I’m a thinker. An introvert. While others sometimes quickly accept things, I need to give it some thought, decide how I feel, and then move on. I react this way to just about everything, which is probably both good and bad. So when it comes to 2017, that year that passed two weeks ago already, I am just now beginning to finalize it all in my head in order to say goodbye and welcome this new year.
If you’re new around these parts, here are some of the other yearly wrap ups I’ve done.
Word of the Year
I chose the word “embrace” this year as an extension of “trust,” which was my word for 2016. As things would become weird or cool or wonderful or sticky, I kept going back to it. What did God want me to embrace? What did He most want me to hold tight to?
Of course, the universal answer to that is Him. God wants me to embrace Him, hold tight to Him… always. Everything else comes after that.
I began the year creating an ecourse for anyone who also chose a word of the year and wanted to reinforce that intention with mixed media art projects. And then, as I started filming, I got sick. Like really, really sick. ER. Hospital. Ambulence. ER again. Weeks and weeks and weeks of rest, which is so very hard for me. I tried to embrace even that. What did God want me to learn? To slow down? To not do an ecourse? I didn’t know, but I did what my body needed and let God do the healing.
It was hard to find the purpose of “embrace” in those moments, but I think that is how trust is sometimes. You trust without even knowing where you are headed, or why something is happening the way it is. All my goals and projects got pushed off in these months.
When I was finally okay to start moving around and working again, “the kid” (our Little Brother from Big Brothers/Big Sisters) gave me a hug (he’s not normally a hugger) and told me he was praying “so hard for me” because he worried I wasn’t going to make it! I laughed, but there was truth in it. And I thanked him for those prayers, because I do believe prayers from children go right to the front of the queue.
As I was finally able to make my way back to health and being able to work again, I found myself even more grateful for every single day.
My husby and I have done a gratitude practice for the last few years, and it has taught me to look for the grace in everything. Something as simple as giving our little doggie some attention (tummy rub!) is a blessing. She brings us faithfulness and companionship and joy, and it is a priviledge and blessing to take care of her. (Even when she’s naughty, which she is being right now as I type this!)
This rough start to the year had me reflecting on working through the layers and difficult stages in art and in life, everyday blessings, forgiveness, and finding God in the silence. I’ve always been someone that championed the kindness ideas movement, but of course this is a lesson you can never learn enough.
The rough stuff of 2017 didn’t end with illness. I had some personal setbacks but even in those God gave me the courage to face something that had weighed on me for most of my life.
Blessings are fascinating to me, because really embracing them, which is what I wanted to do most, isn’t always straightforward or simple. Some blessings come in un-expected forms, some don’t seem like blessings, and some come so fast you wonder if it’s a dream. Some months and years feel like a whirlwind. They seem too good to be true, and we might have a hard time enjoying them because they move us so quickly from one emotional place to the next.
More than ever, 2017 taught me that everything you do matters. This is something I have always, always struggled with. Did my contribution mean anything? Am I following the plan God has for my life? I have learned to be grateful for this vocation, all the blessings of sales, all the comments and stories people share, and to accept that this is where God wants me and if he wants me to move He will let me know. I am a thinker (and an overthinker) but to worry too much about our place in this world means you are not allowing God’s purpose to work through you.
There is so much to selling art, that for me is so much more than just about selling art. You know? It involves ministry, God, trust, and putting yourself out there.
I did more art and craft fairs this year, which was both stressful and wonderful. With art fairs you get up early and rush around and then set up and work a tent for hours… but they are gold for things like talking to people, getting an idea of what people like (or don’t like) about your art, and especially, most importantly, they are a way for me to connect in the way God wants me to. I believe this.
So I started the year out with Art in the Burg, which is a fun show where many friends came out to see me, which thrilled me to no end. And then I did my first two day gig, reCraft & Relic, and while there I learned the lesson of asking for help. This was not always something I was good at. I’m still not good at it, but I feel there is a spiritual lesson in asking for help. You acknolwedge you can’t do it all. You admit to God you need Him, and perhaps that’s the best lesson of all. You pray for an answer and give God an opportunity to work in your life. Your answer might not be the one you envisioned, and that’s good. If it’s His Will, it’s always good.
In selling art this year, I saw God at work in the way people would tell me their stories. During one weekend, I had people ask over and over if I had any angel paintings. I sold an original angel painting that weekend, and best of all, I felt like God blessed me with a very special angel who encouraged me. She was a mentally challenged girl who talked to me about the kind of art she did and blessed me with her spirit and grace.
I attended a lot of art fairs that I hadn’t before. During the Fire Fly Art Fair, I got to see two special friends who have been an important, kind, grace-filled part of my life since I was a toddler. During the Trimborn Fair, my mom and aunt blessed me with a visit (and Diet Coke – important caffeine!) and I also met a lovely group of women who chatted with me (and bought lots of art!) for an hour.
Finally, the show I did in November taught me a lot about the connectness of people and I love how God provided a gentle, soul-reaching lesson in the final minutes of that show. His way of teaching is always loving and kind.
I did a lot of commissions this year, actually. That was a first. Until then, I had done them here and there. Mostly, I turned them down, not feeling totally confident to offer a painting in “my style.” But I finally understand that if someone wants a painting from me it is because they want it in my style. (Takes me a while with some of this stuff… you know…) I did one painting that combined a favorite Bible verse, poetry, and really great people, and you just can’t get a bigger blessing than that.
The year 2017 finished out with an exhibit called “The Little Show” at the Cedarburg Cultural Center. I was happy to have been juried into this show and even more surprised when my five paintings sold in just a week. I finished out December with several more originals being sold, including two of my most favorite works ever, Some Children Will Travel, and Bohemian Girl. I loved working on these two paintings in particular. I thought about keeping them for myself. But you know, I want to paint so people can enjoy the work, and I was pleased to see them sell.
In fact, I sold at stores for the first time in 2017. Added ten shops and galleries and that was fun and wild and interesting, too.
When I look back, I see 2017 as a year of family. Family highlighted. Family celebrated. Family found.
In May we went to a wedding and a graduation, and if those two things don’t help you celebrate the best parts of your family (new love, new family members, and the youngest members of your family) I don’t know what will. That same month, I was connected with new members of my birth family. A surprise blessing filled with new emotions. My life history being filled in more and more.
At the end of the year, I celebrated my birthday with my sister and brother-in-law and niece by going to see my niece play in a Christmas concert at our state capitol. The story of my sister and I is one of the coolest ever, you guys. We were both given up for adoption, found each other as adults, and now, after a decade, we are “real” sisters, you know? More than just the DNA part, she is one of my biggest blessings and I love our sister bond. And my niece? I love her so much… don’t even get me started. She is an inspiration and I am delighted to be her auntie!
I went on to celebrate my birthday and Christmas with my mom at one of our favorite restaurants in town, and wouldn’t you know it, Oprah was there, too. Of course, we missed her by a few minutes. A brief run in! I keep saying Oprah needs to discover my art and poetry because I think she’ll love it! (Said every poet and artist ever.)
Family influenced my paintings this year, too. I honored the sisters in our lives with a painting and also did a commission for someone celebrating their son and daughters. That sense of togetherness and unconditional love is part of what I try to tell in my art story.
Ecourses and Workshops
I started offering ecourses for the first time ever! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so launching my Word of the Year and Painting the Psalms courses was especially exciting for me. As the year went on, I changed the format of Painting the Psalms from a subscription based service to a stand alone variety of courses. So “Choose Your Psalm” and “Joy to the World” were both launched in 2017. More to come on those. (Here’s a free bonus Painting the Psalms if you haven’t watched one yet.)
Celebrating Art and Faith and Poetry
If there has been one central theme in my life, it is art and faith and poetry. Everything I do seems to connect to this in some way. For the last several years I’ve worked as an artist and writer, of course, but these elements are also the lens in which I view the world. From my silly hobby of making glass sculptures to my joy at seeing the movie Loving Vincent, I enjoy surrounding myself with things that inspire me. I also hope to be an inspiration to others. I was thrilled to have an article in GreenCraft this year about a favorite way to preserve love notes and memories.
I always say that I want my art to be something that will help people connect with God. I’m a huge fan of Third Day (you all have heard the hilarious story of how my sister and niece and I chased them down a street and barged in on their dinner!) and I listen to them a lot when I paint. When I hear their music, I am instantly connected with God and all he does for us. I want my art to be like that, and hope that 2018 brings more opportunity to share my art (and writing! and poetry!) in a way that pleases God.