Sometimes I wonder why I do it. Especially when we arrive in the midst of snack time with binders, Bibles and food items spread over every available surface. Sometimes the transition from being a dining room to becoming an art room is fairly easy. But when we have to clear away the food, get the toddlers headed toward day care, and clear the tables for plastic tablecloths, water buckets, acrylic paints, stencils, brushes and glass paint palettes, the chaos is palpable. And I wonder why I’m doing it.

As an artist, I’ve come to appreciate that chaos is part of the creative process. For me, it begins with a restlessness that opens me to the Spirit and a willingness to sit with a certain amount of inspired chaos until some of the disparate pieces come together in a composition that expresses meaning and beauty to me. The chaos at the Lighthouse during these transitions sometimes seems more like pandemonium than inspired restlessness.

While this transition is tricky for me, I’m beginning to appreciate its necessity for the women in this faith-based, residential treatment program for substance abuse recovery. The chaos eventually gives was to contented chatter and deeper conversation as they get involved creating prayer flags by stenciling old napkins with an assortment of images. One of their favorites is a new lighthouse stencil designed by my art partner Lee.  

All the early chaos subsides as the women grow more comfortable with the art materials before them. They begin to thumb through their Bibles searching for a favorite verse for their prayer flags. One woman, who entered the program a number of months ago severely depressed, now contentedly sings as she paints, occasionally breaking into a pseudo – Jamaican accent which makes us all laugh.  Peaches, who fretted over not being an artist, begins to make a whole series of creative decisions about what she wants her flag to look like. We talk about how she’s more of an artist than she realizes. Kelly tells me how her prayer flag memorializes a dream about a promise she received of being rescued from her drug addiction. Another table group teases me when I admire one of their stenciled flags using a youthful slang expression. More banter, inside jokes, and high fives. I chat about possible scriptures with Jeannie. She seeks me out fifteen minutes later to tell me the one she intends to use when we finish next week.

What a wonderful opportunity we enjoy to speak into one another’s lives through the arts. To create visual evidence of  lives being healed and transformed. To engage chaos together trusting that beauty and meaning will emerge from the process as we support and encourage each other. By the end of the morning, every week, I know that’s why I do it. 

Have you ever wondered in the midst of an experience why you’re doing it? If chaos was a part of the experience, what did it teach you? If you were to create a prayer flag memorializing that experience what would it look life? What text would you add to it? 

 Looking forward to your experiences of chaos.


6 comments to Chaos

  • Carl McDonald

    Remember that out of the chaos, God created the heavens and the earth…….
    My scripture for my flag would be from Isaiah: “on the wings of an eagle”
    Enjoy your blog and am often inspired, so that is also why you do it!

  • Ginny

    4 kids, 3 dogs and two pet rats (thankfully they, at least, live in a cage.) It’s almost always chaos here – our dining room table is the art table, painting area, homework center and the staging area for many epic lego battles…has to be cleared off every night for dinner. Chaos is 6 pm – and yes I do sometimes wonder,”Is this my life? Is this really what I intended to have happen?” Of course the easy answer is that no, it isn’t what I intended – because I never knew what chaos 4 kids and three dogs could create until it happened – and the best answer is that it was what God intended – and when it is good, it is very very good.
    But there are many times when I am in between those two answers, and all i want is a clean house. And some quiet. With no SpongeBob Squarepants…
    God is busy creating here – and I am gradually learning that creation is messy and loud – and without it life would be boring!!

  • Robin Rice

    It took me a long, long time to become comfortable with the feeling of chaos. When it invaded too many parts of my life it drew me down. But if I keep it at a manageable level, I can begin to appreciate it and transition the frantic energy into positive energy. It’s all about balance for me. Now that I am retired I find I miss the chaos at times – the laughter and the sparkling energy that can accompany it.

  • Sharron

    I waded into the chaos of paper and ephemera, glue sticks and gel medium, scissors and brushes that covered every surface; I moved quietly and purposely among six talking, moving, laughing artists intent on their creative endeavors. My eyes wandered over the chaotic scene until they lit on a perfectly patterned, a perfectly palleted piece of paper,and suddenly, what began as chaos, had become a rich assortment of materials being enthusiastically used by my friends. The art that was created in that bris-collage workshop was stellar; it had beauty and heart and flair. It reflected that lovely creative gift of women “made in His image.”

  • Helen

    My text? John 8:32 – no contest!

    Amidst the chaos
    Of my heart
    My prayers wave
    And try to catch
    Your eye
    Gathering them round me
    I pile them high
    And begin to sort them
    Into good intentions
    And painful cries
    And pleas for a map
    To find my way to you
    And swirling amidst them
    My ever present tears
    Flow endlessly
    And achingly carry
    My prayers to you
    And I sit back with a sigh
    And I smile
    For I don’t have to try
    You have provided a way
    To bring my prayers to you
    And one day
    As you promise
    All my tears will be dried
    And the chaos in my heart
    Will be no more
    And my prayers will no longer
    Wave crazily
    And try to catch your eye
    For the breath of your passing
    Will gather them up
    As it has long time still
    And lift them to you
    And unseen no more
    I will know your truth
    And your truth
    Will set me free!

    HW 18-2-12

  • Sara Blackburn

    Chaos is a frequent element in all of my art classes. I have come to recognize the difference between straight up chaos and organized chaos. While any type of chaos used to drive me crazy, I have come to appreciate the organized chaos that usually comes from creative experience. Organized chaos now makes me smile because I know that it will help to bring about wonderful results.

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