It is my senior year of high school.
I am sitting on the bleachers (with my mom) at the end of basketball practice.
I hadn’t gone to practice. I had told my mom I was quitting basketball. My mom thought I should talk to the coach first.
“She doesn’t care! I’m not talking to her about anything.” I insisted (the night before),as I tried to explain my position to my mother.
“All the other senior girls have quit. She wants us all to quit. We aren’t going to be here next year. So she’s putting the last of us on the bench, and pulling the freshman up to get experience.”
There was a mixture of anger and pain, as I sat there watching my teammates run the lines.
I wanted a Varsity letter in basketball. I had them for track and cross country. I wanted to graduate, with a Varsity letter in all 3 of my sports.
But I had hit my limit. My friends (who I’d played with since 8th grade) had all quit. I didn’t understand. I felt alone.
I remember the long and quiet walk from the gym downstairs, up to the girls locker room, and into her office.
I remember sitting down, and hoping my mom would speak first.
She didn’t say anything...so I spoke.
“I know that some of the freshman are better than me. But they are not all better than me. I am a senior. I have been here for four years. If there is a someone better than me, then they should play. But if there is someone equal to me, or worse, I should be given playing time.” I explained.
I looked up and saw that my coaches face had softened. She was listening.
“I want to play. I want to get a Varsity letter in basketball. But I feel like you don’t want me on the team.” I said.
“Do you want me to quit?” I asked.
I can’t remember everything she said.
But she did have a plan.
She did want me on the team.
She did have a place for me.
The place she had for me was the bench...for the majority of game time.
She asked me to come off the bench, (and play my best)... when she needed me to.
I agreed to the terms
We lost, and we lost, and we lost... I sat and watched...and waited for my time to play.
At the award ceremony I got my Varsity letter. But I also got what my coach had termed “The 6th Man Award”. I didn’t know that was a thing. But as she talked, I could tell she was serious.
What I didn’t know (when I agreed to come off the bench and play my best), was that (according to the NBA), “This is the player who is regularly used as a team's first substitute and/or the best non-starter in a team.”
I didn’t know coach actually had a real place for me.
This experience was one of several key lessons I've learned from my coaches and mentors.
I like to pretend I have control.
I like to make big plans for myself.
But that day for me in coach’s office, was one of my earliest lessons in how one of my favorite passages, might look in my life.
“In his heart a man plans his course. But the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
I wanted the Varsity letter. I thought I knew how I should get it.
However, I submitted to the greater plan. I chose to follow the steps the coach gave me to get there.
I took my first structured painting class in 6th grade. My art teacher had identified a handful of my classmates, and called for us to come to an hour just for our art technique development, while the other students stayed in their classroom to do other work.
This was the first time I had ever been recognized by an art teacher.
I continued throughout high school and received recognition. My highschool art teacher regularly passed me information on art schools she thought I should attend for college. She helped me prepare my portfolio for my applications.
By my senior year, the time came for me to choose…
The world (and the adults in it) told me I had to choose… art or athletics.
I remember the walk to the art room. I had to tell my teacher I was choosing athletics. I was going to run track and cross country, on scholarship. This would mark the true beginning of my career path.
I remember the pain in her eyes, as I told her that my mom was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to support myself as an artist.
I had told my teacher in the years before that I hated running, and that I wanted to be an art teacher like her. She didn’t tell me not to choose athletics. But she told me to keep painting.
In the fall of 2008, I went to talk with my pastor. I thought my first marriage was nearing its end. I felt like I needed to get involved with the church more, especially at that time.
Painting in front of our entire church while our pastor spoke, was not how I thought I should serve. I thought I should be in the nursery with the babies...not painting my interpretation of the message.
Pastor encouraged me not to hide my gift...and called for me to stand up in front of everyone and paint.
After the series, they asked for me to have a showing at the church. They were going to open the church to the public, and wanted me to speak about what each painting meant to me. They put a notice in the local paper.
As I set up for the showing, I had no idea how I could get up there and speak. My husband was not coming. As I saw is family come in to the church, part of me still had hope that he would come.
I scanned the room one last time, as they called for me to come and speak. He never came.
In 2010, I was setting up a new life for myself. The same pastor called. He let me know he (and some of the members of my old church) were starting a new church, called “Sacred Journey”. I had left his church when I had left my first husband...just a week after the public showing of my paintings.
By that spring, I had been asked to paint again, for Sacred Journey.
As I look at the picture of me standing next to this painting, I almost don’t even recognize myself.
I hardly see a trace of “athlete” left in me.
I remember picking up my paintbrush, and feeling like I couldn’t paint well anymore.
I remember feeling like I was losing my gifts.
After all, I hadn’t painted but a handful of times in the last 10 years.
I had also convinced myself that “athlete Maile” was no longer valuable to my career as a trainer. Being a “regular person” seemed to make more people comfortable in working with me.
A few weeks after this picture was taken, my second husband proposed. We were married by the fall of 2010. I put down my brush, to focus on my new life. After all...painting seemed to accelerate the end of my last marriage.
My son was born in May of 2012. I was nursing my son on the couch, when my second husband asked. “Who painted those?”
I looked up and he was referring to two of my favorite paintings, from 2002.
“I did.” I replied in disbelief.
My disbelief turned to anger...and then to pain.
“How could he not know?” I thought to myself.
“Because you quit.” A voice in my head replied.
I had quit everything dear to me, against the urging of my coaches, teachers, and pastors.
I had let my roles of wife and mother erase my life.
I had let the world tell me that what I held dear to me and my life, no longer had value.
My close girlfriend Leah, took this picture of my painting the day I painted it, on June of 2010.
This is what my painting looks like as a “negative”.
In photography, a negative is an image in which the lightest areas appear darkest... and the darkest areas appear lightest.
Merriam-Webster advises that
“A negative photographic image is used for printing positive pictures.”
Since my last marriage ended, in the beginning in January of 2013. I’ve hid these pictures from my social media.
"Who am I to be putting these type of messages out into the world, when I can’t seem to be a good example." I told myself. "Surely the world would not accept this level of vulnerability."
I had used wax crayon to keep the white, white, as I painted.
I wanted myself to stay in light.
I would never have painted a picture with such darkness….or with a background of fire.
But the negative image is beautiful to me.
It was another lesson...that when you want to recreate a positive picture...it comes from a negative.
Would my light be as light, without my darkness??
Would my soul be as beautiful without its imperfections?
Who am I to stand in front of you, and say I know the path to restoration?
Honestly, I am not sure...
But when Jesus sat down next to the woman at Jacob’s Well, and called for her follow his next steps for her life...
He already knew who he was talking to.
He was talking to a woman like me.
He was calling a woman like me.
We were not called to quit on those things that give us life.
We are called to live in faith, that if we use our gifts to serve the one who gave them to us, he will provide.
It reminds me of my coach, telling me her plan for me, and my acceptance of it.
It reminds me of my teacher, telling me not to quit painting, even though the world told me to.
It reminds me of my pastor, calling on me to use what I have been given, after years of hiding it.
We want to know that we are wanted.
We want to know that we have a purpose.
We long for it.
We chase it.
We train for it.
But then we look at our lives, and the picture doesn’t add up.
We can’t see how our current situation could ever be used for any good.
Pain blinds us, and all we know in our heart that we were built for so much more.
We feel stuck.
We feel unwanted.
We feel like quitting, when the world and life’s challenges threaten us.
But...we are not called to quit.
We are called to our own sacred journey.
I am called to share my methods of restoring the heart, mind, and soul with you. I would love to have you come along with me.
If you feel moved to follow me, join my list and you will be the first to see what is coming next.