When I was a little girl, the Christmas angel visited our home on this day while we were at church and left us each a gift. I remember the feelings of surprise and wonder and joy.
Joy is a word we hang on our Christmas tree and in decorations. We sing about it at Christmas. It is more than happy. How would you describe joy?
Joy is soul deep. It is happiness and contentment, a rightness to the universe, a “God is with me and I have nothing to fear, “ all wrapped up together and tucked deep in my soul. For me, joy bubbles up and overflows when I allow myself to be present to a situation even in sorrow. It can show up in the form of tears, song, inspiration, confidence and a smile.
After the June 2017 Art and Faith retreat, I explored what joy looked like. Our theme at the retreat was “Abiding in Jesus.” Linnea Good, our guest leader, shared her biblical storytelling with us. As she told the story of John 15, we listened for what the Holy Spirit was illuminating for us in the passage, what stood out. We listened twice and then we responded with drawing or painting.
I started with thinking about the phrase Jesus said, "…Apart from me you can do nothing…"
I started drawing shapes that had a sense of being attached at the top of the page, connected to God. As I drew, the shapes took on vine like people shapes and developed joyful lines. I felt this sense of joy associated with the abiding and attachment. I thought how hard life is when I choose to do things on my own. It can be exhausting like the poor exhausted, deflated figure on the right side of the drawing.
When I felt I was finished, I felt from my little figures this sense of joy that the second phrase spoke of: “…that your joy may be complete…”
When I came home from the retreat, my little joy characters intrigued me. What would it be like to let them dance across a few paintings?
At the Art, Vocabulary for the Soul Retreat last weekend, we contemplated “Resting in Jesus” and responded with paintings, poetry, song writing and just being in community together. It was so beautiful! This group of eleven was great and we felt so blessed to have spent the weekend together.
We were also honored to have Rev. Larry Lindoff and his wife Colleen join us as special guests this time. Larry shared with us on Saturday his own journey of understanding “Resting in Jesus.” He reflected on the Mary and Martha story (Luke 10:38-42) ... Martha gets a lot of flak. Martha was distracted.
What if it wasn’t the doing that was the problem, but how she was “worried and distracted” as she was doing it. If she slowed down and was able to be present to Jesus’ teaching as she worked would it have been the same? What if we can restfully do our work, being present to the situation we are in; not going at the frantic, hectic pace our world seems to thrive on?
I appreciated that thought. I have been listening to Russ Hudson, a teacher of the Enneagram. He talks a lot about being present, and slowing down enough to feel present as we are “doing.”
But sometimes we do need to “just be,” like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus.
“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.”
― Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
Several years ago, I took a personal retreat at King’s Fold. It had been a busy time and I was feeling exhausted. I found that all I could do was sit on the benches and look at the view. It was the first time I really understood what Madeleine L’Engle described as “being time.” No agenda, no thoughts, no books, no “should’s, or “have to”s, just being, just “here I am, resting.” I found that all I could do was just sit there and be quiet with God. I was too exhausted in my spirit to do anything else. It was an anomaly.
As we listened to the scriptures last weekend particularly the one about not worrying because God will provide as he does for the birds of the air and lilies of the field (Matt 6:25-34), I heard from God to “Just Be.” So, when we sent people out to listen, I went out on a bench and sat in the sunshine to just rest and sit in God’s presence and napped in the sunshine until lunchtime. It gave me the energy to be present to each of the people I was teaching and sharing with in the long afternoon session.
Later, as I was cleaning up, a simple melody came with simple praise words. I believe it came out of my content and joyful sense of being at rest that I was experiencing during the retreat. The song has been continuing to play in my mind as I work this week.
It is nice to feel at rest and not frantic while doing or being.
The onWORD conference with the EPWahl Centre and Taylor Seminary, Sep 29-30, 2017, has invited eighteen artists to show their painted interpretations of the story of the Prodigal Son, the theme of the conference. There will be 30 paintings altogether. I feel privileged to have two paintings in the show. Let me tell you about them.
Prodigal son painting: When He Came To Himself, Acrylic on Canvas, 16” x 20”
The prodigal had squandered his inheritance, all that he had received from his father. The only job he could find was feeding pigs, which for Jews, who believed that pigs were unclean, was the lowest of the low.
While feeding the pigs, he comes to himself. He has an awakening, a realization. He sees the truth of himself and the situation he has made for himself. He is ready to face himself and what he has done. He envisions his journey back to humble himself before his father in repentance.
To the left in the painting is the darkness out of which he is emerging, his rich purple robes are in tatters, the pigs are a barrier of going home. He comes awake to himself, realizing where he’s been and what he left behind. In his coming awake, he is ready to surrender; surrender his will, his waywardness, all that had driven him from his father’s house. He imagines going home and falling to his knees before his father, hoping for a place among the servants.
As I thought about this and worked on the painting, I considered that it is not only the prodigal son who needs to come to himself, but the older brother, too, who needs to come awake, to see himself before he too can be set free of his own burdens and self-righteousness.
This is where the second painting comes in: I am Loved, Acylic on Gallery Canvas, 20” x 24”
Both brothers have a misconception of the Father. The younger hopes to be forgiven and gain a place among the servants. The older brother only sees a task master. The truth is the Father loves both sons as they are, not for their actions. He is waiting to welcome them into his embrace. He ran to meet the younger brother and had a celebration. He came outside to find the older brother to bring him into the celebration, “Son, you are always with me, and everything that is mine is yours.”
At times, I have felt myself in different parts of the story. More often, I find myself in the older brother’s part, as I still need to ‘Come to myself,’ to wake up and be aware of my own self-righteous actions and motivations that take me away from the Father. Then I, too, can go to the Father and feel again his great love for me as his daughter.
Where are you in the story?
The paintings will be on display at the onWORD Conference Sept 29-30 at Bethel lutheran Church. There will be a silent auction for the paintings. Sign up today to take in the conference and see the artists’ interpretations of the Prodigal Son.
South Korea is a beautiful, mountainous country. What 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...
an Art and Faith Retreat
What a great group to spend the weekend with!!
Friday night creating and getting to know one another:
Taking a walk, enjoying the views
We had a great time creating, listening and resting.
We filled the walls with our creations.
We even learned how to play the ukulele at a campfire with Linnea Good.
I want to say a BIG thank you to each one who came for the blessing they gave us of their presence, their time, and their creativity as we shared and created together.
Did you miss this retreat?...The next Art: Vocabulary For the Soul Retreat is in October and sign up has already begun. Early bird price through July 11, 2017.
Don't miss out..sign up today.
4 Drawing Classes
Sept 11-Oct 2, 2017
7 - 9 pm
Location: 6724 - 86 St, Edmonton
Do you need to brush up on your drawing skills? We will work on perspective, proportion, composition and lighting. This class will mainly focus on the drawing needed as preparation for paintings. The other aspects of drawing will also come up. There will be homework for inbetween classes.
2H + 6B pencil
photos: picture for each week's subject that you want to paint
One weekend in early June, my sister and I camped in Jasper. I did some sketching, a painting and a lot of photography for future paintings. We traversed a mucky, slippery trail up to the first Geraldine lake, hoping to see the waterfall between the two lakes. Although we saw it in the distance, the river and lake had swollen to cover the trail. We bush whacked and crossed on rocks to get all the way to the lake as it was. We were disappointed that we couldn’t get to the falls, but I pulled out my watercolors and painted the essence of the lake before we headed back down the mountainside. I can work from it later or add more to it. My sister, Laura, did get a nice shot of the Geraldine Falls with her telephoto lens.
We drove to see some other waterfalls since we couldn’t get to that one. And they were beautiful. (You can see me sketching one of them in the picture above. The sketch is below. Tangle Falls, Jasper. We would not have driven all the way down to see this beautiful falls if we had continued bushwacking to the other falls.)
Not all of our plans turn out. We have a choice when we are faced with our plans falling through or not turning out as we anticipate. We can get angry, or upset, we can let the disappointment govern our actions, or we can acknowledge the feelings and look for what did happen and the new possibilities before us. Even little disappointments, can greatly affect us. It is in learning to deal well with the little disappointments, that we know how to face the major disappointments and trials when they come.
In the book of Ruth in the Bible, Naomi and her two daughters-in-law faced a major crises. They had lost their husbands. They start heading back to Naomi’s homeland, Israel. Although Naomi tried to send them back to their parents, Ruth chose to remain with Naomi. Ruth embraced Naomi’s God and the path she was going on. This speaks to me of who Naomi was that Ruth was willing to go wherever Naomi went. It also speaks of Naomi’s faith, that Ruth would embrace it for her own.
They embraced the moment, taking one moment at a time, even acknowledging the pain. Naomi said to the Israelite women, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara,“ which means bitter.
As we learn to live in the moment, abiding in Jesus today, then we can face what comes. He will give us what we need this day, this moment.
I have had a number of small disappointments lately from cancellations, to not getting as much done as I anticipated. When I am tired, the little disappointments seem bigger than they are.
(Below is the sketch of the view at our campground on the Athabasca River. Beautiful place to camp!!)
We did it! The walls and floor were finished in time and some of the things moved back into place, enough so that we had the rooms and space for our son and granddaughter and my sister to come for a visit. Yeah!
We enjoyed a lovely visit and the weather was beautiful so we could be out in it everyday. It was a joy to spend the time relaxing and watching a 14-month-old explore her world. Family is important to me – and spending the time with them was precious.
Continuing the theme of abiding in Jesus and living in this moment, it was good to just take each day as it came while they were here. We could enjoy our time better and relax more, not worrying about the things that were coming up after the visit.
Babies live in the moment. We could re-learn how to live in the moment from them. Babies can trust their parents. Jade, my granddaughter, fearlessly jumps off high places into her daddy’s arms. When she needs comfort, she knows where to turn. She confidently explores her world.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m]righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt 6: 25-34)
What will this day bring? Good and bad and ups and downs. If I remain “in the moment,” the crisis can be dealt with more calmly without panicking. It has helped to have my family tell me when I let the “panicky” actions or voice start taking over. I take a deep breath and get back to this moment. (This did happen a few times as we were finishing up our project.)
I have thought about other Bible stories that illustrate people walking and abiding in God. In the next few newsletters I will take a different one and we will walk through their story and see how they “abide in God.”
What is your favorite Bible story, or Bible character?
In the geneology section, in Genesis, there is a phrase, mentioned twice, that has intrigued me for a long time. “Enoch walked with God.”
Gen 5: 21 -24
What would it be like to walk with God? What would it look like? This has led me to think about my own journey with God. I yearned for that kind of relationship. There is a hint of it in the story of Adam and Eve before the fall. There is a sense of it in the story of David and through the Psalms he wrote.
And Jesus invites us into that sort of relationship in John 15:1-17. Specifically, in verse 4 “Abide in me as I abide in you.” I have been moving toward this with Ephesians 3: 15-1 9, and with the theme of Saturation - wanting to be filled with all the fullness of God.
As I meditate on the invitational phrase, “Abide in me as I abide in you,” letting it sink into me, different scripture has come to mind. As this is the theme of the next Art and Faith retreat in June, it is also a part of the preparation process for me.
One of the themes of abiding with Jesus that scripture stories were showing me, is living in this present moment with God and trusting in God for the next step.
This brings me to this spring...
We have taken on a few big projects and the normal ones were still in place. (taxes, renovation project – Reena’s room and my art room, teaching and visiting our granddaughter to name a few)
I felt like I should be anxious, or panicked and rushing around to do everything that needed doing. Instead, I had a sense of peace, as I walked into each day and talked with God, and we tackled one thing at a time. I take the breaks I need to to take care of myself. I have the list of what needs to happen when, but I am working on living in this moment, and doing my best right now, here in this moment.
I will admit, some days I can do this better than other days. It also helps to admit we cannot do it all alone, we need others.
We have two weeks to finish the reno and put everything back into place before our company comes. Will we get it done? I hope so, but it won’t help if I panic. Nor will it help if I overwork myself, and re-injure myself.
What about you? Are you able to live in this moment? What would it be like for you to abide in Jesus?
Here are some paintings to contemplate on this weekend as we approach Easter...
Crown of Thorns (above)
And they clothed Jesus in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
Mark 15:17-20, 26
Take a close look at the Crown of Thorns (otherwise known as the Christ plant) that comes from Africa. If you look at its red flower you can see the hint of a cross and the blood red center – and the green leaves of life (and resurrection).
The Holy Place
watercolor, Lyra oil pencil
Framed original 16”x 20”
Jesus said to them (Peter, James and John), I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and stay awake with me.”
And going a little farther, Jesus threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Then he came to his disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into a time of trial; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Matthew 26: 38- 42
The Blessing Cup
watercolor, colored pencil
Framed original 24” x 32”
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ... He leads me in right paths for his name sake...
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil: my cup overflows.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?
I Corinthians 10:16
watercolor, colored pencil
Framed original 24” x 32”
As the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it, His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow...The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know you were looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”
Mark 15:17-20, 26
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!!
Textured Landscapes will be on the walls at the Carrot Coffee House on 118 Ave for the month of April, 2017! This is the first time I have showcased my paintings on handmade paper together. In the past, I have only showed one or two at a time with a themed show.
Open: April 5, 2017
Location: 9351 – 118 Avenue
Textured Landscapes: Paintings on Handmade Paper
From sweeping vistas to detailed florals as subject matter, I explored the versatility of my handmade paper and the mediums by which I could best capture them. Watercolor and mixed media on the handmade paper have a greater depth than other papers give.
The creation of specific pulps to create the texture or color I was trying to achieve is as much a part of the process as the painting itself, creating just one more layer in the process. I have experimented with different supports as well: Birch panels, watercolor paper and canvas. All of them adding a layer to the process.
Finally finished! I started this one before Christmas. Some ideas just take longer.
This painting is another one of Plitvice Lakes National Park. The theme is again of Saturation. There is so much water everywhere that the gnarly roots spread wide and far before dipping below the surface. The water was clear. The trees bowed, and turned and spread their branches wide showing off their adornment in shades of green. It was glorious and I wanted to capture all of that.
I was experimenting with putting my handmade paper on the canvas again. This time I wanted the paper to be the land and trees in foreground on top of the cliff where the water pools before falling over the edges. I used different papers for the different parts of the landscape. I used an onion skin paper for the middle ground on the left and some of the tree trunks on the right. The center clump of trees and ground was a paper with hints of peach fabric and thistle. The tree on the left and the one on the right edge are from a thin, light gray paper with red and blue threads. The foreground corners and bottom edge are from a pink paper made with poplar seed, red, bue and purple and white threads. The leaves are from a yellow and green cottonwood seed paper.
I painted acrylic on the canvas as the background and the water. I painted watercolor and watercolor crayon on the handmade paper.
Has it really been so long since I wrote to you last? I had some health and home issues that apparently sapped me of some of my creative energy – more than I realized. It is disappointing to find myself without inspiration and energy. Just enough to keep me going but not more. I was trying to get a video about the art and faith retreat done as well as finish a painting I had been working on since December.
I was talking with my spiritual last week, sharing with her where I was at and about the past month. I could feel the weight of everything. My spiritual director asked me to take a minute and just listen to what God said about it all. And I heard “grace;” to give myself grace. Life happens – it was stressful, even if it wasn’t huge.
We had our Enneagram class on Thursday night. One of the types we were covering that evening was the “3,” which is my type. I shared a lot, including where I go in stress. There is a high side and a low side to the type where I go under stress. The low side (in a nutshell) is that I can feel a failure and just give up, quit. The high side is to rest, take care of myself, and for me, it is also to spend time with God, resting.
Two mornings later, as I was thinking it all through again, it clicked for me. I needed to give myself grace. I had been taking care of myself and resting, leaning into God. I hadn’t given up. It took much longer than I wanted, to get the things done. The video is below. The painting I am working on is still a work in progress. I can give myself grace. God loves me for who I am not what I accomplish.
This reminds me of the story of Elijah I read this month. (1 Kings 17-19) Here is a prophet who walks closely with God. For seven years of drought, God is providing for his needs. With God, he confronts and battles the 400 false prophets of Baal in an altar competition with God providing the consuming fire on a drenched offering. But when he is threatened with death by Jezebel, he runs away in fear and discouragement to Mount Horeb to talk to God. And God gives him grace and rest. God informs him that he is not the only one left who follows God. God has more work for him but provides him with an assistant that he will eventually pass on the work to.
Abiding in God, in Jesus, isn’t always going to go as we wish it to. It can be hard. We can feel discouragement and fear. I do not always handle it well. I am thankful that I did this time. Are you like me? Do you need to give yourself grace and space?
How do you respond to the feelings? Where do you go under stress?
Do you need to take a rest, give yourself grace? Consider a retreat to refresh your soul...
I have a morning routine…I take my breakfast and pot of tea and go sit in my comfy chair in our living room. Currently, it faces the room and I can rest my eyes on the paintings hanging there. I do change up my paintings every few months, so I can see different ones. You see, the paintings tell me a story. Some tell it more loudly than others. Sometimes they remind me of places I have been, students I have taught and places that have tugged on my heart.
In my home group, we have been reading through Brad Jersak’s book "Can You Hear Me?" One chapter spoke of a meeting place that you can go in your mind and meet with Jesus. We did a tuning in exercise where we were to think of favorite spots where you “enjoy walking or sitting with the Lord” and could I “go there in my mind” and meet with Jesus. As I sat there I realized, how many places I could go – and that is what some of my paintings are for me.
Some of my paintings were born out of a moment that I spent meeting with God. For these paintings, there is a scripture and even a meditation that lingers with it. As I gaze on these paintings the truths that God has shown me come back to me, they become a meeting place for me to walk with God and rest in his presence and linger on the topic he has for me.
Most recently I finished this painting/drawing, "Lead Me Home", (which also has a song to go with it). I received this as a vision back in 2009 while walking and meditating in a prayer labyrinth. Jesus wanted me to “let the passion out” and I responded with being scared to do so. And the image of the little girl holding Jesus hand appeared before me. I don’t have to do things on my own, be the best or live up to these huge expectations in my own mind. Jesus wants me to take his hand, as a little girl, and trust him with all of me. From March 2009 until December 2016, it has been a process to understand what it means – to let out the passion and take hold of Jesus’ hand. It has not been easy. He has shown me other things along the way, but we have often come back to this one.
As part of this theme, in December, I also painted this one for my granddaughter with a blessing for her to walk with Jesus and know his love for her, just as I have been walking and learning this myself.
“Tuning in Exercise for you to try:
(Brad Jersak, "Can You Hear Me?" p.140)
The drawing, "Lead Me Home", and the song are part of the newly revised and expanded devotional "God is my Refuge". In this tenth anniversary edition, there are eighteen full color paintings, with meditations and scripture reflecting on the six Hebrew words that we translate as “refuge.” Included is a study guide on the six Hebrew words.
It is going to the printer in February. The cost of the book will be $22.00 (CAD) each. Pre-order your copy until Feb 28 at a discounted rate of $19.00(+GST).
This week I have been preparing for Deep Freeze Festival. This means deciding what to take to display in my little booth. I spend time looking for all the paintings I have finished and tucked away to mat later. There is a lot of decision making involved. I try to be efficient in so many ways, but for some reason deciding what to take to a show and how to mat and frame the painting feels more like a long, slow, grudging process. It is something I put off as long as possible - until the week before a show goes up. So, I spend time matting and framing my newest pieces. You would think this could be easy – yet I sift through all my mat boards to find the perfect mat that brings out the painting in just the right way. My art room becomes a disaster as I work. I find a painting I misplaced when I ran out of time matting for another show—and tucked it away with the mats. I don’t have time to get it all done myself. Do I ask my daughter to package the magnets? Out of all this chaos will come a neat and tidy show.
I don’t like being unorganized and indecisive when I wallow in the decision between a yellow ochre mat and a slate blue mat where both look and bring out completely different parts to a painting. But this, too, is part of the process of a painting. Really a painting isn’t complete until I show it and share it. It needs an audience to receive it and make comments on it. There is a part of me that goes into every painting. It can only tell its story if someone else sees it, lets it speak to them, even wrestle with or connect with it. At that point, I let the painting go. Henry Nouwen wrote, “Passion is a kind of waiting - waiting for what other people are going to do.” As artists, our passion leads us to wait for the response from the audience, whether we are painters, musicians, playwrights, actors or dancers.
Come by my little space at the Artisan Market at the Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival, and take a look at my paintings and let them “speak to you.” I will be waiting to hear what you experience from noon to 6 pm both Saturday and Sunday.
Deep Freeze is on 118 Ave between 90 St and 94 St. A Family Festival with lots to do besides the art booths. The festival is on from noon to 10pm both Saturday and Sunday. The Artisan market is at 91 St and 118 Ave.