Things happen in life you don’t expect. Things pop up. When they do, you turn them into art projects. At least that’s what we did for the last two weekends at the Teen Reach Adventure Camps designed especially for foster teens (ages 12-15) who have likely experienced abuse, abandonment and neglect. 

Each weekend the second day art project was a pop-up book that incorporated a photo of the camper surrounded by images and words that illustrated or spoke about that person’s life. I was frequently delighted by the thoughtfulness of the hopes and dreams these kids have as well as the honesty they model in openly claiming some of the positive attributes of their personalities. One girl shared that her life motto was “When life gives you lemons, make grape juice.” That made me stop and think. Life may have knocked them down, but they are resiliently popping up again in many ways.

One of my favorite exchanges during our sharing time was with Nick. His pop-up book featured the word “Rearview” with some letter reversals. I was curious about what that meant to him. I said, “This word “Rearview” really intrigues me. What does it mean to you?” He responded with the often classic teen response – “I don’t know.” When I began to venture what the word might suggest to me, he immediately cut in and said, “We need to look behind at the things in our past, but it’s more important to look ahead to the future.”  “I knew you knew what that meant!” I gushed. Turning to the other boys and their counselors I continued, “This is one of the most important bits of wisdom you will hear this weekend. Be sure you pack it in your backpack when you head for home. This is a major take-away.”

Wisdom has a way of popping up in such situations, but good ideas do too. Candi and I had over prepared the number of art activities we could reasonably do in three days. One of them was an evening craft project involving painted water bottles. I was playing around with some of the spiral-cut bottles I’d attached to a painted paper plate and showed it to one of the boys. Jamaine immediately took it from me and popped it on his head like a warrior’s headdress. Thus was born the inspiration for our third day art activity for the boys who had loved singing a worship song entitled “Warrior” based on Psalm 45. Jamaine, who wants to be a teacher, taught me. Another take-away.

The weekends were full of broken pots, pop-up books, painted plastic bottle warrior headdresses, and tree weavings. Yes, tree weavings. Well, actually this year instead of trees we loomed, with jute twine, the metal poles of the bell tower that clanged to announce the next meal. Fabric strips of all types, colors and patterns spilled out of a couple of shopping bags.  Each girl wrote her hopes, dreams, prayers, or someone or something she wanted to forgive on each strip of fabric before weaving it into the warp threads.  Tears were woven with prayers for a number of the girls. Healing popped up for others. 

When things happened in life you didn’t expect, what popped up that offered a new way of looking at the situation? That offered wisdom, inspiration or healing? 

If you were to create a pop-up book of your life in image and word, what would it look like? If your were to write a hope, dream, prayer, or something or someone to forgive to add to the weaving, what would you write?  

What will pop up for you this week that will be your take-away? 

PS – The names and images of the kids have been altered to protect their privacy. 

5 comments to Pop-Up

  • Kit Ripley

    This sounds like a wonderful camp! Great project ideas.


  • Barbara

    Great post, Lynne. I’m dealing with a serious struggle with one of the groups I contract with and I’m trying to decide if this is God’s way of telling me it’s time to move on, or if this is a growth period for me. But those pop-up moments of truth, and those take-aways that I receive when a client has an “aha” moment keep my feet still for the time being. If you ever want to make a strength shield to go with your warrior hats, let me know!

  • Joyce Lombard

    Terrific, Lynne! All of it!

  • cynthia thomas

    wow! the story about rearview really triggered a strong reaction in me! i may need to do my own project with that concept. cynthia

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