Story Behind the Art: Silhouettes in Grief

Silhouettes in Grief, 2018
Acrylic on Canvas, 18×24
By Nanci Stoeffler, Stoeffler Art Studio

This painting speaks to me of the beauty, movement and motion of grief on the human soul. It is to our detriment when we do not allow our soul-self the necessary and poignant opportunity to grieve – whether it’s the loss of a loved one, or a move to another state, or the unexpected loss of a job, or the loss of what we expected our lives to be.

Nanci Stoeffler-Silhouettes in Grief 2018 more detailScripture tells us that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). When we gloss over the painful, difficult and sorrowful parts of life we actually are not living life to the fullest. For all of the negative emotions and the loss that comes with them, have their unique and intended purposes in our lives.

Jesus is called the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). As I look throughout my own life of all the sorrows I’ve been through, within each one I could find the Silhouette of the Man of Sorrows, Jesus Himself holding me, caring for me and grieving with me – bringing meaning, comfort and much needed companionship in my times of grief.

So as you view this painting, I encourage you to allow yourself the space and expanse to search your soul and grieve things that you’ve pushed back and hidden. No longer fearing sorrow but becoming comfortable with its meaning, purpose and release. And I encourage you to open the door of your heart to this Man of Sorrows – Jesus Himself and ask Him to lead you through the maze of grief until you come to the place of wholeness, healing and restored joy.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep & a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones
and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and
a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Birthing Dance

In all of us, there is a dance — a movement of celebration and freedom, that we were created to inhabit. Or, that was meant to inhabit us.

Often as children — we were free, uninhibited, child-like in our expressions of who we were, what we liked and what we felt. And some children, because of unhealthy circumstances were never able to enjoy this kind of freedom and joy.  And as we’ve grown up, we feel that we must grow out of child-likeness. May we all come to understand: there is a difference between being Nanci Stoeffler-Birthing Dance 2017childish and child-like.

My prayer as an artist is that I would encourage and inspire a place in your life to partner with the God of Creation to restored childlikeness…to embrace the freedom of dance — whatever that looks like — unafraid of risk (for without risk, you do not have growth) unafraid of failure (for without failure, you do not become successful) and unafraid of rejection (for without rejection you do not become a Victor).

Come, Breath of God, and birth the dance of freedom, celebration and restored child-likeness to all who stop by to visit this painting and read it’s story.

Nanci Stoeffler
Stoeffler Art Studio
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Email: stoefflerartstudio@gmail.com

A Drawerful of Time: An Observational, Story-telling Poem

drawer full of time1I was surprised when I opened the drawer
to see a crowd of watches
with frozen faces
staring back at me.
I felt as if I’d opened
a portal to another dimension,
another world —
The past. His past.

Ninety-six years worth of living
seemed to be sitting there,
still.
As I stood there in the silence,
I could hear the faint heart-beats
of a few of them
who didn’t want to let go
of the life wound in them.

Decades worth of living,
remembered by these timepieces
once perched on the end of his arm —
or hers.

How vulnerable and fragile and fleeting
is the space called time
that surrounds us as earth dwellers.
we value it too much.
we waste it too much.
we take it for granted too much.
it holds us too much.
We let go of it too much.
We don’t let go enough.

Day after day, the sun rises
and shadows and sunbeams
slowly move across the room
where the drawer full of time
lays hidden and closed yet
still ticking away —
in the empty room when no one is present,
in the hushed room when he sleeps,
in the tired room when he slowly moves through it —
their faint and fading heartbeats;
the frozen, broken faces
lay there next to one another
keeping company in the dark.

Today he spoke of his Scottish ancestors
recalling their simple way of life;
“They worked hard
and did what was needed
without complaining”.
Then pausing, he gathered
the history within his chest,
and said softly;
“I sure hope I don’t disappoint them.”
And the little boy seemed to appeared
for a moment in time
with this present-tense devotion
to his parents and his parent’s parents
Who are all long gone.
But while he waits for the reunion,
the legacy they left him
was also left through him —
upon their children’s great, great, great grandchildren
whom they never met.

And someday when his casket, too, is closed
and the drawer full of time
is finally emptied and given away
to perhaps sit quietly
in a ragged box in an antique store —
Until the last tick fades away
into the fullness of time.

Ceaseless Sonar: The Soul is Always Seeking

Nanci Stoeffler-Ceaseless Sonar 2016bCeaseless Sonar
By Nanci Stoeffler
2016, Acrylic on Canvas, 22×28

When I first finished this painting and spent time pondering what it spoke to me, I heard the words “ceaseless sonar”. I knew what I was sensing with those words, but I wanted to technically understand how sonar works.

What I learned (in non-technical terms) was that sonar is used underwater to sense solid objects by using sound-waves. The sound-waves are sent out and when they reach a solid object, the sound bounces off the object and sends an echo back to the device which interprets the results of the echo.

When I contemplated what I learned about sonar, I had such a sense that in reality, there is a place inside every human soul that is perpetually sending out sonar sound-waves in order to look for and find solid objects; mainly The solid object of God. And that is what I sense the image in this painting represents: the Ceaseless Sonar sound-waves of the human soul.

But often what happens is, our soul’s sound-waves rest on and find other solid object which are inferior and are not, in fact, God. These solid objects could be another person, a belief, intellect, feelings, busyness, vanity, wealth, possessions, even pain or anger, work, control, knowledge, false religion, even our own self or….fill in the blank.  We’ve found something solid so we stop and rest on it.

While all of these things do possess a solid substance of some kind, they do not posses eternal, immovable substances which are worthy of our worship. But because we’ve found one or more solid substances that satisfy, we believe we’ve found God so we stop looking for God. Or at least we think we’ve stopped looking.  Those sonar waves are still sending out from our being but often we ignore or are unaware of them, because we don’t want to give up these “lesser gods” (which do satisfy on some level) in order to find the One True God to follow Him and worship Him alone.

Those “sonar waves” that are sending out from your soul were actually crafted inside of you by the One who made you. It’s like a homing device in you, because he wants you to come and look for Him until you find Him.  (“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13) There’s only One Rock which possesses Eternal, Solid Substance worth of your innate desire to worship. And that Rock is not an “it” but a “who”, a being that wants to be in relationship with you. He is worthy to have your ceaseless sonar rest on Him because He laid down his life to make a way for you to come to Him and receive your own, personal sonar sound-wave into Himself. And that One Rock, is Jesus Christ.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25

But don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself. I invite you on a journey to return to the Shepherd of your Soul; the one that your Ceaseless Sonar was created to find. Let me pray for you:

Lord, I lift before you the one reading this right now. You know them, you see them and you love them. You know the longings, the questions, the doubts, the hopes, the pain, the joys…and everything else in their unique life. I ask you to come and removed anything veiling their spiritual eyesight so they can come to know you as the Rock upon which they can rest their whole life.

Let your Holy Spirit come and blow your Presence upon my friend right now, throughout all of the cobwebs of mind, all prison cells of the soul, all of the brokenness of the heart so that they can come to know you as the One, True Living God who alone possess the eternal, sustaining, worship-worthy substance that they were meant to find.  May they receive back into themselves the “echo” of your Authentic Truth, not revealed by human effort, but by You as The Spirit. All this and more I pray in your Eternal name, Amen.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30