Category Archives: writing

Seeing the Positive Space

As an artist, you are taught to use contrasting colors to define your positive and negative space within a work.  Normally, you want to highlight the focus of the piece and shade the non-focal areas.  You want to draw attention to the positive.  I realize artwork is not always positive in the way of subject matter.  That is not exactly what I am talking about.  I am talking about the area to which your eye is drawn.  In the picture to the left, there are two images, one in negative space in one in the positive.  Do you naturally see one before the other?  Usually it is the positive space.  But the same is not true when I think of myself.

My husband and I were having a conversation while sitting on the couch yesterday morning.  I mentioned some things I was struggling with emotionally.  It seems I have had many struggles lately.  Nothing overwhelming, just many small things that make my mind whirl.  Specifically, I was talking about a hearing test I had recently that revealed I have low-frequency hearing loss.  I guess my husband had had enough of my whining because he said, “Holly, I want you to think about something.  You are letting all these negative things define you–whether it is your bipolar disorder or hearing loss or whatever else is wrong.  I want you to think of the good things about yourself and let them define you.”

I was suddenly fighting back tears.  The sad truth:  I couldn’t think of anything positive about myself that defined me.  I feel like I fall short on everything.  I feel like I am failing my children because I don’t spend enough constructive time with them.  I feel like I fail as a housekeeper because there is usually enough dust on my ceiling fans to plant corn.  I fail as an artist because I have no time to invest.  The same goes for being a writer.  Other than knowing I am God’s Child, Redeemed, I can think of nothing.

This is something I desperately need to work on.  I don’t have a resolution or a happy how-to ending for this blog post.  Rather, I want to ask you, “What positive things define you?”

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Becoming

Before a painter put brush to canvas, he sees his picture mentally … If you think of .: in terms of a painting, what do you see? Is the picture you think worth painting? … You create yourself in the image you hold in your mind. – Thomas Dreier.

We all have goals in life.  Some goals are material, others are spiritual.  Honestly, I concentrate more on my physical world than my spiritual ones.  I am in the middle of raising my family, I would like a bigger house, I need to bring in a regular income to our family.  There are so many other things that my mind obsesses about.  But when I boil down who I really want to be, it all comes down to being Godly.  My goals consist of writing a book for women based on my own spiritual experiences, I want to minister to those who believe that they are not “good enough.”  I believe this is the calling God has placed upon me.  I know things will happen all in His time.  Honestly though, I am not doing a whole lot to make that happen.

I believe the scripture in Phil. 1 that states, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  I know God will finish what He began in me.  But I am not doing a whole lot to help that along.  In my defense, it is hard to find 3 hours of solitude a day when raising four daughters, two of whom are still at home.  And now summer is here and all four of them are with me.  And did I mention my little ones wake up as soon as the first bird sings and the first light breaks?  (Case in point:  It is not even six and I hear small footsteps coming down the hallway).

It seems my life is going so fast that I barely have time to breathe.  I give of myself until I crash with exhaustion.  But I believe that God has began a good work within me.  In my time with Him, I get a little vision of what that person should look like.  She would be an author and speaker giving testimony without fear and with fire.  She has much more energy than I currently do.

Many times I get so wrapped up in pursing my goals, I forget who I supposed to become.  I get wrapped up in:   Must blog, must go to conferences, must build my following, must write the rest of my book, –that I loose track of who I want to become.

So I took so time the other day a doodled about goals, who I am, who I am to become.  I took a step back and instead of being in the middle of the race, I looked at what type of person the racer is, what they need in order to be nourished, and what they would look like on the inside and out.  I took a mental look at what my final painting would look like.  I took a look at all the stages in between.  I discovered I am too wrapped up in the “got to” of life.  When I boil it down to who I want to be and what that will look like, I want to pursue holiness and live in a way that radiates that.  It is that simple.

Diamond in the Rough

“Riffraff, street rat

I don’t buy that

If only they’d look closer

Would they see a poor boy?

No, siree

They’d find out

There’s so much more to me.”

These words are spoken by Aladdin during the reprise of “One Jump Ahead” (Disney).   I wonder about those words he spoke.  How much did he believe that he was more than a street rat.  Aladdin believed that he was so much more than his circumstances.  Somehow, Aladdin was able to wash off any of the labels that had been placed upon him by society.  He did not believe he was Riffraff.  As it turns out, Aladdin was a true “Diamond in the Rough.”

Contrast that to me.  I seem to absorb every negative label that floats my way.  Just last night my husband was fussing about the dishes not being done.  Granted I had already run one load through the dishwasher that day, but there are always more.  I immediately felt I wasn’t doing a good enough job.  As a mom of pre-schoolers, sometimes I feel that all I do is run around and catch things before they fall.  Literally.  It had been one of those days.

The dishes not being done translated to me not doing a good enough job which translated to me not being good enough.  Logically, I know my husband was just ranting in general, and that he is quite capable of doing the dishes himself.  But somehow that translates in my mind to me not being enough.  Somehow I can’t seem to separate what I do from what I am.  Ahh, perhaps there is more to that statement than I can process at the moment.

I have always wondered what made me worthy of receiving anything of being anything noteworthy.  The truth is that I am nothing without God’s grace.  God is the master at using the most unlikely people and the most unlikely circumstances to make something wonderful.  Moses was a murderer, David an adulterer.  Birthrights and blessings are repeatedly transposed from elder brother to younger brother.  Yet, all these men accomplished great things in Biblical history.  They were all the “diamond in the rough.”

So, I wonder about myself.  Am I a diamond in the rough?  What will it take to shine me up?  Is it simply the belief in what you are that makes you who you are?

Then I remember the premise of what my who book is about:  It is about allowing the Beauty of His Light to shine through you.  It is not my own qualities that make me beautiful, but the ability to be the prism through which the light shines.  When the light shines through a prism, it shines in the colors of a rainbow.  It sparkles, it shines.  Our job is to make rainbows happen.  Be the diamond through which His light shines!

Sticks and Stones

My daughters who are three and four years old are into a stage of name calling.  “You’re a tiny baby” one of them will say.  Of course, the other then retorts with, “No, you’re the tiny baby.”

This eventually leads to the one who is younger by only a year running to me and saying, “Elle is calling me a tiny baby.”

Usually this ends in me reprimanding them both for name calling.  Lately though, I have taken it to a different level.  My first tactic was to say something along the lines of, “Well, mommy says you’re a big girl.”  But then, after a few times of saying that, it dawned on me:  What does my youngest daughter, Caroline,  believe about herself?  She seems to be so easily swayed by either my definition of her being a “big girl” verses her sister’s definition of her being a “tiny baby.”  So I changed my tactic again.  When Caroline would run to me with the latest name she had been called by her sister Elle, I would stop and ask her, “What does Caroline believe about herself?”  At first this conversation required prompting, as Caroline would just look at me like I had two heads.  “Does Caroline believe she is a tiny baby or a big girl?”

“I’m a big girl,”  she would exclaim.

“Then you don’t need to worry with what your sister thinks or calls you,” would be my reply to her.

So simple of an argument, but yet, so relevant.  Even as adults, we often let other people’s opinions of who we are, what type of person we are, what we are good at, what we are not good at define us.  We have to remember though, that everyone’s perception of who we are is influenced by who they are and the lenses of life through which they view the world.  Those lenses are colored by their own past, things people have said to them, their own views and life experiences.  Any remarks they would make you is from their own perception.

So if someone should tell me, “Holly, you are horrible.”  I should not give much credence to it.  It is just their perception. On the same token, should they say, “Holly, you are wonderful.”  It should not matter.  It should not matter because I should have my own definition of who I am.  If I have one editor tell me I am a good writer, yet another tell me I need to give it up.  Who do I believe.  I believe what I am told from the Spirit of God — He tells me to write.  So I do.  Sticks and stones.  .  .

This was a struggle for me for a long time.  I have many journal entries where the phrase, “Who am I?” is doodled in the margin.  I had no sense of myself.  I went to college in my thirties to try to find myself.  I allowed my paranoia of what other people thought of me define me.

Through it all, I kept hearing the voice of God calling on gentle breezes, “You are mine.”  For a long time I argued that of 6 billion people on Earth, God could not possible know who I was.  I was wrong.

A voice that said, “You are mine, and I am calling you to me,” persisted.  For many years I did not allow myself the believe the voice of God telling me I was of value.

“I am calling you to me, and you are to be a light bearer to others.”

No way.  Not me.  You got the wrong person.  I can’t be a light bearer.  I have too much darkness in me to bear light,” my thoughts would reply back.

Slowly, and through a couple of traumatic events, God revealed Himself to me.  He does know my name and He does believe that I am of value.  I have worth to Him.  So much so, that He has pursued me for years.  He has been patient with me.  Through listening to what God believed about me, my definition of who I am started to change.  Casting Crowns song, “The Voice of Truth” became a mantra for me.  If I believed God was truth, I had no choice but to submit my own beliefs to be in alignment with His.  I had to believe for myself what God believed of me.

I am worth fighting for.

I am worthy.

I am a light bearer.

I make mistakes.

He delights in me.

He raised me up.

I am valuable.

I am loved.

What do you believe about yourself?

Kicking and Screaming

Footprints captionAnyone ever feel this way?  That God has taken you to places in your life not by peaceably carrying you or walking along side of you, but with you kicking and screaming every step of the way?  And in the end God finally had to drag you there?

I love this caption because it speaks so much truth about my life.  I was always satisfied just being a Sunday School girl, making an occasional comment or two, or just being a good choir girl.  I remember a prayer from years ago where I thanked God that I was not called into ministry.  I can only imagine now how God must have tilted His head back and laughed at that one knowing what would be in store for me later.  But I can not say I have accepted this call gracefully.  For the longest time I could not hear the call simply because it was not time, and I was not ready.  But then, I haven taken so many roundabouts that I became very disoriented and confused.  I was called into ministry, and I thought I would go into it through music.  So I went back to school as an adult as a music major.  I always felt my years as a music major were just stepping stones to something bigger.  I still really did not know what.  Then I wanted to get involved in some of the other ministries at my church.  Those doors did not open for me.

Then my story started to take a shape in a way which could be used for God’s glory.  I would hear the whispers of God as people would tell me, “You should write a book.”

“One day, maybe.”  Would be my reply.

And I kept saying “One day.”

For years.  I kept thinking my story has to have an end to growing, a solution to all my problems.

Then one day I was out walking, and I kept hearing the compelling voice saying, “One day is here.  One day is now.”

It wasn’t an audible voice, but one more like a toddler tugging on your shirt-tale repeatedly.  Not verbal, but persistent.  I did what Moses did, “You can’t mean me.”  And then I did what Abraham did, I laughed.  No not me.  Time went by.

The tugging did not cease.  Slowly I started compiling things.  But there are still so many unanswered questions.  I started blogging.  Doors started opening; at an almost frightening rate.

I may have seem to come peaceably to this place.  But I have not.  There are definite grooves where my footprints should be.

I still do not know what God has in store for me.  But I have a feeling it is more than I can ask for or imagine.  And by the way, I am terrified, kicking and screaming all the way on the inside, even if I don’t appear to be.  The bottom line is that I have to answer His call to me.

So what things have you been dragged to kicking and screaming?

So What?

By all standards, I have been a very fortunate woman.  I have the all-American life–A house, four kids, a husband who works hard and loves me.  I get to stay at home with our children.  Our daughters do ballet, karate, and summer camps.  We live in a small town where community is important.  But below the surface, I ask myself the question, “So what?”  What if I have it all, but there still seems to be an element of life that is missing.  Like there is something more to be had.

In the book I am working on I start it out by stating, “I have always wanted much more than this provincial life.”  I always seem to have had it all.  I have been blessed with solid, stable things around me.  My parents were together until my father passed away a couple of years ago.  We never really moved.  I never had to change school systems.

So What?

I still wanted more than this provincial life.  What is it that we yearn for, even if we have it all?  There is still something missing to our life.  We try to fill it with things–someone’s love and affection, someone treating us with value, or maybe we stay so busy doing good deeds that we fill the void with the good feeling of being there for others.  So What?

I have had it all.  Yet I have also experienced the horrors of depression.  I kept asking myself, “why?”  I had everything I could really want.  So the question of “So what?” haunted me.

There is more to this provincial life than having it all.  What makes our life go from being ordinary to extraordinary?  What is it that we are searching for?

We are searching for fulfillment.  It has been said that a woman who is confident in her purpose, reveals Beauty.  I don’t think we are searching for fulfillment from ourselves as much as fulfillment as to our purpose.

It is an amazing life.  To be fully alive, not by doing, but by being.  It has taken me forty years and many stepping stones to realize what God has in store for me.  “Life is not about finding yourself, it is about discovering who God created you to be.”  These two things are very different.  I used to say, “it is time for me to grow into my own skin.”  I felt so out of place within my own body.  Slowly, I am beginning to grow into the woman God has designed for me to be.

I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  I didn’t find myself because I went looking for myself.    I found myself because I started searching for who I am in relationship to God.  I discovered I am His daughter, His Beloved.  When I discovered these things then other things started to fall into place.

If you are not at a place where you can see yourself as Beloved, then I want you to pray that you can begin the steps to that journey. But be careful what you pray for.  You may be taken for the journey of a lifetime.  Sometimes we are ready for such a journey, other times not.  But finding your purpose in God is well worth the risk.

To those who have been given much…

I was reading out of Luke 12 today where Jesus states, “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more has been given.”  So this got me thinking.  What have I been given that I am required to give back with?  What type of things is Jesus referencing here?  I thought of the parable of the talents.  Each person had been given a certain amount of money.  Two people made more money with what they had been given and one person was scared of loosing it, so hid it.  This person was scolded and his money taken away and given to the one who had the most.

I will say that I am blessed.  I have a wonderful family, four daughters and a husband who loves me.  But what is it that I have to give?  What have I been blessed with?  Is this just a monetary issue?  There is a line out of Rick Warrens book The Purpose Filled Life that states:  “Worship is not something we do; it is something that we are.”  I think this is the point Jesus is making.  You have to give of yourself.  Each person examining their gifts and talents for ministry.  It is hard for me to think I have been blessed with spiritual “gifts” and will be held accountable to use them.  I have been to school for education, ministry, and music.  Yet, comparably to others I am very ordinary and even under-educated.  But it is a wonderful thing that God uses ordinary people to fulfill his purpose and ordinary,broken people to have a calling.  That is the group that I fit into.  Recently I feel that God has called me to write a book.  So I am working on it.  It is not that the subject hasn’t been written on before, or that I am adding any fresh new ideas to the scene, it is simply that I have been called to get a certain message out.  The heart of which is this:  “You are radically loved by God.”

There have been times where I have pursued things that I thought I was gifted in only for those doors to remain closed to me.  I desperately was trying to give of myself during those times.  It was difficult.  But recently, many doors have been opened for me and I hope that the path that they lead to will be a successful printing of this book.

Although America was founded on Christianity, there is much stigma attached to being a “practicing Christian.”  You are thought of as hypocritical primarily.  But what people who do not go to church do not understand is that is where the broken people are.  We come across as hypocritical because we are still human and in our humanity we make mistakes.  But all in all, we are a group of very wounded, broken people searching for a power greater than ourselves to lead the way.

On Sunday it is easy for me to participate in this class and help in children’s ministry.  But I am finding it is the way I treat others on a daily basis is what matters.  I recently started viewing myself as one called into ministry as I write this book.  I noticed that I started looking people in the eyes more and really paying attention to them.  Not just saying “thank you” to the waiter as he delivers my plate to the table, but really looking him in the eye and saying it.  There is something different in that walk.  In the way I weave myself in and out of aisles in the store and bump into people.  It is different.

I don’t claim to understand what we are supposed to be giving back of other than our whole self.  Is there anything else?  Does that mean we have to drop everything and go raise money for wells in the middle of Africa?  No, we all have our calling.  Finding it takes a lifetime.  But for each season of life there are stepping stones.  Sometimes we just have to concentrate on stepping up and finding the path and that is all we can do for today.