About a year ago, to commemorate the closing of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I offered a Found Art workshop entitled “A Year in Review” for about 40 women in San Diego. I’ve offered a dozen or so of these workshops, all with similar format.

We come together around round tables and I provide a few writing prompts to help us all process a specified topic. We share findings from our writing—what came out of us that surprised us, what confirmed some underlying angst, what we needed to say that had been bottled up for too long. We share around our table and then we share with the larger group, in moments of what I consider extreme bravery.

Often I would choose an excerpt from Found Art to read. Often most of us were crying at some point in the evening. Love that.

Then we’d take a break, drink a lot of coffee, eat whatever snacks I had mustered, and laugh so loudly you could no longer hear the background music I had playing. Love that too.

After the writing and sharing and crying and laughing, I would then step back a bit and the women would be invited to create a piece of found art inspired by the work they had done that night. They would take out their writing and “mine” it for key words and phrases. These would be the guidance for their art.

All along one wall of the room I would have tables of supplies, the kinds of things you would intuitively need to create something—paint, markers, glue, staple guns, glue guns, etc. And then there would be an entire area of odds and ends—things I had pulled from the back forty at Pat’s, things that had been abandoned and cast off. These are the raw materials of greatness, in my mind.

And in the last 90 minutes of the workshop, the most alchemic thing would happen. Creative expression would arise out of literally nothing. These amazing women, who had just opened themselves up so beautifully, would capture their realizations in paint and paper and wood and nails and all sorts of other bits and bobbles.

And then we’d all stand back and survey the prayers each of us had prayed through our hands and through our art, and you would feel changed.

I share about these workshops with you for 2 reasons:

1. I miss doing them. I brought all of my supplies with me to Bahrain and I still hope that sometime while we’re here I’ll be able to offer a Found Art workshop to the women here. I felt so completely close to my own soul when doing these workshops. So it’s meaningful to me to go back and think about them and share that with you. Thank you for indulging me.

2. I thought you might need a little inspiration and clarity as you head into a New Year, and if you feel so prompted, I’d love for you to use the specifics from the workshop I led last New Year’s as a guide for your own time of personal reflection and expression. What have you learned? How have you grown? What have you lost? What have you gained? What has this past year meant to your soul? Who are you becoming?

At the workshop a year ago, I encouraged women to bring their calendars from the past year (so you would use your 2011 calendar) and to take about 15 minutes to review its contents. Here are some instructions:

Make a list of any events that stand out to you over the last year:

  • look for trends and themes that you might not have realized—perhaps you notice how many times you went to the doctor this year
  • perhaps you notice how busy your schedule is
  • perhaps you notice how much free time you had
  • perhaps you realize you worked a lot more than you thought
  • maybe you realize you spent all your time doing things for other people; maybe you realize you spent all your time on yourself
  • maybe you acknowledge the amount of transition you’ve been through

Now, take some time to write: What was something you realized about your year?

Trends? Themes? Patterns? Do any key words come to mind? Things to celebrate? Things to commemorate? Things to grieve? Not just activities and events, but what has this year meant to your soul? Listen to the stirrings in the deeper waters of who you are.

Next, read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11 (the heart and soul of Found Art)

there is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to break down and a time to build up,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to turn away,

a time to search and a time to quit searching,

a time to hold on and a time to let go,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace . . .

he has made everything beautiful in its time.

he has also set eternity in the human heart;

yet no one can fathom what God has done

from beginning to end.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11

What word or phrase stands out to you from the passage? What “time” resonates with you? What did you zero in on intuitively? If you’d like, spend some additional time writing down your reflections on your key word or phrase from this passage. Why do you think you were drawn to that particular word or phrase?

Lastly, if you’re feeling up to some creative expression, find some magazines, glue, scissors, and a small poster board or journal or anything else that could house your creative musings.

Flip through your magazines and find pictures, words, colors—anything—that captures the processing you’ve done so far. What has the last year meant to you? How is where you’ve been shaping where you’re going? What are your hopes for 2012?

Glue down your clippings. Add some of your own words to the collage. Keep it messy. Don’t Martha Stewart it to death. Try to treat it as a prayer, not a product.

Maybe get a few girls together and do this as a group. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Chronicling where you’ve been and where you’re going . . . together.

The phrase that stands out to me from Ecclesiastes and that seems to sum up my 2011 is “a time to scatter stones.” That’s the phrase that stung my eyes a bit as I was reading. A time when all the bits and parts of me got scattered in this chaotic whirlwind of a move across the world. And the realization that it takes so much energy to begin gathering again, unifying the parts, rebuilding.

It occurs to me in this moment that perhaps after the stones have been scattered, and they are gathered again and the rebuilding commences, something new is formed out of those same old stones. And I wonder if that is what 2012 will be for me. A time of reformation and renovation after a season of disruption. What will become of those same old stones? And what new ones will be introduced? What will be constructed one year from now?

And, I can’t help but say the thing that we all hate to admit but is true nonetheless: sometimes the scattering (while entirely inconvenient) was the necessary catalyst to getting the new thing constructed. It couldn’t have happened any other way. Things had to be disrupted. Hmmmm.

As we open a New Year, may we all have eyes to see the beauty-in-the-making—the found art—that is waiting for us, even in the most foreign places of life. And may we have the courage to name the beauty that we behold (even that smallest sparkle in the midst of the coal) . . . as an act of worship.

All my love.

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