I love how painting so often reveals my heart. Although I feel things deeply, I tend to address the world through my thoughts and actions, and subsequently I am not always aware of the emotions I experience or why. Painting – especially asking Holy Spirit to connect with me as I paint – helps me close that gap. Sometimes I come away with the name of the emotion I was experiencing. Sometimes I gain insight into the message God has for me concerning my circumstances. But somewhere in the process I connect with my Daddy. He is a beautiful artist, too, and my soul and spirit come into proper alignment again when we spend time together doing something we love. It’s a favorite form of quality time, and I am so thankful for the opportunity (time, energy, resources) to engage with Him. I feel His pleasure when we paint together.
To the sea! To the sea!
Follow my feet up the Wearmouth quays
Where the gull brays
And memory keeps
Where old men watch the turn of days
And graves still pray
Past shipwrights’ industry
Looking for my heart to be
Rooted in a land where my
Soul is told to breathe
But I am not free
Wild heights and quarried ways
Hewn by hands in elder days
Or set by mind at dawn’s design
Still call to me, still call to me
And in the pounding, grey-lit surf
Waves convulsing, giving birth
I send my spirit to the wind
I soar from here, I’m gathered in
I’ve called this land my home, and for it
Given all to bless, restore it
To my gifts, the land has shuddered
Cannot claim me as a mother
So to the wind and to the sea
I will return where I am free
(You are the only Ten-I-see)
For my heart beats Tsalagi
The above attempts to reconcile and understand my heart’s churnings while in Northern England. Photos are from Sunderland. Paintings completed in Tennessee in early 2014. All rights reserved.
Last week I attended emanate, the young adult service that couples with the School of Supernatural Life and of which I’ve been part since it began (4 years ago this coming month!) I’ll admit, it has been a very rocky transition coming back from Sunderland, but in that meeting, I connected with God again in a way I hadn’t since I’d been abroad. Although He talked about many things, there is one I can share: He asked that I would invest my heart here with the same abandon I invested in Sunderland. Then He asked that I would invest my art here as I did there. I had to repent of withholding my heart and refusing to engage with the present circumstances – for being offended that God would have things His way rather than meet my expectations. And then I said, “yes.”
So yesterday I pulled out the last pad of watercolor paper I used before leaving for England. There were still some blank pages left. I found the last painting was from 17 August 2013, and of all things, my Mister watched me paint it – though we’d not been introduced at the time.
I took that pad with me to emanate, along with a second, brand new one. And I painted my heart, and I painted a new beginning:
Truly, I don’t know which is which. I don’t even know which way is up. But that’s okay. My life is a painting I’m making with my Papa, and even though I don’t know where I’m going or how it’s supposed to look or turn out, I know two things (maybe three): it’s full of life, it’s full of hope, and it’s beautiful.
Over the summer, my then-friend now-brother posted a few paintings to our favorite social media. I suggested a sibling date to paint together. At the time, he little realized I’d be coming back as an intern, and as I’d not been offered the position, I’d not publicized my intent to return. As it turned out, my brother and I had many opportunities to minister in the HOP together, and we often spoke of finding time to paint. On one of my last nights in Sunderland before flying back to the States, we finally made it happen.
Another intern asked to join us. She and I have a history with art together as she had led worship at a summer camp in which I taught on prophetic painting. I was happy for her to join us!
That night I painted my heart – the sense that I am heading into unknown territory where the only constant is the confidence that no matter where I am, I am held in the peace of the eye of the storm.
As I said my goodbyes, I bequeathed my paints, paper, and many brushes to my brother. I gave him instructions on the paintings I left, those donated to the HOP for sale and to fill the space with life and dynamic color. Three unnamed oil canvases remained drying in the balcony.
As I left the prayer room that night, paintings drying on the step, I walked out to the fellowship hall and was met by my beloved English family. I had already been crying for 5 days straight, anticipating this last goodbye. But my eyes welled up once again as they prayed over me.
Then my brother did something special. He held out a single £1 coin, saying it is a deposit and symbolic investment, a sign of giving back to me for all I’d given to the HOP, the community, the land. And it was a sign that I’d be back. The gift was profound for, unbeknownst to my brother, I’d returned from my initial trip in April carrying a single £1 coin, knowing I’d be back. I brought that coin with me in September, but just that evening, before heading to the HOP, I’d divvied up my remaining bills and coins among friends, and I’d specifically chosen to hold nothing back for myself. I told all this to my brother in the hearing of the others, complimenting his perceptiveness and giving him a last hug.
I’ve not painted since returning to the States. I did, however, receive a new watercolor tablet and gift card to an art supply store for Christmas. I teared up at these gifts, sensing the kindness of God to restore my heart in all I’d given up.
I am not returning to England in the near future. My year began turning into a semester from the day I got off the plane and customs stamped me for a firm 3 months. But while I was determined to overcome obstacles and fulfill my commitment, the leadership at the HOP sensed a different wind. Six weeks before my flights, they approached me with the choice: if I wanted, I might be absolved of my commitment and return home. They firmly believe in the power of strong marriages, and with an ear to my unspoken heart’s cries, knowing me to be an ocean away from the man I love, they only felt it right to allow me the choice.
Suffice it to say my world turned upside down. Nothing was further from my mind than the thought of not completing a year in England. And yet, after prayer and conversation with family and friends, the decision, though anything but easy, was clear. Let’s just say I won’t be returning to England without my Mister.
Today of all days I find myself reflective, for this has been an experience so far outside of anything I could have imagined that I would not have believed it, even if I’d been told. This wild ride that began April 1, 2013, enabled by a beginning on September 7, 2012, made possible by a whisper in 2011, reflecting a moment in 2007… is an adventure unlike any I could conceive or hope for. And to come through fire and water restored and healed, to find myself living more than I could ever dream, and through it all encountering the infinite Glory of the Person Jesus… There need be no words.
So here’s to this magnificently wild ride that was 2013. Changes ahead, from glory to glory, with hope and expectation, confident that the best is yet to come! Happy New Year, and Happy New Beginnings!
Last Saturday we rallied the troops (ie 10 interns, 3 staff members), piled into a minibus and minivan, and roadtripped to Manchester. We’d agreed to partner with Prayer Storm, a group that brings together believers every quarter for corporate worship and intercession. The event stretched from noon until 7 pm. Pastors Ken and Lois were asked to lead towards the end of the evening, specifically encouraging those who feel called to a life of intercession to take action.
When we arrived, I did a quick survey of the auditorium. Some gatherings like this are open to artists, but I didn’t see any. Thankfully, as part of the HOP team, we had access to event staff, and one of them was able to secure permission for me.
Throughout the event, we worshipped and prayed. I found myself at the front when one speaker called for dancers. Two other interns joined me, as well as the Prayer Storm dance team.
Later in the afternoon, I pulled out my watercolors. When curious children drew close, I handed them paper and brushes. Soon we had taken over the space at the foot of the cameraman. My prayer is that these young ones walked away with an understanding that visual art is a powerful form of communication, and as prayer is simply communicating with God, that creating art is a legitimate form of prayer.
Below are photos from the event, including stills from videos and screenshots from friends’ Instagram feeds.
Folks from Catch The Fire London came up this past week for an International Leaders School of Ministry. I took the opportunity during worship to paint. I also had some of my original watercolor paintings for sale, as well as sets of notecards I had printed of a few of my favorite paintings. For legal reasons, I donated these to the HOP. That way, all proceeds can go straight into the interns’ funds and distributed amongst the dozen of us.
The conference itself was intense for a lot of reasons. As an intern, I found myself serving lots of coffee and tea and keeping the toilets stocked with paper products. But I also has some profound experiences with God, identifying and unlearning things I’ve believed about Him and working through misperceptions based in a hurting heart. I love forgiveness. It’s totally worth letting go of the need to be right or denial of mistakes. And the freedom of owning and admitting those mistakes is amazing – like letting go of a tractor tire’s weight of shame. The power of sin is in shame and hiding. Admitting to the shameful behavior completely obliterates that power. Freedom like that is addictive! It’s the difference between state park air and stuffy office air, or sunlight and halogen. So good!
Of course, having world revival leaders pray for you personally is always a blast. John Arnott of the so-called “Toronto Blessing” is one of the gentlest, kindest people I’ve encountered. He reminds me of a hickory fire in the fireplace – warm with that something extra in the smoke that fills the house with richness and heat. He and his wife Carol are close friends of the Gotts, under whom I’m honored to serve in the HOP, and also mentored the pastors and leaders of the ministry school I completed last year. What a difference a few months has made! The Arnotts taught at my school the week before my initial trip to Sunderland. To see them again reflects the magnitude of the changes in my life, as well as the rapid succession in them, in just 8 months’ time. I hope to have time to reflect more on the course of my life. I get the feeling that rapid change is the new norm – from glory to glory to glory!
I’ve been in Northern England for well over a month now. In this time, there have been many surprises and unexpected circumstances. The most significant for me personally has been gradually developing over time, but that time began about 2 weeks after my arrival.
It happened this way: all the interns were gathered around Pastor Lois Gott, one of the pair who spearhead the House of Prayer. I first met Pastor Lois in Tennessee when she and her husband Pastor Ken came to teach a course on revival history. Now here she was, addressing the group and giving us our individual assignments. The worship leaders were easy to spot. They were the ones who came from Nashville with guitars. The singers, too, with their melodious lilts and blasting projection were assigned naturally. Then came the media and administrative roles. And then she came to me.
Now, by this time I was bracing for impact. I have a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education. I’ve taught school and worked with young children in cognitive neuroscience. And I’ve volunteered with children’s ministry. In fact, the last time I saw Pastors Ken and Lois, I was babysitting for their grandchildren in Tennessee. So I was expecting her to say, “Mary, you’ll work with the children.” Not because I dreaded it, but because it’s how I’ve been known professionally.
Imagine my shock, then, when out from her mouth came, “And Mary is our artist!”
What? Really? I’m sure I smiled, but I was stunned. I listened to hear if she would add on anything about children. After all, her granddaughters loved painting and creating with me. But no.
Instead, Pastor Lois began describing how she wanted the walls filled with art. “We’ll get you some canvases and an easel! You’ll paint in the prayer room and we’ll hang them around the HOP.” I’m sure I smiled. I know my eyes filled with tears.
Because, you see, I studied education believing I would eventually be a missionary, and as such, teaching would be a marketable trade. My mother always said, “Mary, you don’t have to move anywhere to be a missionary. You can be a missionary right here at home.” And sure enough, she was right. I taught children of poverty, I served pagan faculty, I prayed for suffering coworkers. But my heart’s passion is in creating – whether through fabric, yarn, or pigment.
So finally, here I am, a missionary. And God’s sweet kindness is this: I have given Him what He asked of me, and He has given me what I scarcely dared ask Him and hardly believed. I am the house artist. The HOP is my studio and gallery. Now my job is to create from the overflow of my relationship with Jesus and from the joy of my heart.
I have fulfilled many childhood dreams in my life already, but now I get to do what makes my heart sing! I am overwhelmingly appreciative of the opportunity, and in the spirit of it, I now begin to share my art with you.
The painting below came about during that course on revival history. While Pastor Ken was teaching, this image dropped into my spirit. I pulled out my paint at lunch. As I did so, a young man asked about my process. Another interested girl sat across from me. Little did any of us realize we would all move to England to serve under Pastor Ken – both onlookers are worship leaders. And little did I realize I was painting intercession – standing with our Father, staring at a mountain, and calling for it to pick itself up and be thrown in the sea.
So here is my mission in watercolor form. For Sunderland and the North!