Hope In The Struggle

Last week I shared about the time I slept through a big section of the ACT when I was in high school, and I wondered —why exactly am I inclined to share this story and other stories like it? Is this useful information to anyone? But then I thought of all the times I’ve been relieved when I found out that someone I thought was performing well in life, was in fact stumbling along just like me. We need to hear things like that don’t we?

I love listening to the podcast “How I Built This”. It tells the stories behind entrepreneurs who have  pursued their business goals and been successful. I love getting to hear about these courageous men and women— their attempts and failures, their perseverance and failures, their faith and failures, and ultimately their success. If this podcast was about people who had succeeded in every way since birth and then succeeded at some business venture, I would have zero interest. I need to hear the struggle. It gives me hope.

When I share paintings on instagram or in shows, I’m sharing a part of myself. It’s a part I’m happy to share. If a video of me painting clouds went viral, I’d be like “Wow, how about that?” But if a video of me crying as I struggle to work difficult math problems went viral I would be more like, “How could this happen!!!????” Why such different reactions? They’re both accurate representations of some part of who I am. But in one video, I would look successful, and in the other I would not.

And although I’m not willing to create a video of me crying as I do math (and I don’t think you’d want to see it anyway), I’m happy to share some ridiculous blunders I’ve made in my life. There are a lot to choose from.

One of my favorites is the time I lost my car for weeks, thought it was stollen, and then by chance, found it again. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But it happened. My husband says I should share this story in more detail at some point so maybe I will.

Another favorite is the time I intended to go to a psychology class in college but went to a PHD level physics class on accident and—still assuming I was in the psychology class—proceeded to think that everything the teacher said was metaphorical. I really did that, and I got a lot out of that class too. I only figured out I had been in the wrong class when I went to buy the textbook and it was not a psychology book. Suddenly the lessons I’d learned in class that day took on very different meanings—much more literal meanings. It was one of the funniest moments of my life and still makes me laugh thinking of it.

I’m going to share some things like that here and there on my blog and you may love me for it or look down on me for it (you’re not that type though, are you?) but either way I bet you’ll marvel at God’s faithfulness to a dreamer like me. I’m shocked by it often. Metaphorically.

~ Amy

 

Behind the Story: Out of the Box

Featured in my book “And The Light Comes In”

Most of my life I have struggled with fear. It can be debilitating. It can make you miss out on the beauty around you and paralyze you from trying new things. Fear is the enemy of creativity. I don't think I or anyone else can keep from feeling fearful at times, but I do think we can choose not to make fear our ruler. We can acknowledge our feelings but make our decisions based on truth, hope, love, and kindness. That's what this painting is about. It's about a choice. There is no box that will protect us from pain or sadness. And if we choose to let fear rule us we will lose our sense freedom and hope. Life outside of the box is better than life inside it.

- Amy

Source: http://www.storypaintings.net/blog

That Wretched Documentary

"In the Shadow of the Dark Fortress" shows the light winning.

"In the Shadow of the Dark Fortress" shows the light winning.

I have a tendency to either see life like a sunny sky that's always been sunny and always will be… or the exact opposite—like a dark sky that's always been dark and always will be. One day, a couple of years ago, I was beginning to feel that ominous sky creeping into my mind. It was lunch time and I thought to myself—hey, I think I'll watch a documentary while I eat lunch. That sounds nice. A few weeks before I'd heard someone say there was an interesting documentary about Sea World. Sure enough, I found it on Netflix and sat there munching a salad, ready to be entertained, and hoping to feel a little less gloomy afterwards. The documentary was very sad. Very, very sad. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I definitely watched enough. When I picked my kids up from school, they told me about their day and I remember thinking, That's really sad. Just like Sea World. And I continued to think those same words—That's really sad. Just like Sea World—about nearly everything I heard for the next three months. It's amazing how many things you can relate back to a sad documentary if you set your mind to it. After a while I started thinking—you know, the world is just one big Sea World, and all of it is really, really sad. I was super depressed. I might have continued that way forever, or at least for a good bit longer, if it weren't for a certain family of geese. 

I realized that I had taken a joyful event...and had managed to make it into a postponed sad event by tacking the words, "this time", on to the end of my sentence.

I was driving along, thinking sad thoughts that all went straight back to Sea World when I noticed this family of geese attempting to cross a busy road. I was certain they were all going to die, but to my surprise the car in front of me stopped in time for them to get across, and the car coming from the other direction did the same. The geese made it. Out loud I said, "Oh, thank the Lord! They made it! This time." Hearing myself say this out loud I realized that I had taken a joyful event—a bunch of geese not being squashed flat—and had managed to make it into a postponed sad event by tacking the words, "this time", on to the end of my sentence. The ridiculousness of this had a jolting effect. What had I been doing for the last three months? There had probably been good things here and there the whole time, but I'd colored them all with that wretched documentary. 

I've found that it's important for me to search for the light and hold onto it—even the memory of it—and to notice quickly when i'm sitting in the darkness and dwelling on the gloom.

I've found that it's important for me to search for the light and hold onto it—even the memory of it—and to notice quickly when i'm sitting in the darkness and dwelling on the gloom.

I decided to think back and try to see God's provisions—all the places He'd been shining through that I had not noticed before. I thought back, and there they were! The provisions had not necessarily been in the form I would have chosen, and so I had counted them as nothings at the time. I had looked straight past them. But now that I was intentionally looking for them, I could see so many. Little kindnesses. Little moments. Big kindnesses. Big moments. 

Creating art is a form of dwelling on an idea. It's an active dwelling.

There's this one verse that says, "Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, if there is any excellence, anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."  Creating art is a form of dwelling on an idea. It's an active dwelling. If I spent a long time painting a picture that had a hopeless message I would be negatively affected by it. I'd probably "go Sea World" after 45 minutes—maybe quicker. It doesn't take long for all the color to get sucked out of my view. That's why I only paint hopeful pictures. Some of my paintings have deep sadness mixed in. The ideas and stories for some came to my mind when I was praying about very difficult and dark situations,  but they are all centered on hope. I paint pictures of the light winning.  

I've found that it's important for me to search for the light and hold onto it—even the memory of it—and to notice quickly when i'm sitting in the darkness and dwelling on the gloom. The act of painting is one of the ways I hold on to the light.  Avoiding incredibly sad documentaries is another. 

- Amy