Category Archives: Art

Goodnight, guava (poem)

Photo by Rajesh S Balouria on Pexels.com

Goodnight, moon, goodnight, room.
The familiar words of the bedtime board book keep me awake, tired eyes wide.
I have only two more pages to make my final art piece,
only five more words to make my peace.
Each syllable brings me closer to the Last page of the childhood story.

It is the day after the Last day of school, but I cannot leave
my art until it looks just the way I picture it:
the eyes of my cubist face strain to see the light in the tunnel,
looking forward and behind me.
I paint the Last scrap of cardboard with orange and Picasso blue to match my
California Oranges shirt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My hand is snapping pictures
for my scrapbook:
me in my California Oranges shirt, arms over my classmates’ shoulders.
The Last missionary potluck, finally our family’s turn in the center of the circle, praying
hands on our shoulders.

Tunza farewell 139

My hand is packing boxes:
A good luck pennant a friend wire-wrapped, a kanga cloth signed by each family
at the Lake Victoria beach restaurant, the Last of eight farewell parties.
Once a box is packed, I do not want to see the contents too soon. It is not worth the hurt to slit open the packing tape before we arrive.
Goodnight, necklace. Goodnight, lake.

It is the day after the Last day of school, so instead of uniform, I am wearing
my California Oranges shirt. It is my favorite shirt,
the one I always cry in.
I wore it the previous Last Time. I wore it when I told the youth group about the
loneliness since the previous Last Time.

My hand has packed so many boxes I could do it in my sleep.
Goodnight – I must stay awake,
lest my hand mistake
the cardboard pages of the book for a box, flip too fast,
pack up my Past,
and tape the cover shut with a slam. I keep my fingers occupied with a camera or a pen,
trying to capture
the correct ending.

The previous ending was
the incorrect ending, the nightmare. This Time will still be an ending, so it might not be happy,
but it must resolve. By wearing the same shirt as the previous Last Time, I will
rewrite that ending too.
This Time I will not offer a feeble quote to the punk kid, a Band-Aid on my guilt for how we bullied each other. I am saying sorry now, not three years later, not over facebook. With all the tears in my journal now, I will have no more to use for the next year.
My hand is scribbling letters. Then I have permission to make new friends at my new school, because the old ones know I cared.
My hand is snapping pictures. This way I won’t be distraught if we don’t keep in touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy hand is moving boxes,
trying to weary my arms so I can sleep.
In my scrapbook,
the stacks of boxes will obscure true memory.
My room will look like a cardboard tunnel,
scrawled with “FRAGILE” as graffiti. No masterpieces will hang in the hollow hallway.
Before I started taking pictures,
the Christmas ornaments were gently rewrapping themselves into boxes, the stools already vanishing to their new owners. As I walk through for the Last Time,
my whispered goodbyes are already missing
their familiar objects:
Goodnight, mosquito net. Goodnight, mattress on the floor.
Goodnight, I won’t sleep here anymore.

Perhaps I will return,
but this backyard will not be mine. There will be no silver Land Cruiser under the car port here, the “Hodi!” at the gate will not call for me. The papaya by the kitchen window
will not be mine to eat…

The moon spotlights a guava in the grass.
This is mine to eat, Now.
I grasp it awkwardly as I climb the ladder
of our mini-water tower. Halfway up, I swing my body onto a plywood platform, let legs dangle,
two feet above the clothesline.
Goodnight, guava. Goodnight, moon.

This month, we had laundry buckets full of fruit. Dad convinced Mom to make
guava sauce,
to squeeze the most out of our Last guava season.
Reason told her she had no lack
of boxes to pack,
but she did it anyway, just for him. For the past week, we have eaten only Home
-made guava sauce, yogurt and granola. As I bite into the light yellow-green skin, I discover
my tongue still savors fleshy pink sweetness,
my teeth have not exhausted the pleasure of crunching yellow seeds.

Guavas have no core:
when you are done there is nothing
to show or throw away.
The more I taste, the more I want to postpone the Last bite.
I nibble at it.
Goodbye home, I leave you soon.

Tomorrow I will have earned this Ending, finished
writing the story I want.
I have plodded through my scrapbook, listing every place, every relationship, diligently saying,
Goodnight. Goodbye.
I am thirteen years too old for this children’s book, but
I am not tired of the story.
I am just tired.
My eyes are cried dry.
My hand closes the Last cardboard. My fingers let go
of the pen. As I swallow the Ending,
it is sweet, and then
it is gone.


Don’t you care if we drown?

If current events or life circumstances feel overwhelming, this parable points to where we can find hope. Parables include symbolic details and provoke thought in the listener, such as: What are some messages this parable teaches? Where I notice God / the Trinity or myself in the story? How does this change or challenge my perspective on my situation?


Peter or Jonah crop

At New Year’s, God said, “When you pass through the waters… they will not sweep over you.” That year, all his friends lost a loved one, were anxious or depressed. He drew a teardrop with a person drowning inside. They cried and prayed weekly at his best friend’s home: “You can walk on water, Jesus. But what good is that if we’re already below the surface?”

He convinced his best friend to go sailing, promising his dad had taught him well.

There was no wind on the water. They paddled, yanking the rudder from side to side.

10380593_10154350500425724_6746933304292671303_o

The boat my uncle and I built with friends

As the boat moved out of the peninsula’s protection, the sail filled. The boat sped up and tilted sideways. “Now that’s a breeze!” he said. They both leaned off the edge to stay balanced.

“Are you sure this is okay?” she said.

“This is the fun part!”

A gust dumped them both into the lake. They yelped. The water was freezing.

“The fun part, eh?” she teased.

He swam over to the boat. “Don’t worry!” He pushed on the centerboard. A few inches out of the water, the sail picked up wind, pushing the boat farther from his friend. He crawled aboard.

The boat flipped. He’d grabbed the rope by the wrong end.

The waves crashed over her. She coughed out a gulp of lake. She thought her head was going under, but the life jacket pulled her back to the surface.

He boarded again. The wind pushed him further away and he couldn’t steer back.

She couldn’t hear him anymore. She didn’t think she could swim that far. She couldn’t feel her lower half.

A rescue team sped up in a motorboat. A man asked him, “Shall I board and sail the boat back in?”

“That gust just surprised me. Pick up my friend!”

“Are you sure you’ve got this?” the rescuer asked him.

“Maybe not.” He handed over the ropes. They traded vessels.

The motorboat swung around to his friend. She was so numb she couldn’t push up on the ledge. It was all she could do to lift her arms. The pilot grabbed her by her life jacket and hauled her aboard, then steered them safely ashore.

All their friends all made it through the year alive.

She spent part of the next year living on a ship. He built a sailboat the following summer.

578119_1811025555694_1597460436_n

This is a true story, except that these two girls were the sailors.


Living well (music video & chords)

During a stressful season, God reminded me that all my commitments were things I was passionate about and called to: I was “living the dream”. While praying, these lyrics came to me. I began drawing on the living water during that season, daily listing what I was grateful for and singing this song. Instead of a scarcity mindset, I began noticing abundance and relying on Jesus’ strength instead of my own.

When you’re in a hostile climate, alone and overwhelmed, let this song remind you to draw on your source of life. Then you will bloom in surprising places!

You can find lyrics and chords here.


Human (spoken word video)

Sexual harrassment threatens to make us beasts and objects, but we’re human. I share my journey of healing and forgiving. Performed live at Slam Africa.


Someone to come home to (spoken word video)

A third culture kid dreams of finding a soul mate who understands where she comes from, but realizes there’s only one ultimate home. Performed live at Poetry Spot Kenya.


Thanks be to God: Lyrics, video, and theology


I wrote a worship song and recorded it in a jam session here on YouTube.

Lyrics:

Took the lead to map my own course
until I got lost
Sold my soul and bought a kingdom
was it worth the cost?

Broke and broken
Chasing the wind
Please show me the Way

Chorus:

Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God!
We were against him
but he was for us.

Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God!
When we were done for
he did it for us.

Tried to root out lust and anger
they sprung up like weeds
Kept competing with my neighbor
what was wrong with me?

Sin enslaved me
Death destroyed me
Set this rebel free

Chorus

Covered up my shame by hiding
in the dark alone
Tried to numb my pain but my heart
toughened to a stone

Fear degraded
Separated
Change me with your love

Chorus

Thought I had my act together
‘til I fell apart
I determined to do better
still I missed the mark

Law was heavy
Curse was deadly
Bring me back to life

Chorus

Bridge:

Part 1:
Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God!

Part 2:
Perfect to save
Lamb that was slain
Up from the grave
Conquering king

Both parts together

Chorus

Theology behind the song:

I wrote this song to process the incredible truths I learned from Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion. A key theme Rutledge emphasizes throughout her book is our need for God’s apocalyptic deliverance. She says that in the late Old Testament period, the prophets articulated a growing awareness of humanity’s inability to keep the law and the insufficiency of repentance. Instead, they felt a desperate need for deliverance that comes from beyond ourselves: an apocalyptic intervention. This song is intended to highlight our desperate need for God to intervene.

I organized the verse progression roughly around potential phases of Christian life. First we don’t want Christ’s lordship (verse 1). Then we accept it but struggle with our sin in our own strength (verse 2). We may give up, feel shame, and try to protect ourselves (verse 3). Or we may begin to trust in our own legalistic righteousness and feel proud (verse 4). Each verse ends with a call for help, much like the Psalms cry out for God to deliver them. The structure of this song, with the trouble of the singer, the cry for help, and the praise given to God for deliverance, fits the genre of the thanksgiving Psalm.

Verse one highlights our human desire for power and control over our lives, the kingdom of self. We are tempted to gain the world but lose our souls (Mark 8:36), just as Jesus was tempted to worship Satan to gain dominion of all the world’s kingdoms without the cross (Luke 4:5-8). Judas is an example of someone who sold his soul for monetary gain, only to realize the reward was not worth the cost (Matthew 27:3). We discover our leadership is inadequate, but then we have no resources to save our lost souls. We need Jesus, who is the Way (John 14:6).

Verse two describes how our sinful nature is not something we can overcome through making good choices, because as Rutledge mentions, Sin and Death are also Powers enslaving us. In Romans 7, Paul describes sin as “sprung” (Romans 7:9) and “What is wrong with me?” echoes his frustration in the same passage (7:24). I chose lust, anger, and envy/pride because these are common besetting sins even for Christians. Paul describes how Jesus sets us free to be slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:16).

Verse three focuses on broken relationships. It evokes how original sin separated Adam and Eve from each other and from God. Their nakedness symbolized their shame, which they attempted to deal with by hiding (Genesis 3:7-11). The result of broken relationships means fear and distrust. The Bible frequently mentions disobedience using the metaphor of hard hearts, and in Ezekiel 36:26-27 God promises to give his people new hearts that will obey his commands. I mixed this idea of hard hearts symbolizing disobedience with hard hearts symbolizing fear and emotional coldness. Disobedience, at its root, is an inability to love God and neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). So a lack of feeling can be linked to the biblical concept of hard hearts. I think sin and its consequence of broken relationships often connects to the emotional fallenness I see in today’s world. Though I am not in any way saying, for instance, that those who suffer depression as punishment for sin, I do think it is important to speak to the emotional pain that affects so many people and say this is not how God intended for us to live, but is a result of the Fall and Jesus will eventually restore us psychologically as well, even if it is not fully complete until the new creation.

Verse four describes the futility of trying to earn our own righteous standing before God through our works. Paul says that no one is made righteous according to their obedience to the law (Romans 3:10, 20). In her exposition of Romans, Rutledge describes how we are enslaved to the powers of sin and death, which have turned the law, intended for good, into a lethal club. She also describes the godlessness of the cross; that Jesus was in some sense separated from God because he became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and took the curse of the law upon himself (Galatians 3:13). In Romans 7, Paul depicts the resulting struggle the law evokes inside himself against the power of his sinful nature. He ends with describing how his body is subject to death (Romans 7:24), which I echoed in this verse’s cry for resurrection.

The chorus echoes Paul’s cry after his long exposition that points to the fact that we are delivered only through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:25). It refers to how God saved us when we were still his enemies (Romans 5:10) and if he is for us nothing can condemn us (Romans 8:31). It also refers explicitly to Christ’s work in finishing the work of our salvation (John 19:30, Ephesian 2:4-10).

The bridge combines the themes of Christus Victor and substitutionary atonement. As Rutledge argues, the way in which Jesus set us free from the Powers was by becoming the sacrifice for our sins. I deliberately combined the victim lamb with the victorious king to keep the strength within the context of suffering, avoiding the triumphalist view but still emphasizing spiritual warfare.


Love’s Take on Valentines

Love's Take on Valentines


Stained Glass (spoken word video)

To all us glass objects… what if our brokenness makes the light beautiful? An inspirational poem about grace. (Click here to watch video)https://youtu.be/19tsHh2IGHI

 


Dumpster Diving Artist

Dirty White Trash (with Gulls), 1998 by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Dirty White Trash (with Gulls), 1998
by Tim Noble and Sue Webster
6 months of the artists’ trash, 2 taxidermy seagulls

When I started this site a year ago, I had just read Daring Greatly by Brenee Brown. I intended to share vulnerability in healthy ways.

I stepped out blindly onto a path and soon found myself climbing a mountain.

This year I faced my feelings, including loneliness and homesickness. I faced shame about my work and my worth. I faced hurt from the past and anxiety about the future. And that’s only the list of what I shared on the internet!

I didn’t want to deal with pain. But God had thrown away the painkillers I’d always used to escape. I realized I needed to find healing for my hurts. When I brought them to God, I heard: “You are my daughter, in whom I am well pleased. You are understood. You are home.

So this year was harder than I expected, but I was also braver than I thought possible. It’s been an adventure, I suppose. As Nicole Nordeman sings, “sitting in the rubble, I can see the stars.”

In Mark Shaw’s Work, Play, Love he talks about how theologian Jonathan Edwards’ categorized beauty: Simple beauty was symmetry. Complex beauty was a harmony of opposites, where beauty absorbs and transforms ugliness. Moral beauty was love for persons. God was complex moral beauty. This year I have seen how God absorbs the sin and brokenness of the world and makes something deeply beautiful.

When I first began to grasp the concept of grace, I wrote a poem about God using the imperfections and brokenness of a lightbulb to create a stained glass masterpiece. I called God a dumpster diving artist.

The creator made us beautiful, but we hurt ourselves and each other, resulting in a broken mess that should’ve been thrown out. But God wasn’t ready to give up on us. God dove into the dumpster of this world with us and became a human. Jesus immersed himself in people’s sickness, poverty and hurt. He opened his arms to our pain – and kept them open wide in a torturous death.

But God – what infinite moral complex beauty! – turned death into life, defeat by torture into eternal victory. And that’s why in heaven, there will be no pain. In the presence of such a God, bones take on flesh, ashes become beauty (there’s a song about that too). This is not the art that we envision. But the Holy Spirit invites us to join in. We too can make a collage or quilt from scraps.

Creating art and writing to share here has helped me look at my life in a new light. I can see that this year’s trash has been recycled by a dumpster diving artist into a new creation. And I hope I’m joining the Creator in making some garbage art.


Find rest: My childhood as an artistic pillow

Lately I’ve been processing what it was like growing up in Tanzania – in my school, family and Christian communities. In fact, if I do any more introspection, I’m at risk of turning inside out. I’ve discovered the power of a little word: “and.” It frees me to affirm the good memories and the difficult parts of my experience. In typical Hannah fashion, I memorialized what I’m learning by delving into a challenging art project laden with symbolism. I made a two-sided pillow. Like with this project, I hope I can make scraps of hard and happy times into something beautiful and useful to comfort myself and others.

(Click on the pictures to view them larger).Pillow art symbolism_01

Pillow art symbolism_02 Pillow art symbolism_03