Self-portrait, Spring 1996

Part of an Instagram Art Show. Originally from TCA senior art show, 1999.

This piece is another homage, alluding to Andy Warhol’s 1962 and 1967 silk screens of Marylin Monroe. Except, rather than printing the same image repeatedly, my portrait shows a transformation. Long-haired, emaciated Mandy changes to pixie-haired, healthy Mandy. The quote is from Dante’s Purgatory (also referenced in T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland): “Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina”(Dante, Canto XXVI). Then hid him in the fire that refines them.

Last night Etta woke up crying every hour. This morning she had a fever and vomited on me while watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The primary care doctor rescheduled Joshua‘s staph infection follow-up due to a personal emergency. Moses is seemingly impermeable to anyone’s grumps. I am very tired, on every level.

I’ve never celebrated Advent before, having grown up in non-denominational churches. But the combination of Etta’s current obsession with reading her Bible and other friend’s comments about loving Advent inspired me to find out how to do it ourselves. From the Latin “to come,” Advent’s origins in looking forward to Christ’s coming (in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and His second coming) are uncertain. It has been celebrated at least since 480 AD. I found a reading guide using the Jesus Storybook Bible, a kid friendly Bible that points to Jesus with every story. And true to Blankenship form, we set up a calendar using homemade envelopes.

Advent is a season of waiting. Of looking forward to a promise fulfilled. Of anticipating salvation, justice, wholeness. Jesus is the promise fulfilled. The Savior. Bringer of justice. Healer. He transformed into a baby and made a way for us where there was no way. The prophet Isaiah tells us more.

“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:2-6).

Jesus endured a refining fire for our sake. I am in a refining fire too, following His example. But unlike Jesus, I don’t usually have a good attitude about it. I whine and complain and want out, so so badly. God help me to see the larger perspective. I’m not even sure what that is right now. Creation groaning for redemption (Romans 8:18-25). Finding God in the wilderness. Transformation.