February 26, 2009

Oh dear...

I have a problem.

little birds

All I want to do is knit stuffed animals.

Maybe this stems from my long-time love of stuffed animals as a child. I owned hundreds of them. You know those little nets you could hang in your room and fill with toys? Mine was so full of fluffy friends that the hooks pulled out of the walls. I could barely sleep on my bed, and I LOVED it.

Little Birds

And this all started innocently enough, with little Rascal, who I shared with you earlier. I knitted Anna another kitty (he's purple and yellow, and he still needs a name...suggestions are still welcome) and all was well. And then, I found this website and...well...I've only made the birdies because I'm running out of stuffing, but folks, it's not looking good.

LIttle Birdy

I might be investing in one of those stuffed animal hammocks again soon...either that, or everyone i know will be getting little birdies in the mail!

February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

During my senior year of high school, a friend and I decided to fast on Ash Wednesday. To me it seemed like no big deal. We'll just be hungry and tomorrow we'll have breakfast and that will be the end of it. Everything went according to plan - we didn't meet for breakfast that day, we attended the school's chapel service and got the ashy smudge on our foreheads, we didn't eat. Well, sort of. At around 4 o'clock, my friend went through quite an ordeal. She'd begun to feel lightheaded and woozy, and decided that she'd better eat a few Triscuts. After doing so, she was wracked with guilt - so much so that she called her mom in tears, confessing that she'd broken her fast.

Now, we all had a good laugh about it the next day over breakfast (which is what we were officially doing: breaking our fast). It seemed much less grave after we'd eaten our waffles. Why was she so torn up over a few Triscuts?

The further I get from that incident, the more I realize that my friend was delving deeper into the discipline of fasting than I was. I secretly patted myself on the back for outlasting her that day. "Look at me," I thought, "I can handle this fast. Not a big deal at all." But while I may have physically fasted, I certainly did not spiritually fast.

So what is fasting? Why do we do it? And does God really care about clandestine Triscuts in the afternoon?

Christian fasting, particularly Lenten fasting, is rooted in Christ's fasting in the wilderness after his baptism. Those 40 days and 40 nights are refleclected in our 40-day (not including Sundays) period of Lent, where Christians often "give up" something in rememberance of Jesus' sacrifice. I've found that often, at least for me, my choices of what to "give up" for Lent revolve around my own self-betterment. What vices should I abandon for 40 days? And is my willpower strong enough? Often it is my will, not the Lord's will. And furthermore, when I am tempted by those vices, I look once again to my own ability to resist them.

While considering these things, I turned to the book Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner, a former Orthodox Jew-turned-Christian, writes about Jewish spiritual disciplines and their redemption and place in Christianity. Winner shares a story similar to that of my high school friend. Once, while in college, she ate a salami sandwich during the Fast of Esther, one of the required Orthodox Jewish fasts. Later, she asked a rabbi about whether or not God cared about this sandwich. His response:

"When you are fasting," he said, "and you feel hungry, you are to remember that you are really hungry for God."

And that, I realized, is what I missed during that first Ash Wednesday fast in high school. I was hungry, and I let my willpower carry me through. My friend was hungry, ate, and realized that she allowed her body to rule over what her spirit told her. She recognized her hunger for God, where I just recognized my awesomeness. Mudhouse Sabbath again:

"Rabbi M's words make it clear that, like the liturgy, the fast accomplishes a repositioning. When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent. When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies."

Today, I'm fasting again. I'm trying to look at it not as a battle of my will vs. my stomach. I'm trying to see it as my hunger for God, made corporal.

February 24, 2009

Rascal, the Knitted Kitty

My sister's 8th birthday is coming up. What do you get for the little girl who has everything, and who only wants MORE High School Musical stuff? The answer? Meet Rascal, the Knitted Kitty:

kitted kitty 009

He's cute, isn't he?

Yesterday I stumbled upon the pattern to make Rascal. It's SO simple! You can find the pattern here.

kitted kitty 001

Making Rascal was a lot of fun, mostly because it doesn't take very long. I'm a novice knitter, and it shows in some ways. Rascal is a little wonky and lumpy, but he's still cute.

kitted kitty 003

I'll be making my sister a different knitted kitty, now that I have a feel for the pattern and so on. Hers will probably be purple or blue.

kitted kitty 004

I love making hand-made gifts for people. This year for Christmas, I think I only bought one or two gifts for my friends and family. Being an art major means I get to spend my time making things that end up being pretty good gifts for my loved ones. But I love making something especially for someone. There's something special that happens while you're creating something with a person in mind; you spend that time thinking about them, praying for them, and loving them - even from afar.

kitted kitty 008

And if YOU want to learn how to make a knitted kitty, you can do it! Just go to that link. You know, the one up there! Or the one right here! And if you're thinking that you'd like to make a knitted kitty, but you can't knit...well, just learn! It's a pretty easy thing to do...I'm sure there's a little old lady at your church or in your community that would love to teach you. And, if that doesn't pan out, the Internet is FULL of knitting help. There are videos, tutorials, forums and tons of blogs devoted to the craft. Most of my knitting knowledge came from the power of Googling. So just...do it! It's a ton of fun.

Finally, I need to think of a name for the kitty I give my sister, unless I want all my hard work to be named "Troy" from High School Musical. So if you have any creative kitty names, feel free to share them!

February 22, 2009

Persecution, the Church...and Watercolor

It's Sunday! And I went to a different church this morning (I do that a lot - mostly because I'm not here much on the weekends, so I don't really have a "church home" here)

Sadly, the service I attended today set my teeth on edge. I'm not sure if I my response is entirely justified or Biblical; sometimes my personal values and beliefs cloud what is true. But sometimes I think my response is grounded in truth...and I think today that was the case.

Now, I'm SURE this church is rooted in the Bible. They are brothers and sisters in faith. They seek after the Lord. They want to love Him and serve Him; I acknowledge that wholeheartedly. But today's sermon frustrated me in many ways. The preacher spoke on the passage in John where Christ warns his disciples of persecution due to their faith (the end of chapter 15 and the first few verses of 16). The crux of the sermon was that we, as American Christians, are persecuted by those who hate the faith - particularly those in our government. There was lots of talk about things like pro-life pastors being arrested for protesting, laws being passed that "attacked the faith" and so forth. The pastor suggested that we should all be memorizing scripture not because it is important to have the Word in our hearts, but because one day (possibly soon!) being a Christian may be illegal in our nation.


To suggest that the greatest dangers facing the American Church today come at the hands of our government is foolishness, to me. That kind of religious-right agenda puts a bad taste in my mouth, and in the mouths of many. Sure, there is merit to discussing issues like abortion - but there is much more than just that.

The American Church (oh what a varied body she is!) cannot wallow in its "persecution." We cannot point fingers at atheists, or pro-choice people, or our government. The dangers facing our church are much deeper and much closer to home than that. The dangers in our church come from within - from apathy, complacency, from being satisfied with the status quo. They come from our culture of consumption, entitlement and me-first-me-only thinking. They come from alienating others with a message of hate, or - on the other side - from being passive and postmodern in our approach to the gospel.

There is so much work to be done. Work that goes beyond mailing postcards of fetuses to senators. Work that involves loving others, not shouting at them. And even if I don't share the views of this church (I'm one of those Demi-crats, you know), I am as much a part of the problem. I know that I fail to meet the demands of the gospel. I am broken, too.

That being said...the rest of my Sunday has been enjoyable! And really, even If i don't agree with that church on that, it gave me something to think about. And that's a good thing. After church I had lunch with my roommate and some of her friends, and I just finished a watercolor!

Still Life

See, there it is! I was really nervous about watercolor before I started this semester. I'm an oil painter usually, and the method is very, VERY different. But I'm starting to get the hang of it, which makes it much more enjoyable, that's for sure.

So now I'm just going to enjoy the rest of my Sabbath. I might make some granny squares, or do a crossword, or call a friend. It's a nice, snowy day to enjoy.

February 19, 2009

Baby Whale!

Baby Whale

Listen. If you can look at these pictures and not fall in love with this baby whale, there is something wrong with you.

Baby Whale 2

I mean, look at that smile!!

And before you get all judgmental and say things like "Stef, why are there baby whale pictures on your blog? What do they have to do with anything? What kind of free time do you have, that you can find and blog about pictures of baby whales?" I will explain to you that I have a theory that the Internet itself is built by pictures of people dressing up their pets in costumes. So sometimes it's necessary for me to do research about the internet's construction. Secondly, I have a habit of finding and sending these images to a friend of mine who claims to be repulsed by many of them. But I think she secretly loves them. She loves them when they're of bunnies, but when I send her chinchillas wearing hula outfits (that's for real) or BABY WHALES she's unimpressed.

Her feelings about the whale:
"He looks emaciated."

"Days With My Father"

Days with my Father

I just found a website that is poignant, beautiful, and downright depressing.


It's a photojournal of a man's father, who is now 98, living without his wife and without much in the way of short-term memory. It's pretty incredible. To navigate the site, just move your cursor to the bottom of the page, and click to move to the next picture.

But to warn you, you might tear up.

My day was good today - I taught at the Swain School all day. Well, actually I did a lot of observing/helping today, but I did a demo for some 5th graders. They're learning to make gargoyles out of air-dry clay, so I made one to show them the process. And it was fun...big time! The air-dry clay isn't like regular clay (which is kiln fired) and isn't like modeling clay (which never dries because of its oil base), but has the texture of modeling clay with the benefit of drying completely in about a week. So next week, I'll have my very own gargoyle. I sound like a little kid, talking about it! But it's pretty sweet, quite frankly.

I also had a few frustrating moments today: an unpleasant phone conversation, a lot of exhaustion, feeling a bit under the weather, and some windy cold weather that makes standing outside pretty painful. But I have one class tomorrow and then a whole weekend to recover! Which might result in a lot of blog posts, because I don't have much going on...just some watercolor painting. And good things happened today too, like gargoyles, a cool lecture this evening, and a nice phone conversation with Laur.

Finally, I talked to my Grandma Walker tonight. She's THE BEST. We usually talk every Sunday at 5, but last weekend I was returning from Jubilee, and this weekend she'll be in Charlottesville, VA visiting my aunt and her family. So we caught up tonight, which is wonderful. My grandfather's birthday (we call him Pepop) is coming up in March, and Grandma asked me to read a poem at his birthday party. So I have to find a suitable poem...suggestions are welcome! I feel like the pressure is on, because Pepop be lovin' the poetry. I don't want to bring something lame, you know?

February 18, 2009

The Internet is Somethin' Else: Creating a Fake Band & Album

Sometimes I find interesting things on the internet...and what better place to share those things than RIGHT HERE?

So here are the rules:

1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it

album cover

On Reflection

About every six months I find myself in a place where I try to sort out and make sense of where my life is, and where it is going. Usually this happens at the end of the summer and in the middle of winter. I reflect at the summer's close after a few months of working at camp, and again in winter when I feel far-removed from those experiences.

I think it's that time again.

In fact, I think it's providentially become that time again. A few days ago, I organized the Word documents on my computer. Nothing fancy, I just threw all of last semesters papers and journals into a folder marked for my senior year. As I was sorting, I cam across a reflection I wrote in early September entitled "it's time for this." And I could not, for the life of me, remember writing it.

Now, I guess I should preface this a little. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the things I'm experiencing, and the best way for me to get a handle on things is through typing and typing and typing. It's cathartic. But when I go back to those writings months later, it's usually with some mortification. I get easily embarrassed by the things I write - mostly because I've grown out of feeling those things by the time I go back to them.

Which is why a blog may or may not be a sound choice.

But I digress...so I found this "writing" or whatever and, well, it's good that I found it again. Insightful, I know! But really. I wrote a lot about a subject that I've been encircling in thought and action for years: love. Woah, I know, PROFOUND! What a big deal! But it's true...I've spent a lot of time in Scripture, prayer and discussion over the subject of loving one another, loving God, and being loved both by Him and by others. It's a dizzying thing, after awhile.

While some of the entry is a bit personal, I think I'll be revisiting it and sharing some of the things I'm still sorting out.

In the meantime, however, I need to muster the courage to go to my painting studio. I enjoy painting, but it's been a struggle this semester. I'm floundering for anything meaningful right now; mostly because I'm still trying to sort out where I am, let alone where my art can be. So...we'll see how that goes.

February 17, 2009

Bill Strickland & The Manchester Craftsman's Guild

Bill Strickland, originally uploaded by modefstef.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. If you haven't heard of it, it's a huge gathering created by the CCO that is made up of college students from around the Pennsylvania/Ohio/West Virgina area. The goal of Jubilee is to get college students thinking about how their faith intersects their everyday lives - everything from their profession to social justice.

The conference usually features a few big-name speakers from the Christian community. Over the last years people like Tony Campolo, Lauren Winner, and Donald Miller have all been among the keynote speakers at the conference. This year, a man named Bil Strickland gave an incredibly moving talk about his organization, The Manchester Craftsman's Guild.

Bill grew up on the north side of Pittsburgh, in a high crime area. He discovered the power of art while in high school, after seeing his art teacher throwing some ceramic shapes in the art classroom. After learning to be a ceramists himself, Strickland began on an incredible journey to bring opportunities to everyone from his neighborhood. He started by teaching kids off the street in a basement of an apartment, and since then his organization has expanded to the vision of eventually having similar arts institutes in 200 cities - 100 in the US and 100 abroad.

Now, this kind of story matters to me, because...well art education will one day be my profession. To hear this man's story of going from the depths to the heights is empowering. But more than that, I think that Bill Strickland gets at something more than just art education. During his talk he focused on the importance of setting high standards and providing high quality experiences to everyone. In fact, one thing he said stuck with me in particular:

"You see, we found out that the only problem with the poor is that they don't have any money. And that's a curable condition."

Too often we don't see the poor as people. We see them as problems. Bill Strickland decided to love, support, encourage, and care for the poor in tangible ways. He and his organization set high expectations for their students, and give them the tools to reach them. And they do.

What if we started seeing people as people again? It's time to get some humanity back in here.

If you want to check out the MCG, the website is:

You can also read a article about Bill here:

February 16, 2009

Navel-Gazing At Its Finest

A blog. I'm creating a blog.

This is a mixed-reactions moment for me. I'm doing it intentionally and voluntarily, so obviously I think that there are some good aspects of blogging. On the other hand, it feels a little vain and even more silly. What am I going to write about in this thing? I think the goal will be to share the little things I enjoy daily - art projects, poems I find, snippets of internet culture, prayers written by people wiser than me, and a few thoughts about all of these things.

And I will probably just write about how ridiculous my life is, in general.

To start, I'll share my current project (aside from all of the work that goes into my fine education, that is). I learned how to crochet a few weeks ago, and since then I've been hard at work on making granny squares. Eventually (as in, 30 years from now at the rate I'm going) I'll crochet all of these cute little squares into a quaint afghan to enjoy forever!

Here is the blanket that inspired it all:


And here's about how far I am now (I have a variety of the squares hanging on my corkboard at my desk, so that I can be inspired by them and pick up the hook to keep going):

granny squares2 004

At any rate, they're fun to make and they don't take long. And I love putting together colors! I'm excited to see the blanket as a whole on that distant day when it becomes a reality.

Well, so there's a start. I'll share more pictures of the granny square blanket as it progresses.