Something Out of Nothing

The ladies at the Lighthouse dumped out a seeming bunch of junk on their tables. Stamped and painted 5×7 manila envelopes had arrived a few weeks earlier through the generosity of one of my art buddies Trudi, a woman with the gift of abundant generosity, especially when it comes to sharing art supplies. The envelopes were stuffed with an odd assortment of scrap-booking paper, pictures, postcards, pages from old novels and dictionaries, sewing patterns, Japanese newspaper articles, bits of yarn, dominoes, tiny corks, shells, keys. You name it, someone probably had it in their envelop.

I’m teaching a number of extended art seminars this week at the Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. The theme of the conference is Create! The opening worship focus is, not surprisingly, the something-out-of-nothing creation story from Genesis 1. Because Trudi likes the stories I share about the therapeutic art workshops at the Lighthouse, she volunteered to prep one of the art activities for my seminar. Who am I to turn down such a fabulous offer? So the ladies were dumping with delight and rarin’ to begin on their “Create Something Out of Nothing” collages knowing that I would be taking their examples back to Princeton to teach from. And such wonderful examples they were!

Jill began sorting through her envelop’s contents and commented that she had an assortment of horse stuff. “Was that intentional?” she asked. Nope. Trudi and her daughter had spent a Saturday stuffing forty envelopes with assorted papers and other oddments. The selection of stuff in each envelop was totally random. Knowing that they were going to be doing the “something-out-of-nothing” collages, she had prayed that morning that God would speak to her through the art making process. So taken with the horses found in her stash, she and a volunteer dove into the Psalms to find a relevant text. The center of her collage is anchored with several verses from Psalm 147: 10, 11 “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” The remainder of her collage is filled with images and symbols of that love. Jill’s finding the essential Something out of nothing.

Until recently Kika’s art work has had a dark withdrawn quality to it. She mostly painted with black and deep somber colors. But recently a brighter expressiveness has emerged. The collage at the top tells it all. A tiny sliver of paper at the left contains the word embowers. It captured for Kika the sense of interior restraint – of turning her back on others, retreating within her head, fencing the world out, especially with alcohol. The center of her collage contains a snippet of Japanese writing. It represents confusion – that mysterious transformation that happens within a person that leads her to become a “classy woman able to love, and open to being loved” so that her life can bloom more fully.  Kika’s aware that she’s got the “something-out-of-nothing” transformation thing goin’ on in her life. She’s opening herself up to love. Sweet. That’s what we’re all created for. 

If you were to create a something-out-of-nothing collage that represented a transforming moment in your life, what images, words, and ephemera (a swanky word for junk) would you use to make that story visible? What story would you write to accompany your collage? Who would you like to share that story with? And why?

Looking forward to your comments!

PS – The Lighthouse is a fifteen-month, faith-based, residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse. I love these ladies!!!




2 comments to Something Out of Nothing

  • Jeannie Cavender

    What fun to read and the theme of something from nothing.

    We have a parishoner who is a preschool teacher and a number of us save all of our paper and tissue rolls, old calendars cards, tissue boxes, stamps etc – much like your supply. Not only does our member appreciate the “supplies” but she says it is like Christmas when she unloads her car after picking up from her GPC supply station. Some children can hardly wait to get started, others just delight in the variety and fun of unpacking. One child who is quite intense most of the time finds another side of himself in his discoveries. We just never know how much can emerge from “nothing” Thanks Lynne for your ongoing inspiration for your readers as well as the women at the LightHouse

  • cynthia thomas

    reading about opening an envelope of mystery items reminds me of the pure joy i get when people give me a bag of mystery fabric. nothing delights me more than that! i, too, love making something out of nothing–discarded clothing that i can upcycle into a new, unique garment. or fabric scraps that most people would throw away. i can collage those scraps into a garment. my scrappy “rags” are my favorite clothes. cynthia

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