Strange, but I don’t remember when “Cindy” began coming to the studio – it feels like she has always been here. She just pitches in and does what is asked or required of any given project, meticulously finishing each sewing project with sequins and flare! She’s become a proficient seamstress even though she stumbles over the simplest concepts. A gentle reminder and she’s off and running creating lovely bags and aprons to sell at the market.
“Cindy” lives with constant pain from the arthritis racking her body. She is diligent in her doctor appointments knowing it is the only path to healing and relief. She has had little contact with her family until recently.
Watching and listening to her responses, her excuses and reasonings of her choices, it has become so telling that her childhood was one of belittling, shaming and neglect, building her desperate case for acceptance and love. She has little concept of personal space probably due to her hunger to be close…to be seen…to be heard…to be loved.
“Cindy’s” residual emotional pain lies just under a fine veil of peace and joy. She clings to that delicate lace with a tight fist, outwardly denying anger as an emotion until her lie cuts through. “Cindy” has few friends and repels the ladies like same pole magnets, not realizing that the impersonation she carries like a shield isolates her. The shield is no longer necessary…
She is beautiful.
She is capable.
She is loved.
She is enough.
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
We have been enjoying a couple weeks of open studio time…building jewelry racks, finalizing string art and decoupage projects before beginning our sewing orientation last Friday.
Since beginning this particular blog back in June of 2017, the studio has continued to evolve into a peaceful place of learning. Learning how to speak, learning how to listen, learning confidence, learning courage and learning what love looks like at all these different turns in our lives. So many women have walked through these doors carrying a myriad of trauma, drama and consequences of decisions, choices and paths taken. Some continue in the same cycles, falling into the same holes, awaiting the same fool with the same ladder screaming the same promise to walk her through the same fix to a problem only she is able to identify. We learn, sitting in this space, that we can love without being responsible for others, we can care without putting ourselves in their shoes. We must learn to love differently and without expectations or agendas… Only then are we all able to create beautiful things out of a renewed beautiful heart.
Some come for coffee, some for the phone and others just curious to see what happens inside these doors. Some enter smelling like they just bathed in beer, some like they crawled out of a chimney! All accepting an open door, a smile, a listening ear and a hug. Willing, for the moment, to breathe in the quiet, feeling the change of energy and taking what they need…just for that moment. Over the past months we have had strangers become friends and some we thought were friends become strangers. The studio becomes a micro-community as our relationships grow and shift and show us ourselves. Each one of us learning more about ourselves, seeing ourselves reflected in the irritating characters of our fellow travelers. We are a pretty telling crowd, us humans! If only we can own our part in this space we work, live and love, others will have the same realization…possibly…and we can “keep the ugly outside!”
I’m dressed, fed and coffee’d up, ready to get in my wagen and drive the 10 minutes to my “job”. A job with a dignified wage, including vacation, sick days and holidays. I pull up in my regular shaded spot under a lovely large tree and sneak in the back door, through the courtyard, over toys, balls and swimming pools. On the way; making eye contact with people I’ll never invite to my lovely comfortable home. I’ve been told very definitely that I cannot do that! My family knows me!
Opening the back door to the studio I quickly jump down the three steps to disarm the alarm system that has yet to deter four break-ins. I turn on the AC and haul my bag to the office, on the way noticing the women have already begun to assemble outside the front door. All shapes and sizes, colors and cultures, in all forms of physical, emotional and mental states. As I put together the makings of 40 cups of coffee, I breathe deeply and prepare my heart and mind for the personalities and characters that make up my days and who have been lovingly instrumental in the remaking of me and the awakening of a passion to love differently and unconditionally, learning not to take the pain to myself and not to give more than they are willing to give for themselves.
Just outside the door “Jane” sits along with 8 to 10 others who have spent the night at Talbot House, the homeless shelter around the corner from the studio. They’ve been woken very early, breakfasted and sent out to walk the streets, find a library or an acceptable park to sit in – or come to RePurpose Art Studio. The regulars bring the women who are new to the streets to find a safe place, a cup of coffee, conversation…or not!
“Jane” is a veteran. A woman in her fifties who cared for her elderly father until he moved into a nursing home. The house was sold and she ended up at Talbot House. That was well over two years ago. She has been in and out of the shelter after her 21 days were used up…sleeping on porches, behind dumpsters and in a blessed motel if and when a friend gets a monthly check and shares their space in a local motel. She has been a good friend; kind and consistent in character. She has finally gotten a case worker and when she is lucid and there’s no full moon, she answers questions and is helpful in her own recovery. Being able to access medications and getting to doctor appointments is vital and always dependent on bus schedules and accessibility of a bus pass. “Jane” has come across wall after wall, mostly of her own building, keeping her frustrated and some moments impatient, angry and inconsolable. Depression sets in and she disappears for a few days building stories in her head to spread intrigue for the neighborhood and excuse her own inconsistencies. Her husband died years ago and she hasn’t been able to make life work since. PTSD has set in and rears it’s head when she gets agitated or witnesses injustices among her community. “Jane” is a beautiful woman, capable of creating a sustainable home if only she had a safe affordable space to be.
Once in the studio the smell of coffee and the relief of a wave of cool air brings a visible recognition of peace. The studio has become a home to many women stuck in the cycle of homelessness. Stepping in the door, leaving the dank humidity and sweltering heat of Central Florida’s summer, they enter into a welcoming refuge…surrounding the women with upholstered spaces, clean pleasant smells, books, puzzles, a wide array of creative outlets and a kitchen. A place of silence or an opportunity for conversation and building relationships in this very unsettling life experience. No one chooses a life of homelessness…certainly, decisions we make lead us on our paths direction at each maker, each one life changing.
Since the original writing of this story “Jane” has been housed! She called me this morning with a new phone number, an address and a voice emanating a peace I haven’t heard from her in a very long time. A home is essential for healing.
“Names” were changed.
Trust becomes such a treasured gift. Some of our women spill out their pain like water – sometimes because the pain is so raw and bleeding they cannot hide behind it or see beyond it. Therefore, it is what goes before them as a banner of continuous battles, not knowing that love and trust is even possible. Some bury their pain deep and are struck unexpectedly when it fights its way to the surface through a smell, a song or a conversation. Tears are wiped away quickly with a turn of the head, not allowing the pain to take the floor – once seen the pain might become a torrent that is inescapable. Once seen they are no longer holding their shield of protection – their hands are covering their wounds.
Trust takes time. Trust takes consistent care. Trust takes a healing space of proven love.
Love isn’t surprised or shocked at the pain revealed. Love is what allows me sleepless nights, incomprehensible of my friends’ pain and inconceivable perpetrators…putting me aside to see and listen when they are ready and safe to speak. Love just listens. Love doesn’t negate the pain. Love doesn’t erase the horrors. Love doesn’t mute the screams. Love doesn’t blame, condemn or shame. Love allows the truth of their experience to pour out; allowing a small space to breathe a fresh breath of trust – even if it is, “I trust you more than I trust them!”
I tiny bit of trust is a beginning.
“Allo”, “You don’t by any chance know the way through this labrynth, do you?”, “Who Me? No, I’m just a worm.”
Sarah: “You don’t by any chance know the way through this labyrinth, do you?”
Worm: “Who me? No, I’m just a worm.”
Sitting at the studio listening to the women maneuvering their way through their own personal labyrinths… brought back to me the wisdom of a worm from my children’s favorite childhood movie, The Labyrinth. The scene is a young woman searching through a labyrinth for her brother who was kidnapped by the Goblin King…David Bowie! She gets frustrated as the paths keep switching and changing and she comes across this darling little worm with a British accent. He invites her in to meet the Misses and have a cup of tea…
The choices each of us make takes us on twists and turns as we seek the “treasures” at the end of our journeys. Or, are the treasures supposed to be found along the path? The treasure being a home, a job, a relationship, a sense of well-being, peace, contentment or love.
As fellow travelers we come against crossroads or dead-ends, each turn takes us on a different path. Each path takes us through life experiences that lead to new paths. Each choice has a different outcome, some take us through shortcuts, others; the long way around, sometimes circling back over and over again. Some places where we have no idea how we got there!
Worm: “Oh no, don’t go that way…Never go that way! That way will take you straight to the castle!”
I’m continuously finding that I’m just a listener, engaging in each of their labyrinth experiences and yet simultaneously, a hiker in my own. Taking my own path, choosing my own journey through my own personal labyrinth. I cannot know their way, nor am I responsible for their choices of paths. But, I can be a worm on the wall…listening and inviting them in for tea.
I recently spent four days in Austin, Texas living in a tiny house in a community of previously homeless humans.
I engaged with folks over meals, as I walked the streets with my morning coffee, around evening bonfires and ending my precious time there with a late night karaoke sing!
We shared our stories and became more aware of our commonness. A connectedness that meanders through joy and pain and healing, sometimes separating friends and families and unexpectedly creating new ones.
A strength of character grown through struggle…Community!
We all need a community of people we surround ourselves with – those that know us and love us anyway. Those without expectations. Those who give and love unconditionally.
A family…A Community!
As the homeless are housed here in Lakeland they are separated from their community and too easily become isolated, depressed and hopeless.
Community First Village in Austin, Texas has created a beautiful place of community. A place to learn to live, an opportunity for healing and an atmosphere of love.
There’s much to learn walking the streets in this neighborhood, much to learn sharing the studio with the women in my community.
This community is a lesson in Courage!
“We breathe, we pulse, we regenerate…Our hearts beat, our minds create, our souls ingest…37 seconds well used is a lifetime!” Mr. Magorium
Gospel Inc./RePurpose Art Studio Receives Grant To Train Women in Sewing
Lakeland, FL – Gospel Inc./RePurpose Art Studio is pleased to announce it was awarded an Impact Polk grant from the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation for its Job Training Internship program.
The three-month Job Training Internship will train four homeless and low-income women with sewing skills to encourage creativity and increase their marketability in the workforce. The grant also provides a wage to the women engaged in the program. “When women learn a marketable skill, they use it to the betterment of themselves, their families, and their communities,” says Connie Lutter, Director of the RePuprose Art Studio. “Especially when it is something they love!” The women will learn machine and hand sewing skills that are sought after in the community, providing them training in alterations, garment, and accessory construction with an opportunity for continued knowledge and experience in upholstery reconstruction.
Interns: Chris Calkins, Terry Yatzook, Erica Smith, Elsie Felix.
About RePurpose Art Studio…“Our desire is to engage our women in discovering marketable skills and courage, leading to employment opportunities, in a creative and loving space.”
About Impact Polk 2017…Impact Polk is an annual grant program of the GiveWell Community Foundation with the goal of addressing community needs throughout Polk County. #ImpactPolk
I met Brian Seeley of Gospel Inc. in September 2016 at Grace City Church where I had been attending since March. I came to Grace City with my wife in a difficult season. We were searching for rest in the midst of a difficult engagement and the sudden loss of my then fiancee’s father. We came broken, looking for grace, community, answers, friends…trying to find the Jesus we felt we were drifting away from. At the time, I didn’t realize how much was going to change for me from that introduction- looking back, I can see how badly I needed it.
Grace City teamed up with Gospel Inc. to help with their Monday night Bible study on The Person of Jesus (Paul Miller) and build relationship with the men coming through the halfway house. Brian and I began chatting about Gospel Inc., the work he is doing at the halfway house and with the homeless community here in Lakeland. As Brian filled me in on the heart and vision of the ministry, I was getting more excited to join in on what Jesus was doing through Gospel Inc. in the lives of these men.
The next Monday I joined several guys from Grace City and met 5 men living at the halfway house to talk about Jesus. Some of these men came from prison, some from local homeless ministries, some straight out of rehab. My first thoughts were, in a pompous, prideful tone, “this is a different crowd than the guys I’m used to running with.” A lot of these men have damaged the relationships they care most about because of their addiction, the secrecy, the lies and the betrayal that often come with it. Some of these men think they know who Jesus is, some of them are confused and offended by who He claims to be, but on Monday night we all came searching to understand more. I came that Monday thinking I had something to offer these men who had given up everything for addiction.
On the Mondays that followed, as we began to dive into the study on how Jesus lived, my heart began to feel compassion and I was able to relate to the very same men I so easily judged. We learned of Jesus’ heartfelt care, His honesty, His sacrifice, and ultimately His glory. Our stories, common struggles, and similar pain began to unite us more every week. After a short time, I looked forward to joining these guys on Monday nights and related to everything they feel and are tempted by in my own life. Where I might turn to money, pride, judgment or consumerism in my brokenness, these guys turn to drugs and alcohol. We’re walking together side-by-side working through the grief of loss and confusion of hurt. Together we’re learning to trust Jesus and live more like the God the Scriptures reveal, while we look for hope and the peace that Jesus promises in our circumstances.
I haven’t missed a Monday night since I met Brian in September. These relationships have taught me the value of living in authenticity and admitting and embracing my brokenness while boldly claiming God’s grace over my life. It’s been invaluable to learn more about Jesus and walk through life with guys who don’t have anything to prove to anyone. It has freed me to admit my failures and seek to understand others’ mistakes. Over the last 8 months, I’ve learned that we all come broken and looking for grace, community, answers, friends…trying to find the Jesus we feel we are drifting away from.
If you’re broken like us and looking for Jesus, we would love to have you join us on Monday nights here in Lakeland. Contact Gospel Inc for more details.
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
#1 of The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
To agree with this is more challenging than it sounds at the first read. For me, it is encompassed in the internal chatter of should of’s, would of’s and could of’s that could easily keep me locked up. The recognition of the lie in those negative chants are life changing. Having the space to take that energy and focus it toward truth and love…to recognize the truth and love that lives inside of us and embrace it as it emerges into beautiful expressions of our true self! I love this space!
As we prepare to begin sewing classes on June 2nd, we have been traveling down memory lane creating amazing string art and decoupage projects. From there, the ladies have moved into mixed media creations using the newly acquired crafty skills, adding meaningful quotes, buttons, fabric, beads and old jewelry!
There are so many wonderful people talking about Repurpose Art Studio… garden clubs, churches, neighbors and market friends! Donations are always appreciated and repurposed into wonderful pieces of love. Thank you for hearing the small voice of God whispering our name as you clean out your craft spaces!!
Sending a shout out for a few essentials! We need ironing boards and a few more sewing chairs. There were four chairs donated a while back that are perfect for the sewing station!
This is an Ikea chair named Alrik…it is perfect for wheeling around the sewing center! We are in need of 4 more to finish equipping our lovely 16′ conference table. They run $21.99 at Ikea online!! Thanks in advance!
Please stop by and create with us…Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-4. If you’d like to come see our lovely creative space, I’d be thrilled to show you around!
Thank you to everyone out there who keep us covered in prayer, keep our hands busy with materials and keep our hearts engaged in fellowship!
May Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. As a child I would weave paper baskets, pick handfuls of our neighbors flowers and re-gift them…sneaking up quietly to the front door, depositing the basket on the doorknob, knocking real hard and running away really fast. Hidden behind a bush, I’d sit and watch as “Aunt Vi” would open the door and seem so surprised to find a May Day basket hanging on her door.
Once the grandchildren came to stay with us we would create all sorts of containers to hold flowers, cut or planted or dirt and seeds, from handkerchiefs to tea cups. They, in turn, would sneak, knock and run to about 15 of our friends and neighbors homes delivering May Day Baskets. One May Day delivery, in particular, will stay with me forever. Simon was about 4 years old. This beautiful white haired, blue eyed boy sneaked up to our only “difficult” neighbor’s house. He knocked and ran and waited…nothing. Sneaked, knocked, ran and waited…still nothing. So, he went and took the basket from the front door and we went around back. Our neighbor met us at the back door spitting mad and ready to attack. He then saw Simon holding a lovely basket of flowers out to him, greeting him with, “Happy May Day!” From that moment forward, we had no more “difficult” neighbors!
On this lovely May 1st morning I wish you love.
Love that brings joy to little children.
Love that fills Grammas to overflowing.
Love that melts hearts.