Crazy Happy

After a seven week break I was anxious about returning to the Lighthouse. Who would still be there? Who would have left the program, a year-long, faith-based residential program for women recovering from substance abuse. Would I still be as crazy happy about doing therapeutic art workshops with these women as when I left for summer break?

My art partner Lee and I were greeted with applause. Seven weeks without art had been a famine for the women. They were crazy happy about getting to making art again.

There were many familiar faces, a few new faces, most significantly a five week-old baby boy born to a drug free mother. A few faces were missing. One woman we knew would be graduating while we were on hiatus, but she is interning as the Lighthouse cook so she continues in our close orbit of affection. Another had moved into transitional housing with her four year old son – another significant step in her recovery. Sadly, another had left the program and moved back out of state. Three new women have taken their place. One with a surprising connection to the program.

Our art project for the morning was fairly simple: create an oil pastel from the old hymn refrain “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.” Their picture could be their favorite place in nature, perhaps the seashore or the mountains. It could be their favorite place where they sit or wake up in the morning. It could be the picture they imagine of their future and the mercy of a clean and sober life. They were free to interpret what “morming, by morning, new mercies” would look like to them.

Within minutes everyone was attentively focused on their art making. Suddenly Tiffany blurted out, “I’m done!” Bubbling over with her story she told how she’d looked out the Lighthouse dining room window one day a few weeks earlier and saw a woman walking down the street who looked like her aunt. Rushing to an open window she called her name, but couldn’t see the woman as she continued down the street. In fact, the woman had heard her name called but couldn’t figure out where the voice was coming from. Hurrying outside, Tiffany called her name again. This time Kristal turned recognizing her niece’s voice. A locked gate separated them, but they were in the process of reconnecting. Tiffany discovered that her aunt was staying in the homeless shelter down the street and had finally hit the point where she was ready to enter a sober living recovery program. It was a morning marked by new mercies.

On the day before Kristal entered the Lighthouse program, Tiffany arranged for her two boys, her aunt and a friend to go to the beach – a day of carefree adventure before beginning several months of restriction, an important entry point into the Lighthouse program. The picture above depicts their beach adventure. While the two stick figures, her sons, play on the beach under the friend’s supervision, two other stick figures, Tiffany and Kristal, swim in the ocean. As Tiffany enthused, ” We swam really far out, really far out. We could swim well so we just kept swimming, further and further out. But you know when you stop drinking and doing drugs, you start eating ’cause you’re always hungry.” Grabbing an extra roll around her midriff she said, “And fat girls shouldn’t swim that far out cuz it’s a lot of work to swim back in!” 

With full throttle crazy happiness, Tiffany and Kristal’s stories tumbled over one another, veritable breaking waves of  delight as they recounted the extreme effort of getting back to shore. Best of all was Kristal’s perspective on that long swim back to shore. She mused, “That swim back in was really hard. In the midst of it, it just came to me that with every stroke it was like I was doing the hard work of my salvation, the hard work that was ahead of me, of getting my life turned around, getting clean, getting sober.” A simple picture created to illustrate yet another morning of new mercies these women have come to expect. That made me crazy happy!

Are there new mercies in your life every morning that make you crazy happy?  Have you ever had a significant insight related to you life while in the midst of doing something seemingly unrelated? If you were to draw a picture of your morning mercies, what would it look like? What other than “new mercies” makes you crazy happy?

I’m looking forward to what you have to share.

PS – Click on the image above to better see the stick figures of Tiffany & Kristal.


5 comments to Crazy Happy

  • One of your best posts yet! What a great metaphor, swimming back to shore.


    I like the title of this post. “Crazy Happy” fits it so well. I also appreciate you using “old hymns” as a basis of starting a project. There is so much wonderful theology in the old hymns.

    I really could relate to “Morning by Morning”. At my age, just waking up each morning to enjoy another day is a very tender mercy. Thank you, Lynne

  • Lee Hodges

    It was a real priviledge to rejoice with these two women as they recounted their story and how they applied the scripture to their life at this important juncture for both of them:”…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12) Kristal knows that she is already saved, but has to “work out” her salvation: her new life will be hard work, but worth the effort. That particular passage has puzzled me some in the past, and this conversation really helped me visualize one way it can be applied to our lives.

  • This post makes me want to take distinctive steps in moving forward with my summer group of ladies in my own setting with “Art-making and metaphor”. The question is – when, where, how and what has to go to make room for this important ministry?

    As always, lots of questions go with this kind of progress… but lots of excitement butterflies too!

  • Carl McDonald

    Once again, you have inspired me. I still remember the evening worship at Princeton when I revealed my urge to play the drums. It was my birthday and you encouraged me to “let loose”. I still have not purchased a drum, but I have continued to “let loose” in other ways. This posting about new mercies has inspired a sermon that I will preach on Sept 11 after returning from a month of vacation. I preach at a very small church that is struggling to stay open. Maybe we can find what makes God crazy happy! Thanks for your continued encouragement to all through your art.

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