enjoy the bulbs this summer as they are out in Lincoln. The one I painted at the mall is to be located at 70th and A streets at Seacrest Park.
What a day at Gateway Mall. I'll be honest, if it weren't for some very special folks I wouldn't have made it through today. I woke up exhausted from the intensity of this week. Not just on the bulb art, but also in my work with artists at Lincoln Berean Church. SO how was I going to make it through today? It was going to have to be the grace of God and the provision of His energy and stamina. I've been praying all week long for energy and stamina and today it was clear a strength other than my own would have to pull me through.
I dropped the boys off at school this morning and headed to the mall. Since I wasn't scheduled to work first thing, I unloaded, set up, and then did my usual three lap walk around the mall. It was nice to move my body before getting to work. I knew that my husband was planning to stop by with lunch so I started working around 10 am. I'd worked a bit when a good walking friend of mine stopped for her daily picture of me working and I watched God provide the first bit of encouraging energy I needed. I was tired and thinking I needed to stop and go get a cup of coffee and my dear friend offered to by me a latte and include an extra shot! WHAT A BLESSING! God heard the need and before I could even ask, He provided. My dear friends interest in my work and her documentation of the process and sharing it with her friends has encouraged me beyond imagination. A special gift.
So, as I continued to work, I stepped off the ladder to take a sip of the much needed latte, I look up and low and behold I see an old co-worker from my days at GPN (Part of NET - Nebraska's Public Television Station). I hadn't seen this lady in a few years so I ducked under the stanchion tape and trekked over to the seating area to have a chat. We reminisced, caught up, and I was introduced to her friend who'd come to the mall to have lunch her. I used to head down to the basement shipping department at NET to visit my friend often when I interned there in college. She was one of those people who became very special to me and helped me learn the ropes. So today God orchestrated the reunion as another encouraging pit stop on the painting journey.
I got back to work and a bit later Jason showed up with lunch. As we sat just steps from the bulb, a couple we sit near during service each weekend showed up just to see the piece. I was dished guff for not "working" when they arrived and told them to "take a lap" and I'd be back at it soon. So after we chatted they left. It was so encouraging to see them and know they had stopped by just to see the piece in person. After Jason left, the couple returned to see me work for just a bit and then my sis showed up. I braked for a bit to chat and it gave me energy and gusto to get back to painting. I was greeted by several on lookers all day -- many full of questions including "Do you have any jeans at home that don't have paint on them." To which I laughed because the only ones that don't are the ones I only where on Sundays or to special events. I met others who knew of Lighthouse or supported their efforts. Met another mother / daughter pair who were able to take advantage of the afterschool programs Lighthouse had to offer. The daughter was older than high school age but she asked me if I thought she could volunteer at Lighthouse to give back for what she had received and I got the opportunity to encourage her to ask if she could volunteer. I was amazed at the encouraging words from passersby. The questions kept coming and I got to meet the mother of another artist working on at bulb for the Lighthouse Project.
I got special visits today from 3 other artists working on bulbs for the project as well as visits from a cousin and her boys, my mother and father-in law and a special friend who serves with me on the Visual Voice Team at Lincoln Berean. These visits, especially my friend helped carry me from 4 pm to 7 pm. I was the most tired during this leg of the journey and the visits were the gifts of encouragement God sent. My friend stayed with me through the completion of the colors on the bulb and we talked and laughed and she even stayed to help me load the van with my supplies. I really don't think I would've made it without her.
So a day I went to bring awareness about Lighthouse and serve the community and related to people turned out to be a day God used to encourage, bless, sustain, strengthen and love on me. I am humbled by days when I head out with Jesus to do as He calls me to do and instead of finding myself giving to or sharing with others, I wind up the one being blessed and served. God knew just what I needed today. He knows what I need tomorrow and He has provided all of this while do what He created me to do -- create art! I am thankful that he has given me this project to work on.
Oh and one final thought of the day. A little girl asked me how long I'd been working on the bulb. As I counted the hours, I came up with approximately 22 - 24 hours to this point. After realizing the amount of time -- I remembered why I don't keep track of how much time it takes cause it's lots of time! But all worth it.
So colors are done and next it outlining.
Another full day of painting went on at Gateway Mall today. Although bitterly cold today I was out at the mall as soon as I'd dropped the boys off at school. I wasn't nearly as nervous today about working but more so about my insurance going through. I've never had to get insurance for working on a piece of art but because it is in a public space I'm getting exposed to the need to have coverage in the event of something terrible happening. I have had a wonderful insurance lady, though, who has busted her hump to get me a great policy even though she has been out of town for a few days. So with that finally settled this afternoon, I feel a little better about leaving the bulb there by her lonesome. Although the bulb is never really alone. I have found working with Gateway Mall to be AMAZING. Brian, head of security, and his team are super and so good at making sure the bulb is safe and making sure I am comfortable. I am so thankful to be working with the staff at Gateway for my first time working publically like this. They have bent over backward for me and are great at coming to see the progress and encouraging me. So thankful to have met them years ago when the boys were in a stroller and along with me for my daily walks. Who would've known that that connection would lead to this. God sure works in mysterious ways.
After, Monday's experience, I couldn't wait to get back to the mall to paint. I was able to distance myself enough yesterday and get other work done but was more than ready to spend the day painting again. As with Monday the first couple of hours were full of my fellow walkers coming to say hello including Shirley who takes many pictures. Shirley is special to me and to my youngest Ian as she and I have walked together 2-3 years already. She brightens my day and is such an encourager. She even brought along a couple of friends today to see the progress. She makes me smile. I also got to talk with a gentleman I met just this year. After our talks on Monday he came back to chat. We discussed how wonderful it is to give to others. He has found his joy in making dozens of Kolache and giving them away. And WOW what a blessing when he brought me one to munch on today -- it was spectacular and reminded me of my grandmother (who was Czech).
I was a bit tired today, but the many "good jobs," "keep up the good work," and "look mom she's painting" seemed to help keep me energized and going strong. There was even a little boy about 2 or 3 yelling "HI" every time he and his dad walked by -- made me laugh and smile every time. Reminded me of my own boys at that age.
I had a special visit from a lady I work with at Lincoln Berean Church -- what a surprise and encouragement to see her and meet her family. Finally, met one of the security guards (by name) today. We've said hello in passing and Monday he told me about his own artistic pursuits and those of his brother and today I finally have a name to got with the face.
An artist I met through another project, stopped and chatted for a bit today and through our conversation, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have a spouse who is SUPER SUPPORTIVE of the calling God has placed on my life to create art and serve at the church in the Visual Arts Ministry. I know there are so many artists out there who are not encouraged by spouses, children, or parents and I have to say I've been gifted with one of the best men. He supports me and is even willing to spend extra money and time to help me afford a heater for the garage (so I'm not working on my other bulbs in the cold), purchase insurance, and help me haul these huge bulbs ALL OVER LINCOLN! I have met several today who but down their creativity long ago. That makes me sad because God has created us all to be creative and for art minded folks creating is SO essential to life. So if you don't have someone who is encouraging you, may I be that voice of encouragement that says "go for it." Be creative -- do that which God has made you to do! Just see what it does for your state of mind and life. It isn't easy to be an artist - especially if you work a "day job," but creating is worth it all.
I also have to say a very special lady stopped by today. What an encouragement! Although her husband died recently she still walks at the mall and she took time to say hello to me today and I was able to share how I pray while I paint and how hours just fade away when I'm working. I have often said that painting is the closest I will ever be to heaven on this earth. There is something amazing about doing that which you've been created to do. I am so thankful that we are all created unique and special and that we all play a role in a greater community. It is becoming ever clearer to me that it takes all of us to make our city and community the best it can be. As I told people about the meaning of the bulb design I was again reminded of this -- that we each need to do our part so that we can accomplish much -- together.
And as I packed up to leave I met an amazing group of Bettys. Yep, they were all named Betty and there is actually a Nebraska Group of Bettys that meet ever year at a conference. That is SO cool. I was even encouraged to start and Ann(e) group. So what do you think fellow Ann(e)s? Again, makes me smile.
So the day is over. It was a good one. Learning so much about people and enjoying everyone I meet and loving sharing Lighthouse and this amazing project with others. So thankful for the opportunity to share. I hope that the time at Gateway will bring more awareness to the amazing work Lighthouse does for Lincoln, NE and how they are affecting lives of Middle and High Schoolers. So thankful for my friend Liz who has supported me working at the mall from the time I presented the idea and for her coming to me and saying, "I'm leading an art project I want you to be an artist on." Again one of those friendships that God has blossomed. (I met Liz while she was taking some classes at UNL in the printmaking studio). What a gift.
So the painting continues on Friday for an extended time -- 11 or noon to 7 pm.
What an amazing day painting the third of my three light bulbs for the Illuminating Lincoln Project. Last night Jason, the boys and I delivered the light bulb to Gateway Mall. We quickly placed it in its temporary home between Riddles and Kay's Jewelry at the far end of the food court. I am painting at the mall to bring awareness to the Illuminating Lincoln Project as well as to Lincoln Lighthouse which provides valuable afterschool programming for middle and high school students here in Lincoln. I was a bit apprehensive to paint but I couldn't have imagined what the day was about to hold!
At about a quarter till 9 this morning I was at the mall hauling in a ladder and paint for a day of painting. After a quick lap around the mall to calm down and center, I was ready to step inside the stanchions and start the piece. What an amazing response the whole day! Much of the first couple of hours was spent conversing with the numerous friends I've made while walking at the mall over the past 10 years. They were excited to learn that I was an artist. And those who knew I was an artist were happy to see me sharing with them what I do. This 2-3 hour timeframe included a young 7 year old artist joining me for about 20 minutes. She drew a picture in my sketch book while I painted on the bulb.
I was amazed at how excited kids where all day about the bulb. They had so much to say and often made their parents stop and watch for awhile.
Off and on all day people stopped by to visit. Some I knew, many I did not. Each conversation important, many very memorable. The interest from people all day was exciting. I even got to meet a lady who attended Lighthouse when she was in high school. She shared some of her story with me and I am hoping she can help me with my second bulb which will share the stories of those who are alumni of Lighthouse. What a God-sent and answer to prayer in the process of bulb #2. I think sometimes when I try so hard to make something work and it doesn't God just smiles. Then I let go and when He provides He smiles again. He knew all along what He had for me, all I needed to do was trust, wait, and watch for Him to provide. Meeting this lady was one of those moments. As she walked away I just chuckled and smiled, "thank you," I said.
I hardly wanted to leave I was having such fun painting. But after 6 1/2 hours it was time to pack it up until Wednesday. I am looking forward to making more progress on the bulb. But what I'm super excited about is talking to all those who stop over to visit.
Schedule for Painting
Wednesday Feb. 18 -- 9 am to 3pm
Friday Feb. 20 -- noon to 7 pm
Saturday Feb. 21 - 10 am to 1pm
Monday Feb. 23 -- 9 am to 3 pm
Wednesday Feb. 25 -- 9 am to 3 pm
Friday Feb. 27 -- noon - 3pm and then again from 6:30 pm to 9 pm
Ann has worked as a professional artist since 2006. She currently works on her own studio artwork as well as large, commercial works and with other artists in any way she can.