Keeping out the Light

The space was cool with an ancient, heavy coolness sunk deep into the stone floor, clinging to my bare feet and staying between the bones. The air was the slightest bit damp, holding that intriguing stony-musty scent of very old places.

But the light. It was the light that made me understand.

A room in a 13th century Italian structure, formerly an abbey, was our bedroom for a week. When I opened the thick wooden shutters to let the feeble indirect light into the dim room, the bedsheet’s crumpled folds were illuminated. My eyes instantly recognized those distinct lines and shadows. I saw the difficult, long-studied shading of fabric folds painted by the masters, while beyond, in the corner, shadows fell over the foreboding wardrobe of some deep almost-color. I saw what the masters had seen.

All those Renaissance paintings with their bright, sharp-focused subjects wearing rich colors, cool eyes directly gazing out of faces illuminated against dark shadow-velvety backgrounds: this is what every room looked like, then.

Because light was precious. Light barely made it inside.

There has been a thought stirring at the back of my mind since this summer journey to Italy. It is simply that 

whenever we construct something to keep people out,
we also keep out the light.

A village tucked away in a mountain range may feel unfindable and may deter unsafe people.  But because of those same mountains, the sun rises a little later and sets a little earlier in that village–the day itself is made a little shorter for the mountains’ protection.

A fortress stout and strong will keep out invaders and make its inhabitants feel safe. But with windows narrow and closed, and walls high and impenetrable, the inhabitants will rarely feel the warmth of the sun–it will always feel like night inside, cool and dark.

Even an everyday bedroom curtain keeps others’ eyes from seeing you in a vulnerable state–but you cannot enjoy the light of morning until you pull back the curtains, taking the risk of being seen.

What I’m really speaking of
is the heart.

How many times a day do you hear the cold whispers–maybe you can’t hear them anymore because they’re such a part of you– telling you to “Be strong”? “Keep those walls up & keep your heart safely inside. Don’t let yourself get hurt again…”

When you shut out the risk of pain, you shut out so much more.

“I will remove your heart of STONE
& give you a heart of  f l e s h “

He doesn’t give a heart of diamond–

immaculate, sparkling, unbreakable.

He doesn’t give a heart of steel–

efficient, usable, tough.

Nor does He give a heart of paper–

easily bent to one’s will, easily thrown away.

He gives a heart of flesh.

Flesh is what composes living human bodies,
shaped by

God the sculptor,
God the engineer,
God the poet,

in His image, different from every other creature.
Somehow, we look like the One who is invisible.
And skin sets us apart–
we don’t have

a dragon’s myth-strong scales
or a bear’s wild-dense fur
or a bull’s stubborn-smooth thick hide

to protect us.

Fragile, vulnerable skin.

Flesh can be bruised, scratched, scarred. It can bleed. Flesh can feel so much pain.

But a heart of flesh is created to know and be known,
to love and be loved,
to speak and be spoken with,
to journey and be journeyed with,
to live and be tabernacled with.

It’s all that He has desired since the beginning.

Oh Jesus,

Crumble the defensive walls around our hearts
and teach our hearts to sing the songs of healing.
Create in us Your fearless vulnerability and ever-reaching love.

In the Name of our Wounded Healer who catapulted himself into our fragility–

to walk in our dust
and eat at our table,
to laugh with us
and weep with us–

our Warrior who came not wearing a suit of armor to protect Himself from us–

our pain, our anger, our rage–

but inhabited the ultra-vulnerable sweet-soft skin of a newborn
and lives to continually bear our flesh into His Father’s unapproachable Light,


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Open shutters, San Gimignano, Italy, August 2017

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Grandmother observes the crowded street, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017

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Italian light, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017


beneath her feet

Brick by brick she built up a tower of doubt & suspicion
Crowned herself with aspen fronds & mounted the stair
Looking down at the ancient ground, she said,
“Thou wilt not hold me; I must live here”

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Earth, too polite to say, “Hiding there, I hold you still…”,
whispered promises instead
“There is a scent you have known since the day of your birth…
The hills still carry the Breath of the One who stays”


“But I know not this scent & I am too young
for promises predating the dust of my body,
intolerably infant for vows older than the sky…
Your goodness looks on everyone, how do you see me?”

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“You were born small to take part in this grandeur,
your body’s dust is holy for within dwells the Breath.
Why do you tether yourself with fear to your tower,
to this soil you’ll always be bound…

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“Come through richly folded hills of velvet crimson sunset,
quiet fields of graceful glory growing
Even through the deep, hushed lands of weeping
under your feet a steady path will be found

WM (1 of 7).jpg“Freedom awaits, if you would set your feet on the ground…”

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A note on these words’ germination: While hearing Audrey Assad’s song “Good to me” for the first time several weeks ago, the earthy savor of “Your goodness” was so tangible to me. It was only later that I realized there was a conversation taking place, concerning the effect of fear on our perception of the endurance & vastness of His Goodness. All photos & words by me.

Mirror of Heaven

untitled (8 of 14)◆ IN THE TIME of the great walking bears that shook the earth with every footfall,
when humans traveled small among immense creatures and tree-giants,untitled (6 of 14)stars hung closer, leaning curious into our clear sky,
myths roamed as more than ragged, thin shadows,
and sunlight, moonlight, danced in patterns like fire…untitled (12 of 14)A man, pulled by an unsettling desire for something unknown and good
to soothe a heart torn by love,
wandered from his companions and slept by a silent lake
which had given cooling rest to his feet and mind.untitled (1 of 1)He pondered into sleep its remarkable source,
hearing the sound of water flowing from above…
and began to dream about a woman he had loved.

She stood on the waters of the silent lake.
Her footsteps had calmed it to silken stillness
so that every constellation in the deep night sky, even blushing Lady Moon,
smiled at their reflections.untitled (1 of 14)“This lake is called the Mirror of Heaven,”
she told him with a quiet confidence.
“Its waters are the tears of God Himself, they are healing!
Come learn to walk,
taking the waves and leaving a path
of order and tranquility for those behind you.
Come, still all waters with me so all will reflect heaven!”

With childlike delight in her eyes, she said,
“Let us go world-spinning and world-weaving!”untitled (14 of 14)“Let us repair the gaping holes torn in the sweeping fabric of love,
find the scars and mend them with holy mud!
Heaven comes home when all hearts reflect as a Mirror of Heaven…
Let us make haste!”untitled (10 of 14)“Oh, joy awaits…
But will you add your own tears to His?” ◆

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A word-painting inspired by a dream, our Lord’s prayer / calming of the sea storm, and Arthurian legend. All photos taken by K Grace Collins, all rights reserved.


strokes of my pen


My prayer for you, unnamed friend: That you may know how deeply God desires to know you and for you to know Him in return; He is jealous for your true affections. He has placed great value upon your entire being–your mind, your heart, your soul, your body. You are like Him, formed to visibly reflect His invisible image. You are worth more than gold and silver, diamonds and rubies. You are created with wondrous detail, infinitely more than the strokes of my pen could ever express. ❤

“I am Joseph”

In need, the long-promised eleven surround this discerning and mighty ruler once a brother, once a slave. The moment the dream came true and Joseph saw stars. Memories surged: belittled, betrayed, broken… abandoned. Yet, impossibly, for these same wounding ones it was only love which coursed from his eyes. The golden power of Egypt cast aside that they may come close, know his face.


“I am Joseph” by K Grace Collins. Oil pastel, 9 X 12 in. All rights reserved.


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The LORD’s mysterious affection for life inversions brought Joseph through a much-dark and winding way, His love and faithfulness forging and bounding the tight twists and turns, the pattern known only to Him…

Upon emerging, Joseph found he stood glimmering with favor and strength-made-whole, both tested and healed.


Upper Room(s)

Be careful what you read; you might see it. ◆ Let me show you what I have seen…

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Upper Rooms by Kelly Grace Collins. Water color pencil and artist pen. March, 2015. All rights reserved.

I awakened one morning to the joining of Psalm 104:13 and John 14:2:

“He waters the mountains from His palace…”
Psalm 104:13a


“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…”
John 14:2a

 I was startled by a realization… These are the same place.

Or at least, they will be. Or even more wondrous.
We will live with our powerful Creator King.
All of the richly poetic Old Testament descriptions of where He dwells?
This will be our home.

Eight streams of water to represent His salvation,
twelve little people to represent all His believing ones.

Take heart, dear ones. The wonders of dancing with Him that await us are beyond all imaginings and surpass all that we endure here. These upper rooms abound, each where the knowing of Him is heavy like sweet mist. His light, presence, and delight covers the whole palace city.


Upper Rooms, detail.


Upper Rooms, detail.


Upper Rooms, detail.


Upper Rooms, detail.


Upper Rooms, detail. 🙂

burning and sounding

First, it was a sweeping wall of dynamic flame, joyously roaring, as holiness. Outlines of secret trees were barely visible in the bottom right corner. Luminous orange and yellow billows of oil paint.

Months passed. Not forgotten, but there was no more…

Then, after a morning of unexplained tears during worship and gift of relieving sleep, next colors were present when eyes opened. Blue–crashing, powerful, and upset waters. White-foamed and threatening, they reached from the sky and began to submerge the secret trees, being released among them.

Months passed again. The receiver was thought to be known, but the purpose was not. Such animation and motion, agitation and passion…

At last, days before the window of presence after long separation, a girl was glimpsed walking through the flames. She was in them–all around her was flames and immense heat–she was engulfed. But she was alive. She was transparent, as the flames were her color and body’s substance.

Who was this one so loved, chosen to be so purified? Who was this one surviving and enduring through such a long pain? Who was this one with a white-hot core of being still clinging to here?

She is real; she is my friend. And now the painting is at home with her, speaking to her His words never meant for me. Though I have heard whispers that such words came from the trees…


When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm;
you will not be engulfed in raging rivers.
If it seems like you are walking through fire with flames licking at your limbs,
keep going;
you won’t be burned.

Isaiah 43:2 (VOICE)


Close up with iPhone. Oil and ink. Painted throughout 2014, for JB.



Art and photos by Kelly Grace Collins, all rights reserved.

December 21

why do You torture us with such long waitings
silence, absence–two curses
do You want us to stagger on,
hungry, empty, confused?

No, for all of 400 years–
winter solstice day, though the darkest is the shortest
and from Your secret entry,
the light could only become more full


Journal. Dec. 21, ’14. Ink + iPhone. All rights reserved.



Close-up, Journal. About 2×1 inches. Dec. 21, ’14. Ink + iPhone. All rights reserved.

Perhaps this part didn’t feel that different
from being held by Your Father
Nourished and safely hidden in the womb of a trusting girl
Your powerful mind asleep in the warm

God to be soothed, nursed, and held close
by human hands to human skin
Truly? Dependent, undeveloped fragility; infant bones and need
Embryonic hands still mastering the reins to spinning galaxies…

Born of the Second and Last Mother of All the Living,
God’s Answering Voice Incarnate


against the backdrop
of such a God
with such a history
    with creation and humanity since the Genesis

what can we say when You shine through?
when we said You would not, could not
when gloom of cloud and shroud of murk are forced to show themselves prisms
    proven, cultivated, placed bearers of Your light

You see all, yet hide us, when You outline our forms
wounds, scars, secret thoughts of sin–vulnerable, visible
yet wrapped in You, for only You see this way
    Gentle Maker, we are safe in Your eyes

praise to the One (!)

who makes darkness turn to light unexpectedly
who forces our sin-shrunken perspectives wider and wider open every day
who sees our entire beings
    and looks with love.


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The sunset, as visible from McHenry, IL on Nov. 29. After a completely grey day in every sense of the word. Photos taken by Chris and me, all rights reserved.