Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Art of Chaos

The Art of Chaos

Last month seemed to be one where everyone and everything was falling apart. Schedules were everywhere, people were panicking about deadlines, life seemed to be perfectly falling apart into an ugly mess. In other words, October was chaos.

For me personally, I was trying to balance school, mid-terms, work, friendships, quality time with family, travel, and I could go on.  I mean, I accidentally shipped my suitcase to South Dakota which resulted in me only having one pair of jeans for a week and a few other various items. It seemed as if I was stuck in the gray area where nothing much was making sense. I was just going through the days and not getting things out of them. There was constantly something on the to-do list, and it seemed I could never check anything off. In other words, October was chaos.

The weather has now skipped from a nice fall to a full born Minnesota winter just without the part that makes winter pretty...snow. October just brought freezing cold wind and some icy roads. I ended up hitting a patch of ice and going into the ditch. Cars are having trouble starting, and the walks to class are brutal.

 In other words, October was chaos.

But chaos always has some underlying beauty that comes with it, something I was recently taught in art class. Mr. Stegman, my art instructor, started talking about graphic organizations in art. There was mimesis, which means  to copy exactly as you see it. There was asymmetrical, which was to promote inequality. There was the rule of thirds, which a lot of photographers use, center of interest, symmetry, golden mean, but then there was the last one which caught my attention.  

Chaos. No design.

How is this even possible? No design in art? The idea of the chaos organization in art is that you tell the story of the chaos in your mind. You don’t create a structure or outline to paint or create, you just do it. You aren't careful to use the other organizations, because yours is chaos. It depicts this story of chaos. 

Most of us have seen the painting “Starry Night” by the famous Vincent Van Gogh. What if I told you that when Van Gogh painted that, it was his view from an insane asylum he was in. Would you believe me? Most people would say no, because he had no reason to be in an asylum, and that he was a well known and rich artist. However, he was not famous at the time, and he was in an asylum. When he painted the “Starry Night,” he explained that the stars vibrated and twinkled but remained motionless in space, and the planets disappeared. People thought he was crazy back then. They saw no art in his paintings as they were not academic. They were chaos, just like the life he lived. 

Now the “Starry Night” is the most famous painting in the world and if for sale, would sell for a significant amount. People see beauty in his chaos. The way he took the stars and painted them and the way he uses chroma and color in his painting. That was his chaos.

In October, if I were to paint my chaos, it would have been a canvas full of dark colors. Reds, tons of black, grey, brown, maybe some green. It would have been ugly and busy. As November starts and I take a look back in October, I would paint a canvas full of white and yellow, purple and orange, to show that there was beauty in my chaos of a month. I learned lessons that were needed to be taught. I went in the ditch that was flat with no cars coming, and overall my luggage was in South Dakota with another  officer who just so happened to be coming up the next weekend. 

October may have been chaos; however, there were some beautiful things that happened that I just did not notice with the mess of it all. 

As we move into the chaos of finals, holidays, and more snow, let’s remember  there is beauty in chaos. Try and find it.

Stationed by the Flag,
Britton Fuglseth

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Broken to the Core

            FFA, what a year it has been already! At this moment, it has been two weeks since the National FFA Convention & Expo with only 158 days until the Minnesota FFA State Convention. Since the 90th Minnesota FFA State Convention, I have facilitated three state conferences, attended three national trainings, worked with numerous supporters and sponsors, and started my freshman year of college. On the outside, this is all that I have been dealing with, but that’s simply the tip of the iceberg. I officially joined the FFA in seventh grade, but I was truly involved in FFA before I could even walk. It has always been something I love to do, but as a state officer, I am involved in an entirely new level of commitment. Every week we were busy with something, always focusing on how to improve ourselves for the better experience of our members. I knew I was growing, but it was a constant fight to avoid burning out.  
      During the National FFA Summit training in Washington D.C., I got a text from my little sister, a text a sophomore in high school should never have to send. She let me know that a member of my home FFA chapter, a young man I worked with in football, wrestling, student council, and one of the members of our General Livestock team that I coached, had passed away due to a heart attack. With no prior conditions, I was in disbelief and went into the staircase of the hotel we were staying in and just cried. I pushed through the week, but it was difficult being away from my community in such a time of grief. I had an alumni event following Summit, but I emailed the coordinator and let her know I needed to be with my community and grieve with my family and friends.
            After the wake, life got busy again with FFA. We kept having events, traveling, and making memories. Finally, college started! I moved into the University of Minnesota in late August, and it wasn’t long before I realized that is where I belonged. I became close to one of my friends from high school, I was going on adventures every day, loving my new schedule. But life constantly throws new trials and challenges. I have mostly been struggling with balancing all the things life has been throwing at me. I haven’t been going to church as much as I should, I don’t eat healthily, I sleep very little, and working out is a rare activity for me.
            This isn’t a call for pity, I write these things because I think a lot of you reading this have a story that is similar or can relate to mine. Although it does feel as though I have been crushed down, chewed up, and spit out; although it is a tough state to be in; one where it feels like we are just waiting, not knowing what to do to change the tides, it is something that everyone experiences at some point.
            When we feel broken, we tend to think that life is just spitting on us for no reason. However, what we often miss and can’t see is that we are being broken with purpose. Those falls and punches we experience in life exist to refine us. The best diamonds start as ugly masses, and it’s not till they have been broken to their core we start to see their beauty. Once those diamonds have been through the difficulties of the refining process, they are then built up, polished, and become worth much more than their original state.
            In moments where we feel at our lowest, we need to focus on what matters. As Bob Goff said, we need to take an evaluation of what is important to us, hold it in our right hand, and let go of everything else that doesn’t. For me, that is my faith, my family, and those who have helped me through all these challenging times. Maybe for you, those things are the same, or perhaps they're athletics, drama, academics, or your animals. Knowing what is important to us allows us to get rid of what doesn’t. Deleting a social media platform or spending less time on Netflix and more with friends is a great way to focus on what matters. Instead of spending time laying in bed, go for a walk of reflection. Over time our focus can change from the tough times and instead focus on the moments we can treasure. I haven’t mastered this by any means, but seeing my family, spending time with my friends, and taking time to read a devotional are the moments of my day I see that hope and brightness again. I remember what truly matters and I can let go of what doesn’t. Life is going to be hard, but if we surround ourselves with what matters, we will truly be living the dream.

Stationed by the Rising Sun,
Lafe Aarsvold

Friday, November 8, 2019

A Catalyst for Change

      The other day, per the Elaine norm, I was procrastinating by surfing through Pinterest, reading inspirational quotes about faith and leadership. Personally, quote surfing is a favorite pastime of mine and one I am constantly impressed by in its ability to change my perspective with one or two simple, yet profound sentences. In this instance of Elaine’s productive procrastination, the phrase, “You’re the one who runs in my direction when the whole world walks away.” caught my eye. This lyric, written by Matthew West in reference to God, struck me as so profound.  What a crazy concept. To run, as fast as you possibly can towards someone, when the rest of the world chooses to run away from them. To choose to love someone unconditionally when the rest of the world chooses to turn aside.
     Last summer, I had the opportunity to partner with Convoy of Hope-Europe, along with some other members of my church and travel on a service trip to four different countries. Convoy of Hope is an incredible, first-responder organization similar to the Red Cross (check out their website, it’s worth it) that also works to build up struggling communities and people groups across the world. We spent the majority of our time working with the Roma Gypsy people in the mountains of Slovakia near the Ukraine border. This incredible people group is treated similar to African-Americans during the 1950s and 1960s in American history and are often discriminated against and rejected from their towns and communities. Throughout the course of the trip, I was constantly struck with awe and appreciation at how the leaders we worked with simply, unashamedly just loved on these people. It didn’t matter if they had a home, money, had showered or eaten in the past week, or if the rest of the community said to ignore them. These leaders chose to run as fast as they possibly could toward the Roma Gypsy people despite the fact the rest of the world had turned a cold shoulder. Simple kindness is truly a catalyst for change. It is the spark that allows renewed hope to flame. During the course of the trip, it was absolutely incredible to watch how the intentional, kind, and loving actions of the leaders we worked alongside had changed the community from one of despair to one of life, energy, and hope for the future. The same individuals who had once been hopeless were now leaders themselves, working to serve others the way they had been served.

      What if we did the same? What if we became a catalyst for change, just as these incredible leaders were throughout the Roma Gypsy communities in Slovakia? What if we chose to run towards people, whole-heartedly and unashamedly, even when the world runs away? Maybe it looks like choosing to help that classmate who struggles in a school subject that you rock. Maybe it looks like volunteering your time at a food shelf, nursing home, or hospital over the course of the holiday season. Perhaps it looks like simply choosing to smile and compliment someone who looks like they’re having a rough day. Whatever it is, today, choose kindness and choose to run towards people.

Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Elaine Dorn