I used to love creating beauty with my hands. Painting watercolors. Designing scrapbooks. Preparing gourmet meals.
These things all energized me – made me happy when I was sad, renewed me when I was exhausted, filled me up when I was depleted. At night I’d sneak away to paint after the kids had gone to bed to keep myself from becoming unglued. One month, I painted a complete eight-piece place setting of dishes. Apparently, I was a tad frazzled.
But a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome changed everything. The doctors said I needed to stop overusing my hands. Immediately. My hands needed to be reserved for the bare essentials. Feeding myself. Getting dressed. Brushing my teeth.
Some things I cheerfully eliminated at once. Housecleaning was at the top of the list, followed closely by laundry and dishes.
But other things were harder. I enjoyed them. They were part of me.
My room-full of scrapbooking supplies that cost more money than I earned in my first job was boxed up and stored away. My cooking magazines that had brought such joy were cancelled in a flood of tears when I saw them in my mailbox. My watercolors and cold press paper that had comforted me for decades were put away in the attic.
I cried out to God in my desperation: How are you going to use this? What are you going to do that will bring me life? Is there anything I can create that won’t jeopardize my future?
An unexpected answer came.
The same week, three different friends told me I should write. I had a story to tell.
I laughed. I wasn’t a writer. No one ever mentioned that I was gifted with words. In Emily Freeman’s terms, “the art I was born to make” was graphic, visual, tactile. That’s what moved me.
But with few options before me, I mulled over their comments for weeks, wondering what to make of them.
Of course I had a story. Everyone does. Mine began with polio and countless surgeries, incessant bullying. And then I met Jesus, who changed everything. Because of Him, I could survive the loss of my son, my healthy body and my marriage within a dozen years. My story is one of pain and loss, but also incredible joy and laughter.
Was God calling me to write? Would writing be a fulfilling way to express myself?
At first, it seemed unlikely. I was an inexperienced writer. Besides, I was afraid.
But I tucked the idea away and kept praying. And it kept coming up. Messages on the radio. Emails from friends. Even unsolicited mail with the headline, “Do you need to write your life?”
So slowly, tentatively, and timidly, I started to write. I had kept a journal for 30 years, but those words were private, sacred, intensely personal. Writing was never something to share.
But as I wrote, something unexpected emerged. It was as though I was unearthing something long-buried inside of me. A secret that no one had ever shared. As I poured out my life on paper, writing became a way to process my thoughts and experiences. It was terrifying, surprising … yet exhilarating.
When I shared my writing, I discovered that God was using it in others’ lives. I discovered that it wasn’t second best, a consolation prize, something to occupy my time. This was the art I was born to create.
There is a joy in writing for me that I never knew in scrapbooking. It is a way to encourage myself, remind myself of the truth, see God’s work in me.
When my dreams of visual art died, I thought all my creativity was wasted. But God had more in store for me than my wildest imaginings. And God’s dreams are always bigger than mine.
Has God ever taken a dream away and replaced it with something unpredictably wonderful? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!