Rehabilitation from the Outside In or is it Inside Out?

Rehabilitation from the Outside In or is it Inside Out?

Imagine for a moment, a woman living inside this broken-down home. Standing slightly back from the window or perhaps even chained to a chair, not by iron but by a damaged body and shattered spirit. Peering out, lost in belonging to what, she wonders.

Her world becomes small and hope wedges itself in the cracks of the brick and mortar. The sands of time crumbling away in the dust.

The ache of it all patched and cemented in the withering and rotting. What life is there left to live in the watching it creep away? What meaning is this to the emptied out and broken?

I can imagine her or him all too well. Can you?

In fact, I’ve been her.

This image spoke well to the haunting of my past. To the mind and thoughts, the heart and body, the lies and false bravado I clung to. All of it manifesting into a body breaking down long before its time. The heart of me desperately wanting… seeking… love and the holiness in the ultimate love.

But it’s not found in the repeating, in the doing of the same thing over and over no matter how hard the work is for different results. Something other must appear – Grace in the wake of pleas and prayers and barrenness.

I was lost in the new age and the more I tried to find myself there, the wider the separation grew from my soul and my body. The bigger and wider I tried to see into The Universe, the deeper I plunged into physical pain and spiritual warfare.

I screamed in agony outwardly and stripped myself inwardly, until nothing was left, and hope seemed elusive. I had it all, yet I had nothing.

Until a miracle occurred. The Lord, he reached out his hand and offered me his Grace, a new way and a new life. I do bow down in worship and gratitude, every morning you can find me there. He rescued me from a broken way of living, in the ruined shell of a house.

This past year has been one of glory and trial, of love and letting go of the past. It’s not an easy thing, the letting go to become something other – the myself in the offering, in the making.

Over my life, I’ve had a couple of back injuries and have a genetic disposition to spinal stenosis, which after twelve long years of living with pain and a walking disability, and numerous tests, it was finally diagnosed this winter.

Too young. Too soon. Twelve years of hope receding, disintegrating and resignation setting in, my world was getting smaller. Like the decaying leaning falling down home.

I’ve learned to pray. And, I know that nothing is impossible for God. My prayers for healing whispered in earnest with the caveat, if this is your will I will endure. The difference now being I live knowing where I belong and to who – so there so much life and living in me now.

There came with the diagnosis a feeling of closure and peace in the knowing. According to the medical professionals there is no cure, but there also came a silver lining and a sliver of hope.

I’ve been off the radar living deeply in a rehabilitation program these past few months. It’s been intense, twice weekly visits to a hospital for therapy and rehab and engaging in a growing intensity twice daily exercise regime, to build strength, flexibility, manage pain, and with hope and fingers crossed (prayers!) that the impinged nerve causing the disability will heal over time.

My body is changing and growing stronger. It’s been hard and exhausting. Where the hope lies, I’ve become aware, is in the healing of old wounds and in the letting go of the past, and the lies I’ve believed.

Yes, the daily exercise regime makes me stronger physically, mentally too and there have been improvements in pain relief and management, but where something spectacular happens is in the moments when I pray, and I see, and I make strides in letting go of the past hauntings and the need for things to be different.

As I give it all up and thank God for the life he has given me, as I learn to see my life, and every one, and every thing, and every situation as a blessed gift from him – then the life that was and all the suffering releases, and it is then I experience moments of ease of walking, of mind and body and soul.

The tension softens with each breath of grace, and all of being is in a twinkling lasting eternity. All striving and wanting something different is forgotten. The sands of grief carried off in a breeze become seeing and being through the eyes of our creator.

And, when life is lifted up, given up, and praised as the gift it is, the moment becomes so very precious.

I’ve given myself to living this physical and spiritual rehabilitation. Turning away from social media and all the comparing and need for validation it conjures up, turning toward God instead.

Learning to lean more and more into him with each trial of faith. Spending time with him where life feels alive – in prayer, in studying the scriptures, and for me in writing. I know I am undergoing big changes from the inside out, though it may look like it is on the outside, the real change happens deep within.

Writing points the way for me. It reveals a living full, in the now and a future. What it specifically looks like is still a mystery. I’m learning there is beauty in the not knowing.

There is beauty in the not knowing.

There is beauty and wisdom and understanding waiting to be found in the resisting and suffering.

Grace is but a breath away.

When life should seem enough, but it isn’t.

When love should fill up everything, but it doesn’t.

When there instead, is a niggling nagging feeling something is missing.

When grief, anxiety, or fear is a consistent presence.

If anyone is reading this, if this is you in any way, take some time away from the world pressing in, from noise and distractions… to pay attention to little (or big) things that are trying to speak to your soul. Ponder what is important, what is truly important. What will fill the deep ache, not on the surface of living, but eternally, infinitely, everlastingly.

Seeking the deeper meaning of life, when I’d finally exhausted all the ways that seemed to take me back to suffering,  helped me to hear God calling my name. Everything shifted. Everything I thought I knew or believed altered, when I heard, and felt the love waiting for me to say yes.

This love that overcomes all and fills every need and desire is real. It calls your name. In the quiet place. In a whisper, the soul hears.

Celebrating Diversity Across Canada… Hooray My Series is Finished!

Celebrating Diversity Across Canada… Hooray My Series is Finished!

It’s been over a year in the making, longer by several months than I had planned, and I had many moments of wondering whether I had anything creative left in me to finish this big project. But, here before the month is out, it gives me such immense pleasure to announce that the Canada Legacy Series of paintings is finally complete!

In a moment of great inspiration in the fall of 2016 I came up with an idea to explore diversity across Canada by weaving together painterly stories of our past, present and potential across territories and provinces to celebrate a full expression of the truth and beauty of Canada.

My plan with the Canada’s Beautiful World project was to take nine months to explore each of the territories and provinces; it’s history, culture, peoples, arts, and stories, and connect with the land and spirit to create paintings dedicated to expressing a voice, values and lessons each of us brings in creating a new frontier.

I had traveled in seven of the ten provinces and looked forward to reconnecting with them and virtually exploring the rest of Canada, as I began though, I quickly discovered that the scope of the project was much bigger and more time consuming than I anticipated.

The first several pieces I dove into a great amount of research and then had to find a way to distill what I learned into my impression of each of the territories and provinces. As time went on I realized that to continue with the amount of research I was doing it would take me more like two years to finish painting these thirteen pieces.

The history was fascinating, the diversity so much more diverse than I could have imagined from the indigenous peoples to those who immigrated from other places far and wide. The landscapes, scenery, arts and culture so abundantly rich and beautiful, sometimes utterly breathtakingly stunning.

Of course, there are the harsh sides, those that pull on the heart and made me want to wail in pleas and protests, which included environmental issues and global warming challenges that are greatly impacting the way of life in many places, though in the urban areas we are so largely unaware.

The making of ‘The Secrets of the Great Bear Sea’ for British Columbia, for example, was dedicated to bringing attention to the threats of the proposed oil pipelines through these waters, and the impact it poses to the whales, birds, seals, fish and ecology along the coastline and beyond.

SECRETS OF THE GREAT BEAR SEA British Columbia

In the territories, I was moved to overwhelming concern about the effects of global warming, as the indigenous peoples are speaking out about, though who is listening. Their winters growing warmer, the ice disappearing, the winds over the past couple of decades have actually changed direction. The winds have changed direction! It might not mean a whole lot to the rest of us, but to them this is a huge concern for survival. They can no longer make accurate predictions in weather patterns or changing seasons, and it affects their tracking and hunting so vital for their livelihood.

The polar bears are forced inland, as I discovered in not only the territories, but also in Manitoba, ‘Where the Polar Bears Reign.’ In Churchill, Manitoba – the thoroughfare to the seas for the bears, there are great numbers of them having to scavenge in the urban areas, in the dumps, anywhere they can search for food that is no longer available to them because of the receding islands of ice where they would normally live and swim and hunt.

WHERE POLAR BEARS REIGN Manitoba

Now, in this place people live with the real danger everyday of being attacked by a bear, so they are forced to change the way they live, having to travel in groups, staying indoors to stay alive. Children can no longer feel free to go outside and play, in fact, for Halloween their trick or treating door-to-door is restricted to a night in at the community centre. Table-to-table instead.

There is so much that is extraordinarily beautiful to behold, but I was also becoming weighted down with angst and depression at times, and with the amount of research going into each piece to prepare me for making the painting, I made the decision to alter my approach.

My research scaled back and instead I kept my ears, eyes and heart opened for what beauty, story or culture would draw me in with a desire to experience it somehow, and then give it voice through brush and paint to abstract representations on wooden panels.

Acrylic paint. Oil sticks. Gold mica flakes. Glitter. Pastel sticks. Pencils. These were the mediums I used.

Brushes. Palette knives. Chop sticks. My fingers. These were the tools I used.

West to East, first from the North through the territories and Nunavut, then through the provinces from British Columbia easterly across the nation wrapping up in Newfoundland and Labrador.

What a journey it has been. New discoveries to memories revisited.

In the making of ‘The Princely Isle,’ (Prince Edward Island PEI) a long-forgotten memory came bidding up unexpectantly when coming across a photo of the typewriter Lucy Maud Montgomery used to write her Anne of Green Gables series of books. I remembered, in a hazy recollection, seeing this very typewriter when I was nine years old, just shy of 50 years ago, and suddenly realizing that there were people who wrote the books I loved reading, loving the slinking away and slipping into other worlds. It might have been in that moment of realization that the yen, the yearning, the calling to write was born. The calling that would seek me and find me time and again, until I could no longer live or breathe without it.

THE PRINCELY ISLE by Kiernan Antares

THE PRINCELY ISLE Prince Edward Island

To finish up the series in Newfoundland and Labrador was pure delight. ‘The Rock Stands Out,’ from ancient metamorphic rocks and glacial fjords to the quirky, slightly off-kilter and many dialects of English, where storytelling is their way, I fell in love and put this place I’ve yet to visit on my bucket list. I swooned in the echoes of their own way of living and the stories being told, so their forgetting never happens.

THE ROCK STANDS OUT Newfoundland and Labrador

It would be a vision fulfilled to see this entire Canada Legacy Series find a building for its home, hung together in celebration for our nation, past, present and future. If you know of such a place or have any thoughts or ideas, please do send me a note.

In the midst of a physically challenging January, with a cold being passed back and forth plaguing our home, somehow the inspiration, motivation, drive and energy compelled me to make my way into the studio, to forge ahead and open the floodgates for the creative flow that would bring the project home to completion.

Despite the artist block that plagued me like no other in my years of painting, I am filled with good measure of gratitude and fulfillment in this undertaking. I am richer for it, for all that I’ve learned, experienced, and created. I am filled. And, I am pleased with the artworks and my growth as an artist and as a writer finding my voice.

I am so very grateful to my husband for encouraging me, helping me to keep the focus, and for reminding me I can do whatever I set out to do.

I am also very grateful for all of you who cheered me on over the past year and wrote encouraging words that inspired me to keep going!

Most especially, I am grateful to God for giving me the gift of writing and painting, to express my heart and soul and all that he made me to be, through the way of words and colour.

May the long-time sun of dreams and purpose and calling be found in each one of us. May our destiny find us willing and ready. May courage strike a chord in all of our hearts that we may be filled to the measure, through our grit, and slings and arrows may our home find us in a deep abiding joy.

With love,
Kiernan

The Rock Where Everything’s a Little Off-Kilter

The Rock Where Everything’s a Little Off-Kilter

I’ve never been so charmed by a people as of those from Newfoundland and Labrador. How can you find them anything but endearing?

Oh the arts, the culture, the storytelling, the landscapes, ocean creatures, land and sky, the whole of it so rich, it beckons to the writer in me to want to escape into and create my own stories. Fantastical stories, sweet stories, whimsical stories, romantic ones too, for I do believe they see all of it, all of the life of it through their heart’s making.

The colour, the stunning beauty, the quaint and quirky, the off-the-beaten-path of living. Their tales with language of their own making. Can I just peak away and live in an imaginative world upon The Rock, just for a little while at least?

Painting The Rock Stands Out didn’t come all at once, no it took some effort, trying this here and that there, adding and pulling back. I nearly gave up on it because I couldn’t see it, then suddenly there it was.

I had colourful inspiration to gaze upon, but ultimately this photo became my muse that I landed on…

In between the strokes, I delighted in watching videos… listening to their lyrical voices, and their living close in that is their paradise. Here are a few to enjoy…

Can you tell I’m a poetic and romantic at heart, swooned by stories?

I’ve done my share of traveling in North America, the Caribbean Islands, Europe, Africa, and until I began this virtual painting journey across Canada I didn’t realize how much magnificence there was across this nation. Places I discovered would be so cool to visit, but the one that captured my heart the most is Newfoundland-it’s become THE  place that I want to put on a bucket list. So, BW if you read this, whether my man is keen or not, we’re coming to visit!

Brunswick by the Sea: My Photographic Challenge

Brunswick by the Sea: My Photographic Challenge

Ah… Brunswick by the Sea, it had to have been the most challenging, most difficult painting to photograph, and one which after numerous attempts under different lighting situations, I have been unsuccessful in capturing just right.

The glare, the greens and yellows against… beside… the blacks. Just. Never. Quite. Right.

Down to my last three provinces, and after many months, long past my goal of completing the Canada Legacy Series by September, suddenly, with the new year, some forward movement and success in my artistic endeavours.

Writing, having become a desperate need, took over all my thoughts and took up all the space in my heart for expression for a good portion of 2017. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but honestly, I wondered if my ability and desire to paint had left me, in the empty, perhaps for good.

But this series haunted me. I was so close to finishing the first and most effort and time consuming phase. A part of me was so close to saying it was done, there was nothing left in me to give, to bring… to painting. But, this so close, wouldn’t let it go. Wouldn’t let me go.

It was the longest and hardest artist block I had experienced to date. Despite wanting, longing, needing to write, I often found myself unable to do either.

I’ve disappeared into something, out of sight, away from social media. That’s my way, when there’s nothing coming from inside, I need the abyss, the quiet, the away from everything. I’ve been that way since I was a young girl. When there’s too much stimulation, too much noise, too much of just about everything, including what I love, a tension builds inside that replaces everything and blinds me… and binds me.

When there’s too much, and my too much doesn’t take a lot to get there, my throat aches with the empty. I literally and physically have no words that my vocal chords can produce, not even in whispers. Everything inside me is simply empty, my breath heavy, my body weighted down.  My heart and my soul just wants to be held… in the stillness… in the arms of God… in the arms of my beloved.

This is my greatest life challenge, when the living of and in the world becomes too loud. This is my darkness.

Somehow, in the midst of all this empty, there is a swirling of creation, of life becoming something new, yet again. My last three paintings come out of this nothing, and my book idea redefines itself, a vision emerging within a new form.

Movement begins out of the void. I may find it challenging to be in the world, right now… still…  but creation itself stirs and this has to be where I am.

In the midst of winter, darkness, emptiness, love is deeply alive, even and maybe most especially because it breathes into existence in this place. There is a holiness here.

In the home stretch, long in the coming…Brunswick by the Sea emerges out of this desert.

I Hear God Singing to Me: Going Public with my Faith

I Hear God Singing to Me: Going Public with my Faith

This past year has been many things, a full stop, a radical shaking up, and a washing away of a lifetime of grief, disappointments, and shame. It’s been a time of reflection, a celebration, and a setting right of all that was gut and mind wrenchingly wrong.

It’s been God in all His glory answering prayers that have been prayed for decades, in ways that were unimaginable to me. I could only see what I could see, and strive to make it through my eyes. My heart yearned for something, my destiny, for God’s calling on my life, only I kept choosing to grasp and claw my way through a bog of weeds so thick and high and deep that engulfed and suffocated me.

We have available to us a path straight to God’s heart and arms, and yes, his glory, his holy presence. So why do we seek it in all the wrong places and then try to convince ourselves we know it better, and are higher than him?

A new trajectory is before me. I stand on a precipice with a profoundly different perspective of life and living, the past, the present, the future, and while it’s scary there’s another truth prevailing…that if God does have a claim, a calling, a vision for how He wants to use me, then I can be assured he will provide the strength, the courage, and the way.

Whether I succeed or fail, doesn’t even really matter because he will use all of it for His good purpose. Whether or not I see the fruits doesn’t matter either, because if I do my part then I can rest in the trust that my life has not been in vain. Not that it could be anyway, because he simply loves me, and he lets me know it, day after day after day in the silent whispers, as he does with you.

Everything changes when we open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, our everything to let him in.

So many days – a lifetime, and so many ways seeking answers, signs, validation, belonging. A never ending, never fulfilling quest without knowing the language of God. So many illusionists claiming to be the Great I Am, without saturating oneself in the Word, it’s fair game for falling into false promises that pull one further and further away from the truth.

Yet, no matter the distance we travel, no matter the worldly or other-worldly ways that entice us or lull us, no matter in our fog of slumber that we descend into, we are not lost forever. One moment of turning our eyes and hearts up and we’ll find that we’ve not been forsaken, never have.

In a year that has literally that flipped from upside down to downside up, I find myself standing among over a thousand people and marvel in wonderment if it is all real. Shaking my head as if it’s been a dream. We are singing and clapping and moving in praise of the Lord.

My heart is pounding because shortly I’ll be up on that stage speaking to the crowd, sharing my coming to faith story. I haven’t been up on a stage in years and I never imagined that one day I would be talking about how Jesus saved me from a living dead.

Moments of wondering if this was real, if it was really God’s calling. Am I willing and ready to make such a public declaration. How did I get from living entrenched in a new age life to converting to Christianity, it seemed so bizarre.

And while yes, it was surreal beyond imagining, here I was. By the grace of God and only God, the only Living God, had my life been healed, transformed, filled up, and blessed in so many ways that I knew there was only one truth for me.

I prayed fervently, make me worthy of your calling. Give me strength, fill me with calm, may you be seen and heard in and through me.

I had been sick the past week. Knock down, Kleenex, tea, resting to the bone sick. First time in ten years and honestly didn’t think I’d be able to make it to service, much less speak.

Three congregations coming together in one service. Over a thousand people.

Public speaking is something I persevere with great hidden anxiety. My saving grace here was in reminding myself that it was not about me. It was simply me standing up for the God who had revealed himself to me, who has been giving me a new heart, a new mind, and new eyes and ears.

But with each passing moment getting closer to my cue, my throat parched in cracking dryness, I’m reaching for mints, I’m reaching for water, and again. I worried it would have me stumble and cough, desperate for thirst.

The energy, from floor to third tier balcony was high and pulsing. I’m now backstage, waiting in the shadows of light with monitors and technicians. The stage looks huge. The choir and band, three congregations wide and deep.

A shift begins to happen. Now I’m feeling gratitude filling up and ready to pour out. I get to do this.

There is the cue and I walk out behind my sister-in-law Lisa who will introduce me.

I don’t feel my heart pounding anymore. I’m not blindsided by fear, by the lights, by the theatre filled up to the balconies and all eyes upon me. I’m connecting. I’m speaking slowly, calmly, even eloquently, I’m told later. I hear it too. My voice steady, my body still. I’m both speaking and listening. The only sign that I’m present to nerves is a slight tremor in my left hand as I turn a page of my notes.

When it’s done I feel that it’s the best speech I’ve ever given publicly, and I give all credit to God for holding me steady and filling me up. I don’t know how to deflect the accolades after. I’m simply grateful for the calling on me that came close to not being fulfilled at this special service.

I’m in a new world now. It feels like I’m fully in and ready to be fully giving. In a lifetime of adventures of the spirit, never have I felt so supported and so blessed. Though I have to admit, I’m still kind of scratching my head in wonderment by the turn of events, and in the listening to the Word, the voice behind me saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ~ Isaiah 30:21

I’m excited for what’s to come because now I know where my strength, and wind, and breath, and the fire in my soul comes from. Through God all things are possible, and He tells us to be bold and courageous because He’s got us. In, around, behind and before. In all ways and in all things. His presence reigns true.

May His face shine upon you,

Kiernan

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