Come, Let Me Show You the Light

As my mother and I were sorting through her attic one day, we came across a picture I had drawn when I was in grade school. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” it stated at the top. I smiled, recalling my thoughts and feelings while drawing that picture. I had wanted to be an artist.

I have vivid memories of coloring and painting as a child. Art brought me joy, and the first contest I won was at the young age of eight. But by high school I had long forgotten artistic ambitions. Had you asked me if I wanted to be artist, I would have laughed in your face and jokingly said, “That’s what lazy people do!” I was always under the impression that pursuing art wasn’t feasible. Art was an admirable hobby, but certainly not a means to support myself.

Real and Inspiring - Be Happy When I Grow Up By Kirsten Reed

“Be Happy When I Grow Up” by Kirsten Reed

But sometimes we receive a kick in the pants that forces us to re-examine our lives. That’s what happened to me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a kick. I had found myself in a boxing ring, and life continued to pound on me over a number of years.  It began when I experienced complications during the childbirth of my second child Haleigh. I was hospitalized for severe blood loss and my sweet healthy baby girl sustained a severe brain injury. After a six week stay at children’s hospital in NICU, Haleigh came home, but her life was not easy.  She could not swallow. She ran fevers constantly.  She had pneumonia too many times to count. She suffered up to 200 seizures a day and required around the clock medical assistance to clear her airways and manage her pain. It was emotionally exhausting, financially draining, and extremely difficult on my marriage.

Real and Inspiring - Sweet 16 by Kirsten Reed

“Sweet 16” by Kirsten Reed

While my husband and I experienced some periods of hope and happiness during Haleigh’s 27-month life, there were so many dark days and gut-wrenching lows. I struggled with anger and resentment.  I was full of guilt, always feeling like I should have done “this” or “that” differently. I carried so much shame and guilt as a person, a mother, and a wife. Over time, I didn’t know how to live without it. Most of all, I felt alone, and I grew more and more depressed.

Eventually, I had lost my will to live. It was a minute by minute prayer just to make it through the day. I would scan the Bible looking for any words of encouragement. I had some very long, one-sided debates with God, bargaining for her life. I felt full anxiety at the thought of the future. I thought often, “How am I going to live like this every day?” and "Just breathe. One breath at a time. I need to be able to live.”

During Christmas 2000 in Florida, we had our family from California, New Jersey and Texas visit us. The cousins and aunts doted and loved on Haleigh. The next day, her temperature suddenly spiked to 106 and her breathing became weak.  She passed away the morning of December 26 while gazing at our Christmas tree.

Real and Inspiring - Simply Christmas by Kirsten Reed

"Simply Christmas" by Kirsten Reed

“At least you were able to mentally prepare for her death,” somebody once said to me. Insensitive comments hurt and made me feel so isolated. Losing a child is a thousand times worse than one can ever imagine. I fell into an empty fog trying to get by from day to day, and then slipped back into bed at night with my tears and memories. At my lowest, I found myself wanting to open up to strangers in grocery stores and walking down the streets. When store clerks casually asked how I was doing, I wanted to burst out in tears about the pain I felt, how much I missed my daughter, and how I wanted to die. Life is hard, and it’s worse when you are surrounded by people but you still feel all alone.

Had it not been for my two other children looking at me and needing me, I don’t know if I would have had a reason for living, as thoughts of suicide were a constant companion.

Real and Inspiring His Purpose Will Prevail by Kirsten Reed

“His Purpose Will Prevail” by Kirsten Reed

One day, I came to the proverbial fork in the road, and I realized I had to make a choice. I could continue to be full of despair – choosing anger, resentment and bitterness - or I could choose to live a happier life. I felt like God was whispering very gently, "Lean on me." ...And I did.

When you’re in darkness, you will be tempted to close your eyes and sleep through the pain. But if you don’t open your eyes, you’ll never see the light.

Honestly, it was hard to choose life…but through my faith, I found the strength to open my eyes and see the light. Here’s how I began to appreciate life:

I chose to love myself, which allowed me to truly love others.  

True happiness begins when you choose to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, life is a performance.

After my family had transitioned Haleigh to a full-time medical facility, I felt so ashamed we didn’t have the money or resources to care for her like she needed. One day, a woman from a church I didn’t belong to dropped off a meal. She said that she and other women at their church were praying for me and my family. I closed the door slightly, because I didn’t want her to know that Haleigh wasn’t there. I felt I had failed as a mother and didn't deserve the kindness.

But I learned later that they did know Haleigh had transitioned, and it really touched my heart in such a deep way. This random act of kindness revealed to me the meaning of agape love. There was no judgment. These women didn’t know me. I couldn’t benefit their church. It was simply unconditional love from strangers. And to me it was a kiss on the forehead from a loving God.

Real and Inspiring Be Kind by Kirsten Reed

“Be Kind” by Kirsten Reed

That act of kindness had a powerful effect on me. It quietly reminded me I was worthy of love. I felt God was whispering to me, “I have not forgotten about you. You are not condemned. You are worthy to be loved.” It was this act of love that compelled me to choose life once again.

I actively pursued happiness.

My other children inspired me to live, but the continuous healing became a reality when I began to embrace every moment of joy. I took the time to relish the sunsets, flowers, and things that made me smile or laugh.

I returned to my creative outlets like arts and crafts, scrapbooking, watercolor painting, and photography. As time passed, I stumbled upon an art class that rebirthed the artist in me. I began to paint with mixed media and acrylics, which became my signature style. Friends and family began to ask me if they could purchase my art, and encouraged me to pursue it full-time.

Real and Inspiring - She Dreams on Stars by Kirsten Reed“She Dreams on Stars” by Kirsten Reed

In 2011, after 20 years as a public relations specialist and freelance writer, I decided to leave my educational profession to pursue the very thing I aspired to be in grade school. Now I am a painter, and my livelihood is bearing my soul for the world to see…one canvas at a time.

I embraced my purpose.

It can be intimidating to put your soul out there for the world to see. People in general are critical, and I am sensitive to the judgment of others. However, a higher purpose inspires me. My art is not about me. It is through my art that I can inspire others. If I can move the heart of someone else, I have accomplished my purpose.

Real and Inspiring Beauty FULL by Kirsten Reed

“Beauty FULL” by Kirsten Reed

It is for this reason that I try to translate my feelings of happiness into my paintings. I try to incorporate positive, encouraging messages of love. Often times, I’ll begin a canvas with a prayer or positive thoughts written underneath the artwork. Nobody ever sees it, but it’s cathartic for me to express what I’m going through at the time. 

I extend compassion to others whenever possible.

People are hurting everywhere. You just never know what the person next to you is going through. Having struggled with suicidal thoughts, I know that it’s not always apparent to people. I am sensitive to the fact that little words or gestures can turn someone’s day in a positive or negative direction.

Real and Inspiring Mother and Children by Kirsten Reed

“Mother and Children” by Kirsten Reed

Reaching out to others with love and respect, speaking encouraging words to others, and extending compassion whenever possible should be the norm. I have learned how to be more compassionate with others. Not just lip service but real service, like giving more of myself to my friends, family and community whenever I can.

I pursue real and authentic relationships.

We’re not promised tomorrow. We’re not promised anything, yet people often live their lives centered on things and events. Life is so busy. Sometimes we don’t take the time to really listen to others. Often distracted, we can unfortunately miss the beauty and soul in others.

Friendships are true when you can bear your true self and not worry about judgment. I have found that healing came easier for me when I pursued real relationships that let me be my authentic self without hiding behind the masks of life.

Real and Inspiring Kirsten Reed

We don’t know how many days we have on this earth, but I want to make mine count. There’s no time to waste being unhealthy, unhappy, or unsatisfied.  I want to leave my mark on this world and make it better if I can. I want to love with all my heart and be thankful for every ray of sunshine, every day, every breath, every hug and kiss.

Through my artwork, my hope is that you, my children, and my loved ones are inspired by the possibilities of life.

On your journey, may you be blessed to see the fingerprints of God and have loving, authentic relationships…so that when life gets tough, you too can pull out of the darkness into the light.

Kirsten Reed – Spring Hill, Tennessee

Read more about Kirsten: "Be a Light in Our World"
Kirsten Reed Website:
Kirsten Reed Blog:

Kirsten donates 10% of all proceeds of her art sales to charitable causes through her newly-launched campaign Palette with Purpose. Visit for more information.

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