A day with God "Just be"

butterflyLast month, Sam and I went out to the Nordic trails at Eagle Point Provincial Park near Drayton Valley.

Once we arrived, we went our separate ways to spend the morning with God. I picked the trail that would take me toward the river.

When I go out to spend a day with God, I take my journal, a Bible, my camera and my compact plein air painting and sketching supplies. I look for “God sightings” as I hike. When I see an animal in its natural setting – it feels like a gift straight from God. Blooming flowers, even tiny ones, also bring me delight.  As God brings my attention to these and other wonders of nature sometimes it triggers other things: metaphors, sometimes scripture, or just thoughts. It is a day to sit or walk and listen to what God might have for me.

Armored with bug spray and sunscreen I struck off down the wide path.

Not even five minutes later, I saw my first animal in the distance, a deer. Slowly, I lifted my camera to take a photo or two before it walked away. It was looking directly at me and moved its head to see me better. I had its attention as much as it had mine. Then the deer casually walked out of sight.

1As a deer longs for flowing streams,  deer
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
    the face of God? Psalm 42 (NRSV)

This scripture came to my mind as I paused, looking at where the deer had been.  Psalm 42 is one of the scriptures for the upcoming “Art, Vocabulary of the Soul” retreat in June.   “Restore my soul” is the theme of the retreat and that was what I was looking for in this day with God.  It all seemed to work together in my mind and heart, as it often does when I’m listening for God, confirming to me his work in that listening.

Soon, I found a place to sit where I could see the river in the distance through the trees. I pulled out my journal, Bible, and paints and waited on the Lord.

I read Psalms 65 and 104. They both speak of creation and praising God. After reading, I just sat and listened to the sounds of creation around me. (It has taken me awhile to learn to “just be.”) As I sat there, I was filled with the awe and wonder of God. God was filling me up with himself. I was content and relaxed.

I found myself reflecting on how busy this spring has been for me with teaching and other things.  Yet, I am not feeling exhausted and stressed in the busyness. By this time last year, I was feeling constantly behind unable to catch up.  

What has been the difference?

I have taken more time to paint, which helps me connect to my feelings. I have taken more time with God, whether in my studio or in nature. I have also been able to be more present as I did things. I have “paced” myself by taking time to rest if I am working late.

I pulled out my paints and continued my time by painting, sketching and listening. Here are my sketches:


wildflowerAs Sam and I walked back, we shared about what each of us heard from God. Sam talked about what he called our inner experience and outer experience. He explained that what people long for, what we truly want in life has to do with our inner experience: contentment, happiness, peace, joy. Yet often we focus on improving our outer experience in order to achieve these.

Restoring our souls, is giving space for our souls to be in God’s presence, much like our day here had been. And out of that can come the contentment, joy and peace we long for.

For me, it was another “God sighting” that we had come to similar themes, each framed in our unique ways, and I was encouraged that God was preparing us both for the coming retreat. 

How beautiful it is when God is at work and we get to be a part of it.

Sketching in Korea

South Korea is a beautiful, mountainous country. sam julie reena in koreaWhat a fun adventure to travel and meet up with our daughter, Reena, who had been living with host families and attending grade 11 in South Korea for 11 months. We experienced her fluency as she conversed with the people around us as we traveled, shopped and ordered food. We even spent an energy filled sports day with her school, which was a peek into the Korean culture.

We learned to say the greeting phrase and the phrase for “thank you.” We stayed in people’s homes with airbnb. We ate with chopsticks. We took the public transportation in the cities and we rented a car for the last week to go into the countryside with a Korean language GPS system that Reena got to type in the destinations in Korean.

I took 15-30 minutes here and there to sketch and do mini watercolors in my watercolor sketchbook. From these and the phots I will be able to create new artwork in my studio this year. Here are some of them...

beachinNamhae sangjeonbeach busanigidae stairs sketchbotanicalgarden busanmonument 4 soldiers

I like Summer.  It's a time to rest from the busyness of the year, a time to take a break, hike, travel, try something new, and meet a new friend.

This summer I took a break and traveled down to the San Francisco Peninsula, where I explored the natural scenery, and had time to paint, rest and visit with some family. A lot of my time was my own as my husband, Sam, was busy taking courses on Enneagram training. The weather was beautiful.  We were fortunate that all the smoke from the forest fires stayed north of us, but we certainly got our fill of it coming home.  

My cousin Nate and his wife, Karen, generously opened their home to us for a part of our stay. They have landscaped a beautiful garden with paths and raised garden beds. I found one flowering bush, a Red Tiger Abutilon, particularly enchanting. And one day as I sat in the garden painting the Tiger's blooms, I heard him.  He made a clicking noise, and I looked around to see a humming bird flitting from flower to flower on the other side of the Tiger. He was curious, too.  He even came and looked me over, fluttering just three feet away! My camera was right next to me, but he wasn't ready for that yet, and zipped away as I reached for it.

I decided to go a little slower, to get to know him first. I learned his song, and when I started to hear it I reached for my camera even as I looked for him among the trees and flowers in their garden. He wasn't as shy this time, and even posed for me, letting me catch him sitting on a branch.

The next day I came again to his garden, taking time to just be still. I sat and I read, enjoying the beauty of the garden.  And I waited.  I waited for him to come to me. Forty-five minutes had passed when I heard his song. He came, dancing, darting, pausing in mid-air like a breath, flitting from flower to flower in the golden sunlight of the morning.  And then he was off again, and it was my turn to breathe and wonder. So beautiful.


For me, the beauty and wonder of God's creation is part of his love song to us.  In big and small ways nature speaks of God's great glory and love, and I particularly enjoy first hand experiences like these.

And I also love it when I can capture nature's beauty on film so I use them later when I create with God in my paintings.  I was dancing inside as I experienced each of the beautiful animals and places on our trip. Each one felt like a gift.
I saw elephant seals, California seals, egrets, hummingbirds, pelicans, deer and fawns, tide pools, the ocean, redwoods and lots of people. I took thousands of pictures, sketched and painted 'plein air".

Here are some of the paintings I started… or sketched...

bird paintings in progress salt marshessea coast


I look forward to sharing some of these new paintings when they are finished. Some of them are a perfect fit for the new show I will be installing at the Glenrose in late October: Flowers and Birds. Mark your calendars for Wed October 31 for a reception 2-6pm.


Do you like to draw or paint scenery, buildings, landscapes? These excursions will:

   •  Increase your ability to detect the nuances of light, shadow, colors and depth.
   •  Learn how to paint or draw quickly to capture the essence of what you are seeing.
   •  Be inspired by the work of other students as we paint together at 2 meters apart.
   •  Explore Edmonton and surrounding parks in new ways.

 pleinairsession ChickakooLake

We are meeting up once a week at different locations in and around the surrounding countyside near Edmonton. The dates for the next 2 weeks are set based on the weather forecast. 

Tuesday, Aug 25 Mill Creek Ravine. 10 am Meet at my house. (sign up for details)
Thursday, Sept  3 - 10 am

Sign up to receive the email notification of date, time and place for that week. RSVP your spot for the date. $20 each, for each session. You can bring the cash to the meeting place.

count me in

Each session will include:

  • 10-15 min walking in to the locations
  • At least one 5 min sketch to warm up, and practice looking for the essence of what we are painting. These will mostly be in pencil.
  • 15 min color sketch with pencils or watercolor
  • 1+ hour watercolor or watercolor pencil painting

Watercolor Plein Air Painting Kit. Travel light. pleinairsession McNally Rivervalley

  • Portable/closable small watercolor pallet (with a red, blue, green, yellow, and deep purple)
  • At least one small round brush, and one ½ in. flat brush
  • Watercolor sketchbook
  • 2H Pencil (and an 8B if you have one with a smugder/stomp)
  • Eraser
  • Lid (to put water in)
  • Small flask of water
  • Masking pen/ masking fluid with lid and toothpick and or q-tip
  • Small piece of natural sponge
  • A little bag or container of salt
  • Rag
  • Camera
  • Something to sit on (portable chair or blanket)
  • (hat, sunscreen, bug repellent, snack, hand sanitizer, mask, water bottle)


    • Waterproof pen
    • Watercolor pencils.

Possible locations :pleinairsession McNally Rivervalley3

  • Flowers in Cloverdale (July 10)
  • Chickakoo Lake (July 17)
  • Overlooking the river valley where McNally High school sits above the blue Dawson bridge. (July 20)
  • Telford Lake (Leduc) (7/28)
  • Old Barn -Canola field ((8/6)
  • Hay bales in fields (8/11)
  • Stone Barn Garden (Leduc) (8/17)
  • Millcreek Ravine (Tuesday, 8/25, 10 am)
  • Cooking Lake /Blackfoot Prov rec Areapleinairsession McNally Rivervalley2
    • Waskahegan Staging Area
    • Islet Lake
  • Strathearn – overlooking 98 Ave hill looking downtown.
  • Terwillegar Footbridge over the North Sask. River
  • Sherwood Park Natural Area
  • Elk Island 
  • South Cooking Lake Park
  • North Cooking Lake Natural Area