Painting: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (for Kaylee)
Almost every painting I do carries some meaning deeper than the picture itself, but this one might tip the “meaningful” scale.
A zebra? Really? Oh yes. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
To start, let me introduce you to Kaylee, one of my dearest friends in the world. The first things you’ll notice about her is her beautiful smile; that very-best-kind of smile that lights up her whole face and is contagious to anyone around. Her spirit is of the gentle, compassionate type, and her heart is humble and eager to serve others.
However, don’t let her sweet, gentle soul tempt you to think of her as weak—this girl is a lionheart.
We’ve been friends for almost 5 years at this point, and in that time, we’ve both walked beside each other through various struggles. However, the past year, has been an especially difficult one for her.
Last fall, Kaylee started experiencing various health problems, mainly to do with her joints. After weeks of uncertainty, she was finally diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome. This was encouraging news in some sense—at least it wasn’t something worse. But it was discouraging in that Ehlers Danlos is a genetic condition and has no cure. The Christmas season was an especially difficult time, because, although the nameless problem now had a name, the day-to-day symptoms Kaylee was experiencing kept getting worse, and none of the treatments the doctors tried were working.
“What do you do when you don’t get better?” -For King and Country, Without you
A few weeks before Christmas, Kaylee’s mom reached out to me. She had an idea for a Christmas gift for Kaylee: to do a painting of a zebra (the symbol for Ehlers Danlos) with the words “Fearfully and wonderfully made” next to it (from Psalm 139.) She didn’t have to ask me twice.
Just pause and think about it for a second: every aspect of Kaylee’s person was carefully crafted by the hand of a God who loves her dearly. Even the Ehlers Danlos.
Kaylee and her family have the strength of soul to believe that God, in His love and providence, not apart from it, has allowed Kaylee to have Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
I think of the book “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom (if you haven’t read it, I totally recommend that you do so. Like, right now.) Kaylee and I both love this book, and have discussed it at length on several occasions, even long before her struggle with Ehlers Danlos. Specifically, we’ve discussed the concept of thanking God, not just for the blessings, but for the struggles He allows us to endure (in reference to the story of the fleas, which I won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t read the book yet.). We don’t thank God for suffering because of some sick enjoyment of pain, but because we trust His heart.
Would we dare to believe that every struggle comes from the hand of God?
And would we dare to believe that His ways are not only good, but they are perfect?
Kaylee and I discussed these things. And in the time since, I’ve watched her live them out. In the face of disappointment after disappointment, worsening symptoms, and near-constant pain, Kaylee has always kept her head up. I’ve watched her give thanks for the good in circumstances that don’t look good at all. I’ve watched her endure hard week after hard week, month after month, yet instead of growing weaker I’ve watched her already strong spirit grow even stronger.
I love how this painting turned out. I love the thoughts it led me to think, I loved being able to do it for my dear friend and hope that it might, even in some small way, encourage her heart.
The golden-yellow in the background reflects her joyful, ever hopeful heart. Kaylee has taught me so much about hope by actively putting her hope in God in the face of what looks and feels completely hopeless. After Christmas and into this past spring, Kaylee’s symptoms continued to worsen, yet she showed the same steadfastness of heart and reliance on the Lord as ever.
I rejoice to report that within the past couple of months, they’ve found a treatment that has helped to ease some of her most painful symptoms. We continue to praise the Father for this! The Lord has also blessed Kaylee with the ability to communicate truth so beautifully. You should check out her blog, His Grace Is Sufficient, it will bless you.
I’ll end with this quote by Elisabeth Elliot:
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering.” -Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity