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Author: Khrysso Heart LeFey

Bringing It All Along

A lot of people, when they start another career, leave previous careers behind.

As an artist, I simply add to what I’m already doing.

I knew when I was in the eighth grade that I wanted to be a writer. As I planned my life at Ohio State I was interested in music, but I thought that I could be a more competitive writer than musician in the marketplace, so I chose Humanities instead of Music as the College in which I would study.

But then at around 30 I became a musician, anyway, and I probably made as much money doing music as I ever had wordsmithing… Not that that was a lot…

I never stopped writing when I became a musician. In fact, I started writing about music.

Then in my forties I started doing visual art. My interest in collage began rather casually, not too many years after I began presenting myself to the world as a folk musician, but I didn’t start consciously creating visual art until after I got my Theology degree at 42.

Studying Theology made me more conscious of Liturgical Art, which is a pretty broad interest area because it includes ritual design. I wove that into the fabric of my artistic world and added time to space as a dimension in which I pictured things.

As I developed as an artist, I began to conceptualize my relationship with The Muse in the way that I had once conceptualized my relationship with God. It seems to me that The Muse doesn’t ask me to abandon any medium in which I had once become adept. She (May Sarton said, and I agree, that The Muse is “She.”) asks me to add to, not to subtract.

May Sarton, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, talks about the work of women, or at least women poets, always being toward wholeness. My friend Pat once explained to me that according to Feminist principles, you make change not by tearing down but by building up anew.

Some people’s résumés draw pictures that look like series of turns onto new roads. Mine, I would say now (now that my résumé doesn’t matter, I add with no little hint of irony), draws a picture that looks more like a river with multiple tributaries adding volume and strength along the way.

When I was younger, the breadth and relative shallowness of my career history was often interpreted as a liability, and I was given a powerful message that I should be at least somewhat ashamed of it: I was advised to build a functional résumé instead of a chronological one, but I was also warned that functional résumés were red flags for flakiness.

What I didn’t know then was that I am an artist and that I was adding to my skill-set and to the realm of media in which I could navigate confidently. (What I also know now is that, as artists go, I am peculiarly un-flaky.)

Even my identity as an artist is a bit vague for nailing me down. Among the Arts you have your “Fine Arts” (painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry), which exist for the sake of aesthetics; you have your “Applied Arts” (decorative arts, or artisanal practices, which some characterize more as design), which add form to function; you have your “Liberal Arts” (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), which are about thinking; you have your “Lively Arts” (drama, drawing, movement, music, modeling, painting, and speech)… and now you see that you’re getting repetitive.

On top of that, the Liberal Arts, in medieval Rome, included arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. In fact, I do use geometry a remarkable amount in creating and framing artistic works…

Tolkien famously pointed out that not all who wander are lost, and I find now, from people who have not felt courageous enough to go exploring until they believed it to be too late, that being willing to strike out in new directions is an enviable quality.

The realms of the Arts are characterized not so much by political boundaries as by geographical regions, and if you’re reading the lay of the land instead of looking at a map, you don’t always realize when you’re crossing significant borders, and you don’t always know when you’re a foreigner. So you go merrily on your way, a Happy Wanderer, adding photos to your gallery and souvenirs to your backpack, not necessarily being aware that you should have pulled out your France folder and put away your Germany folder.

My husband Grey has perhaps—perhaps—meandered a bit less on his career path than I have, but he has switched directions, or overlaid areas of interest, in his life, too. He points out that the finger-dexterity that he developed as a stylist making multiple pin-curls has served him well in being able to wield a paintbrush with precision. For that matter, his grandmother’s having taught him to braid garlic from their garden laid the groundwork for his being able to create French braids in the salon.

What I learn more and more is that no education is ever wasted. I think it’s unfortunate that people feel the need to discard toolboxes, so to speak, from previous jobs.

As artists, Grey and I do a lot of improvising not only in the studio but in the infrastructure of our house. We spend a lot of time at hardware stores because we’re continually coming up with new ways to use materials that were created with only one purpose in mind.

Being an artist (and I know that this is true for engineers and occupational therapists, just to name a couple occupations) involves adding to the usefulness of useful things. As a “scavenger artist,” as I call myself, it involves new uses for things that seem to have lost their usefulness. So artists tend to stockpile rather than discard—we save for later.

It makes for a lot of what many would see as clutter, both spatially and psychically. (It makes for long résumé, as well.) In my last studio, we kept a cupboard of what we called “natural resources.” By the time I packed it to move across the county, it was wall-to-wall with stuff, and most of it came with us… because that’s what you do when you’re an artist: you bring your past with you, because you never know when it will come in handy.

Dedicating My Life to Contradictions in the Bible

 

I have a master’s degree in theology, the one offered at my theological school that I called “M.A. Lite.” I wasn’t a biblical scholar or a theologian; I specialized in worship arts and pastoral theology; that is, spiritual care-giving. But I have a history of immersion in Bible study because, among my many church involvements I have over seven years of experience in an Evangelical cult  where I was continually pressured to read the Bible daily as part of my devotion to God. This in addition to structured Bible study, evangelism, and worship-songs whose lyrics came predominantly from the New American Standard Bible.

I was reminded today how much Bible exposure I had because I went to (an ELCA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) church to hear a friend’s choir and was so familiar with nearly all the biblical references that I could still, 35 years on, quote at least parts of them despite the fact that I rarely crack a Bible any more.

The cult was not Fundamentalist by name, but its doctrines were consistent with those set forth in “The Fundamentals” published in the early 20th century: the inerrancy of Scripture; biblical literalism, specifically, the Creation account in Genesis and the miracles in the Old Testament and the Gospels; the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ; and the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.

The so-called “charismatic leader” of my cult had been raised in the movement called the Plymouth Brethren, a group described in Wikipedia as “conservative, low church, nonconformist, and evangelical.” The group that he founded had retained all of these qualities and more, including a tendency to shun members who wouldn’t conform to the norms of the other nonconformists. He became convinced that it was essential to reach the entire world with the Gospel message within one generation. Because it was a low-church movement styled on the composition of the church in the New Testament, we had multiple elders (pastors) who were “raised up” from within the ranks of the congregation, not seminary-trained, based on their apparent godliness in the eyes of the self-styled “apostles” in the community. In addition to pressuring us all to reach the entire world population with the Gospel within 20 years, the group pressured all male members to aspire to eldership.

Because I have always been a free-thinker (and now that means, as many people imply by the term, that I am an atheist, though it did not always mean that for me), I was early on branded as “unteachable” and a problem member who would never make the leadership cut if I didn’t shape up (shaping up included daily Bible reading, which I was never good at).

I left the group 31 years ago, and though I began my transition out of the Church Universal some six years later, I have never been one to tout “all the contradictions in the Bible” as a reason for my apostasy. Because I am no longer a biblical literalist, the inerrancy or errancy of Scripture is not an issue for me.

I’ve been thinking lately, though, of the contradictions of the messages I was given during my Evangelical days.

We were taught that the name of Jesus Christ was paramount in the salvation of individuals, that they had to believe not just that salvation was of God but that Jesus Christ was the embodiment of that salvation:

“There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NASB).

“‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13-14 NASB).

I remember responding to an article in the movement’s monthly magazine, The Cause, saying something along the lines of, “I see that in the same way that Jesus would have died for me had I been the only human being alive, so the imperative of reaching the world with the Gospel would be mine if I were the only Christian.”

The teaching was that the command to evangelize the world, called in the vernacular, “the Great Commission” was given by Christ right before he ascended into Heaven and had not been fulfilled by any generation of Christians since the age of the apostles. It had, we were told, been fulfilled by them–“These men who have upset the world have come here also,” claimed the Jews to the authorities (Acts 17:6 NASB) (remember, I was taught that “upset the world,” or, in other translations, “turned the world upside-down,” was not a figure of speech but was a literal recounting of history, dictated by God, who did not use figures of speech)–but never since, and the Commission was supposed to apply to every generation until the Second Coming.

I lived hearing this command as the guiding principle of my life for seven and a half years, and, unteachable though I was, I bought into it completely.

Meanwhile, on many Sundays in our house-worship meetings, we sang a song with lyrics taken directly from the book of Revelation, an account of the gathering of the saints after the seven seals were all opened: “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9 NASB).

Likewise, two chapters later in Revelation, a description of all those who had overcome the Great Tribulation: “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9 NASB).

I was a Linguistics major in college, and though I don’t remember much from my classes in Historical Linguistics 36 years ago, I do know that languages have developed and died throughout history. If the world was never reached with the Gospel after the Apostolic Age, then there was no way for [men] of every tribe and tongue and people and nation to have heard about the name of Jesus Christ… and yet here they were, at the end of all things, a multitude standing righteous before a God of whom they had apparently not all heard in their lifetimes.

I am reminded of the question that probably all young people ask when they are being taught absolutist lessons about salvation: “What about the unbelievers?”

Remember, I was taught the literal inerrancy of Scripture. Rev. 5:9 and Rev. 7:9 were literally, not just figuratively true, because God knew about every hair on the head of every human being who had ever lived and was qualified to speak in such absolutes. Somehow the unbelievers get taken care of. Or they’re really believers in ways that absolutists don’t know how to make sense of.

This all doesn’t matter much to me now, but even 31 to 38 years after those days, I marvel at the fact that I threw in my lot with such an obsessive bunch of people when it was all going to be okay in the end anyway: all lands and cultures would, somehow, wind up having righteous people in them despite our failure to reach them with the Gospel.

I still bear spiritual scars from the way I was bullied during those days. And it was for a pretty significant contradiction.

LINKS ABOUT FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS

I’m discovering that a lot of people interested in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders don’t know where to start getting education about them.

This entry will be my repository of links that give basic information that I think is vital for parents, caregivers, professionals, and clinicians to know.

It is not meant to be a source of testimonials about life with someone with FASD, though I have found a great deal of support from the private Facebook group, Parenting FASD Teens and Adults. One of the administrators of that groups keeps a blog at parentingfaskids.com.

That Facebook groups has a great list of resources under Files. You may not be able to access the list if you’re not a member, though.

It will grow as my knowledge grows.

 

Birth Defects and When They Develop in the Womb

From the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, Center for Biology and Society.
Developmental Timeline of Alcohol-Induced Birth Defects
“There is no point during development when prenatal alcohol exposure lacks consequences.” This encyclopedic entry describes when in the gestation cycle alcohol is liable to cause what kinds of problems.

Gastrulation: When the Facial Characteristics of FAS Develop in the Embryo

Facial Features of FAS are not the only features

Avoid Insight-Based Therapy for Your FASD Loved One

Here is a blog entry that talks about one of the most important things we’ve learned about our particularly troubled daughter: that insight-based therapy is not only not helpful for kids with fetal alcohol syndrome, but it can even backfire and cause more problems than it tries to solve. Donald Craig Peterson is the author of Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love. There’s a lot here for adoptive parents of kids with FASD and with other kinds of trauma.
Why Talk Therapy Fails

Fact Sheets That May Interest You

Here is a page of fact sheets published by the National (US) Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It’s really a good web site! Thorough, detailed, authoritative.

Get a Diagnosis! (Get Services)

Guidelines for Diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder published by the (US) Centers for Disease Control

The CDC does NOT require that you be able to produce testimony or proof of the birth mother’s drinking in order to secure a diagnosis of FASD. Any US clinic that says you need this is not up to speed with the latest requirements. Insist on your rights! If you need a diagnosis to get services, you should be able to get one in the USA.

Overlapping Behavioral Characteristics in Children’s Mental Health Conditions

(This chart is a PDF.) FASD can produce behaviors that also exhibit in kids with ADD/ADHD; Sensory Integration Dysfunction;  Autism; Bipolar Disorder; Reactive Attachment Disorder; Depression; and Oppositional Defiant Disorder… not to mention the historical and environmental factors of  trauma and poverty. Complicating matters further is that kids may have more than one of these disorders.

FASD May Be as Common as Autism

Time Magazine reports on an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (you have to be a member to link to the article) in February of 2018 that says that FASD may be far more common than previously thought and may be at least as common as autism.

Confabulation: Making It Up as They Go Along

Confabulation is not the same thing as lying.

FASD and Bed-Wetting

Apparently more common than in typical kids, and more commonly continuing into adulthood than in typical kids.

MOFAS article on bed-wetting

Overview of FASD in Time Magazine in 2014, including South Africa statistics

This Is Your Child’s Brain on Alcohol