Be Thou My Vision
If you are my friend or have been following for a while, you might have picked up on my yearly practice of fighting the winter blues for the month of February in a practice I call “28 Days of Delight.” I sit here today, my dog’s birthday and my late grandma’s birthday too, to be exact, sitting on a brown leather couch given to me by my dad with my dog laying at my feet, my sister’s cat perching on the chair next to me, the laundry humming in the background, and a cup of non-caffeinated Chai tea brewing in a cup sent to me by a dear friend that says “Is it tea you’re looking for?” I see the clock and spoons that were my grandmother’s. Tea cups sit in the clock shelves, each one given to me by friends and family. I see a lamp my mom so lovingly restored for me. I see a mirror I’ve been keeping since 8th grade from a beloved pharmacy we could walk to growing up. My new neighbor and her two little ones are coming over for a tea party to celebrate my dog’s birthday. It is silly and so precious to me. I am on the verge of tears, and I realize God’s sweet mercy and redemption plan in my life. Well, a little glimpse of it at least. You see, I am a recovering “performance-based righteousness” girl. I am continually relearning the freedom and grace that Jesus provided for me because HE EARNED IT ALL on my behalf. If you are a believer, you know what I mean. If you aren’t, I would love to discuss more with you sometime. Seriously. But for now, suffice it to say, it is a good thing for me to rest in the full justification of the blood of Jesus.
So, let’s get back to February. The weeks before it began, I carefully constructed a calendar of ideas to paint every day. I planned out what I would paint each day. It would be this beautifully productive and holy time. Right? Well, in a way. Let’s just leave it at Proverbs 19:21 and say it was definitely a little different than I expected.
You see when I started this practice in 2017, it was out of desperation to cling to joy and to get back to the roots of why I make art. The child in me needs to play. The woman in me needs to delight in her Jesus. And when those two mix in the converging space of memory and art, something like prayer happens. I feel the most like me. And art doesn’t take on the commercial feel, but that deep magic feel. The first year, I just read scripture and then painted whatever I wanted. Play and prayer. Delight. I was taking a little Hebrew at the time and was truly fascinated by the word “delight.” It encapsulated everything I felt like God was doing in me. “To be soft, to be delicate, to be dainty; to be of dainty habit, be pampered, to be happy about, take exquisite delight, to make merry of, to make sport of.” Little did I know that I would experience some of the most painful and joyful moments in my life that month. From welcoming a friend’s dear child in to the world to losing a friend I cherished deeply to realizing a budding dating relationship was not going to make it to processing some deep hurt and betrayal to reconnecting with a beloved teacher to experiencing the holy laughter come out of me at a worship night to meeting my now stepmom, the month was chock full of what I will now try to deem worthy of the word manna.
You see, manna, in Hebrew, is translated to mean “what is it?” How many times in life have we been blindsided by some circumstance that had us saying the exact same thing? What is it? What is going on? What in the world? How? Why? What is it? Such confusion can come in those chaotic moments of trials and obstacles. Instead of asking that question and deciding to stay in a famine frame of mind, what if we reoriented our gaze to Jesus as provision in those moments. That somehow, it’s manna. His provision can be found abundantly in those moments only by faith. Now, I know what you are thinking. Well that sounds good on paper, but in practice, not so easy, right? Well, God has been shaping my faith lately in a particular way. He is disciplining me lovingly and abundantly giving me good gifts. He’s given me many people and their testimonies of His faithfulness. He’s given me His word where He is tenderly guiding me to Himself. What a treasure He truly is! So one weekend recently, I was dripping with this truth. He is the end. Not the means to an end. Jesus is our provider. Our bread of life. Our daily bread. Our nourishing care-giver. I couldn’t stop talking about it. And if you know me, I’m very enthusiastic at times. Then, BAM, an unexpected, chaotic sad situation arose in my life. I quickly fell back into my desert mindset. Oh, weary me. Oh, poor pitiful me. Oh, I have to figure out a solution because I’m a recovering codependent and need to fix everything and everyone me. Until I remembered just the day before I was dripping the message of manna. So I asked God desperately to show me that this too could be manna, His provision. To show me that He is in the business of taking terrible things meant to harm and turning them into redeemed creations. He really does satisfy. I saw it. When He gave me the grace in that moment to ask Him to show me the manna, He sure did. And in the midst of it, I had peace that surpasses all understanding. Wow.
He wants to show us He does not answer in “just enough” language, but in multiplied language from His Land of Plenty. He has come to give us great joy and abundant life. We are citizens in the kingdom of heaven and have an unseen realm with unlimited riches, resources, tools, and power to draw from when we look to our generous and caring King. Most importantly, He promises to be with us always and will be the one growing our faith. It’s not all up to us. THANK THE LORD. Holiness is not me fixing things and earning status but simply put, Christ in me.
Okay, so back to this February of 2019. I was tempted to provide my own “manna” by doing things in my own strength, way, or plan. God gently showed me very clearly that wasn’t going to work. I was brought to my knees in new ways to see my sin and my deep need for Him. I was humbled that I can be so tempted to want the glory for myself, but He deserves it all. I truly am encouraged and challenged by our call to take and eat daily bread. We really cannot have a very healthy relationship with God by trying to store up our spiritual resources. We have to abide in Him DAILY and receive His great love and gifts. How sweet that He works in this way? That we would be most satisfied when we enjoy Him most.
What I saw was a breaking of some pretty stubborn branches in my life. God did some pruning and showed me my deep sin and need for Him. And all the while, He took care of me so that I would be a beautiful, fruit producing tree, to continue the metaphor. I can be a blessing to others in those moments when I surrender to the Great Gardener. (More on gardening later!)
While each day brought a new provision, I was filled up to create something fresh in my heart reflected on paper. Did I fail some days? Well, there were paintings I liked better than others, but I certainly did not see it as failure when I chose to rest in Him and His success. One of the last weeks, I realized I had some oil pastels that I haven’t used in many years. I was done painting. I just wasn’t delighting in it that week so I chose to transition to pastels. I remembered playing incessantly with pastels as a kid, and wouldn’t you know it, God led me back to that place of delight that I was so hoping for that month!
Now, you can see all the paintings/pastel drawings on my instagram or facebook, but this picture is a compilation of a daily warm ups I did as well. Each square represents the cymatic form of each note from the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” These lyrics were my big prayer for the month, and I so loved finding out that music affected water in this beautiful way. Inspired by this and with help from the cymascope app, I created my impression of each note that day choosing colors as I craved them. I am amazed that just like a song, this collection of notes creates something greater than the sum of it’s parts. And isn’t that manna? His abundant provision!
I pray that we would see that together we get to be more than the sum of our parts as a people. The Lord died for us, His bride, that He is making more radiantly beautiful until that day when manna will be full of the festival joy of the FEAST of celebration. Our big day is coming, and don’t we want to get to really know the heart of our bridegroom before that “happily ever after” comes?
Grace and peace to you today!
May you delight in Him intimately!
(posted later than when originally written)