The Road to Spark Center

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graphic novels

The graphic novels table at Spark Center’s grand opening.

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Live screen printing by Ammonite Ink of shirts I designed.

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I had been asking God since November for a place to serve this neighborhood more holistically than just getting to know a few right-next-door neighbors. Perhaps I wasn’t even asking him. I think I was assuming that it was necessary for the role I am already called to play and trying to figure it out on my own. I might have even been just telling him my plans.

In December I called the Union Gospel Mission to find out about volunteering at Anna Ogden Hall. It’s on my block. Locale is very important to me.

I tend to think that if I limit my circle of influence to focus on a neighborhood, I am more likely to make a difference in that neighborhood—or at least develop relationships with people whom I will see in multiple venues—who will hopefully hear and see the gospel in my life.

I work at Indaba because it’s four minutes away and I get to interact with my neighbors. When I lived in Browne’s Addition, I served on the neighborhood council, I put on the concerts in the park, I worked at a restaurant two blocks away—whose owner I’d met through the neighborhood council.

When the time I had arranged to attend a volunteer orientation ended up in conflict with family holiday plans, I stopped and wondered whether I ought to pursue Anna Ogden Hall further. I don’t like letting a small hiccup keep me from following through, but usually these hiccups are just enough to get me to ask Jesus what he’s up to rather than assuming it. I wondered, am I just lacking in discipline to do what is necessary, or am I failing to wait for the place he really has for me? There was no confirmation. I waited.

Months later, Thom Caraway told me that INK Artspace and a place called Spark Center was hiring a Program Director. I wanted to apply, and labored over a cover letter, but the day I was ready to submit my application was the day they took down the ad. I sent it anyway. As I was applying, I felt the position was a longshot, but it gave me time and space to think: If this is really the kind of work in which I long to take part, I should already be volunteering at a place like INK. I filled out a volunteer interest form on the INK website, even though I knew they were downtown and not in my neighborhood.

At the opening of Marmot Art Space in Kendall Yards, I was looking at Marshall Peterson’s photo series of 50 people who are changing Spokane. I felt that my place was among them. I don’t mean that I wanted the honor. I mean that I felt I should know these people, learn from them, participate in the work they are doing. After all, a major reason I didn’t go back to Portland was because I believed that I could be a participant in the emerging culture in Spokane. Spokane needs creative, ambitious, servant-hearted people to stay, so I did.

Some time later, Valerie Nafé was getting her soy café miel at Indaba, and I was serving it to her. She was telling me about how she had just put in her two weeks notice at her government job, where she was comfortable, to take a risk and start a literacy center for West Central and that INK would be moving there, too. I mentioned I wanted to volunteer, that maybe I could teach hand lettering. I showed her my greeting cards and she was ecstatic. She’s always ecstatic—it’s a gift I deeply admire.

I signed up to volunteer in the Human Library. Then they had internships that you didn’t have to be a student to have. Brooke asked me to apply for their Design and Publishing internship, and that’s one of many things I’ve been up to for the last few months. Every time I get to go mingle with a diverse group of people loving this city, I am filled with resounding joy. He really has prepared good works for us that we should walk in them. These opportunities are gifts, and reflect his intimate knowledge of our hearts.

I am so glad I waited, that I get to use my specific skills, that he moved the place I already wanted to work with into my neighborhood. Seriously?! That’s crazy?

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JNB Lettering on Etsy

Photo Jul 08, 10 04 17 AMPhoto Jul 08, 9 59 05 AMPhoto Jul 08, 9 55 16 AM (1)Photo Jul 08, 9 50 06 AM

I didn’t mean to start a business. I merely wanted to use cards that I really loved. Once I started teaching myself hand lettering, I thought, why buy a Mother’s Day card when I could draw one. Then it was a birthday card, then thank you notes. Through drawing my own cards for my own purposes I began to accumulate a small collections of designs that I felt could be used by others who share my taste. For the past year and a half, I have sold these over facebook and at a local bookstore.

When someone from the Pacific Northwest Inlander contacted me asking for more information about my cards for sale at Indaba Downtown because they were going to be featured as a local handmade good in the Inlander’s Annual Manual (check me out this September), I decided I should probably get them up online, so I could have somewhere to refer people who were interested in purchasing my products. To fill that need, I finally started an Etsy shop where I sell my greeting cards and any other forms of stationery I might come up with. I have more designs to add, but I’ve started with the most versatile and popular items.

If you’re looking for a fun way to help me further my design education, this is it. Anything I make in the next two years from this shop will go straight to my tuition at Spokane Falls Community College, where I will be studying graphic and web design.

Look What I Found

As I was browsing the shelves at the Book Parlor a few weeks ago, I found this gorgeous book from 1971 called The Splendor of Love.

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This book drew me in because of its unique design and attention to detail, acknowledging the form of a book as art. I wondered what stunning words could exist within and was sorely disappointed. (The title should have been a tip-off.) Inside I found the worst poem I have ever read and the worst punctuation I have seen in my entire life.

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I thought long and hard about whether this is the sort of artifact I would like to own, and then I bought it, because it was an example—perhaps to inspire me—of how a good book could someday look.

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Is it sweet to find myself connected to someone else’s love story, or is it sad that this gift was eventually discarded?

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This is the point at which I discover that the book is published by Hallmark. Now the bad poetry makes sense.

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….placement of words

on this page

doesn’t make any sense

it’s painful to look at

let’s focus….on my wedding ring

instead.

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This is my favorite page.

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I do wish the edges were cut straight. This neatly cut faux torn edge strikes me as tacky.

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Love is always……… The suspense is killing me.

Not only are there some beautiful pages in this book, but it reminds me that there are people in the world, just as valuable as I am who enjoy things I deem “objectively” lame. There are people who enjoy Shakespeare Italic type. There are people who love when ellipsis points go marching nine by nine. There are people who like to speak in clichés about the splendor of love—take Ken, for instance—and I have to believe that God delights in their delight. So as I cringe, I also find myself feeling happy for those people.

My Heart Stretches to Canada

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The day my soul sister got married and fled for the border, people asked me how I was doing. I said I couldn’t be better, and it was true. I had wanted that wedding to happen for so long. I was glad that she would get a fresh start with him. I was excited for their adventure. I could not write a toast because she’d meant too much to me, and I didn’t want it to be about me, or them, but about God.

When I spoke, I knew God would say the right thing, and I knew it would feel like it wasn’t enough.

The thing that came out of my mouth was a story: Emilie was the crazy one who moved away from campus to be on mission with me. She matched my crazy and we struggled together to know God, and we shared a rhythm of life and unity of goals, and we struggled more because our life was so shared. Somehow I became someone who loved her. Even though I have always only wanted things for myself, through her God made me someone who could hope for another as fiercely as I hope for myself. I knew her husband would come soon, and I watched him prepare her heart, and when Blaine became a possibility, I begged God, “Please, do that.”

I am glad to end our season in favor of the story God is writing, the same one he was writing when he provided for us through one another. I ended all that by saying the line that sticks with me. “And now my heart stretches to Canada.”

I didn’t know how I would hurt once I hugged her goodbye. I cannot say it is “hard for me.” I don’t know what that would mean. I can say I felt malaise, pain, anxiety, and many other things I cannot name. I cannot say why I experienced these things, but I think God told me in my speech. “Your heart is stretching. You are sending yourself in more directions.” And I think as my heart stretches to Canada there is more room for people besides Emilie and besides myself.

I cried the same tears I cried while running across a field and throwing myself into the grass when I’d had my heart broken in college. I cried with assurance that when I was done crying I would be a new creation. I cried the tears that heal. The ones that make your face hurt, where facial strain leads to a squeezing out of streams you don’t want to wipe away. The tearing of clothes, shave your head, yell, lay prostrate tears. And I didn’t stop the whole hour home. And I didn’t stop when I sat in the shower for too long, and I didn’t stop when I had sex with my husband, and I didn’t stop when I woke in the middle of the night, and I didn’t stop all the next day.

I am glad he gave me Emilie because I loved her, and I am glad he moved someone I loved, because I want to look further than my home, neighborhood, or city—there is more love for all of those things than there was yesterday. He is telling me that.

Before this, I mourned how little I loved. I prayed to love outside of myself. This is the answer. He always answers. And the painful answers are deeper proof of his love. My pain is not unfelt by him. But he would choose to feel it to restore me.

If feels profane to merely say that I am having a hard time adjusting to the absence of my friend. It is not her story at the expense of mine. This is my story, too.

To Commune with Him

DSC_0130In the summer of 2013, I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car in Northern California watching the most glorious sunset just emerge through the fog, which was wispy and pink against the periwinkle sky. The sun was glowing orange. We were on our way back from watching my mother compete in the Vineman Triathalon, an ironman-distance event in the heart of wine country. I thought about the way God creates a new sunrise every morning, a new sunset every evening. The way he made us athletes, innovators, artists, storytellers.

God has created in so many different ways, but always from overflow. Always from a place of satisfaction, from joy not striving. He didn’t create to become an artist, he created because creativity was in his nature. He created because he loved and was loved in perfect community with himself.

Sometimes I get so focused on trying to become an “artist,” creating something that people will like, that I miss out on the fact that I was born with a creative impulse and God-given ideas. God, the source of all things, has given me ideas that he will animate with his life-giving power, and I will create from a place of freedom, of joy. I want to create as a person whose genius is not her own, who trusts God to bring the genius and plant it in every work, that he may be glorified.

My creative process often involves heart-wrenching changes, the ones that God has to make in me as my creator, to make my process communion with him. I often look at something I have made or written and see that it is going well. I look at it and think, “it is good,” maybe even very good. From there I am often afraid to touch it. What if it starts not going well? Isn’t that a risk that God took? Isn’t that what happened as he continued to invest in humanity? It rejected him.

My creations reject me sometimes. And then I think, maybe I should have left them the way they were. Perhaps this is the kind of regret that we see in Genesis when God brings the flood. He knew all along that there would be stages of creation and destruction, but that his satisfaction and joy would push the world ultimately toward redemption.

Oh how difficult it must have been to bring that flood! Just like a face I have painted that has all the right layers and colors, but the expression still isn’t quite right—I have to wipe it out. A whole perfectly developed piece might need to be removed completely to be placed correctly. God has so much love for his world—and not just the people he made to steward it—that he is constantly willing to go back and erase the crooked parts, no matter how close they are or how good they seem. He demands the best. I think this revisionary process, this willingness to proceed through an element of mystery, the road to discovery, to beauty, is essential to the artistic process. It is to mine anyway. And I would have trouble respecting an artist who didn’t endure it. It is that investment, that love, that creates the beauty that gives a piece its value.

8 Reasons I Survived Adolescence

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A few weeks ago while browsing the $1 shelf at the Book Parlor on a coffee date with my mother, she pulled a book off the shelf—Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher. I read this when you were a kid, she said, I remember it resonated with me at the time. Eager to see my adolescence through her eyes, I decided to read it.

As I read, I remembered acne being the end of the world. I remembered always sizing up every girl in the room, trying to justify myself as the prettiest. (Pipher calls this lookism.) I remembered spending hours in the bathroom every morning—sometimes getting up at five thirty just to make sure I’d made every zit invisible. As I read, I remembered crying in the car on the way to school and refusing to get out, unable to handle the scrutiny of my classmates, hoping my mother would give in and let me go back home with her. I remembered my friend telling me (because she was “looking out for me”) that Carl had said my makeup made me look like a prostitute. I remember Clara’s long eyelashes and wondering if she had sex with boys. I remembered wanting to stay in my room until my face cleared up—even if it took years. As I read, I remembered my best friend turning on me one week into the school due a unanimous judgement by the girls in my grade that I was “annoying.” In Pipher’s school girls scapegoated by saying the undesirables “had germs.” In my school annoyingness was the unforgivable sin—and conveniently subjective. I remember having a lot to say about how I thought the world should be and only my mother and my journal to say it to. I remember identifying with men, sometimes feeling like my intellect was manly because all the books we read were written by men and history was only HIS story. As Pipher discussed the cultural oppositions to the selves of girls in the 1990s, the memories of my own struggles came flooding back.

With memories of adolescent struggle came new insights into the things that got me through. As I weathered the storm, there were some circumstantial graces that helped preserve my Self.

1. FAMILY

My parents stayed together, they supported one another. I respected them as a source of moral authority. They both believed that the best way to love their daughters was to love one another.

2. WRITING

At first my writing was childish and it, like everything else it was an attempt for me to portray myself in a socially acceptable light. I wrote like I lived, with my peers as audience. Sparkly gel pen. Gossip. Doodles. By the end of my freshman year in high school I relied on my journal to understand my thoughts and their significance in the world. In those pages, I was able to stretch my thoughts and feelings into an intelligible and linear format.

3. STORY

Pipher stresses that it is important for girls to see themselves as part of a larger story. At age 15, I discovered the story I belonged to with striking clarity that has only increased with time. I was a fallen child of God, ransomed by the blood of Christ, and brought back home into a family. I found myself in the arms of a mighty father whose will was only good. He heard me when no one else did, he led me when I felt lost, his constant delight in me made it so the gaze of young men had less power. His will was a river running through me—nothing I did could stop me from receiving what he’d promised. I told everyone I knew this incredible news.

4. MATURITY

In 7th grade, lots of boys had crushes on me. My social life was going my way. But when things weren’t so smooth in the 8th grade, I began to observe my world more carefully. I saw that in a group of my peers, everyone wanted to be heard and no one was listening, so I stopped trying to get a word in. That same year, I saw that social acceptance was a roller coaster and there was nothing I could do to control it, so I found a couple of friends I liked who also flew under the social radar and stopped fighting for such fickle status.

Instead of fighting the storm, I waited it out. Waiting it out made it so that I had more Self left when the sun came out.

5. PARENTAL FORTITUDE

Pipher says, “It’s important for parents to watch for trouble and convey to their daughters that, if it comes, they are strong enough to deal with it. Parents who send their daughters the message that they’ll be overwhelmed by problems aren’t likely to hear what’s really happening.”

My parents always told us that they loved us and that they were proud of us. However, being people they could be proud of was not a prerequisite for love and affection in our family. It was an underlying an unalterable reality of being their daughters that we were loved. They even told us periodically that if we ever got pregnant—or if we were underage drinking and needed a ride home—they wanted in on it, they could deal with it, and they would still love us.

6. ANDROGYNOUS PARENTS

“Parents can help daughters be whole by modeling wholeness. Androgynous parents are the best. Good fathers are nurturing, physically affectionate and involved in the lives of their daughters. Good mothers model self-sufficiency and self-love and are responsive, but not responsible for their family members.”

My mother is a badass. She was not frail, she didn’t wait for Dad to get home to help get things done. She studied math in college. Did software programming for Boeing. Now she does Ironman triathlons. My mother broadens my idea of what it means to be a woman.

My father is firm, formal, goal-oriented, romantic, and sentimental. I always felt pushed by him. And I often pushed back. But after a confrontation, he’d wait until my sobs were dwindling, and he consistently followed up with tenderness, apologized when necessary, reminded me of his love.

7. BEING HEARD AT ALL HOURS

“Parents can help by listening to their daughters, who need as much parent time as toddlers. Teenagers need parents available when they are ready to talk. Usually girls want to talk when it’s most inconvenient for their parents. This is no accident. I found that both my teenagers were more likely to talk if I had my nose in a book. If I seemed interested in their lives and eager to talk, they pulled back.”

I was a homebody with a lot to say. I found ears in my mother. I would talk to her while she transferred laundry, went to the bathroom, made herself a cup of coffee—anything. And she let me. I don’t remember every being pushed away or stopped mid-conversation. I could not have processed or understood myself in the same way had I chosen to speak primarily to my peers. I consider her availability one of the most profound influences on my development.

8. HAVING INFLUENCE

“When listening, parents should listen to what they can respect and praise in their daughters’ talk. Whenever possible, they can congratulate their daughters on their maturity, insight or good judgment. It’s important to validate their autonomous, adult behavior and support their barely emerging maturity, insight,or good judgment. It is almost never helpful to label girls as young and immature.”

My mom took this a step further. Not only did she understand and validate me, while still letting me become my own person, she took my ideas in and thought about them and learned from them. My mother learned from me! I owe so much of my development as a self to my mother’s regard for my ideas and her consideration of them in her own life, despite the immaturity that accompanied them.

As I move forward in my life and decide who God made me to be, I find myself looking back more and more to how I became what I already am. It was difficult to explain to people why I would read a book on teenage girls’ psychological issues when I neither am nor have a teenage girl. “Because my mother read it” was a reason that made sense in my heart, but it felt sentimental coming out of my mouth. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to have taken the time to read Pipher’s insights and stories as a vehicle for exploring my own.

C’mon English Majors

I once had a client tell me that agents have a perception that English majors don’t make good editors because they will edit a text in such a way that it sounds stiff and academic, even when the purpose of the editorial process is to bring a text into its most vivid, lively, and readable form. Thankfully he’s elected to trust me, just one year removed from the system (after all, it was a highly complimentary referral that led him to me in the first place).

It is necessary that copyeditors be detail oriented. But it is equally necessary that they not be legalists about it, especially when they are holding in their hands someone else’s art! Shouldn’t those of us who study literature realize how many rules were broken to create the texts we have read, studied, loved?

I left my meeting lamenting that this is the fruit of so many English degrees. In our immaturity as young editors, let’s not slash people’s work to death with arrogant red pens. Let’s love it, even early in the process. Let us, as lovers of word-art, knowledgeable about what can be done with language, begin to chisel away the extra words, sharpen the text with proper punctuation, and leave the content there exposed, alive, with all of its character still intact.

I am sure that some English majors are sticklers, lashing out at language that displeases them personally. I know people who react to other people’s writing in this way, and it’s easy to do, but I have worked hard to make an editor out of this English major, an editor who is sensitive to the needs of audience, author, publisher (notice now “the needs of the editor” is not listed), and sees that evolution is built into the very nature of language. If you’re an English major who would like to edit, do not harden your heart with the rules of grammar. Remember the love that drew you in and prepare to share it with patience. Lots of patience.

This is the Next Thing

With my editorial work for Gray Dog Press and Script behind me, I am ready for the next thing: striking out on my own to offer my gifts to anyone. I loved the time I spent editing Dawn Nelson’s novel before it’s publication as well as my time consulting with Whitworth students about their academic and creative writing. My love for this work is sure to make your editing experience with me that much more enriching and delightful.