Even In Our Most Difficult Seasons We Are Never Alone
Even in our darkest seasons we are never alone. In this post I share the story of how God found me in one of the most difficult seasons of my life, and the way in which my faith and my art together have been helping me heal and move forward.
“For everything there is a season…..”
A truth that I’m sure most of us have heard at one time or another, yet one that is nevertheless hard – sometimes very hard – to embrace.
Especially when it feels as though the season of life you are currently in, is never-ending.
That is where I am right now, and where I’ve pretty much been for the last few years.
I’ve been calling it my “season of change,” because if there is one thing that has remained constant these last few years, it’s that my life has been constantly changing.
I’ve also been calling this my “season of endings,” because it seems as though most of the changes in my life have been endings in one way or another.
While I recognize that change is a part of life, and endings are a part of life, many of the changes & endings that I have been experiencing have been so profound, and in some cases so sudden, that they have left me feeling almost undone.
Change is something that I have struggled with for all my life.
In many ways I tend towards a Type A personality, which Wikipedia describes as follows: outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics”. They push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.
Other than the whole “highly status-conscious” thing (which I’m not), everything else is pretty on-target. Which is why this season that I’m in has been hitting me so hard.
I love to plan. I want to know what’s coming – at the very least have a general idea – and I typically try to map out the details for every possible eventuality (as much as I can, anyways).
But how do you plan, or even figure out your next step when your situation can change, and often does change, from one day to the next, or even one moment to the next?
I am also an accomplishment junkie. Some of my highest “highs” and lowest “lows” are often tied to how much I have, or have not accomplished.
The biggest problem I tend to have with this though, is that not just anything satisfies my idea of “accomplishment.”
If you are, or have been a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom, or a caregiver, then I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that I have a hard time seeing things like cleaning, laundry, cooking, shopping, errands, etc. as “real” accomplishments.
At heart, I am a dreamer. I am the daughter of entrepreneurs and I have felt called towards entrepreneurship for as long as I can remember. Most of my dreams have centered around entrepreneurship and I have always believed that having my own business is the key to crafting the life of my dreams.
Between 2005 until 2015, I felt pretty good about where I was in terms of working towards my dreams.
But then it all changed towards the end of 2015.
At that point in time I was a work-at-home mom, running a successful online art-based business, and I had recently celebrated 10 years in business. At the time I had about 12 people working for me, and I was still working on actively growing my business.
I had a live-in nanny who took care of most of the household work, allowing me the time I needed to focus on my business.
My grandfather – “Papa” had moved in with us in 2008, and he too was a huge help. He drove the kids to and from most of their activities, and took care of a number of household errands.
Then, within a time span of about a month – in December of 2015 – two life-changing events happened.
The first was that our live-in nanny left (on good terms). Her husband had arrived from the Philippines, so she moved out, and at the same time decided to go back to school to pursue a career as a hair stylist.
The second thing that happened was that my grandfather lost his license. Shortly after that, and probably precipitated by that, he began to decline physically.
Suddenly, I was in a position of having a business that required 40-60 hours a week of my time, and I no longer had help or support on the home front.
So, I made the decision that I felt was the best for my family.
I shut down my business.
Overnight, my reality changed. For the next two years, my reality kept changing, and to this day, continues to change.
Hence why I have been calling this my “season of change.”
Today my reality is that I am a full-time mom to 5 kids (ages 9, 11, 15, 18 and 19), and life with them is crazy busy. I always thought that when we passed the baby and toddler stage, once the kids were in school, things would slow down a bit. The truth is that I have more “mom” things to do now than I ever did before (this is a heads-up for parents of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers).
My reality is that I am a full-time caregiver to my now 97 year old grandpa. Although he can still get around slowly with his walker, he is totally dependent on our family for pretty much all of his needs – much of his personal care, and all of his laundry, housekeeping, meals, errands and appointments.
My reality is that my husband works super long hours, travels about 6 months of every year, and has a schedule that’s constantly changing. Which means that on the home front, I’ve been pretty much alone in the “trenches.”
My reality is that we have a big household, in a not-quite-big-enough house. When my sister and her two little boys (ages 9 and 12) moved in with us this past summer, it brought our household total up to 11 people and a dog.
There is no free room in the house, and we have people living on all three levels!
Although my sister has been a HUGE help in the day to day running of the house and with Papa, our household dynamic has completely changed. As close as we are, and as much as we love each other – we are still two very different people. It’s one thing to talk on the phone and visit each other, and a totally different thing to actually live together. It’s not bad, just different. It takes getting used to.
I think the most challenging thing has been the mix of her two lively boys with our 2 lively little boys (plus the other 3 kids). The “liveliness factor”……or should I say the “chaos factor”…..a hundredfold. There’s arguing and bickering, and I’m not sure what it is about having so many little boys together, but many days it feels like their brains got left somewhere behind.
Kinda like Dr. Seuss’ Thing One and Thing Two, only we have Thing One, Two, Three and Four!
It’s sort of funny now (not exactly funny ha-ha), but when I think back to the beginnings of this “season of change” – early 2016 – I remember actually being kind of excited at first.
Although I loved my business, it was VERY demanding. Even with all the help I had, the combination of actively working to grow my business while also trying to be there for my family were taking their toll on my physical, mental and emotional health.
I figured that this new season in my life would give me the opportunity to start over.
I would be able to care for and nurture my family, I would have more time for self-care AND I could build a more sustainable online business.
A business, that in my “secret heart” I wanted to eventually grow into the business that would bring my husband home.
As you can probably guess, that’s not how it worked out.
Starting a business was easy. I am a woman of many passions and interests, so choosing one wasn’t hard.
The elephant in the room – the issue I did NOT want to face – was that no matter how passionate you are, building a business, no matter how “small” or “sustainable” you want it to be, takes time.
LOTS of time.
For awhile, I stubbornly persisted.
I tried business after business, including:
- A food and nutrition blog (in my former life, my profession was as a Registered Dietitian, and I used to have a private nutrition consulting business).
- I went back to Stampin’ Up! – where my first venture into the online world of business all started – teaching online card classes.
- I tried teaching web design to artists (since I love tech, and I design and build all my own websites)
- I offered Coaching for artists and creatives wanting to start online businesses.
With each one, I ended up calling it quits after only a few months – and always for one of two reasons. Either it wasn’t a right business fit (passion and business don’t always mix), OR, and more typically, I just didn’t have enough time.
In fact I didn’t even have enough time to do all the “mom” things, “granddaughter” things, and “house” things that needed to be done.
Instead of seeing my experiences as a life and learning process or as an opportunity for growth, I internalized them as “failures.”
The thing is, when you allow yourself to think in terms of “failure” for long enough, you start to believe that YOU are a failure.
I felt like a failure as a mom, a failure as a caregiver, a failure as a grandaughter, a failure as an entrepreneur….pretty much a failure as a person
It’s not logical I know, but it’s what happened.
And when you see yourself as a failure, you stop trying, and your spirit slowly begins to wither.
It’s such a slippery slope.
Tired of “failing,” I gave up on pursuing my dreams of entrepreneurship.
I also pretty much gave up on dreaming about a life that was anything other than the life I was living.
Instead, I convinced myself that all I was, and all would every be – now and and in the foreseeable future – was a Mom, Caregiver, Chef, Laundress, Housekeeper, Chauffeur, Secretary, Errand-Girl…….
Those things were ALL I did.
Day after day, after day.
Until I was suffocating under the sameness of it all.
I had been the girl who loved to dream.
I became the girl who had forgotten how to dream.
And then in the midst of my despair, came heartbreak.
I suddenly and unexpectedly lost both my brother-in-law (my husband’s brother), and my Aunt – the mom I had often wished I had, especially after I lost my own mom.
In that same time period, a very dear family member suddenly began to struggle – unexpectedly declining physically – quite rapidly. We have no answers yet as to why, or even what the future holds.
Despair and heartbreak are a deadly combination.
I came so close to shattering.
I guess in a way, I did shatter.
The book of Ecclesiastes talks about the seasons in our life:
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
“A time to die,” a “time to kill,” “a time to tear down,” “a time to cry,” “a time to mourn,” and “a time to turn away” – that was all I was seeing in my life.
Instead of seeing what was still good and what was still beautiful in my life, all I could focus on was what I had lost and what I hated about my life.
That is why I have also been in a season of quiet.
No instagram posts. No Facebook posts. No Pinterest Posts. No Blog posts.
And virtually no art.
Every time I would sit down and try to write, the words wouldn’t come.
I would sit down and try to create, and far too often the canvas remained blank. My supplies untouched.
I had silenced my muse.
My spirit felt empty.
I was at the end of myself………
And then I felt it, I felt Him.
I heard Him.
A still small voice.
Barely a whisper.
Be still and know that I am God. ~Ps. 46:10
I had forgotten.
I had forgotten that in the midst of the pain…..
In the midst of the sorrow…….
In the midst of the loss……
In the midst of the endings…..
In the midst of the uncertainty…..
There is One who is with us, and has been with us – all along – even when we’ve felt completely alone.
There is One who is waiting.
Waiting to offer comfort.
Waiting to fill us with His strength….
I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I am here to help you. ~Isaiah 41:13
God is waiting.
To reach out and accept what He is offering.
Life. Love. Hope. Peace. Comfort. Encouragement. Joy.
You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. ~ Jer. 29:13
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ~ Matt 7:7-8
For every ending, God offers us a new beginning.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:19
All we have to do is to reach out to Him………
And that is what I did.
I reached out my hand, and took hold of His.
It was enough.
He was enough.
I realized that I am enough.
Although I still don’t know what tomorrow will bring….
I still don’t know where my life is going….
I am okay with that because God has filled me with a new hope.
I had allowed myself to forget that God wants us to love our life.
I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10 (paraphrased)
We – the human race – were created to dream.
God WANTS us to dream.
Not just little dreams, but BIG dreams.
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! ~ Eph. 3:19-20 (The Message Bible)
Dreams that move beyond the little box of what we think we can do.
Dreams that aren’t limited by our current reality.
But FIRST we have to reach out to Him.
To seek Him.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well. ~ Matt. 6:33
I know that I know that I know that God has a new beginning for me.
A new dream.
A bigger dream.
No, my reality hasn’t changed, but my perspective has.
As I wait on Him to reveal His glorious plans for my life, I am focusing on two things: seeking God and living in the present moment.
One day at a time, one step at a time….
……..and I am now – finally – creating one piece of art at a time…..
As I’ve been creating, I’ve been praying, healing, processing, re-connecting….dreaming.
And in this process, I’ve realized that together, art and faith are powerful.
They can help us move from brokenness towards wholeness.
As I have been creating, I have been feeling myself slowly emerging.
And that is what my artwork today represents.
The dry parched ground represents the way my spirit was – how this season in my life had left me feeling.
The seedling represents new beginnings and the hope that God has planted in me anew.
I am reminded that no matter how difficult this season……
No matter how long…..
Scripture reassures me that “this too shall pass,” and new seasons will come.
Today I am finally able to write.
My “time to speak” has come.
My “time to heal” is here.
My “time to plant and my time to harvest,” “my time to laugh” and “my time to dance” will come too.
As will yours.
There are many difficult roads on the journey of life, but faith makes it infinitely easier.
I have decided that even though I don’t yet know where I am going, or where this will lead, or even what I will do exactly….. I am beginning again.
I have archived all my old work and all my old posts here: archives.andreawalford.com, and will begin my fresh new journey here.
I won’t be making any grand declarations about where I’ll be taking this blog (as I have in the past), because I honestly don’t know.
Will it turn into a new business? Perhaps. But this time, instead of pushing it, I will wait on God to open the doors He chooses.
In the meantime, I have been feeling God calling me to share my story, and the ways in which He is working in my life.
I have been feeling called to share my art, and the way in which art is helping me process my life and my experiences, and how it is helping me move along the path of healing towards wholeness and joy.
I have been feeling called to share with you the many ways in which we can use art – and the gift of our creativity – to deepen, celebrate and share our faith, and worship our Almighty and Loving Creator.
So that is what I will be doing here on my blog – Artsy Faith.
I will be sharing my stories and my art.
I will be sharing my faith.
I will be sharing what I’ve learned, and what I’m learning.
I will be sharing encouragement and inspiration and I will be sharing art tutorials.
Above all, I will be sharing about how I am finding healing and purpose by connecting my art to my faith and my faith to my life.
And if you are interested in what I have to share, then I invite you to sign up for my new email newsletter at the bottom of this post.
I am starting my email newsletter list completely from scratch again as I don’t want to make any assumptions that people who subscribed in the past will be interested in what I have to share now.
So what will I be sharing?
I will be sharing weekly-ish inspiration, encouragement and teachings on art and faith. The newsletter may also include special offers and information about upcoming classes (if that is where God leads me).
As I close this post, it is my prayer that if you are on a similar path, by sharing my journey, you will feel God’s touch in your own life.
Heavenly Father, may Your hands be my hands, and Your words, be my words. Let my story speak to those who need to hear from You. Let my art encourage those who need to feel your touch. Help me to reflect You in all that I say and all that I do. May my words and my art bring honor and glory to You. In Jesus name, Amen.
KEEP IN TOUCH