Clarity, Freedom, and a Confession…

    It was like peering into a kaleidoscope, the colors swirling, twisting in riotous motion, until, in the blink of an eye, the pieces drop into a perfectly symmetrical pattern rivaling the circular stained glass window of the Notre Dame cathedral, so achingly beautiful that you can see it long after you’ve blinked and set the toy down.

    It was like driving down a country road in autumn, each vista of leaf, mountain, and cloud more beautiful than the last, till you turn a corner…the trees are nearly touching overhead, the glorious sunlight filtering down, touching each leaf, every vein standing out in sharp relief, every detail so clear that the leaves and trees seemed touched with fire. It takes your breath away, and you shut your eyes as if you could memorize that moment forever.

    I can only describe the clarity I felt in terms of something else.

    It was so achingly beautiful and clear that I just stood in place for the longest time. I can’t even remember what I was doing. It was on the trip, I do remember. Maybe it was in the mountains? I’ll never know.


I am free. My worth lies in Him alone.

    That was the thought. It hit me so hard that I took deep breaths and fought back tears at the glory and graciousness of it. 

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' 
Acts 17:24-28

This is where the confession comes in- my middle name is Jonah. Peek behind the veil of this blog and see me as I really am: in real life I struggle mightily in social situations. I suffer from chronic foot-in-mouth disease, for one, and for two, I often come across as a know-it-all.  About three years ago now, some horrible things were said to and about me that burned me deeply (the most damaging was the fact that it was at the hand of other believers). I was also suffering from post-partum depression with my second son. To say I shut down doesn’t even quantify- I became a hermit to a horrible extent of the term. The only people I talked to were my husband and my mother. For three years. I attended church, but I refused to be in relationship with other believers.  I did not go out, I stayed home with the kids and left only for errands. I was terrified, fearful. Fearful of what others thought of me. Fearful of failure. And slowly, my heart grew cold.

    Why do I say Jonah? The fact of the matter is, I am wired for relationship. I am wired for creativity. I am at my most fulfilled when I am able to bring peace to another through my art and writing. And every single time it has happened, I haven’t been in the way. A piece of art or a writing I have done, seemingly on a whim (I would argue that it was no whim, but the Spirit’s leading) having no intrinsic value to me, will strike a deep place in someone else, and they will come to me with tears in their eyes, thanking me, saying “I needed that today. God has blessed me though you.” But those moments have been precious few and far between. There have been many moments along those dark three years that God called me to do something specifically, and I said no. And why? Because it would mean that I would have to be in messy relationship with others. I’d have to be vulnerable. It would not be safe. It would mean my cracks and my failings would show. I find it interesting that over the last two years, I have been able to blog here in a very vulnerable fashion, because in real life, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps it has been the anonymity.  But for whatever the reason, I told God no to His plans for my life.  Relationships He wanted me to be in, jobs He sent my way but I turned down.

    I realize now that I was shackled, perhaps by bonds of my own making.  But the fundamental missing piece was something that I’ve always given lip service, but clearly never believed- I am in Christ. While I believed, I had not the confidence in my salvation, and so I lived a crippled, bereft life for three years, a shallow life of a believer for whom God was only Someone I met on Sundays. There was no beauty.

The ice has been thawing around my heart over the last year or so. But it was that moment of clarity that the ice pick penetrated and sent the last chunks flying into oblivion.


I belong to Christ. My identity is in Him. And Him alone.

Yes, I am a broken human being. Yes, I am going to mess up, have messed up, will mess up. People will say things. People will judge me. People, broken just as I am, will hurl stones my way that will hurt deeply. I will hurl stones their way, although I deeply desire not to do so. Pain, suffering, and sorrow will attend my days, just as it attends every other believer. We broken ones, we live in a broken world, wrecked by sin. But I know the end of the story. I know the Healer. I know the Son of Man who died that I might be free.


I am free. Free indeed.

The clarity: In Him, I am free to live and move and have my being. Free to take responsibility, to step out on faith, to fall down flat on my face after a horrible mistake, and then to stand back up. In His strength I can move forward.  I can stop trying to fit in human made boxes. I can stop trying to please the world, with its broken, twisted, off kilter definitions.

Free to be the child of God He wants me to be. Free to be mother, wife, friend. Artist, writer, photographer, poet. Manager, organizer, fixer-of-messes. Because that is where I am gifted, and it’s time I stopped running away from that.


  • Donna Barrow

    Dear sweet Joy, you are, in your freshness and frankness, a sip from a mountain spring to this worn and parched soul. Thank you for the time you spend writing and sharing… it blesses my day!

  • Mark Goodyear

    I definitely know what you mean about feeling like “God was someone you met on Sundays.” I’ve been there too. I’ll probably be there again at some point.
    Your post reminded me of the importance of artistic community. Making art can be so lonely. We need a community of two or three people we can trust to create together.
    Maybe you’ve found something like that in your blog?

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