Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Something Else

I was about to give up and that's no lie
cardinal landed outside my window
threw his head back and sang a song
so beautiful it made me cry
took me back to a childhood tree
full of birds and dreams
from this one place I can't see very far
in this one moment I'm square in the dark
these are the things I will trust in my heart
you can see something else
something else
I don't know what's making me so afraid
tiny cloud over my head
heavy and grey with a hint of dread
I don't like to feel this way
take me back to a window seat
with clouds beneath my feet
from this one place I can't see very far
in this one moment I'm square in the dark
these are the things I will trust in my heart
you can see something else
something else
--Sara Groves, "From This One Place"

I am an artist. This should imply more than that I simply do artistic things. It should imply realities about my character, my friendships, my lifestyle, my worldview, my habits, my behaviors and the way I process stimuli. However, I find that artists are largely misunderstood by at least half of the world. To most non-artists, the whole lot of us are weirdos. To help you guys out, I've provided a little insight. Artists are driven by their art and their almost basic need to create. Our highs are very high, our lows are very low and all the in-betweens are few and short-lived. Balance is a difficulty, almost unattainable. Many artists are able to think and process thought logically and rationally, but at our core, we are reactive. We respond to the world mostly through a sieve of emotion, whether we want to admit it or not. And I don't want to admit it. I would love to think of myself as a rational, logical individual that is above filtering the world in its entirety through the way I feel. And sometimes, I would love my feelings to be a little sedated because I rarely view anything passively. I am an artist; therefore, I am passionate.

On a scale from high to low, I've been at a low recently. I can attribute my blues to several reasons, including: seasonal depression, the move, the crazy pace of the last couple of months, the vandalism, allergies, no exercise, too many sweets, missing my mommy and the most important two--learning hard "abundant" life lessons and little time and energy for my art.

My novel continues to burn in my heart. It will be written, but maybe not in the time frame I originally planned. Every time I have a free moment, I am so utterly exhausted that the only output of my brain is white noise, which is worse than useless when you want to write. To make matters worse, the little I do write is congested with so many grammatical, logical and spelling errors that I feel like I've lost my edge. Where is the former English major that rarely made these kinds of mistakes?

Words don't come to me anymore. It's like at age 25, I have the brain of 60 year old. (I'm fairly certain that Micah is eating my brain cells.) An artist is in a bad place when she feels disdain for her skills and abilities. I burn, yet I cannot make fire. The sticks are wet and the flint is dull.

Writing isn't my only art. I'm also a singer--a singer that is simply too busy to schedule a lesson or practice. And a singer that isn't singing is a singer that is miserable. A singer always has a song to sing. The only relief we get is in the act of singing. And I'm not singing. I sing lullabies, and hum along to Sara Groves, but I'm not singing. Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Debussy and Handel are singing. I'm not singing. And so, this artist is sad.

On to my comment about "abundant" life lessons . . .

Over the past 13 months, the Lord has restored to me the joy of His salvation. He has accomplished this in stages. The process began with Micah's birth, continued with a conference, and flourished as I found a mentor and a prayer partner with whom I gladly share this journey. They have been teaching me about the core of the Christian faith. When Jesus came to this earth, He came to give us life. Not an average, mundane existence that ends in vanity, but a meaningful, abundant life. A life worth living. And I would just like to say transparently and honestly that abundant life isn't always comfortable or pleasing. Sometimes it is very unwelcome. To live abundantly, we must become like Christ, and we do so through the continual, unrelenting work of the Holy Spirit, a work that only begins after we have believed upon the person and godship of Jesus Christ, and have submitted ourselves to Him. Let me repeat myself--this process is often unwelcome. It is unwelcome because we can't beat the human out of us, and that human absolutely loves to rise up against the Holy Spirit and do what it wants to do--sin. Allowing the Spirit to work love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control into our character is painful. There is no step 1-2-3 formula. There is no habit we can make that will magically bring us to any of these. It is submission. And submission is often the antithesis of passion. And I am passionate.

My prayer partner and I have been focusing on the whole point of Christianity, which is to become like Jesus. This is the goal of Christianity, not heaven. A wise pastor once said, "We are not being prepared for a place, but for a Person. The person of Jesus Christ." Becoming like Him, means that first and foremost we must be humbled. And humility doesn't come naturally to an artist, or a scientist, or a mathematician, or a mechanic or a toilet scrubber. It doesn't come naturally to any person, really. I take pride in my art. I take pride in my intelligence. I take pride in my ability to win any argument I wish to win. I take pride in most things. And I should not. Pride is the opposite of Jesus Christ. Being the prideful little twit I am, God saw fit to humble me under His wise and humorous, good hand.

As I mentioned above, we recently moved into a new, slightly larger home. Brandon has been hard at work remodeling the place, bringing it as up to date as possible on a budget. I haven't been able to help much due to my general helplessness and lack of know-how in reference to all things handy and mechanical. I felt that my contribution to our home would be my decorating vision for the house--eclectic and awesome. But I had forgotten something that my husband remembered. Years ago, before moving from our tiny first home was a thought in our minds, I told Brandon that when we moved into a larger house, he could have a room to hang his deer heads and other various stuffed and mounted carcasses that he deemed necessary for man room. Well, he thought this slightly larger home was the larger home I was referring to. It wasn't, but oh well. So, what room does he choose for his three deer heads, two turkey fans, duck pictures, eagle figurines and fishing paraphernalia? The living room. The most central room to our home. The room through which all souls must pass to get to the bathroom, studio or kitchen. I consented to the deer heads, encouraged him to limit himself to three themes and demanded veto power. About 3 weeks ago, Brandon began to give me ultimatums about decor in other parts of the house--I couldn't get new dining table chairs, we were keeping the ugly record/8 track player and he was keeping the gosh-awful, random picture of a man carrying a dead duck through the snow to a barn for some unknown reason, framed in the ugliest, bulkiest most disgustingly masculine frame you can gather from the very worst of your worst nightmares. By the way, I don't like ultimatums. Or ugly pictures.

It was the picture that sent me over the edge. The night he told me he was keeping it, no matter what, was a Friday night. All week, I had been running after my son and helping my sister with her twins. I was too tired to want to fight about it. I said nothing that night and went to sleep. The next morning, I was folding clothes after breakfast, and I said something a little short to him. His response? "You're just mad 'cuz I'm keeping the picture."

Have you ever felt anger in your toenails? I did. In that moment. I felt anger in my toenails, in my blood, in my bones, in my organs, and everywhere in between. The anger did not come from the picture alone. The picture had help. There were a lot of undisclosed behaviors and comments that I let slide without saying a word. But the picture was the proverbial straw. You know. The one that broke the camel's back. A better analogy in this case would be the last seismic shift before the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's.

The fit I threw was impressive. We refer to it now as the "grand mal hissy fit." And that is what it was. "NO!" I shouted with fervor and tears! "Just NOOO!! You will NOT keep that $@*% picture. It is god-awful and I HAATE it!" I threw folded laundry, I kicked the laundry basket, I pounded my fist on the table. I'm not sure what else I said. The anger had me. I do remember storming off to another room, slamming the door and silently daring him to come in. I think he waited until my breath returned to normal before approaching me. I told him through livid tears, that I was not sorry. That I felt better. And what is so terrible is that something that should have made me feel guilty, made me feel good. When it was over, we joked about it a bit, then he said, "So I guess now isn't a good time to tell you that I'm giving the picture to my dad." I would have been mad all over again had I not expounded all of my energy upon my tantrum. Instead, I scavenged for a little humor in the situation, and comforted myself with the fact that I had indeed, won again. Or so I thought.

God began dealing with me over the fit. I began to feel a little guilty that I had behaved like an adolescent, but I still wasn't willing to do the thing I knew in the cobwebby part of soul that I knew I must. I met with my prayer partner, Ellie, the following Wednesday as always, and against everything my mind was screaming at me, I confessed the full ordeal to her. As I confessed, the Lord made evident to me that He wanted me to do something I had never done before in an argument I cared anything about--lose.

In my 5 years of marriage, 7 years of loving Brandon, I had never lost a fight that I cared about. As the testament of the worst parts of myself spilled from my lips, I felt conviction, I felt the challenge and then I felt the anger. After meeting with Ellie and praying with her, I should have been right as rain, correct? Well, I wasn't. I then turned my anger from Brandon and the picture to the Lord. I neglected Him on purpose. Refused to submit my will to His. How dare He ask me to LOSE?
Those days of purposeful neglect were the darkest, most miserable days of my existence. I think this is because I had so recently tasted the sweetness of friendship with Him. I missed Him like crazy, but I wouldn't release my will. I hit a new low, and all of my insecurities prowled around for the kill. I realized in it all that I had recently prided myself on my faithfulness to God. Where was it now? He teaches me something that I don't want to learn, and I pout at Him like a toddler.

Fortunately, God never quits on us. If we are His, nothing can pluck us from His hand. Nor can we simply walk out. We are there forever.

The following Sunday night, we had prayer and communion at church. Rather than praying in groups, our pastors led us in a time of individual confession. The verses from Psalm 51 resonated through my spirit like a bell. "Restore to me the joy of your salvation" . . . "create in me a clean heart" . . . "sustain me with a willing spirit." Willing. A willing spirit. In that moment, in that word, my soul found peace. I found peace because I chose to lose. Not because I wanted furry necks and heads to dust for the rest of my life, or because I wanted 3 sets of eyes to follow me around wherever I go or an ugly picture hanging in my living room, but because I wanted to do what God wanted me to do, because I loved Brandon more than I hated deer heads or ugly pictures, and because choosing to lose makes me more like Jesus.

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."--Matthew 16:24-25

Of all possible applications, whoever imagined home decor?
(Before big things, we must be faithful in the small.)

So, the Lord and I have been enjoying one another again for a week. It's nice to have my Friend back. It's so silly that I was the one who pushed Him away. I've told Him about all of my anxieties about my "arts." He knows. He understands. He cares. And so He gave me a cardinal that would sing a glorious song to me (see Sara Groves lyrics above). He gave me the gift of this verse--
John 1:42--"Now when Jesus looked at Peter, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, a Stone.)"

You are now all confused. Let me explain.

Peter's destiny was to become a foundation, a cornerstone of the Church of Jesus Christ. So, when Jesus looked at him, though He knew all of his failures, He only saw who Peter was as God had created him to be in combination with who he would become through the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter would sink when he stepped out on the water, he would fall asleep when Jesus needed him to pray the most, he would cut off a guard's ear, he would deny Jesus three times the night before His death, and he would fail to recognize his Friend and Savior after He rose again. But Jesus saw a rock. Jesus saw his destiny.

And He sees mine. He sees me not as a rock, for that was someone else's destiny; but as a perfected artist, a perfected me, not the epic fail I am today.
He can see something else. And that is a very, very good thing.

Maybe if I look hard enough, I can see something else in this picture.