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Blank Canvases, Peeling Off Paint, and Rooting Up All That Gets In His Way

Laura Phelps
intentional summer

The kids are off from school and summer is here-although it has been raining forever, but nonetheless, so I am told… summer is here. And quite honestly, it can rain for as long as it wants and I will be okay, because I do not have to pack any school lunches for another two months. Can I get an Amen?!

Packing lunches is not my thing, mainly because eating what I pack is not my kids’ thing. I’m not sure what fine culinary experience they are expecting to find in a small brown bag. Salad nicoise? An all you can eat sushi buffet? Blackened grouper on a bed of wilted greens? But let us not think of such things! Because glory to God in the highest, school is out and packing lunches are a thing of the past. Hey kids, you can make your own disappointing lunches now! It’s summer!

If you follow Walking with Purpose on Instagram, you might have caught my “stories series” on how to have an intentional summer; practical tips on what not to do, or what to do, to refresh and relax without taking a vacation from Jesus. That was my most favorite week with all of you! For those that couldn’t join me, Tip #1 was encouragement to women to not sleep in. Not only that, but to get up early; rise with the sun and start each summer day with praise. So I have been taking my own advice, and what I have discovered is that with the hideous chore of packing lunches removed, I actually have more prayer time than ever. This, my friends, is great news… unless you are a recovering perfectionist and overachiever like me. Because once I realized how much more time I was gifted with, do you want to know what this girl thought? Exactly how much more can I cram in?

You see, all too often I approach my spiritual life like my daughter does a blank canvas. At her art school graduation two weeks ago, her creative voice was described by her teachers as “more is more”. As the years unfolded, blank canvases grew larger, paint application thicker, and the more acrylic she applied – always by hand, never by brush – the more she would step back, examine, and then lean into the canvas to add just a little bit more. On a busy sidewalk of New Haven, as I loaded five enormous paintings that barely fit into the back of my car and weighed more than all of Texas, I realized something about my spiritual canvas. I am trying to pray like she paints. 

But you want to know the difference between my daughter’s paintings and my prayers? Her finished product is a masterpiece because each stroke and design is intentional and executed with extreme devotion to her ultimate vision. She never rushes a project, and always steps back and away, allowing the space to speak and inspire. And my finished product? Well… it isn’t even worthy of hanging on the fridge.  All too often what I offer my Lord is a litany of memorized words with no meaning, mixed up and thrown together in the hopes that when finished, a beautiful vision will be revealed to me. There is little devotion because of all those distractions, and plenty of frustration because of all those interruptions. Just because your canvas is covered, it doesn’t mean it is worthy of hanging on the wall. 

And I don’t want to be the kind of woman who prays this way-distracted because I have piled on too much; irritated by life’s interruptions, that just so happen to be my FAMILY. (Um, remember Laura… you are a wife and mother; NOT a cloistered nun.) I don’t want my desire for personal holiness to be fueled by anything other than pure love of God.

Distraction in prayer is a common struggle, and in my attempt to concentrate and free my mind of all the things that pull me away from where I desire to be, I have learned something. You don’t wipe a plate clean of distraction by adding more things to your plate. I heard Matthew Kelly say once, “there is genius in simplicity” and well, I have to agree. Of course, he can say anything in that adorable accent and I will agree. But seriously. What if the key to personal holiness has nothing to do with what we add to our life, and everything to do with what we remove from it?

A few months ago, I added Saint Louis De Monfort’s True Devotion to Mary to my early morning prayer routine. With Our Lady’s hand gently guiding me, I have slowly removed every other practice and prayer, only focusing on this one book, morning, noon, and night. I have fallen deeply in love with St. Louis De Monfort’s Prayer to Mary; a prayer that promises to not only give myself wholly to Jesus through her, but one that begs to have “anything which does not belong to thee”¹ be taken away. My hours of mechanical prayers and distracted readings have been condensed into one heart felt, intentional plea, “Destroy in me all that may be displeasing to God, root it up and bring it to nought; place and cultivate in me everything that is pleasing to thee.”²

As my daughter applies more paint to tell her story, I am asking the Lord to peel my paint off so I better know His. Perhaps this gift of a little more time is not about how I can fill it with God, but how God can empty it of me.

Here is to a summer of blank canvases, peeled off paint, and rooting up all that gets in His way.

Your Sister in Christ,

Laura

 

P.S.  The only thing I love more than blogging for WWP, is sharing my days with you on WWP Instagram. If you are not a follower yet, what are you waiting for?

 

¹ True Devotion to Mary with Preparation For Total Consecration, Saint Louis De Monfort, Tan Classics 2010, p.219

² True Devotion to Mary with Preparation For Total Consecration, Saint Louis De Monfort, Tan Classics 2010, p.219

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