But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
For nine months, I’ve been walking through a renewing of the mind process through Dr. Caroline Leaf’s program, 21 Days to Detox Your Brain using her Switch phone app and other resources. I began this as, like all of us, there are many areas in my life that need work, some that I decided were long overdue for a transformation. From insecurities and bad habits to grief, loss and transitions in life, I have had great victories in my life through this program. https://drleaf.com/
“Frame your world with your words.” ~ Caroline Leaf, Who Switched Off My Brain?
You’ve probably heard one of these phrases “re-frame your life,” “re-image your pain,” or the ever popular “make lemonade out of lemons.” In her writing and work, Dr. Leaf refers to this as re-conceptualizing your past, toxic thoughts, stress, conflict or pain. For one example she uses the image of a beautiful art form, Kintsugi Art. Japanese Kintsugi Art is the art of repairing pottery with lacquer that has been mixed with gold, silver or platinum powder. The word, Kintsugi, literally means “to mend with gold”.
In the Switch app Dr. Leaf encourages us to see our stories, good and bad, with a welcoming heart and honor respecting all aspects of who we are. Because of some past regrets, scars and pain in my life still dragging me down, I quickly latched on to this new idea. I find great healing in writing and even deeper healing in art therapy, so I decided to step into this process through my own Kintsugi vase repair project on paper.
Dr. Leaf’s comparison of Kintsugi art to our humanity prepared my mind for this project. She explained each vase or bowl has a history that needs to be honored rather than thrown away. Creative repair treats the cracks as part of the life of the vase rather than a wound to disguise. So, all our personal stories, good and bad, have shaped us and need to be respected as well. Emphasizing that our story is worthy of honor we thus welcome the process of being human. She goes on to add an idea that really hit it for me: We experience lasting healing when we acknowledge our full story because it keeps us from staying in bondage to the negativity of our past. Anxious to see the gold healing in my past, I gathered my thoughts and art supplies on hand to set out on my new adventure.
Below are the practical steps I took in my Kintsugi art therapy project. Not a potter, I used my modest drawing and painting skills. Each step took me a month or so as I needed time to meditate on the whole process. Now four months later, I am still processing but feel ready to share 😊.
In our rush to fix our problems,
we neglect to allow space and time for our wounds to teach us.
~ Richard Rohr
STEP 1: WRITE/SKETCH
I knew I needed to first sketch the details of my life and toxic thoughts I’d been working on in the last few months. I drew a vase, made cracks with the abbreviated pain or toxic thought underneath the line with the re-framed picture of that pain on top of the line.
HOPE, GRACE-FILLED CHURCH,REDEEMED FAMILY/DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY
COMFORT, HOPE OF HEAVEN/LOSS, GRIEF
GOD IS WRITING THEIR STORY LIKE HE DID MINE/ WORRY ABOUT ADULT CHILDREN & HUSBAND
GOD’S APPROVAL/REJECTION, PEOPLE PLEASER
COMMUNICATION/FEAR OF CONFLICT
TRUST GOD, STEWARDSHIP/FINANCES & HEALTH
Step 2: Draw Another Vase and Paint it Using Acrylics on a Paint-Friendly Board or Canvas
I then drew out three vases on watercolor board. Three, because I’m a perfectionist and wanted to make sure I had three chances in case I messed up. (Watercolor board because that’s what was handy). Using acrylic paint, I painted my vases then chose the one I liked best to work with further.
This original vase represents what I was intended for when God created me. As I painted, I meditated on the gifts God gave me, my strengths, my passions and I thanked him for all the blessings He has poured into my life. I added shadows knowing from the moment He created me, He was aware of the pain I would experience in my life. This took about three days to add layers of light and shadow.
Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Step 3: Draw Cracks with Fine Sharpie
After the paint was fully dried, I added cracks, meditating on the pain and imperfections, surrendering those that still needed to be relinquished. As I added each crack, I dealt with the pain again, making sure I was honest about each toxic thought or loss. As Dr. Leaf encourages, each time we speak out a toxic thought, it begins to die.
You cannot heal what you cannot acknowledge. ~ Richard Rohr
Step 4: Cover the Cracks with Gold Paint Sharpies
I was extremely nervous for this next step. I found it interesting that my insecurities were coming up even in my painting. Finally, I just had to take the dive and do it. It was freeing after the first line and, soon, I began to truly enjoy the whole process as I meditated and expounded on the re-framed visions of my toxic thoughts and beliefs.
- I thanked God He had redeemed my dysfunctional original family. I thanked Him for each of those family members and the blessing they are to me.
- I thanked God that He had provided such a great support to me in my grief through His Word, worship, others and His Spirit in the loss of our son plus preparing me my whole life to trust Him in that pain.
- Daily, I need to trust our Creator and not worry about my husband and children, in the fallout of losing a child/sibling, because God is writing their stories just like He is writing mine. He loves them more than I do.
- The ultimate approval I need is God’s. I need not worry about what others think if I am loving God with my whole heart and loving others as myself.
- Through the cross I am fully forgiven and need not carry shame for anything. Though others may not think highly of me, my God delights in me and died for me on the cross even when I was a sinner.
- I am grateful for so much I don’t need to be discontented.
- I need not fear conflict or stress because communication brings growth in myself and in my relationships and stress strengthens us when we see it as a gift.
- I need not fear pain, illness or financial instability when I’m accountable and am a good steward of my body and finances because God delights in me and will provide all I need to live an abundant life.
Seeing the beautiful gold highlights in my once, plain and cracked vase, revealed at a deeper level how beautiful the healing is in my life. It reminded my heart, He is bigger than all the cracks and attacks in my life. Without them, His golden glory would not be so evident in my life.
Step 4: Looking Through Other Filters
This summer, my husband, Gary, introduced me to a camera phone app filter, Prisma, which is so much fun. This took me to another level of contentment and creativity in this project. The filter adds different colors, highlights and twists in the graphics. After taking photos of my paintings, experimenting with the filters started me thinking about all the seasons of life. Each moment in life has different reflections of light, people, weather, pain, spiritual growth, geography and, the list goes on. Once again, our all-sovereign all-powerful Creator makes a new moment with a unique vision of our lives and how many ways He shines that love on our lives.
Final Encouragement to You:
I encourage you to at least sketch out the cracks in your life and begin to re-frame those cracks. Maybe some of you really adventurous artists may want to take a broken pot or throw one to fire for this project for your life. Whether you sketch, paint or draw, I pray healing will come and God will be glorified in your honored story.
John 16:33 (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”