Sunday, May 8, 2011

Puzzle Pieces Fit Together

Why am I amazed when prayers are answered?
Sunday Evening Service, May 1, 2011 6:00 pm - Over the past year or so, we've been attending a church that is about 30 minutes away from our town, where the pastor is a close friend of my husband and there is an authentic atmosphere of simple worship and sincere service/mission outreach to the world. (This is the church where several members & I went to Honduras in 2009 and the awesome miracle occurred. The story is entitled "Travels" on my page at CCS. ) On Sunday night, my husband began a six-week study entitled, "When God's People Pray" by showing a video of Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, speaking at a conference about the fact that “My House shall be called a House of Prayer.” In the video, the conference attendees where Jim was speaking experienced such a powerful moment that just viewing the video touched all present. After viewing, everyone there in our little church was at the front altar praying for guidance & a refreshing of spirit for the church and town. Several of us stayed afterward, talking about what God would do in the coming weeks if we used prayer as an initial foundation for everything undertaken by the church. As if the sincere response to the video wasn't enough, as the pastor talked informally about future efforts to reach out to the little town, an ongoing prayer of mine was answered.
2008? 2009? - Several years ago, I had been asking God what I was supposed to do with my paintings. Was I supposed to seek gallery representation? An exhibit? Sell them online? It all seemed so self-serving and commercial. Since my main mission has been reaching children with art, putting my name out there as an artist who sought money for her work seemed so...Greedy? Arrogant? And then, would I have to grovel to the gallery owners? Try to get them to "like me" or "like my work, please?" Would I have to change my work to please demands? Worry about percentages of who got what? And a big question: Would it all take away the JOY of slapping paint on a canvas that I'd worked so hard to reclaim after closing down my commissioned portrait artist shop and turning my back on my easel years ago?
Puzzle Piece #1: I found, online and on youtube, an artist who gave her work away to her community. I was smitten! She got a grant to do it on a large scale, and just did it. The people attending her unconventional outdoor exhibit got to take home original photographs of their community, even if they couldn't afford outrageous prices of "fine art". For over twenty years, I'd been dealing with children whose parents couldn't afford fine art prices. But doesn't EVERYONE deserve to have original art in their homes? Why should it be that only the wealthy get to have real art?
I would love to give away my paintings. How would I do it? No idea.
Puzzle Piece #2: In the meantime, my husband & I began to attend the wonderful little church in a nearby town where his friend was pastoring, after I went on a mission trip to Honduras with them. The pastor is a missionary who’s been around the world, and had come back to pastor the church a few years ago. He has wanted the church to reach out to the little financially-depressed town where there are hurting people who need hope. He would speak of it in the pulpit on Sunday mornings, and I would feel God tapping me on the shoulder, as if to say, “Uh huh. You hear him, don’t you?” I would respond with, “Are you kidding, Lord? I’m already working in my classroom as a mission field for you in my own town. And I don’t even know anything about this little town?”
Time passed, and I kept painting.
Puzzle Piece #3: In October of 2010, I painted a picture of Christ. This was unusual for me, since it’s difficult to really know what he looked like. But there it was, a picture of Him looking upon a believer. Between December and March, I hit a dry spell in my painting, and chalked it up to being busy with Life. When I thought about painting, I only played a bit on canvas. Was I blocked? I don’t normally have artist blocks, since I teach students how to overcome them… so, what was this?
Puzzle Piece #4: March 2011 a couple of my friends went to Cuba on a mission trip. (Two of my beloved companions on the Honduras trip) Upon their return, they gave a report on the trip one Sunday night, telling how God had provided supplies for their makeshift medical clinic, since one is an eye doctor and the other, a nurse. Afterward, I felt compelled to tell one of them about my convictions of outreach to the community whenever the pastor mentioned it, asking her for prayer, since she’s a powerful prayer warrior herself. While driving home from that Sunday night of sharing, I was given clear instructions: God told me that I was to go to that little nearby town where I didn’t know anyone but a few church members and set up a table this coming summer to give away small pieces of art that would point people to Him.
What was that, Lord? Yes, I know you even gave me visuals of where I was supposed to set up, but you’re kidding, right? You want me to do WHAT?
I jokingly told Him this had to be wrong. :-) This was just my imagination. Of course, later on, I went to Wal-Mart and purchased small wood plaques to paint on, just in case!
April 2011 - I ended up painting another rendition of Christ the Saturday before Easter 2011. Hmmmm…
I got busy with school and it all got pushed to the back burner.
Puzzle Piece #5: Sunday, May 1, 2011. The church pastor had been working to inspire in the membership a need for prayer as a foundation, so when my husband offered to do a six-week study on prayer, he was pleased. My husband opened the study by showing the powerful video of Jim Cymbala speaking about prayer and afterwards, after a responsive altar call, we were all praising God and discussing what God was going to do through the church for that little town.
That’s when the pastor said it. “For one thing, this summer, we’re going to go to a needy section of town, set up a grill, and just give away hamburgers and hot dogs to folks.”
I was stunned. There was my answer. The puzzle pieces all fell into place.
After I picked up my chin from the floor, I falteringly said, “Um, I have to tell you something.” I told him and my husband about everything: the artist giving work away, and about my instructions driving home one Sunday night, and how I wasn’t even supposed to sign the work, but let God be the focus in it all. The pastor broke into a gentle grin and said, “Amen.”
My friend, the eye doctor/prayer warrior was informed that I’d found my answer and I recounted everything to her as we laughed, cried, and rejoiced about God’s ways being more powerful than we could ever imagine.
Many of you already know that home turf can be more difficult to minister to than abroad. The first set up is in early June. Please pray for me & the others who’ll be going out.
I’ll keep you posted.
Love & Laughter,


Mary Hicks said...

AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! Alleluia! DJ has found her true niche, right in the hands of our loving God. What a beautiful response to God's call you have found, my friend!

PLEASE, if there's any way I can help - send some of my own (inferior) art work to offer, PLEASE let me know. I would love to be part of this caravan of love you have created.

Blessings and all my very, very best to you my sweet friend!

DJ said...

Mary, I'm blessed by your enthusiasm! Keep me in your prayers and we'll discuss it all! Love Deej

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

Wow! what a wonderful story
of events. Good luck and I certainly see this developing.

Wild C said...

Sounds like you've found the way to unblock, DJ!

Caryl said...

DJ... of course your fans... those who love you and your beautiful work... will keep you in our prayers and I pray that God will open all the doors for you to do this. Thank you for shareing.

Lotus said...

What an awesome testimony! I have so much I want to say, but it's not coming together, so I'll just say I'm praying... ; )
Keep us updated!

DJ said...

Joan, Thanks for your well wishes! I hope your summer is all you need it to be.
WildC, I still want to participate in your course, so don't forget me!
Caryl, You're such an inspirational example of survival. I'll think of you this summer, no doubt!
Lotus, You'll always have a special place in my heart; thank you for your generosity and friendship.
Ladies, I'll take your beautiful, courageous spirits with me as I step out to reach others with art.
Love & Laughter,

the domestic fringe said...

I'm crying reading your post. It's so wonderful and beautiful and all totally God. I love it! Sounds like you're in just the place that God wants you in doing just the work He's given you. That is SO exciting, my friend. I'm thrilled for you and cannot wait to see what God does through your gift of art. Thank you for circumventing my wishes and finding a way to leave me a comment. I needed to read this and be reminded that there are those who are still listening, following the Spirit's leading. Thank you for the encouraging. You, your art, and your church will be in my prayers. I promise you that.
Blessings and a big Thank YOu!

DJ said...

FringeGirl, I was crying reading your post, so we're even. :-) I'm praying for "that church across town" while you pray for my "little church in a nearby town".
Consider your "plea" heard by this old art teacher.
May He be glorified in it all.
Love & Laughter,

Joanne Osband said...

How exciting! Wishing you all the best in your creative endeavors and gracious gift of love.

DJ said...

Joanne, Thank you for your kind words. They mean more to me than you know. Your kindness is appreciated. Love & Laughter, DJ

Mary said...

Don't you just love it when enough of the pieces of that puzzle come together so one gets a glimpse of the story. The story's not finished, I have a feeling there's lots more.

DJ thank you for letting us see God working in your life, and for you obedience to him.

Our little church is renting an apartment in a poor neighborhood we have been ministering to so we can hand out lunches to the children since they will not be getting a good lunch in school.

Sometimes we can think that there is just so much pain and hardship out there that we really can't do anything to help...but we can do something.

Grace and Peace and Love to you!

DJ said...

Oh Mary, Get out there and enjoy feeding those children! :-)

LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious said...

Oh DJ, your heart is beautiful! Thank you for sharing how God is speaking to you and how you are stepping out of your comfort zone and doing it for HIM. This really spoke to my heart and has me thinking about what God wants to do through me. Still trying to figure out exactly what that is. I understood fully how you felt the little nudges now and then from God and then thought maybe it was just your imagination.

I am so excited to see what happens with this ministry you are giving your art to.
Please keep us informed. Prayers your way.

♥Lee Ann

Michelle McSpadden said...

Awesome!! I'm so happy to hear about your new vision/mission. I give away several pieces of art every year, but this year, I've been wanting to give a little more. It's so good for us to share our gifts with others.

May Jesus bless all of your endeavors.

: )

srzimmartist said...

Wonderful story DJ. Look forward to reading more.

Susan Roux said...

This is a very moving post. Your selflessness is admirable. Good luck and I'm certain God will bless you for following in his wishes.

DJ said...

Ladies, Thank you for your generous comments. They help me stay strong in my efforts. My next post explains the first results, so please read the follow-up on this.
Love & Laughter,

Meandering Artist said... are an original work of art your own self! Thanks for sharing this inspiring story