Some of my earliest memories are of loving to draw and paint, and I never remember wanting to be anything other than an artist. I like to think of my life as a canvas. My childhood was happy and interesting and there were broad strokes of bright colors on my canvas. The only dark colors were centered around my grandparents whom I loved with all my heart. I lived with a constant, consuming fear that they would die.
My teenage years were filled with activity, popularity and fun. I went to the University of Georgia as an art major and loved everything about school except the classes outside of my major! I met my future husband, Derrell, while at Georgia and that was the beginning of a fairy tale romance that would last for 30 years.
Our first son was born two years after we married and my canvas continued to be filled with beautiful colors—only now there was a very prominent area of darkness that surrounded the two people whom I loved more than life itself—my husband and my child. My fear of losing them was an irrational, controlling factor in my life that I had no success in overcoming.
When I was 24 my cousin's husband was killed in Vietnam and I came face to face with someone my age losing their husband. She experienced great loss and yet she faced it with courage and an assurance that she and her children would be fine. I asked her where that confidence came from and she told me it was a result of having a personal relationship with God and from knowing that He was in control. For the next two years I looked for a way that I could know God. I had grown up going to church regularly but for the first time I realized that I had no idea who God really was and how He related to me personally.
During a two year stay at Cornell University, where my husband earned his Ph.D., I began attending a Bible study and for the first time I was challenged to consider the reality of Christ and His claims on my life. I read that God loved me and had a wonderful plan for me. I also heard that I was sinful and separated from God. That didn't sit very well with me because I was a pretty good person by that time. When I began to understand that sin is characterized by both active rebellion and passive indifference, I could acknowledge that I had experienced plenty of both in my life. I next learned that Jesus Christ is God's only provision for my sin and through Him I could know God and experience His love and plan for my life. The biggest news to me was that it wasn't enough just to know these things but that I had to, as a act of my mind, will, and emotions, invite Jesus Christ to come into my life and make me the person He wanted me to be. In 1969 I made that decision and it has changed every area of my life. At that time God put the frame around my canvas—my picture wasn't finished but God had pulled it all together and it began to look complete, the way it was meant to be.
God began to change my basic goals and attitudes. He put material things, popularity, and success in perspective and turned me from a project oriented person into a people oriented person. God soon began to take the fear out of my life as I learned more of His love for me and as I began to trust Him with my family. My husband accepted Christ a couple of months after I had and we had the exciting privilege of seeing what we thought was the perfect marriage take on new dimensions as we shared things on a spiritual level and put Christ in the center of our home.
Two years after I invited Christ into my life I experienced the darkest, blackest colors that had ever been painted on that canvas of my life as I stood at the bedside of my oldest son. Jeff had contracted encephalitis and had gone into a coma. The doctors warned us that he could die and for three days I held him in a clenched fist and begged the Lord not to take his life. I finally reached the end of myself and gave Jeff back to the Lord. While I was at it I also gave him my husband and my youngest son. In other words, I handed my paint brush to the Lord and told Him that He could finish my picture in whatever way that He saw fit. I would never take that brush back again.
Jeff recovered and there were many more happy years filled with bright, beautiful colors. I would like to tell you that there have been no more dark, ugly areas on my canvas. Unfortunately that wouldn't be true or realistic. In 1987 our younger son was killed and then in 1992 my husband died from cancer. But from those hard times, and in facing my greatest fear, I have seen God to be sufficient to meet all my needs. He has been faithful to be all that I have needed Him to be.
The darks and shadows in life add substance and form to the bright colors and give them meaning. A painting can't be all that it should be without both. To appreciate the light, you must have the depth and when God is holding the brush He blends both together perfectly.
I'm at the place in my life where there may not be a lot of new broad strokes on my canvas. Rather, God is putting in the details and adding the finishing touches in order to make me His masterpiece, the person that He created me to be.
© Copyright 1996, Campus Crusade for Christ.
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