Last fall, I wrote a few times about rest and the scripture that kept coming up when I went to write. (you can read the articles here…What Are You Waiting For? and Season of Rest) I was thinking this morning about this and reflecting on COVID-19 and the call for us to #stayathome. I also considered my attitude in staying home and reflected on migraines.
When I get a migraine, I receive it as my body’s way of telling me I’ve been doing too much and not listening to it. My body is taking over to enforce rest, so I go to bed. It is a fitful, painful rest, and it is often a couple of days before I can even look at a computer or phone screen. For years I lived in fear of migraines and the pain they would invoke, because my first migraine was so severe that I ended up in the hospital. It has taken me a long time relax, to rest more and listen when my body starts giving me signs, but now I get less migraines that stop me in my tracks.
Our world has been stopped in its tracks. Did our world keep going at its frantic pace too long and now we are being enforced to rest? Is it painful? Are you discombobulated? As a society, we do not rest well. How are you doing? Are you well?
Edmonton, where I live with my husband, Sam, and our two girls, has been shut down since March 14 and social distancing is the new rule, with as many people working from home as possible. I have been out twice with my girls. We went out on Friday to pick up supplies for my son and daughter-in-law who are in quarantine after their return from South America. The streets were nearly deserted. We were armed with our gloves and hand sanitizer and stayed our distance from others. I saw the workers in stores all doing their part in wiping down shopping carts and basket handles for the customers, and limiting the number of people going into an establishment. How very surreal.
I am used to spending the day by myself. Now everyone is home and I am finding a new rhythm for my day to include some time with the others. Like Sunday: worked out with one daughter, played my guitar and sang worship songs with both daughters in the morning, took time in my studio to paint in the afternoon working on the painting Upper Troll Falls, Kananaskis AB and ended the day playing a game of Pandemic with Sam and one of our daughters. (It seemed appropriate – we lost twice to the game). A nice restful Sunday. Now the new week is progressing and routines are falling into place again. Last week I listened and read more news and felt more anxious. This week, I have limited it so that I do not use up all my energy on what I have no control over.
Our daughter Reena spends a good part of the day connecting with her friends via snap chat, texting and phone calls, but then that is a normal response to her day. I have never spent much time on the phone with people. I am short with answers on texting and email. It is something I have to consciously do or think about doing. It doesn’t come naturally.
In this time of self isolation, how are you staying connected? How are you resting and taking care of yourself? Are you able to still work from home? How are you filling your days?
One of the things I do when I teach is to demonstrate painting techniques. Sometimes I already have a painting in mind and sketch it out before class, knowing it can work for a demo.
However, most of the time it is a technique or project that I start with the class or a demonstration of a technique for one of my student's projects. Then, I have a partial painting or just some random colors and texture that I can turn into something else.
Over the last couple of years of teaching, I have accumulated more unfinished pieces than I have managed to complete. I just counted 59 I had photgraphed last fall to record the process of painting. Rather daunting. I had no idea there were so many. Not all of them will be completed. For those that will be completed, something about them inspires me to press on with them.
As winter continues to wrap its cloak of snow around us, I think toward Spring and flowers bedecking gardens, meadows, homes. I bought a blooming orchid to remind me of Spring. I have yet to draw or paint it, but I enjoy its beauty on our dining room table.
I brought my two calla lily plants inside last fall to see if I could keep them alive until spring. One started sending up green shoots last month, reaching 18-20 inches now. The other plant has not shown any sign of life.
Yesterday, in my Acrylics class, we used a picture of a doorway wreathed in blooms to inspire us. I showed my students how to create a stucco texture using eggshells, sand and sawdust. We used a slightly thick application of gel medium on the canvas and placed the eggshell into it, sprinkling on the sand and sawdust around the rest of the medium. While it dried, we worked on the doorway. Then we continued to paint over the mixed media with colors of stucco (white mixed with yellow and red creating various shades of peach and yellow ochre). The plants were painted dark to light in the foliage first. The blooms added last. Then we worked on shadows. It was fun to see the results. All the students did a great job with the challenge of painting on the rough texture.
Are the flowers blooming where you are? Or do you dream of Spring, flowers blooming and warmer days?
Sept 27, 2019 -Jan 2, 2020
Art on the Inside gallery, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital
10230 111 Ave, Edmonton (basement level outside the cafeteria)
- Just being present
- With anticipation, expectantly
What are you looking forward to?
- For clarity, direction and inspiration
- For redemption… and transformation
- For Spring, new life, hope
- For rebirth, regeneration, new growth
Is about letting go and trusting the process
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. - Isaiah 40:31
Last 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,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 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:
As 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.
I like reading stories of redemption both real and fiction. I was reading one this morning. And as the lost soul in the story was brought back into the welcoming and loving arms of those who loved her, I was struck again of God’s overwhelming love for me. My heart did a happy dance as I read.
As Easter and as spring approach, I think about redemption, transformation, new life and resurrection. I see it echoing in the stories I read, in the buds swelling on the trees and plants beginning to push their way again to the surface.
I have been closely watching what looks like a dead poinsettia to see if the tiny leaves will indeed spring forth and the plant will come back to life.
A few years ago, I painted this painting of transformation. A pile of garbage with a plant growing out of it. I have found it interesting to hang it at the art walk, because it invites conversation. A lot of people have thought it was about the garbage in the ocean. It has made people feel sad or depressed, irritated or caused them to laugh.
As I painted it, I was thinking about myself and all the things I do not like about myself, the things I would consider my garbage. So, I put on the painting items that should have gone into my art room garbage or recycling bins. I was thinking about redemption and how God redeems these parts of me with his love. This was then represented by the plant growing out of the garbage.
But as I thought about and even shared it at one of my art and faith retreats, I realized I expected to be transformed; that redemption was about change and becoming new. What if redemption is not just the transformation?
No matter what I do I cannot see past the image of garbage. How can garbage look redeemed? But, what if it is a new perspective or looking beyond the surface?
What if I can learn to love those parts of myself that I see as garbage? God loves me, all of me. Can I learn to love all of me too and see myself with his eyes? Like the dead Poinsettia, if i am patient with it - and really look, I can see tiny leaves emerging from the stem. I am thankful that God is patient with me and is helping me see things better in my own self.
This new awareness is slowly bringing redemption to new parts of me. Failure – learning to trust God and others, as well as to accept my own limitations. Feeling lazy or unproductive – learning to rest and take care of myself is important work too.
As I look to all the signs of redemption in the world around me, it reminds me mostly that God is redeeming all of me too. He loves me! And that makes me want to dance and sing.
In what ways do you see God’s redemptive work in your life?
It is exciting to try something new. In February, I had the privilege of teaching a group of 23 junior high students how to paint stars and planets in acrylics.
Having never painted star systems, I looked for pictures on the interenet we could use for inspiration. I was amazed at all the beauty captured these days by the powerful telecopes. I was in awe.
I took some time to paint two acrylic paintings on the day before the class as samples for the teaching. It was good to figure out what could be done in a two hour class.
It was fun for me, better still, the youth enjoyed it too. Each student was given 5 colors: Purple, red, blue, yellow and white. We started by painting a sphere which would be the planet.
Then we used Purple red and blue with a touch of yellow to paint a dark atmosphere around their planet. From there they were given free reign to add to it – stars, more planets, a galaxy or rings like Saturn, one student turned his planet into a fireball comet. See the student samples below.
I loved watching the creativity come out.
As I sat in my contemplative space in my art room the next morning, and thought about the paintings, this scripture came to mind:
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)
Usually when I think of this passage, I think of the sky we can see everyday: the amazing clouds and sunsets, stormy skies. But as I looked at the paintings on my easel, I thought about how much bigger the heavens are. We cannot see it without the aid of a powerful telescope. It is huge and glorious. The beauty, the detail, the way it all can work together, all speak loudly of a creator. Someone who could orchestrate all of that together so it keeps on going as the planets revolve around the sun and the stars do their dance across the universe.
Here is the enormous truth - we are just a tiny little part of an entire universe – and yet God loves us intimately. He loves us and desires a relationship with us. He wants us to trust him.
Well, if he can create and run the universe – why is it so hard to let go, trust him and accept his love?
How are you doing with letting go and trusting in God? In accepting his love for you?
Have you ever noticed that there are more people out and about from November through December? This is the season of waiting: waiting in traffic, waiting in lines, waiting for the holidays, waiting for family, waiting with anticipation. When we read the Christmas story we are reminded of other ways of waiting: Mary waiting for the birth of Jesus, Israel waiting for freedom from the romans, Israel waiting for the promise of the Messiah, Elizabeth waiting for a child of her own, God waiting for us to turn to him. I wrote more about waiting in the blog I wrote about the painting, Waiting for the Promise, shown here.
In church last Sunday, we were asked to write down on a ribbon what we were waiting for. The ribbons were knotted to twine and will be added to the Christmas tree at the front of the church. They are prayers to God.
What are you waiting for? Hope, friendship, healing, forgiveness, work, paycheck, family, time, retirement, vacation, all the above???
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6
May the hope of Christ fill you this holiday season for whatever you are waiting for!
I was thinking about beauty today as I sat in the dark with my breakfast and watched the sky come slowly alive with color. It was a lovely, soft colored sunrise. As the colors bloomed in the clouds, I felt a bloom of joy and wonder and contentment inside of me. I found myself smiling and singing a praise song.
If I had missed seeing it, it still would have bloomed, but I would have missed the blooming in my soul in response.
Birds and flowers have been on my mind recently with the show I have up now at the Glenrose. Birds and flowers are places of beauty for me and they remind me to enjoy the moment and to let go and trust God with my worries.
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?[k] 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? Matt 6:26-30
My response to this has been writing words to a new song. It isn't finished yet, but I like these lines here for finding beuaty in the moment:
There is wonder, there is beauty
If I would stop to see, what’s right in front of me.
There is wonder, there is beauty,
All around me, as far as I can see
Beauty is fleeting like a sunrise or a sunset, a well decorated cake, a scrumptious dinner that engages your taste buds in a heavenly way, a flower growing in a rock, the shadows of a tree dancing on a wall, a child’s smile of pure delight, a new song.
If I am too busy, or too focused on tasks, I can easily miss the beauty around me. In order to see it, I need to pause, and even look for it.
Beauty can nourish your soul.
When we allow beauty in, when we take a moment to absorb it in through all of our senses, it can bring a sense of joy and peace. What brings you joy? What do you see, hear, taste, feel or smell as beautiful?
I challenge you to notice five beautiful things today. Don’t just notice them, take a minute to soak it in and be aware of your response.
Write down your responses and read them at the end of the day. Then sit with that a minute. What did you find beautiful today? How did it nourish your soul?
Artist: Julie Drew
October 25, 2018 - Jan 2, 2019
Reception: Nov 20, 2018
2 - 6pm
Location: Blue Curve Gallery
Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital
10230 111 Ave NW, Edmonton AB
I love flowers and birds there is something that is so joyful of the beauty of flowers and the singing, the soaring and the delight I find in watching birds. When I walk in the great outdoors, it is like a treasure hunt to see what I can find. I am thrilled when I find something that really catches my eye and my heart. I take a photo reference or sketch it right away.
Flowers come in so many shapes and colors. I seek to capture the details and essence of the flowers. Birds have a character all their own. I particularly like the ones I do not see every day, like the egret, eagle and osprey. These birds and flowers speak to me of God’s beautiful creation.
Whew! It has been a full fall with opportunities to teach, play on the worship team, assist in an Enneagram retreat and show my art. The solo art show, Birds and Flowers, at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital went up last Thursday. The watercolor painting of the Egret Landing is one of the 19 paintings on display at the show. I was also invited to be part of the the Art of the Unknown show last weekend, with a week’s notice. It has been good, but I am incredibly drained!
I went into the fall knowing that my weekends were mostly full. I had this idea that I could take a day of rest and paint during the week. Painting can help me process things, but that didn’t happen most weeks. The busier I got, the more I kept pushing that time of rest to the side. By denying myself those moments of peace, I lost touch with my inner self, I became disconnected from my feelings and everything became chores to accomplish, even painting. Then, some things started to fall to the wayside, I became less organized, I started to lose things, while the pile of tasks grew until it was like slogging through a mire to get to it all.
Does this ever happen to you? What do you distract yourself with?
The story doesn’t stop there. I lasted a lot longer because I slowed down the pace at which I worked, I took breaks and I kept up with some exercises, but really, it wasn’t enough. At noon on Saturday as I was sitting and painting at the Art from the Unknown show, I started getting the aura of a migraine. I had pushed myself too hard and my body was enforcing the rest I was not taking on my own. There is a reason God calls us to take a Sabbath rest. He knows we cannot keep going, but we tend to try anyway.
“‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD.’” Leviticus 23:3
When I take that sabbath rest, I am saying, “Lord, I trust you with my work. It is not all about me and what I can accomplish. I trust that what gets done is enough for today.” When I don’t take it, I am essentially saying that it is up to me, and I am not trusting God with my life.
It isn’t just the Sunday or Sabbath day, it is a mindset or an attitude. Am I able to let things go at the end of each day? Can I trust God or am I relying on me?
It is just over a week until our next art and faith retreat: Art Vocabulary for the Soul coming up on Nov 9-12. Where we will be reflecting and responding through art, to scriptures like the Leviticus verse above. Our theme is ‘God Our Provider.’ God is constantly proving that to live in his word we still have much to learn.
We have an extra day on this retreat, due to the long weekend. With that extra day, I look forward to resting, as well as creating with the others who are coming.
We will be the very first group to use the brand-new Accommodation building at Covenant Bay Bible Camp. There are three more spots – Do you need a moment to rest and time to connect with God through scripture and art, too? We will have writers, painters, photographers and those who will be new to expressing themselves in art. We would love to have you join us, too.
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...
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.
Thank you for coming out to see me!!
There weree 450 artists showcasing their artwork and demonstrating their skills.
When: July 6 - 8, 2018
Time: 10 am – 5 pm daily
Where: The event is a grand promenade along Whyte Avenue (82 Avenue) from 101 Street to 108 Street. Artists will fill all the green spaces and several street closures, too. It's a long tour, so bring your walking shoes!
My Location: I have a new tent this year, a white one. I will be on 105 St, north of Whyte Ave again. As it is set up by our arrival, I won't know my exact place each day until I get there. I will post it on facebook.
I finished some new paintings which will be on display. I look forward to sharing them with you!
At our last art and faith retreat in June, the theme was Flourishing in the Unexpected. This flourishing is about staying present to the moment even when our instincts tell us to disengage, run in fear, tense up, or take control.
Take a breath, pause, and distance ourselves from the reaction we are feeling. Then letting it go to trust in God and walk through the situation with Him. This is abandonment to God as Madame Guyon talks about it.
Abandonment - it is not about doing so much as being still and receiving. The Interior is not a stronghold to be taken by storm and violence, but a kingdom of peace, which is to be gained only by love. ( p. 36, A Short Method of Prayer, Madame Guyon)
I have felt overwhelmed at times over the last few months. One day, after I had finished talking to two different clients and still needed to write up the quotes, I came out to the kitchen for lunch and my daughter was there. As we talked, I became aware of how tense my shoulders were. The conversations had not been tense or difficult in any way, but I had so many other tasks and appointments ahead that I was just feeling overwhelmed. My daughter started rubbing my shoulders and told me to just breathe. (which is what we have been encouraging her to do as she has dealt with her own issues)
As I breathed and allowed my body to relax, the tension eased. My perspective shifted. All the items on my to do list didn’t magically disappear. But as I distanced myself from my reaction by breathing, I could see that my fear of failure and worry about what others think of me had coloured my view, again. As I let it go, I could again trust God to walk with me through it, trusting that what needs to get done today, would get done.
The Enneagram has been helpful for me as I come to understand myself in these situations. The fears I have, the things that trigger my ego to panic/ survival mode, are not going to go away. I have been working on these patterns for 53 years. But as I breathe and separate myself from the reaction, I can sometimes let my ego go and trust God instead of myself.
Flourishing in the unexpected is not about great success or everything going great. Instead it is a willingness to trust God, let go of our hold/desire for control of the situation, just breathe and relax. It is learning to trust God with the process of our lives, walking forward on the journey into pain and suffering, joy and sorrow, fear and disappointment and hope.
Ways I Work on Listening
Would you like to experience one of our retreats?
Was it just me, or did it seem like winter didn't want to let go this year?
Winter letting go is like the old passing away so the new can come. Think about the scripture that talks about old ways letting go so the new way can come:
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:6
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Is 43:19
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Rev 21:4
Every year I look forward in anticipation to spring - The hope, the new life. Buds bursting forth. The creeks and river flowing with the snow melt. Even how it feels like people are coming out of the hibernation (we hole up in our homes in the cold weather for 5+ months). The parks are filling up with activities of baseball and soccer, families at the playground, people are out walking and biking. We can actually see and greet our neighbors now that we aren't just dashing from house to car. We linger and enjoy the warmth of the sun.
As I move into spring and new life, what old things must pass away? What baggage or regrets, pain or loss can be set aside, or let go of, OR to think of it another way… What new life is coming in with the spring?
Ways I am engaging in the spring:
Take some time to sit in the sunshine and soak in the spring, notice the buds bursting, the new life flowing. Let it renew you, too.
In what ways are you engaging in new life this spring?