Please keep reading till the end. I didn't make any of this up!
About 6 months ago my pastor told a story of a woman that he knew. She had grown up in a very run down house with an alcoholic father. Her childhood was poor, awful and very lonely. She felt like her whole life she was a mistake and there was nothing good in it. Later in Jr High she was befriended by some girls in her school who let her stay at their house on the weekends and took her to church with them. There she was loved unconditionally. She gave her life to Jesus and although the circumstances that she lived in didn't change, her heart and mind did. She determined to do well in school, received a scholarship and went to college. There she met her husband and proceeded to have a life rich in love and faith. With Jesus she battled cancer and lived. Despite being well off, and cherished by her husband and kids, there were still moments that she still felt like that poor and ragged little girl on the inside. She felt like the house she had grown up in, peeling paint, broken windows. How could her husband love her? How could her children, God, anyone?
Her sister encouraged her to go back and visit the house they had grown up in. Her sister said it had been remodeled and looked nothing like it used to.
She didn't really believe her and didn't want to.......but she went and looked. It was so changed! It was completely remodeled. It was beautiful! She looked at that house and she knew that what had been done to that house was like what God had done for her life. She was a completely changed person and when others looked at her they didn't see the sad and run-down poor girl who lived in the shack, but a beautiful person inside and out!
I heard that story and it moved me. In my head popped two paintings. I had them stuck in my head for a few months before I finally told my pastor about them. He listened and encouraged me to paint them. Well,um, life happened. You know, new baby, dirty diapers, laundry etc. About a month ago, my pastor came up and said,
"Leigh did you ever do those paintings you had talked about?......"
Hem and Haw"Well... no."
"....because she is coming! She's coming here to speak and I think you should really do them!"
"Wow, ok, I guess I will."
Then life happened again. You know, 6 mo old baby, 3 yr old, dirty diapers, laundry making dinner etc.
Two weeks before she was sceduled to come I finally bit the bullet and started painting. It went super quick until I start on her adult face. Keep in mind I had never seen her. I knew nothing about her appearance except that she was female. I think I painted her face 5 times and no matter what I did to it, it just kept looking the same. You can ask my husband, I was frustrated. I wanted her to look generic. I wanted her to look like she could be any one of us.....but she kept looking specific. Wide set eyes, strong bone structure and chin, high forehead. So, I finally gave up and left it.
Sunday morning dawned bright and early and I was nervous. They were going to display my paintings on stage and on the big screens while she spoke. I hope she wouldn't feel intimidated by having these paintings by a stranger and about her life, literally surrounding her. I hope they didn't look completely different than her. I mean she could be short, blond and chubby for all I knew. I even said out loud in the car, "Honey, it doesn't matter if they look like her. It's the message that matters." But really inside, I thought, well couldn't she at least have brown hair? Please God?
So, when it finally happened and she finally walked up on that stage I melted. My insides literally went soft and I started to cry. It looked like her! The hair color and style, the features. It all looked like her! And when I went up to her later and looked in her face it was the face in my head that I tried so hard to change! I just couldn't stop crying. I hugged her and she spoke to me. I told her, "God loves you!" and she told me, "Well God loves you!"
It was a miracle plain and simple. God wanted me to do those paintings for her. She is not a mistake and she is very loved. He wanted me to do those paintings for me. I am loved, He is real and He can use me even in my ordinary life of babies, laundry and doing the dishes. And oh how I will do my normal, ordinary tasks with joy and passion! Because I know that I am loved and usuable right where I am. And when God had something else in mind for me, then I know he will let me know!
Verses on the paintings:
The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
Isaiah 41:18, 20
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs....
...so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.