Art Therapy, Bright Side, Gratitude, Grief, Growth in Trials, Healing, Kintsugi Art, Trials, Trust

HEALING THE CRACKS IN OUR LIVES – A KINTSUGI PROJECT

KINTSUGI FILTERED POWER POINT

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.

kintsugi sketch image

 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
FORGIVENESS/SHAME GUILT
GRATITUDE/DISCONTENTMENT
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.

1st kintsugi vase no cracks_20190828_175343(1)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.

 

cropped 2nd kintsugi vase with cracks no gold20190828_181845Step 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.

original_prepared_photo

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.

KINTSUGI FILTERED 6 BLOCK

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.”

 

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A Christmas Carol: My Thoughts on Tiny Tim

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.

“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A couple of years ago, my obsession with A Christmas Carol became evident to my family. My son, Taylor, who resides now in Heaven, asked, “Mama, why do you have every version of that movie possible!? Don’t you get sick of it?”

“It’s the best movie ever, Taylor, because it always reminds me of what is really important at Christmas. Besides, what a blast to watch Scrooge shock everyone at the end!”

My favorite versions are the ones where, in the end, you get to see the presents Scrooge showers on people who have feared him. The best shocker is where Mrs. Cratchit doesn’t know whether to karate chop Scrooge Miss Piggy-style or wrap him in a huge bear hug.

The compassionate depth of this story is obvious to me except one line that always confounded me: Tiny Tim’s comment quoted by his father, “…that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” – Until this year.

Would it be asking for pity if it were me? This year, it has become real to me. Although five months have passed, I still get to share with people the familiar phrase, “Our son, Taylor, was married and twenty-eight days later went to be with Jesus.” I finally get Tiny Tim! Sometimes I hesitate to share the news because I don’t want people to think I’m looking for pity. But I am truly thankful for this tragedy so I can share my next phrase of hope and my anchor, “But I know for certain he is with Jesus and our Lord is doing great things with this loss and holding me up in joy as I hold His hand tighter than ever!”

Last night, I saw a friend who did not know of our loss. I shared the first part of the story, and then we were interrupted. Thinking of Tiny Tim, I couldn’t go on today until I called him to share the rest of the story. I don’t want to share my story without the joy because there is no need for pity, just a chance to share, that in the midst of trials, there is hope for everyone. Tiny Tim saw the silver lining of gratitude in his life. When others see me, may it be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made a way for my son to have eternal life.

Merry Christmas.  I pray for silver lining perspective in each heart and “God bless us, every one!”

Ann Voskamp, Gratitude, Grief, Growth in Trials

Thankful for Surprised Amazement

Thankful 2013-Day 21: After reading my new One Thousand Gifts Devotional today I am thankful for surprised amazement that God gives me in the midst of my grief in the loss of our son, Taylor. In this Ann Voskamp reminds us that “expectations kill relationships – especially with God” and she repented from “entitlement that steals joy.”

I expected all my children to live long lives and outlive me, but as I sit back and keep my eyes open, waiting for faithful kisses from God without expectations or entitlement, He consistently surprises me with moments of joy.

A moment last Friday where a young student gave me a stuffed Snoopy dog as a gift she had been holding onto for me for over two years. She knew Peanuts is a favorite of mine, but she didn’t know they were Taylor’s favorites too. In the last two weeks, I had been praying about having something for us to hold in all our family pictures to remember Taylor.

Snoopy was the answer to my prayer and if this little girl had remembered to bring Snoopy a few years ago, it would not have meant so much to me. God’s reminder to her last week was a kiss of joy for me that I needed this week. Once again, I’m surprised and amazed at His desire to touch me in a special way in His perfect timing.

Eucharisteo always precedes a miracle!” (Voskamp)Image

Ann Voskamp, Gifts, Gratitude, Healing, One Thousand Gifts, Thanksgiving, Trials, worship

One Thousand Gifts – by Ann Voskamp: My Healing Through Gratitude

I have had losses in my life like anyone my age. Some of this was from pain of losing a loved one, a child going through pain, but the most life altering was from having three surgeries in a year with one that brought damage to my voice.

My passion in life is singing and leading worship. I’m a singer and a teacher, plus I love to talk, A LOT! After my third spinal surgery, I woke to find my right vocal cord nerve was paralyzed bringing my voice to a whisper at best. This completely put my life to a stop of reflection asking God what my new purpose was to be in His journey for me. As a person with deep faith, this was still a challenge as I processed, questioning, waiting…

In June 2012, I had surgery to allow me to talk, but I still could not sing well. In August, God was gracious and allowed me to help with church worship and, in October, go back to teaching and leading worship at my school part time.  Yet, I still grieved that I could not sing the way I wanted to. Although I understood that worship is a way of life and not a song, musical worship had for so long come from my heart through my larynx that I wasn’t sure how to deeply worship anymore.

In November, preparing for Thanksgiving, God challenged me to be thankful in everything. I thought I had been living a grateful life, but was still drifting towards complaining and discontentment in many areas, especially in my verbal life.

As the temptation to grumble approached, the Lord would reveal the parts of my problems to be thankful for:

Wandering Loved Ones: “Thank you, Lord, that they are alive. Thank you that they love me and want your blessing in their lives. Thank you for other loved ones close by and students that are seeking your face. Thank you for the husband who seeks your face and loves our family…”

A Broken Voice: “Thank you, Lord for the opportunities to touch lives for you in the health world because of this and help others in the same situation I’m in. Thank you that I can at least teach part time and help others to sing at school and at church. Lord, what? You don’t need perfection? Okay, I will sing, even if my cord doesn’t make the kind of sound I think it should make. I can still lift up my joyful noise to you for true worship comes from my heart and not my larynx. “

Positive growth, yet, I kept expecting, believing, waiting for a complete spectacular healing.

December 1st: Friends commented, “You are sounding better.”  I could tell there was a difference too.

December 21st: A visit to the voice surgeon, absolutely expecting him to say I was completely healed. He scopes my throat then matter-of-factly states, “No, Carla, your cord is still completely paralyzed. I’ll see you in March, you probably won’t have a voice then, and we will discuss a permanent surgery.”

More surgery??? “No, Lord! I will not have another surgery. I’m going to trust you with this one. I would rather not talk than have a 5th surgery.”

January: A precious loved one makes an attempt to reconnect. Gratitude begins to show its fruit. People stopping, saying, “Carla, your voice is back! You can sing! Wow! You sang great in chapel today! You are healed! When did that happen?”…

My Eyore response: “Thank you, but I’m not healed. In fact, in March I won’t have a voice at all again…” (I read this now and think how stupid I was!)

February 1st: I was sharing my heart with our school nurse regarding all this and she jumped up and said, “You have to read this book, One Thousand Gifts!” The next week she bought the book by Ann Voskamp as a gift for me.

Ann Voskamp is what I describe as an honest and down to real life author with an incredible gift for writing in a lyrical way that is beautiful and rare. This is a book you will want to sit with for a half hour, then meditate and savor in small bites twice a day.  Ann describes losses in her life – minor to major – and how gratitude opened up a whole new world as she saw God’s face in the midst of all stages of life.

What God starts, He always finishes. From November to now, through His Holy Spirit and this book, He plopped me in Gratitude Boot Camp! I had been doing the thanksgiving dance but failed to see the work He was doing, believing what the doctor said instead of seeing my Creator’s unique craftsmanship.

As I jumped deeper into gratitude, I had a bottomless sense of peace and began to think less about my voice and more about God’s purpose for my gifts, letting Him take care of my voice.

During this time, another doctor friend asked if he could refer me to a surgeon in Los Angeles who repairs voices of famous singers. The California doctor called me and said I sounded way too good for him to do surgery on me. He and my doctor friend explained that, although my nerve was still paralyzed, my vocal cord had fallen back to the middle of my larynx and was in the perfect position for vibration. With a singing specialist, they said I could very likely build endurance and range again.

I suddenly realized that God was using my voice in a wonderfully functioning capacity without a nerve to help it! I like the spectacular and had been looking for a lightning bolt to come down and strike me with healing power creating fireworks around me. Instead, he healed me with a gentle surprise patiently waiting for me to stop denying His work and realize that my gratitude broke open the doors to see the healing He had already accomplished in me.

It is now March 7th and, other than range and stamina, my voice feels almost normal again. I’ve cancelled the doctor appointment!

I truly believe that ungratefulness clouds the truth and blessings God wants to reveal to us. I’m so grateful for the difficult times and wouldn’t trade one treasure of wisdom I’ve received from the past two years for anything.

Read One Thousand Gifts and see what miracles God is already doing in your life.