Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bright and Shiny Intermission

So I'm going to have to insert some hope here, out of order, because it's obviously taking me far too long to tell you my story chronologically. It's September already!

So my last post was in April. I'd like skip ahead to tell you something that happened to me in June.

But before I go there, I need to explain that this year had been difficult for me, because I felt like a widow. Let me explain...

When God gave me a ring to remind me that He is my husband until he brings the right man into my life, I went through a season of learning to know Him. When my soul was put back together, I was able to feel his presence and love more sweetly — just this feeling of warmth and closeness, similar to long, long ago, when I kept a letter from my long-distance sweetheart under my pillow. It was a feeling of being loved and cherished.

However, my soul-restoration required some soul growth, and opening up the dark caverns of my soul that needed healing. A lot of pain came out. And when I was feeling the pain, I couldn't feel His presence. It had to come out, yes. I had to heal from the grief, a little at a time.

But during these painful times, I felt more like a widow. It felt like my husband had died and was now in heaven (I mean, isn't that partly true?), and I had only this ring and some sweet memories to remind me.

So I was going to a prayer service on Friday nights, and during one of those nights, I was complaining to God about the ring that he gave me, and that if he's my husband, I need a reassurance of this. A renewal of vows, per se. "If you are my husband, what am I to you, Lord?" I asked.

And at the end of the service, when they asked if anyone needed prayer, I raised my hand, and several ladies came to pray over me. One of them, afterward, told me that when she was praying, she saw a picture of a wedding, and a bride and groom walking down the aisle. And she saw me as a bridesmaid, walking behind the bride and carrying her train. "But," she said, "what I heard the Lord saying is, 'No, you are the bride.'" This woman, of course, knew nothing of my ring or my prayer.

On another Friday night, near the end of the service, a tween girl (who had prayed over me with a couple friends on a tearful Friday night back in April) came and sat next to me with her sketchbook. This was quite unusual. She wouldn't let me see what she was sketching, but said that she was drawing something for me, and she needed to look at my face for it. She studied my face, then sketched, then studied my face again. I felt rather honored and slightly silly.

When she was finished, she wrote some words on it, and then presented it to me, saying that God asked her to draw this for me. She added that she would have included more detail if she had more time, so I was to imagine that the swirls on the sides and that she was holding were flowers. But the sketch showed a pink-cheeked bride with a crooked smile, her hair pulled back and parted on the side* like mine, and a flowered tiara atop her head. The bride's eyes were closed in a moment of tranquility, and my imagination added in the sparkles that she had meant for the veil.

And the words she wrote on the top:  "I hear the Lord say, My Bride, my love, you are mine."


Thank you, Papa.

My Greatest Love had spoken to me, reassuring me of his affection for me, his covenant with me.

Those nights added some warmth back into my wounded heart.

. . .

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
    Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.

You will forget the shame of your youth
    and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV)

. . .

I'm trying to keep these posts shorter, so I'll let you know in the next one about what happened in June.

And I might just skip over all the dark and painful parts.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

* Hair:  A little like Jenna Elfman in "Keeping the Faith"

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Descent


That's the word I was hunting for at the end of my last post.

Perhaps my life has been undermined by a deficiency of validation.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We left off with a sunshiny dandelion day beginning to disintegrate, just a little.

Here's what happened next:

April was a difficult month.

Shortly after the sunshine-dandelion day, I not only discovered that my replacement fridge was not keeping the freezer at a safe temperature (first sign: my frozen berries were getting mushy), I also misjudged the distance when I stood up from putting an item in the fridge, and slammed my head into the upper frame. I was already in tears, though, so it was difficult to judge the severity of my pain.

. . . . .

I had begun to hope again. I had begun to dream again and feel like maybe I could know the joy that Jesus promised. Abundant life. Maybe it could be beautiful, even. Maybe God did have good plans for me. I could feel the wind on my flightless wings, and began to spread them out and stretch them. Maybe if God would allow Adam Young to reach his dreams, maybe He might be willing to let me.

I practiced taking a running leap from the ground -- I took actual, physical, real-world steps toward rebuilding my dreams, like spending my energy researching options available for selling artwork online, options for websites, and even opening a bank account for online sales. But my wings only allowed me to glide a few feet, before I tumbled in the dirt, wings shot through with arrows.

Sharp arrows of uncertainty, the piercing sting of inadequacy, the blood-draining failure of this weak and frail body. Was this really the direction God wanted for me? Are my creative gifts more like crayons and Legos, which are suitable for children, but must be discarded for important, adult things that nobody actually enjoys? Is that real life? Abundant life? To drudge and slog through the swamp of life, never enjoying what you do? Never doing what you've been given talent for? Was my sunny dandelion microcosm merely a childish daydream? Was the joy that I had felt not actually from the Lord?

And this insidious voice of "reason" began to creep up and whack me upside the head with a two-by-four. Repeatedly.

And the grief that poured out of the wound threatened to drown me.

"Lord," I cried out in tears, "If what I love to do isn't what you want me to do, change me, make it so I detest it in comparison to what you want me to do. I want to do your will, God! Give me a passion for what you want me to do."

"Show me the way I should go, because I'm lifting up my soul to you! I need you, Lord!"

"I need your help, Lord. I want hope, I want joy, I want that sweetness I felt before. Show me what I need to do. Show me what to love. Make me love what you want me to love. I need encouragement, I need energy. Tell me what to do. You say in your word that you will."

"In Jesus' name, Lord, please send help. Send affirmation about where you want my soul to go, what you want me to focus on. My abilities and talents are so haphazard and unschooled that to excel in any direction would take years of effort and time and investment, and I don't have your reassurance that I should invest in any of them! If you want me to go in a totally different direction, I don't want to waste my effort going in the opposite direction. Show me what to do!!!"

"Jesus, I need your help!"

. . . . . . . . . . . .


Lord, I choose to trust you.
I choose to trust that you are Good.
I choose to trust that you have good plans for me, and that I will learn to love them.

I bless myself with the truth that you are a good father, and wouldn't give me useless gifts. I choose to trust that you have good gifts that you want to give me, that you want to bless me. I love you, Lord, and I want to love you more. Help me to know you more so I can trust you better. Help me to know your heart for me so I can trust the future that you have planned for me.

I ask all of this in the name of Jesus.

I love you, Lord.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sparkling Dandelion Sunshine Day

Welcome back to Quietschie's Story Hour, the part of the show where Quietschie comes out and sings a ... wait, that's a different show, sorry.

I apologize for taking so long (a month) to piece together the next chapter of my story. This one is easier than the one that will come after it, though. Hopefully someone is still out there listening. 'o)

So there came, at last, a day when my fridge was replaced. It was a glowing day —Saturday, April 2nd, according to the log-books— full of hope and promise and fulfillment. And the following day, I was finally able to download Adam Young's score for April (The Spirit of St. Louis), which has been my all-time favorite of his instrumental music.

This score. This music. It sparkles. In an interview, he compared the first track to music for a romantic comedy, and as I listened to it, lying on my bed during a tearful time, it felt almost as if the Lord would have inspired this music as a love song just to cheer me up, sending it through this unwitting brother in Christ. A gift of God's love for me. And there must be some form of anointing on it, because when I listen to "Wheels Down", my soul starts to soar, and my heart puts words to the music about how much God wants to take my breath away with how awesome He is. I hear God's love for me through this music.

So yes, with my new fridge and my new hopes and dreams, and this sparkling music playing as a soundtrack for my life, and gloriously sunny spring days, I felt ready to soar. I felt ready for new beginnings.

By the following Wednesday, having gotten much deeper sleep, my soul was feeling stronger and I was positively brimming with hope as I opened the blinds. I gazed out at a lovely, white mist hovering so close to the rooftops, like the breath of God himself. It looked so peaceful and fresh, and I knew the forecast promised a dazzling day. So when the sun vaulted onto the scene, it became physically impossible not to escape out into the sunlight for a walk.

And as I walked, there were lovely dandelions with sunny yellow faces, as well as enchanting magical dandelion puffs glistening in the warm sunlight. I had such a sense of soft joy and enjoyment of this lovely spring morning. And I had a sense of wonder, as well. That life really could be more poetic and beautiful and wholesome and magical than people usually see it. That it could be more like a fairy tale that God is writing, or a game where we get to experience a facet of life on earth in this body.

And I was excited about the hope of starting a new blog, where I would explain all the things that I had been learning about combating depression and anxiety, and create motivational posters or prints to either offer for free or sell on Etsy. And I could finally have an outlet for all the fluffy pictures I've been making that don't mesh with Ammaka's style of artwork.

And walking along the sunny street with fluffy, magical dandelions in the grass —imagining everything as if it were a sweet, glowing scene from a picture book— "Fireflies" played in my headphones, then "Shooting Star", which goes, "way up in the air, you're finally free / and you can stay up there, right next to me" and I felt a sense of camaraderie in it, that I could learn, metaphorically, to fly like that, alongside Adam Young, as a beacon in the night, telling the world how hopeful life is really supposed to be, and how to seek the Light and reflect the Light and be the light of the world at the same time.

Hope. I had a soft and sweet and joyful, fun hope.

And I was certain that because of my certainty, my hope, that the prayer I would receive before church that night would be life-transforming. Something remarkable. It would connect something in me with something in God's will for me, and — life-changing.

But it wasn't.

And it didn't.

But God orchestrates everything, right?

The pastor was running late, and needed to meet with someone afterward, so our prayer time was short and I felt somewhat disconnected.

No breakthrough.

No soul-anniversary transformation.

No hints from God about my hopes and dreams.

And my hopes and dreams began to crumble, just a little bit.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

I wasn't sure where to insert this, but there was a seed of hope that evening — in my awkward uncertainty about what to do while waiting for the pastor, I pulled out my notebook and began doodling a design (just for reference: a viny quatrefoil-style frame). A friend-ish person there at church noticed, and said she thought it looked cool, and that made me feel special.

It made me feel, I don't know, appreciated, or as if my life isn't just a waste of space, since I'm not able to do everything everyone else is able to. It feels like there's a word hidden deep in my subconscious to explain how I felt, but I've never felt it long enough to put the word with the feeling, but it's something along the lines of "especialated", and being built up, and feeling productive, and useful, and ... maybe the word I'm looking for is "valued," or "worth something".

Thursday, June 09, 2016

But then...

Then the light in my fridge went out.

Such a tiny thing.

But when my landlord brought over a new bulb, he discovered that the thingamajig had shorted out. He and I both agreed that it would be illogical to replace the fridge just because of the bulb, and after he left, I stuck a battery-operated bulb onto the inner wall of the fridge. Whenever I opened the fridge and pulled the string to turn the light on, it made me think of living in a less-developed country, where inconveniences like this would be taken for granted. Somewhat of an unexpected adventure for me.

But I could do this.

I would be brave.

In the meantime, my hopes and dreams were beginning to vine and leaf and bud, as I was browsing through lovely artworks on Etsy for inspiration. As I mentioned back in January, I had discovered that it's now possible to sell printable files on Etsy, which opened up a whole new section of my brain.

I had imagined myself trying to keep up with packaging and mailing one-of-a-kind original artwork —pieces of my soul— to the *millions* of customers I imagined I would have, and collapsing in a strait jacket in a padded room with my head twitching, willing each item to arrive in one piece. This, naturally, had paralyzed me, preventing me from even looking into opening an Etsy shop.

But this idea of printable files....

It tied right into the concept of making vector art for children's books. Because a vector image can be tweaked and repurposed and the color switched, and a scattering of glowing stars added. But some of the printable images I saw on Etsy were so simplistic that they defied sanity. Anyone could take that (public domain)* quote and type it in Word, add an elegant font, and --voila!

Even I could do it.

Here's an example of a handsome print, though, that doesn't use a font:

It's elegant, yet ridiculously simple.

And so... Yes, the fridge.

After a while of manual illumination, (and shortly after Nebulous Peace day) the fridge began making a horrendous noise, like a cement truck idling in my kitchen. I called my landlord, and he said he'd be on the lookout for another fridge. It was still keeping the temperature, just needing to make a lot more noise to do it. Usually it got by with making chicken impressions, or a single, loud ka-CHUNK, with which it liked to startle visitors.

So suddenly sleeping was difficult, with this cement truck idling in my kitchen. And I was already very tired and exhausted because of my health issues, and my hormones had been far out of whack that month. I'm like, Give me a break, monthly affliction, I'm still recovering from two weeks ago.

But you know, it was partly an answer to prayer. See, I had asked for prayer for something to get excited about, because I had been feeling somewhat blank and numb. My soul felt like it was sleeping again. And while the art inspiration was an answer to one half of the prayer, the fridge issue and lack of sleep wormed its way in through my shields and walls, and soon I was, instead of blank and numb, tearful and brimming with fears about how lack of sleep could affect my already-reduced health... besides other emotional wounds that had been covered with the cloaking bandage of numbness, and now began to trickle out their figurative blood...


For those who read all the way to the bottom (or, alternatively, just scrolled past all the words) here's another bookpage therapy sketch from March:

Fantastic Cascade - Bookpage sketch by Ammaka


* Public domain:  So pretty much anything that's been published over 100 years ago is fair game, like quotes from Pride and Prejudice, or the writings of Charles Dickens.

However, I would first and foremost want to make encouraging posters with my all-time favorite Bible verses, but the versions I prefer aren't free for commercial use.

Yes, I discovered that ancient texts written 2,700 years ago are only public domain in their original language. Once they are translated, that translation can be copyrighted. So there are very few modern-English Bibles that one can freely quote on an item one plans to sell.


Too much brain-vexing.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Water Clues

So, it started with seals in the river. They don't usually come this far upstream, so it was a bit of an anomaly to hear them as I walked along the riverbank. They make an explosive hissing sound as they come up for air, as well as their familiar barking.

Well, on the first Wednesday in March, while I walked beside the river, praying over the area and the people who visit there, this seal interrupted my thoughts. I was reminded of the ancient Irish tales of Selkies — humans who take the form of a seal in water. And I thought about some of the people for whom I was praying: many transients camp along the river, leaving debris as evidence of their stay.

And I wondered to myself, what if a transient had lost all hope, and decided to wade into the river and let it take him? I imagined the ancient stories coming to life along our river, and that there would be a "Selkie clause" in God's playbook, where only someone without any family would become a seal if they drowned in the river.

Looking at the paper a few days later, I discovered that an inebriated transient had attempted to swim across the river, and didn't make it across — on that same Wednesday. They never found a body, but presumed that he drowned. I certainly pondered this the next time I walked along that same stretch of river, watching the seals surface and dive, pondering the fragility of the human life.

Then — this will seem quite unrelated — the ensuing weekend, I checked out some essential Sabbath materials from the library: a stack of picture books. I love children's books, but especially picture books, because they're really just poems with artwork, and they're usually (at least the really good ones) a bit silly — three things I love to create myself. And they're safe. My inner child doesn't need to fear anything unseemly from them.

And on a pleasantly grey day, I flipped open this book: "Water Can Be..." and it just captured my soul. The artwork is beautiful and simple and whimsical at the same time. The light dances on the pages, with glowing rain and magical mist and translucent leaves, and I just became enamored with it. Immediately after closing the book, I went straight to my computer to find the artist's website and exclaim over her amazing illustrations. I kept the book as long as I could, laying it open on a table so I would see the beautiful pictures every time I passed by, and it could send little tendrils of sparkles into my soul. It breathed life into something buried deeply inside me.

"I could do that!" my inner child said. "I totally want to make beautiful pictures like that!"

"But we don't know how to," I cautioned. "It takes a lot of skill to get to that level of artistry. Remember when we tried to make vector images in Paint Shop Pro? That really hurt our brain."

"But it looked really cool, didn't it? And we have to start somewhere!" she said. "We could start with a single leaf. A little flower on a stem. Then maybe a simple tree, and duplicate the leaves. Easy! And we build it in layers, one thing at a time!"

"Hmmmm, that's an idea," I thought.

"Plus," she said, "if we made people, we could put them into stories, and we wouldn't have to redraw them for each page!"

"Hmmmm, interesting," I mused.

"I really want to make some birch trees with fluttering yellow leaves. I love birch trees!" my inner child enthused. "Yes! We can do this!" Her eyes shone as she daydreamed. "And dandelion achenes!"

On the same day that I checked out this picture book, I was flipping through children's movies there at the library, and one of them caught my eye, called "Song of the Sea." I would normally have passed it over, because it looked like a low-budget animation (which it's not), but because there were seals in the cover image, I read the back. A Selkie, hmmm... So I checked it out, and it sat on my stack of library materials for quite a while.

Finally, one night (I like to think that it was a cold, drizzly night, but I didn't record that (though, just for my record-keeping, it was March 30th)), I finally watched Song of the Sea, and was astonished by its beautiful, atmospheric artwork. Gorgeous backgrounds and glowing magical lights and sweet little plants and weather-beaten stone. Simple, yet elegant and whimsical. It also seemed very similar to the style of my new favorite picture book.

Later on (was it that night?), I ended up reading through extremely ancient emails (from the year 2000) and discovered that I had told a newly-acquired friend that I wanted to illustrate children's books. Ach! How did I forget that? Well, I do know how. Those hopes and dreams were wrapped up in my inner child, when she was cut off from me for 14 years. Now, finally reattached, she's waking up and remembering what she loved long ago.

So, all these images and thoughts were wrapping up inside me like a ball of yarn around a diamond, protecting and wondering. Could these be clues that the Lord is using to guide me toward my destiny? Nudging me toward the path he wants for me?

With these whimsical images stirring in my mind, I began to wonder if I was finally on the right track. Maybe life could be beautiful. Maybe I could do something I loved to do. Maybe, just maybe, with God, all things might be possible.

And I started to feel joy again.

But then ...

Monday, May 23, 2016

Art Therapy Overload

So, I've been focusing on recovering this past month, and instead of writing, I've been doing a bit of art therapy...

Art therapy overload -- Click for larger image

Stacks and stacks of art therapy, in fact, especially since I've resorted to cardstock and printer paper instead of canvases and drawing paper — to the point that I'm getting overwhelmed just thinking about scanning or photographing them all. Click the image above for a closer (though slightly blurry) look at only a few of them.

But here are a couple that I've already scanned or photographed:

"primal" therapy on a particularly frustrating night

My prayer counselor encouraged me to bring my sketchbook to a prayer service (which is somewhat different than a regular service)... So, besides bawling my eyes out and receiving prayer from several groups of people, I did some art therapy:

Prayer service therapy

By the end of the evening, my heart was able to sing again.

A different church service, another therapy sketch:

And from a more recent prayer service:

a therapy sketch during a prayer service about God's love and provision.

So, in the prayer service where I made the drawing above, the Lord was saying that he is willing to enable me to love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, like he provided manna for Israel in the wilderness. He will help my heart to heal, my mind to become whole, so that I will be able to love him with all of it. I am fairly certain that He arranged this service solely for my benefit, but I wonder if the pastor who gave the message knew that. 'o)

a more recent therapy session on an evening at home

And while I've still been physically weak, and there have been times of grief, my heart knows that Love will win out. And God has sent small blessings along the way to remind me of his love.

In the meantime, here's something that felt applicable from a sermon I heard recently:

"At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed..."

I'm trying to work on listening for when God is telling me to "journey" here, and when he's telling me to stay put and wait until I know the outcome of what I'm going through.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Aaaaand... *pause button*

Imagine for a moment that my life is a spaceship, floating through the inner regions of space, always close to my home planet. But I've never been able to go far, because the warp drive was damaged by a flight through an asteroid belt. Multiple flights, multiple asteroid belts.

Now imagine that my warp drive button blinked on, flashing green, telling me that the warp drive had been fixed. Far-distant stars were within my reach with a touch of this button. So I pressed it happily, bracing myself for warp speed, imagining the places I'd go.

But instead of shooting through time and space to distant galaxies, the mechanism attached to the button zapped all of the power out of my spaceship, switching off artificial gravity and setting off an explosion that rocketed my spaceship backward, end over end, spinning through the void.

Except it was more painful than that, since my life isn't actually a spaceship. If I regain enough energy, I'd like to explain it in more detail, with fewer spaceship analogies. For now, I'm sparing you the agony and drama, but just know it's okay, and I've been able to sing again. I'm just nursing cuts and bruises and possible neurological damage from tumbling through a dark spaceship, trying to repair it myself and getting nearly electrocuted in the process.

However, we did get the lights back on. Emergency power. My spaceship has been retrieved and docked for repair. Warp drive is being fixed as we speak. Refueling might take some time, though.

I don't know how long.

I'm learning patience.

But it doesn't make me cry anymore to hear the following words:

or at least only a little bit...