Friday, May 22, 2015

The First Flag

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."- John 15:13

How in the world could I begin to paint a picture of Arlington National Cemetery? How?
If you've never seen it, look it up. Both breath-taking and heart-breaking at the same time. Lines and lines and lines of beautifully white washed stones, each one there for a soul who gave a life for our freedoms. For our country. For you. For me.

Tears flowed freely as I looked at photos of family members clinging to the memory of that soldier, clutching that stone as if to grab a piece of their beloved once again. And the soldiers saluting, I cannot even begin to describe the combination of absolute pride and brokenness. I wont even pretend to understand how it would feel to stand there on this side of heaven, looking on all my fallen friends.

When a friend of mine asked me to do this, I knew it was going to be incredibly challenging. Not only was it a whole lot of lines to paint, but the significance of the sacrifice these people made, the representation of each individual who served and gave his life, there was no way I could capture it. I still haven't, but I knew I could take a lifetime and wouldn't get it, and I had to be okay with that. Because I could never confine the beauty of that sacrifice to a canvas. As I type that I think of the Lord and shake my head at even trying to contain His Majesty.

I knew in my heart I could not do this justice, but I sure would give it on over to the Lord. The landscape aspect came naturally. The stones were a dickens to paint-ALL THE LINES.  In fact, I felt like the stones needed more space, so I scraped a section of the painting and started over.

But the soldier, planting that first flag through the crust of the soil he vowed to protect-- I couldn't give him a face. I just could not define him, because he needed to be a representation of all our men and women who serve, who leave family and home to defend our country.

There he is, back pack full of flags, meant to honor each and every one of those souls who died to protect us. A rectangular piece of fabric with our beloved stars and stripes, which beautifully depicts all we should stand for. That piece of fabric seems such a small way to honor that amazing sacrifice; but, I beam inside knowing what Old Glory represents.  I just want to hug that person- to say "Thank you for your service, for loving your country, and for honoring these people who died for you and me." I know I would never ever get those words out because I'm tearing up now, only seeing that opportunity in my mind's eye.

I pray that the Lord is pleased with this most feeble attempt to capture and honor Arlington National Cemetery, the people who are laid to rest there, and all those who have served past and present.

I love our country and its foundation in Christ. I am so grateful for the souls who have and currently serve. To those folks, I say "Thanks."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I am in a big, fat, stinky funk. I hate funks. Well, except the 70s style. I know that this funk is likely (definitely) a result of my busyness. When I get too busy, I get too dang near-sighted. Then I start to creep away from my Center- Jesus.

Just like the Earth is so perfectly placed that if it is moved one degree closer to the sun we burn to a crisp, one the other direction we freeze to death, so it is with Our Creator. When I get away from the sweet spot of resting in Him, I begin to quench the Spirit.

Bringing my heart back to His beauty by honoring Him here.

I worked on a project awhile back. I think I've mentioned before how I absolutely LOVE all things old/worn/lived in. I just love worn down wood, old homes, and things that show the wear of the world.

That said, my mother-in-law requested me to paint a piece of glass to hang in an opening above a doorway of her beautiful, old victorian home. The glass was about a foot and a half by five feet. Big. The plan was to nestle it right into the rich, warm original woodwork that stood above the huge doorway between the formal/informal living rooms.

She gave me free range, except with a few color requests. She offered ideas of folk art, or even foliage. I love folk art and that would have been fun. I love landscapes and they are cool, too, but I needed to honor the style of this home. So, I remembered seeing a piece of victorian floral fabric on a pillow in her living room years ago.

That was it. I found my inspiration. So off I went. I loved this part, designing the "bones."

Then Layer.

By Layer.

By Layer.

Until it was complete.

To be honest, in the middle somewhere I wanted to quit. It looked "weird" and my eyes were so strained. I thought, 'I am totally screwing this dang thing up."

But, I persisted and kept thinking this is how it is with the Lord. As a new creation freshly bought with salvation blood, we feel free, vibrant, and our raw potential in Christ feels so clean. Kind of like the bare bones of this painting. It was simple and looked nice as it was, but there was a lot of hard work ahead for it to be complete.

In the same way as the paint sloooowly progressed, we experience the daily strain of having the Holy Spirit encased in sinful flesh, in a sinful world- we aren't complete. We are a work in progress.  As the verse in proverbs says  we are being made "ever brighter until the day of Christ." I know that , like this painting, I am in the middle, where Christ is adding layer upon layer of His goodness. It comes in the form of blessing, simple joys, hardship and loss. And we are to be continually sanctified until we meet Him face to face.

I'm forever grateful that if no other soul on earth gets my heart, my Heavenly Father does. And He patiently keeps working on me, making me "ever brighter until the day of Christ." Thank You, Lord!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

New Heart

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."- Ezekiel 36:26

I cannot tell you the  comfort this verse brings. It tells me so many things. It tells me God saw the hardness of heart in me and He loves me enough to remove it and replace it with a fresh, vibrant one. Thing is, I think that this not only happens in a big, eternal way-through salvation- but in the small, hard-hearted everyday stuff that steals our joy.

I have prayed this verse over my own heart so many times, yearning to be set free of selfish, near-sighted life-walking. It is no wonder that it would make it to canvas. But how it surfaced, came as it often does, through the lives of others.

I was scrolling along facebook when I came across a family's page for their little one who was in need of a new heart. While I don't know the family personally,  I had been following the story, praying along. This post was an update, baby had gotten a new heart! Praise God! There, photographed so beautifully, was her "sick" heart, . It struck me, searing its image so deep, I still see it in my head so clearly. It really was beautiful. My mind was blown at the brilliant minds/hearts involved in removing this VITAL organ from a living, breathing child and replacing it with one that would work for her. And it was blown, too, that something so beautiful could be "worthless."

Isn't that how it is with us?  On first inspection, our exterior may be polished and beautiful. Even our intentions can be good. But, honestly, even with the best attempts, our hearts are bound to be sick. Because we are made to be eternally connected with the Creator of the world. Our hearts are made to yearn for the Best One, not the best things of this life. He offers that freedom. When we come to Him, naturally, the damaged, scarred areas of our innermost are removed and replaced with His best. The mental picture is so beautiful. Exchanging Stone for Flesh. The Inanimate for the eternally living.

That indelible image, stirred that verse right out of my heart and onto the canvas.

I love that I was able to pray for that baby girl, and for her family. Little girl, may the LORD fill your spiritual tank to overflowing and that your "new" heart will beat wildly for Him.