Have you ever doubted God’s promises and goodness, even when you’ve experienced it before? Are there times you’ve forgotten the blessings of your past in your present times of darkness? Marcy Gregg is no stranger to forgetting. In her new memoir, Blank Canvas, Marcy tells of her traumatic memory loss and God’s relentless pursuit of her heart in the years that followed. Through her story of countless moments of grace, love, miracles, and art, God reveals his promise to use every piece of our lives for our good and his glory. Today, Marcy is an abstract oil painter and is dedicated to using her art to share the gospel. Underneath the abstract layers of paint is a foundation of His Word, a painted verse from Scripture. This process is a charge to us all: that upon His Word, what may be vague and uncertain can still be beautiful, a masterpiece in the making. It’s a grace to welcome Marcy to the farm’s table today…
I had just given birth to our third child, a little girl, when my health took a turn. Unbeknownst to me and the hospital staff, bacteria from an existing sinus infection blew back into my brain during labor, causing life-altering complications. I slipped into a coma, and it was later determined I had contracted pneumococcal bacterial spinal meningitis.
With little hope of recovery for me, doctors prepared my family for the worst.
Thankfully, the Charlotte community and friends from afar turned to the promises of God in prayer and declaration, and at the end of the week, when all looked lost, our church pastor, David Chadwick, prayed Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV) over me. Miraculously I began to regain consciousness the next morning.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
But when I woke up, I was so confused. I didn’t remember giving birth to a baby girl. I didn’t remember there were two little boys who already called me Mom. I thought I was 17, not my actual age of 30. My husband, Dev, was a stranger. The details of my life that my family and friends tried to describe to me seemed to belong to someone else. While God had saved my life, he did not save 13 years of my memories.
My life after the age of 17 was just a blank canvas.
Day after day, Dev would sit by my side, eyes exhausted from worried and sleepless nights, sharing particulars of our life in hopes he could unlock a memory. He taped pictures of our two boys, ages 6 and 3, and of our new baby girl to the rails of my bed—a sweet sentiment, and yet impossible for me to comprehend.
How could they possibly be mine? Would I ever remember them? What did the boys like? What were their favorite colors, books to read, clothes to wear, or things to eat? Do they like superheroes or playing sports? Would they ask me to sing to them and would I know the lyrics to their favorite songs? How would I know how to care for a newborn? Being “Mom” to anyone, much less a newborn baby, seemed like a role I had never played. Would I know how to take care of her?
“By God’s grace all of those hesitations and insecurities were swept away the moment they brought my children to visit me.”
By God’s grace all of those hesitations and insecurities were swept away the moment they brought my children to visit me. I did not remember having them, but from the second they walked into my hospital room, I knew they were mine. God gifted me with an unexplainable peace about it all when my eyes met theirs . . . and when I touched their skin, I knew I could trust everything would be okay.
Many days passed, and I regained my strength. I longed to leave the hospital. It was becoming clear that while I could not remember the last 13 years, what I was being told about my life was absolutely true. The medical staff tried to assure me that my memories would return with time, but those promises seemed empty based on how little I could remember. Inpatient rehabilitation was recommended. But I wasn’t interested in rehab. I wanted to go home.
I wanted out of the tangle of tubes and the smell of antiseptic wafting up my nose. I wanted to go home with Dev and the kids, wherever home was, whatever home looked like. So I did what I thought was necessary and faked the return of my memories. With every concerned and caring visitor, I’d wait until Dev said hello and then parrot their names with a warm and excited smile. I’d ask questions and do my best to follow the cues, trying to pass for the longtime friend they thought I was. Before long, I was set free to continue my recovery at home—just as I had hoped.
“… it was up to me to convince the world I was okay.”
However, leaving the hospital with a family I barely recognized and a life I knew nothing about led to a string of stressful and broken years. I left the hospital with a pit in my stomach. I knew I had just signed up for the biggest acting gig of my life. No one could know that I still didn’t remember anything of those 13 years, and it was up to me to convince the world I was okay.
I felt completely alone.
“I blamed God for taking my memories, so I decided that from now on I would take control of my life.”
I blamed God for taking my memories, so I decided that from now on I would take control of my life. All the broken pieces were going to be put back together by me, not by the one who I thought had shattered them in the first place.
This posture of tightly held control led me nowhere but down. Over the next seven years, I slid deeper and deeper into a prison of lies and addiction. The bottom of a wine bottle became a familiar sight at the end of nearly every evening. Its warm and comforting presence was like a friend, someone who could pat me on the back after another long day and drive the loneliness of “faking fine” out, even if only for the night. But eventually the alcohol felt less like a friend and more like a monster that demanded to be fed. I wasn’t nearly as much in control as I was determined to be, and it was evident all the striving was beginning to take its toll.
Surrender would be the only way out, but that felt like a tall order after all I had been through.
Thankfully the Lord is a patient Father, willing to run after us, carry us, pick up our brokenness, and piece us back together. He literally brought me to my knees one evening while I was taking our dog, Wizard, out for a walk. There, in our driveway, hands and knees stinging from falling after Wizard lunged after whatever critter he spotted, God spoke to me. I had a clear view into our home where Dev and the kids were cuddled up on the couch, illuminated by the warm lights of our Christmas tree. God then whispered into my heart:
“Thankfully the Lord is a patient Father, willing to run after us, carry us, pick up our brokenness, and piece us back together.”
“As much as that father loves his children, I love you more. And just as that father has his daughter in his arms, I am holding you, and I will never let you fall.
You just have to trust me.”
And so, I did. That evening was the start of allowing God into my shattered life and allowing him to take control. While I have never recovered all those years of memories, God has given me so much more. I have learned to trust in him with open hands, that the memories of my past are insignificant compared to the purpose of my future. He gave me a second chance at life—a blank canvas, so I could rebuild my life upon his faithful promises.
Today, I am 24 years sober and have dedicated the last 14 years to my career as an abstract oil painter. It is through art that I see more of who God is. He is the artist of our lives, and we are his canvas. He gives our lives color and texture through every layer, just as the artist does with paint, each layer of paint with its own purpose for the end result. Though not all of the layers are seen, each of them matters and none are wasted. As the layers of my life have formed and the joys and sorrows intertwined, I’ve learned that God is faithful, that He is relentless in the pursuit of my heart, and that He truly works all things together for good. He is not just the God of the universe, as I thought so many years ago, he is also the Lord of my life.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28, NLT)
Marcy Gregg is an abstract oil painter whose work is found in private and corporate collections across the United States and abroad. She is also a speaker who shares her story of hope, resilience, and survival. After a coma left her with little chance of recovery, Marcy ultimately regained consciousness but lost much of her memory. Faced with the daunting task of rebuilding her identity, Marcy slowly put the pieces of her life back together, ultimately returning to her true passion, art. Today, in sharing her story on stages across the nation, Marcy seeks to inspire others by finding beauty in the abstract and hope in the unseen.
Blank Canvas is the remarkable true story of a woman who lost herself and tried to fight her way back on her own—but who found unexpected beauty in hope, faith, and second chances.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion. ]