The second year of our marriage Bill and I bought a little 1800 sq. ft. bungalo in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of southeast Atlanta. I loved that little house! And within a year we began attending a church 2 blocks down the street. I was still just full of religion, although I was genuinely beginning to learn more and more about God.
These early years in Atlanta were when I first got the itch to do illustration work. This was the beginning of those "waiting years" I talked about in the blogs from March 2020.
I'm not a particularly ambitious person. I never had any great desire to make millions or have my name in lights. But I did have talent, and I knew it. I wanted to do something with it and not just waste it.
I joined the Atlanta Artists Club and attended meetings and got subscriptions to art magazines which I consumed. My first thought was maybe getting into galleries with my wildlife-themed watercolors and pen and inks.
But matting and framing art, and preparing displays for weekend art shows gets to be a bit much when it's something you just think would be good to do, and you don't really have that I-will-die-if-I-don't-do-this attitude. Plus, when you've isolated yourself for almost 20 years, you're not exactly equipped to go out into the world and market yourself. I read all the books and followed all the instructions, but I'd get frustrated and probably just gave up too soon before anything would come of it. I wasn't good at talking business with strangers, and not all that confident in myself. I did think my work was good, but wasn't quite sure it was gallery quality. I was a lousy salesman!
At some point I got interested in illustrating children's books – no idea where that interest originated – and I joined the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators. I subscribed to Writer's Digest and bought my yearly edition of the Writer's Market and read everything I could get my hands on about writing and illustrating. No matts and frames ... all I needed was a typewriter, paper and envelopes. It was at least easier than painting for galleries. I'd pound out ridiculously amatuerish children's stories and mail them out 2-3 times just to collect the rejection slips and then quit.
I was really lousy at this, but I deluded myself into thinking I was "doing something" with my talents. But it was a delusion. Just like hiding in my room hadn't made me "safe", playing artist wasn't "doing something" with my talent. Though I did gain a lot knowledge that is valuable to me today. And I did continue to draw and paint which was good, too. But deep inside, I felt like a wasted failure.
Then the bad thing happened out of the blue and rocked my world to the very core ...
My mom got angry at us over an incident that we deemed incidental, but apparently she did not. And she broke all ties with us. It threw my head and heart into a tailspin ... my parents live 12 miles from us today, and yet I haven't seen or spoken to them in almost 40 years.
When it initially happened, if I hadn't already been placed in my safe place with Bill, I would not have survived this, I think. And in our new church home I had a wonderful pastor who I loved and respected who counseled me and helped me through those first critical weeks.
I turned back to my old ways of hiding. I didn't hide in a room. I just retreated into myself. I got up everyday and tended to work and home. I was present in the room with Bill and friends. But I was somewhere far away trying to make sense of what had happened. It was impossible.
But that's when the miracle happened ...
All my life I've heard folks give testimonies about when they got "saved". They generally know the date and place where it happened, and that really troubled me, because I couldn't name any places or times. All I knew was that at different times as a kid I would be at church or maybe a summer church camp or a revival meeting and I'd respond to the altar call. I don't think I was actually longing for God, I think I was just responding to that "parent in the sky" who could do way worse things to me than just yell at me.
But something surely happened when I was a kid ... I don't know if I had actually ever chosen God, but He had apparently chosen me. Because now when I turned inward, expecting only the solitude and loneliness in my hurting heart ... there He was! And He spoke to me and encouraged me to do a little exercise that helped me begin healing ...
He had me get out pen and paper and write down the incident that had caused the rift. But not from my point of view, but from my mom's point of view. It was the most amazing thing I had ever done! It helped me understand her a little better and although it still hurt, it wasn't so devastating. It totally turned my perspective around. It gave me the strength to turn outward and live life again.
But even better than that, I had a new Friend! No more religion, I had a new relationship!
Some folks accept Him into their lives and get instantly healed from their problems, addictions and health issues. It hasn't happened that way with me. It's been a slow journey towards emotional healing for me. Besides this terrible problem with my parents, I had spent my entire life emotionally alone and teaching myself really bad ways of coping with life. My parents hadn't neglected me, they had issues of their own and weren't able to teach me what they themselves didn't know. Now my true Parent stepped in and began walking with me down a path towards healing and health. Over the years at different times He's led me to counselors or books that have helped me. He's brought different people into my life here and there. But mostly He just walks with me day by day and step by step.
What I love most about Him is He speaks truth to me! And I can be totally honest with Him. I don't always like what He says to me, but I've found out that it's okay to tell Him that. I can't see through my own delusions sometimes, but when I expose those delusions to His Light, I see them plainly for what they are. It can HURT! But He never condemns, He only convicts. And then He supplies what I need to change and heal ...something I can't do for myself.
The world will tell you that you're okay and I'm okay. That's not what God says. He says you are hopelessly screwed up, but He has the remedy for that. That's why many people turn away. They prefer to be in control, even though it's just an illusion. Just like when I spent my life hiding, thinking I was keeping myself safe from perceived threats, I wasn' safe at all. I was in fact making my plight worse.
But it's not all about straightening me out on what I'm getting wrong. Mostly it's been about celebrating how He designed me, and developing and enjoying how He made me!
I stopped striving to do something with my art, and simply began enjoying doing it. It was a total game-changer! My waiting years turned into exploring years. There was still an itch to do something with my art, but it wasn't frustrating any more. I wasn't a failure. It wasn't about me, it was about Him. If He wanted to make something of it He would. Everytime I picked up a pen or a brush it was simply and act of celebration and enjoying the gift He has given me.
I stopped being afraid.
I began enjoying being me.
I was free.