the girl i never was

“A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: ‘i have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it! Imagine!'” – henri nouwen

that is exactly how my word has been so far this year. gift, and the opening of my eyes to gift.

every morning, hot cup in hand, its first warm sip making its way down my throat, i draw a word from the bowl. it is a bowl full of one-word(ish) prompts from The Art Journaler community. i take this moment as opportunity to receive spirit-whispers of intention for my day. it is always rich. but this month? this beginning of my year of RESTORE? it has had an added depth.

because each time i draw my word, consider it, glue it down, i pair it with my one word. and it becomes a prayer. 

i draw a charm bearing the words “i am tenacious”, and my prayer is “restore + tenacity. make me who i am. open my eyes to who i am.”

it says “loved” and my heart cries “restore + loved. remind me i am deeply loved – restore the sense of freedom from fear i have in those moments of knowing i am loved perfectly (and imperfectly).

the day i drew the one that i had written myself: “my colorful, brave, messy, authentic, TRUE SELF“, i knew it was time to paint an image that has made its home in my soul these last few weeks.

>>>                                                                                                           <<<

at the end of december, in a group spiritual direction call (led by the lovely tara owens), i confessed that i was terrified to look back at the year, in the practice of “examen“. i was so scared to even consider 2013 as a whole, because it was a year that i made many unfamiliar choices, and they often came with a sense of shame, especially when met with misunderstanding or outright condemnation. there were a number of things reflected to me in those minutes that felt very deeply comforting and true. but the one i want to describe here is this:

she said she saw an image of me as a little girl sitting in a puddle of paint. i was messy and colorful and covered with life. and God was loving it. she said some people are “tidy people”, but me? god made me to be messy, and he delights in it. he even stands protective, fierce against anyone who would try to get me to “clean up”.

oh, how this spoke deep.

i had been hoping, on this 28th of december, for another confirmation of what my word for this year would be, and as she was describing this scene, i thought, “that was never me. i never got to be that messy, delighted little artist-girl” and immediately “whoa. God wants to restore me to more than just ‘who i once was.’ he wants to go even deeper, more essential, to the one i was meant to be, in all the fulness of my design.” 

so. here is to restoration.

and play.

and childlike wonder.

and unselfconscious expression.

and mess.


because, hey – that’s me. and i like it.


to the new year


i have high hopes for you, you know.


i haven’t borne the feathered

weight of hope in a long time.

despair was heavier,

but easier somehow;


and resignation the easiest of all.

disengaged from a life

whose possibility seemed to have run out

some time ago.


i have big dreams,

and – yes – i’ve dreamed them before.

but they’ve stuck around,

and i want you to know:


i expect a lot from you, new year.


some live absent to the moment by giving their hearts

to a future of possibilities, staying there.

dreamers, they may be;

but they can’t see the beauty of right now.


i, too, have been unable to see the beauty of now

but it’s not because of dreaming

or living into a future hope

it’s because i give up. every day.


i’ve lost heart.


but in these beginning days,

this newness that hasn’t yet worn off,

i find myself awake, and longing

and hopeful.


my word is restore.

and it is both promise

and prayer.


i will be restored

to ways i was meant to be, to live

in this world.

maybe that means i get messier

(because God likes that about me).

maybe it means there is deep

healing of old wounds

older than you might imagine.


because he is not just restoring me

to “the girl i once was”


to “the girl i never was [allowed]

but was always meant to be”


this is deep shit.


i’m not expecting free sailing

to the restoration Promised Land.

i suspect it will get worse before

it gets better.


but i’m all in, 2014.

and you better be, too.



this is the story of how my word found me:

october, and i’m beginning to consider what it is my next steps might be. what word i’d want to lean into, especially as my “official” word for the new year. immediately, i say “space“, and try it on for size. but i feel this internal shift in a direction i don’t want to go whenever i try to embrace it.

don’t get me wrong.

i still want space. still need space, long to give space, hold space, discover what lies in the spaces between.  (plus my 4-year-old is obsessed with space. it comes up OFTEN)

but when i hold that word close, weigh it against my longings, i find that the way i would be prone to engage it is to isolate. which is already my natural bent. and not something i want to intentionally go about doing.

i let go of this word, keep looking.

november now, i stop to listen, take stock of what has been speaking in my soul. i flip through The Artist’s Rule by Christine Paintner, a book that spoke to my deepest soul-spaces all august and september. and i remember: “open.” i heard the invitation over and over again. to open to love, to hope, to God. that’s it, i think, and wait for january.

december begins with a buzz of writer-friends asking each other: “what is your word?” i hold mine close, still waiting and wondering. in one particular facebook thread as my friends are talking about their “words” (or lack thereof – this process is laced with angst for some), someone says: “i think someone in this thread has the word ‘rest’.” and i cry. deep tears of knowing God has been calling me to rest, and to play, and here she is speaking it. i comment that this is making me cry, and she messages me. “i think your word is ‘restored‘.” and describes how rest is part of that.

my response? “i don’t want that word – it sounds like ‘a word people pick’, but it doesn’t resonate with me.” restore? really, God? so cliché. (and it’s the name of habitat for humanity’s retail shop: “RE-store”. ew – i don’t want a word that makes me think of a secondhand home goods store… except, i really like that store, but that’s beside the point.)

but because i believe she hears things, i wait and hold both words with open hands, one in each palm.

i take a walk to mull it over, and i find myself simultaneously in love with and resistant to this word, “restore“.

because, here’s the thing: it is all-gift.

when i consider my healing, my desires, things i would long for restoration in my deep spaces, it’s not something i DO, but something i RECEIVE.

and this makes me feel immensely loved by God. it rises up giddy in my throat.


i kinda wanted a word i could “do”.

i’m not in control of how this word affects my year. my only part in it is to stay… you guessed it – {open}. 

to allow for rest and healing, to turn my heart in the direction of my longings so i can engage with God in the process of seeing restoration happen. it’s beautiful, really. i hold myself open to him, vulnerable to his tender touch. he restores. 

a friend describes to me some pieces of the process of restoring a painting: the incredible attention the restorer pays to the painting, his lovingly precise and gentle brush. my spiritual director explains even more: the way the restorer has to first take layers of old, unhelpful varnish off – deconstructing what was once protecting and now only diminishing the beauty of what is underneath.

i resonate DEEP with that. that has been my season these past months, a year of autumn shedding.

letting go of old stories and ways of being.

letting go of unhealthy relationships and systems.

next will be the restoring of the piece to its intended glory – the way it was designed to reflect light and depth and color in the heart of the artist.

and that, my friends, sounds amazing. i can’t wait.