At 4 pm today the Sixteen Days of Hope was officially over. The hard work of the past two plus weeks came to a close with the visit of a friend. She came at the moment I needed it most. She had followed the process and prayed for me from the beginning and it was the best ending I could've asked for.
My prayer today was to finish strong. To not neglect the people roaming around at Gateway, to interact with them, and to finish with just as much gusto as I started. Fewer people at Gateway stopped to ask questions about the project today. Many just enjoyed watching the detail work being done to finish up the panels. Most were interested in where the panels were going and asked about the white lines coming from the tree. I was happy to share that the roots would be finished at Hope Venture's fundraiser on October 21 at Chey Hay.
My favorite encounter today was to meet a lady from Denver only to find out a bit later that she was related to a gal I work with at Lincoln Berean. I love how moments like that happen. I think God smiles when He shows us little connections and we delight in them. I saw many a person approach the mosaic with the eyes and excitement of a child. I love watching people light up, learn, and experience pieces of artwork.
I have enjoyed my time at Gateway. I have met many new people and made some new friends. I will miss my station by the food court, but am ready to walk the next journey of this art piece. At 6 pm the panels were removed from Gateway Mall, loaded into my husband's truck and transported to my studio at home. Less that a dozen pieces came off the mosaic, most had not been previously glued. They had only been set on, not glued, and forgotten. When we arrived at home, my husband and I unloaded each panel and set them in our dining room until the fundraiser. I have to say that I have been blessed with an amazing husband who supports all the crazy art projects I get myself in to. He is always willing to haul pieces here or there despite their odd shape or size. And he does it all without complaint. I probably have a harder time asking for his help than he does in actually providing help. And without him, this project wouldn't have happened on the most basic, behind-the-scenes level. I'm thankful to him for "holding down the fort" during the past two weekends while I've been at Gateway.
Tonight, as this chapter of making art closes, I am thankful for all the people that helped, visited, listened, learned, gave, prayed, followed, encouraged, and supported during this project. It was because of you that this project truly was Sixteen Days of Hope. THANK YOU.
Just about complete. With the help of volunteers from Hope Venture, friends, families, and artists the mosaic is just about finished. We would've finished the green had we not run out of larger pieces of glass. And thanks to someone I met last weekend when she came to work on the project, we will have green to finish up tomorrow. I am amazed at the generous spirit of people, from the giving of materials to the purchasing of caffeine so I could keep working. Today, many people returned to the mosaic to help place more pieces of glass. Some had come last weekend or the first weekend. They expressed their desire to come back because they had enjoyed their previous time working. Others came early in the process today, put a few pieces on, and then came back later and added more.
Each section of the mural holds the story of those who worked on it. I know I've said that before, but I look at the mosaic now and see those stories again. Like the image from today of the little green pieces. A young mother and her three girls came and spent quite a while with us placing glass. We were running out of large pieces but that didn't deter the four. One young gal, maybe 8 years old, had so many questions for me. Her mom shared, in somewhat broken English, that her daughter loved art and anything like what we were doing. I had to say that their visit was a highlight and also one of the challenges of the day. Artistically, it was hard for me to watch people do their "own thing" on the mosaic again after spending such an intense and productive week on it mostly by myself. Yet this is the nature of this project and I knew I had to learn to cope with it. Now, after a few hours, my emotions have mellowed and I think those places of the mosaic are what make it special. It makes it what it is and speaks of the community it has taken to create it.
Over the past few days, I have been astounded by the number of artists I have connected with through the project. Since part of what I'm called to do is to lead and encourage artists, it has been such a pleasure to meet new folks in our community who are creative. These artists are young, old, mosaic artists, painters, sculptors, wood workers, photographers, film makers, and even retired art teachers. The project has drawn people who work construction, teach, lead, work insurance, you name it, I've met them. Grandparents with grandkids, dads with their kids, moms and daughters, brides and their fiances, and all other sorts of relationships are represented in this mosaic. The mosaic is an experience these people have together and they won't soon forget it. My favorite was the fathers and their daughters, especially those who let their girls work, stood back for awhile, then jumped in, and 30 plus minutes later when I looked over - they were still there working! That is sweet, especially when you learn that dad only sees daughter once in a while. It's humbling to think they would spend their precious time together creating art.
Community sums up the day and many days of this mosaic. In so many ways I can't even express them all at this time. But I am thankful for people and I have learned so much from this project.
And now off to have a bowl of ice cream and get rested so I can return to Gateway tomorrow at noon for the final hours of the project.
The day was somewhat normal for this project. Family, friends, facebook followers, and more stopped to chat about the project and Hope Venture. "Jo" got his hug like the days before. I also now chat with one of the food court cleaning crew. Though he is a bit hard to understand, we talk about our work and bowling. For the most part, the day went by quickly as I worked on the ground of the mosaic, small spaces in the blue areas, and filling in the green in the center panel. I worked hard to get the piece ready for the final public work day tomorrow. Just two days of work left and the panels will leave the mall until they are hung in early November.
Some of my family visited today and it got me thinking about who has impacted my life through the years. I also thought about the jobs I've had that have helped play a role in who I am today and what I do as an artist. I can say that many people and experiences, good and bad, are part of who I am. I am thankful for each moment, challenge, and person who has influenced my life. Some people who I've met this week will be included in those who have influenced and challenged me. Many have shared their stories with me and provided encouragement.
As I've already said, today went smoothly until about 2 pm. A friend who'd stopped by to help left for an appointment and I struggled to stay working for the next hour. I wanted to leave and go do something for me. I had an errand to run and get my kids from camp and I just wanted to leave. Several times, I thought about it and every time I sense God wanting me to stay, encouraging it. I struggled but kept working. Again I wanted to go but felt compelled to stay -- and not in a fun way. It was hard to stay focused on working for the next hour. Then at 3 pm my alarm went off signalling it was time to go, and that's when the afternoon got interesting. As I put supplies away, I saw two people come to where I was working. As I started a conversation explaining Hope Venture, I saw one women clinch her mouth together and form a stern or disconcerted look on her face. I knew she was questioning what I was saying. I sensed it had something to do with sending money overseas. As polite as she was trying to be, I drew her out. I asked her what she was thinking and she hesitated. I told her I really wanted to know and she proceeded to let me know she wasn't supportive of what I was doing and that we had problems here to solve. As I had experienced something like this earlier in the project, I tried hard to keep my mouth shut. This time I was told how poorly some Veterans are treated. Again, I learned the story. Family members unable to support themselves and a government program not helping. After listening for 20 minutes or so, they had to go and I was able to leave. By this point, I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I drove out to get my kids from camp in silence trying to process this day. When I made it home, I found my husband already there. I couldn't help but emotionally unload. I was tired and raw from the last conversation. This was the first time in 14 days I cried. Tears of burden for the people in all sorts of pain and those who are looking for the answers. Also the reality of our selfish human natures that seek benefit for our own well being and failure to see those deeply in need.
And yet, in the muck and mire of it all, God sent His Son. Amazing. And He not only came to save us, but to call us to take part in His work of redeeming His world. Meaning we don't work for God's approval, we work out of a relationship with Him. We work with Him! He calls broken, unlikely people to step up in faith and share in the joy of His news of Hope. And let me say being used by Him is an adventure and amazing experience I wish for each and every reader of this. He has a purpose for you. Just seek Him, He will show you, and it will be incredible.
I was surprised with the number of people who were interested in the mosaic and the work of Hope Venture today. I realize I'm at the mall to bring awareness to the work Hope Venture does, but I'm amazed at the response. People of all ages touched by the story. Today I did have a first though. After 13 days of working, I had someone ask if the story on the poster about the girl taking her life over 16 cents was true. It wasn't a surprise that the question came up. I told my husband, a few days in to the project, that I was surprised no one had asked if the story was true. It is interesting that it took this long. With the ability to access so much information, it can be very difficult to determine who is telling the truth. I am thankful I can honestly say the people of Hope Venture live lives of integrity and truth. There is much more to write about this idea of truth, but I will save that for another time and place. Maybe when I have more energy and am a little less tired.
I had a number of people stop and talk about art and creating. Many of them looking for ways to express themselves and some with a spark to make a difference. It is interesting that many people seem to understand it doesn't take much to help someone else, yet there is a disconnect to actually doing something about it. I would say at times this is still me. I know that all I may be called to today is to strike up a conversation with the lady in line at the store, but am I willing to step out of myself and risk it? Is it safe? Do I even see her sometimes? And at the heart of it, do I even care? I think some come by interacting with people more naturally than I do. I wouldn't be doing projects like this if it wasn't for God's major movement in my life. I am, by nature, more apt to hide away at home. I'm learning that often insecurities have held me in the shadows, but God has been moving in me, making me bolder. Like I said a few days ago, every moment, every day is a choice to engage with people.
Taking the risk brings great joy. I received a text today from Hope Venture's director; a prayer that I would find joy and see God in this project. I have since the beginning; and one way is through the out pouring of people. The art, at this point, is really secondary. It really is a vehicle to interact with people. That doesn't mean the quality of the work is any less, it just means that the cost of materials, time, control take the back seat to the people interaction. I need to trust God with the final product and enjoy the process. I chuckle as that is the exact lesson God taught me almost 20 years ago during a college life drawing class. I am enjoying the process of this and will grieve the end of this portion of the journey. I will also mourn not being among my friends day in and day out. Not until winter sets in that is, when I'll be back at the mall walking. I will miss my hugs from "Jo" and the special visitors each day. I will miss the excuse to have a daily coffee and talk with the shop manager -- who now knows what type of coffee drink I like. I will miss the extra help on a project. It has been so fun working with fellow artists as well as old and new friends. I've enjoyed sharing what I know about art and mosaics and learning about these people in ways I've never known them before. I have learned more about listening, asking questions, and communicating with others than any other project I've ever worked on.
I look forward to what God will do with the rest of this artwork's journey and story. But for now, the work continues. Progress was made on the base of the mosaic today and the piece is set and ready for helpers this weekend at the public work time. And as much as I will mourn being done with this stage of the process, I am ready to be back home working quietly in my studio for a little while again.
A tremendous day of progress and people. Many visitors asking about the mosaic, Hope Venture, and the now standard question: "What are you doing?" After answering that question many times, I needed to come up with different ways of communicating why I am at Gateway and how to share the story behind the 16 Days of Hope. Like in life, there are moments when it's time to look at something in new and different ways. That's hard while creating art, especially if you can't take time away from the project to get a fresh perspective. But today, I think new thoughts are beginning to form about the piece as it becomes the holder of the stories of the past 12 and eventually 16 days.
Stories like the gentleman who came today and thanked me for doing the project. He explained his wife used to work with stained glass but she had passed 20 years ago. He expressed thanks for reminding him of good, happy memories. All through a piece of art!
Stories of people who came back to check on the progress. Men and women who share this or that experience with me. People who've met one another while standing at the art piece working or just talking. Teens who love art and want to keep creating. Kids who are drawn to the piece well before their parents are. The people who've taken part of the piece on public work days and the list goes on.
Also stories like those of the mentally challenged and their care givers who walked around the mall today. I don't know anything about their lives, but I noticed them. One lady saw the mosaic today and just kept saying "so pretty, so pretty," over and over. Something about the colors touched her soul. In pondering this encounter, I was aware at how we care for this portion of our society much better than many countries in the world. Yet, when someone like this acts in socially inappropriate way we see it as an unwanted disruption. I pulled one care giver over to thank her for her amazing work with her group and she shared her approach. She told me that if one of her group "acts out", she will sit with them or in some way make others look at them both not just the challenged individual. I saw her do this by playing hide and seek around a column with her group, and later sit on the floor next to one of the ladies who'd acted out. She said that if they were going to look at the lady they would also have to look at her. That inspired me. This care giver steps up, lays down her pride, and chooses to be associated with the people and actions which annoy and disrupt others in public. And this gal found such JOY in it. Why not, these are people God loves. People who aren't able to "do" for God can teach us about "being" before our Creator just as we are.
I am reminded that the joy of grace for me is God just asks me to be & believe. That there is nothing I can do to earn His favor. I could "do good" for the rest of my life and NEVER measure up to God's standard. But that is the point and the beauty. No one can measure up, that's why we need a Savior, someone to take our place. Someone who met the standard and paid the price for our not meeting it. That is the gift. The gift of grace I have claimed that makes me who I am. That is the gift open to each one of us if we so choose to accept it.
It is this news - GOOD NEWS that brings the ultimate Hope for all in this world. It is the acceptance of this good news and a choice to let God be Lord of my life that bonds and connects me to several of the people who have supported and encouraged me over the past 12 days. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ and I am thankful for them in ways I can not express. I have never experienced the joy of sharing what God has been doing with others like I have on this journey. People who are excited to see and hear the stories of each day and who are praying for me along the way. I'm in awe of the men and women I have met at Gateway who love the Lord and are everyday choosing to let Him use them to reach out to others in very practical ways despite their age or situation. And I am thankful for these folks because the realization of the hurts, struggles, and pains of people those I've met this past week and a half would otherwise be a burden too large to bear alone. Those who have read the stories or listened to me share while we worked on the mosaic have helped to carry the load of what I am witnessing and realizing this week. I have seen an image of community in action and it is beautiful.
Tonight I am again thankful for the lessons and experiences and look forward to processing the whole journey in the days and months ahead. And I'm thankful for the value and trust Hope Venture has shown in letting me share and represent them at Gateway.
Some Progress, Mostly People. That sums up today. I'm not quite sure how the day of work flew by, but I know it had something to do with the visits from friends and family and steady work on the mosaic. The lower half of the tree is complete. I'm struggling to write tonight as it has been a long couple of days.
I am so thankful for the time at Gateway. I was thinking about that today and what it will be like to leave the mall when the project is complete. I have been amazed at how much I really am part of the community there. I am amazed to think it all started because God called me out of my comfort zone and I chose to obey. In obedience, I reach out to a few of the people I saw walking each day during the winter. One of those gentlemen, my youngest son and I reached out to that winter 5 years ago, came today just to see the progress of the mural and say hello. This man has become one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to continuing to create art.
Stories continue. And they will continue beyond this project. I will continue to walk at Gateway.
Relationships will continue. Some will develop, others will not. But, I look forward to a continued relationship with a special lady I met because of this project. She was my biggest encourager today.
Though I can't seem to write much more tonight, I will say thank you to all the visitors today. By coming to say hello, you have shown me love and value. Without you all, I could not do this journey. Thank you. Please continue to pray for the rest of this project. Not only, for the art's completion or for stamina for me, but that God would continue to move in the hearts and lives of people who see the mural and the literature from Hope Venture. May God use the mosaic to bring hope to those in Lincoln, but also eventually hope to those in India, Uganda, and Kenya through Hope Venture.
After 10 hours of working with the public over the weekend, it was nice getting reacquainted with the mosaic one on one today. I was ready to move on to the tree trunk and work in a different color.
I was amazed at how little traffic there was at Gateway today versus over the weekend, at least until lunch time. I had the honor of talking to several people today, most wanting to know more about the project, many touched by the story that started the whole journey. Some saw the mosaic at the beginning and have come back to check on the progress. One of my favorite visitors today was a high school friend of mine. I hadn't talked with her in years and it was great to catch up. After she left, I was in awe of how God orchestrates encounters. All the times I've gone back home and never had the time to chat with her. Then because of a project at Gateway, through Hope Venture, we had the chance to see each other in person and talk.
I like to pause when moments like these happen and marvel at God's workings in my life. He leads me here or there - allows me to encounter this person or hear that story and all the time He is connecting the dots, putting together the pieces. Then I marvel that God would give me the choice. The choice to decide who will receive the honor for the orchestrations, encounters, projects, successes, etc. He doesn't force me anywhere or in to anything, but He leads me ever so gently. And I choose whether or not to have an open heart and see the splendor of God all around me in the little, daily things. I don't always heed to His leading (though I desire to), but the more I listen, hear Him, and act on His leading, the more I recognize His voice the next time. And when I recognize His voice and choose to obey He moves in ways I couldn't imagine. The more I experience Him, the more I want to see Him and know Him.
This project has been one of those in which I see God's movements around every corner. In the opening of my eyes and heart to the people around me as I work. In the way I'm able to somehow work and still notice people at all (believe me when I am usually in the studio creating, everything else disappears, including time) The lessons in letting go of the artwork and my daily plans for the public work times. The hugs from "Jo" each day and the support of the people I have come to know and love from he past 10 plus years of walking at Gateway Mall. The stepping outside myself to talk with others and share about Hope Venture. In the interest in Hope Venture and the number of people asking how they can give or get involved. I am overwhelmed by the things He and I have chatted about over the past ten days and the people He has brought to mind to pray for. As friends and family have supported me this time, I have been able to turn around and support others. I can honestly say, the only way I am still standing is by the power of God in me. He is all over my story and will continue to be through this journey and whatever else He brings my way.
Six hours today at Gateway Mall plus the four yesterday has yielded amazing progress on the mosaic. I couldn't be more pleased as to where we are in the process of creating this piece in the span of just nine days. I brought in two ice cream buckets full of blue glass today and by 4 pm we were down to the small pieces. We continued to invite the public to place blue glass but also let some go ahead and begin on the green. Since that wasn't in the game plan for the day, it was a bit stressful letting go of the green area on the mosaic, but it is all necessary if the art is to get finished. With so many pieces of glass placed, I wonder where did all the helpers come from. How did we place so many pieces on today?
I marvel again at all the help. Fellow artists, some I have known for years and consider good friends, have come and put many hours in to helping with the mosaic and encouraging people to jump in and participate. I am thankful for their continued help, encouragement, and support.
Today, I met two other mosaic artists, one from Lincoln and one from Kentucky. The lady from Lincoln read an article in the paper about what we were doing at Gateway and came to take part. She stayed well over two hours placing glass and chatting with people. She made some great headway on the piece. The other lady, from Kentucky, was just passing through on a trip with her husband. We talked mosaic materials, mosaic projects, and life stories. So glad to have met her.
I encountered a number of creative people today. People who were either in school studying art or who worked on projects like robotics and other technical arts.
One thing I am aware of in this process, is how much effort and courage it takes for me to talk to each person who comes to the project. Each time, I have a choice to make - will I talk with this person or put my head down, work on the project, and let them walk away. Each time, I have a choice to make about whether I will engage in conversation with them. It is even more difficult if I am tired and overwhelmed. This is where I must stay dependent on God as my source of strength. If not for His energy and strength, I would work and never notice the people around me. And I am discovering that starting the conversation is the hardest part, after that it's merely listening, asking questions, and listening some more. I must say though that ever conversation is worth it in the end.
I'm tired tonight, so it's time to turn in and get rested for a long day working tomorrow. I will end with, yes, "Jo" did show up for his daily hug again. I will miss him when this project is over this time next week. Until then, I will do my best to make the most of each encounter.
The second day of public work on the Sixteen Days of Hope art piece was a huge success. I'm not sure how many people came, but we were busy helping the public put pieces on the mosaic from noon to past 4 pm. Thanks to a wonderful, artist friend, we didn't run out of blue glass today! I was overwhelmed by the people who came out to help manage the crowds of participants and am thankful for them. Their enthusiastic help has left me speechless. Thank you to my friend Carol Welker who again captured the essence of the day. She captured the family aspect, the generational span, and the community it is taking to finish this piece and the connections it is making in the process.
I am thankful for those who have encouraged me through words, visits, cups of coffee, and prayers throughout this process. I am thankful for a dear friend who stopped today to say hello though she is battling another round of cancer. I am thankful for "Jo" who daily comes for his hug. Today he placed a couple of pieces of glass too! I'm thankful for the events Lincoln hosts that bring people in to town. Today I met people from all over Nebraska who were in town for the Cornhusker State Games and a family from Seattle who were here for a speed skating competition. I'm thankful for Gateway Mall, that they would partner with Hope Venture to make this project a reality. I'm thankful for the families from Lincoln Berean's Vacation Bible School who came out and took part in the progress of the mural today. I'm thankful for a special, creative lady who spent much of the afternoon with us, though I don't know much more than her first name. She added several pieces to the mosaic and at one point I saw her helping others. I'm thankful for the ages of people taking part in this project. I'm thankful for a surprise visit from someone I met on a plane to Minneapolis in June. I am thankful for the coffee shop manager who remembers what coffee I like to drink. I am thankful for the private donor that has made all the supplies for this project possible and for the gifts of glass from artist friends. Many a time that gift kept us working during public times. I'm thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and spend time with them.
I'm thankful for the leaders of Hope Venture and how they seek to value all the people they encounter. I have definitely been valued in the process. Part of that has come through them letting me do exactly what I am gifted and equipped to do -- create works of art.
I am thankful that God gave us art and creativity - and that it is much more than a consumable commodity. It is something that can bring people together, inspire them, and deeply touch the soul. I'm thankful that God can use me right where I am as an artist. I am thankful that He makes every person on purpose and for a purpose. I am thankful that He delights in those who earnestly seek Him.
I am overwhelmed by the support and awareness being raised for Hope Venture. I'm astounded by the interest and excitement of creating the artwork. And, personally, I am beyond words at the encouragement of friends and family as we continue on this journey of 16 Days of Hope.
The day was a bit slow in one way, busy is another today. Less people were roaming around the mall so I was able to make great progress (you can see in the above photos). I did have some of my mall - walking friends and the mall staff come and visit off and on, but mostly it was quite till 11:00 am. The gentleman who comes for his daily hug was there too. He seems to be looking out for me and I'm thankful for "Jo" today. He was a bright spot in a long day.
The day began with great momentum and I was clipping along outlining the tree and beginning to fill in the pieces. I was able to concentrate and also to pause and talk with the few that stopped. Many were interested in Hope Venture's work and were glad to learn what was going on. The afternoon was a little harder to get in to the work both physically and mentally. I told a friend who visited toward the end of my afternoon session that I was tired. I am. I guess though I wouldn't want it any other way. I know that each morning when I get up I am not capable of going one more day -- God has to supply the energy and that sums up today.
There were no big themes that surfaced, however relationships from one's past did come up. I met a lady who was at the mall waiting to reconnect with a friend she hadn't seen in 25 years. Then this afternoon my elementary school principal stopped by to say hello. It was so good to chat with he and his wife about their children and grandchildren and where we are all at in life right now. Past and present colliding.
A few friends came in the afternoon and I was thankful for their visits -- they helped to keep me going. I am thankful for little things today and for the work that was done. I'm also thankful to be home relaxing with my kiddos and I'm definitely ready for my nightly bowl of ice cream and a good night's sleep. I'm thankful for a home and good food on the table. I have so much to be thankful for and so much I can give back. Thankful God can use me right where I'm at.
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.