When the Lord put something in you it’s hard to ignore because it will keep surfacing again and again. For me that something is being an artist.
In my early 20s I quit my nursing job, one I wasn’t quite suited for, and enrolled in community college majoring in art. What does one do with an art degree? I had no idea, but if I was reinventing myself, I wanted art to be in the equation.
Upon graduation, since I lived in a small one company town in central Florida, I took a job as a draftsman in the large electronic corporation where my ex-husband was employed. I worked my way into an art department. We did technical drawings and I called it glorified drafting. We worked in pen and ink, which I fell in love with. Pen and ink spilled over into the creative work I was doing at the time. I longed to do art full-time, but how does one do that when you need to work a 9 to 5 job?
I had plenty of examples in front of me at the time, women who were successfully selling their art. I had met Kathy, my first artist friend, who I was able to watch come fresh out of college and etch out a very successful career as an artist. There was a woman I worked with that did these fabulous drawings and sold them at the local art shows. That is where Kathy sold her paintings too. Then there was Zoe my art instructor, who not only sold at the shows, but did large projects for public spaces, like hotels in Chicago. I had many examples of women artists right in front of me to ponder.
But there was a secret I discovered at that time, unless those around you support you as an artist, it’s very hard to get things going and get any traction. I came to realize unless my ex-husband supported what I wanted to do, it was all a lesson in futility. I put my desire to the side, delegating it to maybe one day.
A Good Word
Discouraged, I had a long conversation with an older woman who I had known through my church when I was a teen. What Marian told me was, it is never too late to pick up a brush and begin to paint or begin to paint again. She smiled and with a sweet laugh, she told me that she didn’t begin to paint until she was in her 50s when her children were grown and gone. And she was now well into her 70s and still painting.
Words can be powerful to either discourage or to encourage you Her words never left me, they gave me a hope during my years as a young mother. As my boys grew up, I never stopped being creative but the thought that someday I would take a shot at being an artist, selling my work faded from my mind, surfacing from time to time because God has a way of awakening that in me.
When I decided to go back to school as an older student, I decided to finish my art degree. My thoughts were not centered on being an artist, but going to seminary after I graduated. I needed a four-year degree and taking art seemed to be the straightest path to get there.
I wrote about my call to ministry and how that came about, and I wanted to share my story here. During my time in collage, I went through a messy divorce. Before I could graduate my plans for seminary ended, but a door to pursue art had opened.
I wrote this in a letter to my women’s ministry team:
I just spent 3 days at Women’s Evangelism Training at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The second day, I was walking through their beautiful new leadership education building while I was on break. I decided to rest my overflowing mind and look at all the watercolors that lined the halls. Discovering the round stained glass windows that hang over the lobby areas on each side of the building, I was excited to see the windows up close. I had interviewed the artist who had created them when we were looking for an artist to do our window.
As I strolled, I was asking God what He wanted me to do. I had come to the training determined to be open to whatever the Lord spoke to me about. And as you know, He had been speaking to my heart about humility and pride again. But this time, He whispered to me, “Be beautiful. Can you be beautiful for me?” That really does something to your heart when you hear that from the Lord. “Yes,” I said, “I want to be beautiful for you.” And I really believe He can do that in me. I was impressed that He ask nothing of me or gave me nothing “to do.” He just told me how He wanted me to be.
A Call to be An Artist
I don’t think until the last few years that I realized He wasn’t calling me into ministry, to go to seminary, but to instead to be an artist. However, I don’t think being an artist excludes me from ministry when He opens those doors for me. Being an artist gives me a different way to communicate with people about the Lord. He speaks to me in images and when He does, I aspired to paint them. More and more, I believe that it is my job as an artist to add beauty to the world. I think our world desperately needs that. Being an artist opens doors to people’s hearts that otherwise would not be opened.
It is my hope that my work is filled with the love and peace I receive daily from walking with the Lord. Which brings me to the mission statement I wrote shortly after my walk down the hallway as I was taking in all those wonderful watercolors.
“I want to be the best spokesperson for Jesus Christ that I can be, to creatively express Him to others. And to encourage others to know Christ deeper so they experience the presence of God in a powerful life changing way.”