My husband , Sam, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary year with a three week trip to Europe in May. As we looked for places to visit there, I got a big “dreaming” book of pictures of places around the world. In it were many beautiful possibilities in Europe, but one stood out to me from all the rest, Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. It described it as 16 lakes with waterfalls cascading from one to the next and boardwalks through the park. I wanted to go and see this park, and paint it. As many of you know I have done a couple of series on water, Living Water and Beauty of the Coast. I love painting water. But with the longing and intrigued sense I was feeling I wondered what else God was going to show me there. I waited in anticipation.
We arrived at the park about 10am, as did a lot of other people and tour groups. It is a huge park – and there were several route options, with boats and buses, and trails/board walks. We chose one and began walking. Already it was beautiful. I did a quick sketch and already saw that it would be challenging with all the people on the path to paint or sketch for any length of time.
The view that we saw as we headed down into the valley was spectacular. The turquoise green of the lakes was stunning and the first waterfalls were varied and amazing. We hiked all the way down to the lakes and the board walks. .....The boardwalk went right over the top of the lakes and waterfalls. My soul was filled with delight as we walked among the waterfalls. They were surrounding us, under us, loud, rushing water and I began to sing quietly (not that anyone could have heard me over the roar of all that rushing water.):
“Living Water fill my Thirsty Soul, Holy Spirit, Come, Bread of life fill my aching need, holy Spirit Come, for I am nothing without your love, bring new life in me, then will me life bring glory unto thee, Holy Spirit come.”
We took the stairs up the cliff on the other side of the ravine, where there was a lookout over the tallest waterfall in the park. The lookout had a stone wall which I perched on to be out of the way while I painted a watercolor sketch of the falls.
Later we took a boat ride across a lake to the next set of trails. After a picnic lunch, we took a bus to the end of the trails so that we could walk back. It was as I walked and sketched along this stretch where the water was everywhere – running through the groves of trees, under the boardwalk, falling beside us that I was overwhelmed with the sense of saturation. And that is what God desires – to saturate me with his Spirit, his presence in my life. Not the trickling I allow him in but a complete washing, filling, spilling over and out of me to those around me. This is what I came all the way to Croatia to hear and understand through the metaphor of Plitvice Lakes. It was what God has been showing me over the years, but now I understand it at a new level.
By this time there were less people in the park and we could sit and contemplate, write and paint without so many people around. We were enjoying it so much that we missed the last boat back and had to walk quickly around a big lake to get back to our car before dark. I haven’t walked that fast for an hour or so in a long time. It is nice to know I can.
It had been a great day.
We spent our last day in Croatia at Krka National Park which is another park of lakes and waterfalls further south in Croatia. It was just as beautiful and it was even more “saturated” with water, re-emphasizing to me my need for the saturation of the Holy Spirit, the Living Water.
The Story of the Aral Sea epitomises our own thirsty search for water other than the living water.
In 1960, just 50 years ago, the Soviet Union began diverting water from the Aral Sea to grow cotton in a dry climate. Their experiment was successful, producing a cotton industry in Uzbekistan to be the third largest cotton exporter in the world. But it did not come without a cost. The Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland sea in the world and supported many small villages with its fishing industry. As the irrigation continued, the sea dried up and so did the fishing. The land became a desert with blowing dust and salt unleashing a scourge of respiratory diseases in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. “In Uzbekistan, although prohibited under the Uzbek constitution, there have been estimates that hundreds of thousands of children are forced by the regime to hand pick cotton during the harvest season with little or no pay... Some children miss up to three months of schooling each year while picking cotton. Those who fail to meet their quotas o r pick poor quality cotton are punished by scolding, beating or detention.” – Environmental Justice Foundation Their industry brings death to the land and the life of the people.
Just as God’s living water brings life to our souls, the waters coming back into the northern part of the sea, now called the North Aral sea is slowly bringing life back with it. “A dam built by the World Bank and Kazakh government is slowly resurrecting a small part of the sea, reviving the fishing industry and bringing hope to an area that some expected would simply dry up and blow away in the fierce, salty winds.
“The miracle is a small one compared with the damage that will probably never be undone. Uzbekistan has chosen to keep the lucrative cotton industry going, and to prospect for gas and oil under the exposed seabed.” -Peter Leonard, the Associated Press.
So often in our world the life that God gives is not enough, we want so much more, and we end up with so much less...
Yesterday, as I was walking across the soccer field in the beautiful sunshine, I noticed how much it looked and felt like August with the grass so dry and prickly. Where is the rain we usually get in May? Alberta is under a fire ban province wide. Although thunderstorms are in the forecast, they may just pass us by. Have you ever seen the rain clouds streaming grey and it stops midway down as if the air is so dry it just soaks up the rain before it reaches the earth?
We aren’t the only dry place where there is supposed to be rain. Our son, Nathaniel, and his friend, Travis are traveling around Southeast Asia and in one of their postings they mentioned a dry waterfalls in Thailand which is supposed to be in monsoon season.
The drought in California has been in the news as well and the repercussion that I noticed has been the doubling price of almonds, from $10 to $19 a bag. I may need to find a new munchie food.
I remember when we moved to Edmonton 18 and a half years ago, May and June were the rainiest months. Our children played baseball and the weather affected the games as we shivered on the sidelines. About 2007 or so I started noticing a change: it was warmer and dryer in the spring and summer and little snow in the winter. That drought lasted about 4-5 years before there was a break. We lost a number of birch and poplar trees in the Edmonton area. The ground was like a sieve and rain just disappeared. Strong winds would come and trees in the ravine would just fall over as if the soil was so dry there wasn’t anything to hold the tree in place.
During the drought years I was working on the Living Water Series and I have continued to add to the series since then. In the series, I was thinking about the scriptures of living water, being thirsty for God and how we often go after other things besides His Living Water. I compared it to the environment and the drought. I was thinking of all that this week again.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Today as I have finished this painting, Saturation 2, I think again of how it felt to be in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, with water below me and falling all around me, the sound of the water dancing, roaring, trickling as we walked around the 16 lakes and thousands of waterfalls. This has been on my mind now for a couple of years, ever since I took the trip to Croatia with my husband, Sam. Below I will show you the layers and process of this painting.
Like this painting, the idea of saturation has been building layer upon layer. As I look back I see roots of it in the artwork and study I was doing in 1994. This is my first painting on this journey (The Blessing Cup, finished in 2004).
One of the key passages of scripture for me was Ephesians 3: 16-19
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (NIV)
The phrase, “so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”(NRSV), resonated deeply in me with such a longing and desire. So in 2005 or so, I began to pray it for myself and my family.
There were other milestones along the way preparing me for the idea of saturation:
Now as I think again of how it felt there with water below me and falling all around me, with the sound of the water dancing, roaring, trickling as we walked around the lakes and waterfalls. I think of God who is the Living water, filling and spilling everywhere, all around. Filling to overflowing.
Saturation is being so full you overflow.
God wants to fill me (and you) to overflowing, so that I (and you) may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Every Day. Fullness. Not a trickle.
Then, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,” (John 7:38), to saturate the world with God’s love and mercy, and bring life where it flows...
Are you ready to be filled to overflowing with the all of the fullness of God?
Let it flow.
I had been thinking of how to do this painting for a while before I finally got started. I wanted to create the texture of the limestone cliffs covered in vegetation using my handmade paper. You can see here the layers of the handmade paper on the canvas…
I used watercolor to get the initial colors on the handmade paper…
Adding ink for detail on the hanging, grass like, vines…
Next I sponged in layers of acrylic to create the trees and ground cover…
More acrylic layers creating depth and details…
Finally adding the water falls…
And the lake with reflections...
I pray that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-20)
When I was studying Ephesians, a few years ago, this prayer stood out. I have long yearned to be able to comprehend, really comprehend, God’s love for me in my inmost being, and I yearned to be filled with all the fullness of God. Around 2001, I started a year of praying this prayer over myself and my family. I changed the pronouns to make the prayer personal.
What got me started on this today was thinking of praying this over Reena, our daughter who is in South Korea for a year. This is how I would do it. And if you are reading this, please pray this with me, for her:
I pray that according to the riches of Your glory, LORD, that You may grant that Reena may be strengthened in her inner being with power through Your Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in her heart through faith as she is being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that Reena may have the power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that she may be filled with all the fullness of God.
As things go with me there was a season of praying every day but as time passed, I prayed less often until I was doing something else entirely and had virtually forgotten about it. It was a few years later when I was writing about the Living Water Series that I realized my prayers had been answered and were still being answered. I can look back now and see how God was working in me:
Back then, I had a feeling that I needed to do more in the Living Water Series but I wasn’t quite sure how or what to do. So I took a weekend at King’s Fold Retreat Centre to listen to God – to see what else I was meant to do for it, what I was missing. I read through all of the scriptures and my notes again. Then I went out to walk the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a prayer walk which allows you to focus on God while you pray and listen to him. As I walked, I asked God what else and He answered, “You need to let the passion out.” I responded, “I’m scared.” He answered by giving me a picture. The picture was of Him holding my hand like a child holds the hand of their father.
I hurried back to my room and started writing. I had never felt anything so amazing before and words just started pouring out onto the paper. From this outpour of those words came four poems and the ideas for the last paintings for the Living Water series.
As I look back on it now, I can see how God was filling me up and pouring through me. It was beautiful and I yearned for more of it. I have always wanted to experience that again, in the exact same way, but as I look back on it now, I can see God doesn’t tend to repeat encounters exactly. He is unpredictable in how he lavishes us with his love. He is full of surprises and the evidence is all around us if we would just open up our eyes and our hearts to him.
It makes me wonder how often do I block him by not “letting the passion out” and by not holding his hand? I have written several times of my need to let go and trust. It does seem to be a daily battle. God doesn’t want to just trickle his Living Water through me, He wants to saturate me, if I will let him.
This leads me to the idea of saturation. God wants to saturate us, fill us up to over flowing, to spill over with that love to the world around us.
One of the last paintings I did for the Living Water Series: Out of the Believer’s Heart, was based on John 7:37-38 and Ezekiel 47. In Ezekiel 47, the water flows out of the temple and brings life to the world. We are the temple for the Holy Spirit. He flows through us and out into the world.
In 2013, I went all the way across the world to Croatia to see the Plitvice Lakes National Park, just to hear God sing to me through the waterfalls just how much he wants to saturate me.
More on the theme of Saturation:
I am Loved poem - one of the 4 poems I mention above
Blessing Cup painting - I painted over a ten year period, 1994-2004. After the Living Water Series was complete, I realized that God had been showing this theme of Saturation early on with this painting.
the essence of life;
we cannot live without it.
We are drawn to it:
the roaring of the surf,
the lapping at the edge of a lake,
cascading down the mountainside,
running and tripping down a river,
a trickling brook.
It delights our hearts,
washing over us,
reaches down inside our souls,
the living water,
the Spring of Life
in Him we have life.
Come, all who are thirsty
Come and drink.