Chapter 5: Paintings and People

Welcome to The 2020 Spoonie Study! The Spoonie Study is a Bible study group intended for women with chronic illnesses who are over the age of 16.

Alright friends, if you couldn’t attend live that’s okay!

You can either continue reading for the written version of our discussion or watch the videos on IGTV! If the links below do not lead you to anything more than a blank screen on instagram you can click here or head to @officialcassiemnolin on instagram and all of these videos are in the IGTV 2020 Spoonie Study Series.

SPOONIE STUDY- INSTBTW CHP 5

Welcome Everyone! For those who does not know I am leading a Bible study for women with chronic illnesses, and each week we read a chapter, answer chapter questions, and do a life group meeting on zoom about the book It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa TerkeurstPlease note that this blog post is essentially the written version of the live stream that took place and is also available on IGTV (links above.)

As Lysa starts this chapter off, she is explaining the lack of enthusiasm she had around celebrating her birthday. She didn’t want to plan or dream in the slightest, she was captivated by the uncertainty of her situation. I love how she says on PAGE 72 “I could only face the future in teaspoons of time” because it was so dark and silent in this season of life for her. In this time she reflects on how life was supposed to be and all the things she was supposed to enjoy.

But on this forty-eighth birthday I opened the coloring book, and saw someone had erased all the beautifully drawn lines. There is nothing but white pages. Empty spaces. Endless possibilities of fear and failure. Metaphorically speaking, my life was now a blank canvas.

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 73). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q Have you felt this way before, like all the beautiful lines have been erased?

Yes! I am a planner, I try to be as many steps ahead as possible, and when life suddenly changed the canvas was blank and white, but it wasn’t truly blank. I could still see faint marks of where those lines had been drawn. In the greatest seasons of disappointment, I have wrestled with the fact that I don’t want to draw new lines, I want to try to recreate what had been there before. I didn’t want a new job or purpose or life. I wanted the one I carefully planned out.

On her birthday, Lysa’s mom felt that they should literally paint a white canvas. This stirred up a lot of anxiety and overwhelm in her heart.

It was my moment to be the painter instead of the observer. It was my moment to face disappointment from the angle of an artist. And to be the painter I would both display my ability but even more scary expose my inability. I came across a quote from the book Art and Fear that says it best: “Making art provides uncomfortable accurate feedback about the gap that inevitable exists between what you intended to do and what you did.” And the gap never stays silent. It reverberates with commentary. Sadly for too many of us it’s a negative commentary. This is such a ploy of the the enemy (satan.) he loves to take a beautiful moment of life and fill it with a negative narrative about our failures that plays over and over until the voice of God is hushed. The enemy (satan) perverts the reality that we are beloved children of God. He wants our thoughts to be tightly entangled in his thoughts. Those are his thoughts. This is his script: Not. Good. Enough. We hear it when we try to create. We hear it when we try to be brave and start anything new. We hear it when we try to overcome what has been and step into what could be.

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp.74-75). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q Can you relate to hearing a voice that says, “not good enough”? How are you learning to silence that negative voice so you can hear God’s voice instead?

When I started being harassed, a little under a year and a half ago, I was already battling the thoughts that I wasn’t healthy enough to be healthy and relating to many of my friends, and then I was being told I wasn’t sick enough or accepted by the CI community and I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be anywhere. To help silence that voice, I do my best to ignore it and choose to hear nothing (like I talked about last week), and I work hard to make sure that everything that I post glorifies Him. If it glorifies Him and people don’t like that they can take that up with God. I tend to also have a perfectionist mindset that makes me always feel like I could do better than what I did no matter how hard I work. I try to intentionally stop that thought process by walking away from a project for a few minutes to take a break. I also have scriptures to remind me that all He wants from me is my best, and if my best is enough for Him my best should be enough for me too. 

Remember while God converts with truth, the enemy perverts the truth. God wants us transformed, but the enemy (satan) wants us paralyzed.

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 75). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q. With that distinction in mind, how do you think God and the enemy (satan) are trying to say to you in your current situation?

With this quarantine and Easter coming, I feel the enemy trying to tell me all the reasons why there is no point in celebrating Easter because you have been stripped of all the things and traditions we always do each year like church, family brunch, etc. Yet God is reminding me that He IS still victorious. He IS alive. And that He IS enough for me. 

So when we hear thoughts like “I’m not good enough” that cause us to shrink away, we must keep in mind that the enemy will do anything he can to prevent us from moving closer to God or connecting more deeply with other people. This  “truth” we think we hear is not truth at all. In chapter 9, we’ll talk more about the three ways the enemy attacks us. But for rest assured, God wants us near, no matter our imperfections.

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 75). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q What are some of the enemy’s strategies for keeping you from moving closer to God?

The enemy loves to make me feel forgotten by God through whispers of doubt when I don’t see God moving or how I expect to see God move.

Q What are some of the enemy’s strategies for keeping you from connecting more deeply with other people? What is one way you can connect more deeply with others this month?

I assume that everyone who messages me is just trying to get information or a reaction out of me to post on these harassment sites. In some ways it has been good and has taught me to guard my heart, but it infiltrates my mind that every single person has ill intentions which makes it harder to get to know people. I have a goal to check in with one family member or friend a day whether via text, facetime, or a letter! 

Anything that has the power to draw us closer to God and closer to who He has called us to be, the enemy will work to diffuse. he knows that his voice won’t do nearly enough damage as our own thoughts and our own voice will, and he doesn’t want us to recognize it as his voice because then we know it’s not true. 

This paralyzing lie is one of his favorite tactics to keep you disillusioned by disappointments. Walls go up, emotions run high, we get guarded, defensive, demotivated, and paralyzed by the endless ways we feel doomed to fail. This is when we quit. This is when we put the kids in front of the TV because nothing in the parenting books seems to be working. This is when we settle for the ease of Facebook instead of the more challenging work of digging into God’s book of transformation. This is when we get a job to simply make money instead of pursuing our calling to make a difference. This is when we coast in our relationships rather than investing in true intimacy. This is when we put the paintbrush down and don’t even try.

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 76). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q In what ways have you quit trying?

Lately I have quit reading before bed and settling to watch tik toks or watching tv because “I had a hard day and I don’t feel like reading” when I have already had a few hours in the evening prior to do just that.

Q What is the paintbrush that God wants you pick up and try?

For me it is going out of my way to encourage at least one follower who messages me a day and to be more focused on winding down at night.

So there I was. Standing before my painted blue boat, making the choice of which voice to listen to. I’m convinced God was smiling. Pleased. Asking me to find delight in what is right. Wanting me to have compassion for myself by focusing on that part of my painting that expressed something beautiful. To just be eager to give that beauty to whoever dared to look at my boat. To create to love others. Not beg them for validation. But the enemy was perverting all that. Perfection mocked my boat. The bow was too high, the details too elementary, the reflection on the water too abrupt, and the back of the boat too off-center. Disappointment demanded I hyper-focus on what didn’t look quite right. It was my choice which narrative to hold onto: “not good enough” or “find delight in what is right.”  Each perspective swirled,begging me to declare it as truth. I was struggling to make peace with my painting creation, because I was struggling to make peace with myself as God’s creation. Anytime we feel not good enough we deny the powerful truth that we are a glorious work of God in progress. We are imperfect because we are unfinished. So, as unfinished creations, of course everything we touch will have imperfections. Everything we attempt will have imperfections, Everything we accomplish will have imperfections. And that’s when it hit me: I expect a perfection in me and a perfection in others that not even God Himself expects. If God is patient with the process, why can’t I be?

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 76-77). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q How does the thought that you are unfinished and therefore imperfect encourage you?

It removes so much pressure, it allots room for error and grace, and it reminds me that just like I am not perfect I must not expect perfection from others. It reminds me that no matter how perfect I try to word a caption perfectly or hand letter perfectly, someone will always have something to criticize because NOTHING I do is ever truly perfect. It gives me freedom to let go of their comments and unwanted opinions because I cannot please everyone because again I am not perfect and neither are they.

Lysa bravely sent the photo of her painting to others, not for validation but for self compassion to know that it is imperfect and that is okay.

We must get to this place of self-compassion if we ever hope to have true, deep compassion for others. Disappointment begs us to be secretly disgusted with everything and everyone who has gaps, everything and everyone who also wrestles with the “not good enough” script. But what if instead of being so epically disappointed with everyone, we saw them in need for compassion?

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 77-79). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q Who needs your compassion for their imperfections? How can you extend compassion to them?

All of the people who have intentionally or unintentionally invalidated the isolation and lifestyle shift EDS has brought me by saying, “it must be nice to stay at home in bed all day and watch netflix.” I can extend compassion for their ignorance by not being petty to those learning how to cutivate life and routine in quarantine and show them how I have learned to live life at home intentionally. 

Q In what ways and small steps can you work to show yourself compassion?

I can start my day with His living Word and hear what He has to say to me before the world has time to overwhelm me. I can also set up a good support system to help me work through things when I am being too hard on myself. I can choose grace over guilt resting in the fact that as long as I did my best, that is all He wants from me; if it’s good enough for Him it should be good enough for me.

Our time spent showing up and choosing to speak life into someone will never be wasted. You may not see the fruit that will come from those seeds of compassion that you planted, but they matter and will grow. Even our own disappointments can grow into something good when we give God the dust we can’t do anything with. Our hurt allows us to connect with others and find community, nothing is more beautiful than talking to someone who gets it. As Lysa went to an art show after she had tried painting she had a completely different perspective on the magnitude of bravery this artist had to display her works.

I now knew to stand before each painting with nothing but love, amazement, and delight. I refused to demand anything more from the artist. I just wanted to show up for every single piece, she was so brave to put on display. I fought against any negative thought as if I were fighting away a hound of hell from taking even the slightest bit of ground. Might I just be courageous enough to stand before her work and require myself to find everything about it I love? Release my clenched fist and pouty disappointments, and trade my “live up” mentality for a “show up” one? It’s so much more freeing to simply show up and be a finder of good….

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 80-81). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

And that’s where we must make a crucial decision: what will we do with disappointment? Will we see it as an unraveling of the precision we long for? A mockery of perfection? An unbecoming? Another disappointment to add to all the other disappointments we constantly feel? Or, will we see the human behind the ink? The heart that dared to hold the brush dripping with color. Remember that she was the courageous one. That she was the one who showed up. Took the risk. Braved the secret disappointments of others. And lived. And made her mark. 

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 81-82). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q If how we show up for a painting is a reflection on the way we show up for people, how are you going to show up?

I am going to appreciate every single person who shares their journey and show up with understanding, not advice. Even if we share the same diagnosis I am going to remember that how she handles, experiences, and treats her illness is none of my business. I don’t have to agree with how she and her team is treating the illness or with how she is handling it to value her as a person. Cheering her on doesn’t take away from those cheering me on. There is enough confetti for everyone. 

We are called to compassion as women of God. He will use every disappointment to allow you to become more compassionate and share His hope in a way only you can do because you know what it feels like to hold that same devastating disappointment. As we bravely attempt to do this, Lysa has some final reminders for us:

Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t even pretend it’s even possible. Don’t apologize or strategize. And don’t minimize that you are crushing fear and judgement with every stroke. You are walking the way of the artist. You are simply showing up with compassion.

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp. 85). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Here are some things to remember as we close this chapter:

While God converts with Truth, the enemy perverts Truth.

God wants us transformed, but the enemy (satan) wants us paralyzed.

To create means that I look a little bit like my creator.

God doesn’t expect perfection, so we shouldn’t expect it from ourselves and others.

We must get to a place of self-compassion if we hope to ever have true, deep compassion for others.

Quiet moments of compassion are epic moments of battle.

We must trade our “live up” mentality for a “show up” one.

People need to know God’s compassion is alive and well and winning the epic battle of good versus evil. 

TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (pp.86). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Prayer from Lysa:

Father, I don’t want to let disappointment and heartbreak cause me to approach this life more cautious than creative. More critical than compassionate. More cynical than surrendered. Thank you for the ways You tenderly meet me in my brokenness and my pain. And thank you for reminding me that I still have light and beauty to offer to this world. Today, I am choosing to grab the brush. No attempts at perfection. No apologizing or strategizing. Just me. Lighting up this world with my color. Showing up with your compassion and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.