A few months ago, my favorite local art store, AC Moore, closed its doors. What a sad day! So many employees affected. This store was my source for canvases. I would wait until they had a 50% to 70% off sale and then hold off until one day during the sale, "the" coupon would arrive in my inbox. It was a coupon for an extra 10% off of the sale price. It's probably as close as I'll ever get to the sensation of buying stocks on the trading floor! I would rush out and buy as many canvases as my SUV could carry. Those canvases would last me for about 6 months ~ until the next mega sale arrived.
I was ready to start a large garden scene today and went into the basement, aka supply room, to see what might be available. To my dismay, I didn't have a new, fresh canvas in the right size. What had been a seemingly endless supply was coming to an end.
I began to scan the room for an old painting, willing to give its life to become a new work of art. As I flipped through some older pieces, I came to a large landscape full of moody clouds, rolling hills and a rock wall. It was terrible. But 3 years ago, I was so proud of it, I hung it in a prominent place in my den. It seemed to be a significant moment when I was able to whitewash over that painting. I can remember thinking with a number of paintings, "what if I am never able to paint something this good again?". Tonight, I had confidence that the garden scene that would appear over the next few days would be far superior to the original painting.
Growing in art has been such a journey. There has been no hiding the insecurity. I can remember the first time I showed a friend an early painting ~ the first time a customer saw my work ~ the first time my work was displayed in public. This has felt like a long distance run, full of hurdles that had to be cleared. I have temporarily stopped at some of the hurdles, and crashed and burned at others. But each had to be overcome before progress could be made. I could have stopped at any number of points along the way and would never have enjoyed where I am today. And a year from now, two years from now, I am hoping to have significantly improved from this point.
Insecurity can have several roots, but I think they all lead to the taproot of pride. What will people think of me? There are times when it seems easier to quit and give up, rather than put yourself out there and risk looking foolish. But I believe the people who find the most satisfaction in life are those who are willing to go after whatever God assigns to them, regardless of the cost.
After 4 years of painting insecurity, it was quite freeing tonight to experience confidence.
Confident that I can paint over something with an even better painting. Confident that I will improve each year. Confident that if I'm willing to run my race and not let the hurdles or insecurities stop me, I will get to the finish line. I would hate to get to the end of my life and see a string of hurdles that were not overcome, where I quit and gave up. I know God is doing much more with the art than just the art! I am so curious as to where all of this is leading!
Sunday, March 1, 2020
If you read my last blog, I shared how some times the paint just flows almost effortlessly onto the canvas with an amazing and pleasing result, but the following day is just full of frustration and pain, followed by a canvas burial. There was one painting in particular in which I had labored long and the painting went from bad to worse. I finally invited God into that frustration and asked Him what was causing this problem, and I heard a gentle and quick response:
"There's no grace on it."
I knew immediately what this was referencing. When I realized over 3 years ago that God was giving me an intense desire to paint (but with no talent to back that up), it became a night and day mission to get something on the canvas that was presentable.
When I first started, 1 out of 10 paintings would be halfway decent. Then 2 out of 10 weren't so bad. Then I jumped to 3 out of 10 actually not being a total embarrassment. You get the idea. There was steady progress coming out of my full-out painting committment. I finally got to the point that some of my earlier "good" paintings joined other canvases that had gone to the trash bin. What was once good became unacceptable. You don't see what you don't see. As I improved, I saw the imperfections and childish style of my early paintings. There was a very slow, painfully slow, yet steady progress being made. But then I seemed to hit that plateau that those of us who have tried losing weight have experienced. It felt like I was doing the right thing by putting in long hours, but nothing was moving.
That's when the grace question confronted me. When I hear grace, I think of unmerited favor; something that can not be earned or deserved but is given freely by God. God has impressed much on my heart over the last few years about grace because I often found myself on a hamster wheel, trying to do enough for God, striving to please Him and always worried that I just wasn't enough in His eyes. Maybe you can relate.
He has put some amazing mentors in my life and has really taught me much about grace. I just always assumed with the paintings that because this seemed to be God's idea, there would be daily grace to see it come to pass. It had not occurred to me that there are seasons within seasons and the fact that God has called you to do something, doesn't mean that task is always a priority. It depends on the day.
So rather than rushing to the easel, I have begun asking God daily how He wants me to spend my time. To my surprise, painting was not the high priority I once believed it to be. Instead, the Lord had me work on cleaning out my office and basement and closets for a month. Does God really care about our closets?
He started showing me that He is a God of divine order, not clutter and chaos. I have to admit, getting things in order has been a pleasant adjustment! My small office now houses everything I need for the business side of the interior design work along with all of my painting supplies, including a very large easel. It's full!! But how delightful to have need of some item and be able to go right to it. It has brought an unexpected pleasure in my life and I don't waste time looking for things as I once did. I would not have arrived at this point had grace been there daily for painting!
I only paint about 25% of the time now, but when I do, there is pleasure in knowing it's in God's timing with His favor on it and the things that are important to Him have been stewarded well. Even if I feel He is inviting me to paint, I will often double check and ask "Is there anything that needs to be done first?" Some days, it feels a bit like finishing my homework before going out to play! Not a bad habit to develop!