A Lifescape

I work at Faith Builders, where we provide learning experiences that nurture love for God and neighbors. Part of the program for Christian Ministry and Teacher Apprentice students is their internship, a five-week stint in an established school or ministry. Whenever students ask me for advice as to where to go for internships, I tell them to go, go, go. Outside their zip code. Outside what’s instinctive and comfortable. Outside the country.

I have this theory that we don’t change or grow if we’re always comfortable. But that’s another post for another time.

This week students gave short reports about their internships. One had been in Greece, and another in Ireland. Both made me cry. I felt this deep, wordless connection with their stories that condensed into tears. They weren’t just reporting. They were taking me back. I’ve been to those places, breathed that air, ate that food, loved those people. The girls’ experiences tugged at my heart strings that stretch taut to those places.

Several years ago, I saw this painting at my friend Dervin’s house.


I thought it was striking even if I don’t like gray, and he said Susanna, a mutual friend, had painted it for him in preparation for an art lesson, and it shows the places he’s lived in.

Cha-ching! I knew my next project.

It would be a way of illustrating the places I’ve lived in and loved. It would help organize my story and help me make sense of it. I pinned the picture to my To Paint board on Pinterest and looked around for similar designs. Susanna shared her art lesson plan here. About a year later, I toyed around with design and color, and came up with this.


Oddly enough, it sits on the floor behind my office door. It’s the story of my life, and it sits on the floor. There might be a subliminal message there, but I don’t dwell on that. I love the cool, lively colors peaking out from behind the door when I’m working.


This is the tree swing of my childhood and the mountains in VA where I was born.


This is Ireland, a round tower that became a rich symbol to me of God’s protection, a rambling castle, and the cove where we’d swim.


This is Poland and my favorite old church in our town.

The water stands for all the water I’ve been in, at least the Irish Sea, the Baltic, Lake Erie, the Aegean, the Mediterranean.

Greece is on the far, misty horizon.

More than a fun art lesson of shades and tints, perspective and silhouettes, I love how this briefly tells the story of my life. In another 20 years, I hope the painting will look different, but this my current story.

I also like that it shows how each element is a part of the whole, and can’t be isolated without loss to the whole. I live in Pennsylvania but part of me is still far away and it’s rare when my worlds overlap. Which I guess is why I cried during the intern reports.

16 thoughts on “A Lifescape

    • Hmmmmm. I really think we’re all artists. It’s part of being made in God’s image. Not all are graphic artists, but I think it’s really important that everyone finds at least one way they can create new things. We are more whole when we enter into that aspect of being whole.

      • You’re right. I should have specified a “painter-artist” or something — ok, that sounds dumb — since my preferred medium is words.

  1. Maybe even I could do a pencil Lifescape: a sun for KS, clouds for IN, mountains for VA, and any suggestions for what I could draw to represent my few months in El Salvador? LRM

  2. Oh, thank you Anita! Your painting is beautiful and I love the idea of combining the different places into one picture. I have often longed for some way of connecting the different places that have been home to me.

  3. In response to your nudge, I now have a bouquet in my living room with three flowers, representing KS, VA, and me: a sunflower, a dogwood, and a rose, artificial flowers though. Now if I could just find an orange blossom (in honor of the orange grove where I lived in E.S), peonies (IN state flower), and apple blossoms (AR state flower in honor of the formative weeks there at CBS) for a second bouquet.

  4. Cool idea, and nice work. 🙂
    Is that tower the one in (I think) Waterford, with the cannonball stuck in it? (Or maybe it was just a hole where the cannonball used to be) I remember seeing that one when I was there with Emerald Chorale. I could have the wrong town in mind, though.
    And is it safe to assume that the remnants of the building way in the background are the same as the stone work in the background photo of this blog? Maybe the Parthenon or the Pantheon, or one of those “on”s? 🙂 Just wondering.

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