I first connected with Kelly O’Dell Stanley because she has the same literary agent that I do, and I really liked her blog and writing style! I was intrigued as I began reading Kelly’s new book, Praying Upside Down: A creative prayer experience to transform your time with God. And in all honesty, I have found it to be quite fascinating how she approaches praying, faith and even life in general, from an artist’s perspective. I learned so much just in the first chapter alone! I’m excited to have Kelly sharing here today, and I encourage you to check out Praying Upside Down, which officially releases tomorrow! (AND at the end, she’s giving away a free copy!)
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. -Psalm 139:7-10
David said there’s nowhere he could go that God was not already there.
So why is it sometimes so hard to see Him?
The only way an artist can learn to draw is by learning to see—to notice the angles of objects, trace the outlines, look at the shapes of the spaces in between items, compare sizes of different forms, try to discern the underlying structure that gives an object its shape, and pay attention to colors and nuances and shadows.
Even if you’re not interested in drawing, it’s good to open your eyes. When you learn to observe as an artist, you may be better able to notice God all around you.
If you don’t see Him, though, no matter how hard you look, and if your prayers seem to be going unanswered, then maybe something is blocking your view.
Take a closer look at some of the obstacles before you, and open your heart to the possibility that you may witness things you didn’t expect. Our God is the God of the unexpected. His answers may not be visible right away, and they may not be obvious—but keep your eyes open anyway. You might be surprised by what (or Who) you see.
When my mom was diagnosed with metastatic small-cell lung cancer, I wanted her to survive. To be granted miraculous, unexplainable healing. She died anyway, and for a long time I was angry with God. Mom died, so He clearly didn’t give me the right answer.
Except maybe He did. Later I realized that our family, which had always been close, grew even closer. Mom lived three years after her diagnosis, when we’d read that only 4% of patients survived for one year. And instead of struggling for breath, feeling terrified at the end, Mom drifted away, peacefully, at home, just as she’d hoped. And really, when I think about it, is there a better place for her to be than surrounded by His glory, safe and pain-free, nestled in His arms?
Prayers were answered. I just refused to acknowledge that for a long time that because the answer didn’t match up with my expectation. I wanted to solve the problem my way, not God’s.
The truth is that God will not always give us what we want. But the greater truth is that He will stand alongside us as we face His answer, and we will never be alone.
No amount of belief on our part can force God to move in a certain direction. Some people might suggest that the reason your prayer wasn’t answered is because you didn’t believe enough or didn’t pray hard enough. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing that, because that’s not how it works.
God isn’t limited by the amount of faith we have or by the parameters of our requests. God is bigger than anything we can ask, and He tells us in the Bible to pray about everything—not just every little thing.
In an effort to protect ourselves from potential hurt, even when we’ve asked big, we may ignore certain answers. Because they may not be permanent. Because something might change, and then we’ve opened our hearts to pain again.
The answers to my prayers have ranged from exhilarating to disappointing to desperately heartbreaking. But somewhere along the way I realized that even when things go badly, even when I’m lost or lonely or afraid or upset, everything is better when I go through it with God—when I cease pushing Him away, when I drop the façade and get real with Him, when I finally realize that I want Him more than I want to be right. More than I want to pick the outcome of a particular situation. More than I want anything else.
And you know what? Those are the times I’ve seen God most clearly.
Bonus! We are giving away one copy of Praying Upside Down today! Just enter using the Rafflecopter tool below…
Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer, writer, and author of Praying Upside Down: A creative prayer experience to transform your time with God, which releases TOMORROW! With 25 years of experience in advertising, three kids ranging from 21 to 14, and a husband of 24 years, she’s learned to look at life in unconventional ways—sometimes even upside down. In 2013, she took top honors in Writer’s Digest’s Inspirational Writing Competition. Full of doubt and full of faith, she constantly seeks new ways to see what’s happening all around her in her small-town Indiana home. You can download free printables at www.prayingupsidedown.com. Kelly can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.