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No – Painting is Not Relaxing for Me

May 24, 2015

When I tell people that I paint these days, they often say “oh that sounds wonderful” – “that must be so relaxing,” “so therapeutic,” “so fun.” I hate breaking it to them, but I just I have to. It does create an awkward moment, but “No – painting is not relaxing for me – not at all.”

Painting is actually really stressful to me! I’m a recovering perfectionist, remember? A messy medium that cannot be perfectly controlled stresses me out! Starting with a blank canvas brings up a lot of anxiety. What if I mess it up? Waste the paint? The time, the money? I can’t breathe!

Then I decide I don’t care, just be free, don’t worry how it turns out. So I get started and it’s fun for a while. Then I get stuck and start to care. I get afraid to make even small changes because I’m afraid I’m going to ruin it. I thought I didn’t care. The good thing about paint is you can always paint over it they say. Turn your mistakes into masterpieces. Well they haven’t seen my mistakes. Ahhh! It’s crazy making!

The process of making art brings up all my issues! My shame – putting myself out there – on canvas. And others can see it! Aah! See the process. See me. See that I’m not perfect. And that I can’t even figure out how to be perfect. Then I get angry. When I get embarrassed, I get angry. A few times during art class, I had to go to the bathroom to cry! I know! This is so comical! (But I’ve been told I’m not the only one that has cried during art class.)

Here’s where we realize that art actually is therapeutic. NOT in the retail therapy kind of way. Not in the aromatherapy kind of way. In the actual – therapy is hard kind of way. Real therapy is hard, is a process, takes a lot of work.

Therapy is about change. And sometimes even trying to make small changes seems very scary. It’s amazing how my art instructor can give me a suggestion, which I then can see and totally agree with. But then I walk away, and even with great intentions, I can only make a very small change. Amazing how hard it is to get outside of my comfort zone. Amazing the parallel for change in life.

So why would you take up a hobby that makes you cry and act crazy? Good question. And actually the real reason is – it’s just something I felt God calling me to do. To take the risk. To face these issues. To keep going back. To face my anxiety. To work on the character trait of perseverance. To keep exposing and therefore facing my shame.

To let others see I’m not perfect. To let myself see I’m not perfect. To be ok with not being perfect! And learn to appreciate the beauty in the process. To learn that beauty is not perfection.

Beauty is in the crazy. Beauty is in the mess. Beauty is in the real. Beauty is in the vulnerable. And that actually is wonderful.

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Carrie A. Henry after Alfred Sisley’s Flowers and Fruit 1911-1912

Yes – it’s wonderful that I paint – but no – it’s not relaxing! Maybe some day. It’s definitely getting better. I haven’t cried in the bathroom during art class in a long time! Although I did dramatically announce some trouble breathing last week!!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

Just Grief

May 17, 2015

I really thought I was fine. I hadn’t made any exceptional plans to avoid Mother’s Day this year. I truly don’t have a desire to have children anymore. Why would Mother’s Day bother me now? I really hadn’t thought much about it besides “What should we do for our sweet moms?” I was completely blindsided by the grief. I really couldn’t figure it out or explain it this year. I finally had to accept that it was just grief.

It was mild. No one else would have known besides me. And then Patrick. On Monday the week before Mother’s Day I just felt cranky. It increased throughout the week. I was confused and frustrated by it and kept blaming it on hormones. On Thursday a sweet friend sent me a beautiful article called “Spiritual Mothering: Every Woman’s Calling,” by Alice von Hildebrand. She says, “Motherhood is not only biological maternity. It is spiritual maternity.” It was really encouraging and validating. I do feel like a mother. I do see the ways I mother others every single day. I have felt so healed for such a long time.

But also on Thursday, the irritability was increasing, and I was becoming difficult to deal with at home. I was restless, indecisive, getting frustrated with others for not meeting my needs, and feeling very confused about my mood and irritability. Friday night it was escalating. I really struggled with feeling discontent, changed my mind several times about what I wanted to do that evening, couldn’t figure out what would help. By Saturday morning I felt foggy, the restlessness increased, and the crying started.

And I finally realized it was about Mother’s Day. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know why it was about Mother’s Day. All I knew is that it just was. And that it was just grief. A dear therapist friend later said, “Sometimes I think the body remembers important dates to validate the loss.” Yes. I agree.

So I started trying to give myself permission to grieve, reminding myself that it was just grief, using the coping skills in my toolbox – journaling, Bible reading, prayer, talking about it, taking a walk, going boutique shopping with a special friend. I even decided to go to a film at the Bentonville Film Festival by myself, not something I would usually do – (but actually thoroughly enjoyed for future reference!)

Oh but the familiar battle of grief was there – trying to cope, but nothing satisfies. Trying to get away from it, but it stays there. Trying to think, but the fog takes over.

Trying to reassure yourself, but the battle ensues – the battle of the accusing messages that accompany grief – “You’re being really selfish.” “Why can’t you just focus on your own mom and blessing her?” “Why can’t you just be thankful for what God has done in your life?” “Why can’t you just get it together?” “Aren’t we over this by now?” “Are you ever going to be able to handle Mother’s Day?” “Mother’s Day is just like any other day of the year.” “You definitely can’t go to church and cry – people will think you’re focusing on yourself, not happy for other mothers, that you still want a baby.”

And of course, the overall feeling of shame. I think I really want the pride of – “Oh – I’m good now, over that, totally in control of myself now. Why would you even think this day would be hard for me? HaHa!” I don’t want to be writing about this. I want to be writing about the beauty of how all women are mothers and how much progress I’ve made. Oh the pride.

By Sunday morning, I was a total wreck and completely exhausted. Eventually my wonderful husband got me out and took my mom and I out for a nice lunch. By Sunday evening, I was feeling much better. I was really tired, but I knew that the battle was over. And in a strange way, I was thankful for the crash course reminder on the emotions and process of grief.

Because while sometimes it’s just grief. It’s not just grief. God created the grief process. It matters. It validates our losses. They matter. I still think it’s wonderful to have a day set aside to celebrate the beauty of motherhood. But anytime something is beautiful, there will be loss and brokenness around it. That’s the gospel. And it is deeply beautiful.

So I accepted that it was just grief. And I just grieved. And I’m extremely thankful it lasted only 6 days this time instead of 6 years.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”

Psalm 30:11-12

My Art Journey

March 14, 2015

Many people that know me now think I have always been creative, always been an artist. Most people that know me from high school or college would be SHOCKED that I have gained the courage to call myself an artist! (It’s still kind of hard to write!) My art journey has been a long process, but I think it is also a wonderful story of personal transformation. My hope is that my story can convince others that if I can do this, TRULY anyone can!!

I only remember one art activity from a summer program in my school years – a hanging mobile made out of clay. I remember thinking it looked awful. Of course I now know I’m not supposed to say that about children’s art. It was – my “inner critic” that decided it looked awful. But let’s be real – it did look awful. It didn’t look how I wanted it to look. I was ashamed of it. And my budding creative process stopped somewhere around there. Art class became elective at that point, so I elected not to face that shame again! And I stopped learning about art.

From then on I avoided creative activities, adamantly stating “I’m not creative, I hate that kind of stuff.” I would try a few things here and there and decide they looked awful, reinforcing my decision that I wasn’t creative. Part of the problem with me and creativity was that I was also a little perfectionist. I was a pretty uptight and anxious child by nature. I could not make my art look perfect, so I did not want to do it at all.

One of my college roommates, who is an amazing artist and art teacher, talked me into going to a Creative Memories scrapbooking party one time so she could get more points. Ha! Somehow I got talked into buying an album for my majorette pictures. I worked on the album, thought it was pretty much awful, and toward the end, we ended up trading – she finished my album and I typed her boyfriend’s term paper since he couldn’t type, she was dyslexic, and I could type 90 words a minute! Again deciding I was done with that creative stuff.

Then I went to Europe, had great pictures, and again this crazy (wonderful) artist friend talked me into doing a travel album. From that point, I surprised myself and everyone around me! I started scrapbooking and really enjoyed it. I decided that maybe I was creative when it came to arranging pictures and papers in an album. But I was still pretty uptight about my scrapbooking. Still a perfectionist. Working on pages for hours until they were perfect.

We also bought our first house during this time. We were on a small decorating budget and had a lot of blank walls, so after seeing something in the store and thinking “I could do that. A lot cheaper,” I tried my hand at a couple of paintings. No – you really can’t do that – it’s a lot harder than it looks! My sweet husband has lived for quite some time with several of my amateur paintings on our walls. Never saying a word. What a dear.

Meanwhile as a therapist, I started learning a little about using art in therapy with children and encouraging the creative process. In art therapy, it’s really not about how it looks. It’s about what comes out on paper during the process that is often very surprising, meaningful and therapeutic.

One day Patrick and I went to an art therapy training together, thinking this will be fun, a fun day to spend together and get some CEUs. I had no idea we would have to do art right there in the training. Everything was fine until we were asked to “Draw A Bridge.” I immediately began to panic, thinking – “I don’t know how to draw a bridge, I don’t want to draw a bridge, I quit this training. How can I escape?” Meanwhile, Patrick started drawing right away, showcasing that he’s much better at drawing than I am. At this point I started to get MAD! My shame filled thoughts started flooding my head – “I’m terrible at this, now everyone will know, I’m exposed!” After realizing I wasn’t going to be able to get out of it, I slapped a bridge down on paper, put my pencil down and pouted while I waited for everyone else to finish. (Of course I realized later that what happened there was deeply meaningful and therapeutic – I titled my bridge “I don’t want to go anywhere, I like where I am” – which gave me some powerful insight into a life transition I wasn’t even aware of at the time.) Which then led me into a few sessions of art therapy for myself!

From this point I become more interested in art therapy professionally and read the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This is a really great book that talks about how the creative learning process stops in grade school, which is why most adults draw like 3rd graders. (I’m not the only one!) And that the skills can be learned, just like math skills. I just thought you either had creativity or you didn’t. And that I didn’t. She also talks a lot about this idea that we are all creative because we were made in the image of a Creator. These were new concepts for me! This really began to stir something up in me. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is another great book that demonstrates the idea that anyone can learn to draw.

Since my beliefs about art making had begun to change professionally, they also started to change personally. When The Art Location advertised a painting class on Living Social, I decided to try it. Previously a few rounds of Painting with A Twist had resulted in some episodes of shame and frustration, but also some great times and laughter – so I decided to take the risk again! What a risk! But it was worth it! Nadine Rippelmeyer – an amazing local artist and the owner of the Art Location – helped me with a painting, and I learned a lot in just one class. From there I started taking a few other classes at the Art Location – from a couple of other favorite teachers and local artists – Karen Ahuja and Shawna Elliott. (All can be found on fineartamerica.com)

Now – I’m all in! I’m a believer! I paint in my free time, take painting classes, and use art even more in therapy as well as my own personal problem solving. I’m learning about art history. I just finished an art history class with Nadine at the Art Location. I go to art museums and art districts on my vacations! I am learning to “see” things in a different way – seeing colors, shapes, relationships, spacing, movement. What? Wow – who knew??

So -if I can learn to develop my creativity, anyone can! If I can learn to draw and paint, anyone can! It’s an ongoing process – that takes time, effort, patience, and grace for myself. It’s therapeutic – making me face my anxiety and perfectionism in a new way. And it’s teaching me to let go. I will be forever thankful for my artist friend and teachers!

If I can do it, anyone can! And I’m looking for fellow artists! Who wants to join me on this journey?

C is for Christmas Carols

December 21, 2014

Christmas Card 2014

We don’t have any crazy dog pictures this year! Our dogs did remarkably well during the family photo shoot! Sorry to disappoint! So I’ll just have to write about the words on our Christmas card instead – the 2nd verse of Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts in 1719. I’ve especially enjoyed singing the lyrics of old Christmas hymns this year. Noticing some verses and words that I hadn’t noticed before. And thinking about them in a new way. As I’ve said many times and in many ways throughout this blog, there are so many unexpected blessings that come in the wake of grief. Deeper meaning and beauty found in words and lyrics seem to be another one.

I grew up singing hymns twice a day on Sundays. I still know so many old hymns by heart. Although I also love modern worship songs, I really miss old hymns. There is so much depth in the lyrics written by these saints, often in the midst of great trials. We have so much to learn from each other and our stories – especially from the stories of the past. The book Amazing Grace by Kenneth Osbeck is a really great devotional of the stories behind many old hymns. (I miss the hymnals too. I’m really not sure if I can still read music since I never have to anymore. That is so sad to me! And I really worry about the next generation being completely musically illiterate!!)

Here are a few other treasures I’ve enjoyed this season:

The 3rd Verse of O Holy Night – written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847

Truly He taught us to love one another, 


His law is love and His gospel is peace. 


Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 


And in his name all oppression shall cease. 


Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 


With all our hearts we praise His holy name. 


Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, 


His power and glory ever more proclaim! 


His power and glory ever more proclaim!

 

And a couple of verses from my favorite:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – a Latin hymn from the 12th century, author unknown

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

 

O come, Desire of nations, bind

All peoples in one heart and mind;

Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease,

Fill all the world with heaven’s peace.

 

There’s just nothing more to say.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Ache of Desire

October 19, 2014

I held my new niece all weekend last weekend. So precious. Such a blessing. Completely filled my heart up. Holding her at church on the 2nd day, I was amazed again that I don’t feel The Ache anymore. I realized again that my heart is deeply full, instead of empty and filled with pain. I felt so thankful again for that miracle. SUCH a miracle!! God removed The Ache from my heart and filled it up with joy.

On the cusp of starting to try to have a baby, I had a flash of fear about the wait. After waiting for so many years as a single woman to find my knight in shining armor, I knew The Ache. The deep deep ache of having an unfilled desire. I had the brief thought – what if I have to go through feeling that unfulfilled longing again? I quickly replaced it with – oh surely not! I paid my dues waiting on my husband – there’s no way I’ll have to wait for a baby!

Since you know the rest of the story, you know I faced The Ache again. Much deeper this time.  Part of the pain was that my loving God was allowing me to go through this AGAIN. No way! It felt so unbelievable.

The Ache is hard to describe in words. It was so present, so physically painful. Like a cavern that covered the entire span of my abdominal cavity. So deep. So bottomless. There were times it was more intense, times of reprieve, but it was constantly there. The worst was when I held a baby. For most of the time during my infertility I avoided holding babies for that reason. Couldn’t even go to the hospital to see a new baby. Just could not bear it. I already felt like falling to the floor in a heap of grief all the time anyway. I felt it much more in the presence of a baby.

But now The Ache is gone. And it’s an amazing story! Also difficult to put into words – but here’s my best attempt.

Looking back I know the day God removed the desire to have children from my heart. I was at Patrick’s 1st ½ Ironman race. I was by myself walking around keeping up with his race. I had started my blog a few weeks before. I knew God was doing something different in me. I knew the healing was coming and that things were changing. That day I had a strong sense of God’s presence – especially for an hour or so. It was physical. I felt it heavy on my heart and chest. One of my dear friends randomly texted to let me know she was praying for me. She didn’t know why. I didn’t either, but I knew God was doing something. I felt His presence and peace, but also a great physical stirring. I felt emotional. I felt the pain – but also a mix of deep joy and comfort and overflowing hope. I could tell God was doing something new. It literally felt like He was pulling something out of me. The entire day I felt a little tearful, but I wasn’t crying. I felt really full and joyful.

I didn’t know it then, but now I’ve realized that’s when I think God pulled out of me the desire to have children and covered that place in my heart with His healing and hope. At the time I wasn’t sure if I could trust it. I had been in so much pain for so long, I could hardly believe that the desire was going away. But it has been gone for 3 years now, and as I was reminded last weekend, it is a miracle! There’s just no other way to explain an unfulfilled desire being changed and filled with something new.

Such a miracle! What a blessing! How amazing that God would care enough about my pain to remove The Ache of a desire He wasn’t going to fill. What deep love. I will be eternally amazed and thankful.

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2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Part 2

August 31, 2014

Although our infertility journey started 8 years ago, I often say that we went through infertility for 5 years. Mainly because that is the time period when we were trying to have a child, going through infertility treatment, and grieving the process. The first time I wrote about this passage was right in the middle of the process. I wanted to write about it again from this viewpoint on the other side.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort v.3

Oh I still praise Him. Now more than ever. Especially that He is a compassionate God. And that His comfort is deeper than we can imagine, surpassing our comprehension. I had someone ask me in the middle of the journey if I would still believe in God if he didn’t give us children. As I thought about it, I just knew that I would. I thought about how hard it would be to believe that He would say no. But I also had this overwhelming feeling of His goodness and knew I would still believe in Him. And I do. Even more. And I praise Him. Even more.

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. v.4

I get to do this every single day now. God comforted me in my deepest troubles. And now in and out of my office I am able to offer that comfort to those in many different troubles. I am constantly amazed at how God has been preparing me for this ministry my whole life. At how every bit of suffering had a purpose. And at how much I love going to work every day.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. v.5

Grief has such a way of getting us out of the way so that Christ’s comfort and grace can flow through us more easily. Grief strips us down to nothing, so that the only thing left is Christ. And his Life just naturally overflows.

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. v.6-7

There is such comfort in walking through grief with someone who has been there before. Who knows there is hope on the other side, but that it is a long journey – a dark and confusing journey – a journey that you can’t control. My hope for others in the process is so firm because I know that there is such growth and fellowship with Christ in the process. That it produces patient endurance. And that the beauty and depth of life on the other side is worth it.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.. v.8-9

I still do not want you to be uninformed – infertility was the most difficult, life-altering thing I have ever been through. It changed our direction, our vision, our legacy. The grief was so deeply painful, completely unbearable at times. It seemed far beyond my ability to endure. I despaired even of life at times. I knew God was there, but the gray cloud that hung heavy just would not go away. I wasn’t sure if it would ever go away or if I could ever be truly happy again.

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.. v.9

Wow – what purpose. This is one of the biggest things that happened through out grief. Grief is one of the best antidotes for anxiety. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, which is me trying to control my life, trying to rely on myself. My greatest fear of never getting a child was realized – and it turned out to be ok. I am ok. More than ok! Actually much better! And God’s plan for my life was so much better.

who raises the dead. v.9

God does miracles. He did a miracle in us. It is such a miracle that he removed our desire to have children, and planted us in this place with children all around us. He made us parents to the children all around us and gave us peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding. That is a miracle.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, v.10

Our hope in Him is so firm. If he could deliver us from the grief and pain of infertility, give us newness of life, abundant joy and peace – He will continue to deliver us and all those around us.

as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. v.11

We thank God so much for you! You helped us so much by your prayers. We pray that you thank God for what he did in us. Even though the answer is not what most of us were praying for. He was there. He was present. He was working. And His plan was better than ours! Praise God with us that He has given us such gracious favor, answered your prayers, and blessed us with His peace. Thank you thank you thank you friends! We love you all!

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

August 31, 2014

Right in the middle of our infertility journey, I sent this email to our family and friends. Now that I think about it – it was kind of my first blog post! After reviewing it, I wanted to share on this blog, since I’m going to share part 2 later.

My dear praying friends! I thank God for all of you! You are so dear and precious to me! You have no idea how many times over the past several months I have gotten a call or text or email from one of you at the PERFECT time! I want to share an update on how we are doing and a Bible passage that is so relevant in explaining the update.

It’s long – so here’s the short version if you only have a minute: just keep praying! I know God has a GREAT plan for our family! I can’t wait to see what happens. And – this has been SO hard – so keep praying for us – God’s direction, our marriage, the endometriosis/pain, my hormonal/emotional/drama drama roller coaster! (poor Patrick – he has been so wonderful) Thank you!!!

The longer version: God has spoken to me so much through this passage in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. This is what I would want to share if we were having coffee together!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort v.3

I really have been in the valley lately; the past 2 1/2 years have been hard – but this past month I think I have been in the canyon of the valley. I didn’t know there was a canyon in the valley but there is. But we went to visit the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon and several other canyons this summer on vacation – and canyons really are beautiful – rugged, deep, sharp, rough, but colorful, grand and amazing! The fellowship with God here has been so worth it, so painful but so worth it. So I start with praise.

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. v.4

God has given us this ministry of comforting others. I had not noticed the “any” part before.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. v.5

Suffering is just going to be part of our lives – the sufferings of Christ are going to flow over into our lives – but praise God the comfort overflows!

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. v.6-7

There is such fellowship in the body of Christ through suffering and comfort – which develops character, hope, etc.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.. v.8-9

This part spoke to me the most. I have struggled so much with the grief and pain. I’ve tried all the right things to do and say and think – coping skills, spiritual disciplines, etc. I’ve also tried to not think – so many people say “if you just stop thinking about it it will happen!” Well that’s really impossible! The grief has been overwhelming, depressing at times. I am glad Paul said these things because it gave some validation to my pain. Sometimes there are things in life that are “beyond our ability to endure.” I have felt so stuck. I can’t make the feelings go away; can’t make the desire to have children go away; can’t do anything to get the children right away!   BUT!

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.. v.9

Praise God for purpose in the grief – even though it is breaking me down – all I really want to do is rely on God anyway.

who raises the dead. v.9

Wow. Let me say it again all together But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead!!!!! God does miracles! I have struggled with how much I believe this at times – but it’s true! That’s where he does his best work – when things are so impossible.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, v.10

God is and will always be our hope!

as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. v.11

This is the best part!! You are helping us so much by your prayers. I can’t wait for heaven to hear the thanks and rejoicing when the prayers of many are answered! Thank you! Thank you!

 

Love, Carrie & Patrick

 

Update: All those prayers have been answered. In a different way than we all were praying, but miraculous nonetheless. 2 Corinthians part 2 is next.

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