“Will you color with me, Daddy?” I simply adored coloring with my daddy. He used crayons in a way that well, my 6 year old mind didn’t know was allowed. We would sit together coloring, bouncing back and forth between laughter and talking of the important matters of my first grade world. I no longer remember the conversations, but I do remember how my daddy made me feel. I was seen, enjoyed and cherished.
If I were lucky, he’d grab a pencil and paper. Magically, a graphite horse soon galloped upon a radiant white field. I swear its lush mane flew right off the page. My heart leapt with delight as I observed how he played with colors or the effortless movement of graphite that created life in the void. These were extraordinary moments of respite from his unpredictable anger. And I just couldn’t get enough.
By the time second grade rolled around, there was no more coloring, no more drawing. My parent’s marriage shattered, as I scribbled with the crayons at school to destroy my work pages. A 7 year old overwhelmed with a deluge of unpleasant emotions. Stuck with no one to help her return to rest, peace or joy – her brain stored the pain in a toxic and distorted fashion. It’s all her fault you know… And she hates crayons!
Ah, but God.
So yeah, of course, at first I tried to handle all this mess on my own. That worked for quite awhile. No, not really, but I sure did give it the good ol’ Girl Scout try. Sadly, it would be many years before I was able to allow God’s Spirit into those painful spaces without re-traumatizing myself. Honestly, I am still on that healing journey to gently come back for the pieces of my heart that I left behind or that were robbed. And some days I am ever so much better at kindness than on other days.
The love of art never left me, but I certainly kept it at arm’s length. Dabbling here, dabbling there, and never allowing myself to feast on creative expression. Are you kidding me? Way too dangerous for my heart to feel that fullness. Giving myself just the tiniest taste of pleasure to appease, but oh never ever indulging in joy. The ache was too deep. Consequently fear erupted, resulting in decades of killing any desire to sketch. Coming to a space where I could grieve the loss of joy in drawing and not killing that desire was like peeling back an onion.
Then there came a day. It was time to take a risk and draw again. Yikes! Really? Whoa! And, the invitation and desire felt life giving. Art supplies were carefully selected and purchased. I couldn’t wait to get home and start filling those blank pages with my artistic heart.
Well, the items stayed in their plastic bag home for weeks. I’d peek into the sack now and then, finally putting them away in a drawer. I bought more supplies. Thinking that would help. Not so much. You see, it wasn’t just graphite, paper, erasers and blenders in that bag… it was my heart.
Eventually I could hear that hidden sketch pad and graphite set calling my name every time I passed the dresser. “Come back Little One. This is a part of how I have created you.”
One day, I sat upon my knees breathing deeply before the drawer. It was more than a struggle. My fingers fumbled to release the image in my head. It seemed I was doing more erasing than sketching. Frustrated, I wadded it up with all intentions of throwing it away. Oh my, the lies that screamed in my head, “You are wrong! What a fool you are to think you can draw. You’re no artist. ” BAM! Straight to the heart.
With head cocked, I was determined to silence that loud voice. I took a deep breath and carefully unfolded the small white bundle – gently pressing away each crease. I gotta tell ya, it was a painful fight. I did not fully enjoy the process, but in the end there was a measure of rest that settled in my body. It would take gentle encouragement before I would embrace “artist” as a true part of my world.
Here’s the thing. I am no Mary Cassatt, Linda Huber or any number of famous artists. It’s most likely that none of my drawings will ever be sold or will hang upon the walls of your home or in a gallery. AND, I am Robyn Whitaker, a woman created to draw. I know this. It brings me great joy and rest. And it is so much fun!
I don’t know what parts of you have been lost along the way. Maybe it’s time to tenderly go looking for them and ask them to come back. Oh, I know your heart is probably pounding at just the thought. Mine still does, every time I pick up a sketch pad and pencil.
And each and every time it reminds me that… I am alive!
Robyn Whitaker lives in Texas with her beloved husband of 34 years. She has an adventurous heart that is learning to breathe. Lover of truth, seeker of story, aspiring author and newborn dreamer, this mother of three is in search of redemption and living her Kingdom purpose. Robyn writes here. n