When you CAN’T Make Your Art

2014.12.02

I love to create. And what I love to create varies by the season of life in which I find myself.

When money was tight and Husband-Man and I newly married, I crocheted hats for all of our family’s Christmas presents. These were, however, no ordinary hats. They were designed for each family member. One was a monster with horns and eyes, others were stylish and slouchy, and others still were super functional and warm.

When studying business for a bachelors and masters degree, my art was the perfectly crafted resume or research paper. You may not find art in a visually pleasing and content rich document, but I do. I crafted it with my hands and mind, and it has the possibility to open doors of employment and avocation for many.

When I got sick of all the business writing required of me as a student, I would sing. I sang with chamber and concert choirs, practicing an hour a day and performing at concerts and on tours. I relish the feeling of my voice blending with my neighbors, creating one voice to convey a message of peace, joy, hope, or sadness.

When desperate and tired from illness and work, my art consisted of tear stained words that were sometimes legible, scribbled in a gorgeous leather journal.

This past month, I haven’t been doing my art. And I’ve been miserable.

My wrist still hasn’t healed well. I’m in and out of a brace, preventing me from cutting pieces for sewing, holding a needle to embroider, holding a book of music to sing, crocheting, writing by hand, and sometimes even typing. I’m not in terrible pain, but I’ve been told that rest is the only way my tendons can heal.

I am not good at rest.

I have NEVER been good at rest. I get antsy, and mean. I feel useless and unfulfilled.

And sometimes, I have ignored my doctor’s orders for rest, and in desperation, have tried to create something. And I have been frustrated that my creation has been weak, like my wrist.

What has God been teaching me?

That is hard to say. I’ve spent this entire year waiting, so  you’d think that this would be easy. But, my escape has been taken away from me. I can’t feel better by being creative in my normal ways. I can’t escape into a project and forget the world for a while.

So, I have no where left to turn. My art, my creation, is not here to make me feel better, so there’s only one more place to turn.

Even when your wrist is hurt, you can still lift your hands. My voice can still sing, and my mind can still study. It’s back to basics (with a lot of prayer for healing).

Happy December, friends.

Physical Therapy

After going through extensive and expensive tests for my unintentional wrist injury, I was sent to physical therapy (PT). I had never been sent to PT before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I know several people that have gone through it, and the glimpses of the room in which this magical stuff happened made me think it was like going to the weight room at the gym.

I had to go in for an evaluation, and I was surprised by what was done to my wrist. This wrist had been strapped to some kind of device to keep it still for about two months, and all of a sudden, the therapist wanted me to bend my wrist as far as it would go. She wanted me to exert force with it. She wanted me to stretch it. And moving it HURT. The therapist asked me if I’d been doing any stretching since I’d injured it. My response? No. I hadn’t been using it. Using it hurt. Stretching it hurt. So I didn’t stretch it.

And then all of a sudden, I had to use it again.

I have been going to PT for about a month now, and everything they’ve made me do has hurt. They started my therapy by making me stretch my wrist in all the directions it could possibly go at least three times a day. At first, it hurt really bad, and but after a while, it didn’t hurt so much. Then they started making my move my wrist. Wiggle to the left, wiggle to the right. Wiggle up, wiggle down. (Sounds like a board book, doesn’t it? Or a pop song.) That hurt too. And after it stopped hurting they made me add weight. First, only one pound. Then three. Now I’m lifting four pounds. (My living room floor looks like my big weights had babies.)

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They also made me stop wearing my brace. It had been important for my healing process at first, but the more I let myself use it, the more my muscles would have wasted away. My muscles have to practice being used again.

I don’t like pain. And I don’t think that very many people do. But sometimes, pain is required for healing. I need to be able to use my wrist in my work, and in my personal life. Have you ever tried to lift a small human for a hug with a hurt wrist? It doesn’t work very well. Have you ever tried to hold hands with your husband-man (or whomever you hold hands with) when it hurts to bend your wrist? I don’t suggest it.

Usually, we don’t get to heal all at once. It takes a long time. It’s hard work. I’ve had to make myself do something that wasn’t fun, and that didn’t feel good, three times a day to try and help my wrist heal.

That’s usually how God deals with my gross spots too. Overcoming the stress issue that I’ve been dealing with for the past six months for my entire life? That takes work. That doesn’t happen all at once. That takes reading my Bible every day, and giving every day to God. And sometimes, more often than I’d like, I do a really bad job at letting Him heal me.

Following God is often very, very painful. And it’s very often no fun. But God didn’t promise us fun. When He sent His son to live on the Earth, His son was poor, persecuted, misunderstood, and died (a horrific death) in His early thirties. He didn’t own a house and He didn’t have babies. I have a theory (based on no scientific fact) that Jesus joked around with the disciples. They were men. Don’t you think they tooted on one another sometimes? Don’t you think someone short sheeted Jesus’ bed a time or two? I think so. So, I think His life had some fun in it. But He also had a great deal of pain. And I don’t deserve anything better than God’s Son. None of us do.

So, what do we do with our pain? What did the man after God’s own heart do? He prayed and wrote and was honest with God about his pain, and we get the privilege of reading through some of his prayers in Psalms. One of my favorites that I read as part of the ESV Study Bible year long reading plan that I’m going through is Psalms 31:

1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
    but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!
17 Lord, let me not be put to shame,
    for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
    let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
    which speak insolently against the righteous
    in pride and contempt.

19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
    from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
    from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
    for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
    when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
    “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
    when I cried to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
    The Lord preserves the faithful
    but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

I like how it ends. “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

So, while you’re going through the pain of healing, be strong. Be encouraged, my friends.

Small Spaces

So, remember how I sprained my wrist? I alluded to the humorous side of that story in my last post, but there has been a bit of learning intermingled in that humor. 

After I sprained my wrist, I couldn’t give it complete rest. My job consists of working primarily on the computer, which includes typing and keeping my wrist at a funny angle at almost all times. So, right when I injured my wrist, I thought if I just rested it some, it would be okay. It got better for a time, and then it started to get worse. It began to ache to the point where I couldn’t push anything with the wrist. I had to practice getting out of bed in the morning like a ninja without using my hands. I also learned how to brush my teeth with my left hand and how to cut my food up with my opposite hand. 

After a month of getting worse, I finally broke down and asked for an x-ray. I was so scared I’d broken my wrist. Husband-Man had to ban me (at my request) from looking up pictures of what corrective wrist surgery is all about. The x-ray came back fine, and after another few weeks of pain, I was sent for an MRI. 

Now, I’ve had an MRI before. When I was a senior in high school, I had what turned out to be a month long stress headache, and the doctors wanted to make sure I didn’t have any visible brain issues. I had to lay in a small tube for about half an hour that day, with loud noises, no movement, no ear plugs, and a crippling headache. I tried to forget that experience. 

I wasn’t as worried about going through this MRI. I didn’t have a monster of a headache, and I was more concerned with the results than the test itself. And then, as I was taken back into the MRI room as posed for the MRI, I started to lose my cool. I was told to stretch my arm out (Super Man style) and to lay with my arm extended, with my wrist held in place with a heavy cushion to reduce movement. I was told several times that I could not move, or we would have to restart the test. And then I was slid into the machine. I felt like a torpedo waiting in a torpedo bay. It was small and loud, and although I normally don’t get stressed in small spaces, I was not comfortable being shoved into that little tube with my arm fully extended. 

Now, as you can imagine, I was okay for about five minutes. And then, I started to panic. My shoulder started to shake because I am not physically conditioned to hold my arm still like that for so long. My head was wringing with the noise of the machine. I was so worried that I would move involuntarily and mess up the test. And time felt like it was standing still. I was sure that the test would never be over. 

And then I remembered the story in Acts 16 about Paul and Silas and their reaction to being thrown into jail. 

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

I realize that I wasn’t in jail. I was receiving valuable medical care, that I was privileged to receive. But, I was panicking. I didn’t think I could make it through the entire test. I didn’t feel strong enough, mentally or physically. So, I sang songs in my head. I sang hymns to the rythmn of the machine. And I prayed for each and every person that I could think of. I prayed for my family, my friends, the MRI technician, the nice greeter at the welcome desk.

And eventually, the test was over (after about thirty minutes). What are you panicking about? Your job? Your health? Something else? How is God calling you to respond? Focus on the goodness of God, and keep Him at the forefront of your mind. Be encouraged, my friends. To borrow Husband-Man’s expression, it’s okay. 

 

Jump

I know that I’ve been doing some serious writing on here recently, but I thought today I might attempt to make you giggle.

Husband-Man is a champion sleeper. He can sleep on boats, planes, cars, you name it. He also falls  asleep quickly. So quickly that in our almost three years of marriage, I have gotten used to being the last one to fall asleep every night. He is also not a night person. He starts to move in slow motion after 10:00 PM,  and at 11:00 PM, he’s sleepy enough that I ask him to tell me all of his secrets (he doesn’t ever have any).

One night, about two and a half months ago, Husband-Man and I were getting ready to sleep, and were playing with our respective electronic devices. I needed a drink of water, and went down to the kitchen to get myself a glass. I brought it back upstairs with me, and found Husband-Man fast asleep in bed. After one minute. He was out cold.

Confession time: I like to pull pranks on people. And Husband-Man was a prime target. He gets a really funny expression on his face when he’s startled awake. So, as any good wife would do, I decided to scare him. I jumped on him, and was very satisfied with the momentary look of terror on his face. I wish I had taken a picture of it. What was less than satisfying was the pain I felt in my right wrist upon landing in the bed. I sprained my wrist.

I’m planning on sharing more about the recovery process in the next few days, but it has involved x-rays, MRIs, and physical therapy. I try to focus this blog on finding and sharing the deeper meaning of what’s going on in every day life, but sometimes, I can’t find a deep meaning in it. I just have to trust that God has orchestrated things according to a plan that I can’t see.

And, I have a sneaking suspicion that He’s had a good laugh at how I injured myself just like my physical therapist has. Have a good Tuesday, everyone!

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