Michele's Watercolors

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The Grass is Green Enough

The Grass is Green Enough

 

Hi Friends! First off, I hope this finds you and your loved ones healthy in mind and body during these most challenging and unique days we’ve been walking through. They have been filled with pain and struggle for so many; for too many. If the coronavirus has taken someone or something dear to your heart, I am deeply sorry. My heart has hurt knowing some of the massive losses of my family and friends over the past few months.

 

Weeks before we were sheltered in place, I stopped watching the news because reports of this worldwide pandemic heading to my “backyard” was breathing an anxious spirit within me. While we know that God remains in complete control of our world, our lives, and this virus, I’m not sure that we as a whole have ever felt so out of control. Nonetheless, I’d like to suggest something that you and I do remain in control of. Our perspective.

 

During these set-apart days, I have faced one physical assault after another. Just as one would subside, another would flare up. Currently, I have been battling numbness from my mid-spine down to my feet, after an injury 8 weeks ago. It has been nasty to experience and challenging to navigate. On top of it though, I’ve had another neurological flare up, including a reoccurrence of the seizure-like “episodes” I was fighting through last year; had two last night alone. They are awful, but extensive testing last year came up with only empty answers.

 

Towards the beginning of the quarantine, the Lord gave me a dream. In it I was standing next to a mountain of rock. I started to run behind it in an attempt to get around it, but I quickly became fearful and wanted to turn around. It then became oppressive back there in all the jungle-like thicket, but I said, “No, I need to press on. This will be for God’s glory.” So, I persevered and kept running forward, eventually curving to the left to round this massive, unmovable rock. As I made my way around to the front there were THOUSANDS of people in stadium seating cheering and praising God.

 

This difficult chapter in my story has been filled with the Presence of God. The day after the numbness started in my body, I felt He had revealed to me that it was “temporary”. Nonetheless, there have been many dark, discouraging and scary moments along the way. Giving in hasn’t been an option for me, though. It never has been. So, I keep persevering because I believe the Word the Lord spoke to me, that this is temporary and there is another side where He will receive glory.

 

I don’t know what your circumstances are right now, but I’m certain that they too are challenging; maybe to the point of taking your all just to breathe. PERSEVERE. There will be another side to your situation and this pandemic, and we will one day look back on this crazy season. In the meantime, though, I want to caution you and myself not to miss the good and the value of TODAY.

 

A dear friend of mine is battling stage 4 colon cancer that metastasized to her lungs. A while back, she was sharing with me how she and her husband had stayed up until 11 at night painting the porch because their weather was to drop like 30 degrees in the next 24 hours. She was so thankful that she finally felt well enough to be able to do that. While reading her text, I couldn’t help but think of how quickly “chores” become “privileges” when our ability is taken away from us.

 

That is much like our situation now. The stressful and challenging things, or even the mundane, of our pre-coronavirus lives caused many of us to complain and wish things were different. Now, it seems we long for the way things used to be! I think now more than ever, we can agree that life is a privilege that we get to live. Ever since hearing my friend share how she was thankful for the health and strength to paint her porch, I have tried to look at life differently and change my thinking from “I have to _________” to “I get to _________”.

 

As my pastor recently shared, “We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re all in the same storm”. In this storm, I don’t know what you are up against and anxious to get to “the other side of”, where the grass is greener, but here is what I want to suggest… The grass is green enough where we are today. I am not minimizing your struggle or mine (and if you are in an abusive situation, I am not speaking to you here), but we need to learn to make peace with today’s reality, allowing God to reign and our faith to grow, because our lives are made up of “todays”. Unless we overcome our circumstances and attitudes, they will overcome us.

 

The alternative to living in the hard of today is wishing our life away; and life is already flying by! Besides, tomorrow will have its own challenges. I honestly don’t want to miss what God has for me right where I am, in the midst of numbness and “episodes”. I leave you with the words written on a sign hanging in my studio… “Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”

 

The Sequel

The Sequel

 

As I sit to write this, my heart is overwhelmed by the good and the hard things that have played out since you last heard from me. Most recently though, we lost someone dear to my family and my church. The wisdom and discernment that came through this man was palpable. I knew “Uncle” Lou my entire life, but most recently, he was very instrumental in giving me clarity and strength as I walked through some of the hardest days of my 6-month spiritual, physical and mental battle earlier this year that I shared about in my post Shadows and Roars. Thank you to each of you who prayed for me somewhere along the way in my fight. Never before had I experienced anything close to all I endured, but as I said in that post, I was only “passing through” that season. In the height of a flareup in September, I felt the Lord revealed to me that it would all leave as suddenly and mysteriously as it all came. It was the very next morning in church, while guest speaker Sean Smith spoke, that I felt something break within me. By the grace and power of God, I have been back to my healthy self ever since. Thank You Jesus!!!

 

Okay, so it has been on my heart for some time to share about a particular area of my life where God has been working deeply in hopes of Him working deeply in you too. Over a year ago I wrote the post, This is My Story: God Uses Imperfect People, where I shared how months earlier, I had hurt someone and someone else had hurt me. It was a very difficult season in my life as I navigated feelings and circumstances that I was not used to…and don’t intend to ever get used to. The two situations happened only one month apart, and both went without any closure for a full year and a half. The way God scripted the following pages was poetic as He brought closure, forgiveness and healing to both, only 3 months apart from each other.

 

Sometimes we can’t control our feelings, but that makes us no less responsible for if and how we act on them. Two years ago, I justified feelings I never should have had, and then allowed my feelings to dictate my words. Though my friend was not the recipient of my words, she and her husband were the ones who reaped the harm of them. My heart hurts as I admit that. When she didn’t respond to my apology, I knew I was to stay far away…which I did; but man did I pray often for God to somehow restore our friendship.

 

Then one Sunday morning this past summer, God placed my friend and her family heavy on my heart before I even got out of bed. The details are too many, but bottom line, God divinely led me to send my friend and her husband a scripture passage along with a short note. Admittedly, I was afraid to press send, unsure of the response (or lack of) I would receive. Would I feel rejected again or would she give me a piece of her mind? …which I deserved. While I imagined different responses, I could NEVER have imagined the response she gave me. It started out as, “Hi Michele! – that is so crazy because you were on my mind as well today just before church! First, please know that I do not harbor any ill feelings toward you. Neither of us do.”

 

I was stunned and awed. The grace and forgiveness that my friend chose to show me will forever be a challenge and inspiration in my life. Later in that same text though, she went on to share with me how she has been in the greatest fight of her life with her health. My beautiful friend is desperate for a supernatural miracle. I will never fully understand why I have found favor and trust in her eyes after I wronged her so, but she has allowed me the privilege of walking the highs and lows of her grueling and heart wrenching journey closely with her. Nothing about our friendship makes sense (to either of us) except that we are both keenly aware of God’s presence and providence in the heart of it. To that point, one day as we talked on the phone, a symbolic shadow casted on my studio wall in the middle of our 4 hour phone conversation, in the middle of our friendship (photo above). I really cannot put into words the unique beauty and purity of our relationship since that first day of restoration.

 

Then one evening in early October, I received an audio text message from the one who had hurt me. Her words came from a broken, heartfelt place as she confessed to taking from me. Her words were followed by a very generous gesture to repay, the best she could, what I no longer had. Because of the ridiculous grace my friend showed me only 3 months earlier, I was able to forgive that much more readily and sincerely the one who had hurt me. In that evening of restoration, God breathed peace over that restless chapter…I’d imagine for both of us.

 

After such hurt and betrayal and a year and a half of silence in both situations, I was truly blindsided by the forgiveness and healing that played out. The truth is, incredible beauty was born where, in the natural, it should not have been; but the Author of Life plants even in the places that we’ve ruled “hopeless”. Makes me think of one of my favorite scriptures… “…God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” Romans 4:17 NASB

 

It is the time of year when many of us are gathering with family and friends from far and wide. Some of those reunions are likely bringing a tremendous amount of joy, but maybe there are relationships mixed in that have been bruised and broken along the way. Perhaps you have been hurt, or maybe you are the one who inflicted pain. I’ve been in both pair of shoes and neither feels good…at all. May I gently encourage you to pray through your upcoming time with any strained relationships and choose humility. Choose forgiveness or repentance. The beauty, healing and freedom waiting on the other side far outweighs the weight of bitterness or shame. It’s why Jesus came to our world…to free us from the wrath and oppression of sin.

 

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

I said that I was able to more easily forgive the one who hurt me because of the “ridiculous grace” shown to me by the one I hurt. Shouldn’t that always be the way for us though, having had the ridiculous grace of our Savior forgive us of all OUR sins??? Come on!!

 

Truthfully though, forgiving my offender was a lot easier for me than forgiving my offense…even after I knew my friend had forgiven me. I’ve never questioned whether or not God forgave me, but for some reason have struggled to receive His forgiveness. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” For me not to walk in that truth in my heart is to deny the saving work Jesus accomplished for me. Nonetheless, it is still a process for this flesh and blood. One truth I do hold onto is that my sin is what I did, NOT who I am. It’s not who you are either. And it’s not who your loved one is. Here’s to celebrating our Savior’s birth with hearts of repentance and forgiveness. After all, we are so much stronger together than apart.  Merry Christmas to each of you and may your celebrations be filled with love and peace!

 

*Please know that I shared my friend’s text with her permission and blessing. Also, if the Lord leads you, please pray with me for divine healing for her and incredible peace, wisdom and strength for her and her family.

 

Release #15: “God is Love”

Release #15: “God is Love”

 

Well, here it is, the fifteenth and final print release in my special edition “Creative Challenge”! The inspiration for this piece came while in Apple for tech support. Our advisor, Alvin, had a tattoo that caught my eye… “God is Love”. I was captivated by the declaration he was making to the world around him and his big heart seemed to only resound those words marked on his arm.

Through his tattoo, Alvin is declaring truth and hope to a hurting world. That makes me think of how God declared His love to a hurting world that first Christmas in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Whether tattoos are your thing or not, I wonder what message you and I are declaring to the world around us.

*Thank you so much Alvin for agreeing to be my model for this piece! …its one of my favorites!

Artist Statement: In a world where tragedy, sickness and heartache seem to thrive I hear, “How can a God of love allow _______?” It’s a fair question when coming from human reason, but unfortunately, we still live in a broken world. Nonetheless, I know for me, I have experienced God’s greatest love in the heart of my greatest battles and heartaches, NOT in spite of them. Henri Nouwen once said, “There are some things about God that cannot be known apart from pain, weakness and need”. There is something about desperation that enables us to experience His love in greater measure.

God loves us unconditionally and longs for our unconditional love and devotion in return. One of the most beautiful ways to love God is to love each other through this broken world.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

 

Details:
8 x 10” Print
Unframed
$35
Find it for your own collection or to gift this Christmas here.

 

Release #14: “Hiding Hurt”

Release #14: “Hiding Hurt”

 

Today is Giving Tuesday, an international day of charitable giving, so it’s the perfect day to release my 14th print, “Hiding Hurt”! All net proceeds from this piece will go to Calcutta Mercy to provide free medical treatment to children in need. How awesome is that?!

Artist Statement: I do not know this little girl’s name or story but was no less captivated when my friend sent me the photo she took of her while in Calcutta, India. There just seemed to be a story behind those eyes that very few knew about. We all seem to have those stories, don’t we? Maybe that’s why I was so drawn and wanted to capture her in watercolor.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

 

Details:
8 x 10” Print
Unframed
$35
Find it for your own collection or to gift this holiday season here.

 

*Thank you to photojournalist Morgana Wingard for giving me permission to use your amazing photography as my reference once again. I am humbled and honored in one! Please check out her awe-inspiring work at http://www.morganawingard.com/index

**For more information on Calcutta Mercy and the far-reaching and deep impacting work that they do, please visit https://www.calcuttamercy.org/.

 

Release #13: “Ooh La La”

Release #13: “Ooh La La”

 

As I’m sure you know, today is Small Business Saturday, a day to encourage shoppers to “Shop Small”. …and after all, I am small. Haha!! On a serious note though, when we support a small business, we are supporting a dream. So, for today only, I am offering FREE SHIPPING on all orders of any amount! Please use code: shop small. After entering the code, be sure to select “free shipping”.  Remember, offer expires tonight at midnight!

 

Today I am releasing the 13th print in my Creative Challenge series entitled, “Ooh La La”…

Artist Statement: In Christianity, the Good News is the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which provides salvation to those who believe. Romans 10:15b says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” While I am quite certain God was not talking about feet graced in high heels when He inspired the writer’s words there, He no doubt was conveying His perspective of those who obey His command to go all over the world and preach the gospel. …of course, I don’t think a fine pair of shoes can hurt the cause!

 

Details:
8 x 10” Print
Unframed
$35
Find it for your own collection or to gift this holiday season here.

 

So Thankful for You!

So Thankful for You!

 

Happy Day of Giving Thanks!! I am so thankful for each of you and your support of me and God’s work through me. Whether it’s been through your words of encouragement, likes or purchases of my work, you’ve made my next step a lighter and more inspired one. Truly, there are times when I am in awe of God because of you. Thank you so much!! Okay, I’m afraid it’s time to take a deep breath as we officially enter the busiest time of the year…but the most wonderful time too!!

 

Release #12: “The Purity of Watercolor”

Release #12: “The Purity of Watercolor”

 

Last evening, I introduced to you my latest print release, “The Art of Watercolor”; well, here’s it’s cousin, “The Purity of Watercolor”. Haha!

 

Artist Statement: Something that God has been working in me is purity of heart and mind. It can be easy to make a right choice here and there, but to consistently walk in right choices in our thoughts and actions can be hard. We’re human. I’m human. Psalm 51:10 has become my prayer, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Keeping my paintings “pure” isn’t always easy for me either! My process and techniques with watercolors are unorthodox, forcing them to be what they are not. That’s why my work looks more like oils than watercolors. In the process though, I taint their raw beauty and potential. When I created “The Purity of Watercolor”, my goal was to keep myself from robbing the medium of its unique inborn qualities and characteristics with my manipulation. Ahh, so hard for this artist to do! This wash represents a baby step for me, but it is no less a step in the right direction!

 

Details:
8 x 10” Print
Unframed
$35
Find it for your own collection or to gift this holiday season here.

 

Release #11: “The Art of Watercolor”

Release #11: “The Art of Watercolor”

 

Well, only 4 more releases to go after this one to complete this series of 15 prints from my Creative Challenge comprised of 50 works of art.  My plan is to launch all 4 in the next 2+ weeks.  In the meantime though, let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Blessed Thanksgiving celebration!

 

Artist Statement:  Watercolor is a paint that has a mind of its own. It’s the beauty and the challenge of the medium. It’s why I love them and sometimes strongly dislike them. This strong-willed girl is constantly fighting against the paints to force them to do what ‘I’ want…although that doesn’t mean I always win! It really makes me think of the sovereignty and ways of God. There too, this strong-willed girl fights to control what she has little control over.

The purpose of my yearlong creative challenge (where I created a new piece of art every week) was to loosen up my perfectionistic ways, allowing the inherent beauty of the medium to shine through. So, for three weeks, my works of art were nothing more than allowing the paint to do what it wanted, not what I wanted. The result was three washes, including this one… “The Art of Watercolor”.

Quite possibly, you do not see the beauty and value in this piece that I do, but I am certain that is often God’s perspective of our circumstances that we struggle to appreciate and understand. He sees beauty and value when we don’t. Let’s trust that His ways are higher than ours and that He is working all things out for our good…regardless of our understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5

 

Details:
8 x 10” Print
Unframed
$35

Find it for your own collection or to gift this holiday season here.

 

Upcoming Holiday Vendor Fairs

Upcoming Holiday Vendor Fairs

 

For those interested, tomorrow (November 23nd) from 9:00 – 4:00 I’ll be down in Clark, NJ at a holiday vendor fair! If that’s your neck of the woods, please stop by, say hell0 and pick up some Christmas gifts! It’d be so fun to see you there and I’ll be offering some pieces and packaging that I don’t sell online.

Details:  Arthur L Johnson High School Holiday Flea Market & Gift Fair – 365 Westfield Avenue, Clark

 

Then on Saturday, December 7th I’ll be in Warwick, NY!

Details:  Warwick Valley Middle School Craft Fair – 225 West Street, Warwick, NY

 

 

Release #10: “Emma’s Dancing Chucks”

Release #10: “Emma’s Dancing Chucks”

 

This painting is close to my heart as my oldest niece, Madelyn, took the photograph that I used as a reference. And her model…my other niece Emma and her dancing feet in the ballet step, sous-sus. I loved the photo so much that it was my inspiration for the first of 50 works of art I made when I challenged myself to create a new piece of art every week for a year.

“Emma’s Dancing Chucks” is a fun representation of Psalm 149:3a… “Let them praise his name with dancing…” Praising our God is to be far from solemn and somber, so let’s pull out our dancing chucks and get praising!

Details:
8 x 10” Print
Unframed
$35

Find it for your own collection or to gift this holiday season here.