Tag Archives: Beauty

Why I Stopped Writing

For four years I wrote.

Cried.

Bled my heart out in red-inked words handwritten on pads of pristine white-lined paper.

Searched for my story as I fingered letters on my keyboard, and prayed a melody would emerge from the chaos of my life.

I wrestled with my story, my words, myself.

I fought. I faltered. I failed.

“All writing is prayer,” said the wise and witty Anne Lamott.20121206_155310

For years I felt my prayers went unanswered.

The pain. Would not. Go away.

Then ever so slowly, it began to ebb. I kept writing, but no instant miracle came. It was one agonizingly plodding word after another—like climbing the very last, steepest section of a mountain. Exhausted, barely breathing in the thin air, and only able to focus on the ground beneath my feet . . .

When I started to catch glimpses of healing, I became more afraid of the life that lay ahead than the pain I was living in. I knew my pain so well, and found a deep intimacy with my creator within the pain. As crazy as it sounds, I struggled to embrace the healing changes.

But I couldn’t stop what I had put in motion. What started as a desire to find some validation for my insecure, “I’m never good enough” writer self became, sometime in the process, less about a story for others to read and more about writing for the redemption of the deepest, most holy, and sacred sufferings of my life.

Words that flowed like a flood for years gradually ebbed over time to become puddles of less and less tears.

One day in my writing the sun came out. Full in my face sun. Sun that woke me to the beauty of what my life could be beyond the pain, and beyond my writing about it.

I stopped writing and went outside in the sun to play. And I’ve had no pain for the last six months.

NO. PAIN.

I honestly never imagined in those four years of agony that it would be possible.

Sometimes miracles happen in slow-motion.

In slow, very slow, writing. In slow tears, slow prayers, and slow-to-come joys.

Now, every day, I’m slowly living again.

Sacred, holy, beautiful, joyful, messy, imperfect, failure-filled, redemptive, miraculous living. Authored by the one who took all the words I wrote and rewrote each and every one–in red–redemption red.

With slow dripping . . . His lifeblood, poured out–A greater love had no one than this. 

Now your drink offering (Phil 2:14!) sacrificed to be set free,

and to set free those captive with you,

bound in this covenant to the One whose red words cover, purify and save.

The world,

Drawn to communion,  by His radiant red life,

Bright and bonded, pooling spirit, split and covenanted, dead to all else,

and held within this terrible beauty,

Of his holy blood.

Dear beautiful friend, fellow story-liver, slow writer, tear puddler, pain and shame sufferer, and messy, joyful, abundant life seeker —

Please write your story. Even if no one ever reads it.

Because who you really are—healed and whole-hearted and living in the sacred space of you—must be given to you.

Sometimes it’s a slow, holy process, but exploring the darkness to discover the light is so worth it.

Coloring Life Beautiful on PInterest“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown

Dare, brave ones. I’m praying for you–for the courage to own your story, to embrace slow writing and slow healing as you allow every word of your beautiful, messy, imperfectly perfect, painful yet glorious, story to be rewritten. In red.

I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful life becomes in the slowly dawning light.  🙂

Linda Crawford

hike
My first mountain hike in 4 years with a dear friend this past spring.

(The beautiful poem above was a gift of words given to me in the midst of my suffering by my friend, writing coach, and fellow holy wonderer, Mick Silva)

How Art Class Messed Up My Life

Thirty-six years ago, as a senior in High School, I took my first (and only) art class.

Sure, I’d made art in elementary school, but my “art” was never notable and nobody told me I showed any particular display of talent. I was a color-inside-the-lines sort of kid.

Life somehow felt safer that way.

I’d put off taking the college-prep required art class until the very last semester of charcoal drawingHigh School. I preferred science and literature, but truthfully,  I was secretly looking forward to turning eighteen so I could drink – legally, that is – and anticipated breaking out of my small town good-girl, smart-girl reputation. I had, after all, been voted “class brain” for the yearbook. Only because, in relationship to the rest of the 130 or so members of my graduating class,  I studied more than I partied.

Yes, I dreaded the required art class more than any other. More than the Spanish class taught by a mumbling French-Canadian, more than reading The Illiad in Latin, and more than Trigonometry with the wrestling coach.

Suddenly, instead of textbooks, I had pencils of all different numbers, drawing pads, special ink pens, paints in little metal tubes and brushes with real wooden handles. On the first day of class, a vase and an apple were set up before us on a sheet-covered stool.

DRAW, the teacher said.

I only knew how to color inside lines other people drew for me.

That was true in art, and in life.

But my art teacher was tough and talented, and she ignored my protests and shame-filled whimperings.: “I don’t know how, I’ve never taken an art class before.”leaves

My guts torqued every time I looked at the other student’s creations. They “got it,” they loved it, and they were always better than me. I knew it, but she didn’t care. She was a visionary –a true artist who always saw what could be created, not what was.

And mysteriously, despite my woefully inadequate beginner attempts, she BELIEVED in me.

So I kept trying . . .

And one day, I picked up my pens and pencils and drew wild and messy and brave like she told me to.

bowl

And I liked it.

I discovered something beyond where life was just a set of equations waiting to be solved.

I experienced deep breaths, and beauty, and the reckless pursuit of creative expression.

Like an addiction, it beckoned me to drink of it, then drink even more.wine bottle

It all felt so out of control, so wrong and self-centered, that I convinced myself that’s all it was – an addiction that had no purpose – other than to turn my orderly, safe, inside-the-lines life on its head.

So when my art teacher asked for a meeting near the end of class one day, I knew what she was going to say . . .

(“Nice try Linda. I wish you the best in your future career in science.”)

I kept my head down as she started to talk, focusing on my broken fingernails.

“I think it’s a shame that you never had an art class before now.”

Yeah, whatever.

“I think you have a natural talent that’s never had a chance to be developed.”

What????? You’ve got to be kidding me! I look up and directly into her blue eyes looking intently into my green.

“In fact, I believe in you so much that I would be willing to work with you for free all summer to help you prepare a portfolio to apply to art school.”

Who was she talking about? It wasn’t the me I knew. Couldn’t she see the real me in my eyes? I was going to college to study CHEMISTRY!

And that’s what I told her. Chemistry is my future, not art.drawer pull

And it was, for one semester of college. Until I discovered a hatred for Calculus and Organic Chemistry, and found my sorry self taking pottery class and eating hamburgers and fries instead of studying my second semester. And then I ran away with my boyfriend, of course, because that’s what you did back then when you were 19 and you didn’t want to be who you were. When you didn’t know who you were. Or who God was.

I picked up my pens and pencils just a few times after that art class. The pictures here are the only history that somehow survived my purging, twenty-some years ago, of my broken mess of a past. I”m grateful my brother found them a few months ago. They help me remember.

That class, that teacher, tried to mess up my life.

If only I’d been willing to get messy.

But I’m willing now.colored pencil box

It’s time to get messy. To learn to breathe in and out, inside the creative being God made me to be.

It’s time to be BRAVE. To dare to finally embrace the joy of living outside my boundary lines of fear.

It’s time to dare to be a beginner. Again. And love myself, instead of curse myself for the mistakes and wobbly lines and imperfect mess of it all.

It’s time. It’s about time.

So I tell my 18 year-old, fraidy-cat self,  “Linda, wake up, look up, and see what God’s eyes see. Love yourself enough to let yourself be who He sees.

I am not who I thought I was.

And I can become who He created me to be.

Life is Beautiful.  It deserves all the messy, imperfect, joy-filled-coloring-outside-the-lines I can praise it with.

Every blog post I write this year will have some piece of art I create with it. It will be awkward, possibly awful, but I also know it will always be beautiful to my Daddy’s eyes. And in His eyes alone, I am found.

Won’t you join me? Let’s take our abandoned creative selves out of the closet, dust ourselves off and give ourselves permission to get messy, crazy, in love with the beauty of life!

Praying for you, and your creative, messy-in-love-with-Jesus self. Be brave in His love!

(This is my soon-to-be creative space. Lots of work to do!)my soon to be creative space

Linda Crawford

be BRAVE

This week I’m working on being BRAVE!

On Saturday I speak to a group of women for the first time in a year, and THIS is an important part of the message my heart is bursting to share:
be BRAVEHow fun it was making this graphic illustration! (I need to add CREATE to the message)

You can be BRAVE this week too!

Share your story. Dance. Wear red shoes. Love messy. Color life beautiful. Create.

Live open-hearted.

Praying for you, BRAVE one.

Linda Crawford

Why I’m Choosing to Live Open-Wounded–Because Life Hurts and Healing is Never Perfect

“I can see you’re still not healed.”

“You’re not ready yet. You need more healing.”

Thanks people of the world, for noticing and confirming that I’m still a broken, wounded mess. No thanks for the box of shame I feel your words put me in.

The box of the Un-Healed.

It’s the place where I’m told I’m not qualified to handle life yet, that I shouldn’t show my wounds because they’re too messy for people to see, that anything less than perfect isn’t good enough, and that I can’t dare to speak, do, or be anything outside the confines of the walls of the box of Un-Healed.

I’m supposed to heal up here in this box, because only “healed” people qualify to live outside this box–at least that’s the message I’m led to believe.

The “Healed” give me “steps” and absolute answers that are supposed to be the keys to my healing.. They tell me to pray and read my Bible more.

“Go ahead,” they say, “apply these answers to your wounds yourself. It’s what you need to do to be healed.”

They may even call this compassion.

But it’s not.

Compassion, the real key to releasing the healing balm we need for our wounds, doesn’t come from perfect prescriptions from the “healed.”

love heart keyCompassion can only dispensed by the open-wounded. By those who put away their measuring sticks of perfection and revive, empower, and champion rather than rival, empale, and compare.

Connected, compassionate people create nets of healing to catch the falling, the failing, and the ones bleeding too much to ask for help. Because they know:

brutal beautiful

I know I’m not the only one suffocating, suffering, and yes, even occasionally swearing when I feel I’ve been shamed into the box of the Un-healed. I’ve found some of you there and we’ve started talking about our pain and our shame, and we’ve discovered that compassion is the key. Together, we’ve found the courage to punch our fists through the walls of the box, tearing the labels “unworthy,” “broken,” “too wounded,” and “not healed enough” that were plastered on the outside.

We know we can’t live and we can’t heal in here, in the shame of the Un-healed box. Hidden, silent, separate suffering does not heal.

A covered up wound may look better from the outside, but it always digs deeper into the flesh. It always gets worse.

Only open wounds can heal.

Open wounds are messy to look at and messy to deal with. They bleed on our white t-shirts of I-hope-you-only-see-that-I-have-it-all-together. We get stained by each other’s pain.

His blood stains us too. Our wounds became His.

And we. . .

We. Are. Him.

The Body. His Body on earth.

Open-wounded, we are able to love like He does. Bleeding together, we connect our suffering to His, our healing to His

There is no shame in living open-wounded. No. Shame. Anymore.

Yes, I’m Un-Healed. My complete and perfect healing will come the day He calls me to my perfect home. Until then, I’m going to live open-wounded.

So now, to the people of the world who see my wounds and say:

“I see you are not healed yet.”

I say, “HURRAY!”

I’m glad you see it, and I hope you always do. Because I want to invite you into my house that is a mess, with dishes in the sink and mold growing on the leftovers in the back of my refrigerator.

Compassion--the key to healing heartsSee the real me—Imperfect. Wounded. Sit down and let’s talk about the messiness of life. Let’s let the wounds hurt here and have no answers, no measuring sticks of perfection, no formulas for healing. I’ll serve you love offered on the used and abused chipped plate of my heart. It’s what I have to give.

Compassion is the only key that unlocks my healing.

Life hurts and healing is never perfect, so I’m choosing to live open-wounded. To dare to use the brutal to color life beautiful.

We can do this thing called true compassion.

We can put down the measuring sticks of our brokenness, and

pick up the healing keys of HOLY HEALING HEARTS.

Imperfect, open-wounded loving.

Brutal into beautiful.

Let’s dare to live–and LOVE–open-wounded to the hurting ones in our lives today.

Linda

Making the Whole of Life Beautiful

Make the Whole BeautifulI’m in the third year of writing my memoir. It’s a project that can’t be hurried along, even though many days I feel like I’m running late for the school bus and need a good shove on my bottom to get moving.

I long to get through the schooling in the brokenness of my own humanity, and on to the grown-up life of the promised happy ending. But patient endurance must finish its work.

Over and over I must keep going back. Back to study brokenness, back to study pain. Back to study who I was, who I became, and who truly I wanted to be. It’s like picking up shards of a broken mirror, each reflecting a fragment of me, and trying to piece it back together.

Trying to make the pieces, and me, WHOLE again.

I can’t go back and make some of those pieces pretty.

But I am moving forward, and with God’s help, the whole is becoming beautiful!

The book of my life will be colored by beauty, and not by shame and pain. Because:

God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. Psalm 18:24 MSG

Praying for God to help you make the whole of your life beautiful too.

Linda

The Becoming of an Artist

Jesus is the supreme artist, more of an artist than all others, disdaining marble and clay and color, working in the living flesh.   Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was a broken man when he first picked up his paintbrushes and pen.

He wanted to be a missionary, to follow in his father’s footsteps as a pastor.

Giving away all his possessions, he lived with the peasants he ministered to.

That wasn’t deemed fitting for a man of God.  It was deemed scandalous…and the church kicked him out.

In his brokenness, Vincent found a new purpose from God:

In that deep misery I felt my energy revive, and I said to myself, in spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I had forsaken in my discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing. From that moment everything has seemed transformed for me.

The becoming of Vincent van Gogh had begun.

He set out to paint sermons instead of preaching them.

Self-taught, Vincent professed he would rather paint people’s eyes than cathedrals, “for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral.”

van Gogh

Later in life, as his brushstrokes became more bold, his colors violently vibrant, he wrote: “The uglier, older, meaner, iller, poorer I get, the more I wish to take my revenge by doing brilliant colors, well-arranged, resplendent.”

That’s coloring life beautiful.  🙂

gladiolas

Despite all the hardships and despair he suffered, and despite never receiving recognition for his art during his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh embraced beauty.

Henri Nouwen wrote of Van Gogh: “What beauty, what joy, and what ecstasy he was able to embrace. Mourning calls for dancing, dancing for mourning. Glory is hidden in pain. And in this mysterious duality that has become a duet, Vincent celebrates life.”

His brokenness became his art. His art, the sermon of his life . . . beautiful.

Praying my art, the words I attempt to paint in my own brokenness, will become a sermon of the unfailing love of my healer and redeemer.

Praying for you and the art you are creating today.

What sermons will you paint, write, create, and live?

All the broken and dislocated pieces of the Becoming of as Artistuniverse—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. Colossians 1:20 MSG

©Linda Crawford 2013

Linda

I first shared this post on my blog, Beauty Minute, where I explore beauty–God’s handwriting–in art, music, nature, people, and brokenness.

To read more about Vincent van Gogh click on these links:

Becoming van Gogh

Van Gogh’s Letters

Van Gogh: The Life

From Preaching to Painting: Van Gogh’s Religious Zeal

Why I Must Write – No Matter What

It was a rough week of suffering with physical issues and lack of sleep and I stopped writing on my memoir. I told my writer’s group friends it would be a miracle if I wrote anything this week . . . but they wouldn’t let me off the hook. I  got this (and more) in response:Write No Matter What

“I’ve often wondered how the most depressed and pained people can survive as writers. Now I think, they couldn’t have survived any other way. 

We close off from life and suffer the consequences. We lose our ability to value what we have, the stories we contain that need to be expressed. There is no greater agony than holding a story inside that longs for expression.”

Thank God for real friends who aren’t afraid to confront you with the truth. I changed my writing goals to these:

1. Write no matter what, even if it’s crap.
2. Write some more, no matter what, even if it’s worse crap.
3. Write even more, look at the words and see their beauty.
4. Be grateful for stupid friends who pray and believe for you and speak the words of life you need to hear.
5. Pray for stupid friends and write even more because you know they’ll be back praying for you and being stupid if you don’t.

Later that night, when I still couldn’t sleep, I wrote. Then shared it with my stupid friends (a term of utmost endearment in our group).

Now I share it with you. Because it’s true–there is no greater agony than holding a story inside that longs for expression.”

This just might become the opening to my memoir:

One morning, probably a cold one, in darkness just before sunrise, the misty dew froze along the ruffled edges of a hundred pink and yellow rose petals. Then . . . light, and the frosty aspirations of the dark quickly melted. The stems took a nourishing sip of life.

After living in my house for almost 5 years, I finally counted them—we had 50 rose bushes.  Every fall they would defy the forward marching of the seasons and gift us with a second glorious blooming, bravely enduring morning after morning as the frosty fingers of upcoming winter attempted to bully their beauty into a final surrender. . . to the cold, to dark days, to deadness. 

Though I don’t remember well the exact weather of the day I almost surrendered, my memory thinks it was cold, with the filtered sunlight of a sun traveling south for the winter. Probably because I felt much the same—cold, filtered, headed south.

I had hit middle age, recently endured a season of loss and tragedy, and my sanity was fading. My petals felt frosted every morning, and the cold of it was frightening. But there was no one to tell about my fears, or about the demons of my memories, because I was determined to conquer them on my own. After all, I had always survived before, stuffing fear and trauma down with hidden boxes of chocolate chip cookies, and when those were gone, bags of just chips.

Sticky handfuls of semi-sweetness numbed the pain and unscrewed the unrelenting torsion of fear and pain in my gut—except they didn’t. Instead, it became an act of hating myself. For my fears, my failures, my insecurities, my grief, and my shame. I feared fear and pain, and so became captive to them. I kept my outside looking happy, but on the inside I loathed my imprisoned, weak, and tormented self.

On this cold day of frosted rose petals, my mind was losing the battle for control of the happy outside and the broken inside, and I knew it. I was beyond cookies. I had to tell my story of horror, the one I was convinced no one would believe . . . or die.

It would be the first of many stories I would have to tell. 

I discovered later that yellow roses mean friendship, jealousy, infidelity, apology, a broken heart, intense emotion, undying love, and extreme betrayal.

Pink roses mean: GRACE

God always plants pink roses in with the yellow in life.

Today, I went and clipped two pink roses that survived the cold of a light frost last night. Ten minutes later my daughter sent me a recording she had just made singing Amazing Grace in six part harmony.

I cried.

My story longs for expression. So I will live.

Perhaps yours does to.

Write. No. Matter. What.

My “stupid” incredibly talented and loving friends are part of Your Writers Group http://www.yourwritersgroup.com/. If you are a writer and could use some friends like mine, come and join us. We’ll love you and pray for you and push you too.  🙂

Linda Crawford

Why Don’t I Laugh More?

Beauty is whatever gives joy.  -Edna St. Vincent Millay

I want to be funny.

Not ridiculous. I don’t want people to roll their eyes behind my back.

Well, maybe I do.

It’s just that I’ve been so darn serious all my life, devoting myself to striving for perfection standards in everything I do, and everything I’ve thought I should become.

Good girl. Good Christian. Good wife. Good mother. Good Christian older wife and mother. Good this and good that.

I’ve become adept at drawing confinement lines around my behavior because it takes a lot of serious thinking to work toward perfection. And a lot more serious thinking when I inevitably fail to meet my own expectations. Orderly steps, measured words, tempered thoughts, logical actions…

Confined life.

Except when I can’t stand myself anymore and I break into dance, song, or write silly words. Or travel. Out of my comfort zone, away from my “should life” I allow my diaphragm to relax and inhale and exhale fun.

I laugh. Full belly.

I want to be funny, because life isn’t funny if I’m not. I’m a jaw-clencher, and laughter comes hard, like rigid muscles that have forgotten how to move. Even confessing my serious nature barely initiates my moving closer to funny. Yet, from beyond the confined lines, from the infinite undefined space of thought, comes this:

Beauty isn’t beauty without joy.

Joy in me = joy in the beauty of life.

Beauty isn't beauty without Joy

On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.  Psalm 100:1-3 MSG

And so I pray, help me Lord, to forget the confines of the lines and the “shoulds” so I may color life beautiful today with laughter. With you.

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The Beauty in the Dark

To love beauty is to see light.  -Victor Hugo

Some may say there’s no beauty to be seen in the dark . . .

perhaps believe that darkness is the absence of light . . .

or preach that only dark things happen in the dark.

But not me.

I’ve found a secret place in the dark…where sorrows, pain, and grief burst forth in a melody of tears that only God hears.

Continue reading The Beauty in the Dark