Friday, January 6, 2017

Contemplations on the Year

“Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
~ Malachi 3:10b

Copyright © Edward Riojas

I was originally going to do the obvious and plow through a complete list of pieces on which I’ve worked during the past year. Exhaustive lists like that, however, are exhausting. If such a compiliation doesn't bore you to death, it most certainly would have made me comatose. Besides, I don’t have the time to gather all that stuff.

2016 was certainly different from all previous years. I suppose I could have told you that I deftly pulled myself up by my bootstraps after getting fired from my job at The Grand Rapids Press/MLive Media Group, but that would have been mostly a lie.

I was a good boy and followed through with the company-sponsored transition training. I became a LinkedIn expert, whatever that is. I beefed up my resume and portfolio so that it impressed even me. I sent out self-promotional information to dozens of local firms, flexing my artistic and intelectual bicepts in the process. If, however, anyone asked me how many bites I got from all that effort, I would have borrowed the line from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Almost, nearly one.”

In spite of what didn’t happen, I became very busy. I am convinced none of it was my doing.

Countless projects materialized out of thin air, pastors contacted me out of the blue, and commissions piled up. Work became a constant. What once was a one or two year waiting list for side-jobs is now a two or three year waiting list in a full-time job. It wasn’t until someone quipped that they love my job did I realize that I, in fact, have one. Wearing jammies in the afternoon doesn’t necessarily mean one is unemployed.

And while I was forced to say goodbye to a few dear friends at the office and, in some cases, forego the farewells altogether, I have gained new acquaintances and friends. Some of those friendships mean close collaborative efforts, including a book project and vestment designs for a small firm. In other cases, individuals have gone out of their way to create work for me and have promoted me far better than I do.

Losing a job can be humbling. Laboring at my current work is even more so.

One year ago today, I was escorted out the door of a company where I had labored for nearly 31 years. To put it plainly, I was no longer wanted there. But while I now need permission to walk those office floors, a church in Austin, Texas, is interested in what I can do with their terrazzo floors. Three other churches are interested in what I can do for their walls, and an additional two – one in Cincinnati and one in Fowler, Mich., have approved commissions for their walls. I recently delivered a piece to a church in Frankenmuth, Mich., that flanks the altar of the Lord. I am currently working on a piece that will sit on another altar in Wausau, Wisc.

One piece that defines my new role and my not-so-new “Boss” will soon be found in a church in Denver. While not the largest or most grandiose of art, and while covered for all but one day of the year, a simple design of mine will grace not some “hallowed” wall of commerce or industry, but will be engraved, in stone, on the very altar of the Lord.

“Altar top design”
Edward Riojas. 2016. (Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado)


  1. I think I am familiar with that altar and may even see it again soon. We thank God that He has provided for you and your family in times and places that you weren't expecting. God's richest blessings to our favorite artist and his family.