Monday, September 29, 2014

Illustrated Faith | Greta Sutherland

Today I feel like stepping aside and allowing Greta to take it away because she says it just beautifuly, she honest, she open and she true....

Hi. My name is Greta and I am a recovering Perfectionist.

I blame this solely on my nearly perfect mother, exceptional younger sister and the fact that all of my friends are of such above-average caliber, that I am left in jaw-dropped awe.

Wait. What?  I'm not the only one who suffers from this???

As a means to overcome my perfectionistic tendencies, a handful of years ago I began to feverishly pursue the liberating world of Perfect Imperfection.

Let me explain...

My hair is purposefully messy and stick-uppy.
My humor is purposefully laced with self-deprecation.
My home decor is purposefully chipped and distressed.
Everything I hang on the wall or create on a page is purposefully asymmetrical.
When I sign a greeting card, I generally sign it crooked.
My clothes involve varying levels and layers and my photographs are purposefully off-center.

As a paper arts instructor, I always began each class with the admonition to the students to release the impossible concept of Perfection and embrace the freedom of Imperfection. Don't begin a project with the perfect idea of how you want it to turn out. Give yourself lots of ways in which you can hide your imperfections. I have many escape routes! My designs usually include a 'shaky' outlined frame and I go over my handwriting a number of times to throw off the viewer's eye from seeing anything that's 'not-quite-right'.

Writing | While many doodle with abandon and draw with ease, Bible Journaling - for me - has been about the writing. Many years ago I learned that the best way for me to figure out how I feel or think about any given subject, is to write it out. It's how I solve questions and confusions in my mind. I place my fingers on the keypad and out come the timid thoughts I didn't realize were lurking somewhere around the corners of my mind and heart. For me, Bible verses cannot sit still on a page - they need to get up and dance. That rumba happens when I've spent time with a verse, done some creating around that verse and then I turn to my blog to write out my thoughts surrounding that particular passage. All of a sudden a myriad of disjointed thoughts begin to come together to form a complete understanding. Bible Journaling feels as if my love of writing, my love of art, and my love of God all came together and had a love child. I have attended church all of my life. My mind tends to go into the "yeah, yeah, yeah...I know this Scripture" mode when I read familiar verses. Bible Journaling has allowed me to slow down and live with the verse for a little while longer. It orients my thinking into a position of openness, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me in new and alternate ways.

Sharing | Show and Tell is a significant part of who we are as Creatives. When we share our projects with others, we are establishing a sense of belonging. A sense of community. When you write and create with an authentic voice, other Imperfectionists will be drawn to your vulnerability. Man, oh man, do I know how scary that process is! But the times when my heart has connected with another's heart - bam! That sense of connection is a beautiful and God-annointed rush.

The Journaling Bible Community Facebook group has been our shared way of establishing a new community of fault-laden humans, bonding together to engage our creative passions but mostly to say, "Hey. I get it. Let's do this together."

Stealing | In Austin Kleon's book, Steal Like an Artist, he talks about the process of 'stealing'. Nothing is original. "What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original." You might see this as depressing or as a reason to give up. Instead, use the theory of French writer, Andre' Gide: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again." Stop trying to create something from nothing. Embrace the influence of others - copy, copy, copy, copy and at the end, you will find yourself and your style. Consider your Bible Journaling artwork as a 'cover band' for the artwork that you admire in others. Besides, some of us need to hear a truth many different times and in many different ways before it begins to sink into our understanding. (Greta says to herself.)

As I look through the entries in the Facebook group, I see a plethora of different kinds of people. It seems just about every walk of life is present in that group. What I also see is a group of extremely brave individuals. It takes a great deal of courage to create something and then put it out there for others to see. You hope they will be encouraged by it or challenged by what you've written or created, but a part of you will always cringe and want to 'Delete Post' as soon as it's live. The fear you're feeling is coming from Evil Perfection Brother. His other brother, Imperfection, is telling you that you are giving something genuine from your heart and allowing others to join hands with you in your spiritual journey.

Perserving | What legacy am I leaving my children and grandchildren? I lost my mother 5 years ago to Alzheimer's. There is nothing more precious to me than finding her handwriting...on anything! Her beautiful penmanship is a culmination of who she was. It is exact and precise. The letters are perfectly formed, looking just like the cursive letters that spread across the tops of so many elementary school classrooms of years past. She was an English teacher who believed that by following the rules of proper grammar, one could present a document to the world that was complete and comprehensive. Her handwriting was all of that.

Her treasured bibles are filled with margin notes - many times sections of songs or poems like the picture above: 'But I am here, in a world of sin, Saved by his grace divine, to testify that this same Christ, Has changed this life of mine.' Sometimes I notice just one word underlined in her Bible and I find myself wondering what it was about that word to which she felt a connection. I wonder what it was that was going on in her life when she felt compelled to underline that particular word or phrase. When people write in their bibles, they are revealing just a glimpse - a snapshot - into their thoughts at a given moment in time. Do not allow Perfection or Fear to rob your family and friends of that still-shot window into your life, your struggles, your achievements and your heart. Pick up a tool of choice and write/create/doodle/think out loud on a page. It's not just a testimony to those of us reading your creations in 2014. It is a testimony to all that will come behind you that God readily uses Imperfection. He steps into our weak places and creates His mission.

"Come unto me."
Not - get your act together then come unto me.
Not - go buy that new set of paints then come unto me.
Not - make sure your pages aren't bleeding through to the other side then come unto me.

Just, come unto me.
All who are weary...and I will give you rest.

I have 3 of these handlettered 8x10" prints from my online shop, Scottie Girl, to give away. I will draw the names on Friday, October 3, from those that leave their name and email address (so I can communicate with you about where to send your prints) in the comments below.

Go be brave.
Go be faithful.
Go be willing.
Go be wonderfully and beautifully imperfect!

Thank you so much Greta for sharing your heart!
- Shanna

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