Shawl or Shrug: Learning through Struggle

Last week, I showed photos from my latest projects, but now I'm in a quandary: what to do with the material. Originally meant to be shawls, I realized that they could be easily turned into shrugs as well. I recently made a shrug for myself from some purple fabric that I had only because the shawl kept slipping off while I tried to work.

So, for you all out there - which do you prefer: shawls or shrugs?

Some of the troubles that fiber artists deal with! It's been interesting at my church watching people realize the levels of stress and confusion that I face while working on a project. They rarely see the fiber related issues, but I have learned to open up about other elements with the writing.

Over the past few years, I've struggled over the lack of art in the church. Now, mind you, we have a decent worship group, and recently re-introduced a choir to the church. I'm not involved in either aspect because while I have a nice voice, it is meant for corporate singing and/or around the house, in the car or by myself. I rarely did most of the 'arts' that my church could utilize: I didn't sing solos, preferred to remain out of the choir, and most decidedly did not play the piano.

Beyond that, what could I do?

Not much.

My gifts lay behind the scenes: I'm a writer and an artist. I can hang a beautiful tapestry on the wall of my church or write a fantastic play, but in both cases, the work speaks for itself while I remain behind. These arts, for the most part, are non-existent in the church ... or at least my denomination of independent conservative Baptist churches.

So I struggle in silence because who would understand the struggle? How do I explain to someone that I want to ponder over great art created by someone who accepted the darkness and light? That I enjoy looking and studying art be it a painting or a tapestry or a sculpture not because I have nothing better to do, but because the art speaks to me wonderful truths of God?

Worse still, how do I even begin to describe the struggle within the process of art? It is easy enough to say that I'm having a hard time at work, but when that struggle includes fighting fallen angels or delving into the darkness of humanity ... then what? What about writing those things that you simple cannot face?

I seem to have a community much like the shawl: nice to have and hold, but when the nitty-gritty dirty part begins, it just sort of falls away, or becomes more of a problem then it is worth. What I seek is a community more like the shrug which provides the same thing that a shawl does: comfort, warmth, an extra layer against the cold, but when the work begins, the shrug remains. Certainly, it strains a bit, might not always lay just right, but it remains right there with me.

Fortunately, I have friends like that, and a core family that remains (and listens even if they don't want too). Yet, the greater community of Christianity is more similar to the shawl. So what can any of us do? Being an artist is not an easy occupation. We not only wear our hearts on our sleeves, but decorate them, put them up for display and open for criticism. The church has done a good job with musicians, partly because they are practical in the church - after all, what else is worship besides singing? The other arts ... the actual arts ... are often neglected be it painting, sculpture, literature or dance.

In some cases those very arts are even condemned by the church.

This should not be so.

God has gifted His children in a wide variety of fields: medicine, education, construction, missions and the Arts. It is beyond time for the church to recognize the artists among them. I learned that I need to open up more about my writing and weaving. Providing specific prayer requests (down even to the request that I sell well at a fair) has helped. For people to listen to those struggles concerning editing and submitting books has opened their eyes to the process.

Don't run from the struggle. Find the people who will remain beside you in the work, because that extra layer against the cold is always welcomed.

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