when i was about 25 i had to leave my ideal job that i thought i would be at forever and move to a place i wasn’t too fond of.
this did not go well.
i guess it was just all too much for me at once: moving from family, rich deep friendships and a job that was my end goal to a place i knew nothing about to live with two girls i knew were rad, but didn’t know just how rad yet. anyway, i hit a bit of a bottom. didn’t have a job for a while and had waaay too much time to contemplate life which at that time was a bit of a suckfest so thinking on these things was a bad idea. i was so low that i didn’t even really know how to talk about it and just wanted a window out of the bleeeerg. i was pretty poor with the whole “no income” thing and so i decided to ask my mom if she would pay for me to take a painting class. cheaper than therapy and hopefully more useful as i had no idea what to say about my situation.
the first class that was supposed to be for beginners turns out to be a bunch of people who took the class because the teacher was so good and they just wanted more time with her. so here i come with my brand spankin’ new paints and my white thingy you put your thumb through to hold your squirts of paint and combine them to make awesome new colors. i am already beginning to sweat a bit when the teacher goes over some “basics”, points out the fruit that will be the focus of our first still life attempt and informs us that we may now begin. begin whaaaat?!? i want to yell at the top of my lungs, but she sees i am the only one who fell for the straight-up beginner talk and comes and helps me get set up. everybody paints… for awhile. i want to be good at everything i do. is that too much to ask? when i am not great at something i get frustrated really easily, just ask matt how i handle our universal remote control situation. i was sitting back trying not to be discouraged when the teacher comes over and asks if i need help.
“yes, i am just not sure where to go from here.”
“that depends,” she says, “what are you trying to paint?”
she couldn’t even tell which piece of fruit i was going for!!! i mean, there were like grapes, a huge melon and a pear, they were not spittin’ images of each other and i was painting the pear. i didn’t want to go back the next week with my unidentifiable blob and try to make it into a pear, but i did.
be patient. you don’t have to be able to make it out at the beginning to appreciate it in the end. this evening i got to sit with some stellar ladies who dropped by randomly and who are in the midst. they have their supplies and they are sitting there, beginning to paint the masterpiece. for one it is heading into new uncharted territory, things changing all around her and not being where she thought she’d be by now. you have just sat down. you have your canvas and your paints are all ready on your white thumb holder thingy. grab the paint girl and watch the image take shape. maybe rest for awhile on the background and then as things become clearer you may discover what it is you wanted to emerge. the other is walking through adoption, collecting clothes and supplies for a baby she desperately wants to bring home and call her mom. oh sweet friend, you see the object so clearly and yet there is so little you can actually control in the process and that is terrifying. would you take your brush and sweep broad strokes of deep enduring love for that sweet baby girl of yours? would you hope beyond hope that things go well knowing that doing so could in fact sign you up for crushing disappointment in the end? love her extravagantly, friend. it is scary. it is hard, but what is the other option?
life is messy. we are told we can be whoever we want to be as we are growing up and so we decide who that will be and bank on it. what we are not told is that we are made, just like a first painting. molded by events, blessings, losses and the journey itself. it may not be pretty, it may not even be identifiable right now, but it is taking shape right before your very eyes. be willing to be still and be affected by each new detail and delight in what becomes of what was a grape-melon-pear in the beginning. your most crushing blow, what feels like someone just painted over what you thought was nearly finished may in fact be your greatest gift. it is time to begin.
“What are you trying to paint?”