On a crisp November afternoon, Ken and I grabbed our gear and our blue pup and headed off for a little overnight adventure. The Texas Hill Country did not disappoint as we hiked into our cozy campsite at Inks Lake State Park. After setting up camp we hiked to a nearby granite dome to watch the sunset. Even our dog, Caedmon, seemed enraptured by the show unfolding before us. Juicy peach and brilliant golden tones spread across the sky like watercolors. Wow, stunning, Lord! Of course, enjoying the quiet view alone with my man made it over the top dreamy. We watched until the sky just began to dim, and then stood up to grab our things and head back to camp.
It was only when we stood to turn around that the real show began! Right behind us, in the quiet east sky, was the biggest, most brilliant supermoon that either of us had ever seen. Huge, amber, and bright enough to make us squint. It appeared to be three times the size one would normally expect, and the features on the surface were as clear as the rocks under our feet. Unbeknownst to us, this particular night was a “Hunter’s Moon,” which turned out to be the second largest moon of 2017. Not only extraordinarily bright, a Hunter’s Moon is characterized by an unusually short time between sunset and moonrise. This is why we saw it instantly as soon as we turned around from our sunset view. As we watched with mouths gaping, we chuckled at God’s sweet surprise.
While we were just hoping to watch a nice sunset, God had plans to wow the entire northern hemisphere.
The sunset we were expecting to see turned out only to be the backside of the glory God intended to reveal that night. That particular type of gigantic, pumpkin-colored moon only happens once a year, and we were high up above beautiful Inks Lake in just the right place to experience it at its fullest. Ah, God’s secret, sneaky plans for His kids, simply because He loves to pour out grace.
Just a turn. A quick look in a different direction. A willingness to keep eyes open for something unexpected. A mental perspective shift. And all of the sudden everything seems to change. Or maybe it doesn’t. But somehow there’s a glimmer of hope from this view? Or a possibility yet unseen? Maybe something even more beautiful is waiting right behind you than what your laser focus allows when forward-facing?
Sometimes my struggle with the difficult things in life is simply a matter of poor perspective.
Perspective is a way of regarding something; an attitude, outlook, angle, or approach.
Do you ever need a fresh approach?
That problem, that irritation, that struggle, stronghold or interpersonal conflict, could it be that it all may be different- better?– if just viewed from a different angle?
Ken and I often tease that we see each other through “Jenny-colored” or “Kenny-colored” glasses. We love each other so much that the things we do to irritate one another are softened by these special “glasses.” One of us could be green with the flu and unshowered for days, yet these super-glasses still allow us to see the beauty in one another. How I’ve often thanked the good Lord for giving my man this vision!
What if I could see myself through God glasses?
How would His perspective on my life, my concerns, my worries be different than my own?
As I’ve thought and prayed through the areas in my life where I tend to hit discouragement the hardest, I’ve heard the Lord’s voice and His loving admonishment:
“Change your perspective. Fix your eyes on Me and not yourself.”
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2
Do your eyes ever get glassy and glazed from squinting too closely at your own imperfections?
Like one of those gigantic magnifying make up mirrors that show every. single. pore!?
By taking my eyes off myself and gazing into the eyes of my Maker, the emphasis on my unfinished places begins to diminish. In the light of His fresh face, I see things afresh. In light of His clear understanding, I see life with clarity. I begin to see how I am making things more difficult than they need to be by losing my Father’s divine perspective.
When I gaze upon God’s goodness and care, everything else is left in the peripheral.
Ken was practicing macro photography on a patch of wildflowers last spring when he came across a sweet little scene. A pretty moth was enjoying the nectar from a lovely but prickly pale lavender thistle. He got a great shot, and it inspired me to paint the little scene. The Lord gave me a teachable moment in both the scene as well as the painting.
Ken was focused close. He made an effort to pull up a piece of grass and concentrate hard on beauty in the tiny patch, where the surrounding scene was certainly nothing at all special. In fact, the camp bathrooms were just beyond him! He found the beauty in narrowing his gaze tightly onto his subject.
Yes, Lord, a narrow gaze firmly fixed on You. Letting the rest of the scene fall away. Letting outcomes, expectations tumble out of sight.
Ken accepted the view before him for what it was. The thistle was not a beloved Texas bluebonnet. The moth was not a gorgeous, brightly colored butterfly. But he chose to see the beauty in what was there, rather than throwing away the opportunity for a great shot in the hopes that something else, something more “typically lovely” may come along.
Yes, Lord, a grateful acceptance of what You have laid before me. Always searching for Your hidden beauty and accepting every good gift You offer. Accepting Your gifts even when they are different than my expectations. I’m starting to understand, Lord. I’m starting to turn around.
A few month ago I heard Sally Lloyd Jones speaking on a Family Life Today podcast. Sally is a wonderful, accomplished children’s book author. With such beautiful prose and lovely English accent, I can’t imagine a soul who wouldn’t be wooed by her charm. She is also wise with experience from walking with Jesus. I loved the playful interaction between her and the hosts, and I was surprised when I heard her voice turn firm.
“Whenever we read a story and then we say, ‘Well, what that story’s about…’—whatever we put on the other side of ‘about’—that becomes the only thing that story’s about. The minute we do that—it’s terrible, it’s the worst thing you could ever say. I’m passionate about that because of what that does— basically, you’ve decided what that story is about. You’ve decided what God might want to say to that child—but what if God wants to say something completely different?”
Sally’s challenge was just the same challenge that God has been extending to me. What if He wants to say something different than I expect? What if He wants to do something different than I expect? What if I’m so focused on what I’m just sure He’s going to say and do, that I never really hear His true message at all?
Not surprising, these concepts flow into my art, too.
I want to rip the paper, I want to hide my work, I want to burn my portfolio… when I’m self-focused.
I’m willing to accept my gifts and limitations, I want to keep growing, I’m brave to show others my work… when I’m Father-focused.
How about you?
Do you need to turn around?
Are you only looking at the backside of the glory God intended for your life?
Could there be something special waiting for you if you narrow your focus in tight to the gifts laid out before you?
Like me, do you need to let go of perfectionism and your own definition of beauty? Let go of expectations in order to have God’s vision for your life?
And so, we make a choice. Join me in choosing to turn toward His light.
“…I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” Philippians 4:12
Lord, help us to enjoy the moths and the thistles all around us. We are your clueless children, and you are happy to lovingly lead Your sheep in the ways that we should go. Forgive us for the sacrilege of daring to think we have You figured out. Give us God-colored glasses for all our days. And when we are lost in our own doubt and despair, show us Your glory. We choose to trust You.
This little piece of art was a challenge! The moth and thistle (Micron Pigma .05) went relatively smoothly, but then I decided to get creative with a watercolor background after getting the main subject drawn in. Not a good plan. In the end, I did not at all like how it turned out, and after many attempts to fix it in varies ways, I ended up painting over the entire background area with white gouache. That actually worked out pretty well! I still wasn’t sure how to finish the piece, so I laid it down for many months, and almost threw it away, but that little moth kept calling to me. Once the gouache was applied, I had a fresh white base to redraw foliage with only a little hint of the previously overly dominating hills, clouds, and trees. I used Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens to add the new foliage because repainting over gouache will reactivate it if you aren’t very, very careful. Finally, I felt it was finished! ANd hey, take a tip from my mistake, white gouache can cover all kinds of mistakes! A verse about contentment in all things just seemed to sum up perfectly Ken’s experience in taking the photo and my experience with painting it!