Monday, October 26, 2009

Serenity Prayer Angel

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

13 years ago I came face to face with the reality and importance of that prayer. I was facing a divorce, raising a son on my own, and tried my best to hold my world together the best I could. In my own strength, my best, of course, just wasn't going to cut it. My auto-pilot of drifting numbly through life got turned off and the reality of the world that I thought I knew came crashing down. It was harsh to say the least. I spent the next couple of years struggle with depression and alcohol issues, and but for the grace of God, would I survive it all. 
Part of that recovery led me to many AA meetings where I met some of the most wonderful people in my life. We would close each meeting with that prayer, but I wouldn't really come to believe it, or embrace it, until many years later when my life experiences would teach me its true importance. 
I know there are probably many of you that secretly deal with addictions on a daily basis. I'm not just talking about drugs and alcohol either. I am talking about addictions to anything, like FB, soap operas, sex, or your neighbor's spouse,  that are so strong they take us out of reality and leave us in a world that doesn't really exist. Sometimes, at least for me, it was easier staying in that world, the one of fantasy or denial, because the reality of my true world was just something I wasn't ready for. Then I began to really think about this prayer and use it, daily, often over and over, to get me through some really difficult moments. 
Being a mom made this prayer one I would need many times. Watching my son grow into a young man had many highlites and some lows, but I am proud of who he is. That doesn't mean I agree with all of his choices. In those instances I use this prayer to talk to God so that I understand where I stop and my son begins. 
I also understand that for many who deal with addictions the concept of believing in God is difficult. I, as sure as I am breathing, believe that there is a higher power, whom I choose to call God. With that said, I also respect each person's right to make their own choice in the matter, I can't change them. What I can do is share how that one prayer, such a simple little thing,has kept me sane through many dark periods in my life. When my doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong, I prayed it. When my body failed me repeatedly, I prayed it. When I felt that call to go down the road of living in denial, I prayed it. And, when I felt like the whole world was falling in on my head I prayed it then, too. 
For some of us, it's not easy understanding what it means to be strong and courageous on a daily basis. I for one have more days where I feel lost than found, but that prayer is one that is part of me, and I believe God placed it in my life as a protection, against myself, and against other people's issues I try so hard to make my own. 
So, for today, in this moment, I share my Serenity Angel with you. Not to toot my own horn about a new painting, but to help maybe just one person realize those life altering decisions that have to be made on a daily basis can be done successfully if by only saying and embracing this simple prayer. You do not walk alone. You do not encounter emotions that others have not shared. You do not live a moment without God being with you as well. May this angel and the Serenity prayer bring hope to you, and me, who will always struggle with addictions, but hopefully rise above them.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Soldier's Cross of Courage

As I write this, somewhere in Afghanistan or abroad, and American soldier has just been wounded or killed in battle. Let that sink in for a minute. You are in a safe place most likely, reading this in the comfort of your home on your phone, and an American soldier has just had his or her life ended or tragically changed forever. How humbling that is to me. For the past years I have watched the war on TV, got frustrated over it, not understood it really, but the reality of the cost to American lives and families never really sunk in until this week. Going to I checked to see if a soldier died today. The last soldier listed died Oct. 17th, Spc. Michael A. Dahl Jr., 23, of Moreno Valley, Ca.,died Oct. 17 in Argahndab, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an IED. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington. Details about Spc. Dahl can be found here, don't know him, his family, what his life story was, all I know is that he is no longer with us and his family and friends are grieving the loss of someone they cherished and loved dearly. I can't really imagine. Because the media isn't allowed to show the caskets brought home on TV, I believe apathy sets in, at least for me I became desensitized to it, and for that I am horrified.

When I began the journey of painting crosses God put on my heart to paint one for our soldiers. For weeks I thought about it, how I would paint it, what it needed to have in it. The thoughts were not easy. I began researching lives of soldiers and how many wars Americans have fought in. I thought about my brother, my dad and uncles and cousins, my friends, and all who work and fought to serve our country. Then I began to pray and talk to God about it. After praying, the painting you see here began to evolve. A friend suggested the verse in Joshua but I was leaning towards one in Jeremiah. When she explained why the Joshua verse was so fitting, I prayed about it too, and God clearly said to share his story with soldiers, so I am. Joshua was going into battle himself, he was discouraged, he was afraid, and God said this to him: "
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

What a powerful message, so it became the story and verse behind my motivation for this cross.
I knew I wanted each branch of the military represented, but I didn't want it to be political. I added the five main branches by painting their emblems. I then thought about soldiers who are Christians, who pray for their fellow brothers and sisters who serve, and who die in battle. But I also thought about soldiers of different beliefs as well, so I chose to pray for all of them. The center represents the soldiers cross. When a soldier dies, they put the rifle in the ground, hang his or her hat on it, and lay the boots at the base. What a powerful image. I also wanted to honor the unknown soldiers who died in battle, so I painted the memorial for that, with a soldier in salute. On the cross is an angel, arms around the soldier's cross, for protection of those who serve their duty to country. The cross itself is purple, the color of courage and of the purple heart. The green border line represents life, which I pray and claim for each soldier at home and abroad. The 21 red dots represent the 21 wars our country has fought since its creation. The face of the angel is tri-colored, representing soldiers of different races, but Americans, who fight and defend our country. The flag sits behind the cross, but most importantly, the words, IN GOD WE TRUST, sit on the cross, to remind all of us that OUR country was founded under God, and regardless of religions, we put our faith in him as Christians for protect our loved ones as they serve and to provide for their families here at home. The word COURAGE is bold, because it takes great courage to volunteer to leave one's family and country to go fight in a war to defend our freedom. Joshua 1:9 sits in the background, not to overshadow the cross, but to remind those who serve that they are not alone, that others have gone before them, and that God is with them , wherever they go in battle or service to country. It is also painted in yellow, but when you move to the left or right, it glows blue, a color true to our our nation.

That's what the colors and symbols mean, but this is what it means to me. For the past couple of weeks as I worked on this cross, my left arm and neck began to really bother me. I knew I had neck issues, and had just bragged about feeling better after spending a year recovering from a lumbar spinal fusion. I went to have an MRI and found out that I had ruptured a disc in my neck and have a spur that is impinging on the nerve. I now face a possible surgery, my 21st, but am praying there will be options to avoid that. As I knew my own body was in pain while I painted it occurred to me how much pain our veterans live with on a daily basis. How much pain a family endures when they watch their loved ones walk on that plane to be gone for a year or two, and most of all, how much pain a family feels when they hear the words that their loved one has died in action is pain I will never know. My pain is easy compared to that, so on I painted and on I prayed. I prayed for those we have lost, and those who have been injured. I prayed in thanks for those who serve to support us here, their families, who quietly do their duty each day with little thanks. I prayed in thanks for my brother and dad and family members who serve or have served their country and felt proud to honor them through this cross. And then I prayed that this cross would reach those it was meant for, that it would bring them hope, relieve their fears, and possibly put a smile on the face of at least one soldier sacrificing his or her all, so I could paint it. For that soldier and all of them, THANK YOU!

I pledge to honor our heroes, those who serve, and those who have fallen serving. Freedom is not free. My challenge to you is to choose to share this cross and its story with those you love, those who serve, and may it be an artistic way to remind us all to never forget, to lift up in prayer, and to never take for granted the sacrifices they give so that we may live such comfortable lives in our great country.
(To see the steps in the creation of this cross on FB join my fan page, The Artwork of Ardith Goodwin)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Work and the Nature of God, What a loaded topic!

Ideas for painting have been coming in by the droves lately. I am grateful, but for some artists that can be overwhelming and they tend to shut down because of creativity overload. Thankfully, that hasn't happened this time and I have been pleased with my new works, although the journey to paint them hasn't been easy by any means. Most all my blog followers know my lower back has issues. Well, my whole spine has issues and that, for what ever reason, is the revelation that it seems to be the season for back issues. I had been able to deal with my neck pain for the past few years because my lumbar was so bad, but since I have been painting, it has royally screwed up the disc in my neck and now painting has become a mountain to climb. I don't mind mountains, I am just a bit peeved lately at how many I have been asked to climb. I feel guilty even writing that, but it's honestly how I feel in this moment. You see, my painting has brought me sanity the past few months. I have seen it touch people, I have seen God use it to reach others, and I have seen it light up the faces of many who need a little bit of light in their worlds. Flat out, I won't give it up at this point until my arm is completely numb and I am going to claim that this too shall pass so I can paint on. I have pretty much flushed, got off my pity pot, and am choosing to embrace joy from this point on, and I wanted to leave you with the thought of me *grinning from ear to ear* despite the mountain.

As to the nature of God comment. There will be a blog coming up completely devoted to that topic but this came up in conversation this week and for once, when asked, I knew the answer like I was breathing. I couldn't have answered it quickly a year ago, but the other day I did. For me, the true nature of God is this: He desires an intimate, daily relationship with us to share His grace and love with us so that we can share it with others. That's not complicated for me to get, it's not waxing philosophical, it's just what he has shown me. It's not tied to being religious, being right or wrong, it's simply the understanding the God adores us and wants to share our moments. Then we are free to share them with others and well.....the world can change that way, one person at a time can't it? Ok, off my soap box for now :). I have a fan page on Facebook, The Artwork of Ardith Goodwin. If you are a FB peep, join it, I would love to share this walk with you. Hope you all like my new works. God's Peace, Love, and my hope that you know you are fabulous!
Here are a couple of new pieces that I have been able to work on.

Almost forgot! The library painting I did, "Love Reading, Love the World" got honorable mention in the show. The quality of the work was so good, that I was thrilled just to be juried in. If you get by the Grelot library before Dec. 4, go upstairs and see the show, it's one not to miss.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Healing Cross

Many of you have read this story on FB, but for those who haven't, I am posting it here by request. Peace friends!

After creating the cross for Mike Napoli I have laid in bed all hours of the night thinking about the significance of crosses. I have always loved them, collect bling blingy ones to wear around my neck, and hold the cross of Jesus on the crucifix most sacred. But it got me thinking just what crosses mean to each person and for some people, I realized they are a way to celebrate a life, a love, or a dream. The concept of healing to me is quite important. Many of you know I struggle with chronic pain from a long list of health issues but I have also come to understand that faith in our loving God goes a long way in helping minimize or even take that pain away. I have also watched over the years many loved ones and friends family members fight courageous battles against cancer and other life threatening diseases. I don't understand at all why some are healed and some are not, but I have come to a peace about that and I share it here with you.

I believe God does not want harm to come to us. During the course of our lives things happen and the consequences of those things, intentional or not, have results that affect our bodies, minds, and spirits. As a dear friend taught me, God is capable of only his very best towards us, and in that I hold fast and firm as to the healing power that surrounds us. I have also watched dear friends lose the battle with illness and though it's heartbreaking and makes me intensely angry at times I realize that outcome may just be God's way of "healing" that body once and for all. I find great peace and comfort in that.

This cross was created for those of us who suffer with pain or illness or know those who do. There is no magical claim of healing in it from me, but there is much prayer that has been put into it as it was created. While I thought about what to add or leave out, I considered all those people, like Angelique's son, who faces a tremendous fight ahead. I thought of my friends who struggle with mental illness, my husbands back, my dad's body, my sister and her family. I even thought of as many people I know who suffer from lack of love and compassion. As I thought about these people and issues I prayed to God through this cross. I asked him that those who see it or have it will find peace, comfort, and know that he holds them gently in his hand at all times, in health and in wellness.
The color green is significant, it's the sign of life!
The swirls in the background represent God's breath and the Hebrew word Kavod.
The angel is an angel of healing.
The purple represents courage, which all of us who suffer need tons of.
Red is the color of Christ's blood, which in its essence assures us eternal life.
The rings throughout the picture represent eternal, unending love.
Orange is the color of joy, which is so precious and hard to find in times of illness.
There is the symbol of psychology to the left, the cadaceous for the medical field to the right.
The oil lamp serves two fold, one of anointing and one of Florence Nightingale, who represents nursing.
39 circles in the outer rings, if you believe this, represent the 39 lashes Jesus received on the cross, and the 39 root diseases that all others spread from.
The waves represent water, healing water and tears that we all need to cleanse us.
The two hand are Christ's hands and healing hands, when they are laid on us in prayer. They spread healing light, into our universe, for us t embrace in times of need.
The scripture is 3 John ch. 1:2, Behold, I pray that you may prosper in all things, and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
The leaves and brown color represent the tree of life, that we all spring from.
The red cross at the top represents just that, The Red Cross, who help us in time of illness and need.
The four corner prisms represent strength, because we all need as much as we can get when we are ill.
The bold colors are to brighten the hearts and days of those who are ill and their caretakers.
And, last but not least, the heart of the angel, which represents true love, the heart of God who adores us, and our love for one another.

If you know someone in need of healing who might need a pick me up feel free to share this cross, it's intended to do just that. Peace Peeps, I love you all! Ardith

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Library Show I Got In!

WoooooooHooooooo! I got into my first juried show at the library with these two pictures. I entered the Mobile Public Library Art Show and both pieces got juried in. I still laugh at "Flannery, I'm Your Many" and the "Love Reading, Love the World" speaks to the teacher in me. I haven't added them to my website yet but that will come. Spent the last few weeks dealing with a bad asthma attack which landed my behind back in the hospital but it was only for a brisk visit, thank God. The painting has been good for me, hard on my neck, but good for the soul. I am working on a new cross, one on TRUST, but it is turning out to be a tad challenging. Will update my God moments later along with my new work. We are headed to Birmingham for my one year check up on my spine surgery. Lower back is good, I am grateful, but most of all, always thankful to God for the journey! Peace Peeps! Ardith