"On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God." Psalms 62:7
Sometimes when I go to my easel with an empty canvas, I already have an idea of what I am going to paint. Maybe, I have been commissioned to paint a particular picture, or I saw a photo which gave me an idea of what the Lord would want me to paint...just to paint. With this particular painting, it came from a day of frustration. I needed to have a restful place where I could feel some peace. I felt that I needed to paint that!
As a teacher, you can have a day where the students grasp what you are teaching them and are focused on the work given them, but then there are those days where it is just the opposite. You wonder if this was truly the calling the Lord had for you. Well, on this particular day, it was the latter so when I came home I could have gone to my bedroom, lay on the bed and cry, but instead I had a strong desire to get into my paint clothes, go into my studio AND PAINT!!! As I got down on my knees to pray, in front of my easel, I knew immediately what He wanted me to paint. I needed a place of solace to just rest in Him. Where would I go to find that?
My most favorite place in the whole, wide world to find peace is at the ocean. No, I'm not referring to the crowded beach where everyone is sunbathing, but that special spot where I can sit, by myself, with the breeze gently touching my face and watching the power of the waves by its Creator. As the breeze touches my face, I like to think as if it is my Heavenly Father, gently touching my face to wipe away all the stress, worries, and cares of my life.
A couple of friends of mine love to go to the beach in Maine at Nubble Point. I love that place. It seems peaceful there. I have never been but have enjoyed it through their photos. I knew the painting I needed to do, was my peaceful place. I also knew that I needed to paint this for one of my teacher friends as she was having the same rough day as me. Not only is painting my stress reliever but so is prayer. As I painted that special spot that I would want to be at, I prayed for this teacher, asking the Lord to encourage her.
As I pictured myself sitting on that rock, I also envisioned my Savior sitting beside me, listening to me as I poured my soul out to Him. I saw Him listening to every word I had to say and when I had finished, He would gently put His arms around me, wipe my tears away and then speak words of wisdom as only He could do. What a comfort to know that He cares about every aspect of my life. He has walked the same road as I have and He knows the pain that I feel at times. He is MY SALVATION and on Him I can find that "Restful Peace".
What about you? When you have a stressful day, week, month or even year, who or where do you go to find your rest? I have found Christ to be my solace, my refuge and He can be yours too. Rest in Him!
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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?"
I was deeply humbled when a friend approached me to paint a painting to illustrate the above verses for her and her husband. I always like to go to the Lord in prayer in regards to any painting I am doing, especially when it has been commissioned. Of course, the first thing I thought of was birds flying around a barn, a basic painting, but I wanted this painting to tell the story of those verses in a very special way. As I read the Scripture many times, the one thing that I was struck with was the portion of those verses that stated..."and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?". That is when the Lord gave me the picture that He wanted me to paint.
It's amazing how the Lord gives me an idea, one that is a challenge (that is what makes the painting His), and then will slowly add things to the painting to tell the complete story! Once I totally committed this painting to the Lord, everything came into place. As I worked on the painting I thought and prayed about what the Lord wanted me to convey and this is what He laid on my heart:
Birds are amazing creatures. They are delicate, resourceful and beautiful, but they are also leery of us humans, especially if they are wild. Even though we feed and give them drink, they scatter to trees or bushes when we come near them. When I thought about verse 26, all I could think about was the Almighty Creator, lovingly caring for His creation. They would not scatter if He came out to feed them, in fact I envisioned them coming to Him without hesitation. That is why I felt that I would paint Jesus' hands feeding the birds.
As I started painting, I could feel the Lord's presence right there in my studio with me, guiding each stroke of the brush, to tell His story. I had looked up pictures on the internet for references in regards to birds eating out of people's hands. As I started to work on that part of the painting, I was struck with how many pictures I found with that subject matter. Jesus is different as He is those birds Creator. One thing I noticed was when they were eating off a person's hands, they would be facing the hand and that's when I decided that I was only going to paint one bird, a Chickadee, one of my favorite birds. The bird was going to be sitting in the palm of Jesus' hands eating, instead of facing Him and on His finger tips.
I love to have symbolism in my paintings. As you look at the bird, I wanted to convey that he was content to be in his Maker's hands, safe. He has no worries because he is trusting in the One who is feeding him. That little bird represents us! No matter what we are going through, we can feel safe in our Savior's hands. We can be content knowing that He will provide for our every need. I decided to have the seeds spilling from Jesus' hands to represent that His provision for us is overflowing. We don't need to be anxious about anything because He has us in the palm of His hands. The light behind His hands represent that He is our Light and He is all that we need.
When you look at His hands, you of course will see the scars. He gave His all for us, even though we don't deserve it. If He so willingly gave His life for us, then who are we to doubt Him in providing for our needs? This was an eye opener for me. With everything that my family and I have been going through lately, I have learned to trust the Lord through it. There were times, though, that I started to doubt. This painting that the Lord had me do, reminded me that that little bird was me and I know that I can feel safe in the palm of His hands, no matter what comes my way. The same goes for you!
No matter what comes your way, remember that you are "Nestled in His Care"!
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalms 19:1
At times in our lives, we may have gone through a series of trials. Instead of calling them trials, maybe we should call them "blessings through faith". Throughout our lives, we will come to a point where we can either choose to lift our arms in praise to our Lord for what He has allowed to come into our lives, or we can choose to wallow in self pity. In God's Word, I have been constantly reading, how I should praise Him no matter what.
How can I praise Him when everything seems to be turned upside down for me and my loved ones? How can I praise Him when I don't know the outcome of how our circumstances will turn out? Well, He tells me that He knows the outcome even when I don't, and He can turn things that seem upside down to us, right-side up. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
In 2013-2014, we had been on a journey of unknowns, as we moved from one dwelling place to another. The Lord throughout all of this showed us His loving kindness through the love and prayers of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We definitely saw our Jehovah Jireh in all of this. Through injuries and even through health issues , He never left our side. We continually lifted our arms in praise to our Creator, Redeemer, Provider, and our Great Physician.
Through His Word, I have read that if I do not praise Him, His creation will do it! How can I not praise Him? He has protected my family through various circumstances we have faced and He has provided abundantly for our needs. He cares so much more for my family and myself than His other creations; because He died for us, He died for all of us!!!
That summer as we lived in a place for a few weeks, I had asked the Lord what I could do to say "Thank-You" to Him and to the ones who allowed us to stay in the place we were at. The art I do belongs to Him and I constantly want to give back to Him what He has given to me. When the Lord showed me that I was to do a mural in the place we had just stayed at, I went and received permission to do it. I felt the place needed to be brightened up as an encouragement to others who would be staying there also. Now, I knew how I was going to thank Him, but what was I going to paint? The Lord so quietly showed me through a photo I saw on a friend's Facebook page.
He and his family went out west that summer for vacation and one place they stopped at was the Grand Canyon. That place definitely yells its praises to its Creator as it screams of God's handiwork throughout the whole place. As my friend stood there looking out at God's creation, he had his arms raised up in praise to his and their Creator. It was almost as if the Lord took me there as I looked at the pictures and started to paint. As I painted, I felt the Lord painting through me.
I poured out my heart to the Lord as I painted, giving Him ALL our concerns and leaving them at the altar of His throne. Each crevice I painted, reminded me of the crevices of my life. It is through these times that I draw ever closer to my Lord and Savior. It is through these times I know Him more and it is through these times that I feel that strength to overcome the circumstances of life because it is He who gives that to me. It is He who makes Himself known to me in such an intimate way, that all I can do is look up and give Him praise.
As my friend had his arms lifted up in praise to his Creator and giving God praise for His handiwork, I too lift my arms up in praise to my Heavenly Father, the Creator and Redeemer of my soul for He truly is majestic! No matter what circumstance comes your way, will you "Proclaim God's Glory"? No matter the outcome? I choose to!
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints." Psalms 116:15
After seeing a photo of a dear godly, elderly woman's hand being held by her niece and the story behind it, I had mentioned to the niece that it would make either a beautiful drawing or painting. A while later she approached me about doing a commission drawing of the mentioned photo. I prayed asking the Lord if He wanted me to do it and after praying felt He did indeed want to use me in this way, but as I gave my answer, I asked her if I could have "artistic license" with it. I told her I felt the Lord wanted me to draw His hand instead of her's, which she was fine with that.
As I prepared to start the drawing, I again had to go to my Heavenly Father. You see, I cringe when I think about doing hands. They can be just as complex as eyes are, but yet both hold a special key to the soul of a person. Through the eyes, you can see how a person is feeling; with the hands, you can see how they used their hands, what type of person they are or were.
I was intrigued by the hands in the photo before I had even heard the story. I could tell that these hands had a story to tell. There was a gentleness there, that only the Lord, Himself would know deeply, and more intimately.
As I started working on the drawing, I prayed! I prayed for the family I was doing it for, but I also prayed that the Lord would use me to make this drawing come to life. I wanted both hands to stand out, as if off the paper! Each day as I worked on the drawing, I would humbly ask the Lord to use this feeble hand of mine to bring Him glory. Of course, I already had a title picked out before I had even gotten very far with the drawing. I had decided on 'Welcome Home...Well Done' , because as I started working on it, I was picturing her in Heaven and Jesus saying that to her. I really liked the title and felt that it fit with what my friend had said about her.
The more I started work on the drawing, the more I realized the Lord had something totally different in mind. I had noticed that there was a lot of art work out there with similar titles, but I still felt that this title fit. I can be stubborn sometimes and I am so thankful that the Lord is so patient with me.
It wasn't until I started working on that sweet Saint's hand and concentrating on every little detail of it, that I started to realize what the Lord was laying on my heart. As I looked at the hand, I realized that I was drawing it as it was, here on Earth. In Heaven, her hand would not look like that. Then I wondered if I should change it to a younger hand, but then that would change the whole concept of what made my friend take the photo. I did mention, that I was stubborn, right?
That's when the Lord OPENED my eyes to what He saw all along. It's not Him welcoming her into Glory, but instead it's Him holding her hand at her beside as He is getting ready to escort her to Glory, Himself. That's when the title came to me, a title that could only come from the Lord.
After that, my mindset was different as I worked on it. I would tear up thinking about Jesus holding her hand. Maybe He had even sat by her bedside and said to her... "Well done, My good and faithful servant, now it is time to go home!" I do not know what was actually said and done at that very moment when she was ushered into Glory, but this is the picture the Lord, Himself, gave me.
As I finished the drawing, I then needed to think about the mat and frame. I again, brought this before my Lord and asked Him what He would want. Even in matting and framing there is symbolism tying in with this whole drawing.
If you look very closely at Jesus' hand, you will see the nail scar, but just above and to the right of the scar is a tiny cross drawn in the crease of the wrist, slanted towards the scar. As I thought about the scar and the cross, I was reminded about how He gave His life for each of us including this dear, elderly woman. I thought it would be fitting to have the mat be a deep red to represent His blood that was shed not only this dear woman, but for all of us. When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, Scripture reminds us that He washes our sins as white as snow...that's why I chose a white frame for the drawing. We will still sin, even after accepting Christ as our Savior, but because of His blood being shed for our sins, we are "framed" in His righteousness.
What about YOU? Have you accepted God's free gift of salvation? The sad thing is; is that sin came into this world, which all of us are born with. Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have sinned and we come short of God's glory and Romans 6:23 tells us that death is the wages for our sin. The beautiful thing is that God made a wonderful way for our sins to be forgiven. It cost Him a lot!!! It cost Him, His Son! He tells us in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (ESV)
You see, God can not be in the presence of sin because He is HOLY. His Son came down in the flesh to take our punishment for us. He placed our disgusting sins upon His pure, HOLY body, so that we would come to Him and be forgiven. My friend and her aunt did just that. They placed their trust in the One who gave His life for all. They will be reunited someday just like I will with my loved ones who have placed their trust in Jesus, because at the age of nine, I too realized that I was a sinner needing a Savior and that's when I accepted Christ as my Savior.
If you have not done that, why wait? God's Word tells us that NOW is the time! Don't wait until it is too late. My prayer is that the work my Lord allows me to do, would point others to Him. Wouldn't you like to hear Him say someday...'Come Home My Dear Saint'? Wouldn't you like to be "framed" in His righteousness?
"Let them praise the name of the Lord! For He commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord! " Psalm 148:5-14 (English Standard Version)
I love looking at creation as it reminds me of the awesomeness of its Creator. As an artist, I don't just look at things, I catch myself looking at every little detail, like the shape or color of things. When I look at the sky, I don't just see blue, I see many variations of blue. It's the same with grass, leaves, tree trunks and everything else He has created. He has put so much detail in everything His hands have touched.
One of the amazing places I love to see His handiwork in, is the ocean. From the waves crashing into the rocks, to the gentle breeze tickling the surface of the water; each aspect reflects the awesome details of His creativeness.
As I started working on this painting, I was looking at a photo of a seagull and it made me wonder what that seagull was looking at. He never worries about where his food will come from as he trusts his Creator to provide. No wonder Scripture reminds us that the birds and everything else He has created are to give Him praise.
Again I am reminded in Scripture that I am not to worry about things. In Philippians 4:6-8, God reminds us "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (English Standard Version)
We may be going through tough times, whether it is through sorrow, financial, health or even not knowing what the future holds for us. No matter what it is, we are to commit each aspect of our lives to our Creator by praying and petitioning with a thankful heart. We are to let our requests be known to Him, even though He already knows. He still desires for us to come to Him with our requests. After we have done that, verse 8 continues with that we are to think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, anything of excellence and worthy of praise.
It's so easy to play the "what if" game, but He doesn't want us to do that. He wants us to think on what is true. The truth is He loves us ,and wants what is best for us! No matter what! We are to give Him our "One Solitary Praise". If all other creation can praise Him, why can't we? After all, He gave His life for us!
This drawing is dedicated to ALL of our Armed Forces, who have sacrificed so much for our country.
I was asked by one of my students a few years back, if I would draw a picture of the Marine emblem for him. I said, "Yes, when I have the chance." I have a tender heart towards the Marines, as my brother served with them. It took me about a year as I had put it aside; I was working on some other projects and felt I needed to get those completed first.
As I started working on this, I began praying for all of our troops, especially the ones in harm's way. I was reminded of the great sacrifices our military make for our freedom. It is not just the military personnel, but their families also. I have seen the hardship these families go through, especially as their loved one has been deployed to a place of violence. I have read and heard the prayer requests from both the families and the ones that have been deployed.
Do we truly comprehend the cost of freedom? I think too many times, when we see the word "free" in a word, we automatically think that it comes without a cost. Our freedom comes at a great cost to so many. Every time someone complains about prayer in schools, wanting God taken out of our pledge of allegiance or out of our motto "In God We Trust", I have to remember that many gave their lives so that these people can have the freedom to say what they like, even when I don't like it. It also gives me the freedom to share the message of the love that God has for us and those same people who want to take Him out of everything; when He gave us the greatest gift of freedom: salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. The freedom from sin and death came at the greatest cost...Christ dying in our place at Calvary. Praise the Lord, that He conquered death by His resurrection! I am so thankful for Christ paying my debt...I am free in Him!!! That is true freedom!!!
I am thankful for the freedom that I have here in America. I am so thankful for the military who give so much to protect our freedoms. When was the last time you went up to someone in the Armed Forces and thanked them for their service to our country? It is such a rewarding thing to be able to do that. They need to hear our "Thanks"! The smile on their faces and the tears in their eyes are so well worth going out of your comfort zone to talk to a stranger. Whether they are serving in the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army or Coast Guard, they deserve our thanks and prayers!!!
"O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle." Psalm 140:7 (English Standard Version)
This painting was my first oil painting on canvas. After doing ALL those birch trees, I didn't know if I ever wanted to paint again or see another birch tree. Well, as you can see, I didn't stop painting and living in a state, where the White Birch is the state tree, helped me to continue to see the beauty in birch trees. I love them now! I had put the painting up for awhile to take a break from all those trees. My mom encouraged me to finish it (actually, she was very persistent) and made me promise to enter it into one of the fairs being held in the fall. I promised, but was very nervous about entering something I did. The last time I had done that I was really embarrassed. The Lord was so gracious and allowed me to place. He receives the glory. As a Christmas gift that year, I gave the painting to my parents as a way of thanking my mom for encouraging me.
As I was trying to come up with a name for this painting, I would find myself mesmerized by the stillness of the setting. It reminded me of those times when I should be having those quiet moments with my Lord. I could almost feel the coolness of the snow hitting my face but yet at the same time, all I could think of was reflecting on the One who created the snow and the sunset.
How often do we allow the busyness of our lives to crowd out that special time we could have with the Lord. I know that I have allowed other things to occupy and keep me from my special time with Him. How sad! I miss so much when I do that, but gain so much more when I take that time to spend it with Him.
Living in New England, I see it snow a lot and I mean A LOT!!! Most of the time, I have to admit that when I see it coming down, I groan. I don't like to drive in it, nor do I like to shovel it (although, my husband does most of that) and I especially don't like to wear those clumsy boots. I actually don't have any boots, so my feet get cold wearing my cute, as my husband would say, "summer shoes". There are times, though, as I sit in my chair looking out the window, drinking hot chocolate or hot tea, that I find myself watching each little snowflake fall to the ground. Then there are those rare times when I do help with shoveling and marvel at the uniqueness of each individual snowflake. It is kind of relaxing and I start reflecting on the Creator who makes each of those snowflakes so different and unique...just like us.
If God cares so much about making each snowflake different how much more does He care about us. He cares so much, that not only did He provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him, but also to spend time with Him on a daily basis and that is through His Word. In Psalms 131, David talks about coming to the Lord with childlike trust.
Psalms 131 says, "O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore." (English Standard Version)
We miss out so much when we don't take that time to spend with Him. There are so many treasures for us to grasp, hold tight and to hide in our hearts. As a mother, I have weaned my children when they were little. It was hard at times as they didn't want to be weaned. There were many nights that I would just rock them in the rocking chair, holding them close to me and sing of God's truths to them as I would calm them down. I cherish those memories as I held my precious child close to me. How much more does our Heavenly Father want to hold us close to Him. Do we want to wait until we are going through a crisis before we spend that time with Him, or are we willing to cherish each "Quiet Moment" with Him now?
I was asked by a dear friend to paint a picture for her, as she was redoing the place that her and husband were moving into. She had always wanted a picture that would describe Proverbs 25:11 and wanted me to paint it for her. I prayed about it and told the Lord that I could only do it through Him. Before I would work on the painting each time, I would go in prayer, not only to pray for my friend and her family, but to also commit the work to Him, asking Him to place His Almighty, Artistic Hand over mine and let His work be magnified. It is through Him that this painting was completed and to Him alone is the glory given.
Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
As I read over the verse MANY times, the one thing that I felt the Lord was impressing upon me, was how do my words reflect the person I truly am. It says 'A word fitly spoken...' and that made me think about how my words fit in my relationship with the Lord. Do they glorify Him or do I bring shame to His name? I thought also about the next part of the verse where it says...'is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.' As I researched the word 'picture', the one thing that kept coming back was the word 'settings'. Instead of thinking about the actual word 'picture', I thought about how things are reflected in the different types of silver table settings. If you are great in polishing your silver, the reflection is so pure and clear that it is like a mirror, but if you are like me and neglect polishing your silver, they become tarnished and the reflection is dull or sometimes very hard to see. I want my words to be a reflection of my Savior, pure and clear as if on the cleanness of silver; that I am seeing the mirror reflection of my Lord. Many times, though, I am afraid my words are like the reflection on the tarnished silver pitcher in the painting, hard to see and very dull. Do my words lift (brighten) others up, or do they discourage (not reflect well) others. Many times, I am ashamed of my silver because I have neglected to polish them. Am I just as ashamed when I am careless with my words? I want my words to be fitly spoken to reflect my Savior, not me! I want my words to be "Golden Reflections" of the One who gave His life for me! What about you? How are your words reflected? Are they fitly spoken to reflect you or the Lord?
"Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation."
Psalms 91:14-16 (KJV)
This painting was my second oil painting, and I think that is when I totally fell in love with painting. At the time, I didn't really think about what this painting could mean from a spiritual perspective as I was working on it. Later the Lord did reveal to me so many things. As I grew in the Lord through the many trials that He had allowed and is still allowing me to go through; my eyes have been opened to how much He truly loves me. He will never leave me nor will He forsake me, and as I go through the difficulties, trials or sufferings that He has allowed, I know that He will deliver me from them in such a way that I could not even imagine.
As I look at the painting, the first thing that I see are the waves crashing against the three rocks, and it reminds me so much of what the Lord has allowed in my life...death of loved ones, financial struggles, the health challenges of my children, among other things. As I look at the storm clouds surround the whole picture, I can allow my vision to be clouded by all that I am going through and not be able to see what the Lord wants me to see. I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father sees right through those clouds, and is able to see the whole picture. He knows the outcome! He knows the end result of the storm. Eventually, the storm may end, and we may feel that there was so much destruction surrounding it, that we can't find the beauty, the hidden treasure meant just for us. Maybe we need to look for the beauty even in a storm.
I love going to the ocean and yes, I even love to see the power of the waves crashing against the rocks. Have you ever taken a walk on the shore after a storm? You would be surprised to see so many hidden treasures there are on the shore, and even some beauty. It could be the broken shells, reminding us of our brokenness, suffering or other trials in our lives, but then we come across smooth stones reminding us that through of all this, our Heavenly Father is smoothing us out into the image of His Son. We have a choice to make...we can sit inside and hide from the storm hoping it will go away or we can embrace it, by watching and trusting the Creator, knowing that He sees the end result. I choose to embrace the storm and then, see what special treasures He has waiting for me to find at the end ... for He sees the Solitary View.
Karen's Artistic Thoughts
I decided as I was working on this website, that a blog would be a way to explain what goes through my mind as I work on each piece the Lord has laid on my heart.