There’s Always a Way Out

Painting: Dragon Day (inspired by Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga)

 

It’s a Tuesday morning in quarantine, and I sit here with a cup of coffee in my cozy little apartment, getting all choked up as I try to write this blog post. This painting and I have been together for two years, and I marvel at all the Lord has done in that time. The painting is based on a story, and the Lord used that story to bolster my heart while He was writing my own.

 

I would love to tell you about it. If you want to grab a cup of coffee too, I’ll gladly wait. After all, we’re in quarantine, what else is there to do?

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July 2019 -pictured: paint hand -not pictured: the background that created paint hand

The story I’m referring to is the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. I first encountered the books in the fall of 2017. Imagine little seventeen-year-old Alexa, very overwhelmed in her first semester away at college. I started listening to the first audiobook, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. It was a bit silly, a bit storybook-like, and I found it comforting in that lonely, anxiety-riddled season. The portrayal of the Igiby family pulled at some deep longing in my heart. The last time I ever lived with my family was one week before I left for school; on breaks, I would stay with a kind family from my church. I was overwhelmed with a homesickness for a home at all, a longing for family as it should be.

This drew me in deeply into the story. As I listened to the second book, the character’s lives got unimaginably dark. Bad thing after bad thing kept happening; they’d get up only to be knocked down by an even bigger foe. I don’t think it was coincidental that I listened to this book during one of the darkest seasons of my life. Christmastime can easily become the hardest season when ‘family’ brings a painful reminder of what should be and what isn’t. Throughout the Wingfeather books, the characters keep holding onto a phrase their Podo would say, “There’s always a way out.”

It was this reminder, along with the hope Advent brings and the love of two families in my church, that brought me through that season.

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July 2019 progress: we have a sky

As time goes, I turned eighteen and winter deepened. I decided not to go back to school. This is when I finally got to Monster in the Hollows. This book was a little less ‘running from danger’ and more about the ‘hard’ of everyday life in a less-than-ideal situation. Which was exactly where I found myself. I lived somewhere I was graciously welcomed, but didn’t necessarily belong—all the while learning to process trauma and navigate the rough waters of adulthood.  The storyline of Artham Wingfeather kept making me cry. Artham is a surpassingly brave, incredible character, but he is tortured by guilt and the after-effects of trauma. And the last chapter of this (third) book? It is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever read. In my own story, I saw the Lord provide in this season. He provided a job, and then a second job right when I needed them. And he provided this apartment I’m sitting in this morning—right when me and my sister needed it.

This leads me to where the painting began. In my last week living with the Williams, on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, I sat down and drew the sketch for this painting. It’s a scene from the first book; a scene that you can truly appreciate the significance of once you know the story. I couldn’t get the picture out of my mind, so I drew it, then put it aside.

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August 2019 progress: painting in the dark

The Warden and the Wolf King (which remains one of the greatest book titles ever) followed me into a new apartment and a new stage of life as I left childhood completely behind. There were still battles to be fought for months to come, but I had a place that slowly began to feel more like home, I had my sister with me, and the most wonderful of friends and church family around me. I devoured this last book, so invested in the characters at this point—I wanted to see the good guys win.

But….I refuse to tell you how it ends. You have to read the stories for youself. All I’ll say is that I didn’t see it coming, and it remains one of the most satisfying endings to any story that I’ve ever heard.

The year to follow was one of the hardest years of my life, but one of the best. Not because it was ‘happy’ or particularly eventful, but because my heart finally began to heal and find peace. (as a note, any peace worth having is usually hard-won.) I learned to trust the Lord deeper than ever before, and found Him to be so overwhelmingly faithful.

Fast forward to the fourth of July 2019, when I decided to pick up the Wingfeather painting idea. I went out to Hobby Lobby, got a big 24″x36″ canvas, and got started. The painting turned out to be harder than I’d envisioned. I wanted so despirately to do the books justice (turns out it’s not easy to find perspective-references for sea dragons.)  who knew? 

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Today progress: it’s about time

It only took 9 months and a quarantine to finally finish this project, but I’m so happy with it. It now hangs in our apartment as an ever-visible reminder that there’s always a way out, always a reason to hope.

Sometimes it is necessary to paint the sky black in order to show how beautiful is the prick of light.” -Andrew Peterson

 

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