"The Sorrow, the Sunshine and the little Studio."
My heart is written below. Each time I write this, it never gets easier because it reminds me of the pain and the sorrow I've walked through, but I'm able to see God's big sunshine love too. Thank you God for your love. May I never forget all you have done.
The Summer of 2002
My "Sunshine Sparkle World" came tumbling down the summer of 2002. I was 31 years old and had been trying to get pregnant for the past two years. I went to the doctor to get a routine blood test and then found out my blood platelets were too high. They were 3 million and should be 300,000 (parts per cubic milliliter). The doctor told me if I had been pregnant, it would likely have been "catastrophic" meaning the baby and I could have died. I realized that all those weeks that turned into months that turned into two years of praying to get pregnant, God was saving my life. He was saying "no" in order to give me life.
The blood test showed I either had leukemia or a rare blood disease and I waited for two weeks to find out if I had a short life sentence or a longer one. Those two weeks seemed like forever, but Mike and I were optimistic and the doctor called to tell me I had Essential Thrombocythemia, a rare blood disease, and I would have to be on meds the rest of my life. I started my meds, my energy was depleted, and I felt like an 80-year old in a 31-year old body. My joints ached, and I felt a heaviness like nothing I've ever had. It was hard... really hard. I was also told that I could never get pregnant because the medicine I was taking would be too dangerous for the baby and for me.
The life I had known and the life that I was hoping for had just disappeared.
Four weeks later, my dad went in for a fairly routine surgery but something went wrong—my dad quit breathing and was left with a severe brain injury. Little did I know my 59-year old sparkle eyed, love- filled dad would be gone. My new dad was now lying in the hospital bed and would require care like a 2-year old for the next 11 years.
The landscape of my life changed. Deepest of deep sorrow surrounded me, yet I had to hold on to hope. I was about to make a journey I had never been on. I was about to see life with new eyes. This was not what we thought our 30's would be like—having babies, being healthy and enjoying life to the fullest. I was a 31-year old who felt very old, elderly old. I had trouble breathing, I went to the ER twice with a resting heart rate over 180. I was so scared. Yet, I was so tired... a tiredness that was really hard to explain, and I felt alone. So this journey was a journey of sorrow. But I could feel God holding me. I could still feel the strength and love of the Almighty. And He was not finished with my story.
The Fall of 2002: How art started the healing.
In the fall of 2002, Mike and I headed to our favorite beach on Highway 30A for a much needed getaway. After all the pain of the summer, going to the beach was like a breath of fresh air in so many ways.
The place was magic. Just being at this beach was like getting an IV of sunshine in my body.
It had bike trails that led to the beach or to secret gardens through winding pathways. Pastel and bright colored homes lined the little roads and each house had a specially designed picket fence. It was happy land to me!
But what made me even more happy was knowing I'd see the creations of a certain artist, Nancy Swann Drew. She lived at the beach part time, and I loved everything she painted. Her paintings were joyful and carefree and fun and bright! Nancy Drew's paintings were everywhere at the beach. They were painted on buildings and on doorways and pillows and posters and canvases. She was an "Artist in Residence" at Seaside. She was magical to me!
I loved her art so much and couldn't afford an original so thought maybe I could buy a print. I talked Mike into trading a dinner out for an art print and so thankful he agreed to this crazy request. And I remember almost skipping up to the counter to pay for my new art print by the famous Nancy Drew of Seaside, Florida!
When the lady behind the counter happily told me that Nancy painted with acrylic and sharpie marker, a light bulb went off in my head! I thought, "maybe I can do that!" So I went back to Birmingham carrying in my heart this new excitement to create! I bought sharpie markers, some cheap paint and wooden boards and started my art career... well, it wasn't really that simple.
But something big was sparked on that trip. I set up a little studio in our guest bedroom and started painting. I bought a book called Paint Happy and between the free spirited painting of Paint Happy and the fun, carefree painting of Nancy Swann Drew, I started developing my own style.
God was at work! He was guiding my heart to this entire new world of art land. And God shined through those clouds of pain and heartache. As I sat in the swivel chair in my little studio and as I picked up the paint brush adding color and design to the wood boards, the heaviness, the joint pain, the flu-like sick feeling suddenly went away when I created. I would lose myself in the magic of painting and forget the pain for that time. It was a true gift... It was straight from God's heart. Sunshine was happening.
I was on the road to paint world and the journey was just beginning.