Christianity

I Will Sing. by Louis Holstein

“If it is God allowing the fall, then so be it.”

Those were the words that ended my last blog post. I uttered those words in full surrender, although I didn't realize God would still ask for more. I’ll spare you the gory details (you can hear the story over on Casa de Arte Podcast episodes “Where we are (For Now)” and “The Art of Community (Nurturing and Receiving)”) but we went from a house of 4 and 1/2 years to homeless in a matter of days. It’s not to say that we didn’t experience hospitality from our friends and family, but we were still without a home. Our home. We were displaced.

“Bursting”   Have you felt so wounded that you thought you might burst?

“Bursting” Have you felt so wounded that you thought you might burst?

It’s funny, really, because everyone said we wouldn’t be homeless. “Homelessness” was the worst case scenario and surely that wouldn’t happen! “You will have a place to stay,” many people said, offering their extra rooms. It was as if “having a place to stay” was the opposite of homelessness- it’s not. Regardless I was grateful for the sentiment, and for the confidence that was had by them. I didn’t have it. I had a feeling we would be displaced, I just didn’t want to believe it. I felt that God wanted it for us. That’s a tough pill to swallow. God wants my little family to not have a home? Why, God… why?

I’ve written here time and time again about suffering. I think suffering is truly the thing that connects all of us, no one is spared from it. God doesn’t always give the healing, or save the life, or provide the home (on time). God required that my perspective shift. My understanding of suffering and pain, and the role they have in my life needed to change. Steffany Gretzinger once said, “The kindness of God is that He doesn’t measure my pain to yours. He is just a Father who cares about all of it.” I clung to this quote because when I would feel pain, I would downplay it because I knew it “could be worse.” Yet in a way, Gretzinger set me free. She essentially said, “don’t compare your pain to others, God doesn’t.” So I stopped comparing my pain, and just allowed myself to be broken. I was disappointed in God; He had let me down.

“Reaching”   As I reach for Him, He doesn’t numb the pain, but sits with me in it.

“Reaching” As I reach for Him, He doesn’t numb the pain, but sits with me in it.

He let me down in that He didn’t give me what I wanted (or thought I needed): A) to stay were we were living or B) to move somewhere better than where we were living or C) don’t let us be with a home (i.e. homeless). He had other plans. All my plans were thrown out the window when I signed on to temporary housing through an Airbnb. I cried a lot. Ashley cried a lot. Before long Alana would be crying on more than one occasion saying, “let’s go home.” Brokenness abounded.

Then on June 26th, I stumbled across a recently flipped home in Mulberry that was for rent, surely it was too good to be true. As I arrived at the property, checking to see if it was real, I felt God say, “This is the house.” He was quiet and concise. He gave me the opportunity to believe Him, or not. I chose to believe Him.

Ashley and I jumped in faith. We attended a viewing of the home (with 3 other families touring at the same time), put in the application and trusted if it really was meant to be ours, then nothing could stand in the way. Within a day were approved, and as we left to my parents house for the 4th of July festivities, we were notified the home was ours. So now with a signed lease and eyes filled with tears, we can see the promise.

“Staying”   So I will stay here a while, I will not leave because it is painful.

“Staying” So I will stay here a while, I will not leave because it is painful.

It’s strange how it all worked out. I like to have answers for God, and why He does what He does, (sometimes He reveals His reasons) but in this season I don’t have the answers. Not with this test of faith. I don’t know why we went through what we did, and honestly I don’t even know if I passed the test. What I do know, is what I knew before all of this happened: God is good, God is kind, and God is in control. In this midst of my disappointment, these truths don’t change- they can’t change! God is God no matter what I’m facing, no matter how bleak or frustrating or unfair. I told Ashley, “Faith is trusting God in the midst of a letdown.” There are so many little miracles that got us to where we are today. I’m certainly not going to complain about this process, although I do not understand it. As the days go on and we settle in our new rental home, perhaps God will reveal more. Maybe God will show us how we’ve grown. Maybe not. Brooke Ligertwood said it perfectly, “God’s blessing sometimes feels like a wound.” Right now I feel wounded, tired, and broken. As I move forward and trust God again for another day on this earth, I know He holds me close.

I will continue to sing His praises. “Sometimes we sing something because we believe it, because we are sure. Sometimes we sing it until we are sure.” (Steffany Gretzinger)

I will sing until I am sure.

-Louis


This blog is supposed to be about my art musings. HA! The first half of this year hasn’t been what I had planned. So here is to more ArtTalk, more inspiration, and more creating in the days ahead!

Running and Falling by Louis Holstein

“True Vine” [I am called to abide in Him, though sometimes He is hard to follow, or hard to see, yet I will still abide in Him. He will see me through.]  Acrylic and pastels on stretch canvas.

“True Vine” [I am called to abide in Him, though sometimes He is hard to follow, or hard to see, yet I will still abide in Him. He will see me through.]

Acrylic and pastels on stretch canvas.

I fell on my run last week. Skin versus concrete is never a fair match. With a bloody hand and knees, I paused the podcast I was listening to and the runner app I was using and picked myself off the ground. I examined my wounds. I’ve written recently about the past few months journey with the Lord. He has asked us to drink a cup we didn’t want to drink from, and it has been hard. It is interesting how many thoughts rush in when we are wounded. As I got up from my fall I became frustrated. I had run this route too many times to count and I had never tripped and fallen before. So why now?

It is ironic, really, because during that run I was purposely going slower. I wanted to enjoy the process, breathe the oxygen, feel it in my lungs, give attention to my legs, and let go of my anxieties. It was in this calm state that I fell. It was in these rush of thoughts that I realized God allowed me to fall or perhaps caused me to fall. I know when we use the language “fallen” it usually has something to do with sin, but I’m not talking about sin I’m talking about God getting our attention. That’s what makes following God so challenging, He rarely works within our plan or expectations. He is the God who obliterates expectations. 

It could be argued I’m making a freak accident way too spiritual, and maybe I am, but this fall spoke to me. It reminded me that no matter how I think I am doing, God knows me better than I know myself. He knows what I need in order to grow and become more like him. I may think I am being reflective,  but He knows what is going to truly make me reflective. I may think I have surrendered something, but He knows when I have fully surrendered. I may think I have paused, but He knows.

If it is God allowing the fall, so be it.

⁃ Louis

All Things, Everything by Louis Holstein

It is common language in Christian circles that God wants our “entire life.” God wants our whole being, every thought, every concern, every thanksgiving; God wants all of this. All of this is true, God does want these things, but at the root of it all God wants us. All the worries and requests are important, but God just really wants me, my love. The Creator of all things wants me? There is nothing I can do to make me less wanted or more wanted, God wants me right where I am. God loves me. God loves you. Full-stop. No question.

“i cannot sin anymore”  Acrylic and oil on canvas board.

“i cannot sin anymore”

Acrylic and oil on canvas board.

The last few months have been a season of crushing (as one would crush grapes for wine). God has been crushing Ashley and I as He asks us to trust Him with the most important physical thing in our lives: our home. Unknown as Florida weather has been our housing future and I have come to realize God wants it. God wants that part of my heart, that part of my security. It seems one lesson after another.

I painted this image back in March. It was created to represent the darkness of sin, and how once we are exposed to the light we can no longer sin. Once we touch and taste the light of our how we are created to live, the darkness has no hold. I’ve walked with God for the last 15 years and I am just now beginning to understand this lesson. In the same way, God is asking us to trust Him with our home.

Trusting God should be easy. Has He not done miracles before? Has He not be faithful before? Of course He has been! My God has brought me to the exact moment I am currently living in. Yet with all of this knowledge both in my head and heart, it does not make it any easier. In the realization that my situation is not any easier, I realize it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be easy. Who said it would be, easy? Why shouldn’t it be hard? Why shouldn’t it break me? To be broken isn’t a crime, and I will not apologize for it! It is through eyes wet with tears that I can see the promise. God will act. God will be faithful to us. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know if we will be living in the same house next month, but I do know this: God will see us through. I don’t have much to hold on to, but this I do: God will see us through. God will see us through. God will see us through. God will. see. us. though.

“Implosion”  Acrylic and oil on canvas board.

“Implosion”

Acrylic and oil on canvas board.

Tuesday // A Short Film by Louis Holstein

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 2.39.30 PM.png

Why is living in the moment so hard? I do an excellent job being wounded from the past, or worrying about the future, but what about enjoying the present? What little moment am I missing as I run through my daily routines? It was these questions (and a certain Academy Award-winning film) that inspired me to create Tuesday, my first short film. I grew up with home videos and realized that while Ashley and I had little snippets of Alana over the last two years (exclusively on our iPhones), we didn’t have anything that told a story or was cohesive in anyway. What I wanted to create was a 4 minute portrait of our lives on a random day in the week. I wanted to stop at the simple details that we so easily overlook: waking up, doing the dishes, going to work, eating a snack, walking the dog, going to bed.

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 2.39.58 PM.png

It helps that I have been reading, Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (a text I highly recommend). Warren makes the case that it is in the “overlooked moments and routines that we can become aware of God’s presence in surprising ways.” In making this film, I can confirm that is true. I can also confirm that while this was a creative exercise, it has changed me for the better. I don’t want my life to pass me by without me realizing what I had. I will only be 28 years old, with a beautiful 22-weeks-pregnant wife, and a 2 1/2 year old daughter for this season, for this time. The days may go by slowly, but the years go by fast. I want to treasure this part of the story; I want to have gratitude for this part of the story. This is Tuesday.

We're all traveling through time, together, everyday of our lives... All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life… I just try to live everyday as if I have deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it... As if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.

- Tim Lake in About Time (2013)

So Sweet to Trust by Louis Holstein

Photo by  Ashley Holstein  / Mulberry 2017

Photo by Ashley Holstein / Mulberry 2017

“Count the patience of our Lord as salvation.”

I’ve spoken about Mulberry time and time again. With every step of faith in this City, God has seen Ashley and I through. I am grateful for Him, so grateful. I’ve been messing around with film work recently, and I wanted to capture this town. Nothing fancy, no special effects, just Mulberry, and the places in Mulberry that God has asked us to trust Him in. Each location featured in this film has a specific meaning to Ashley and myself. Looking back I’m grateful. A friend of mine recently said, “surface level Christianity only works for people who aren’t going through anything.” I couldn’t agree with him more. Like a tree’s roots going deeper looking for water in a drought, so has Mulberry caused us to dig deeper into God’s presence- and I am grateful. Seven years later, I am tasting the sweetness of trusting God.

Tis’ so sweet to trust in Jesus,

just to take him at His word.

Just to rest upon his promise,

and to know “thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus how I trust him,

how I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.

Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus,

oh for grace to trust Him more.

Communitas: A Tale of Two Paintings by Louis Holstein

On the eve of Founders Day, an event all about the celebration of community, I decided to reflect on two paintings from last year.

Community - Painting by Louis Holstein

And here I am, back to the topic of Community. What can I say, I think community is one of the most important necessities to live a healthy and whole life. We were not created to live life alone. Last year I curated my first exhibition featuring Ashley’s photography. The overarching theme of the show was the role of community in an individual’s life and how that, in turn, is a reflection of the ultimate community: the Holy Trinity. The show featured three interactive stations, and the art piece you see above this text was the final product of one of the stations. It was a community mural. I had selected four colors and draw squares for people to fill in. I also numbered the squares so it could become a paint-by-numbers event, but people rarely followed the numbers. In fact, as you can see, they didn't even follow the instructions of painting one color per square!

At first I was annoyed with the lack of compliance, but I remembered that this was a risk of a community mural, you never know what you are going to end up with. Aside from the obvious lack of following directions with color placement, everyone followed the directions regarding “painting in the square.” I had imagined all the colors blending beautifully, and it just wasn’t happening. This wasn’t true community. This was a painting created with specific colors in specific boundaries. But true community includes all the colors. True community blurs the boundaries. I began to fill in the white squares of the painting, but I couldn’t stop. Below is the final product.

If you look closely you can see the remnants of the first painting. This is what I believe true community looks like, full of color and boundary-less. It is messy and unpredictable. It can only occur if vulnerability is chosen. Vulnerability is hard, but living a life without community is harder.

- Louis

“I love, therefore I am vulnerable.” - Madeleine L’Enngle

Communitas - Painting by Louis Holstein

It Is Not Real, But It Is Beautiful by Louis Holstein

Do I matter? What is the purpose of my existence? Who am I? These questions make us human. These questions separate us from the other species on earth. The human experience is constantly looking for meaning, purpose, and worth.

I’ve been wrestling with virtual reality recently. If you read my last blog post you can see why. I’ve become fed up with searching for truth in the lie that is social media. I use social media, and although I despise certain elements of it, I see it’s nuance to relationships and community. I recently dove head first into some over-thinking, indulge me for a second.

Disney's Magic Kingdom Castle
Parthenon In Nashville Tennissee

Over the holiday break in Puerto Rico, I stumbled across this lit-up tree. It was in the back of the garage and not inherently Christmas decor. I was mesmerized. The randomness of the tree, the lights illuminating from the tree, and the beauty of the tree all captured my attention. It got me thinking, “can something that is not real be beautiful?” Well, “of course,” I quickly respond. There are beautiful things all around us that aren’t real. Fictional stories, fake flowers, and Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World, all beautiful things, but none of them real. It was then, in my list of not real, but beautiful things, Makoto Fujimura came to mind. He says this,

Beauty is the quality connected with those things that are in themselves appealing and desirable. Beautiful things are a delight to the senses, a pleasure to the mind, and refreshment for the spirit. Beauty invites us in, capturing our attention and making us want to linger. Beautiful things are worth our scrutiny, rewarding to contemplate, deserving of pursuit. They inspire- or even demand- a response, whether sharing them in community or acting to extend their beauty into the spheres.
— Culture Care, p. 32

What is beauty? According to Fujimura, things that are a “delight to the senses, a pleasure to the mind, and refreshment for the spirit.” In other words, we are talking about more than esthetics. Fujimura goes on to say “beauty is connected with satisfaction, which may point to the way beauty feeds the soul.” So can things that are not real be beautiful? Perhaps, but more importantly, are these not real “beautiful things” feeding my soul? If the answer is, “no,” then maybe they’re not worth my time.

I see so many not real, but beautiful things on Social Media. This twisty trail of thoughts has not only led me to a healthy view of those virtual platforms and art, but also to a practical approach in the way I interact with them. I can admire things that are not real, I just won’t spend much time on them- social media included.

Death. Life. Were You There? by Louis Holstein

Death.

Death.

Life.

Life.

The balance of death and life, will always be one of great exploration for me as a human, as an artist, and as a follower of Christ. We serve a God who choose death, to give us life, and the human world has never been the same. I heard the hymn, “Where You There” on Good Friday this past year and immediately fell in love. Little did I know that it was most likely written by African American slaves in the 19th century. This gives the song so much more weight to my heart than was already there. So, was I there when they crucified my Lord? Perhaps not, but my sin was and that makes it all the same. I was there, and this fact makes me tremble.