Painting Pictures

I’ve been thinking about how Jesus used His words to draw someone’s attention off of who they were to who they could become. It reminded me of a quote I read in “Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World. Zig Ziglar explains how “words paint pictures in a child’s mind and then his mind goes to work to complete the pictures.” This was powerfully true at a turning point in my life just after my sixteenth birthday.

 

It was a rainy night and I only had five minutes left before curfew. There were twelve miles between home and my boyfriend’s house and I didn’t want to get grounded. It had been raining and I was driving too fast. I gripped the steering wheel and turned it sharply to avoid crossing the yellow line of that familiar curve, which caused my little Datsun B210 to spin out of control before hitting a ditch and flipping over. The sound of crashing glass and metal filled the air as my car tumbled over and over in slow motion. Finally it came to a halt. Within 10 minutes, the police and paramedics arrived and found my car lying on its side with the driver’s side crushed and most of the windshield gone. I was no longer in the car. The paramedics searched the field where my car had landed, but my body was no where to be found.

 

When my car stopped rolling, I forced the passenger door open, climbed out, ran to the highway and flagged down a car. The man driving took me back to my boyfriend’s house where they would then bring me to the hospital. My mom met us there where she was greeted by a police officer who described the accident and the damage to the car. It was completely totaled! Fortunately, my life was not.

 

Later that night, my mom took my hand and said, “It’s a miracle you are alive. God must have a plan for your life because He spared it tonight.”

 

Evidence of the accident was minimal, only a few bruises across my forehead and nose. However, the evidence of God’s hand was clear. I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, I wasn’t thrown through the windshield, there were 2 liter glass coke bottles in the car that never hit me. Yet I walked away nearly unharmed. Not a Christian at the time, I don’t know what I believed about God, but I believed my mother’s words of encouragement, “God must have a plan for your life.”

 

During the year after my accident, my mind would be challenged to complete the picture her words had painted. Like the rain clouds that hovered over the road I traveled that night, clouds of depression hovered over me. The road ahead brought many hazards. A trickle of self-doubt led to overwhelming feelings of insecurity. Teen-age disappointments and heart break led to despair and an aching hole in my heart that couldn’t be filled. So I numbed it with alcohol. By the time I was nineteen, my courage to keep living was gone. I was desperately looking for an escape. Why not end it all? Yet, I knew I couldn’t. “Who am I to take my life?” I asked myself as I remembered my mom’s words reminding me how God had rescued me. So instead of searching for a way out, I began to search for Him.

 

Like a paintbrush, her words drew a picture of hope on the canvas of my heart. “God must have a plan for you.” In search of His plan, I found courage to move through the storm of depression and come to know Him in a personal and powerful relationship where darkness was replaced by Light and despair was redeemed with hope. Years later I discovered that sharing my journey would be part of God’s plan to encourage others in theirs.

 

You also hold a paintbrush. With strokes of confidence and assurance, you help your child (or someone else you love) believe that God uniquely designed her with a purpose. When she faces disappointments and failure, as we all do, she can recall your words that have assured her of God’s plan for her life, “plans to prosper her, not to harm her, plans to give her a future and a hope.” Jeremiah. 29:11. When your child gets rejected by friends, doesn’t make the soccer team or pass his driving test, you can remind him with your words of encouragement that you believe in him no matter what; that you will never give up on him, even when he gives up on himself.

 

If we respond to our child who consistently forgets his lunch bag at home, “I knew you weren’t responsible enough to remember it,” we crush his confidence. He may grow up wondering if he has what it takes to succeed. If we respond with patience and encouragement by telling him, “I am disappointed you forgot your lunch but I know you can be responsible. Let’s figure out a way to help you remember,” we communicate, “You have what it takes, and I want to help you become all that God created you to be!”

 

I wish this came easily because we just want to be good moms. Honestly I have to really think about it and work at it. I catch myself not saying things how I wish I had. I try not to beat myself up about it anymore but quickly go back to that child (or my husband or a friend) to apologize and ask for a do-over. Then I say what I wished I’d said the first time.

I believe “God’s plan for my life” is for me to be my kids and my husband’s biggest encourager. I know He saved me first to draw me into an intimate relationship with Jesus. Then He poured His love into me through His Spirit, His hope into me through His Word. But then He called me and commissioned me to give away what He’d given me – right here, right now. In everyday moments where I have the opportunity to see a need and speak right into those empty places with His words of hope.

Will you join me with your paintbrush today? Let’s ask God to fill our hearts with His words of encouragement so that we can take those words and paint a picture of hope on the canvas of someone’s heart today!

Let the morningbringmeword of yourunfailinglove, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8
About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.

Comments

  1. You know, Renee, I’ve told my kids that GOD has this plan for them that’s like a picture. Each person has their own picture. Now their sister may have similar colors or strokes or shapes, but in total, their pictures are different. My hope is that they won’t compare themselves to the others. But I have failed in that I don’t make the time to build them up as you say. I’m “too busy” correcting the wrongs. Thanks for the reminder.
    Julie

  2. At the age of 19, I also was in a car accident but did not walk away unhurt. It took 3 months of rehab to walk again. One of the firemen visited me in the hospital and told me it was nothing but a miracle that I lived through the accident.
    I don’t ponder on the thought, but I too have wondered why I didn’t die. What was God’s purpose of allowing me to live? I married, and we have a beautiful daughter. Was His purpose for me just to give that life?
    My christian life has been in the “getting by” phase. If you could strap a heart monitor devise around my life, it would pretty much be a flat line. No highs, no lows, just keeping the same rhythm. And just recently I was thinking that if Heaven had a back door, I would be softly tapping waiting for the kitchen cook to let me sneak in.
    Recently I have realized the need for change in my life. I have overcome my biggest milestone and forgiven myself for a past sin. I have a lot of work to do on myself, but I am working. I have reached out to people asking for prayer and I see God working in my life.
    So, to ask myself now, why did I survive my car accident….maybe to allow God to become my personal Savior. To have a personal relationship with Him and knowing that when my time on earth is finished, I can walk through the front gates of Heaven instead of tapping on the back door.

  3. Thank you for sharing a piece of your past. I struggle with seeing a lot of peoples current status and wonder if I’ll ever get there. Hearing your story today reminds me it’s a process. You didn’t become who you are over night; neither will I. I think our hearts desire as women is to help others, and when we don’t see that fruit, it’s discouraging… I don’t know if that makes since, and I know that wasn’t the point of your post, but that’s how you spoke to me today. Thanks, for once again, being real.

  4. I can look through my past from an early child through where I am today and know without any doubt that God has saved me from some very fatal choices. Each time His mercy and grace was shown. I should have been dead and gone by now, but God… God has a purpose for my life, and I want my boys to know they also have a purpose that only they can carry out.

  5. Ok….I had to come back here after reading your comment on Micca’s blog. ARE YOU SERIOUS?? Tell me this is just a good redneck phrase you thought of. If not…I will make a 2 hour drive to Charlotte to help you out here dear.

  6. I know I’ve said this before but I just find so many good ideas and inspirations from reading about how you build up your children and your husband – with your words and conversations. I am a lady who needs to learn about that!

    Such a powerful post today!

    Blessings,
    Kate 🙂

  7. Wow — what a powerful story, Renee. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. God is certainly using you in a mighty way, and it shows!

  8. Sweet Angie – You are a front door Jesus girl and He loves you with all His heart!! You asked in your comment – Was His purpose for me just to give that life?

    Oh friend, you have so much to give to that beautiful daughter of yours. As you receive His lavish love in those hurting and broken places, I pray He will fill you with overflow and your daughter will want the Jesus who makes her mom radiant with beauty and grace. I am praying for Jesus to woo you with His love and draw your heart near to His in such a way that it steals your breath away. I am praying that you will hear Him whisper how much He delights in your closeness and in your pursuit of Him.

    I remember being where you have described – flat lined in my heartbeat for Him. It was in 2000. Through a series of events the Lord got the book Sacred Romance into my hands and I drank it deeply as He revealed His love to me in ways I had never known. Then I did the workbook. It was the most amazing and life-changing time.

    I am writing daily for my book about coming out of those shadowed places where discouragement and doubt were my constant companions. I wish I could share more here but hopefully I'll be to share with you one day all that God did. Please keep coming back and keep in touch through my blog. I would love to send you a copy – Lord willing it gets published – with a note from my heart to yours.

    Blessings,
    Renee

    PS> I love your sweet blog photo with your incredibly cute dog.

  9. Oh, Renee…literally my heart was pounding reading this reinactment of the car accident. Wow. God’s hand was so evident! And so many plans and purposes He has had and still has for you! 🙂

    I always pray God guides my tongue (and holds it when necessary!) especially with my hubby and children. As often as I can, I say to our cherubs “that was very responsible of you”. Encouraging them and building them up in the Lord is both the greatest gift and responsibility.

    When my tongue is not encouraging (ugh!), I always ask the Lord to erase it from their hearts and minds. I have to ask them for forgiveness often, but even in that I pray He uses that to teach them to ask for forgiveness and to realize we all need our Redeemer. Some days I wish I could erase portions of our day, but even those days I have to leave at His feet.

    Thank you for always encouraging us in the ways of the Lord! His ways are perfect.

    And thank you, my friend, for your shout out and for your love. Your sweet smile alone is such a blessing!

  10. Renee,

    Your story is powerful and your “picture” of God’s plan for each of our lives is inspirational!

    I will be sure and share it with my children.

    On another note, I agree with Angie. I can’t believe you STILL have your Christmas tree up! Isn’t that some sort of bad luck??
    If Angie doesn’t get there before July, I’ll take it down myself!

  11. Thanks for your post. I need to remember that I need to encourage my kids and husband with my words instead of tearing them down.

  12. My husband was thrown from a car when he was in a car accident in high school. There is a long scar in his hair…it’s not really noticable to those who do not know about it. But, oh, how often I look at it and breathe a thank you to God. A thank you for God saving that precious man. I cannot imagine my life without him. I am sure your husband is so thankful to God for saving you for him, as well.

    This was such a great post. I KNOW I need to surrender my mouth to God and allow Him to help me paint better pictures in the lives of my family members. And you are so right…we need to ask God to fill our hearts with His words so that we can then use them to paint with. His words will always be so much better than mine!

    Psalm 143:8 is a great verse! I love this one for this topic, too:

    “The Lord has given Me
    The tongue of the learned,
    That I should know how to speak
    A word in season to him who is weary.
    He awakens Me morning by morning,
    He awakens My ear
    To hear as the learned.
    The Lord God has opened My ear;
    And I was not rebellious,
    Nor did I turn away.”
    Isaiah 50:4,5 (NKJV)

    Oh, how that is my prayer. That I would hear Him clearly, that I would have a word in season for those who are weary…especially my husband and my girls. And that I would indeed be obedient in all that He calls me to do and say.

    Blessings, sweet Renee! Thanks for the encouragement. And I am so glad He saved you that day!
    🙂 K

  13. Incredible post, Renee. Really, one of my favorites! Painting pictures…I love that! My daughter came home today and told me that one of the boys at school told her that her hair looked horrible. Mind you, we went to extra effort today to curl it, which we don’t usually do. She’s a bit of a tomboy and doesn’t want to fuss with it (she’s six…).

    First, I wanted to kill that boy; next, I reminded her of how beautiful she was and that no boy or girl holds the key to her beauty. God holds that one, and he has made her in his image…just like he wants her to be.

    I loved hearing more of your story–powerful, friend. I’m going to work on painting more pictures for my children. I don’t want to hamper them with my words; I want to grow them with my words.

    peace~elaine

  14. My friend is an artist and she really paints pictures of Jesus up close. I paint with words also. We can plant the seed or paint in one form or another in everything we do. Our world is looking for hope. Yes, God did have a plan for your life Renee. His hand is on you. Thank you Jesus for keeping her safe. How beautiful it is when we see His hand on us. B

  15. Renee,

    I am so glad you can’t see the tears, hiding at the edges of my eyes! I have been in that place of shadow. (I commented VERY briefly about it in my blog entry about hope, but there is SO MUCH MORE to the story!)

    I have had so many touches of God’s Grace on my life–and whoever defined grace as “unmerited favor” had me in mind!

    God has spared my life so many times, and I have returned that grace with times of rebellion, fear, despair, and thoughts of ending my life. I literally went through a period of MONTHS, where I had daily thoughts of suicide. It was ONLY by God’s grace, and his gift of some beautiful sisters in Christ, that I was brought back to a place of hope.

    I wait in eager anticipation for your book about coming out of the shadows into the light.

    I will close with a poem I wrote in high school, titled “The Way Home.”

    The Way Home
    By Rhea

    Entering into the long, dark tunnel,
    the light at the end is long out of sight.
    All that is left is darkness and sorrow;
    All that is left is bitterness and strife.

    Walking along in the long, dark tunnel,
    I adjust to the darkness, never getting out my lamp.
    Others are around; I can hear their voices;
    Others are wandering without a map.

    Stumbling and falling in the long, dark tunnel,
    fear and desperation begin to take hold.
    I search for my lamp, but I must have dropped it;
    I search, but find nothing, and begin to grow cold.

    A gentle voice calls in the long, dark tunnel,
    beckoning me to take hold of His hand.
    He says, “I won’t leave you; I’ll never forsake you.”
    He says, “I will guide you through this evil land.”

    Finding new hope in the long, dark tunnel,
    I watch out for others who are lost and alone.
    I tell them there’s someone, who is there to lead them;
    I tell of the Savior, who knows the way home.

    Blessings to you!
    -Rhea

    p.s. Please pray for my family–We are dealing with a recent loss, and the deep ache inside that goes along with that.

  16. Rhea,

    Thank you for your beautiful poem and the way you opened your heart and your story. I pray you continue to see and feel God’s lavish grace on you each day. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I am praying for you and your family.

    Keep holding His hand and trusting His heart.

    Blessings,
    Renee

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