Broken Cisterns and Living Water

A friend, Judy, recently texted me about a video she watched on the Bible story of the Woman At The Well. Since this story has captured my heart deeply, and I’ve got a collaged art book in the process of being published on the subject, I asked for a link to the video. I enjoy finding out new things about any Bible story; each story is so multi-faceted. I don’t think any of us can exhaust finding treasures in just about any Biblical narrative. But this one, well, it’s very special to me.

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The teacher in the video, Lysa Turkheurst, was standing right in front of the famous well – Jacob’s Well. It is now within a plastered and fresco decorated room, religious paintings hanging all around, I guess for tourists. It was nice to see the real well, or cistern, for myself. It sure did not look like the well in my arid desert scene in my collaged book! However, Lysa explained cisterns in a way I had never understood before. Cisterns had to be plastered in order to really hold water and be a well. If the plaster cracked, then the water could leak out. Cisterns needed constant upkeep so the water wouldn’t leak out.

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Jacob’s Well where Jesus and the Samaritan woman met.

Jesus offers the woman “Living Water” springing up to eternal life. His offer is so radically different from an old well that constantly needs patching! He’s offering a spring of flowing water, not a well that can crack, leak and constantly remain on one’s repair list. This information greatly helps in understanding Jesus’ offer to the woman, and this gem of a verse in Jeremiah: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13 Had she heard that verse? Was she putting it all together?

I had made the woman, with a collaged dress, that looks like it has holes, because I wanted to speak of her holes or the broken places in her heart. She was trying to fill her holes with many relationships. This way of life is her “broken cistern” she’s been trying to plaster over.  Jesus doesn’t want to plaster over her holes, but wants to captivate her heart with an entirely transformative strategy – springs of living water.

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There is just so much in this epic love story. How kind of God to gently show me yet another facet to His planned encounter with the woman at the well!

And, it’s making me think about the cisterns in my life. When I spend hours and hours in bed resting because of the chemo pill, I cry out to God to be my spring of Living Water, or where I find my source of life. I sense His closeness in new ways as I drift in and out of sleep. When I get up and start moving, almost immediately there is a temptation to find my source of life in my doing. Making a painting. Collaging a new book. Getting a project going. Fighting cancer with a new and different smoothie.  I’m so American! My worth gets all entangled with doing something. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do, it just will not satisfy my deepest longings for love, worth and value by putting hope for those in my doing. 

Then, I end up back in bed, and I lie there calling out to God. I’m spending eternity with Him, so perhaps many hours with Him, in and out of sleep, before I pass on, may be just where He wants me.

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Storyropes – A Bridge To Release Trauma

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My Storyrope

I’ve been on a nearly year-long journey of fighting cancer for a second go round. Stage four breast cancer. I’m in what they call palliative care, but that’s not hospice just yet. My oncologist is firm that they are very different. One can be fighting cancer in palliative care for years, even. (Many days I think I can’t handle the fatigue or nausea one more day, and I want a loving hospice team to scoop me up and kindly carry me into Heaven.) That’s the way to go! People call me brave and courageous; I whimper in my bed and marvel that others see me as strong. Yes, I get up most days, push through the fatigue after a lengthily time praying, singing to myself, and listening to an encouraging talk or Psalms.

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Teaching Storyropes in Haiti

But this post is about storyropes. And bridges to release trauma. I want to share via video because I’ve slowly read, limped through some excellent training, taken a bit of yoga, tried relaxing, breathing techniques, and still I see the making of a storyrope is a key and profound way to engage, explore and release our stories. So, I am determined to make a storyrope demo video as soon as I have the strength, with the hope that the teaching can be translated into several languages as I teach. A friend from Hong Kong is coming mid-september, she has taught storyropes there, and I hope she can help make the video.

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Teaching Storyropes in Seattle

I’ve learned a few things this summer:

  1. We all tend to carry shame and hide it.
  2. Many have had shameful things done to them.
  3. Many have done shameful things they fear ever exposing.
  4. Our bodies and brains store our shame, our trauma, our losses and abuses.
  5. The shame, trauma, etc, can be released through: art, music, drama, movement, poetry, yoga. Secondary “talk therapy” may be helpful once bridges have been built with the creative arts. Example: A formerly trafficked woman may see a tree in misty shadows and begin to cry. The art tapped into her deep sorrow at walking the streets, and now, she began putting words to what she was feeling upon seeing the misty tree that looked like she felt.
  6. The storyrope making is a kinesthetic activity. Movement is good for releasing trauma. and it is coupled with “telling” our stories through colors of fabric and ribbons that represent parts of our stories.
  7. Once words are found for the strips of fabric and ribbon, shame begins to be released from our minds, emotions, bodies and souls.
  8. I like to care for someone who shares their story with the storyrope by asking if they would like prayer – to speak truth and life into dark and evil, shameful situations. Quiet listening and grieving with the person sharing their storyrope in best.
  9. Reading some Psalms may be helpful in soothing wounded places. African friends would often sing in community after each woman shared their story.
  10. If participants want, in prayer, they may release their trauma to a just God who loves them. I’m respectful of all participants; we are each in different places in our spiritual journey. We never want to add trauma by pushing people to share something they are not ready to share this time. They may share with a counselor, women’s leader, pastor, rabbi, priest or a family member with whom they really feel safe.

The video below was made last year, and it just tells a bit of how to get started with making storyropes. I hope to expand this video into a teaching video in the days ahead, Lord willing. Thanks for joining me on this journey, and thanks for your many prayers. Our God hears! We just have to relax into His sovereign love, that is shown by Jesus.

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Storyropes in Peru – A woman set free that night!

Art To Engage

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Marcia Carole, graphite on paper

Some of the art I create, does indeed tell a story. However, for the above piece, I am actually drawing to start a conversation – to engage the viewer into thinking, feeling, and responding on the soul level. Hopefully, discussion of the content of the piece, follows. This is a drawing I rendered so I might engage viewers to turn their attention to women trapped in the sex traffic industry and for discussing justice. Many glance at it and turn away quickly. Others look more carefully.

May I help you to look? I wanted to draw to show a tension that exists in these women’s lives – those caught in all forms of sexual enslavement. (This woman could be in the porn industry, prostitution, or an enslaved, unpaid worker. Her residence can be anywhere in the world, including your town. She is trapped because she has little or no income, owes money to her keeper, her john has her IDs, she is undereducated, ashamed of herself, often comes from an abusive home, and has no hope of escape to anything good.)

Here is the tension in my drawing. The classic high heels symbolize the idea of beauty, femininity and even womanly poise and power. However, there she is, slumped over in pain and despair. Her hands and wrists are locked together as if by an invisible, but certain, set of handcuffs. She is trapped. Her beauty cannot save her. Her beauty is being stolen night after night, until it is replaced with disease and despair.  She will need something stronger to save her – she will need many empathetic, selfless advocates: law enforcement, justice workers, rescue workers, care providers and yes, musicians to sing her story, writers to tell of her plight, and artistths. These artists will have to have the courage to draw or paint her story and help the viewers to engage. She will need community.

Will we just turn away from her plight, or will we engage in her story? Will we act in such a way that we show what she is enduring, at the hands of evil people, is truly evil? And must stop. Each of us has an important choice today. Will we support those who are fighting for these women; will we become one of those fighters? Organizations abound for each of us to work with, support, encourage and pray for, nationally and internationally. Use your gifts to fight. Connect with organizations like International Justice Mission, IJM, to see how you can get involved. Justice is possible. One important woman at a time.

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Marcia Carole, sketching a portrait of a prostitute in Thailand to extend worth and value to her, and share that Jesus loves her, and so time could be obtained for co-workers to invite these women out to a care center. This woman has hopes and dreams, like my daughters, and I want to help restore those hopes and dreams.

 

Joseph’s Story

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Courageous Joseph obeys God, and remains with Mary and baby Jesus.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1: 18-24

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Front of my mehndi Christmas card.

Surely, Joseph had great faith in God – he obeyed Him in spite of the personal cost. People would talk and whisper about his decision to stay with Mary; he may have lost respect among the men in his community.  He must have puzzled many. Would he regain status as a man to emulate? Would he ever get out from under the shadow of Mary’s first pregnancy. He obeyed God, and yet, all may not have gone well for him within his community. (Have you ever made a decision to obey God, and others did not understand you, nor your decision?) There is often mystery involved with obeying God – obeying in spite of great obstacles, persecution, other people’s plans for your life. This mystery, although puzzling, is often how God works, and the very point where one’s faith begins to form deeper roots. God was sowing deeper roots of faith in Joseph.

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I have seen much artwork with Mary and baby Jesus, however, I think it would be interesting to make some art about Joseph, in response to the above passage of the Bible. I imagine a work where Joseph is holding Jesus, looking at Him with love and tenderness – just as a new father holds his newborn child. Joseph must be knowing (it’s unfolding) more deeply that he is part of something much greater than his own personal story – a larger story. God’s story. What wonder and mystery is at work here.

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Back of my mehndi Christmas Card.

In this rendering of the nativity scene, I have tried to bring out Joseph’s tenderness through his eyes – just a few lines to try to capture his love and wonder. I think, his thoughts of what others think fade as Joseph is drawn into God’s story – a humble Savior has come – and he gets to be a part of it! What a story he has because God has written Himself into Joseph’s story!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14

What A Team! – Peru

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The team of women serving in Peru consisted of women from a variety of experiences, ages, churches, unchurched, and friends. Our fearless leaders, Konnie and Shannon, handled their roles, and this team, admirably! We saw several unique spots in Peru during some down time. One such spot was the beach where the reed boats pictured above are still in use for fishing.

Each woman on the team was brave in processing her own story, and sharing what she could in order to heal, minister to others, and bring darkness to the light. I had the opportunity to teach about the importance of sharing our stories by using the illustration below. My friend, Judy, has counseled people using the illustration. I had the privilege of sitting with her as she counseled one woman using this illustration, and it really rang true for my own healing journey.

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When we have a physical wound, say, an open gash on our forearm, we hold it close to our bodies. We protect it, and seek medical treatment to clean out the gash, stitch it up, cover it with sterile bandaging, and keep it clean until it completely heals. We wouldn’t be able to fully use our arm until the gash is healed. We are extra careful to make sure it isn’t injured while it is healing.
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Many of us are walking around with emotional gashes that we are protecting and holding close to ourselves. We need to have care for these gashes as well, but we often keep quiet about them, hoping they magically go away. But, they don’t. They, too, need to be cleaned out, stitched up, bandaged and cared for until healing is complete. We must bring emotional gashes into the light for loving care and healing. We often limp through life holding these emotional gashes close, fearful of them being further hurt.
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By speaking out our stories, using art as a bridge, and being heard, we have a way to move toward emotional healing. As others give us the gift of listening, and as they speak truth, love and light into our stories, praying through them, healing may begin.
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Praying through our stories in Peru.

Healing Transparency -Telling Our Stories

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Telling My Story, Marcia Carole

In order to heal from trauma, genuinely love others, and receive love, it is important to tell our stories. We need to be transparent and make connection with others in order to come out of hiding. Telling our stories to empathetic listeners brings connection. Making art to tell our stories is a redemptive bridge, to be more transparent with our stories using: few, if any, printed words, many colors, shapes, pictures, stamped papers, fabric and other materials on hand. This type of art has been very beneficial to me, and to many I have served through the art making. It has been that bridge to make connection with empathetic listeners.

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Telling My Story II, Marcia Carole

As little or as much of our stories can be shared when “telling” our stories this way. As we begin to feel safe because others are vulnerable in telling their stories, and we see the art-making has been therapeutic to our hearts, we can move to wanting connection with others and be vulnerable. We begin to gain certainty that our stories need to be heard, and that the telling of our stories is important. Safe people can speak truth, love, forgiveness, worth and value, prayer and correction into our stories as we tell them. We begin to see our stories are important as well. Healing may begin as we expose and release dark parts of our stories by bringing them into the light, thus taking their power and shame away.

Here is one redemptive project (with examples posted throughout this blog post.) You ask four questions to participants in order for them to “fill in” the four quadrants around the painted papers “cross” you have given them. Here are the questions.
Can you tell me about your beginnings?
When was a time you celebrated in your story?
When was it hard in your story?
What do you hope for your story?

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Telling My Story Using Houses To Represent Me, Marcia Carole

The art making can be a powerful bridge to release trauma, since trauma is stored in the non-verbal parts of the brain. Participants begin to move along in their stories, and they often see how courageous they have been. They can feel empowered to forgive, let go of shame and grow up as a result of telling their stories. The art may begin this process, and may lead the participant to ask for more help, begin journaling, or seek a counselor or support group for more healing. As one translator once told me, “I didn’t know art could be so powerful.”

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A Four Quadrant Project Made In Central Asia

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help. We all need help….Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts Of Imperfection