I’m going to tell the saddest story I ever lived, and one that I believe God is changing.
I’ve been wrapped in the chains of fear for so many years, 45 years to be exact. A prisoner, from one moment in time that scarred me, from that moment until now. This story may seem like a small thing to the reader, but for me, it was a moment that crippled me and robbed me of years of happiness, not doing what I was born to do. Though there were moments along the way that I experienced the joy of freedom, the joy of painting, they were fleeting, only to be shrouded in fear.
I don’t tell this story for sympathy. I tell it for closure, because today I’m changing my story and I’m trusting God to give me courage to DO the thing that I believe HE created me for. To BE an artist. To LIVE the life of an artist. How am I going to do it? One day at a time. I am going to live like each day is the first day and the last day of my life.
From my earliest memories, the thing I could always be found doing was drawing. Things I took notice of, needed to find their way on the page. I think everyone who knew me, knew that art was what I was about. It’s all I’ve ever cared deeply about, well, except for God and my family of course. All my days of drawing brought such a sense of happiness and purpose to me in my younger days, until my first year in high school at the tender age of 15. Art class was not just an extra curricular activity for me, it was my life. I think it was my dedication in class and to course work, coupled with a project that I was working on, that caused my teacher to ask if I would consider competing in a painting competition that was to be held at a college in another town about two hours away. I wasn’t the first person she asked. She had asked another girl in class who turned it down. I told her that I didn’t feel I was up for the task, because for many years, I had mostly just drawn and I didn’t even own a set of paints or brushes. She and others in the class convinced me that I could do this and I reluctantly agreed. Up to this point, my experience in the art world, concepts in art…were to say the least, extremely limited.
It was the weekend, although I don’t remember what day, it was most likely Saturday. The two hour drive to the collage, was made with several other students who were going to cheer me on and my teacher, along with a couple other students, were in a different car. To say the least, I was nervous, but convinced myself that I could do this. The time came for the participants to assemble at individual tables for instruction. New tubes of paint on my table, a fresh WHITE, BLANK, canvas, new brushes....then came the instruction. Up to this point, I had no clue what we were going to paint, what the rules would be, I knew nothing. We were to paint the still life....wait, still life? Still life....believe it or not, I had no idea what a still life was. We were told that we could arrange the still life any way we wanted....words were swirling around in my head. What does this mean? We can go up and rearrange? What does this mean? Remember, outside of drawing, my experience was limited. I don’t remember how much time we had to paint the still life, but I do know that half of that time, I was paralyzed! By the time I started doing anything, the time was almost up and I pretty much had nothing on the canvas. Then came the ultimate humiliation. All paintings were displayed out in the great hall and were going to be judged. I hadn’t even thought about that part! Truthfully, that entire experience was so humiliating, I don’t even remember what my painting looked like. I do know it was not finished. I do remember the silence when my classmates and teacher saw it, and I do remember the silence on the two hour drive home and I do remember taking the painting to my room and hiding it behind the window, because I had no place to throw it away before I got home. Life altering, life crippling, was what this experience was for me.
I’m pretty smart, very introspective, why is it that I haven’t been able to break free of this prison of fear for all of these years. Believe me, I’ve read books, tried to force myself to begin again, push past it, only to find myself unable to break free. There is an earlier post on my blog where I talk about the experience of a Plein Air Convention that I attended in Monterey, CA. in 2013. 8 years ago!! I heard Joe Paquet speak and just wow! I thought for sure, I would be able to apply what I learned and what his speech meant to me, to break free. Nope. So many times I’ve given myself chances, trying to push myself, trying to break the chains of fear. I went to Salina, CO. to attend a workshop with Joshua Been, attended a workshop in St. Paul, Minnesota with Joe Paquet, went to France with Cindy Roof and a group of other artist. Through it all, most of the time I was too gripped with fear to paint. The tender, gentle nudging of both Josh and Joe helped me to finally do something, but not what I had painted over and over in my mind while there and definitely not what I was capable of. Last year, I attended a virtual Plein Air Workshop and I had so much fun. No one could see my work, as the conference was Virtual. I was sketching along with the painting demos and was so happy. I was doing the thing that I love, I was doing the thing that makes me FEEL like me. I even surprised myself at how happy I was with the work I did, that I actually, even with the imperfections, shared them on social media as a way to help me push past my fears. Only, they were still present.
What is wrong with me? Maybe I should have gotten counseling years ago. I just kept thinking I could get past this fear that had such a tight grip on me.
Why does it all of this matter so much anyway? It matters because every day, every day! I paint so many pictures in my mind, it’s all I think about, it’s what I love, it’s what I want to do on canvas, it’s the life I want to live, it won’t let me go and I don’t want to let it go. I can hear Maria now, as she would look up and say “yes God”.
So, here I am today. After reading yet another book to help with this struggle I’ve had for too long, I realized something, something I learned from the book. Actually, I’ve realized several somethings. One of the biggest somethings I realized is, I can flip the script, I can rewrite my story. Instead of focusing on the disaster of that one day, that one day that I was not prepared for, I’m going to focus on the fact that I was chosen to compete out of a class full of students because of the work I had done. I hadn’t considered that before, never entered my mind! All I could see, all I could FEEL, was the failure.
I’m thankful for my family and friends who have always cheered me on. They’ve been my biggest supporters. I’m thankful for my mentors, my teachers, who have imparted so much wisdom, knowledge and words of encouragement that I will always carry with me.
I have BIG plans and visions for my future, but they can only come true by “DOING” one day at a time. How fun is that going to be! Even if I only get one day, it will be a great day. I’m not saying there won’t be some fear, some insecurities, but they won’t be defined by the past and they won’t keep me from living my best day, each day.
So now, I say goodbye to yesterday and to focusing on the future and live for the day. I get to stand on the shoulders of giants as I learn and DO. I get to dream a big dream, live a big dream, all the while knowing that as big as my dreams are, God is able to make even bigger dreams come true.
To quote the book that has changed my perspective: “Day by day by day”.
The book that brought me to this place of understanding: "WinThe day: 7 Daily Habits To Help You Stress Less and Accomplish More" by Mark Batterson
By the way, I believe seeing this book on FB by a friend of a friend, was a God Stop. One of those moments where you have the nudge to stop and look, take notice.
Maria DeLaJuen and some of the thoughts that she took the time to write and type to me (some her original thoughts, some borrowed). She knew the depth of my struggle.
Joe Paquet: So many things. Some which are listed in an earlier blog. Through his mentoring, I learned so much. Things that for sure will be a springboard to everything I do from this time forward.
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not come, right now I have this moment, this day. I’m going to make the most of it. THIS, is day one for me. I believe I am free and I thank God for it.
This is my world this morning with Eric Clapton filling the air and prayers running through my head and heart. Responding to feelings, colors and trying to learn what I don't yet know.
I'm happy with this piece and excited to learn more as I fight to push past fears.
After a nice shower and lotion applied to her body
She slipped on her pretty little gown.
Her frail hands reached into the drawer for her lipstick.
As she traced her lips with color, her frail hand almost failed her.
A little color for her eyebrows and maybe a different color added to her lips.
I watched my mom in the mirror as she looked at herself practicing the rituals of a woman and I saw her for the first time as a woman and not just my mom.
It was bedtime.
Lost in that moment of feeling good that the natural next thing to do was to put on the color.
Granddad and Cricket
By Renee Painter
For as far back as my memory reaches, visions and memories of Granddad and his farm will always be with me.
Take a look around…just after turning onto the dirt drive and just beyond the gate with the cowbell, sits the little 2-bedroom house. To the left of it was a smaller house that I believe was for guests, but I never really knew and still don’t to this day. Across the drive was an old wooden cattle shoot overgrown with grass and weeds; the sun had set on it long ago. Just down from the cattle pen was the old barn that seemed so big and scary to me. It was not very safe the adults said because it could fall down and it had mice in it. I wonder if all that was true or just a really good way to keep all of us kids out of there. And best of all, beyond all of this was the gate that leads to a piece of my Granddad’s land that seemed to go on forever. No running water, no bathroom facilities, just a plain simple home…the best kind and a place where some of my best memories were born.
This was the home of my Great Grandmother and Great Granddad. But I just called him Granddad and my Great-grandmother I never met because she had went to Heaven a year before I was born.
Granddad had nicknamed my sister and me, he called Crystal “ladybug” and he named me “cricket”. I can’t remember a time when Granddad called me anything except cricket and I loved that. I asked my mom one day when we looked back in time and were talking about the farm how Granddad came to nickname me Cricket. She said she could see it so clearly as if it was just yesterday. I was just a baby and granddad was holding me and bent down to putt my legs into the water of the pond on the hill place, I was pulling my legs up and down and my granddad laughed and said I looked just like a cricket. He said, “that’s what I’m going to call her…cricket”, and from that day forward that was my name when I was with my Granddad.
I was very fortunate to have spent some time on the farm with granddad. I have stayed there in the summertime when the air was so hot and so still it felt like you could not get a breath. And I have stayed there in the wintertime when we wished we had indoor plumbing!
One week in the summertime I went to stay at granddads with my grandmother. It was so hot one night that my grandmother and I had to take our bedding outside to sleep. The night was so magnificent!! We were lying there looking up into the night sky, the stars were so bright and there were so many there didn’t seem to be any space between them. It was so quiet you could hear all of nature in the night air and the drums of the Indian reservation in the distance. Even with all the spectacular wonderment around me I really worried about the wolves or coyotes that I was hearing howling in the distance! Grandma and I were lying there talking and looking at the stars and I was telling her that I was scarred, afraid that the coyotes would come and attack us. I can just here her laughing and laughing now. She told me not to worry, and that they were more afraid of us and just as she said that my granddads dog approached us and scarred the daylights out of me. My grandmother was laughing so hard that I too started laughing. I think we laughed ourselves to sleep that night.
I think that was the summer that I got to go with my Granddad to harvest the wheat he was growing on a piece of land he leased from a neighbor. He said “come on Cricket, hop up there into the bed of the truck”, and there I stood as the tractor followed beside us with the wheat pouring into the bed of the truck. After all the wheat was harvested he and I headed to the silo to deliver the wheat. I remember as we approached the silo I was a little scared because I did not see how we were going to drive into what seemed like two tall little cylinders. Granddad just laughed and of course as we got closer it became clear that our truck could fit in there after all.
One winter my Grandmother, sister, cousin and I were spending what was supposed to be a weekend at granddads farm but it snowed so much that we were snowed in and could not get the car out to go home. We had a lot of fun that weekend playing in the snow. While we were outside playing one day in the snow we noticed these strange small markings in the snow. We ran inside to get granddad to find out what these were. After coming outside to examine these markings he told us they were Indian markings. We were scarred to death!! And he just laughed and laughed. We were afraid to go back out for the longest time, which was just fine with grandma because she was tired of us coming in and out. One time she was so mad at us for tracking snow into the house she stormed off to the chicken coup to use the restroom and the snow was so deep, one minute she was on top of the snow and the next she was knee deep it. We laughed so hard. That weekend a neighbor from a nearby farm came to pick us up on his tractor to drive us to town where my mom and dad were meeting us to take us home so that grandma could go to work that Monday. Grandma sat towards the front of the tractor and Crystal, Kim and I sat on a couple of bails of hay on the back of the tractor all the way to town, now that was an adventure!
God is so good!! I am thankful for these gifts in life. I think of the times like these that our kids miss. Wide open spaces, simple adventures, looking up into the sky with no light pollution to see the wonder of God, simple quiet times with loved ones. In my mind I walk the land with its stillness and my heart is glad.
I'm excited to develop my website and looking forward to seeing my business card that Amy, with Back 40 Design is creating for me.
I have always had struggles of feeling God in my life and walking in His light, even though I have seen and felt Him move in powerful ways in my life. Yet, I still struggle!
The colors in the painting all have very specific meaning as do the wild and disorganized brushstrokes. The cool blues and yellow represent God and His Goodness: happiness, the white is pureness although I don't know if it represents His or mine. The red and white together at the bottom of the heart is mingled in with the darkness that feels like it's surrounding my heart. As you can see, the Light is almost overshadowed and the Light is more outside of it. Sort of looks like my heart is being torn apart doesn't it?
All I've ever thought about and dreamed about, was being an artist and painting.