Wednesday, September 13, 2006

If not for the storms....

I stare at this collage on a daily basis. It leans against the mirror on my vanity and has become a part of the landscape of my bedroom that I tend to take in without much notice. I made it a few years back when I reluctantly agreed to go back to my old job as a Project Manager at a large format screen printing company. Doesn't sound like much, but if you have ever worked in a printing or publishing environment you know.

The image of the frantic newspaper reporter running through the middle of the plant screaming "STOP THE PRESSES!" may be a little dramatic, but not too far off. The phrase where I worked was "running with your hair on fire" and if you weren't in that mode then you probably weren't doing your job. I enjoyed the challenge for a long time, I felt proud of what I had achieved.

I was 16 years old when I gave birth to my oldest son. I graduated early from high school and went to work full time. College was not in the plans for me.
I started working in the printing industry sometime after my third child went off to grade school. My first job in the hand bindery was boring and tedious and paid just a few cents over minimum wage, yet it was a paycheck and I dedicated myself to doing the job as well as it could be done.

By my 3rd year in the business I had worked my way up to Sales Assistant and soon took a transfer from my corn fed central Illinois town to the big city of Chicago. After a year of working in that Chicago office I was hired at a printing company in the suburb where I live as a Project Manager with a salary I could have only dreamed of when I started in the industry just a few short years before. I was the only person in that position in my company who hadn't come by it through a college education and I was proud, but it wasn't long before an auto-immune illness and my new role as wife and step-mom to 4 took its toll. Cutting my hours didn't work, eventually I had to quit. These words carry so many memories. It wasn't an easy decision and there was much turmoil in life that brought me to make it.

Looking back I am so very grateful for that turmoil and the path that was set for me through it, for it was the beginning of the life I know now as an artist. God knew my dreams as a high school student and how they were set aside for the reality of life as a teen mom.

The day I made this little collage I had resigned myself to going back to my old job as Project Manager. Life was once again a time of turmoil and this seemed like the solution. I knew my health was bound to suffer so I determined to lean on God to strengthen me each day.

I kept this piece on my desk to remind me. All the elements have meaning, the compass, the key, the text from an antique typewriter pamphlet reading "Instructions for operating", all reminding me to keep my focus on God and not my situation. The alphabet along the side reminded me to see Him as the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end. I may not be able to see what this new storm was all about or where it might be leading me, but God already knew.
The grandfather clock image embellished with a Red Opa, a ration coin from WWII, to remind me that the eternal God is my portion and my strength. A transfer of sheet music on the base of the clock reads "One more day's work for Jesus". See the handwritten line of poetry above the old photo frame? It reads "No, I never stop loving you" and I know He won't, ever! And while I am not Catholic, the 1920s photo of the little girl in her first communion dress is how I feel inside, the bride of Christ, trying to live each day for Him. How impossible that would be (and, oh my, how often I have failed!!) if it weren't for Him. As the verse around it reads "God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day."

The time I spent back on the job was indeed hard on my body and my health suffered, but the time was truly redeemed. I made the decision to throw caution to the wind and start selling my art online. I needed an outlet from the stress of the job, so I got involved in online art communities and met many wonderful artists. I know I wouldn't have made this decision if I hadn't had to go back to work and now a whole new world of mixed media was opening up to me.

I have been back at home full time again for nearly two years and the storms have started again. So much has happened it would take all day to tell, but this time is different. This time I can look back on where I have been and see all the good that has come from these storms in the past. I set my eyes on this little collage each morning as I do my hair and it reminds me, God is in me, He will not let me fall; He will help me each day. The turmoil is not fun, downright painful at times, but I know now that He shakes me up to move me forward and knowing that has given me peace.


  1. Hey Crystal! I love your collage!...and it's great to see you posting again!

    Addicted ;o)

  2. Wow, Crystal, you could now weather any storm, couldn't you?!
    Thank you for sharing your very moving story. I love the piece of art that accompanies your post. The colors are so beautiful and complimentary.

  3. Crystal, Your story is very beautiful! Darkness and struggle give contrast to our joys and make victory in Him not only more apparent but also more beautiful. Hard times have helped me learn to appreciate the simple, lovely, and often free things in life. But mainly I too have had times when I am waiting, and just depending on Jesus. I might never have had to though if I had my dream come true kind of life! Molly

  4. thank you for sharing your heart today...your words have given a sense of peace to my soul. i too am "weathering a storm" and certain days i don't know where to turn. but the Lord is always there. He will not forsake.

  5. Thank-you all so much for all the encouragement both here and through your e-mails!

  6. The collage is beautiful Chrystal! I'm glad you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Your friend Shin (amermaidmmv)

  7. this is beautiful. thanks so much for sharing. oxox, tracy

  8. misspvc aka Patti V1:43 AM

    Oh Crystal I just LOVE this piece of art and the story of hope that accompanies it! Truly the Lord knows every one of our days! Thank you for sharing this testimony and the growth and strength in your life that it shows! And may the Peace of God that surpasses all understanding be with you always even unto the ends of the Earth and through all time!
    huge hugs
    Patti V