Eternally Shining

A medley of miscellaneous photos, words, videos and all other wonderful things found under the sun


SPOTLIGHT: Incredible Graphite Illustrations by Monica Lee

Malaysian artist Monica Lee draws amazingly photo-realistic images with graphite pencils.

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(via wetheurban)

If we wait until we’re ready, then we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.

—Lemony Snicket

Sweet Irene

Sweet Irene

Magala and I at his home in a village in Masaka

Magala and I at his home in a village in Masaka

Magala and I at his home in a village in Masaka

Magala and I at his home in a village in Masaka

Sarah and I teaching P1

Sarah and I teaching P1

A Big Surprise

I wish I could upload more pictures on here for you all to match my words with images, but the internet is far to slow. The pictures that do make it take far too many “upload failed, try again” clicks than I would like.

Tomorrow holds an exciting adventure and a wonderful surprise. 

If you’ve heard my full story of Meraki Creative then you know I can trace it back to a little boy named Magala Shakalulu. I sponsor Magala through World Vision and he lives in the Masaka region of Uganda. The first time I went to Uganda it was too difficult and short of notice for me to plan a visit so I just sent him and his friend a box of clothes and coloring books and whatnot. Before this trip I called World Vision to see if it was possible to schedule a visit although it was short of notice (they ask you plan visits 6 months in advance). 

After filling out information for a background check, I waited for an answer or follow-up and hadn’t heard back. Perhaps I missed their email since it wasn’t clearly marked World Vision, but nonetheless I gave up. I decided that I would meet him on my third trip to Uganda. My mom and I agreed that maybe it was a blessing because this trip would a way for me to focus on putting together a trip without dealing with the added planning of an “excursion.” My mindset was, it is too difficult and I do not want to force this meeting so I will be patient and meet him when I’m more familiar with traveling to Uganda. 

Well…friday morning Sarah asked God to surprise me in some way. 

I was painting the world map up on the makeshift scaffolding we have when Janet, a woman who works in the office, came and shouted from below that I had a phone call. I was confused. Worry did not hit me at all, her voice was very casual. I asked Janet who could be calling me and her answer was World Vision. 

I hadn’t heard from them since I called a few months ago and emailed in my information. I supposed they had forgotten about me as well because they realized the dates I had given for my trip were now and they called in an urgent visit to the Kampala office. 

The woman on the line, Teddy, said that it was a “blessed” morning because she had found out where I was, found Cherish’s phone number, and service was good enough to call. She had worked that morning to find me and she did. Long story short, after several phone calls of updates and talking with Teddy and the drivers as the informed me as to what my trip will be like, I am going to Masaka tomorrow morning. Since it was an urgent visit World Vision waived the usual fees (whattttt a blessing?). Tomorrow is a national holiday in Uganda, yet they had two men willing to work to take me. They didn’t know if I had transportation so they are picking me up at Cherish. What a convenient gift. Jesus doesn’t give gifts in half, he gives them in full. 

They found my number, they waived fees, they are picking me up rather than me going to them, and they are working on a day they should be off. 

Friday I got to speak to Magala over the phone (a Uganda three-way call where I think she just held two phones close together haha) and they said he was very excited to meet me! 

Sarah informed me later that day that she had prayed for a surprise for me that morning. Jesus gave me quite the surprise. He made it happen when I didn’t want to force it. 

Tomorrow Chad and I are going to Masaka so that I can meet Magala and Chad can film/photograph it. We would appreciate prayers for safe travels, Masaka is about three hours away. I’d also love prayers for good conversation and time with the Shakalulu family. Thank you.

Sulla Bulungi (goodnight)


Brought to Silence

One of my favorite pieces of art is Michelangelo’s Pieta.

I’ve seen it on the computer, in books, pictures up close, pictures from afar. Twice now I’ve felt the mood that is built when looking at it in person. When sharing the experience of seeing it with your own eyes you can tell the air floating between the strangers in the audience is moving around notions of reverence, awe, analysis, and peace. I love the mathematical aspects of the Pieta, the details of the veins in the feet of Jesus, and the way Mary holds her limp son. 

When I stepped into Hope Academy’s P6 and P7 class (where ages range from 11 to 20 years old) we asked the kids to choose if they wanted to learn photography or painting. The class divided pretty evenly. While Auntie Sarah (Sarah Dunlap) taught photography, I began with a slideshow I made earlier that morning of famous artists and styles of paintings.

We looked over Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Andy Warhol, Gustav Klimt and many more. They saw abstraction versus realism, still-lifes, and landscapes. The last slide I had made before Jenny’s improvisation of the “I can do it!” declaration, coincidentally said “YOU CAN DO IT TOO!” 

Some of the kids began painting immediately, painting over their pencil drawing self-portraits from the previous day. I went around explaining how to mix colors and the purpose of doing so. While these students were focused on their palette, brush, and paper, I noticed three or four students had yet to start. I had taught them how to use my computer to scroll through the power point if they wanted to view the art more in depth and up-close.

They were entranced with the art. One boy, around the age of 17, pointed to Starry Night by Van Gogh and said he liked it. My first response was, “yes that is Van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night, everyone knows that piece.” As my words were leaving my mouth I realized one thing—everyone does not know this famous painting. He had never seen Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a painting I apparently took for granted.  

We were on a slide I had filled with the work of Michelangelo when they pointed at the infamous Sistine Chapel where Adam’s finger reaches out to God’s. As I told them fun facts and history behind each artist they began asking who the figures in each piece were. Then they pointed to the image of the Pieta. I told them Michelangelo sculpted Mary and Jesus, and what Michelangelo had imagined the scene was like when Mary held Jesus dead, limp body after being brought down from the cross. 

The Pieta screams emotion, it screams pain, it screams love, it screams for your attention. The boy in class looked at the piece, bent his head, and sat in silence with his eyes closed. He was deeply moved by the Pieta, perhaps it was his favorite too but it’s my favorite so I guess I am biased. 

Sarah and I on the hike up the hill overlooking Lake Victoria and Cherish grounds

Sarah and I on the hike up the hill overlooking Lake Victoria and Cherish grounds

My Heart is Full

Of course some souls instantly are drawn to others. So far I have a few. Trisha. She is my Ugandan Evie (my niece). She is light skinned so she slightly sticks out from the most of the children. She has big eyes, a sweet smile, and a smile where she puts down here chin, looks up her eyes and has that look on her face that makes your heart melt like cotton candy.
My day was made today, when after leaivng the first school day and heading home after painting murals, Sarah and I came to a surprise. We were walking back with two boys, both with the name of Emma (one Emma also has my heart-a crazy, cute troublemaker, he’s a funny 8 year old that speaks english so well), singing “if all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops oh what a rain that would be.” Emma loved the “ah ah ah ah part,” so from around the courner I guess the girls could hear us coming. As we “ah ah ah’d” I look down the road and a group of about 5 girls, all in wonderful dresses, began sprinting toward us. Thanks to Finley, Harper, Eve,and  occasionally Paxton, I know what this means. I dropped down to my knees, hands full or mural supplies and opened them wide. Surprisingly and to my excitement Trisha, the youngest of all the kids led the pack. She finished first jumping into the finish line-my arms. Sweet Irene came up and hugged me as well. She is my other little soulmate-the first girl I met here. My heart was full. Trisha and I skipped holding hands later and when one of the boys hurt her on accident I got to kiss her boo boo. After a long days work, on my walk down the trail going home, I was greeted with love. It was like a parent stepping in the house after being gone all day. I loved it.
Overall, this place is beautiful. They do not need us whatsoever which is humbling. People think of Africa and they think of poor babies and dangerous places. Not here. Sure these kids have HIV, with that label some would say they are dying, but they are more alive than many people I know. The play outside, they joke, they look no different than any other, they play sports until Chad, Jake and Clark run out of energy, and then, they’ll just play each other. They smile, they sweat, they taught us their handshake and their games. They are smart, they giggle, and they love.Their bloodstream might be “infected,” but aren’t all of ours with a earthly life-long disease? Despite the typical world views of them, they live in freedom here at Cherish where Heaven is pulled down to meet these Ugandan grounds.  
One more thing my heart loves? All the kids call you “Auntie ______” or “Uncle _______.” They say “Kasey” with an accent to where it sounds like “Kiss-ee.” So here I am known as “Auntie Kiss-ee” which was already making my heart smile, but then there was more. Since they pronounced it as “Kiss-ee” they assumed the association. Therefore they don’t just yell “Auntie Kiss-ee! Auntie Kiss-ee!!” They yell it and blow a kisses at me for “kiss-ee.”

Artists often possess the skills and temperament that business leaders regularly say are in short supply: creativity, resiliency, flexibility, high tolerance for risk and ambiguity, as well as the courage to fail.

A beautiful and incredibly delicious coffee shop cafe in Kampala called Prunes. I had a pineapple, ginger, yogurt, banana smoothie while Rachel (the regular) ordered her usual latte and an apple pie and ice cream for the table to share. 

Interestingly, a fire started in the kitchen four months ago burning down the inside of Prunes, but they completely bounced back in just around 2 months! Amazing, and how well designed!

A beautiful and incredibly delicious coffee shop cafe in Kampala called Prunes. I had a pineapple, ginger, yogurt, banana smoothie while Rachel (the regular) ordered her usual latte and an apple pie and ice cream for the table to share.

Interestingly, a fire started in the kitchen four months ago burning down the inside of Prunes, but they completely bounced back in just around 2 months! Amazing, and how well designed!

Today we ventured up the hill with Randy and one of the professors. We passed through the village right outside of Cherish and walked up and up until we met rocks, that we climbed, and saw this. Jaws dropped. We peered over Lake Victoria mostly in silence. The villages and nature provided enough sound for us to sit in. Without having to tune-in to what is usually a cloud of sound, from up high you could hear individuals laughing in the villages below, cows mooing, trees rustling, birds of all different species singing, people conversing, someone hammering, and the wings of the hundreds of dragonflies around us fluttering. What should have been a chaos of noises that can only produce a disarrayed hum, it was a complex, peaceful song. In the book 90 Minutes of Heaven the author recalls worship I’m heaven as being all different songs at once being sung, and you can hear them all perfectly and at the same time they create one big beautiful song. Pleasing to the ears rather than confusing them. At this little piece of heaven, that does not stop at Cherish’s walls but The Light radiates beyond the gates into the village and up the hill to this spot, we experienced worship in our silence.

It was good.