Deby Dearman stood in front of a small group of us, her eyes bright as she talked with lots of expression. It was a hot, humid day in Nashville and we leaned in to listen, captivated by her story and curious to see where she was going with her topic of painting your dreams and prayers onto canvas.
Deby’s arms moved around, pointing to color-drenched paintings on both sides of the small auditorium. She shared how she started painting her prayers and dreams. Her life as a musician and singer had been altered when she lost her ability to sing, even talk for some time. It looked like things for her career, her family and the hopes in her heart would not see the light of day. It seemed the best years were behind, not ahead of her.
Then, a friend suggested that she try painting. Deby had never painted and resisted the idea, but her persistent friend persuaded her to go to a local class. Deby discovered she took to painting almost as naturally as she had taken to singing.
In the early painting years, Deby shared how she spent hours with her canvas and her prayers. Instead of focusing on what she had lost, she started praying and dreaming and painting her prayers. When the days were ridiculously hard, she would cry as she painted, and the tears would be mixed in with the paint on canvas.
Prayers and desires included: returning to Europe (where she’d lived and worked for many years) for the return of her singing voice, for a new step in her and her husbands’ career, for answers to deep needs in her family.
Paint Your Hopes, Dreams & Prayers
In this blog post, I share the first of three ways to plan the rest of the year, a mini-vision if you will, and focus in on the possibility around us. We will look at creating a painting your dreams (this post), developing a visual journal and creating a vision/prayer board for half the year.
This post may not seem like it is aimed at something as productive as laying out a vision with a hefty set of goals but hear me out.
We all need dreams and goals to move us forward. The size of the goal is not especially important. What is important is moving forward in life. We can be logical and practical all day long, but until we dream a bit, it can be awfully hard to gather up the persistence needed for the journey, especially during challenging times. The best visions start with dreams.
Perhaps you are like me. I’ve always thought my place in the world was to add to the beauty. Beauty brings healing and hope. It allows us and others to pray, pursue, believe, and work towards good things, hope-filled things, restoration.
But it isn’t always easy.
Moving through the Hard Places
Deby shared how hard it was to not be able to sing and how much she longed for her singing voice to return. It was hard because it was not only something she loved, it was her career, her work. She and her husband had worked as a team and now that was broken.
Painting started to open new opportunities, forging a new path in her life, not the one she’d hoped for, but one that took her by surprise. Her voice, instead of communicating through song, found its way through painting. Instead of encouraging and teaching through music, she began to teach and uplift through painting classes and enchanting artwork. Not only did her painting flourish, but she and her husband started a preventative health business together. Instead of leading others in music as they had done in the past, they began leading others through a journey to better health.
The day Deby shared her story of how her desire to return to Europe laid dormant in her heart for many years. But she kept painting it and praying about it and doing the work and teaching art classes.
Deby’s longing to return to Europe was answered, but in ways she never expected. She and her husband were invited to return to Europe for a work project (what fun!). Later, I was incredibly fortunate to accompany her on a subsequent trip as part of a tour group she and Kirk led. Those prayer-filled paintings were seeds in the ground. Deby didn’t know how they would blossom, but she believed they would. Her honesty and hope-filled heart opened up her life to all sorts of possibility.
Deby’s point was not that we paint what we want, and it appears as if this is some sort of law of attraction. Instead she insists that what we focus on is where our mind and heart go. God hears the prayers and longings of our hearts so pray them.
What we focus our thoughts and ideations on often directs where we tend to go. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, the power of our brains, the way we can choose to direct our thoughts to things that bring life or cause us to wallow in anxiety and frustration. We live in an era where the cynics and doubters are given an incredible amount of respect and attention, but I prefer to learn to live like Deby, in a state of wondrous expectation.
It’s taken some time for me to learn this. I slowly started to paint what was in my heart, daring to paint the prayers I’d longed for, prayed over and deeply desired. In 2019, I created a collection and allowed my romantic heart to come out full and strong. I played a few albums over and over again as my own hopes and desires for marriage and love and a return to Paris filled my heart and spilled over onto the canvas.
I’m not yet married, but what did happen was I allowed a part of me that had been buried for to come out. After years of doubt that love, marriage and a family would ever happen, a place in my heart began to open up, allowing me to believe in faith that I would indeed find someone to share my life with. I have never felt so expectant. That shift of mind and heart expectation is a gift.
Paint those beautiful things that are in your heart. Pray about them. Think on them and let the seeds of possibility began to grow.
Recently, I’ve been painting all sorts of homes in beautiful, lush meadows of flowers, with benches for reading and sipping coffee and tea at one’s leisure. There’s a sense that so many people need a place to retreat, to rest, to dream and allow their lives to heal a bit so they can do the work the world needs them to do.
Perhaps, this summer, you can start painting what is in your heart. It might be a trip that must be delayed because of the situation in the world right now. Or a big gathering that’s been cancelled but is still in your heart. Maybe it’s buying a home or planting a garden or finding the love of your life or starting that organic skin care business or the nonprofit. Paint out the vision.
I find when I don’t quite have the words yet, it’s easier to create a picture, a visual image of what is in my heart.
This summer I’ll be setting aside time to focus in deep on painting some more things on my heart. What about you?
If you’d like to see Deby’s lovely work, you can visit her website here.
Side note: The next couple of posts will focus deeper on creating a vision for the rest of the year, but for this project, I encourage you to allow yourself to have fun. The likelihood of being able to go to Paris this year is slim. I painted it as a bit of a warm-up and to put on paper what’s been lingering in my heart. Next week, we get more into the vision/prayer board I created for the second half of the year and what we can do to move those ideas forward.