Painting beauty with ashes

I sat on the bed, desultorily dusting the few objects I could cope with while my energetic friend breezed her way around the room, almost knocking things over in her enthusiasm to get the job done.

Our soul conversation more than made up for any lack of application on my part.

She grinned as I pointed out the family photos, recalling births, marriages and proud family moments in my life.

And we pondered on the passing of time turning me from young woman to grandma and her to wife.

Finally, she reached a set of drawers where much paraphernalia is stored.

Pulling at them one by one, I revealed their contents and why they’d sat neglected for many years.

Here lay gifts from family and friends to aid my creativity. Long before I painted pictures with words I put pencil, brush and paint to paper for another purpose.

I drew, sketched, dabbled with pastels, felt-tip pens, ink and coloured pencils, painted with water-colours.

Here lay treasure, if only I could remember how to mine for it again.

Somewhere along the way I lost my true self, and the hope of my beloved family and friends was that these things might somehow ‘restore me’ again.


The very real fear of failure kept me captive to all but creativity.

Captive to shame. Captive to deep emotional pain. Captive to the past. Captive to fear itself.

How could I risk further proof of my incapability? This would only be evidence of shame and failure once again.

So these gifts were received with a shy, watery smile, tried out briefly then placed together in this cabinet, pushed away out of sight and out of mind.

I sighed at the waste but believed it to be confirmation of my ineptitude.

Now, what to do? As I marvelled over this unexpected treasure trove I felt a pang in my heart. And a ‘What if?’

What if I actually dared myself to try again, to pick up these parts of me, dust them down and use them for the purpose they were created for?

Prior to opening and revealing the contents I would have felt it was a ‘no go’ area, a Pandora’s Box to steer well clear of.

Who knows what it would unleash? Most likely guilt and sadness.

But what if also freed up a fresh wave of hope and optimism? A desire to start again?

Maybe you have a similar drawer or space like this in your life to reclaim?

Maybe the enemy of our souls has persuaded you it’s too late, it’s time to move on?

Maybe there’s an emptiness inside where creativity seems to have died?

I thought my creativity was lost until I began expressing it writing poetry and prose on a blog, and taking snapshot images to make memory markers of my days. It feeds my soul to read, to write, to capture, to create. 

So, have I picked up where I left off, brandished brushes and pottered around with paint?

Erm… not quite. This uncovering occurred a few weeks ago and I’ve been in the throes of flu for almost a month. But I am determined to make a start when energy and inspiration are there.

There have been too many years sitting by while creativity slowly died, too much time already wasted to want to waste another second.

All it takes is the ability to be willing to start over again. I’m trusting God to help me with the rest.

We can allow God to paint beauty with the ashes of our lives as we busy ourselves being creative.

The same is true for you too. As we venture forth in faith God leads and guides us into the places where we can be most effective for him and become all He intends us to be.

Sometimes He will sit and smile as we make progress; sometimes He will point out the way ahead, maybe instruct us how to add a touch here or there, and sometimes He might just hand us the brush to paint new things on the canvas of our lives.

I’ve got my metaphorical brush in my shaky hands. In time (not too long, I hope) I will wield it again and lose myself in the art of making art with my life.

Are you ready to wield yours too? Willing to become open as a child again?

Revisit the art room as eagerly as we did before we got too grown up and self-conscious. Become reacquainted with our inner selves and the expression of them.

Let’s learn to press pause on perfectionism. See beauty in all we’re still becoming.

The reassuring thing is, God still approves of us no matter what mess we make. He gives grace upon grace to start over again.

Our task is to see ourselves as already pre-approved, rest in believing we’re beloved Just As We Are. Because that’s a beautiful thing in His sight.

Linking here with Bonnie, Holley, Jennifer and friends as we share what feeds our soul, provides coffee for our heart, and encourages us as we live out our faith in the telling of His story.

18 thoughts on “Painting beauty with ashes”

  1. Oh, lovely. Joy, when is it when we lose that child-like enjoyment of art? Every child – every one – loves to draw and paint and my daughters present me with their work with unselfconscious pride. Somewhere, over the years, someone tells us that we can't draw, or can't sing, or can't dance – and we believe them and a little bit of us shrivels. That creativity, that joy in expressing ourselves just dries up.
    It looks as if you were talented at the art, my friend, just as you are at painting with words. I hope you can find the energy to pick up your pencils, or your paintbrush, and find that joy again. Looking forward to seeing the results!
    Thank you for an inspiring post. x

    1. I know, Helen. It's so sad how swiftly we allow competition and comparison, never mind fear to keep us from fulfilling our full artistic and creative potential. Our pride shrivels and dies in the lies we swallow as truth. Thank you for your kind comment and sweet encouragement for this former fear-filled woman to begin to have the faith to make art in and with her life again. However, it may be a while before I am brave enough to share the results! 🙂 x

  2. My friends and I went to one of those pottery places where you choose your piece and then sit around painting it. The owner of the shop was there helping us that night, and when we were rinsing things off in the back room, I asked her if adults were just like kids when they came in. With a laugh she said, "No, kids are easier! They just do whatever they want and are happy with it! Adults worry and try to make it look perfect!" That really struck me. Somewhere along the line, adults tend to loose the joy of creating in the worry of perfection. But how great it would be to do as you suggest and let go of that need to be perfect and just create with the ultimate creator of everything — God! Thanks for your words. They always strike me right to the heart!

    1. "Somewhere along the line, adults tend to loose the joy of creating in the worry of perfection" Oh yes they do, and oh how sad it is! Jenni, the pottery place you describe sounds a lovely one to visit and become as child again in reawakening creativity. I hope you go back, or maybe discover another avenue to release the urge in you to be creative. Bless you for stopping by and sharing your thoughtful insights here. It's good to see you. 🙂 x

  3. Beautiful, Joy! I understand about loosing yourself somewhere along the way. I wrote in high school, and only recently picked up the pen again (I'm a Granny…), so it's been a while. I am also willing to allow God to paint beauty with ashes! Thanks for this post! Visiting you today from Coffee for Your Heart

    1. Hi Ellen. Granny's are ready for new challenges! When I became a grandma in 2013 it unleashed an urge to write poems about my grandson while he was still in the womb and on his arrival. It also encourages us to want to leave something tangible to share with and maybe pass on to the next generation. Well done for going with the flow and "picking up the pen again"! May God bless your writing to His praise and glory as He encourages you to be bold in the sharing, and may He also paint beauty with the ashes in your life by His tender hand of grace. It's lovely to meet you. 🙂

    1. Hi Debbie. Thanks for visiting! All creative pursuits have within them the capacity to bring healing and deliverance to some extent or another. Keep up the art! Bless you. 🙂

    1. I know that feeling, Sarah, from watching the truly talented achieve great work with apparent ease. But each of us is capable of some kind of creative pursuit, eg. singing, sewing, baking, writing, painting. May you find joy in expressing creativity through the particular ways God has gifted you to do so. 🙂

  4. I can identify with this, Joy. Not so long ago I gathered up art supplies and started art journals, but so often those supplies sit quiet in their tub. Sometimes it feels like there is creativity pressing deep within, waiting to be released. But perfection jumps in so easily, and I let it go again. Or guilt sets in that I should be doing things that will benefit others instead of spending time doing something I enjoy.

    Joy, you show so much creativity and art already in your writing, much more than you realize. I am often awed at what you come up with.

    1. Trudy, I dearly hope you will feel inspired and encouraged to take up art again. For now, I definitely see your creativity expressing itself in your wonderful writing. When we are willing to share our vulnerability and write anyway, no matter how weak and wounded we may feel, then we are allowing God to bring beauty out of the ashes. Pressing past perfectionism and pressing pause on guilt will help us to become better writers and artists. I love how your blog design itself reveals a lot about how individual and creative you truly are. And I can repeat the words you ended with here, because "I am often awed at what you come up with" as God inspires you to share your heart and life. Keep up the good work, my friend! 🙂 x

  5. Hi Joy! I love the phrase "beauty from the ashes". Sometimes that's what our lives look like. Right now as I sit A LOT and try to focus on being 'productive' I hope that the Lord will lead me to the right spiritual and physical place that I need to be.
    I'm so glad that the art tools relit a place in you! And yes, don't be fooled by perfection. It's totally overrated anyway! Just use it to help you find a rhythm, an expression. That's a wonderful place to find yourself!
    Wednesday blessings,

    1. Hi Ceil. Me too! It's such a hope-filled, encouraging phrase, isn't it? I share your hope in my own seeming inactivity that "the Lord will lead me to the right spiritual and physical place that I need to be." It may look very different than we planned, but when we're in His will we have the capacity to learn, grow, and to bless and encourage others in the process.
      I'm making a recovery from the flu and waiting to feel strong enough to tale up the art materials once more. It will take determination to press past perfectionism and "find a rhythm, an expression" which is aligned to the gentle rhythms of His grace rather than to feeling frantic or frustrated. Though I aim to achieve just that in the days and weeks ahead! Thank you so much for stopping by to bless me with your lovely comment. Sending Thursday blessings and prayers to you as you learn to master the art of 'being' rather than 'doing'. 🙂 x

  6. This is lovely, Joy. Hope has flitted among your words patiently waiting to blossom anew. May the canvas draw you, inspire you, encourage you, and deepen you as you dip your brush in paint, lift the pencils and pastels, and allow your soul to soar in the wonders of creation again. Blessings, Sweet Friend!

    1. Hi Cindee. It's lovely to see you here! Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. I still have a degree of trepidation about picking these things up and beginning again. But I love the thought of allowing my soul "to soar in the wonders of creation again" because that is what we are born to do, to mirror God in letting loose the creativity He has gifted us with. So I will yield to the moment and let "the canvas draw.. inspire..encourage..and deepen" me. May you be blessed in all your creative endeavours, my friend, especially your beautiful photography! xox 🙂

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