Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

(Proverbs 13:12 ESV)

Lynn D. Morrissey loves GOD with all her heart, soul, mind and very being. She is a connoisseur of matters of the soul, lyrical prose and collage.

lynn collage1
collage by Lynn D. Morrissey

Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy Lynn’s reflections on Hope.

Hope for an Artist, Hope for a Tree

(Lynn D. Morrissey)

Lynn Photo new bio 1-3-03

“Lord, purge our eyes to see within the seed, a tree, within the glowing egg a bird, within the shroud a butterfly. Till, taught by such we see beyond all creatures, Thee.” —Christina Rossetti

 “My God, what is a heart, that thou should it so eye, and woo, pouring upon it all thy art, as if thou had nothing else to do? Teach me thy love to know; that this new light, which now I see, may both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.” —George Herbert

Soon autumn will wane, and winter will arrive. One way we’ll know it’s imminent is in the descent of fall foliage. Branches will release lustrous leaves that twirl tentatively to the ground. There is always hesitancy in letting go of what is beautiful. It feels like loss. Where’s the art in that? Where’s the art in robbing trees of their color, of their leaf-lush glory, exposing their limbs in stark nakedness? Where’s the art in barrenness?

Where’s the art in the artist who wanes, whether by necessity or neglect, whose practice—be it painting, collaging, singing, or writing—has withered, fallen, and blown mostly away like the torched leaves of autumn? Where’s the art in the artist who cannot see God’s purposes and involvement in his abandoned practice, who can no longer see possibilities?

Where’s hope?

Where, indeed, is God, *Himself*, the Artist of life, in all this stripping, fruitlessness, and despair? Is He present? Does He care? Does He play a part?

Brother Lawrence, a lay brother, who served in a Carmelite monastery in Paris during the fifteenth century and who became best known for his intimate relationship with God, posthumously explored in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God, encountered God, the Artist of life, when he gazed upon a deathlike tree in winter. He saw in its brazen branches, disrobed of leaves, fruit, and flowers, the reality and promise of beauty, of spring, of God. It was said of Brother Lawrence that “ … in the winter tree, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flower and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which [had] never since been effaced from his soul.”

God saw Brother Lawrence’s heart—a heart searching for truth, but one who could not yet see *Him*. The Lord wooed this humble seeker with the art of His love, putting in his path a living picture, an open window into His presence and character. God used that winter tree, with its promise of transformation, as a powerful metaphor for hope in Brother Lawrence’s conversion—an awakening, he said, that “first flashed in upon my soul the fact of God,” and a love for God that never ceased.

While God could have revealed Himself to Brother Lawrence through the springtime tree, garbed in flowering frock, instead He confronted him with the withered tree of winter. It was that jolting juxtaposition of this stark skeletal structure with the promise of a full-bodied, blossoming tree that quickened Brother Lawrence’s spirit to the overwhelming greatness of God. Suddenly, he could “see” within the tree and beyond, to the God who had made it … and the God who had made him.

Yes, God revealed Himself to Brother Lawrence, who finally saw the light—light streaming like a sunbeam that led straight to Him. From that time forward, this modest monk, whose eyes had been purged by God to see, saw his Father in his everyday round, reflected in the sheen of the pots and pans he so arduously scrubbed daily in the monastery. From the day Brother Lawrence saw Artist God’s light filter through the winter tree’s splayed bones, he saw God’s light everywhere, and everything it touched became sacred art to him.

Could it be that God uses the stripping process as His tutor to enable us to see truth, both about Him and ourselves? What art lessons does the stripped tree teach us? He asks us to have artist-eyes of faith to see beyond apparent appearances, which are often deceiving. He beckons us to believe in what we can’t see.

The patriarch Job exclaimed, “At least there is hope for a tree; if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.” The tree isn’t dead. It just looks dead. Artists should know that. When we feel dead through stripping, the winter tree teaches us to hope and trust God’s promises of life, flourishing, and possibilities.

Do your eyes see an acorn, or beyond it to an oak? blue egg or red robin? green-sheathed chrysalis or stained-glass monarch? empty canvas or abundant still-life? blank music manuscript or dotted-Swiss notes filling staves? blank computer screen or word-rows sprouting beneath fingertips?

Do your eyes see only what is visible, or beyond to the invisible God? Do you see His creative artistry in converting this to that? Do you believe that He empowers us to create, too—even when you don’t understand how you can, and that *all* things are possible with Him? Will you believe that your art is *not* dead and never will be?

Poet Anne Morrow Lindbergh observed that the winter tree, “stripped and barren, brings more confirmation to the heart than spring’s returning green, more courage to refind the winter-bones of spirit unobscured by summer-flesh of leaves.”

This is paradox, but it rings true. All this stripping of our sated souls, painful though it may be, helps us refind our winter-bones of faith—faith that may have become obscured by besetting sin, bloated by artless distractions, or glutted by the summer-flesh of our fleshy desires for gaudy, leafy show. What a revelation! Do we have more faith or pride in our talent-and-skill leaves than in God who has bestowed them? Is our hope in Him or in our art?

I am personally sick of leaning on my leaves for worth, deceiving myself into thinking that I, myself, have “grown” them. When my leaves are stripped, I can more clearly see the structure supporting them. The trunk can only stand rooted in God, rooted in His love. Branches and leaves are but the outgrowth of this sure foundation. The winter tree teaches me that I can’t grow leaves on my own. I’m dependent on God, and creating my art is always (and must be!) a prayer away.

My daughter’s college art professor taught me another lesson about structure: He said that it’s impossible to draw the human figure well, unless one has studied a cadaver’s skeleton and musculature. It’s only then that the artist knows how skin and clothing should drape. He also said that to sketch a tree, one first must study the winter tree, to see the articulation of large and small branches, which inform the artist where the masses of leaves should appear.

How often have I tried to amass artificial leaves willy-nilly, with no regard for my structure, how God has made *me*?Am I trying to graft maple leaves onto oak? Or do I allow the particular leaves He has naturally bestowed to emerge, where He places them?

I can also become discouraged by how quickly others’ leaves flourish. Mine tend to appear slowly. The winter tree teaches me patience—to see and accept myself as I am. When I do, I am trusting God.

Contemplating the winter tree enriches me, as it did Brother Lawrence. Seeing a tree stripped of leafage has been a way to practice God’s presence, to view the honeyed sunlight of heaven stream through bare branches on earth, a way to “climb a sunbeam” straight to the heart and art of God. Having new eyes to see my art and myself more clearly revealed in God’s new light has been a way to see Him more. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of life and art: seeing Him?

 Lynn D. Morrissey, is a Certified Journal Facilitator (CJF), founder of Heartsight Journaling, a ministry for reflective journal-writing, author of Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer and other books, contributor to numerous bestsellers, an AWSA and CLASS speaker, and professional soloist. She and her beloved husband, Michael, have been married since 1975 and have a college-age daughter, Sheridan. They live in St. Louis, Missouri.

(Copyright 2014. Lynn D. Morrissey. All Rights Reserved.) 

33 thoughts on “Hope

  1. Oh such beautiful art and faith right here. Love the metaphor of a winter’s tree. Looking out my window now I see some bare branches and the light refracting through the structure of the branches and all of their limbs, so uniquely positioned, and I sense God’s inviting me to “climb a sunbeam” and sit with him a while. Love you girls Lynni and Kel!

    1. Kelly, you write so lyrically here, and I’m so glad that you can see your trees! I’m also glad that God is using this humble post to minister. I had to smile, too, imagining us all climbing sunbeams. What a cute picture! =] Ha! And this all links in to our playdate at my cabin recently, too. We should have climbed some trees out there, right?! I hope Laura Boggess is reading…….and everyone: Go get her Playdates with God book. I love it!
      Tx for commenting, Kelly.
      xxoo
      Lynni

  2. Yes indeed, sister! Powerful piece, Lynn. What we should be seeing is our absolute need for our Father and His majestic sovereignty in all of His creation.

    “When my leaves are stripped, I can more clearly see the structure supporting them.” Well said. The supernatural gift of our senses often blinds us to the real truth. Beautiful words of wisdom and truth that I’ve come to count on like the rain, sister…

    1. Floyd, your words always humble me so much. You are a conveyer of truth, and that this resonates with you means so much. Thank you. I think if we’re honest, anything we do always shows us our need for Him (unless we let those leaves get in the way! 🙂
      I hope readers will read *your* wisdom at http://www.thergoi.com
      Thanks so much for stopping by!
      Love
      Lynn

  3. OK, so I had to skim this and come back later! I am dying to read Brother Lawrence- and a Collage form you , Kel! What a fabulous giveaway! But , I have to write my post and get my girl’s friend for a sleepover (Halloweenie!) And I am having a giveaway toooooooooooooooo! So exciting…yet I need to get writing…OMG I JUST Rhymed didn’t I? lol. You and Lynn both bless me all the way I think to Heaven! But I will return to read slow, and comment ( a real comment) in response to Lynn’s words. Thanks for being you! HUgs, off for coffee, and getting the youngin’s moving (well, my one, but her friend too evetually!

      1. I don’t IRON! lol…good morning, Kel and Lynn- I had a very horrible, every bad no good Halloween…which I am about to blog about…but I missed making yesterday’s post on time, or reading this. BUT I will be back…an “unplanned” event occurred and messed up my plans!

      2. Oh Boo, Dawn. Sorry about your very bad day!!! And ironing? THat’s about the only kind of housework I actually enjoy, though, admittedly, these days, there isn’t much need. When I was a teen, I had to do ironing, and used to listen to and sing along with Broadway show tunes. My favorite was My Fair Lady. I envisioned myself as Eliza D! This was my version of “whistling while you work”!

  4. Hi Lynn, This is a beautiful read and collage….it makes me want to be stripped back to my skeleton branches, and be rid of any browning, curling, mouldy leaves, so that fresh new ones can grow with blossom, so that the new growth can be more perfectly in line with who I was created to be!

    1. I’m sorry I don’t know your name, or I would address you! =] Thank you so much for these kind and generous words. I love how you describe the detritus of life, and would that we would all let God’s stripping do its work. Ah yes! You’ve nailed it! The whole point is to be done with the old so that new, fresh, vital growth can occur. I just wonder if we all did this now, if we could be growing new leaves in winter! =] Thanks again for your encouragement!
      Love
      Lynn

  5. And I’m really struggling to narrow down to my one favourite collage of the series…so far I have a top 6! I loved the hot air balloon on day 3 and the whimsy lady on day 25, the two LOVE collages on days 7 & 16, and the simple ABIDE image on day 29, and finally the Advent Seek image of day 26. Hmmmm I will have to sleep on it and tweet a final choice tomorrow!

    1. What is your name? Are you British? Just wondering with word spellings. I agree: The collages Kel renders are fabulous!

      1. Hello, Victoria! Lovely name–just like the Queen! I suspected you might be British. I love all things British. I’ll link you to a recent post of mine, where I did a clandestine maneuver in the Globe Theatre! Oh my. Also, this post will show you our American version of Downton Abbey. Do you enjoy that? So truly lovely to make your acquaintance!
        Love
        Lynn
        BTW, you accommodated me, huh, with your Americanized version of favourite? I rather prefer your way!

      2. Ok, Victoria, you can read about my Globe Theatre drama here, and also my love for all things British. Also check out my friend Shelly Miller at http://www.redemptionsbeauty.com She’s written for 31 days about her upcoming move to the UK. She and I are Anglophiles to the core! I hope to meet you across the Pond one day! Where do you live, and what’s your blog/site?
        http://stoopingformanna.blogspot.com/2014/10/gno-with-lynn-d-morrissey-hot-flashes.html

  6. Lynni…This is sheer poetry! What a grand writer you are! I had heard of the dish-washing, monastery-dwelling Brother Lawrence, but I hadn’t heard the story of the Winter tree. I know one thing for sure, I will never again view my winter trees in the same way. The bare branches being the strong ‘skeleton’, the supporting ‘structure’ that holds the leaves and blossoms come the Spring. I have also never felt so enthusiastic about Winter trees as I feel right now. I pray this new-found perspective helps me in what is usually a depressing season for me.
    I also think of how the life-giving root system draws from the soil and stores up new nutrients that will then, come Spring, begin to nourish the branches for new growth. Just like God, our Source, who gives new life to our faith every Springtime.
    Thank you for this beautiful post, Lynni.

    1. Dearest Jillie, I am so thrilled that you stopped by at Kel’s and truly humbled by your gracious words here. Oh my! I’m taken aback. And mostly, I am overwhelmed that this brought you new perspective. We will praise the Lord. I have suffered from depression, and winter tended to bring that on, until I began to *see* (operative word here ) the beauty in the starkness and stillness of this barren time. Actually, it is brimming with gifts and chances for new beginnings. It’s a great time to become reflective and introspective, and to ask God to help you to take stock. I’m so glad that you will be seeing things a bit differently. I know you will journal your insights. And I LOVE what you say about roots. THis is so true! Wonderful observation you have shared with readers. Thank you. AndSheridan’s art prof also told me that the root system often mirrors the branch system (or is that vice versa?) At any rate, the implication is, the deeper the roots, the more branching out. I just love that truth and metaphor. Love you so much.
      Lynni

  7. Lynn, You did a wonderful job on this. Truly it is when we are laid bare, that God can use us the best. When we are stripped of all pretense, down to the bones, then he can work with hearts so much more. Thanks for your writing!

    1. Linda, what a joy to see you here, anda surprise. How I miss your wonderful women’s ministry events. You’re an extraordinary leader, and I’ve you to thank for meeting Kelly Greer at one of your events! Thank you so much for these kind remarks, the truths of which I know you have lived. You have been laid bare, and God is using you mightily!
      Love
      Lynn

  8. Lynn, thank you for such a thoughtful post. I have been a fan and follower of Brother Lawrence’s writing for many years so I resonated with everything you wrote and with your own process.

  9. Karen, dear heartner, well this is yet another commonality we share. Yes, I have long admired the wisdom of Brother Lawrence, and I shall never forget when I read about his conversion w/ relation to the winter tree. God had just stripped me of a professional career when I came home to raise Sheridan. His insights gave me hope that I would bloom again. May the Lord fill you with so much hope during times of stripping–resurrection hope of eternal, new life.
    I love you,
    Lynni

  10. And Kel, as your 31-day series on God + Art (+ Brother Lawrence!) wraps up, may I just say how much I have enjoyed your deep insights and beautiful collages? You have brought such richness to our worlds and wisdom to our souls. And I also want to thank you beyond words for both your invitation and challenge to write something that, perhaps, I might not initially have chosen, but which I definitely needed! Thank you! You are such a blessing to me, and I have so much appreciated dialoguing with your wonderful readers as well.
    Love
    Lynni

  11. Lynn, This is so moving and full of truth. You had me at your first word and left me sitting before the barren tree with Brother Lawrence. Your message was convicting, yet encouraging, and left me wanting more of God’s work in my life. This line is for my journal: “Do we have more faith or pride in our talent-and-skill leaves than in God who has bestowed them? Is our hope in Him or in our art?” Thanks for sharing your gift here, friend.

    1. Karen,
      I’m sorry I hadn’t commented, because I hadn’t realized that *you* had! I greatly appreciate your generosity here, coming from such a gifted author and observer of life (and follower of Christ, first and foremost)! Ah….. you journal?! Wonderful. Surely this is a place where we can pour out our souls to the Lord, and where we can let leaves of self fall and fade away. I’m thrilled to know you are a journal-keeper. Thanks again for your kind words and for sharing on Twitter. I hope Kel’s readers will add your blog to their must-read list! It’s wonderful: http://stoopingformanna.blogspot.com/
      Love
      Lynni

  12. Lynn, I’m sorry I missed this when you and Kel first shared it. But the timing is perfect for me to read it today. Thank you for these beautiful, encouraging words. They are speaking to deep places where I am today.

  13. Laura,
    I don’t know if you will see this, but I had never realized you had commented on this post of mine about Brother Lawrence. I’m so glad it ministered–so humbled. And all in God’s good timing.
    How your words always speak to my heart.
    Please stop by and read Kel’s offerings…always such satisfying nourishment for one’s soul.
    Love
    Lynn

  14. Even more beautiful the second time around. The seasons are all gifts and the more we get the more precious we realize each one is.

    1. Goodness, Floyd! You are so kind to have waded through my words yet again. But I feel honored that you did and that they blessed you. And yes, the older we get, the more precious they are.

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