Guest posting today at Joyful Mothering about Visual Prayer as a Spiritual discipline.
Click here to read.
By doing visual art as prayer, I sort of felt like I was being unbiblical. But God is a creative God and I was seeking Him diligently. I wanted to please him. I knew in my heart that before Visual Prayer, I was not praying in a way that brought me to Him.
In this (long) series:
Sometimes Things Don’t Turn Out As I Planned
Shepherds Aren’t Always Nice
How Things Come Together When God Tries To Get My Attention Part 1
How Things Come Together When God Tries To Get My Attention Part 2
How Things Come Together When God Tries To Get My Attention Part 3
From last time…
As I was drawing that tree and writing on it “I am the vine” I also drew some wind and wrote on it “and He whispers on the wind” I heard that small, still voice in my head telling me “Give this drawing to the first person who tells you it’s beautiful.” But no one did. So I put the drawing away and I chit-chatted with some girls at a nearby table.
Then, this special friend I met, Stepahie Bowman, sits down next to me and says something…
“I saw you were drawing something. May I see it?”
In a moment I was hesitant and confused and a little excited, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The drawing was in my purse, so I dug it out, flipped to the page and handed it over to Stephanie.
“It is beautiful.”
I smiled knowingly, not knowing that I was something special, not knowing that my drawing was spectacular, but knowing that I was praying, God spoke, and I listened.
Because I usually argue.
Stephanie was staring at the drawing and I think I kind of snatched it from her. I started tearing the page from the sketchbook, she asked what I was doing. I remained silent. Handed her the drawing and said this is for you. She cried, thanked me, we parted ways. I didn’t tell her why I did it. I simply obeyed.
to obey is better than sacrifice
In the grand scheme of things, it seems less than important that I drew a picture while I prayed and gave it away. I didn’t change the world. I didn’t provide money for a well for clean water to those in need. I didn’t do something spectacular or live-saving, or live-giving for that matter.
but I obeyed.
The weekend was over as quick as it had started. The airport was bulging at the seams, splitting and leaking. Flights were so overbooked, passengers were sent in cabs to cities hours away. I was flying standby. I kinda knew I wasn’t getting home Sunday. Brooke McGlothlin, my roommate, offered to take me to her home five hours away so I’d have a better chance of getting home. Stephanie (and another Stephanie) were also in the car for most of that trip. Yeah…God already knew that would happen.
We chatted about the conference. Again, I felt a little out of place, misfit that I am. After we dropped off the Stephanies that were riding along, Brooke and I talked. It was a deep, spiritual talk. The kind that I’ve not had–I can’t even remember the last time. maybe never.
One of the subjects stemmed from this:
The day before I left for the conference, someone I respect immensely, took a kind of big risk and told me something I might have reacted badly to. (I didn’t, but could’ve) I lugged the burden of my iniquity around not realizing the weight or impact.
In hindsight…pun totally intended…there may be cause to believe that God timed this person’s comments in such a way as to cause a complete emotional breakdown. The comment wasn’t intended to send me tailspin.
In summary, the context of the conversation was regarding my position in ccPublshing. Paraphrasing, this person believes and feels that I come off as cold and unemotional at times and I sometimes don’t appear to be conversing, but want instead to be obeyed.
And yeah, I’m a hard ass. I know. But I didn’t think, for a moment, that I was being dictator-esque. I took those statements and tried to wrap my brain around them. I was pretty certain that in all of the discussions, board meetings, and brainstorming sessions, I’d prefaced my ideas with, “I think maybe…” or “What are your thoughts…” or “I wonder if we should…” or similar lead-ins. I’d learned years ago, from a book called Jesus, CEO that to lead, you have to put yourself at the bottom of the flow chart. And dude. I take that to heart. So yeah. Those statements bothered me. A lot.
Enough that I kept discussing things with Brooke. She asked me some hard questions.
“You say you’re not emotional & tender. But you sure seem like it to me, why do you keep saying this?”
Because I’m not as emotional as most women. I have my moments, but for the most part, I’m just not.
“Is that who you are, or is it something you’ve done to yourself?”
I know the answer. It is hard for me to say it here, out loud, to forever be recorded–because I’d rather keep it hidden, where I can somewhat control it. Part of me fears someone in my family might read this and I don’t know what will happen if they do. Part of me doesn’t give a flying fuck if they do read it. It’s a two part answer. Maybe more. The easy answer is: both. Being less emotional than other women is actually part of who I am, who I was created to be, but the other part, I’ve done to myself. Maybe not intentionally at first. And it’s difficult to unravel the answer because it goes way back.
I don’t know where it all started, I don’t have access to those memories. My dad was a door-gunner in Vietnam. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and he’s also bipolar. But back then, these things didn’t have names and there was no help. What I knew then was I was the target of my dad’s anger. What I didn’t know was that he had no control of these things. I hated him. He beat me and I hated him more. He yelled at me and called me a slut and I hated him more. I disliked the fact that my mom didn’t leave him. I thought she should’ve protected me and removed me from harm’s way. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know he wasn’t in control. The fight of flight instinct? I’m a fighter (as if I had to tell you that?) I want to make it clear though, that several years ago, our relationship was healed. I’ll tell that story someday. And I have forgiven him. Fully. I’m telling you this stuff because it deal directly with what is happening in my life right now. This instant. I didn’t really make peace with my mom about it. I kinda did, I talked to her on her death bed. But that was just me talking to her and I don’t know if she heard.
Another facet to this thing I’m dealing with, whatever it’s called, is the fact that I was sexually violated as a child. My grandma (mom’s mom) lived across the alley from us and her father moved in with her. They both drank. a lot. He would touch me inappropriately in front of her and she’d pretend she was watching TV, pretend she didn’t see it, or she’d fall asleep on the couch in the living room and didn’t stop it and I didn’t know how to stop it. If there was more that happened, I don’t remember. This was violation enough. I talked to my grandma on her death bed, as well. But it was just me talking and I don’t know if she heard.
I did not have a safe place. And I didn’t believe there was a God. I didn’t believe that someone who loved me would sit back and watch all this. So truthfully, I didn’t think ANYone loved me. Because I’m sure a whole lot of people knew and saw and just sat back and did nothing.
That’s how it came to be that I shut down emotionally during stress or trauma, or emotionally charged times. It’s called survival.
I’ve worked so hard through the years at healing and learning to trust and I gotta be honest, I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job of it. Some of it happened during years I didn’t follow God and some it happened when I was walking with Him. I understand now, that He’s redeemed those years of pain and He knew all along how I’d best learn and change and be formed into this broken, but healed girl.
I’m pretty sure the deaths and grief I’ve had to deal with the past five years are bringing these things to the surface. Because honestly, I’ve not thought about this stuff. It hasn’t consumed me. I haven’t blamed all my shortcomings on my past. I have dealt with it, I have moved forward.
But it’s back and I guess I have to deal with it again. Different parts of it, I think.
Because the most influential adults from my childhood are now all dead.
I keep hearing this in my head:
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of sliver
Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice
He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.
malachi 3:3. proverbs 25:4. john 15:2.
Along with the metaphor Brooke used when I argued with her that I didn’t think God would want me to go digging around in wounds that were already healed. The one where she told me that sometimes there are wounds that have little bits of shrapnel (for lack of a better term) and sometimes those pieces get infected. And I ended the metaphor knowing that if an infection gets bad enough, it will take over and poison the body.
I know this intimately.
While undergoing chemo, with really good chances of a full recovery, my mom’s white count dropped drastically, she developed several infections, which poisoned her body–and this is how she died. She was gone within days. Not because of the tumor, not because of the cancer, not because of the chemo, but because of the infection.
(sorry again) …to be continued.
Rough days are inevitable. Seems like they come in conjunction with some of the biggest blessings. Which I suppose is par for the course.
What makes rough days worse is stupid people. Or stupid mean people. Or just plain ole people.
It might not be that way for you. I walk a tightrope between introvert and extrovert so while some days being with people energizes me, other days, it exhausts me to a disturbing point.
I continually read on of Oswald Chambers’ devotionals about exhaustion. You’re doing yourself a huge disservice if you relate to what I’m saying but don’t read this. It’s short.
I was feeling pressure from so many areas (some of them self-induced) so I decided to take a bath with some lavender bath salts, listen to Jeremy Camp on the iPod dock, and have some quiet time with God. I covered my eyes with a washcloth and asked the Holy Spirit to quiet my soul.
It took awhile. I think my mind naturally resists being still and quiet. The song Letting Go came on and behind my washcloth covered closed eyes, I clearly saw a jar with tears in it.
And I cried.
Then I put on my big girl panties and decided I could trust God to handle these mounting problems of mine. If he could store my tears in a jar, he could certainly take care of some insignificant people that were bothering me. Besides, what they do shouldn’t be my concern, right?
I hurried to my easel and painted a jar.
Then I decided I needed to know where that verse was and in what context it was written. Turns out, it was smack in the middle of a Psalm. Psalm 56.
And what a wonderful Psalm it is for someone in the position I had been complaining about being in.
By creating prayer, renewal washed over me.
My spirit calmed and then soared.
The urge to crawl into bed and hide away from the world for weeks on end was gone.
Not alone in misery and wandering, but every tear recorded and kept in God’s bottle.