The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

10835381_10152501393112467_7581139893709728809_oThanksgiving in my childhood years was. Stressful. Not because of the cooking and the cleaning and the avalanche of family members – the weird uncle and obnoxious cousins, pinched cheeks and ugly sweaters. Sigh. I only dreamed of those things!

Stressful because we usually spent the day at the house of an older couple my parents knew who didn’t have any children. They were warm and put out quite a spread, but it was a nerve-wracking day in their pristine house with formal furniture and lots of polite conversation without a comfy corner to recline in or let down your guard for one minute to be a kid. After dinner options were either hanging out with a group of older ladies gossiping about menial things or in the living room with the men passed out in front of the football game. FUN.

In my older teen years, Thanksgiving…WASN’T. Those were the years when my parents’ marriage was a war zone. My mom had by then adopted the habit of not speaking to me for months at a time, when hitting me was no longer an option (since I was big enough to at least stop her and/or intimidate her, though I never retaliated back) to take out her frustration and all consuming rage. My father retreated further into his passive shell and only poked out to go to work and back.

One particularly memorable Thanksgiving, my dad was away all day “at work” (a part-time job he had at a hobby shop that enabled him to be away from home every day after his regular job.) The house was silent (since this fell in a period of time when I an “untouchable.”) Suddenly my Mom and sister drove away in the late afternoon, just as the sun was going down on this miserable Thanksgiving day.

A few hours later, some high school friends called me to ask if I wanted to go out. Relief and joy washed over me as I got ready. And when I answered the doorbell, my friends were standing there with paper plates loaded with food from their Thanksgiving dinners!

I cried as I gobbled up the food in the car, so thankful for friends who gave me this incredible gift. To know that I wasn’t alone. That someone saw my pain and stepped in to extend love and warmth and to share from their plenty. This was the worst but also one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.

Art Reflection

12003375_10153145910447467_5916296914883676272_nThis is my favorite painting.

The texture of the tree bark. The significance of the large tree sheltering the medium tree with another one growing in the background.

It speaks to me of legacy. strength. time and patience. nurturing. and roots that go deep.

Each time before a blank canvas is somewhat terrifying (like a new blog post!) But after a deep breath and a moment to look within, a picture starts to take shape and words begin to flow. I am in awe of the process of creating and feel so privileged to be able to dabble and scribble and express my heart! These times of reflection and drawing out, sacred moments, are an act of worship and thanksgiving.

Lost In Translation

10991604_10152691024337467_6638588084589114508_oI grew up in a bicultural/bilingual family and moved to the United States from Japan when I was eleven years old. My American grandmother visited us in Japan when I was seven years old, and one of her favorite memories was of me switching from English to Japanese mid-sentence. I thought everybody spoke the way that we did at home (in both languages) and couldn’t believe that she didn’t understand me!

Several months ago, I had an assignment as part of an art small group to share about myself, using any medium…I felt inspired to tell my story with pictures and photoshopped my face onto numerous cultural images (this is just a sampling of them.)

With my large eyes, I didn’t resemble my Japanese relatives but I also didn’t look like my American family either. I shared about a personal epiphany I had at around age eight when I saw a picture of a lady from Pakistan who had almond eyes, nose and fuller lips like me – I must be Pakistani! Something clicked within me at that moment, and I used to drape my bedsheets around me like a sari in an attempt to express my newfound cultural identification! Though I knew I really wasn’t from there, it was a tremendous relief to know that I looked like someone.

Depending on the length, style and color of my hair and whether I was tan or more fair, I was mistaken for being many different nationalities. It was comical at times when someone insisted that I was a certain nationality and therefore SHOULD be able to speak that language. But the times when someone made the assumption that I was a snob for not engaging in conversation in the native language, therefore treating me rudely, was challenging.

All throughout my growing up years into adulthood, I pondered the purpose of not looking like anyone in my family. Not quite Japanese and not American either. I eventually drew the conclusion that this was the intention of my Maker and that He had a specific purpose for creating me this way! I didn’t fit in anywhere because it was His intention that I fit in everywhere!

10425075_10152196619107467_7367656048212684475_n

These rough and tumble kids were affectionately known as “Miki’s Sheep;” they waited for me daily and we would play games or have lessons together.

I helped a friend teach ESL (English as a Second Language), and some middle eastern ladies were quite welcoming to me because they thought my family was from that part of the world. When I worked overseas in Ethiopia and Bulgaria with an international humanitarian organization, I was often assumed to be part something…and it often gained me access to people and places.

The art small group (that I told the story of my background and the photoshopped pictures with) didn’t seem to understand what I shared and how significant it was for me…at the end I felt like a bunch of blank faces were staring at me. But as the picture and purpose for my life has come into sharper focus, I KNOW what a unique gift it is that God has given to me.

 

Be You (tiful)

12074484_10153186368517467_3021453571999209296_n

I love this quote! “Assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision…” It reassures me that there is a place for me in this world and also that my tribe exists, even if it’s been awhile since I’ve come across a kindred spirit…

11224228_10152872287487467_9074675486801328697_n

Goofing off while waiting for our food. I actually LIKE the mustache…

Why yes, that is a kitchen scrubbie and also a plastic propeller on my head! These were both for a fashion challenge using items from the Dollar Store.

12106736_10153173615072467_6941551125627066359_n

Matching my eyeliner and hair streak for a night out

These shoes were an anniversary present last year –  a perfect match with my favorite polyester green pants!8472_10151669082247467_2143628731_nLife has its share of challenging times, but I try to insert moments of levity when I can (or take my eyes off of the negative to remember to do that.) A few years ago, when my husband called me to let me know he had been let go at his job, I determined to throw a family dance party that night as an act of faith, believing that God had something better for us and that He was going to see us through that difficult time. He did and has always been faithful to give us what we need and to lead us through the storms to steady ground on the other side.

Another act of faith is being who God has created each of to be – uniquely wonderful, interesting and an awesome creation by a Master Artist. My kids have given me a persona and nickname: “Weird Asian.” And I own it proudly! Be You (tiful) = Beautiful!!!

A Whisper

12033223_10153144572227467_3830734144492192687_n

Something caught my eye one day as I was driving.

Last night at dance class, we were asked Who the Holy Spirit was to us. So many thoughts rushed through my mind, but then the answer was clear.

To me, He is a Whisper.

I’m sensitive to LOUD. And I grew up in a lot of LOUD. Demanding voices. Arguing voices. Teasing voices and shaming voices. Do This and Be This voices. Threatening voices, then silent voices that instead chose to ignore for long stretches of time. Confusing voices that insisted that they loved but then they hit. Lots and lots of yelling voices saying mean, mean things. Accusing voices and condemning voices that insisted they were always right.

Very wrong voices that I chose to walk away from once and for all.

12038188_10153144573307467_3996738052802972897_n

Such an incredible little cloud formation

In the midst of the primary LOUD voices, another One entered my life whose Voice was gentle and kind. I could trust this declaration of Love! An affirming Voice that brought hope to my hurt and light to my life. It has taken me a long time to turn my ear consistently to this quiet Voice and to receive the sweet words spoken to my heart. After the birth of my first child, I remember standing over the crib in the middle of the night watching her sleeping. And night after night, God would whisper to me, “I watch over you like this too, with a heart so full of love and joy.” And it was too hard for me to believe at that time. But He has been gently persistent in whispering this to me.

11223497_10153144573332467_527838523848307079_n

The cloud looked so much like a dove and appeared to be moving, though it was only my perspective shifting as I drove closer.

I’m still sensitive to loud voices that insist on their own way, those voices that blast over other voices and don’t pause to listen. I find myself pulling away or withdrawing inwardly when I hear these kinds of voices, instinctively aware that these are not SAFE types of voices. Not when they are so LOUD and pushing their own way.

But the Voice of the Holy Spirit is gentle. He confirms the Truth of God’s Word, affirms God’s love and purpose, guides and counsels. He leads and is always there. His is a safe and trustworthy Voice. A gentle Whisper.

One of my favorite Scriptures is 1 Kings 19:12-13:

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice.

A Celebration of Life and Art

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” Georgia O’Keeffe

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” Brene Brown

The fantastic thing about growing up in a family with artists of every sort (besides my mom who was a dancer, I have aunts, uncles and grandparents who draw, paint and are musicians) is that the chances some measure of talent trickled down to you are really good.

What’s not so great: comparisons, critiques and the intolerance of anything less than genius (according to them.) For a little girl proudly sharing something she created, the excitement dipped to tentativeness, then to outright avoidance of opening up that can of worms. Clearly, amateurs need not apply.

1902958_10151977202157467_939679820_n

My first drawing after my aunt’s encouragement

I did have two relatives who I consider my Art Fairy Godmothers…(as a child) my American grandmother who let me sit on her stool and dab flowers onto her oil paintings and (as an adult) my aunt who gave me a graphite pencil and a blending tool and encouraged me to draw!

930_10151119833387467_375212738_n

My first water color painting, based off of a photograph I took.

Though I have mostly expressed my creativity through photography, I’ve always had a desire to paint. Still tentative, I took a watercolor class a few years ago and blossomed under the warm encouragement of my teacher.

12003375_10153145910447467_5916296914883676272_nSince then, I have been blessed to have many creative friends and inspiring teachers who have poured into me…and these are some of my paintings, many still in progress! 11536119_10152937156492467_5488473718017079194_n10353181_10152705327772467_224700860876127483_n484482_10151403084252467_45514961_n12243157_10153233599867467_7710282276929705963_n12039503_10153203357477467_4029883861771110294_n12191902_10153233599217467_5290736968991032437_n

Redemption

11406622_10152944297212467_4050606190802662849_oRedemption

  1. An act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. Deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. Atonement for guilt.
  5. Repurchase, as of something sold.

The Word of the Year for 2015 for me has been Redemption. An exchange of past mistakes and sorrows with the goodness of God…the realization of hidden hopes and secret dreams.

I’ve struggled since I was a child with having a favorite color and with what I wanted to be when I grew up. I realize now how much my personal preferences and hopes for the future had to be guarded secrets. To reveal them would be to make myself vulnerable…and as a child I was vulnerable enough. To ridicule and scorn. So I buried them, dreams and the things I liked most, in order to survive the present time. And eventually I lost sight of them.11406622_10152944297212467_4050606190802662849_oArt and Dance were my secret dreams. My mother was a professional dancer whose career was cut short by a hit and run accident, where almost every bone in her body was broken. With the lingering pain of her own dreams being shattered and forever destroyed, I don’t think she could support the weight of any of my dreams.  11014910_10152944432547467_5240254830079045284_oFast forward 30 years. My beautiful daughter, who danced before she walked, convinced me to take an adult dance class. We had the opportunity to choreograph a piece together and were asked to do a spoken Word piece called “Isaac’s Redemption.” It told the story of Abraham’s obedience to lay Isaac on the altar and how it was a picture of God, the Heavenly Father, giving us His beloved Son to take our place. It was such an amazing opportunity to dance with my daughter! And the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that only God knew!11227784_10152950072177467_8607693628910491491_n   My dance class was so supportive and fun, though it definitely caused me to step out of my comfort zone! This year, I am taking the adult dance class and a contemporary/choreography class, both challenging me to grow in creativity and technique. But I feel like a little child when I step into class and dance my heart out!

In my next post, I’m going to share about my journey in art. The Lord continues to open doors for me that are amazing! I am so grateful to the One Who knows the deepest desires of our hearts and brings them to pass!