This week’s Vocation Interview is with Mary Portteus. I’ve known Mary and her family for a number of years now and have seen them persevere through many health trials, employment battles, financial rollercoasters and more. They will be the first to tell you it wasn’t a blast, but I can say from my external viewpoint they have remained faithful. There’s an artistic bent to this family (husband Brian is a secretly brilliant musician and wordsmith, whilst their children Chloe and Jesse are immersing themselves in all things creative). That creative flair has been both a mode of expression, healing & blessing, and a an avenue of finance for the family. Out of the health crises and deep abiding faith in Jesus, Mary has been working hard on the hope+healing project, an arts based initiative to reach out to children and their families who are currently facing health battles of their own. Cornerstone Worship Center was blessed to hang the opening gallery, which then travelled on to hang in Mercy Medical Center, Nampa (now St. Alphonsus, Nampa). Enough words from me, you’re here to catch a glimpse of Mary’s perspective…

In the opening post I mentioned the concept of “sent ones” within Cornerstone, and you’re a part of Cornerstone. How do you understand the concept of “vocation” or being “sent ones”?

Sent…when we are sent it means that someone is sending us. As a part of the Foursquare branch of God’s great family tree, our motto is “love, mend, equip, send.” As a part of our local leaf of that branch at Cornerstone, I am honored to represent our little body of worshippers and be sent out to wherever God brings the art, dolls, color books, etc. through our hands to those that will be encouraged by it and see a facet of God’s light through it. Whenever I go out to a conference to paint as worship, hang the first show at a hospital, or go to a children’s hospital to give dolls away, I always want to be sent through prayer by my family at Cornerstone. A common symbol throughout the hope+healing project is the organic symbol of those needing prayer connected to the organic symbol of a cluster of spheres, which represents a group gathered in prayer. I know that whenever God sends me out to give from what He has created in me, I am tethered in prayer with Cornerstone, who – through prayer – are giving just as much with our family as we are sent to serve others through this arts ministry.

You and your family have been through a lot recently in your lives and your faith – how has that played out for you in the arena of work?

As a homemaker and artist working from home, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to heal every moment that I am able to pull a run of prints, bend over to load the dishwasher, lean over a piece of crewel embroidery work, fold a piece of clothing or lean down to look at a kid’s creativity. It’s just amazing! Basically, I am learning to look at all those moments I took for granted earlier and see them for how amazing they are…that I can praise God through doing what I can to keep our home a place of rest and peace. And as an artist, I can work each piece with the reminder that in being slowed down to create, I am experiencing a meditative moment with Jesus that exists to bring glory to His name and be an encouragement to others. There have been many times where my ‘arena of work’ has been a hospital bed. I remember when we handed out prints to whoever we encountered at the hospital on the day of the latest surgery…a picture to let care givers know that people were praying for them that day. It certainly changed the atmosphere of the sterile environment & hopefully brought encouragement to the hospital staff. …a living testimony of all things working for good to those who love Jesus…and a reminder that even in difficult situations, we can always be light & encouragement.

You’ve described the current art project as your “third child” – to take such personal ownership of an endeavor is striking. Care to develop that for us?

When we discovered that I would need a hysterectomy, the news came less as a loss and more as an opportunity to ask what God would fill that vacancy with. We prayed about adoption, and ended feeling led to adopt art as a source of outgoing encouragement through the hope+healing project. This includes all the kids that will come into our lives through the project. For now, it’s interesting that the dolls we are giving to pediatric patients are about the size of a newborn. I smile at this and think of a wonderful quote by Madeline L’Engle in her book “Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art“:

“The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary, who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command…I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here i am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” And the aritst either says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses…”

Do you see more integration of the two (faith/work) in Christians, or starker separation?

I would hope that the two (faith/work) might become fully intertwined in our response to the work we do daily. Every breath and movement should be in some way affected by the fact that, when we gave our lives to Jesus, He might be light shown through all of our moments & experiences. I am sure Brian’s co workers notice that there is a difference in the everyday action and reactions of life as a blue collar worker. For myself, I become more aware of this integration as my work gets brought into the light of people knowing who I am when I go out to sell something handmade to a store and interact with the manager/buyer or when someone recognizes my face from a newspaper interview as they observe me as I interact with my children at the grocery store. Talk about accountability! Everyday life experiences such as work, or driving while running errands, reveal how I live out my faith…and how I respond if I (or those around me) make mistakes along that journey. Do I extend grace, hope and love? Am I integrating faith as a lifestyle into all areas of life, including work? My prayer is, “Lord, help me be able to live the love!”

Final thoughts?

As I am physically able to work more, I see that every area of my work must integrate the walking out of my faith. I am excited to see what the Lord allows me and those working with me to be capable of. As the hope+healing grows into a non-profit, with committee members, volunteers, etc. this integration will be a new challenge that I ask for grace in. I will be singing my new favorite line as we go: “oh happiness! there’s grace enough for us and the whole human race!

To support the hope+healing project, and to buy some of Mary’s creations, head over to marymakesart.etsy.com