In Awe of the Creator: Art, Life, and Beautiful Strength

I have loved art since I was a little girl.

I remember being maybe eight and standing in front of just one panel of “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum and feeling like I might begin to understand the Bigness of God. I would imagine jumping in the painting and then falling through to the water, but God lifting me up, sitting me firmly in the center of a lily pad and asking me my thoughts on life and the day.

This is the Creator I always wanted to know more about, who fascinated me to no end.

When I met Kati Kleimola I was instantly struck by the air of creativity that surrounds her. Kati is a professional artist, wife, and mom of five. She has a home studio, exhibits in juried shows, and teaches classes at local galleries.  Her Instagram is a bevy of vibrant color. Every time I look at it, I am struck with that same intimate, yet bursting-at-the-seams, feeling I experienced with Monet’s “Water Lilies.” In Kati’s work, I see Life and that is no mistake.

She tells me,

“I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and come from a family of makers and fixers. Art has always been a part of my life. Even as a child I was always painting and drawing. Capturing the world on paper has always helped
me see it better. Having a rhythmic relationship with my Creator is something that I need to function as an artist, wife, and mother. The fact that God has blessed me with so much that I don’t deserve or couldn’t imagine keeps me humble and keeps me wanting to share His beauty with the world around me.”

Kati and I have dreamed for a while now of a study that helps people learn of a Creator that isn’t far off from His creation:

One who redeems.

One who loves fully, vibrantly.

One who shows us His own handiwork in both light and dark, sunshine and shadow.

Then, when I wrote Altogether Beautiful, all I could see was imagery everywhere. Two words kept rolling in my head:

Strength & Beauty

Kati saw it too and calls it,

“The give and take of things from one extreme to another.”

How do you capture that with words on a page alone?

When I met with the team at Concordia Publishing House to dream about a vision for the study I kept trying to describe things that look like strength and beauty to me-

Pride and Prejudice, the field, ridiculously large coats, dawn, birds, cat tails, slightly unkept hair, fog, sunlight, striding toward

the pillars and steps of the St. Louis Art Museum on a sunny day, a pond and paddle-boats at its base

dark chocolate, melted, strawberries, and the taste buds to enjoy it

and Kati’s artwork.

Flowers could be just flowers on a canvas, yes, but an artist brings strength and life to them with a bold pallet, brush strokes, fine details, and the Creator working in them.

Our God brings strength and life to His world and His Word through his own large strokes of time, plans, and space. He gives color and meaning to the grey and mundane. Even the very dark is cloaked in the velvet of His purposes.

He reaches us with His Word by sharing the glory of all He has made, in order for us to understand all that He is.

Here’s just one example in Song of Songs 5:1 –

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
    I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
    I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
    I drank my wine with my milk.

What of a world without honey, a world without sweet, without spicy? We don’t have to know that world, because He gives all of it to us in plenty.

Art helps us to see this, to capture this.

Concordia Publishing saw the same thing in Kati’s art: an opportunity for us to connect to the Creator visually, while we tarried in the Word; a way for the ripeness of God’s descriptions in the Song of Songs to come off the text rather than be trapped in my words and descriptions alone.

Kati recently told me, “When I read the Song of Songs I see really stark contrasting images…Luscious life, spring time, deep colors, flowers all over the pages, animals, seasons, shapes, colors, and land features. The contrast within the descriptions is so poetic and at the same time reflects what artists have to do in shaping images with light and dark.”

Here are some pieces of her inspiration when she was working through the Song. What do you see? What stands out to you in the Biblical narrative and in Kati’s flat lay below?

So, we did it! We created a book, a Bible study that not only uses words, but uses Kati’s art alongside Scripture’s rich language and Truth to help us connect and understand a Creator who would be connected enough to Redeem us.

In Altogether Beautiful, my hope is that you’ll see vibrant life on each page, I hope. Because of God’s Word. He shines brightest, as He should. I also think you’ll see the Life He gives a little bit clearer because Kati Kleimola put brush to canvas and let us include her work.

Wait until you see the finished product.

Check out more information and get a free sample of Altogether Beautiful here.

Connect with Kati and see her pieces available here.

Where do you see strength and beauty around you in His Creation? Where do you see Life in His Word? Who helps you to see it? Share with us in the comments.

Strength, beauty, art, and Life – altogether beautiful.

On playdough, Daniel Tiger, and being right where I belong

Image courtesy of the Schuler Family 😊

This post goes out to all the sweet mamas who allow playdough in their house. They have my kuddos.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.  (Isaiah 64:8)

Midweek is back in session at church, and while I’m excited to see the faith growth it will bring to my children, it also means something else…Daniel Tiger night. Judge me if you will, but I really love this one and a half hour time slot when I get to curl up on the couch with my smallest child, snuggle it out, and hear life’s problems solved from the vantage point of a 3-foot-tall talking tiger and his family.

Last Wednesday, Zeke and I were happily watching Daniel Tiger pick multiple kinds of fruit in an animated garden when the show switched to a montage of a live action family on the screen to drive home whatever lesson of the night. This was all well and good until…wait for it…the family on the screen started mixing play-dough colors.

I kid you not, there was serious color mixing going on, with parental approval. They were making some kind of pizza with a pink bottom and green, red, yellow, and white bits of toppings. The preschool- aged child was happily pushing the colored bits as far into the play-dough crust as you can get it, and all I can think is “AHHHHHHHHH, it’s never going to come apart! Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. You are well on your way to molding brown play-dough. Who wants brown play-dough? What are these parents thinking??!!”

At that moment, Zeke looks at me and says, completely unaware of my inner dialogue of judgmentalism , “Ooooo – they’re making rainbow play-dough.”

Perspective opened.

These children, this family was making something. They were making something pretty, something that felt good, something crafted by their own two hands, their own six hands together. That’s what Zeke saw, when all I saw was a mess.

So often, this is the way our life is with God.

I look around and I see mess. He sees molding and shaping and crafting and creativity.

Please read Isaiah 64:1-8 in your Bible, or select portions below, v. 1,4,7-8-

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—

From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.

There is no one who calls upon your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Imagine God, coming down from the mountains to be part of your life. He doesn’t have to engage. He doesn’t need us. He is God. But He values relationship in a way that I’m not even sure we can fully comprehend. One of His primary attributes is omnipresence. He can be everywhere at one time. Many of us know this as a nice theological idea, but don’t forget the personal context of it. He is present. He comes down.

He deigned to create the universe and walk in the garden with Adam and Eve. He came down from heaven to walk our soil as Jesus Christ, God made flesh. He is present. He sent His Spirit to live and dwell among us, God in our hearts and lives and homes. He is present. He will come back and restore this Earth and me and all Creation to perfection. He is present.

The message of our passage in Isaiah 64 is not only are we made and formed by God but this…

We are held by God.

Read Isaiah 64:8 again,

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Often we are not looking for Him where He is found (Isaiah 64:3), because He is right there holding us. We want a bright neon sign with solar panels and flashing lights to show us God. We want trumpets and angel choirs, and something bigger and better than our current situation. But that’s not His style. He can do that, but instead, He holds us in His hands. He holds us in His tight grip of grace.

What has God shaped in your life? How has He used ordinary to bring you closer to Christ and to guide you in His paths?

This week, as we discover how we ourselves are clay held in the potter’s hands, being shaped and formed, we will also see how God teaches as Potter, how He instructs us in our purposes and forms us as His vessels, and what glory there is in essentially being mixed up like play-dough, God forming rainbow beauty when we thought it was all just leading to muddy brown.

For today, know this, from Isaiah 64. God being our Potter, means He’s holding us in His hands.

“We are all the work of your hand…”

means we are all currently the work of His hands. Not we were His work when he created us, or we will be when we are in heaven.

We are the work of His hands. Each and everyone of us. Held, everyday.

See you tomorrow, you beautiful lump of rainbow-colored-playdough you. Until then, be held.

 

Exploration:

Tell us about something weird that gets to you. I revealed my mixed play-dough anxiety…your turn!

What has God shaped in your life?

How has he used ordinary to bring you closer to Him and mold you in His paths?

Clay Scripture Engagement Tool

clay

3 Things I can learn from my 8-year-old

This is Jyeva. (Pronounced Yay-Vuh.)
 
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If you look up the definition of “free spirit” in the dictionary, you will likely find her picture.
Jyeva has a fresh way about her, a caring and affectionate nature, and can offer up intercessory prayer with the best of them.
 
Jyeva teaches me something new every day, but there are three lessons that God weaves continually in my heart as I parent this precious girl.
 

1) Be yourself.

 
If you notice in the picture above, Jyeva has her own sense of fashion and style. You say rainbow butterfly leggings, lacy shirts, and athletic socks do not go together. Jyeva says, “Why yes they do, kind sir.” The year that Jyeva was 3-years-old we called her Boca because she insisted on wearing only bedazzled velour track suits every where she went. She had no taste for dresses, especially for church. She believed and still does that Jesus was meant to be honored in converse with purple stars.
 
Another year, I battled that girl to try on an Easter Sunday dress to match her sisters. All three of us huddled into a dressing room, the light bulb finally went off, when Jyeva looked at me, eyes wide open, “Why would I want to wear a dress to match Macee’s? I’m not Macee, am I?” She intended no disrespect, her tender tone cut right to my heart, “Nope, you’re not Macee. And I love you just the way you are.”
 
How often have I needed to set aside the expectations around me and embrace who God made me to be? Who am I trying to be most days? Someone who could pass for having it together on some commercial, or the broken but beautiful me that the Savior has fully redeemed and pieces together into His masterpiece, each and every day?
 

2) Embrace life.

 
Jyeva runs at life full throttle. You ask her to give you two laps, she does four. You ask her to give it her all, she gives it 150%. But the lesson she teaches me isn’t about giving it my all and being bold. Jyeva’s lesson is simpler.
 
When Jyeva was 5-years-old, we almost lost her sweet self. I remember clearly rushing her down the side of a mountain in Haiti, to get her to the medical care she needed in America. Five days later, lying in a hospital bed, the nurse tentatively took all of the needles and tubes out of her little body. Jyeva looked a me, smiled, and said, “Look, Mom, it’s me, Jyeva…Unplugged!”
 
And she’s not joking. She knows full well that life is short and your time here is like a blink, a half second, the length of a dandelion flower in a strong breeze. Jyeva’s passion is that not one person be homeless. To have a passion at age 8? She’s my hero. I want to be Jyeva when I grow up.

How often are we uncomfortable diving into something passionately? How often do we take for granted the day that God has given us today to do His work and love His people?
 

3) Allow others the same – be yourself, embrace your life.

 
As is also evident from Jyeva’s outfits, she highly values creativity. But more than her outfits, Jyeva thinks outside the box. The best way she expresses this is in the way she regards other people. Jyeva honors each and every person as a full unique individual in the Body of Christ, in the world around us. She expects no one to look like her, speak like her, think like her. In this, she is always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. She’s always willing to ask a question, instead of jump to an assumption. God created each of us unique, with a unique path to walk. We are all on the same Emmaus road, trying to understand the Word and the work of Christ in our lives, but we may all do that in very different ways.
 
So often I am quick to judge, quick to assume. Praise God for a Savior who is quick to forgive. Quick to love.
 
I wonder if these lessons are useful at all in your own families, or even in our churches. The more I look around me, I wonder if we fully accept the Jyeva’s of the world in our spheres. Do we greet those who dress a little different from us at church with the same comfort we offer those who look like us? Do we invite people to share their joy and passion and ideas openly and wholeheartedly in our families and our churches? Are we careful enough with people’s testimonies, honoring their walk as valuable and interesting, worthy of sharing, even when it doesn’t look like ours?
 
Matthew 16:18 has one of my favorite nuggets of Scripture that can easily be skipped over because of the depth of the rest of the passage (emphasis added below).
 
And I tell you, you are Peter…”
 
You are Peter.You are Jyeva. You are you.
 
God gives each of us personalities and ideas. I’m so thankful for the unique journey God gives each and every one of us. I’m so thankful when these journeys cross and our lives are made better by one another. Let us honor who he made us to be today, by being ourselves, embracing the life that He’s given us, and allowing that same precious gift for one another.