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On broken hearts and mending - by Jo-Marie Barlow

Women of Reverence welcomes guest blogger Jo-Marie Barlow. This is her story...

Hi there! I’m Jo-Marie, full-time mom of two little ones and passionate watercolour artist (among other things). Up until January 2016 I firmly believed that I couldn't draw, let alone paint. This was rooted in attempts in my early school years that simply never turned out the way I wanted them. Nonetheless, creativity has always been an integral part of my life - from story writing, to dabbling in website design and 3D graphics while studying, I've always had a desire to express my inner story in different ways.

Enter 2016, the year I finally rediscovered this dormant part of my creative identity. It started with a book on drawing buildings, castles and other architecture. It took some patience (which I had been lacking before), but when the picture in front of me finally resembled the image in my mind, I was hooked! Shortly after that I discovered watercolours and I've been in love since. This is a never-ending journey of learning which involves various mediums from time to time, but always with watercolour somewhere in the main cast.

I've since also branched out from "just" to journeying with others to rediscover their creativity as well. I do this through in person watercolour workshops (Pretoria area) or now also through my first online Skillshare class! You can find out more about this class here: (This link will also give you two months free access to amazing tutorials and inspiration).

Feel like you might be the one who "can't draw"? It's never too late to prove yourself wrong! ;) Pop me a question if you're stuck or tag me if you break through that creative rut - I'd love to see what you create!

Find Jo-Marie on instagram here:

Tonight I visited my mom in hospital for the first time since she went in for a heart valve replacement operation on Monday. I knew from my dad and sister that she was doing well (considering) and yet needed to see her for myself. I knew what to expect, but what I wasn’t prepared for was being confronted by a little baby girl the age of my oldest (2 yrs 6 months) lying right near the entrance, gauze on her chest and her arms and legs splayed to attach to various cables and monitors. Her eyes were closed and her breathing seemed… peaceful, despite the incessant beeping of one of the machines and the nurses continuously hovering around her. My heart broke. Then it broke again when I neared my mom’s bed and caught sight of a second little one, this one a similar 10 months to my youngest, lying in the adjacent room marked “Surgical ICU”. Where were their parents? This was a state hospital - could they even afford to come or worse, were they lying somewhere in another ward, also hooked up to a million monitors? Wow, I don’t have the words… So I came home and painted this. I painted my thankfulness for my mom’s successful operation, her resilient and eager spirit (despite tons of pain medication making her rather spacey she’s continuously insisting on getting up and walking about for various reasons) and for healthy kids and family. I painted my heart brokenness for these little ones and all the others lying there, alone, recovering, brave smiles, empty eyes. And the following verse just echoed through my mind:

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16)

* * * * *

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote the above post. Thinking back, I’m amazed at the role painting played in my life at that moment. I came home with this jumble of emotions. I’d gone by myself, leaving my husband home with the kids (because someone needed to look after them) and meeting up with my Dad and sister to drive together to the hospital. Together and yet alone. Conversations along the way hammered and chiseled at my soul, my heart feeling open and exposed. Some conversations were good, others made my toes curl and my fists clench, and I was an emotional mess when I came back. I felt like I was clutching my heart in my hands, desperately trying to keep all the cracks together for fear of everything bursting apart at the seams. At the same time, I knew there was limited time left in the day for me to spend with my husband (it was past 10pm when I got home), and I wanted to make the most of it. So I sat down at my table, where my supplies were ready and waiting, put in some earphones with classical music and let the emotions take shape on the page. I allowed myself to cry as I painted, and I tried to switch off that continuous inner dialogue that wanted to check and balance what I was doing and just paint by intuition. And you know what? It only took about 15 minutes, but by the end of it I felt calm and at peace again. I supplemented this with a quick journal session (another 10 minutes or so), to get the thoughts out that my paintbrush had jiggled loose, and at the end of it I could collect my thoughts and be fully present with my husband. Not because he wouldn’t have accepted my raw emotions (he does, unconditionally), but because I needed to process in a way that didn’t require a conversation. Sometimes we sit and talk things through and that’s good, but at the end of this visual journal session I had something special that now reminds me of a variety of things when I look back at that picture.

The main thing it reminds me of is God’s grace. His grace to sit by us in those moments, where we’re spent and desperate and not sure where to turn, and bring the gentle breath of his creativity to bring healing. “Created to be creative.” This is something that I started realising a few years ago - as human beings created in the image of the Creator, we are made to be creative! That creativity may look different to different people and no, it doesn’t have to be painting or art or even writing. Sometimes it’s in a simple note to a friend or conjuring up a last minute supper with whatever is in the fridge. Creativity often isn’t by choice! But because we have a set idea of what creativity should look like, we often overlook it in our lives. Meanwhile, creativity is a beautiful gift our Creator wants to share with us - to share in that joy of creating something out of nothing, of seeing colours appear on the page or words on the screen or whatever it is that gets your “creating” juices flowing. And I say creating, not creative because perhaps this will help give a more accurate picture - any time when we’re making something, whether the simplest mundane day to day thing or whether a beautiful painting, we are stepping closer to that Image in which we were created. And that would never have been possible if Jesus didn’t come to restore our relationship with Him.

Feeling too busy, too stressed, too overwhelmed to create? Come and sit at the feet of your Creator and let His beauty just wash over you anew. And then make time for only 15 minutes somewhere in your day - wherever it can work for you - and do something about the images that welled up in your heart, that yearning to create something. Perhaps try a different way of quiet time - take a daily verse and splash whatever colours come to mind, whatever gestures you want to make on the page.  Set a timer so your left brain can relax and give your right brain permission to play, and step out and have fun! You’ll be surprised at what you can create, and how it breathes fresh air into your soul. Let creativity come and mend the broken lines in your heart of “I can’t” and “I shouldn’t” and “I feel guilty” one brush stroke / word / [your creative preference here] at a time. Our Creator, reaching out to mend our broken hearts.

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