Finding What You Seek

Seeking and Sharing Your Story:

My spiritual memoir includes my bittersweet moments: the sadness mixed with the blessings. Writing in my journal helps me to seek the blessings in spite of the challenges of my life. It is my place to find hope.


My 27th Christmas was bittersweet. The sad part was that Christmas was going to be different soon. Once Craig and I were married we would share holidays. Sometimes, I knew I wouldn't even be with my mom and dad on Christmas day. Instead, I'd be celebrating with Craig’s family. I knew this was all a natural part of spending your life with someone. That didn't change the fact that I was still sad that some of my good things would have to change.

I have always loved Christmas in my parents’ home. We would always start the celebration with the little things. We'd take barrels of ornaments down from the attic. The tree would be chosen and left outside waiting. A few preliminary decorations were set about before the big day: colored lights were put around the kitchen window, stockings were placed in front of the fire place, mistletoe was hung above the French doors leading to the dining room, and the green, bell shaped music box with the silky tassel was hung from the living room door knob. The electric train came out to serve as a child’s much needed diversion in a sea of mounting excitement. Everyone would be eager. It was a wonderful time.

Even when something wonderful happens to you there is still some loss. It's wonderful to have a husband and a family but this new life comes with loss. In some cases, all I'm left with are good memories. These good memories matter to me. They are the reminders of the blessings God has given me and they are reminders that God is the giver of all good things. I am now finding that his wonderful, bittersweet new life I now have is because of Him. What kind of life do you have because of Him? What are your past and present blessings? Do you see God as the giver of all your good things? What is the source of what matters to you? How can your spiritual autobiography help you seek out blessings you might otherwise miss?

Sharing My Journey: Unexpected Blessings

Christmas Tree DecoratingAs children, we were sent to bed before the final Christmas touches were put in place. Now that I’m an adult I get to help with the very last details. My nephews are sleeping. We’re all excited to wake them so we can see their faces as they look upon the fully decorated tree, and its ocean of gifts, for the first time.

We wake my little nephews. They come downstairs and see it all. We delight in their delight. Then, we sing. We sing even though we can’t sing well. Together, we stand before the tree, fully loaded with blessings, and we sing about that silent night. We just sing one song, but it’s the best song. It’s a song that brings nostalgia mixed with hope. Hope that one holy night, when all was calm and unsuspecting, Jesus came. I feel indescribable peace. The fire crackles, our voices sing out of key, and I know why this night is so splendid. I am surrounded by the people I love the most, and I am certain that He is real. Every other good thing I can imagine pales in comparison, and all that matters to me is joined together in one glorious moment. Love surrounds us all and is all. Life, for one moment, is perfectly good.

Journaling

Sharing Your Journey: Finding Your Blessings

Pray and ask God for His help as you explore your story through spiritual memoir. List all the things that matter to you and circle what's most important. What do these choices say about what you value? How are they a reflection of your spirituality? 

Consider spiritual blessings as an aspect of your own spiritual story. How can spiritual blessings become a part of your spiritual autobiography? Are they a theme or a sidebar? Write down your thoughts about how God has blessed you.

Learning from Our Experiences: Learning Though Memoir

You can learn how to use spiritual memoir to learn about yourself. Spiritual autobiography can give you unexpected insight. 

People Praying in a Circle

The events that flame your spiritual development are often the unexpected ones. I remember my role as the Resident Director on my college campus. It was ironic that I became the Resident Director. Two hundred freshman students lived in the dorm with me. I was supposed to bring them stability, safety and predictability. It was amazing that I managed to do my job so well. I was so young and had so much to learn. It was a miracle that my life was any good for anyone.

Eventually I learned that I had much to offer my younger classmates. In high school everyone acted like they were perfect. Few people let their troubles be seen. At Pratt people were honest about their lives and they were not afraid to share. People knew all about my troubles, challenges and lack of experience. This didn't stop them from coming to me for support. We shared life honestly. Sometimes, I found that I was the one who was holding things together. This happened even on the days when I felt like I had nothing to offer.

Being the Resident Director changed my life. I learned that I didn't have to be perfect to matter. I learned that I could be imperfect and still make a difference in the world. I discovered that God would still use me in spite of my limitations. From this experience grew much spiritual development.

Spiritual journeys are influenced by many factors. What experiences changed your life and became a source of spiritual development? What experiences changed and shaped your self perception? How has God used you through these experiences and taught you things you needed to know to grow? What have you learned from being brave enough to explore your story?

Sharing My Journey: Learning From My Experiences

Being the R.D., my room has been strategically placed by the freshman boys' community bathroom. I'm supposed to keep my ears open to head off drunken behavior and bathroom brawls. The boys are loud in the bathroom twenty four hours a day. The noise makes sleeping through the night so much harder.

I'm really tired. I drink the cold medicine that comes in the freshman welcome pack. It makes me tired at first and I fall asleep, but I don't sleep for very long. I wake up a few hours later with my heart racing. I'm feeling sick, I'm exhausted, and I'm on overdrive. It's useless to go back to bed. I'm too revved up.

I turn on a lamp and I work on a painting, I paint myself playing the flute. I wanted to learn how to play the flute so my parents got me one for my birthday. A friend gives me flute lessons in the chapel once a week. Sometimes I play songs from a hymnal. I can't sing very well so the flute is my voice. I try to paint how I feel when I'm playing hymns on my flute. I feel like I'm playing a song just for God and He's watching me. I feel like He likes what He sees.

Woman with Flute
My Voice
Age 21

Journaling

Sharing Your Journey: Learning From Your Experiences

Experiences, and the emotions they arouse in us, can thwart spiritual development. These same experiences can change our spiritual journeys and become an impetus for spiritual growth. What happens to us and inside of us, good or bad, can have an important place in our spiritual autobiographies. And, for most of us, life experiences are connected to how we feel and think. It’s all a part of our story.

What experiences have changed you the most? Think of your biggest life defining moments and life changing experiences. Write them down in your journal. Rank each event according to its influence. Ask God to guide you as you decide which event has had the greatest impact on you. Think about the feelings that surround this event and list them. Journal about this important experience.

Change Your Life: Change and You Can Be New

Learn how to change your life through spiritual autobiography, or spiritual memoir. You can begin by sharing how life changes are part of your story. This page will help you share these important changes within your spiritual journal.

Front Porch with Garden PaintingOne of my big life changes became a big life changer for me. My first job, as an elementary school teacher, influenced my spiritual path in powerful ways. I remember how I loved my job as an elementary school teacher, but I was exhausted when I got home. I had an hour commute to work and my work day didn't end until 6pm when the after school program ended. I got back home to my parent’s house at 7pm, ate, graded some papers and got to bed to rest up for another busy day.

My life as a woman in her twenties was not very different from my life in my teens. Some things just hadn't changed. Some things that needed to change had become more problematic. I could see the need for change in my life, but I wasn't sure how to bring this change about. I wanted my life, and some parts of myself, to change in big ways. I was searching for a way to better balance in my life, but I couldn't find it. I needed a solution. 

I saw the need for change in my life but I didn’t know where to begin. Fortunately I had someone to guide me toward needed change: a God who wanted me to find my way out of the place I was in. He was the constant in my life. He was the force behind my spiritual autobiography long before I even realized I had a story to tell.

The challenges in our lives can become the fuel for our stories. What seems to be pulling us down, properly managed, can become a gift that gives us and others hope. Spiritual autobiography is an opportunity for us to share our journeys (including the good, the bad and the ugly) so that others like us will find hope and encouragement. Don't be afraid of the force behind your spiritual autobiography. Light can be found in the darkness. Hope is often found where we least expect it. Change someone else’s life. Change your life. Tell your story.

Sharing My Journey: My Life Changing Moments

At my parents’ home I have a bed. It looks quaint and unassuming. Really, it’s a place of torment. Strange, disturbing and horrible dreams are my nighttime reality. In my dream world I’m often helpless. Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning or suffocating.  My dreams have been odd like this since I was little kid. I’ve always had weird dreams.

Nothing has changed in my nighttime world except that things have gotten worse. I still fall asleep quickly, and frequently, but I don’t stay asleep. I often wake up screaming and sweating. My heart will be pounding within my chest making it impossible for me to fall back asleep. Until my heart stops racing it’s not even worth bothering to try closing my eyes. Sometimes I’ll stay awake until the sun comes up. I’m too afraid to go back to bed because I know the nightmares will keep coming if I do. These are the worst nights because exhaustion hits early and with a heaviness that stays with me right through the next day. When the next night comes there’s no guarantee that rest will come. In fact, it almost never comes.

I need a change. I can’t live my life like this anymore. I need to get some help. There’s got to be a reason why I’m awake all night long. There’s got to be a reason for my terrible dreams. I’m reaching out for help. There have to be answers. Today, I’ve decided, is the day I’m going to find them. Today is the day my life is going to change.

 Child Pink Bed
Normal
Age 23

Journaling

Sharing Your Journey: Explore Your Life Changing Moments

We have someone to guide us toward needed change: a God who wants us to find our way out of the messes we’re in. He is the constant in our lives. We are not the same people we once were, because God is constantly driving us toward change despite our circumstances.

Throughout your life you have changed in many ways. At the same time, some things about you have remained constant. Are you happy with this consistency? Why or why not? Record your thoughts within your journal. Invite God to help you where change is needed.

Find a place for change within your spiritual story. Celebrate the wonderful ways you are different than you once were. Allow your spiritual autobiography to tell others about how you have changed and still hope to change. Expect others to hear your story and find that they are not alone. Don't be surprised if you inspire someone to change!

Searching: Search for Miracles

You can find miracles through spiritual journaling! This page can help you use a spiritual journal to write about the miracles in your story. Even if your story is full of struggles, you can look for the miracles within your journal.

Black Horse with Wings

It was probably hard for people to understand how I still believed in miracles, but I did. I knew people who believed that God didn't exist, and that’s how they explained why I wasn't getting better. They didn't believe in miracles anymore or they never did. I had spent my life waiting for the “big miracle” to come my way. I had waited for the miracle of being healed so that I could sleep and have peace. Then I realized that I might be misjudging what the “big miracle” was.  Maybe Jesus had already answered me but he didn’t do it in the way I had thought he would. Maybe I had missed the miracle because I was waiting for something different. Perhaps it had been right in front of my face all along. Perhaps the “big miracle” was that somehow I still believed in miracles. 

Today I still believe in miracles. That doesn't mean that I've been completely healed or that God has taken away all my troubles. In fact, I still struggle with a lot of stuff that I have been asking God to fix for much of my life. Most of the miracles in my life are more subtle than a "big healing" or an instant fix. My faith in God in the presence of pain and disappointment is my miracle. All along I haven't really been searching for a God who will fix my life. What I've really been searching for is a God who loves me enough to answer my prayers in His best way. I no longer worry whether other people see God alive and active in my life. I don't need their affirmation to hold up my faith. My God is a God of miracles regardless of what anyone thinks.

Sharing My JourneyExamples of Miracles in My Life

I begin a new painting. I play with perspective. Some like my skewed views and others criticize them. They say I'm technically immature, or they say I'm advanced beyond my years. I decide it's not a good idea for me to pay attention to what "they" think. Vitality could be lost in an attempt to make every line do what it's supposed to do. If I copy what I see and I copy it well, but it's not passionate, then what have I achieved?

I'm tired of pleasing others and that’s a miracle. If there's one place I'm not going to satisfy everyone else it's on my canvas. I have a place where there are no rules and no people I care to appease. It's the one place where I feel completely free. It's the place where only what I want matters. I'm impervious to judgments and criticisms. Think or say what you want about what I create. I don't care. You can't touch me here.

I have a place where I can go where everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter and that is one gigantic miracle. Maybe, by modern day standards, my miracle isn’t “big enough” to qualify as a miracle? Maybe, the idea of a “religious” miracle seems like an accident or chance? I guess it depends on your definition of a modern day miracle. For me, when God moves and changes my life, that’s a miracle for yesterday, modern day and tomorrow. My miracles come stripped of “religious” expectations: God can love anyone (including me) from anywhere without rules and restrictions. When it comes to simple, straight forward, unadulterated modern day miracles, I’m a believer!

Victorian House Painting
Completely Free
Age 24

Journaling

Sharing Your Journey: Finding Examples of Miracles in Your Life

One's definition of a modern day miracle is often limited to the complete healing from stage three cancers or the paraplegic who walks again. A broader definition of miracles can surprise us and show us that miracles really do happen. When friends forgive us, when a child is born, when the seasons change, and when great joy is experienced, you are in the presence of a miracle. Look for the miraculous in your life and make it a part of your spiritual story.

We long for miracles. We long for the miraculous. Many of us long for a God that proves that He is real. God is not a fairy tale and, when it comes right down to it, we are hungry for a God who makes our life miraculous.

What miracles do you long for? Jot down these wishes and desires and consider what they say about your spirituality. Write a letter to God about your wants and needs. Ask Him to help you find deep satisfaction. Believe that God wants to do a modern day miracle in your life. Believe that He wants to be the answer to your wishes, desires, wants and needs. Trust that He can bring you the miracle of deep satisfaction. Believe that God has a place for miracles right inside your spiritual story. Believe that He can make the miraculous part of your spiritual autobiography.

Receiving: Receive Goodness From Your Spiritual Autobiography

Make your spiritual autobiography a place to write about your memories! Learn how your spiritual journal is a great place to keep track of your memories. Use this page as a starting place for finding a place for these memories in your spiritual memoir.

Memories Art

Memories are a mixed bag for me. I write about my mixed bag memories inside my spiritual journal: the good and the bad. Things I have dreamed and prayed for have come true in my life. Some of these things have made permanent changes in my life. They are permanent and wonderful changes that answer desires that have been a long time in coming. Others end up not being quite the miracle I thought they would be. They are temporary answers and respites on a long road to greater maturity and healing. Sometimes these answers make for memories that are hard to embrace.

My life isn't perfect. In fact, it's very broken. At the same time, I am surrounded by abundant blessings. I live my daily life in the tension of these two realities: beauty and brokenness. When I wrote Dancing in the Doghouse I did my best to explore this tension because it's such a part of all our lives. I wanted Dancing in the Doghouse to be a story others could relate to and find themselves in. I want my spiritual autobiography to be a celebration of the tension of these "two realities" so that people will see (through my life) that life is good despite its difficulties.

Writing about memories is an opportunity to you to explore the tensions of your own life. What is the life tension that you live in? What are the good and bad realities that surround you? How can you start receiving the goodness in your life in spite of the pain? How can you make this “celebration of goodness" a part of your spiritual autobiography?

Sharing My Journey: Good Things Inside My Spiritual Memoir

My “Womb Series” is a reflection on my connection with the life growing within me. I create differently. I’m dabbling in abstraction. I mix sand in my paints to add texture. I use vibrant colors against dark outlines. Flowing shapes fill the rectangular frame. I work quickly and boldly. Along with the new life growing inside me I find a new way to express things. I feel like everything is completely different and completely new. I want my art to resonate of the change that is happening in me and to me.

I’d always rejected the idea that there is a subconscious element to what I create. Now that I look back on what I’ve been making, I realize that what I’ve made is a series of paintings that echo the shape and form of a womb. It’s somewhat embarrassing how obvious it is. I realize just how unconscious I am. I laugh at myself and my foolishness. I really believed that everything I created was completely conscious and deliberate. My “Womb Series” betrays my pride. I see there is more to my interior world than I can understand. There is so little about myself that I actually comprehend.

My foolishness aside, I enjoy my new creations. They mark a time of expectation. I’m excited to have my little girl. Yet, I know that right now she is closer to Heaven than she will be again until she passes on. She’s warm inside of me and she’s with me all the time. She has everything she needs and knows nothing of longing or pain. Her world is perfect and I am her world. I’m glad I have my paintings, so I won’t forget how wonderful it has been to carry my first child inside of me. I’m glad I have them so I won’t forget the time when I could be everything my little girl needed and could keep her perfectly sheltered and safe. Being pregnant has been a wonderful mystery. I am abundantly grateful.

Womb Painting
Womb 
Age 28

Journaling

Sharing Your Journey: Good Things Inside Your Spiritual Story

Spiritual autobiography, or spiritual memoir, connects our memories and experiences to our spirituality. My spiritual autobiography, Dancing in the Doghouse, is an exploration and celebration of memories, blessings, and life experiences despite the challenges of my life. Connections between the past and the present helped me see how God was tangibly present on my spiritual journey. Telling my story solidified my faith and gave me an opportunity to thank God for the gifts and blessings of my story.

What are the greatest gifts and blessings you have received? Draw a rectangle on a page in your journal. Imagine that this rectangle is a gift box where you can recall all sorts of good memories. Fill it with all the gifts and blessings God has given you. When you are finished filling your box, consider what you have remembered. How do you feel about what you see? What do these feelings say about your spirituality? Write your answers to these questions in your journal. Ask God to help you celebrate the gifts He has given you. Ask Him how these gifts have a place in your story.

Story Sharing 2019


Universe, 2019

In a world where so many people are afraid of “different,” it is not surprising that people shame others for honestly being themselves. They say the “different” people believe lies. In a vast universe “different” looks an awful lot like truth to me. I want people to see a universe inside this painting: a universe where everyone is called to display their uniqueness and diversity. I want you to see a world where a person’s honest attempt at authenticity is held high—a place for everyone everywhere. People spend a lot of time thinking about what other people are doing wrong. All I can think is that I can never get it right: that no matter how hard I try to balance grace and truth, I fail. To make peace with this, I’ve decided to pick a side. My side is embracing grace over truth. Finally, it is no longer my job to figure you out. Figuring me out is challenging enough. Now we both get some grace from me. The universe just got a tiny, tiny bit better.

Learn more about "Universe, 2019" by visiting Journey on Canvas Blog. Just follow this link:
http://www.journeyoncanvas.com/dnn/Blog/tabid/166/EntryId/104/Grace-Journey.aspx



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God Work!

People Praying Together

People Praying in a Circle
Joined Together,
Age 42

Watching the news pains me. I am beginning to understand just how heavily we are divided as a nation and as a world. It has been a long time since I have experienced such a lack of connectedness with my family, friends, and community. I see that we are struggling to get back to a place where we are united by a common vision. I fear our joined prayers are weak: not strong enough to even begin to reach the place where they can be heard. Still, I hold fast to the idea that we can join together.

Imagine that somehow our prayers make a noise that reaches the heavens. Consider the possibility that as more voices join together, the greater the sound, and the more likely our petitions will reach the feet of God. Joined Together is about our united prayers being strong enough to reach God's ears. Nothing is required but the simple, peaceful act of holding hands, joining together and asking for help.

This God I speak of “joining with” is not my God. He is everyone’s God. In my heart, He does not divide by ethnicity, faith, sex, social status or political view. This God is OUR shared hope. Joined Together with Him I imagine a world where our prayers are not silent. I hear a sound loud enough to change the world.

Click on these Spiritual Autobiography Links: 

Spiritual Autobiography Articles


"Way Out" Work!

Jesus Opens Doors

Jesus Opens the Door
If I Can't, Jesus Can
Age 41

Sometimes I get stuck, and I can’t get out of the place I find myself. If it’s a bad situation, I don’t always realize that I shouldn’t leave. Or, I get over-involved in a problem that doesn’t even belong to me. I shouldn’t stay but I stay. Luckily, Jesus bails me out when I ask Him for help. He shows me what’s mine and what isn’t. He shows me the way out of what I’m knee deep in. Even if I’m over my head in the mire, Jesus pulls me right out. When I can’t open the door, He can.


Beautiful Work!

Spiritual Art

Christian Painting
Most Beautiful Place,
Age 41

I grew up surrounded by beauty. My backyard was a wonderful place full of life and color. I knew God through the incredibleness of it all. Today I sit on a stump in my old backyard, close my eyes, listen to the rustling of the leaves and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I know God through the incredibleness of it all. I’m five years old again, and I’m in the most beautiful place I’ve ever known.


Freedom Work!

Angel Picture

Angel with Feathers
Real Life Angels,
Age 38

I enjoy the freedom I find when I make art. I can't make any mistakes when I create. My creations don't talk back, they don't accuse and they don't judge. I get to decide what to make and how to make it. When I'm finished creating I feel like I've said something important, and I feel like I've said it well. Sometimes, my canvas speaks more clearly than words. It allows me to be myself in ways I can't begin to articulate.


Companion Work!

Guardian Angel with Child
My Companion,
Age 39 

I have always believed in angels. I remember falling down the stairs when I was in my 20's. I was not simply slipping but hurtling at full force. Right before I reached the wall, my body stopped. Something stopped me. I was unscathed. Not a scratch on me. I should have been in the hospital with a broken neck. Every since I was a child I had this sense of being protected by something: a force surrounding and guarding me. A companion that cared, protected and chose me.


Guardian Angels!




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Mindful Work!


The Price That's Paid, 2019