Friday, October 17, 2014

Partner forever and always

This is part two of the talk I recently gave about Artsy Fatsy Saturdays as ministry during Quaker Quest at Cincinnati Friends Meeting. I shared part one last post.
In a different world, one in which I used to live, I would have the next five years of Artsy Fartsy planned. I don’t live in that world anymore. Ministry, this ministry, doesn’t work like that. I often wish that it did. However, when I look back and see where I have come, I understand that if Spirit had showed me where I’d be now, I never would have undertaken the journey. It would have been terrifying and overwhelming. I can only handle one step a time; Spirit’s wisdom.
I have funding and space through the end of this year and a boatload of kids clamoring to keep making art. When I knew I’d likely be losing my school space, a wise Quaker friend asked which came first, the school or the program. The program, I responded without hesitation. That gave me a clearer picture of my mission.
This has been a continuing journey of doing it my way, then standing back and letting God lead. For example, I assumed we’d fill all 16 slots the first year when we held an art day and registration. Eight signed up and six showed up the first session, all girls. And it was wonderful. We expanded more organically, adding kids as our reputation grew, parents began to trust and kids engaged more deeply. It’ still evolving and I spend a lot of time talking to new parents about the program. Funny, I have had a lot of kids and parents not so in need ask me about joining, and it just doesn’t have the same appeal for me. I want to work with the kids who need it most and have the least. That’s where my heart is.
I find that the Thursday afternoon before each session has become sacred as I make reminder calls to parents. I reserve a few hours because this is a time I get to really connect with parents, mention how their children have excelled, been creative or well behaved. I find they are starved to hear these things about their kids. And, I only tell them the truth. I also write each child a personal note every month, affirming them in some way, my way of seeing that of God in them, borrowing the phrase from Quaker founder George Fox, and helping them see it in themselves.
I seem to be constantly tested about whether I can surrender this program, which keeps my ego in check. My care committee also challenges me, asking if the program should change in any way. I try to be open to where I am being led.

Of course, there are days that I want to chuck it all. Like the one a few months ago when I learned a major funder had upped their grant three months and I’d had not way of knowing. I had a good cry and God moved me to ask Cincinnati Friends for more help, which they gladly offered. Some days I wish all I had to worry about was gathering the kids and making art. Those are often the days I run up to visit for some reason and become surrounded by all ages asking things like “Miss Cathy, when will I be old enough? Will Artsy Fartsy still be here next year when I get into fourth grade? Can my sister come? “ And I know there is energy to continue.
I have a vision for deepening this ministry to include: all of the mothers who could learn to relax and care for themselves through yoga; plant a community garden and teach families how to grow their own food, eat healthy and economically; get funding to build a community room laced with wifi and computers, etc.
And, if, for some reason, everything came to a crashing halt I would know I had followed my heart and could strip down to just being a good neighbor, perhaps just showing up, up there to make group art. Simply. No matter where this leads, I have been transformed. Just when I thought I was full, God stretched my heart a little bit more.
The words of John Woolman, an American Quaker born in 1720 who followed leadings at great danger and risk to travel among and befriend Native Americans and abolish slavery, have echoed in my heart during this ministry:
Love was the first motion, and thence a concern arose to … understand their life and the spirit they live in.” [The Journal of John Woolman. Vol. I, Part 2]
• When I live by listening to Spirit, how does my world change?
• If God showed me everything at the beginning, convincing me to tag along, how would I react?
• When has God's way proven infinitely better than the one to which I affixed myself?          
• What's it like to live one day at a time, in the present?                                                              
• How do I know when I have followed my heart?

neither my work                                                                                                                           nor my life is orderly
life, especially in                                                                                                                                 the spirit, seems so                                                                                                                  messy, random and                                                                                                      challenging
I often don't                                                                                                                                    feel up to                                                                                                                                               it; too many                                                                                                                      roadblocks                                                                                                                                     and obstacles                                                                                                                                    in the path
I use so much                                                                                                                              energy                                                                                                                                              trying to clear                                                                                                                                  them all
when that's                                                                                                                                       NOT my job
I forget I                                                                                                                                             have a partner                                                                                                                            forever and                                                                                                                               always

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