Mothers Day is right around the corner and we want to take the time to thank mother figures for their love in our lives.
We are giving one woman an opportunity to WIN a OneLove ticket, and a framed, A4 Mary&Sally ‘Treasure’ wall print (total prize value $155) for a mother figure in your life.
In part two of our interview, we’ve asked Athena Grace to share the inspiration behind her winning OneLove design, her favourite Bible verse, as well as some stories of how God has used her photography for His glory.
1. You were the winner of the OneLove magnet competition - what inspired your design?
Psalm 63:3 was already the song of my heart around that time last year, and the constant source of sub-conscious handwriting on every spare piece of paper in front of me. The design actually wasn’t anything remarkable, it was a product of some time spent alone with my Father and Him speaking those words into my heart again, and it overflowed from my fingers onto a page in my journal. I always want what I create to be an overflow of my secret-place times with my Father, and this was no exception.
2. What is your favourite Bible verse and why?
“Therefore behold, I will allure her into the wilderness and there I will speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
This verse has wrecked me in ten thousand different ways. Words feel entirely inadequate to convey how deeply this truth has rested in my heart; closer than the skin on my bones and the breath in my lungs. This is the God I have come to know; the God of relentless, alluring, tender, pursuing love. Though adulterous, rebellious, flawed and broken, God chooses to pursue Gomer and intentionally takes her away to be alone with Him, not to yell at her, but to remind her that He is her First Love. She is dealt with under a covenant of grace, of eternal betrothal. It hits me over and over again; no matter what I do, how sinful I am, God pursues, romances, and chooses me in a radical grace based on Himself. A love anchored in Him, and not me. He chases me, calls me and heals me.
Every time He allures me into a wilderness, it’s because He wants me all for Himself, to rest deeper in the progression of grace and know He is working on my heart. As harsh as a desert can be, it is the place the Israelites in Exodus, and me, first experience God in this intimate, relational way. It’s raw, and it hurts. This verse is not one you easily put on a magnet - there is deep pain in these words. When I look back at my life so far, I see a bittersweet tale of a great sinner whose appetite for sin was only just eclipsed by a thirst and hunger for God - the sweet allurement of tenderness is the only thing able to surpass my innate desire to wander. He comes into my wandering wilderness and whispers His love, and the world fades. Where the law failed, allurement won my heart.
3. We love that you use creativity to serve God. How have you seen Him at work in your art and photography?
When I pick up my camera, it’s more than creativity; it’s worship. I’m joining God in His creativity and being most authentic to who I am and who He created me to be. When He created Adam, He brought all the animals of the earth to him and gave him the creative liberty of naming them. Adam didn’t name them by numbers like an Accountant. No, he joined the Father in Creation! “God dared to leave something uncreated so His sons and daughters could sit on His lap and create with Him” (Jonathan Helser). And so, as a child of God, I’m called into the dynamic co-creation of the cosmos. I am echoing His creativity, and find true freedom in being just like Him; it’s in my DNA to create. “To create is to reflect the image of God. To create is an act of worship” (Erwin McManus, The Artisan Soul).
In my creativity, I’m choosing to reflect the storytelling Jesus who, through communication, extended an invitation for people to find themselves known and loved. When I meet with a couple to photograph them, it’s not ever about the photos - it’s about the moments of intimacy, vulnerability and joy behind each photo. The purpose of my photography is to capture the authentic, not produce a facade. In this I’ve discovered the calling to create a space for couples and individuals to be known; to share their heart and their story. I recently spent time photographing a couple from Seattle who are living in Sydney, who don’t know Jesus and are creatives that I know are longing for their Maker, even though they don’t realise it. During our time I came to notice a great respect they had for me as a creative, before I even opened my mouth. When I began to explain why I pursue creativity, and the healing I’ve experienced through it as I learn to live in authenticity to my identity as a co-creating child of God, they listened, they heard me. They’d never heard anyone speak about it like that, and they were captivated. God is doing huge things in the hearts of the seeking, the longing, the artists who don’t know the true Artist who intricately formed each star before He flung them into space. God is at work because He’s on a mission to tenderly draw every heart back into His family, and is using creativity to tell the story of Jesus and show His heart.
OneLove will feature international speakers Nancy Guthrie and Simon Manchester. It will be held on Saturday 27 August at the Australian Technology Park in Redfern.
Tickets are now available at the Early Bird rate of jut $89 a person. Ticket prices increase from 31 May 2016. Women who purchase ten tickets in one transaction will receive the 11th ticket free.
For more information, visit the OneLove website: www.onelovewomen.com
All photos in this article were generously supplied by Athena Grace.
The first of its kind in Australia, the Respite Retreat for Grieving Parents is designed to support married couples that are coping with the loss of a child. Hosted by OneLove speaker Nancy Guthrie, and her husband David, the retreat is a weekend for grieving couples to spend unhurried time with other couples to learn, encourage and experience together, renewed hope for the future.
After burying two of their three children, David and Nancy Guthrie have worked to support other grieving couples by sharing their intimate experience with loss, and how their faith in God brought about renewed hope. The Guthrie’s are hosts of GriefShare, a video series used in thousands of grief groups held weekly in churches across the US. They are the authors of When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One and Nancy is the author of numerous additional books including Holding On to Hope, The One Year Book of Hope, and Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow.
Over the past six years, together they have hosted three to four retreats per year in the US. According to the Guthrie’s, the goal of these retreats is to help couples move forward toward healing, from wherever they are at in the grief cycle:
“Respite Retreat for Grieving Parents is for couples with strong marriages, and for those whose marriages are struggling under the load of grief. It’s for those whose faith has grown through loss, and for those who have lingering questions. It’s for couples whose loss is fresh, and for those who’ve been walking down this road for awhile.”
According to couples that have attended Respite Retreats in the US, the retreat has helped to normalise their experiences of grief, and given them the tools to find hope and healing in God:
“We felt normal here, and we haven't felt normal anywhere since our son died."
"This wasn't about renting a cabin in the woods and wallowing in our grief together and going home. God met us here with a remedy."
"I expected that hearing everybody else's hard story would add to my load. But instead, I feel lighter—that I now have other people sharing my load, and I'm sharing theirs."
Held at Noonaweena in Kulnura, a town 1.25 hours north of Sydney, the Guthrie’s stress that the weekend is a retreat, and will not be run like a conference or workshop:
“It’s a retreat, a mixture of large-group conversation led by us, lingering over meals together and opening up God’s Word together in search for perspective and hope.”
The Respite Retreat for Grieving Parents will be held on 19-21st August 2016.
To preserve privacy and intimacy, the retreat is limited to 15 couples. To register your interest for this retreat, please email email@example.com or fill in the online form at www.respiteretreat.kcc.org.au.
To find out more about the Respite Retreat for Grieving Parents please visit: http://www.respiteretreat.kcc.org.au/
To learn more about the Guthrie’s Respite Retreat ministry in the US please visit: www.nancyguthrie.com/respite-retreat/