Living Outloud ...Advent and Beyond

"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud." Emile Zola, 1840-1902

Amen! It took me a long time to have the courage to utter that first sentence, and even longer toproclaim the other--but now, look out sister! I have been placed here very deliberately by my God, and my living out loud is meant to serve and glorify him. Some people may look at me and not understand me, but I need only be acceptable to God. And I revel in him.

" 'Consider the lilies of the field' is the only commandment I ever obeyed." Emily Dickinson 1830-1866

The beauty of aging is being able to recognize righteousness and to choose to follow down its path. We think more critically and oft times carve out our own path. Should we be self-righteous and decide on our own set of rules for living? No, but 'Consider the lilies of the field' does actually encapsulate all the commandments if you think about it. So we aging persons, especially artists, can reshape our worldview. We see God's hand in all areas of our lives, even if we reframe our doctrine.

"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:13-14 NRSV

Getting older, expressing myself more vocally and artistically, and losing much through life crises, I am re-examining, once again, my origins. Thinking about my dad who died last year. Wondering about my effect on the world. Marvelling at the 'me' that was created. The knitting motif (I think about a Kaffe Fassett piece) is so a propos. And strangely, I don't see the second half of my life as a garment unravelling. Matting in places, perhaps. Developing moth holes in others. But definitely reflecting my original creation and the purpose for which God made me. I take comfort in the fact that he knew me before my birth. I am not lost.

"Mary didn't write a theological treatise. She had a baby." Kathleen Norris

I heard Kathleen Norris speak at her book launch recently (see recommendation in endnote), and her astute and dry wit filled me with the fuel I need to get through this Christmas--I will fill up during Advent. I need artistic fuel too; it's the only way I will survive the season. I need to channel my energy into something creative. Even if it's my secret bad poetry or collage projects. I need the basics to create the basics. I need to repeat Bruce Cockburn's carol refrain 'Mary had a baby, My Lord' over the 36 days of Advent and Christmas. It's all very well to say, Oh, I won't get caught up in all that commercialism. But even beyond that, I need an incarnational frame of reference for the season and my life. Mary had a baby. I reflect back on the pain of childbirth but quickly dismiss the memory--that is too bodily present! I need to go through some new birth pangs myself, not wax and wane on things religious because it's a season of waiting. As Norris said, artists are always waiting. And we can't wait for more money, more time, more inspiration. We need to create now. I cut pictures out of reject magazines in the laundry room. I carry a notebook always and jot down random thoughts and phrases. It must be done when it must be done.

"Christ must increase in me and I must diminish." Kathleen Norris

I have come along as far as knowing I have nothing but Christ. But these words really burned a hole in my heart. This active relationship requires me to facilitate his increase in me and to diminish myself. Not my selfhood, which God has created, and which needs much care and nurturing at the moment. But my self-ness, the spiritual equivalent to fat cells sludging up my arteries. I need an angiogram! My advent cannot come unless I clear a path for it. I need the coming to enable the emmanuel; hopefully the epiphany will be directive.

Are you an artist? Are you living out loud? It is our duty. Creativity is our product and our raison d'etre. Honour God's gift to you by reflecting his own joy in Creation. Be loud. Be incarnational. It is the best Christmas gift we can bring him, poor as we are.

here to learn more about the above-mentioned new book, co-authored my Kathleen Norris, author of the classics The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace, and Dakota.

Image and words by Vanessa Wells, ©2008

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