Can I just be a canvas?

When I see a blank canvas, I see possibility. Any picture that someone could think of can be painted on a clean white space. A beautiful sunrise, a breath-taking mountain view, or an ocean front sandy beach. The possibilities are endless.

I believe that we are types of canvases— human canvases if you will.

The pictures painted on us are usually dictated by our experiences. If we have good things going on in our lives, we may have colors of sunshine yellow, radiant blue, glittery green… you get the idea. If we have had bad, even horrible things happen, our canvas will have colors of black, gloomy gray, lifeless brown… again, you get it. We don’t always get to choose what scene goes on our canvas, but we can choose to change the colors that are being used to paint with.

The colors on my canvas have changed over the years. Growing up with blindness has put those dismal colors of black, gray, and brown on the pristine white backdrop. Feeling that I would never have a “normal” life. (See my post titled It’s ok to be you) It made me feel that my colors would always be just varying hues of those gloomy shades. Feeling like no one would be able to bring vibrant colors into my life because after all, who wants a girlfriend who is “broken”? But then someone did come into my life! Oh, how I loved the joy he brought to my empty life. He began painting on my canvas with colors of red, pink and purple. You know, all of the “love” colors. But as our relationship progressed, those colors turned to black and blue. He broke my bones in my left ear and he broke my heart. He took my confidence and simply dumped and splashed colors of darkness onto my canvas. I wanted so desperately to wash away those colors. But it was a bit like trying to wash off dried paint from the wall. I couldn’t just wipe it away. It needed to be painted over.

As I had changes in my vision that left me feeling like it would never stabilize, there was the colors of bright yellow mixed with gloomy gray. I wasn’t sure how my painting was going to look with all the competing hues. I began to put a coating over my canvas that the colors couldn’t penetrate. I could simply remove the protective coating, throw it away, and put on a new one.  But that left me with no real connection to anyone or anything. Just surface relationships, conversations, and a topical spiritual life. I didn’t really have a spiritual life until my twenties but it had no depth to it even when I did accept God into my life.

The bullies throughout my school years, the people who looked at me with pity as an adult, and even friends who treat me with just a little too much mothering, have all painted on my canvas. My wonderful God-fearing supportive husband and my two loving awesome kids have also painted on my canvas. But when I finally let God paint on my canvas, I found that I could remove that protective coating and let Him paint on the porous surface of the white canvas and let the colors seep into me. The colors are so much more vibrant and bold. God’s colors are not like any other colors that we see. My vision prevents me from identifying colors correctly, but let me tell ya… I see His colors. I know when I’ve let God paint on my canvas or when I’ve let people do the painting. The cool thing is, no matter what colors I’ve had painted by bad or hurtful experiences, God is right there with His paint pallet, ready to paint over the mistakes.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time, also He has put eternity into man’s heart yet that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” God has a perfect plan for each of us and a perfect time to carry out that plan. Each plan has a color and when they are all put on our canvas in the right place at the right time… WOW! What a masterpiece. Oh friends, let God paint on the canvas of your life. It will be a priceless work of art!

 

 

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My Mother’s Day Gift to Myself

Hi all! Welcome back to my table. I hope all you moms had a beautiful Mother’s Day! I surely did. It was very low-key, just the way I like it. I slept in a little bit and then had my hot beverage down on my sun porch. I turned on my Alexa to a lovely nature sounds and music playlist and opened the word of God.

I thought it befitting (albeit a little cliché) to read about the Proverbs 31 woman. Oi, she can kinda make us ladies feel inferior huh? Well that’s how I can feel sometimes after reading about her perfect, got it all together life. She’s prepared, she’s efficient, she’s organized… all the ways that I often fall short. I sometimes read about her and feel a little jealous, do you? I go so far as to recommit to being more like her starting tomorrow morning. Then the alarm goes off and I rise with the determination to have a hot hardy breakfast on the table and by the time the breakfast dishes are done, I’m wanting a break. I don’t want to even think about planning dinner yet. Now I do make out a menu for the week for shopping purposes. But I feel a little drained from trying to be Miss Proverbs 31.

However, I chose to revisit her this Mother’s Day and rather than being jealous of her, I decided to learn from her ONE   STEP   AT  A   TIME! I think that’s better for me to do instead of looking at ALL the things she’s doing well. I’ll take the first thing and work on that. The first thing Miss Proverbs does is to be a trustworthy wife: “the heart of her husband trusts in her,” (Prov. 31;11. I will strive to be the kind of wife my husband can trust his heart to.)

I want to make Miss Proverbs my mentor instead of my measuring stick. I want to glean from her, not to be mean to her. Can’t we do that sometimes? We actually accuse her of being “Miss Perfect”. Well at least I’ve done that before.

As I choose to gift myself with learning from Miss Proverbs, I pray you will join me in that. Let’s just take the first attribute that is given and focus on that. Don’t do what I’ve done before and complain to a friend, your mother, or even the dog about how dissatisfied you are with your spouse. Instead make a list of all the good things about him. I will be talking more about Miss Proverbs and what I’m learning from her. I have had life changing run-ins lately that have made me step back and realize that I’m needing guidance from Miss Proverbs and lots of other people in the bible.

The true gift is coming to a point of saying “I don’t have it all together and I don’t know everything about parenting or being a wife.”  My blindness tries to fool me into thinking that because I can’t see very well that I can “see” things better than a lot of people (Insert mental image of me face palming here). It’s ok to know where God has gifted you, in fact we are supposed to know. If we didn’t, how would we ever know we were using our gifts? But it’s knowing them with humility that’s the key. Understanding that we can always learn from someone else a new and/or better way to do something. Yes, we can even learn from our kids (OOOOHH, THAT ONE STINGS A LITTLE). But it’s all part of this journey I’m on and seeking to bring others along with me is being ok with me.  Knowing that there is nothing wrong with me but I can always learn and grow. So, gift yourself with a Mother’s Day gift of allowing yourself to be taught by someone else. It doesn’t mean you don’t know how to do anything on your own, it’s knowing yourself and loving yourself enough to realize it’s time to learn and grow some more.

It’s okay to be you

It’s so hard to fit in these days, isn’t it? Not just for kids but for adults as well. Now more than ever, we are scoping out Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and every other social media platform, and comparing ourselves to everyone else. For kids, it’s who has the latest techy device, for teens it’s who has the most drama and the best room/car/boyfriend/biggest friend list/makeup… the list goes on. For adults it’s who has the most successful career, the nicest home (straight out of a magazine), the children who’ve excelled the most. It’s a constant comparison game.

When I was in school I never wanted to let others know that I was visually impaired (Side trip… my cousin hates that term so he uses the word “blindish.” Anyway, back to the main road…) I did what ever I had to do to fit in and not let it be known that I was ‘blindish’. If that meant being on a team that always lost, at least I didn’t have to admit I couldn’t see the volley ball. If I got in trouble for constantly being late to class, it was better than confessing that I had difficulty finding the classroom. If someone waved at me from across the hall and I didn’t see them, I preferred they saw me as a snob than admit I didn’t see them.

Reading this now, it seems so ridiculous to think I preferred to be all the wrong things so long as I didn’t have to be me. I never was a part of blind schools or camps or support groups growing up. We all thought that it was best to live life as “normal” as possible. The school wanted my parents to put me in special classes for more challenged students. My parents didn’t think I should have to do that since my challenges were not with learning. I had enough vision then to read large print until later in high school, so that’s what I used. Obviously after lugging around those huge books, people were bound to notice I had a vision problem. Then as I got to where I couldn’t read print anymore, I had to leave the classroom to go have another teacher who helped students read me my papers and text books. So of course, it became an issue of “hey, how come she gets to leave?” every time I had to leave the room.

Once I got out of high school, I vowed I was never letting people know about my blindness again. I never felt ok with who I was or how I was. I just wanted to be “normal”. What does that even look like? We all have our “normal.” It might be normal for me to go grocery shopping once a week, but you go once a month… whose normal? It might be normal for you to go out to lunch with friends twice a week but I go once every other month, who is normal? My parents had two kids but my husband’s parents had four, who’s normal?

Normal is what is “your” normal. That might be wearing jeans and a T-shirt every single day or it might be wearing a suit every single day. Your normal could be putting on your glasses to see where you are going or grabbing your white cane to see where you are going. Your normal could be taking your kids to school everyday or it could be spoon feeding your child who is a quadriplegic. You see, everyone has a normal. It’s okay to be your kind of normal. It’s okay for me to be my kind of normal. God made each of us in His image. Genesis chapter 1 and verse 27 says, “so God created man in His own image…” He designed each of us in HIS image. We wouldn’t dare tell an artist such as Pablo Picasso that his work wasn’t normal. We would never tell a writer such as Ernest Hemingway that his work wasn’t normal. In fact, it’s the “out of the box” viewpoints of these men that made them so very legendary. They didn’t see the world in a “normal” way and that is what made them so brilliant. Friends, it’s ok to be your brand of normal. It’s ok for your kids to shine in all of their special qualities that make them… them. Embrace the “normalness” of your life so that it can BE normal for the rest of your life. God created all of us. Remember who you are and whose you are.

I do not have, so I fight

Ok folks… it’s time to take the gloves off. I’m about to get real with y’all. I’m also about to get real with myself. I have talked a number of times here on the blog about my blindness. Well what I haven’t talked that much about is the anger that goes with it. James 4:1-2 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have so you murder. You covet and not obtain so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”

Now these verses are referring to worldly possessions, but in my situation, I feel like it applies. What causes fights? Usually anger is present when we fight, is it not? Anger rises up in me when I can not do what I long to do because of my disability. Still after all these years it rises up. Anger is like a lighted match. If you get it to close to something or someone, it will burn it or them. If we are not careful, it can consume that thing or that person. This can result in the murdering of their spirit. My anger from my disability flares up most when I have to rely on other people to do things for me. If they can not do it, I’m immediately angry. Not at them but at my disability. But never the less, the match has been stricken. See a fire doesn’t care about what it burns, only that it burns. I can touch that flame of anger to a situation in my life or a person in my life. It will burn either one or both.

I quarrel because I do not have. I do not have the ability to go somewhere on my own. I do not have the vision to see what activities my kids are doing. I do not have the ability to take my kids shopping or anywhere for that matter, without burdening someone else. That flame of anger sparks to more then a flame when to many of these types of things happen to close together. Sometimes it feels like I’ve gone through an entire box of matches in one week. I’ve yelled at my kids, I’ve snapped at my husband, I’ve backed out of commitments, I’ve just completely shut down.

What I want to have, I cannot have. The freedom to live independently. However, this is not the fault of my children, my husband, my parents, or my God. It is the result of one individual who wants not only my destruction but for me to pass that destruction on to my family. This individual need not any lip service in this blog entry… I believe you know who is being referred to. I do not have because I do not ask. I have to admit that I pray often for my vision to be healed. I pray often for my disability to be used to honor God. I pray often that I can help others through my disability. But I don’t pray often for God to give me peace about where I am in my life. I don’t use my cane in public (or anywhere for that matter) out of some stress about being a spectacle. I don’t make it obvious that I have any sort of vision loss for the fear of being pitied or worse, people thinking I couldn’t do what they might have asked me to do if I wasn’t legally blind. I will admit to you that I hate being legally blind. But I do not have the peace because I do not ask. I want the peace of being ok where I am. I don’t want to have my life or my family go up in flames because of my anger towards my blindness.

This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever admitted to but sometimes I am jealous of my kids and husband because they can do all the things I wish I could do. Don’t get me wrong! I would never want any of them to go through blindness! But that doesn’t stop me from envying their independence. My son has had his license for a few years now and my daughter will be trading her permit in for a license soon. They are getting their wings to fly and I am so grateful that they are. But I sometimes feel envious because my wings have been clipped. My husband works so hard to provide for his family and feels so good when he does that. He is so gifted in so many ways and he uses those God given gifts to provide for us. I have to watch him work long hours, watch him painfully get out of bed some mornings, watch him drag himself home at night after a 14-hour day, and I can do nothing to help him. My hope and prayer is that I will be successful in my writing to be able to help him carry some of the load. I pray my writing is successful so my kids have a mom they can be proud of and not one they remember as being angry about what she couldn’t do. Father God I plead with You to grant me Your peace about my blindness. Lord take the anger and make it go far away. Lord help me to extinguish the flames that I’ve already stricken the matches for. I do not want to be quarrelsome, Lord I want to be kind. Give me peace Father. Amen.

If there is anger in your life about a situation that you cannot change, friends I implore you to get on your knees (even if it is only in your mind due to paralysis) and plead with God to give you peace. Not as the world gives, but as only He can give. Pray the prayer above with me and let’s make the road to freedom from anger together.

Molding with clay

My daughter is homeschooled and we found a great co-op to be a part of so she gets some social time that is also beneficial. They offer enrichment classes that consist of anything from writing to archery to life skills and so on. My daughter thought it might be fun to take a clay class where they make fun things like mini gum ball machines and mini snickers bars. I have a little s’more that she made for me as a key chain. I’ve seen them make hot dogs, tacos, cannoli and so much more. My little girl’s imagination begins to play out all the ways a child could pretend with all these items. It makes me wish I was a child again. Or at least make sure no one is in the house and just play with them anyway!

Someone who has a crafty hand and endless imagination could create any number of things. I watch all the kids in that class, heads bent, hands working the clay over and over. They add different colors to the layers to create the desired effects. Folding and turning the clay, it begins to take the shape of what they imagine it could be. When they have finalized the project, it must be baked to harden to keep its shape. Then it must be painted with a glaze to protect it from chipping or to give it a shiny finish.

The kids have different ideas for what they will do with their treasures. Some will hold them for their own use and keep them safe. Some will gift them to a friend or parent. Some just make them to make them without any intent at all except they love to make them. But whatever the reason, the process to make them is the same: choosing, molding, baking, glazing and then it’s finished and ready for use.

God has much the same process. He chooses you and me for a particular purpose. Then He molds us to be flexible and in the right shape for what He has in mind. Then He adds color to our lives to give us more experiences to draw from. Then He refines us by heat to strengthen our faith and character. He will take a final step and coat us with His glaze to help us shine for Him. Friends, God sees the potential in the un-crafted and unmolded clay of our lives. He sees the beauty it can become. He also knows what it takes to make it beautiful. Just like a sculptor, be it a child or a seasoned artist, if all the steps are not completed, there will be a product that might look strong but folds under pressure. If I were to have put my s’more charm on my key chain before the whole process was completed, it surely would have been smashed and disfigured and looked nothing like my daughter intended for it to look. God has an intention for us and if we will allow Him to mold us, we can do amazing things for Him. Jeremiah 18:3-4, Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hands of the potter, so he remade it into another vessel as it pleased the potter to make. (ESV)

A potter will make a vessel with a particular purpose in mind and if it is not turning out the way he or she intends, they will start over. The potter does not throw away the clay, he or she simply starts over with the same clay. God can remold us as many times as it takes to bring forth what His intended use is as long as we allow Him to. Be the clay in the hands of the master potter.

 

Everyone has a blind spot

Having an eye disease has ensured many, many tests over the last thirty-five years. Each doctor and each hospital has had their own set of tests but they were all looking for the same things. My eyes have been dilated more times than I can count. There is a test that I’ve had done several times that is quite invasive; it requires these hard contact like instruments that are placed on top of my eyes and they are designed to keep me from blinking. They are approximately the size of a nickel so they cover the whole eye. I have to sit in a completely black room for thirty minutes before the test is done. This is to make sure that my eyes are totally adjusted to the dark. I then move to another dimly lit room to begin the test. The contacts are put in place, my chin goes on the machine and the light show begins. For the next ten minutes or so, there is a succession of bright lights being flashed into my eyes at different speeds. First it starts with a flash about every five seconds. Then more frequently at about three seconds. Then one second, eventually it is at the pace of a strobe light. This is to measure my eyes reactions to bright lights and how they adjust or don’t adjust.

The next test of color choices isn’t invasive at all, however I can’t really tell much about colors. This test is over pretty quickly because of that. On and on the tests and dilation go. I always have a field test done to see how much peripheral vision I have lost. For this test, I put a patch over one eye while they test the other. Again, I place my chin on a chinrest and I am given a beeper to push whenever I can see the light appear. I am to look straight ahead and the person doing the test moves a little light all around the outer edges of my vision and I click as soon as I see it. There are many areas that the light is in that I simply don’t see. They are in my blind spots.

This made me think of how I have another type of blind spot. When I get wrapped up in my own thing and I forget to pray, when I choose to sleep in a little later and then don’t have time to read God’s word, or when I concern myself with unimportant details of planning and snap at my loved ones out of stress… these are blind spots. The devil knows my blind spots and will hide in them until I can see “the light”. Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the light of my world and I sometimes can’t see Him when I don’t spend time with Him. We all have blind spots that the enemy can and will hide in, keeping us focused on why we didn’t get that job. Why that spouse found refuge in another person’s arms. Why our child had to be laid to rest. Why we can’t seem to pay all the bills despite how hard we work. The blind spots are endless. The only way to remove them is to keep our eyes focused on “The Light”.

John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (ESV). In those blind spots there is darkness, we cannot see the light. Friends, whatever your blind spot may be, God’s light cannot be overcome by the darkness. Keep His word in your heart and the blind spots will shine with Jesus’s light. He can give you sight in the blind spots.

 

Branded for life

As I write this, I am at a women’s retreat where we are all dressed up in western wear. Cowboy hats, boots and denim by the miles. Handkerchiefs, stick horses and rodeos complete the festivities. But there is a clear message here too. The title is “Branded In Christ”. The comparison to animals that are branded, we can carry a brand for Christ or a brand for the enemy. It’s more like the enemy puts the brand on us, like it or not. He takes that ol’ hot branding iron and seers us for all to know who owns us. You know the ones… the branding of shame, addiction, depression, unworthy, betrayed, forgotten, abused, unloved, not needed, the list goes on.

My heart is heavy with the knowledge that I’ve been branded with each and every one of these. I watched women all around the room stand with the admission that they had been branded as well with some or all of these and others.  I felt some of these brandings like they had been reburned after a long while of not feeling them. This is just what the enemy wants. For us to open old wounds, to feel the burn of his branding iron all over again. He wants to heat that brander hotter than ever and make us feel that burn as he tries to brand us for ownership once more. I feel that branding iron of blindness when people have to wait for me, do something for me, help me get where I am going, get my food in a buffet line, and on and on. I feel it when people tell me “good job” for doing simple tasks on my own such as walking up or down the stairs on my own like a child doing that for the very first time all by themselves. These people mean no offense in saying this, it’s what I feel and I’m trying to get beyond that particular hurdle. “You’ll never be like them” the devil whispers to me. “You’ll never do things as efficiently or as good as someone who can see better then you”, he whispers again. That branding iron burns a little deeper each time trying to make a mark that can never be healed.

See, while Satan wants to cause us pain to belong to him, Jesus wants to bear our pain to belong to Him. When the enemy wants to brand you, Jesus put His hand in front of that iron and took the marks and the pain for YOU and for me. When Satan whispers “shame,” Jesus shouts “shine”. When Satan whispers “addicted,” Jesus shouts “free”. When Satan whispers “depressed” Jesus shouts “joyful!” When Satan whispers “unworthy,” Jesus shouts “priceless!” When Satan whispers “betrayed,” Jesus shouts “beloved!” When Satan whispers “forgotten,” Jesus shouts “forgiven!” When Satan whispers “blindness,” Jesus shouts “grace!”

For every whisper of the devil, Jesus has a shout of redemption. Jesus took the marks so we didn’t have to, and we still don’t have to! Jesus healed blindness in the bible and He will heal me too, if He waits until I am with Him to heal it… He will still heal it. Friends, Jesus is longing to remove the brands that the enemy tries to mark us with, He wants to only have you marked with His love and acceptance. Galatians 6:17 says “Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bare branded on my body the marks of Jesus.” Let Jesus mark you as His so no one can brand you with anything else ever again!