A little over a year ago I was living life as an ordinary wife and mother. I enjoyed being a stay at home mom for my two small children. On the surface things appeared to be fine, but slowly I was becoming aware of a deep undercurrent of fear, anxiety and insecurity. Several factors contributed to these feelings and I felt powerless to fight them. In short, I was not living life abundantly. I was adjusting to my circumstances and surviving. I decided I needed to quit merely responding to my daily life year after year. I was ready to actively cast away fears and strive for goals. I wanted to be more purposeful about my life. I wanted to take inventory and take charge. And at the same time I wanted to have the freedom to dream about what I want out of life in the future. I felt God inviting me to be more creative. Not on paper or in crafts, but rather, living creatively. He was encouraging me to paint on the canvas of my life with joy and excitement; to partner with Him in the creative process of life. It was time to stop the routine of just getting through, head down, and surviving. I felt He was inviting me to LIVE. I was timid and afraid, but I was ready.
I felt God inviting me to be more creative. Not on paper or in crafts, but rather, living creatively.
Life did not get easier. My marriage fell apart. It was the hardest most trying time of my life. I felt so dark and alone and downright broken. The emotional abuse had been so subtle in the early years of our marriage I hadn’t noticed or been able to rightly identify it. By the time I realized the enormity of what I was dealing with and how it was not only affecting me, but also the children, it had developed into a dangerous situation for us all. I had been made to question every fiber of my character, every decision, every word. I was held up to impossible standards while trying to achieve goals that were constantly moving out of reach. It was the affirmation and the culmination of every fear, anxiety, and insecurity I had ever had. I had to trust on a very primal level that God is good. Trust that His love is real. Trust that He is for me. Trust that even when people let me down He will not. I had to doggedly cling to everything I knew about HIM to get me through. My mind wanted so badly to give up the fight. To agree with the message telling me I wasn’t good enough for even God to love. I knew this was a lie. And by the grace of God I refused to believe it. (If you feel you are in a similar place please click here.)
Nonetheless, when the divorce was final I felt my life was ashes. All the dreams I had for my family, my future, and my children now just seemed to be ashes of dreams burned away. However, I kept remembering that He gives beauty for ashes. And God kept telling me through the words of a song “I’m painting beauty with the ashes. Your life is in My hands.” “Ok, God,” I said, “I’ll keep trusting.” But honestly, I was not ok. In my ventures as an artist I had worked with charcoal. Ashes. Burnt matter. No matter how you used it, there weren’t any other colors than black and grey. It was a very depressing endeavor. Black smudges on perfectly good canvas. I was thoroughly over it in a day and my mood reflected the dreary lines I had created. That’s what I had to look forward to for my life? How is that beautiful? “God,” I prayed, “I need color.” And of course, He knew.
Shortly thereafter I had a conversation with a friend who was dealing with a difficult coworker. I realized how much I had to share with her as a result of all that I had personally been through. I was able to encourage her in her negative situation. She texted me that night “you are a gem”. It made me think of the song that’s popular right now. They lyrics state: “He’s making diamonds out of us, I won’t be afraid to shine.” Also, in my devotional that day I had read, “Yield to God’s creative work in you.” I put the pieces together and it made me happy to think of God making something beautiful and creative out of me. Shaping me like a diamond.
When I was in 6th grade I had researched how diamonds are cut. If they are the hardest substance in the world, I had wondered, what are they cut with? I found the answer to be other diamonds. The dust from other diamonds is used on discs to cut and shape more diamonds. Nothing is wasted. My mind flashed to the analogy of my life I had crafted in my imagination: me sitting among ashes. Just like good, old Job. I began to think, if God is creating something out of my life, and I am truly a “gem”, maybe this isn’t ashes at all. It probably looks grey like ashes, but it’s not. Wouldn’t it be diamond dust? I pictured all the diamond dust that must be around me at this point. Ashes of diamonds. But that’s not ashes at all. And His word says “you’ll walk through fire and not be burned.” I felt the fight rising up in me as I recognized the lie I had bought into. “I have not been burned,” I said aloud. “These are not ashes.” My perspective continued to transition as I remembered: “My God is for me not against me. He will deliver me. He will rescue me. He will pluck my feet out of the net. He will set me on a broad place. I shall again praise Him.” And all the promises from his word that I had hidden in my heart came flooding in. I smiled as I wondered, “What happens when God paints on the canvas of my life with diamond dust?” I imagine it would be amazingly beautiful. There will be no blacks or even greys, but rather millions of sparkles. Beauty in every color of the rainbow. This is beauty for ashes.
This is not the end of my story. I would love to say everything has been patched up and put back together, but that is not the case. I am still in the process of being delivered from fears and anxiety. My family has not been miraculously healed, and no, I am not writing all of this from the heights of a beautiful fairytale castle. I am still very much one of the broken people you meet and never even realize it. However, the creative process is at work. The healing has begun not since the hurt, but rather from birth—spiritual birth. I am being changed from the inside out. Healing leads to wholeness, and salvation becomes reality when our perspective of our lives and circumstances are aligned with God’s. The kaleidoscope doesn’t work in the dark.
God longs for us to walk in the light of His love and trust His goodness. This life is a creative process. God rested after the creation of the world but then He got right back to work. He is still creating—with us. Our lives are the canvas. He is faithful to us all. He doesn’t neglect his art for a moment. He lovingly considers every brushstroke. C.S. Lewis, referring to God’s work in us said: “…you thought were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building a palace.” And why are we surprised–every one of us? We want to be grand. Everyone does. Whether it comes from a place of good or evil, humble or haughty. Deep down we all want to be useful. And so we all go through shaping and molding and it seems all of us are traumatized by it. But that is precisely the point. We will not be the same. Praise God, we will not be the same. You get through and you gratefully, gracefully realize His promises are real. He is who he says He is. He is good. And the promises He brings to your life in color are real. You get to live. You get to create. But you also get to choose what materials you work with. I encourage you, if you are in a difficult place or feel you have never really come out of a difficult place, don’t buy the lie that says you sit in ashes. Turn toward the light of His goodness and allow the diamond dust of your life to sparkle. Trust the creative process as much as you trust the Creator and shine. Psalm 34:4-5 “I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”