Saturday, June 6, 2020


A few months ago, my favorite local art store, AC Moore, closed its doors.  What a sad day!  So many employees affected.  This store was my source for canvases.  I would wait until they had a 50% to 70% off sale and then hold off until one day during the sale, "the" coupon would arrive in my inbox.  It was a coupon for an extra 10% off of the sale price.  It's probably as close as I'll ever get to the sensation of buying stocks on the trading floor!   I would rush out and buy as many canvases as my SUV could carry.  Those canvases would last me for about 6 months ~ until the next mega sale arrived.

 I was ready to start a large garden scene today and went into the basement, aka supply room, to see what might be available.  To my dismay, I didn't have a new, fresh canvas in the right size. What had been a seemingly endless supply was coming to an end. 

I began to scan the room for an old painting, willing to give its life to become a new work of art.  As I flipped through some older pieces, I came to a large landscape full of moody clouds, rolling hills and a rock wall.  It was terrible.  But 3 years ago, I was so proud of it, I hung it in a prominent place in my den.  It seemed to be a significant moment when I was able to whitewash over that painting.  I can remember thinking with a number of paintings, "what if I am never able to paint something this good again?".  Tonight, I had confidence that the garden scene that would appear over the next few days would be far superior to the original painting.

Growing in art has been such a journey.  There has been no hiding the insecurity.  I can remember the first time I showed a friend an early painting ~ the first time a customer saw my work ~ the first time my work was displayed in public.  This has felt like a long distance run, full of hurdles that had to be cleared.  I have temporarily stopped at some of the hurdles, and crashed and burned at others.  But each had to be overcome before progress could be made. I could have stopped at any number of points along the way and would never have enjoyed where I am today.  And a year from now, two years from now, I am hoping to have significantly improved from this point.

Insecurity can have several roots, but I think they all lead to the taproot of pride.  What will people think of me?  There are times when it seems easier to quit and give up, rather than put yourself out there and risk looking foolish.  But I believe the people who find the most satisfaction in life are those who are willing to go after whatever God assigns to them, regardless of the cost.  

After 4 years of painting insecurity, it was quite freeing tonight to experience confidence.
Confident that I can paint over something with an even better painting.  Confident that I will improve each year.  Confident that if I'm willing to run my race and not let the hurdles or insecurities stop me, I will get to the finish line.  I would hate to get to the end of my life and see a string of hurdles that were not overcome, where I quit and gave up.  I know God is doing much more with the art than just the art!  I am so curious as to where all of this is leading! 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Where's the Grace?

If you read my last blog, I shared how some times the paint just flows almost effortlessly onto the canvas with an amazing and pleasing result, but the following day is just full of frustration and pain, followed by a canvas burial.  There was one painting in particular in which I had labored long and the painting went from bad to worse.  I finally invited God into that frustration and asked Him what was causing this problem, and  I heard a gentle and quick response:
"There's no grace on it."

I knew immediately what this was referencing.  When I realized over 3 years ago that God was giving me an intense desire to paint (but with no talent to back that up), it became a night and day mission to get something on the canvas that was presentable.

  When I first started, 1 out of 10 paintings would be halfway decent.  Then 2 out of 10 weren't so bad.  Then I jumped to 3 out of 10 actually not being a total embarrassment.  You get the idea.  There was steady progress coming out of my full-out painting committment.  I finally got to the point that some of my earlier "good" paintings joined other canvases that had gone to the trash bin.  What was once good became unacceptable.  You don't see what you don't see.  As I improved, I saw the imperfections and childish  style of my early paintings.  There was a very slow, painfully slow, yet steady progress being made.  But then I seemed to hit that plateau that those of us who have tried losing weight have experienced.  It felt like I was doing the right thing by putting in long hours, but nothing was moving.

That's when the grace question confronted me.  When I hear grace, I think of unmerited favor; something that can not be earned or deserved but is given freely by God.  God has impressed much on my heart over the last few years about grace because I often found myself on a hamster wheel, trying to do enough for God, striving to please Him and always worried that I just wasn't enough in His eyes.  Maybe you can relate.

He has put some amazing mentors in my life and has really taught me much about grace.  I just always assumed with the paintings that because this seemed to be God's idea, there would be daily grace to see it come to pass.  It had not occurred to me that there are seasons within seasons and the fact that God has called you to do something, doesn't mean that task is always a priority.  It depends on the day.

So rather than rushing to the easel, I have begun asking God daily how He wants me to spend my time.  To my surprise, painting was not the high priority I once believed it to be.  Instead, the Lord had me work on cleaning out my office and basement and closets for a month.  Does God really care about our closets? 

He started showing me that He is a God of divine order, not clutter and chaos.  I have to admit, getting things in order has been a pleasant adjustment!  My small office now houses everything I need for the business side of the interior design work along with all of my painting supplies, including a very large easel.  It's full!!  But how delightful to have need of some item and be able to go right to it.  It has brought an unexpected pleasure in my life and I don't waste time looking for things as I once did.  I would not have arrived at this point had grace been there daily for painting!

I only paint about 25% of the time now, but when I do, there is pleasure in knowing it's in God's timing with His favor on it and the things that are important to Him have been stewarded well.  Even if I feel He is inviting me to paint, I will often double check and ask "Is there anything that needs to be done first?"  Some days, it feels a bit like finishing my homework before going out to play!  Not a bad habit to develop!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Priority List

I love keeping a journal.   That began years ago when a friend suggested I keep record of the beautiful things my parents did for me so that, when they were gone, I could keep those precious memories intact!  From that initial journal keeping, I began to document lovely things that God was doing for me ~ everything from answered prayers to miraculous interventions to lovely surprises that He dropped into my day.  You think you won't forget some of those larger God-moments, but it's amazing as I reread my journals, how many memories had subtly slipped away.  Each time those memories are reflamed, I'm so grateful for these journals!

So I'm using this blog, in part, to capture some of the challenges and victories and surprises that have and are occuring during this painting journey.  I guess it will always be a journey because there will never be a completion ~ only (hopefully) growth!

A dear customer of mine opened her lovely home to me at the beginning of November and we both invited friends and customers to come look at art.  She also gracioiusly allowed me to include another artist friend along with a friend who makes silver jewelry. We were able to raise quite a bit of money for Hydrating Humanity and we're getting close to having enough funds to build a water well.

That art show could have been even more stressful if it was the first time my art had been on display. Fortunately, I had displayed some of my paintings at church earlier in the year.  Putting  paintings out for the first time was a little bit like taking your robe off in Times Square.  It's also a time when you have to make a decision.  Are you so tied up in the art that you are going to feel good about yourself if people applaud or bad about yourself if people are negative or ignore?  Had I allowed my identity and worth to become entangled in paint on canvas, rather than getting my identity and worth from God, regardless of what people thought about the art?  It was a question I had to face.

When we get ourselves too entangled in a "thing" (be that our appearance, our job, our home, what we paint, how our children perform, what we drive, etc.) that thing can become an idol.  God strongly warns us not to have any idols in our lives .  I used to think of idols as little gold statues that people of old worshipped.  But I have come to see that we all have idols that present themselves in our lives ~ and that means there's a decison to make.  Either we bow down to them and embrace them and give them a high place of importance ~ or we pull them down so that our prirority list remains healthy with God at the top of the list.

Painting has been such an emotional roller coaster for me in so many ways.  One day in the "studio" (I use that term very loosly because it's also my interior design office), I may have such an upper of a day ~ the painting just flows onto the canvas, almost painting itself.  The very next day may be full of agitation and frustration and a final canvas burial into the garbage bin. You can really get your hopes up when you paint several really good paintings in a row and feel like you have finally broken through to the other side where all artists want to live.  But then that dog of a painting shows up and you are mindful of your limitations.

I spent a long, long season of painting when I was almost frantically painting every free moment that I had.  I knew God had called me to paint so I took that as a permanent marching order to run full speed ahead.  There was one landscape that I had worked and reworked multiple times.  It SHOULD have been a good paiting.  The composion elements were right.  It should have been good but it was terrible.  After reworking multiple times, I decided to change the color palette.  It went from a bad painting to a really horrible painting that I wanted to wrap in brown paper before carrying it to the trash bin ~ in case anyone was watching.

What was wrong?  I remember staring at the painting, trying to figure out what on earth was wrong when I heard the Lord softly whisper in my spirit the long-awaited answer:
"There's no grace on it."  A divine light had been shown and I understood immediately what He was showing me.

I realize that this short update of a blog is turning into a book ~ so for any who have chosen to read (thank you!), I'm going to stop here and tackle the "grace" discussion for another day.  It's been one of the most life-changing revelations for me and I want to give it the time and space it deserves.

Please know I am always interested in your comments or questions and would be so honored to pray for you if you have any requests.  Feel free to contact me!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

In the beginning...

April 4, 2019

This is my first-ever blog, trying to put into words the extraordinary journey that has been taking place over the last 2 1/2 years.   I'm sitting in my office (aka interior design studio) that is now crammed to the gill with canvases, watercolor pads and tubs full of acrylic and oil paints.  The walls are now covered in paintings.  Near the printer is a large vision board with a map of Africa.  It carries the title in bold letters, "5000 Wells."  My office is quite the reflection of what has happened in my life over the last few years.

Out of seemingly nowhere, I began to have a desire to paint.  I'm not talking about something casual or hobbyish but rather something that started to intrigue me that quickly turned to driving me.  As I had never (to my remembrance) even picked up a paint brush (knowing talent was not awaiting me), this whole desire seemed ridiculous.  And where was it coming from?  And why?  I began to seek the Lord about it.  I said "Lord, if this desire is going to continue to burn in me, You're going to have to give me something to work with." 

I took my first class at Salem College with a sweet group of ladies who have gathered weekly for years to paint and fellowship.  I quickly realized it was not a class for someone who had never picked up a brush and my teacher also realized there was a "gap.”  She recommended looking online at basic newbie classes, which I did.  It's amazing what's now available online ~ some of the classes were expensive down to some favorite freebies.  And thus it began.

At first, I would trash 8 paintings for every 10.  I realized months later that my ratio was improving, and I was now running 5 to 5.  Actually, many of the 5 saved were eventually trashed or reworked as I improved, but it did feel like slow progress was being made.  The desire to paint never lessened.  In fact, it increased.  I remember lying in bed at 2 in the morning, not able to think about anything other than painting, until I finally had to get up and do something about it!

I was spending tons of money on paints, canvases and lessons, and wondering where all of this was heading and for what purpose when the Lord spoke to me about Hydrating Humanity.  It is a well-digging, non-profit organization that was started by my pastor years ago.  It has turned into a large ministry with over 600 completed wells.  When a well is dug for a school in Africa, the parents and families are invited for the dedication, and the “Jesus” film is shown in their language.  So not only do they receive fresh, accessible water, but they now have access to the Living Water!

The Lord spoke to me about donating a portion of the proceeds from painting sales to Hydrating Humanity.  For the first time, I had a sense of purpose, not to mention diminishing some of the guilt over the growing expenditures.  I also had a sense that out there somewhere, there would be opportunity to gather other like-minded artists to form a group called "Artists on a Mission.”  More to follow on that.

I have been working on a website and am getting ready to send out a colorful mailer to my interior design customers, hopefully this coming week.  Pulling the trigger on this has always been so far in the future.  It's hard to believe it's almost here.  

More to follow…