“Art requires a long look.”
A long look. Who has the time to give anything a long look these days?
Not me! And probably not you.
But lately I’ve been increasingly aware that a long look is not only essential for understanding art, but is also required for parenting, friendship, appreciating beauty, understanding great books, and for navigating life with God. A long look is about focused attention. It’s about actively fighting distraction to create space to contemplate the layers of meaning in an image, book, situation or conversation.
It’s about gazing, not glancing.
I want to gaze. My writing here is an attempt to look long. I’m trying to discover meaningful connections between the things I love—art, literature, family, friends, and the Bible. While you’re here, take some time to look with me. Maybe you’ll see something I missed.
There was a span of several years between the birth of my daughter and the birth of my son, when I felt a crippling spiritual and mental inertia. I felt like I was starving. Becoming a mother was (and is!) one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced; but, I realized I couldn’t mother well without feeding my soul, and I couldn’t feed my soul without feeding my mind.
After conversations with trusted friends and mentors and lots of desperate prayer, my husband and I hashed out the possibilities together. We hatched what seemed like a crazy plan. We would take a year off work and go back to grad school—both of us, as full-time students.
So with a six-year-old daughter and a nursing nine-month-old baby boy, we packed up our apartment in Istanbul, Turkey and stashed all our beloved paintings and books in storage. We dipped into our savings and moved into a spartan 800-square-foot student apartment in Vancouver, BC, where we studied theology and church history at Regent College.
That year we ate so well. We feasted. We read, we listened, we discussed, we met a new community of friends from around the world, we juggled, and we memorized Greek vocabulary after the kids went to bed.
In hindsight I know it would have been a disaster of a year if my son hadn’t been such a sound sleeper. But grace gave us a year of restful nights and a reading list to last a lifetime. I submitted my thesis two weeks before my third baby was born. And then I didn’t sleep for two and a half years—my second daughter was nothing like my son.
Through it all, I learned that study can be devotional, that contemplating art and Scripture and the ways they speak to our life together can be an act of worship. I learned that I need other voices—other writers, other historians, other artists, other believers—to help me find the meaning I crave. I bet you do too. Let me introduce you to some of the voices that have helped me along the way.
Art, design, books, travel, and Scripture all have one thing in common—they’re not passive; they’re partners in a dialogue that can shape our thought about the world, our place in it, and our relationship to others and to God. Let’s talk about things that matter—ideas that feed our minds, beauty that fills our souls.
A few other tidbits
Even though I didn’t set out to be a nomad, I’ve lived most of my life overseas. I was born in the U.K, but grew up in Virginia. I studied philosophy and studio art at Wake Forest University, and abroad in Venice, Italy. From Italy, I moved to Bulgaria, then to Virginia, back over the ocean to Cyprus, and finally, to Turkey. My husband and I served for almost two decades with the IMB. All three of my kids were born overseas. I love the way crossing cultures shakes me out of comfortable presumptions and helps me see things from a new perspective.
I love the alchemy that happens when word meets image. For almost two decades I worked as a graphic designer, editor, and creative director. After studying Christianity and culture at Regent College in Vancouver, I found myself increasingly impressed that it was time to focus on writing. My first book, Given, was published in 2019 (NavPress) and I’ve contributed to Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and The Arc, where I wrote about “5 Books that Changed My Life.” These days I’m working to publish women’s Bible studies with the team at LifeWay Women.
I write and speak about faith, Scripture, and the relationship between Christianity and culture. If you’re interested in working together, I’d love to connect.
Yes! I relate to what you wrote. I’m glad you are making your dialogue with art, lit, culture, history, the world, Christ Himself an open conversation.
Thanks, Jennifer. So good to have you here. Thanks for dropping by. One day we’ll have to have a face-to-face conversation about all our common interests!