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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.

photo-2

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.

40 Before 40

June 1, 2014

I turned 39 on April 26. Wow! I used to think 39 was old! Not anymore. Some friends of mine asked if I had a 40 Before 40 list. Not sure where I’ve been, but I hadn’t heard of that before. So I hadn’t been thinking about it, and I didn’t have a list. (Now I’ve heard that 30 before 30 is a thing too).

Working on a list like that requires thinking about things that are really important, things you really want to do, your biggest dreams, what matters most. Which kind of goes along with how I’ve been a little obsessed with the concept of legacy lately. Partly because we took Dave Ramsey’s Legacy Journey class – the 2nd part of Financial Peace University – a great class. And partly because I’ve recently read a few books about women without children – their reasons, their experiences, their stories.

I know – I sound a little young to be obsessed with my legacy. But the more comfortable I’ve become with embracing Plan C, the more I’ve thought about – what does this mean for the rest of my life? It seems like if you have children, they are part of the natural progression of your legacy. Of course someone will care about your scrapbooks, your stories, your historic possessions, your life. But what if you don’t have children? Who carries on your legacy? What does that mean? And is it really even important?

Which led me to the book of Ecclesiastes – such a great book. The author struggles with the meaninglessness of life and comes to some great conclusions about walking with God and living life.

“I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” Ecc. 3:14

“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God.” Ecc. 5:18-19

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” Ecc. 8:15

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecc. 12:13

Fear God. (as in Revere) Enjoy Life. What God does lasts forever. I’ve realized – My legacy is now!  While I live. What matters is what I share now. While I live. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads anything or knows me after I’m gone. I don’t have to worry about whether anyone will remember me in 100 years – they won’t! But everything that God does and is doing in my life will endure forever.

So here and now in my 40th year, I know what I want to do! I want to write more, paint more, and spend more time with friends and family – especially my nieces and nephews. I want to get up to 40 blog posts. (I’m at 35 now – so 5 more shouldn’t be too hard.) I’m going for 40 art lessons and/or paintings. I have a goal of 40 dates with my nieces and nephews. And I’m going to select my 40 favorite Bible passages. (Maybe memorize – we’ll see – I do need to keep challenging my brain. I’ve heard it goes downhill from here.) I also plan to use my 40th birthday as an excuse to get as many people as possible to travel with me this year and next!

Fear God. Enjoy Life. Goes right along with Love God. Love Others. Sounds good to me.

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” Ecc. 9:7

 

 

 

 

 

3 Years Later…

May 18, 2014

3 Years Later…

Yesterday was the 3 year anniversary of starting this blog. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years. And I still can’t believe the peace and contentment and joy we feel. When I started the blog, I had no idea how the story would end. I just knew that God was calling me to write. So…

3 Years Later…

…We are ok. It all turned out ok. Better than ok. We are happy. Living a life we never expected. Embracing a plan that was so much better than ours.

…We are more sure than ever that God has called us to love on the children that are in our lives – as counselors, as Aunt Carrie and Uncle Patrick, as godparents, and as friends. We are so fulfilled. And we know that we can trust Him to fulfill us with the relationships in our lives from this point forward.

…We are closer than ever. Research shows 1 out 6 couples experience infertility. Of those who remain childless at the end, 50% of relationships do not make it through the grief and difficulty of infertility. “Couples that do stay together, however, become very close.” (Hammer-Burns study referenced in the book Women Without Children by Susan S. Lang) Our marriage weathered the storm and came out stronger, closer, sweeter.

…We get to pour out this healing and hope every day. Grief deepened us. It changed us. God comforted us so we can comfort others. We get to share the benefits of this compassion every single day.

…And then we thoroughly enjoy our weekends! Camping, traveling, spending time with friends and family. Patrick is gardening, doing triathlons, playing guitar. I am painting, taking art classes, reading, writing.

3 years later… life is good! I can’t tell the story enough. I just can’t stop. It’s God’s story. He did a miracle in our hearts. For his glory. He is faithful. We can trust Him. You can trust Him. Always. He is trustworthy and good. Even through the deepest valleys and darkest trials. I don’t think I can ever stop telling this story!

Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1

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