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Step Back

Not all of my paintings are finished. Some of the paintings remain because the painting speaks in a powerful way unfinished. This is one of those paintings. It began as an assignment in an art class. We were to bring three examples of images that had some sort of reflective light in them. It was expected that we paint an accurate representation.

I showed my art teacher the three images and hoped she would pick the sailboat at sunset. I deflated inside when she picked a magazine advertisement for vodka. First off, I don’t like vodka at all! But mostly, I new it would be extremely hard to paint because of the many tiny bits of reflective light. My perfectionistic self dreaded this assignment.

“I can’t do it!” I argued respectfully. “Yes. You can!” she countered back. “Can I please do a different one?”, I pleaded. “You can do it!”, she responded with a smile. Sigh. One more sheepish look that questioned whether she might change her mind. Her eyes held fast to mine in a gentle manner and she handed me my assignment. With her quiet gaze she assured me that I had what it takes… even when I doubted!

I was so frustrated that she had picked the glass of vodka. I like to paint things that inspire me! This did not! Knowing the importance of having a good attitude and being respectful to authorities I responded quietly, “Yes ma’am!” and walked away. As I worked, I was unhappy with what I saw almost the whole time. At one point I painted a tiny person with arms raised in surrender.

It is my heart to a live a always try to live a surrendered life and trust God no matter how my feelings try to sway me. Surrendered… even when I dreams don’t come true and longings are unmet. Surrendered… when I am sad and feeling lonely. Surrendered… even when my heart has been broken in a relationship. Surrendered… surrendered… surrendered! Surrendered in the process... despite my imperfections! No matter what!

As I was painting, my teacher observed me frowning as I stopped for a moment to study my work. Coming over to me she told me to I was to step back from my work. She propped up the painting and waited for me. I stood up and looked. I frowned. “Step back farther!” I did. The discouraged expression remained. She repeated, “Step back farther!” I took one more step back. But my countenance didn’t change much. “Farther!” I stepped back until she nodded yes with a smile. I turned and looked back at my artwork. My face relaxed and a sparkle of delight came to my eyes! I realized it looked pretty good and much better than when I was so close that all I could see was what I perceived as flaws. “You have finished your assignment!” she said with a warmth and kindness I have never forgotten. She knew that, as an artist, the most important lesson I needed to learn was to not be so hard on myself and to enjoy the process.

So, the painting remains as is! In all honesty, I have an itch to finish it because from an artistic perspective I am not crazy about how it looks. But, every time I look at it I am reminded not to be so hard on myself and to seek to live a surrendered life. In like manner let me challenge you to step back and look at your life! Don’t be too critical of yourself. Look for the good, look for the beauty in your life!

My second year of teaching, my principal and I were having our yearly meeting. It was the typical meeting where you go over your self assessment and the principal shares her assessment. I don’t really remember what I shared. I wasn’t particularly down on myself. I am pretty confidant of my teaching ability. But, I will never forget her sharing that at the end of the day she asks herself, “What did I do right today?”. She challenged me to do the same. I even made a really big sign for my classroom to encourage students to do likewise.

Precious moms out there, students, teenagers, all who read this…. today and every day I challenge you! Step back! And ask yourselves “What did I do right today?” Focus more on your strengths. Offer yourself grace in the areas you are weak or where you feel somedays like you have messed up!

You are a masterpiece! A priceless work of art! No matter what you do or don’t do, you are cherished and loved and adored! Your worth is not in what you do, or how well you do it, but in who God is! He is the Master Artist and the One who has painted your life from conception! He sees beauty… and He isn’t finished with you yet! Surrender and let go! He is in control! He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it!

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