AlpsI’ve been on the road the last two weeks. And in the air twice for long, uneventful flights. In a beautiful part of the world between two gloriously blue lakes connected by a turquoise meandering river. In a village near Interlaken. Near the highest point in Europe reached by train. In the Alpine glacial mountain shadow of ” The Three Sisters” – Jungfrau, Monch, & Eiger (of infamous  James Bond fame or the Clint Eastwood movie Eiger Sanction). In Switzerland. At the Breathe Conference held at Credo Schloss Unspunnen, a Christian conference center in the village of Wilderswil.

For two weeks I’ve been part of Catalyst, International, an organization committed to supporting those who work in highly challenging global settings. The Breathe Conference is staffed by pastors, member care counselors, medical and massage professionals and others who care for those who work on the front lines. This year I was one of the “others” – an artist/therapist/spiritual director invited to stock and staff an art room for daily art-making opportunities called Art & Soul. Located in Credo’s basement, the graffiti decorated art room offered an exuberant invitation to come in and play. 

And play we did! Realizing that ten days of potential art making was a lot of art, I came armed with twenty-five different possible art activities. But nearly everyone began with an activity I’ve come to call Breathe. Masking tape, oil pastels, and baby oil on Bristol board are an odd but relaxing combination of art materials that produce delightful results. And invited the guests to often create many more than one picture because it was such a satisfying sensate experience. This was an especially fun activity when a sweet swarm of teens came into the art room the first rainy afternoon and excitedly embraced an unfamiliar art form. An easily successful art activity, it’s hard to tell which were done by adults and which by the teens.  Such variety with all the same ingredients. Wow!

Thursday of the first week, the teens spent the morning in the art room painting masks addressing the tensions of being third culture kids – of never feeling completely at home in whatever culture they live in. On the outside they painted their country of passport; on the inside the country where they currently live. Or vice versa. Later they processed with their youth leader some of the issues they experience as third culture kids. 

Then, of course, there was the afternoon of shaving cream art! I totally loved how far the teens took this fantastically amazing activity. Some were meticulous in their combing and swirling, creating intricate marbleized designs. Others, like Megan, were up to their elbows mixing paint with shaving creaming and wondering what else they could accomplish with yet another tweak of the techniques. I learned so much!!!! The image below represents a collection of some of the marbled papers created during an inspired afternoon of playing.

Marbled Quilt CollageFrankly, the days of the week became a blur after a while as we settled into a rhythm of art making – the quiet gathering of adults interspersed with the joyful enthusiasm of the teens who would make art for several hours and then take off for the next adventure only to be replaced with yet other adults looking for a quiet retreat of creativity. I especially enjoyed a number of extended tutorials about how to use the arts in various challenging settings from Jordan to Nigeria to Mexico to the Ukraine. And I was delighted the evening an entire family came in to make art, and the next evening when a couple enjoyed a date night of conversation and creativity in the peaceful atmosphere of the art room. While the art room officially closed at 5 pm, it was a privilege to extend the hours for something that folks found so soul restoring.

A place to breathe and catch their breath creatively. A place of inspired play. And soul care.

May you enjoy a place like that, a place to care for your soul and breathe. And may it be in your near future.


1 comment to Breathe

  • Again you share so much for me to think about Lynne.Thank you for all you do.Please share with me where you and Bob are worshiping?
    Oh yes. I stayed several days at Wilderswil in 1995 when my cousin,a Ph.D and librarian at Bluffton University conducted another Swiss Mennonite tour(2-3 yearly for 45 years)taking those of us,about 40, to our ancestral homes in Switzerland or in nearby France.We spent several days there and he climbed one of the mountains that he climbed each tour he conducted. You brought back great memories for me!Thank you!

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