Walk on the wild side.

Stepping out in faith.

  

I have a list of titles for my posts that I occassionally jot down. This is one of my favourites, however, I don’t have anything in mind that I want to write about. So we shall see what inspiration comes about from it…

 When my sister in law took this photo, life for me was in a weird place. I wasn’t quite sure what was next and in regards to walking, I didn’t even know which direction to take at the time. I may be smiling in the photo but in reality, I wasn’t really enjoying this stage. To be fair, I did try to be content where I was but the unanswered questions of what I was to do was constantly permeating my thoughts.  As well as this, I wanted to know not only what I was to do but when I was to do it! I had a lot of questions and not that many answers. I only knew that I had to wait for those answers. I wonder what I would have said, if someone had told me at the time of this photo, that soon I would be moving across the world. Would I have been ready to know that? You see, sometimes, we say we want to know what the future holds but do we really? Of course, as finite and limited humans, we do not posses that knowledge and I keep trying to remind myself that that is a good thing and stop viewing it as a bad thing. If I knew what the future held and all the answers in that, then I think my faith would be limited and weak. Why would I even need faith to trust in a God who holds my future if I could know what will happen tomorrow, or next year or fifty years down the line? To step out in faith every day is like ‘walking on the wild side’ in the sense that it can be freeing, it can be adventurous and it can bring about things that our mind cannot even conceive. Sounds exciting and too good to be true. So what about those days when you feel burdened with those unanswered questions? God has a place for them and they are in His hands and not our own. He wants us to step out in faith and walk with Him.

Faith involves:

1. Doubt and unanswered questions. I think a lot of the time we attach a judgement or a negative connoctation to the word ‘doubt’. We believe that we do not have any faith if there is doubt present, but what if we viewed doubt as a way to run to God with all of the questions and not some scary, lonely path. What if we gave room and comfort to the person doubting in order to see the presence of faith? It is always encouraging to hear what thoughts come from the young ladies at their group on Thursdays. We have begun looking at the subject of creation under the theme of God’s best or intention. It reminds me of a verse in Hebrews 11, the chapter on faith, where it says “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was invisible.”  The reason I mention this is because it reminds me (as well as the girls group) that we don’t have all the answers, but God has revealed what is necessary to understand  about who He is, about the world and about our place in it. Along with an understanding of who He is and along with our questions comes faith; faith binds the two together and plays an integral part in trusting in God.

2. Trusting God. The Oxford dictionary begins it’s definition of the word trust, with the words ‘Firm belief’.  It implies that it is unwavering and it requires us to believe. The Bible says “To trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Trusting God involves having a firm belief in Him despite the circumstances around us, despite our emotions at times and despite that we cannot understand how He is going to be at work but that He is. I think that we especially learn what it is to trust God when we are swimming in our sea of questions. It is very easy to say “Just trust God” but when it comes to be in the midst of confusion or heartache or whatever form of obstacle it may be, how do we really put those words into actions. For me, I think not worrying is a huge factor to trusting in God and His plan for me.

3. Not worrying. For some, worrying may be the first thing we do when faced with some sort of challenge. It may be a big worry, such as someone you care for becoming ill or it may be a small worry like what will I wear for the next event. But is one worry ok and the other not? If we consider Matthew chapter 6, it says not to worry about what you wear or what you eat. We are reminded that God takes care of the birds and provides for them and how much more He loves us, that He will provide for us also. A good question follows where we are asked whether worry will add a single hour to our lives? Wow, makes you think about what worry actually does. Does it change our circumstances? No. Does it change us? Most of the time, yes, but not really for the better. It can makes us frustrated, burdened and fearful. When we do not trust God, we are not living complete freedom and we can be shackled by our worries. I think that we need to release every worry, big or small, and trust that God is in control and that He is the source of change and worry isn’t. Worry is doubting God and His power and perhaps that’s why He takes it so seriously. It is a reminder for me not to worry about where I will be next year or what I will be doing but to trust that God will provide for me along the way. 

4. Surrender. Matthew 6 goes on to say “Seek you first the kingdom of God”, and we are challenged to put God’s ways before our own. This involves surrendering what we think is best and trusting in a God who promises to always have our best interest. When you are surrendering and seeking the Lord, you are showing your trust in His power and His charactor- that He is trustworthy! “I had imagined my life being different to this but I am surrendering my thoughts of what I think is good for me and trusting that where  God has me right now is what is good for me.” “I have a good job and am able to provide luxuries for my family but I think God is asking me to cut back on the hours so I can spend more time with my kids. I am surrendering what I think is providing for my family and trusting that God will provide all our needs despite the cutbacks.” Can we understand more of what it means to surrender in our everyday circumstances? I think sometimes when we read the Bible we are stuck with how do I turn that word (surrender etc) into an action and live it out.

5. Being sure and hopeful of what we do not see. Faith is described in Hebrews 11 as having confidence in what we do not see and assurance in what we hope for. With faith, we have a confidence in a God that we do not see with our eyes and an assurance in what we hope for in His promises -that He will provide for us day by day and that we will spend eternity with Him. We certainly live in a world of ‘seeing is believing’. I think that we all have some sort of faith in something, the question is, is it trustworthy to build your firm belief upon? How sure or how hopeful are you in what you place your faith in? Does it promise and provide so that you don’t have to worry? Does it seek your best or does it even give you a hope for your future?

Faith is walking with God through our doubts and questions. It is trusting Him along the way. It is saying ‘no’ to worrying about His provision for the journey. It is saying ‘yes’ to the direction He leads us. It is being sure that He is there to guide us for every step of the way. This is truly walking on the wild side- with abandoning our worries and our ways and living each day with an excitement to follow and worship a God who cares and loves us beyond our capacities.

I can continue to walk on the wild side, months after this photo. Knowing that God will make known and direct me when He thinks best. It is a great reminder to keep trusting in the difficult moments because sometimes just right around the corner, enlightment will come and illuminate the path for the next part of the journey.


Created to Create

In the art room, I often tell my students not to be afraid to create and experiment. I aim to acquaint them with the idea that no one is the same so not to try and be anything other than what you are in your style and ideas. I also remind them that there are no mistakes ultimately when it comes to art, and if you don’t like how something is going, seek to learn from it and altar it to suit what you are envisioning. However, I empathise with them when I sit down to my own table and wonder what the heck I am doing? Crazy, right? You would think that by winning art awards during my school years, time at art college and countless hours in the art room teaching others, that I would have built enough confidence not to feel this way on occasion. I guess it is something that I will have to continue to work through as it can stop me from doing part of what I believe I was created to do…Create.

  
Balloon Dart Painting with the teens at BCM Camp, circa 2012

In this post, I want to expound on what art is to me, what keeps me from doing it and the results of when I do create. Maybe you can relate or maybe you could help me out! During my school years, I definitely romanticised art and the life of the artist. The artwork with all its grandeur hanging up in the silent and contemplative walls of some very important museum. The ‘starving’ artist so deep within their work that when they do come out for the cups of coffee from their favourite cafe, the evidence of their labour is colourfully exhibited on their hands. I really enjoyed the art history of the Leaving Cert curriculum and mapped out to visit Paris, Rome and London to view some of the greats that I had studied. And great they were in all their beauty and splendor.

  
School of Athens, Raphael, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. circa 2009

Then there was art college and I’m still trying to ruminate all that I learned and saw there about art. It broke down and redefined what I considered art. I became more open to the forms that art encompasses, and I began to think more about the thoughts behind the piece as opposed to trying to figure out how it was composed. I considered how artists went from within the walls of art college to inside those ‘important’ galleries and museums. I suppose that by romanticising the art and the artist in such a way previously, that it removed me from feeling like an artist myself and I wasn’t quite sure how I was to fit into this scene. Even now, I think about being an artist and what that looks like to me if it doesn’t involve having my own studio space, buried arm deep in paint and sipping wine every week at all the exhibition openings. Am I still an artist if my everyday life includes going to work (at school or with the youth) and then having to do all the other things that life requires?  But I think the key is those few free minutes during the days of routine where you find the moments for a creative outlet -let it be knitting in front of the tv, or challenging yourself to five minute sketches to illustrate an image that stuck out for you during the week.

So who am I now as an artist- as I teach or as I spend time working alongside of youth? I still feel uncomfortable at times, using that word to describe myself… artist. I even feel like a ‘fake’ when I put that to my name. However, I must remind myself that an artist creates, so if I’m spending moments of my time drawing, painting, taking photos then indeed I am creating and therefore I am an artist. An artist isn’t defined by the number of exhibitions they hold ( please feel free to read my February post on the exhibition I held called They Speak For Themselves. ) They are certainly not defined by the amount their work is sold for. In fact the Oxford Dictionary describes the artist as someone who creates as a profession or as a hobby. Therefore, reader, going by that definition would you consider yourself an artist? Have you set any barriers in believing that an artist is one thing and you don’t fall into that category, as I have done? My routine has changed a good bit the past two years. Last year, after a day at school, I would sometimes come home and paint. On the weekends, I got ready for the Christmas Craft fair and my sister in law and I would spend some time designing cards. During the summer vacation, I went to Teenstreet and worked in Artzone, facilitating teens with the opportunity to explore various art mediums. It was especially then that I had to remind myself that I am an artist and get over the fact that as I worked on a mural, hundreds of spectators passed through-something that makes me very uncomfortable.  In light of all of this, an artist isn’t defined either by the amount of time that they spend creating during their week, the only criteria is the creation process whatever that may look like. What does that look like for you?

   
 Glitter Dollar Bill, Erin Walshe, GA, circa 2011

When it comes down to the actual creating process for me, the excuse is always there “Oh I just don’t have much time to create anything.” Sometimes this is true and sometimes I hide behind it because I am afraid. I don’t really know what makes me so apprehensive to start an art project or piece of work. Perhaps it is because I feel lacking in ideas and it isn’t such a great place to be in when you are actually itching to create but don’t know where to start. One of the most memorable lectures in art college was when we were told that we were going to make a lot of terrible stuff, but it doesn’t matter as long as you are creating. We were promised that if we did so that one day something will happen amongst  all the ‘mistakes and mishaps’ and you will find that little gem. I thought that this was a great encouragement to experiment in my art practices and learn through the things that go wrong. I believe that life can be somewhat like this too if we are open to learning from the things that come our way and the things that we pursue. Another factor that intimidates me about creating is that I am not good enough or talented enough. I could never draw or paint like so and so. And how did they come up with that idea? I could never come up with something as clever or thought provoking as that! What lies. I know they are lies and yet I still choose to live by them. In fact, I’m actually allowing fear to stop me (again, read my post on When Fear is Crippling to hear more of my thoughts on that subject). It comes in the various forms such as’What if I create something that is unpleasant and I fail miserably in trying to portray what I am envisioning?’. The answer: take the elements that did work and carry them through and try again. Take the elements that don’t quite work and see what you can altar or discard from this. Art is a process. Masterpieces are not made in one single instance and perhaps our instantaneous society puts that pressure on us. We must give time and space for the process to develop. ‘What if I am criticised and no one likes it?’ Art is an illustration or expression of your perspective. Since we are all different, we might not like the same things. So I have had to say to myself that although it feels personal because it is my perspective that I have put out there, that not everyone has to respond to it in the same way that I do. I need to grow some thicker skin for what seems like rejection. Imagine if the Impressionist had given up after they were deeply criticised for branching off with their colourful brushwork? ‘What if my idea isn’t as thought provoking or my art isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as so and so’s?’ Art can be about learning from others and building a mental catalogue of images, styles and techniques that influence and inspire us. Art is not suppose to be a competition about who is the most influential, thought-provoking or inspiring. I have certainly made it into this at times and it will have a negative effect on your confidence and thus on your work. ‘What if I don’t get the time for it?’ As we have already touched on the subject of time, I just want to add about being intentional. I remember going to an artist group last year and they discussed about whether inspiration comes to us spontaneously or whether it has to be worked on. I think the main thing that I brought away from that is simply being intentional in the time that we do set aside and see if those moments of Ah-Ha! come along, and if they don’t to continue to produce. Continue to produce not as a robot or out of guilt. Produce because you were created to create, because by doing so it will birth purpose,expression and bring to fruition more than what appears in front of your eyes. Why do I make such excuses to stop me from creating, knowing that when I do create, I feel relaxed, purposeful, happy and released. How do you feel when you create?

  
Still Waters in progress, Oil on wood, Erin Walshe circa 2015

I do not think that creating art is my sole and main purpose. I do not necessarily live and breathe it, although it is much on my mind. As a Christian, I think my purpose is so much more but I do think that God has made me as an individual and He can use these things to express and connect with Him, as well as with those around me. He is the great Creator, the First Artist and we are made in His image. So when I spending time creating, I know that it pleases Him that I am using gifts that He has given me and He gives me those feelings I mentioned above as a result.

One more point I want to briefly mention is that I believe that everyone is creative in some way. Would you agree with this? Just because you don’t draw or paint, doesn’t mean that you lack creativity? I walk into homes and know that whoever decorated it had an eye for layout and colours. I hear someone tapping a beat or humming in their office and expressing themselves through song. I see the teen snapping a photo and adding twenty filters to it. I smell a delicious treat baking in the oven with a presentation that makes your mouth water. Well all of that is creating too. Picasso once said that:

       What do you think about this?

 

 

While I am here in Oamaru, I am embarking on a new multi-media project with the youth. Last week, I stood up in front of some of the teens and spoke about the idea to meet on a monthly basis and work towards creating a body of work to exhibit at the end of the year (hopefully!). Those aren’t the exact words that I used but that was the jest of things. As I’m speaking, I can’t help but wonder what was going through their heads. I want to stir an excitement and openness to experiment through various media, and not to be afraid to do so. So how can I do this? Perhaps, it is by being honest with them and telling how even an art teacher can have the same reserved feelings in approaching a new art task. I’m sure I will learn along the way what will work in creating such an environment and what won’t. (I admit that I did try to entice them with promises to do activities such as Balloon Dart Painting, cause surely everyone thinks that is fun,right?) I will have to update you along the way with all that unfolds but till then I hope that some of these thoughts have helped you question and perhaps define what art is to you and whether you were created to create!

   
Lahinch, Co. Clare, circa 2013

Stumping the Hump.

This past week, I was invited to a three day tramp (hike) in the very south of the Island. I was quickly enticed after googling photos of the Hump Ridge track and knew that I couldn’t pass this opportunity. It was to include 64kms along the coast and through some of the fiordland. I had been told that not many Kiwi’s have done this tramp and only a small percentage of people have visited some of it’s territory as it can only be accessed by walking, or if you were to fly in on a helicopter to the cabin.

So join me on the journey that we took by foot and the thoughts of life’s lessons that I had along the way…

It started off on the beach at 8am. It was fresh and beautiful. We had lots of energy and no blisters on our feet…yet.

   
 
I was very excited to be a part of this, as it was one of the things that I wanted to do while here-explore the various landscapes and sceneries!  I have hiked before, including some that were over 20km long, but I had never done one to this scale. There were three days in a row and it also meant that I had to carry a pack full of the essentials. 

In the preparation for the hike, I was certainly thinking about things that are important to us. I had been given a list to check with various items of sleeping bag, toothbrush etc. Apparently, this was a luxury tramp since the huts had showers ( you had to pay $10 for a three min shower….. worth it!) and we also didn’t need to carry pots and pans with us. Perhaps that sounds fancy to you, but when you have not done those things before, then carrying your food,bedding and some clothes do seem pretty rough and rugged. So thats what I’m going with…the ole woe is me saga. Here is a photo of me with my pack on, 10km into our gradual incline through the fiordland greenery.

 
Back to my thoughts on what is actually necessary to carry and what is luxury? What do we actually need in life and what are the things we take for granted? Do I need to bring this item? Why is it so important to me? Does it have sentimental value or do I find some sort of security in it? Does having all this stuff in my life add to my identity and what happens if I lost it all, would I be so wrapped up in it that I would lose who I was as well? It reminded me of some countries that I have visited ( and I hate to say it, but America is probably one of the places I have most felt it, although Ireland can be up there too) that are quite materialistic. I must have the latest form of technology ( Iphone 6? wow,that’s like in history museums now..) or I must have my initials monogrammed onto every single thing I own, just in case people don’t know that it’s mine!!!! ( Not that there is anything wrong with these things!) There is nothing wrong with treating ourselves or having nice things, but we as humans, have the tendency to imbalance good things and make them into a race to make ourselves feel better about our lives. Unfortunately, by doing so we are investing in the transcience and not on things that will last. I can certainly raise my hand to buying things that I don’t need, but I simply want it! I guess this question comes down to how much of a hold these things have on my life. Packing a big book, my bible and a journal was heavy and the price I had to pay for something that I deemed worthy to bring. 

Another thought in regards to carrying all these items on my back, was about people carrying their baggage around with them. I don’t recommend it but I saw a few minutes of a dating show recently where you had to present your baggage to the potential mate. (I think Jerry Springer was the host so that will give you some inclination of what a terrible show it was!). Anyways, it got me thinking of all the life experiences that we carry along with us but are these experiences the ones that give us sustainance or warmth for our journey, or are they simply weighing us down? That relationship that went sour and I just cannot seem to forgive. That decision that I made that brought chaos to my life and those around me, and I just cannot forget about it! That hand that I have been dealt where I didn’t get the job I wanted, my marriage and kids are not what I had imagined and I just cannot accept my circumstances! It was definately a reflective time for me along the beautiful coastline of the very south of the South Island.

Along we go on our journey as we continued through the ferns and start to enter the enchanted forest. I think they called it that to entice us to keep walking, however, it did look quite enchanted as we climbed higher into the clouds and it settled amongst the top of the trees.

   
  

Perhaps you don’t want to know some of my thoughts here, they would have to be censored.  When I saw 5km to the cabin, i thought ‘Grand!’. If I had known that my short legs would not suffice for the steep incline and would have to use my hands to climb, then I would have happily rolled back down the mountain and pray for a bear ( which does not inhabit NZ) to come eat me. This reminded me of how life is like a journey and sometimes there are some parts of great adversity, with not much strength to go on and that we want to get over asap. We want that mountain top but we try to avoid the tough bits before we reach it. We want to be that confidant, well experienced, content individual but we don’t want to go through anything that is painful or character building to get there. Sometimes, we are close to giving up without realizing that this is around the corner…

  
Isn’t it breathtaking and spectcular? Ok, so this is at the top the following morning as when we reached the cabin, we could only see an Irish summit of fog. But what application we can get from that too! Sometimes we are so focused on our current situation that we cannot see long distance. We don’t see what God sees and the reason for the path He has taken us on! But He is trustworthy to guide us to all good things (Romans 8.28), no matter how gnarly the path may get. He will provide those moments of rest, at the top to take in a glimpse of what He has done and how faithful He has been with you along the way.How He has sought out the best path for you, even if it meant that He did not answer those prayers (of being eaten by a bear) in the way you wanted Him to. Life with Him is worth all hardship because He is worthy. And He will use these beautiful moments to motivate you for the rest of the way too.

Well, we are now on day two of the tramp. An 8am start and with 22km behind us and 22km ahead of us for the day’s walking. It is Easter Sunday and thoughts of Jesus carrying his heavy cross after being so badly beaten cross my mind at times. We start our pace and descend,using different muscles to yesterday, trying to not stumble as I click the camera here and there. Here are some of the views we had…

   
    
 
Again, the last 5km were a challenge as my feet were blistered at this point and it had begun to rain. As we sludged through mud, and tried to avoid slipping on parts of an old railway track, we became closer and closer to reaching cabin number two. There is nothing like sitting down after 6 hours of walking! Uncovering my socks revealed several big blisters and I wasn’t quite sure how I would be able to hike the final 20km the following day. However, after a night’s rest we began the final part of the tramp. My feet had been kindly wrapped up by some of the people that I was tramping with and for the first 10km, I did feel like a new woman. Everyone could feel the 44 km on their legs and feet so perhaps overall the pace had decreased. When we reached the beaches again, it was soothing to hear the waves but the biting sand flies would not allow a moment’s rest.

   
 
I completed the 20km in 4hrs45mins with blistered feet and without any stopping(due to sand flies). There is no photo of this as I couldn’t have cared about capturing the moment. I simply wanted to sit. I came in alongside of this young lady which made me proud. Anyone who attempts these endeavors are brave, no matter what stage of the line you end at! Perhaps you have read my post about biking and being at the back of the line… which wasn’t the case for this day (but probably will be for another!)

  
Finally, one of my thoughts include the people that we share life with. I was very grateful for these four  families to ask me on their tramping holiday. We could pick each other up and encourage one another along the way, and laugh, and maybe even cry. I suppose that’s what we look to in life as well, those around to support and to care for. We are not as alone as we may think sometimes and I am really encouraged by those who I have come in contact with on my journey of New Zealand. So I guess, keep focused on where you are going and be open to those you meet along the way!