If you’ve purchased any of my pieces, you may have noticed a small stamp on the back with these words:
When I started building in 2009, I was having what I’m sure some were saying was a midlife crisis…at age 30. I had quit a secure office job without having my next steps figured out. Going through a really dark period before this almost destroyed me, and I knew I needed to be doing something daily that was more fulfilling – something where I felt like I could be authentic and express my voice.
When you’re in high school, getting voted “Most Artistic” may not mean much at the time, but while trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, it came to mind as the little whisper quietly affirmed, “I’ve given you a gift. Use it.” I knew I wanted to do something with art, but I wasn’t sure what to do. But I did know I was focused on finding out if what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote would actually help. “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Living is so dear…”
So I went to the woods of Vermont for the summer. And built. And found my niche. And found out what it meant to live deliberately. To go from intentionally shortening your life to learning to value each day as a gift, it was life changing more than words can ever say. And going to the woods still is healing beyond words. I thank God for the gift of being able to create and build. I don’t take it for granted, nor do I take any sale for granted. I don’t make much, but you can’t put a price tag on doing what you love, especially if that’s what you feel called to do.
The history of Nature Calls isn’t what’s important here. The ‘why’ behind it is.
Art rescued me while I was being bullied in middle school. Kids can be ruthless at that age. I knew if I wanted to go my art lessons at the Wortendyke Studio, I’d have to ride the dreaded Midland Park bus one day a week. The bullies were predictable. I knew that they’d yell from the back of the bus all the way to where I had slunk down in my seat, trying to hide as they made fun of my facial features in front of a bus full of my peers. I knew I’d get spit on as the bus pulled away by the same kids, now launching different kinds of physical insults through the open windows. I would sit on the bus and pray to God that they’d ignore me. Most days, they didn’t. But art meant so much to me that I didn’t stop going to the studio. Working on a piece after a bus ride like that would calm me. And my relationship with God got stronger during that period of my life – while other kids didn’t stand up for me, I knew I wasn’t alone on those bus rides.
Art rescued me once again years later after I had completely lost sight of my self-worth and value. It was more than years of bullying that had shredded that. I had somewhere along the way forgotten that God loved me, just as I was, not the person I thought I should be. For years, I had hid behind a happy smile and a job that I thought I should be doing while secretly battling an eating disorder that was killing me. Even after over a month of inpatient treatment, it still took years to make the change I knew was necessary. So when I finally mustered enough courage and stopped worrying so much about what others would think of me, I quit the things I knew were safe and cautiously stepped out in faith…finding that the floor was still there under my feet.
Given the ‘why,’ it is important for me to share why I do what I do with every piece that I make. In the Bible, God says in the book of Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Every piece I make is out of reclaimed materials – something that someone else discarded, saw as junk, thought worthless. I dust it off, sand it, refine it – never altering its natural state – and the end product is something I find beautiful and unique. It isn’t lost on me that this is what my Creator does with me daily.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) I can’t help but think of this while I build, especially when I see a finished piece. I think of the dilapidated barrel that someone discarded because it no longer sealed liquid, now in front of me as a sought-after chair. I think of the pallet put out for bulk trash that is now an owl wall rack in the room of a precious two-year old, holding her treasured books. “Behold, I make all things new.”
I’m not who I was before I believed in God. I’m also not who I was before I truly learned, after being in such a dark place, what His grace really means. The cross has changed my world view. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done. But it doesn’t mean that moving forward, I’m not going to be without sin or suffering or not battle the demons of my past. The difference is that I have hope. My name is written on His heart.
So this is why I build. It reminds me of my value, not in this world, but in God’s eyes. It makes me genuinely happy, even if I accidentally cut my hand or drop a pallet on my bare feet (after the initial pain wears off). And I am thrilled when I see other people happy with what they’ve purchased. This is my small, simple ministry.
And when you see those small words on the back of your piece, my hope is that you have…hope.