April- I Am Treasured.

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Life is a peculiar thing- looking back, it’s a fog to try to remember places and dates and times; not to mention the order of events. And then, the memories come- trickle in slowly one at a time; images, colors fill me as if a dam has broken. I search the flood for the valuable recollections – the ones that will create my memories. Trouble is, I am an artist. I see value in each passing thought, each shifting cloud in the sky, each fragmented memory, no matter the feeling attached. So, I will share with you what I can, in the ways the memories beckon to be shared.

“She is a prodigal…” I read in a curvy font; in someone’s handwriting I did not recognize. I felt the anger rise up within, fighting to keep the welled up tears at bay. My heart pounded, as I knew he would be pulling in the driveway, arriving home to our little yellow house we had purchased together a couple years prior. I found the divorce papers outlining the division of assets in a pile on the desk we once shared, my heart once again plummeting towards my stomach- a feeling I was getting far too used to. My dachshund-yorkie mix yelped and scratched at his crate door, as he heard me in the other room, while our other dog sighed aloud, so patient in this time of crisis and turmoil. My heart broke leaving them again, in our once cozy home, now walls that seemed to grow even taller; reflecting a jagged heartbreak- a fortress holding up the pieces of a failed marriage. “I will come get you soon, Toto and Foxy, I promise.” How do you rationalize divorce to a dog? Two for that matter? Truth is, they felt it coming long before I even realized. I slipped out of the house, gently fixed the handmade wreath on the door as I locked up my house, my once-upon-a-dream, and let the tears release as I walked away from what I knew as home. Learning to breathe in, learning to breathe out.  Letting go of the anxiety within, and ready to learn valuable life lessons in the journey to come.

Tragedy through divorce will do a number on you. Any heartache will, actually. But through the pieces and the wreckage- one comes to see what their heart treasures, holds close, and what the heart desperately NEEDS to treasure. God went to work right away on my heart, because He knew that I desperately needed Him. When I couldn’t even bring myself to attend church, God brought himself to me, as a good shepherd seeks after the lone lost sheep. About the time my world seemed wash away before me, I started hearing a little voice of hope. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my own thoughts as my brain always seemed to be racing; but soon, the words played over and over in my mind, so I started writing the words down. One of the many letters read:

Jennifer Rose-

You are good. You are good. You are strong, you are wise, you are loved. You are independent, but need me. You hope for tomorrow. I love you. In the stillness we meet, so balance is essential. Persevere, you are my daughter, and I always love you. hear my birds, they are blessings I put on this Earth for you. Know my words, meditate on them in my gardens, in my woods, as they are also gifts to you. Your name is not to label you, but to call you close to me. You are not alone in this life. I love you. When you stop thinking for a moment, and rest in me, you are at your best. Despite critiques or criticism around you, you shine bright. Negative words destroy the spirit, but gentle words in love spur the spirit to do good, to live well. I have a plan for you. I love watching it unfold, surprising you with coincidences, connections. Joy fills me up when you see really, they are miracles happening. Go to the woods more. Meet me here, in this place. In the calmness, stillness, know that I am here. Leave opinions and critiques of life at the entry of the woods. Enter my sanctuary, let me fill you with my peace. Just be still, and know that I am God. I love you my daughter.

– Your Abba.

It definitely took time to reposition my thought patterns and how I approached my memories, what I held close and valuable. But over time, these letters I started writing down seemed to reflect the love from the Father above, and lined up with the way love seemed to be outlined in the Bible. I once held fast to attending church every Sunday, being “nice” always, doing my daily devotions, and holding up a reputable life standard. What I realized was that aligning my life to Jesus meant so much more than all that. It meant receiving His love. Truly knowing and acknowledging His saving grace, and finding an overwhelming tidal wave of joy, peace and healing, no matter what life brought. The point I reached in life one year ago today, when I had the absolute least of “things”; nothing left of monetary value to treasure, was the point in life where I finally understood Christ’s fierce love for me. I finally FELT the letters I had written down for three years. I finally saw the magnitude of a lost lone sheep the shepherd brought back to the flock, finally felt the GRACE for the prodigal; the one who had found her way home, because she had learned to treasure the thing that mattered the most of all in this life: Jesus Christ as her Lord.

Yes, it had hurt to read that note about “the prodigal” amongst the divorce papers. But what I’ve come to realize is that every single one of us has been a prodigal somewhere in life, and we have a Father who desperately loves us, that sent His son to redeem us, to bring us back to Him. The greatest love letter ever written. And it is up to us to see how treasured we are, and to answer back that love the God of the Universe has given.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

1Tim 6:19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Malachi 3:17 “On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.

Proverbs 2:4

My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

Job 22:25 the Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!

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March- I Am Free.

“I am set free in you- the current that brought me so far away, has brought me back to you. The beaten path I trudged alone, I no longer face with fear. You are near, you are here, and that is all I need.”- Lyrics from Set Free, one of my songs.

As I sit to write today, I am listening to country hymns, cozy on my couch, with my gentle little dove Georgia snuggled up with me. I reflect on all this little bird has been through in her sweet 4 years of life. I never thought much of her name, or what it meant. She was named Georgia O’Tweet, after Georgia O’Keefe, the famous painter, known for her vibrant flowers, bones, and desert scenes. I have discovered today, Georgia means “tiller of the soil, farmer, a worker of the earth.” Amazing how we have come to recently live on a farm. All of me and Georgia’s journeys, have led us to a place where we have become free.

In 2013, I was in need of peace. I felt unsettled in my spirit at the time, not knowing I had been holding years of life troubles in my heart, and it had become heavy. I didn’t know how to acquire the thing I had prayed daily for, so I went online and found a dove breeder in our area. I figured if doves were the symbol of peace, and were often featured in the Bible, then that could certainly help set me free to the peace I desired.

I went to meet “Gramma Rose’s” beautiful birds, and came home with a beautiful male tangerine pearl dove. But as I got home, I could not get another tiny white female dove I had seen there out of my head. She had flown to me three times in the open atrium, and had perched on my heart. A few days later, I called Gramma Rose to see if I could come back and purchase the sweet baby girl , and she told me she had already gone to another home that week. I was sad, but knew I wanted another friend for my new male dove, so I told Gramma Rose to let me know when another would be available. About a week later she called me and said she had traded two birds for the one that perched on my heart, because she felt that she had belonged to me. And then she shared Georgia’s story with me. Her momma had abandoned her eggs, so Gramma Rose had incubated the egg, and when she hatched, she dropper fed her- and miraculously, this sweet little bird survived. Her attachment to humans was amazing, as she would fall asleep snuggled in my sweatshirt pockets, or fly to me when I played guitar to sing along.

Georgia and my life paralleled, as we both lost our “first mates”, and eventually were blessed with a God given gift of another that so perfectly fit us. I knew after the passing of my first dove, Ansel, Georgia had been sitting at the bottom of the cage, sad. A few months went by and the only time I saw her light up was when I brought her a baby dove to foster, and when I played my guitar and sang. Vincent, Georgia’s new mate, came through prayer. One day, I prayed that God would provide another dove for her, and within 30 minutes a friend had texted saying, “Know anyone who wants a dove? I’d like to re-home mine.” Tears of joy welled in my eyes as I knew this dove was a gift from God. I rushed over to pick up “ Angel Sparkle” who was certainly a boy- and is now named Vincent Van Dove. Almost a year ago I met Matthew, my now husband, a miraculous story of its own, and I find it amazing that his name means, “gift from God.” Parallels:)

Georgia has had an incredible story of overcoming. She was abandoned before she even hatched and lost her first mate; but has also birthed 16 baby doves, cared for 3 foster birds from the wild, and moved several times with me during my transitions. One of the most amazing things this sweetheart has overcome happened just this fall. She was attacked by a huge rat in our barn while she was in the fly coop. When Matt and I found her, she had lost a lot of blood, and was severely wounded. My parents happened to be in town that day, and I had taken the day off work. We were able to all work together as a family and save Georgia, and mend her disfigured and wounded wing. The next couple of days I sat with her, cleaned her wounds and prayed for her. I knew that God wasn’t going to take her that way. I knew that she had more life to live and that she could overcome. Although Georgia has one wing smaller than the other and cannot fly any distance- she is well, at peace, and happily living in our living room, singing every time we play music.

I find it amazing how God cares for the birds, and for us, throughout our lives. It is incredible to me of how I got this little bird as a symbol of peace, strength and freedom in my life, and how He used her to teach me many lessons.

Although I had been a Christian my entire life, I had been weighed down by the burdens that seem to happen to many of us. What I’ve realized now is that we are not victim to those circumstances, or what comes our way, it is Christ who can set us free from all that burdens us in our life. We can be released from the cage we had thought was “safe” but really bound us, and we learn to fly above our circumstances. It is through Jesus, that all has been made right again. Forgiveness, is the key that unlocks the cage. I have learned such grace, strength and peace from this quiet dove named Georgia as I have watched her live out her days in grace, strength and peace- no matter what each day seemed to bring.

I symbolically see metaphors through the gifts God places within our lives. The greatest gift of all was through His Son Jesus. As the hymns play as I write this, my heart is filled with freedom, and Georgia snuggles so peacefully free. “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, sin had left a crismson stain, he washed it white as snow…”

A few of my favorite freedom verses:

Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

John 8:31b-32

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2 Corinthians 3:16-18

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

A few of my favorite dove verses:

Genesis 8:11

When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.

Psalm 55:6

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.

Psalm 68:13b

the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
    its feathers with shining gold.”

Luke 3:22

22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 

February- I Am Lovely.

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Music in the morning is much better than makeup. Here is a video of my creative process- before I step into the studio to teach or create paintings, this is behind the scenes just as I am.

I was born to a midwestern, pigeon-raising, paper-route-carrying good ole farm boy from Iowa turned Engineer, and a Texas gal full of hospitality and all-things-nice who moved to Chicago and became a nurse. These two fell in love, married and started a fresh new lovely life together in Southern California. 10 years later, I was born. And life was still lovely when I was young.

But as time went on, the idea of what lovely actually is became clouded. At 10 years old, the bullying began. The kids in my class started wearing designer clothes due to our affluent suburb of Los Angeles. The success of the doctors, lawyers, stars, and the socialite culture sheltered our little society from the realities of urban life.

We had enough growing up, we were blessed. My parents did well, but they didn’t buy into the full material life that others were saturated by. I became an outsider- never really fitting in. Kids can be mean- cruel even. Soon, names like weird, odd, not cool, and ugly flooded the vocabulary of my classmates. Lovely would not be how I described myself. For several years after, I became shy, embarrassed of how I dressed, and what I looked like. I even stopped making art and writing for a season, because my sketchbook and journals were ripped to pieces in a circle of laughter. I became too ashamed to make eye contact. I banded together with the few other kids that didn’t make the cut of the perfect cookie cutter mold society had built for us.

My parents, disheartened by the bullying, truly had enough when I came home not only with a bruised spirit, but with a broken black and blue finger. So they enrolled me in a private all girls middle and high school. I was so used to not fitting in at this point that although the bullying stopped, I still was living in the effects of feeling unwanted, ugly, and weird.

One day, when I was 15 years old, I was at my locker grabbing the books for my next class, and one of the popular girls from my grade stopped by the water fountain. She said, “Jen, did you know you are really beautiful?”

I couldn’t believe it! I had been teased, felt alone and believed I was hideous. Yet, all of the ugly lies I had carried inside ceased to matter in this moment, for this one statement from a truly lovely young woman in my class, became the undoing of years of shame I had held for simply being me. I knew I had been kind and thoughtful; attempting to include those who had been forgotten, abused, or left out – because I knew how they felt. But Beautiful? That was something I’d hear from my elderly relatives, because after all, they HAD to say things like that.

Not being popular and being bullied had hurt, but it actually taught me so much about life; about building substance and character. I learned that lovely people are indeed lovely BECAUSE of their enchanting and pleasing character. Coming from a society that thrives off the latest botox treatment, or the next refining surgical enhancement that is sure to get superficial attention- to me, all of this seemed meaningless.

The definition of lovely reads: “delighting in beauty, harmony and grace; love by moral or ideal worth.” There is not much in that definition on outward appearance. In fact, most of it reflects a beautiful character of LOVE, HARMONY (the internal calm), and GRACE (a charming virtue coming from God).

Over the years I have learned that each one of us is lovely- a beautiful reflection of the Creator. The One who fashioned us after Himself, and blessed each one of us uniquely in the goodness of who He is. When we are showing up to live life lovely- we then reflect our God-given character, a beautiful harmony just as it was intended. It’s about radiating love- even when the odds are against you, when life has beaten you down and you still carry on in perseverance. Being lovely is courageous and strong, lovely is a way of life. I choose to step into loveliness; join me, for I Am Lovely, and you are too.

 

I’d like to share a few verses that have taught me a thing or two about exuding true loveliness from the inside out.

Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Proverbs 3: 15-18 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Proverbs 31:25-31 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things,     but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Matthew 6:28-29 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I Am.

 

https://squareup.com/market/blue-plume-studio

I AM WHO I AM: From the Exodus, who we are was made known. Moses saw a burning bush, but it wasn’t burning up. So, he decided to investigate. As he walked towards it, his own name echoed out from the flames. He took off his sandals, for he was on Holy Ground. The voice out of the flames announced that it was the God of his ancestors. God had heard the cry of the Israelites, held captive by the Egyptians, and He told Moses to go and bring God’s people out of Egypt.

Moses asked, “Who am I, to do this?”

God answered, “I will be with you.”

Moses asked, “What should I tell the people of your name?”

And God answered, “ I AM WHO I AM.”

Many times in life we feel ill-equipped for what lies before us, and we struggle with what we are to do, who we are to be, and what we are to overcome. But God is with us; He is the I AM that is reflected in each of us. With Him- we are inspired, lovely, free, treasured, enough, worthy, restored, journeyers, healed, victorious, grateful, and joy-filled. It is the goodness of God that reflects as the light blazing within humanity. For if we are His children, and He is our maker- than it is by His hands He fashioned us to live out His truth. He promises to be with us, for that is who He is.

I chose to paint these “Truths” in the form of flowers, as each of these take root or “seed” in our lives; they are the fruits of our life, creating a blooming or blossoming effect. Each flower is symbolic to the actual birth flower of that month, and you will find the birthstone of the month nestled in each of the paintings as well. This symbolically represents us within the royal family of God, and the value that each one of us carries is greater than all the precious stones combined. I chose to paint the flowers of the year, organized by months in order to symbolize the importance of seasons that we have gone through, that we are in, or the ones to come. The backgrounds were created in a series of paint sessions; layers upon layers reflect the deep journey each of us take in our years of life- no two walks are the same. Some strokes are very precise, some are very free, and others, such as the drips, take a journey that seems to be all their own. A lot like our lives, we dig through the layers to uncover who we really are.

Enjoy the art, and if you are interested in owning a piece, they are FOR SALE HERE: https://squareup.com/market/blue-plume-studio

I Am  Inspired: January- Carnation, Snowdrop, Garnet

I Am  Lovely: February- Violet, Primrose, Amethyst

I Am Free: March- Daffodil, Jonquil, Aquamarine

I Am  Treasured: April- Daisy, Sweet Pea, Diamond

I Am  Enough: May- Lily of the Valley, Hawthorn, Emerald

I Am  Worthy: June- Rose, Honeysuckle, Pearl

I Am  Restored: July- Larkspur, Water Lily, Ruby

I Am  a Journeyer: August- Gladiolus, Poppy, Peridot

I Am  Healed: September- Aster, Morning Glory, Sapphire

I Am  Victorious: October- Marigold, Cosmos, Opal

I Am  Grateful: November – Chrysanthemum, Topaz

I Am  Joy-Filled: December- Paper-white, Holly, Turquoise

A March of Love Instead.

An old friend sent me an email saying,”Does this say ‘One human family’ or what?” With a link to NY times photos of the Woman’s March that happened all over the world this weekend. 108 photos total captured people marching, raising colorful pink banners shouting their cause.

But all of this to me seems to be a misguided light. For as I sat scrolling through the pictures of all the locations of the marches, and people believing so fervently that this right here would make our world better, I heard a soft whisper upon my heart. “I know a better cause. It is the cause that I placed within the Earth from the beginning of time. If humanity actually banded together and did this, there would be no need for marches. This weekend’s events was a bandaid for a bigger need in our world-LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS.” As God whispered this truth upon my heart, I realized that people were marching for a yearning for oneness that He placed within us from the beginning of time. Our hearts have been wired by the Creator to love. And, if we truely did what He beckoned us to do from the start, we wouldn’t have to have marches in the first place.

On Thursday night, while people of all races, cultures, genders and faiths were coming together to prepare for the marches, I was in the heart of downtown Portland meeting with people from different races, cultures, genders, and faiths who all came together for one common reason- each was homeless. A church had opened its doors and us volunteers banded together to feed, cloth, help find shelter for the cold night ahead, and most of all encourage  this group of individuals. I initially came to teach art that evening, but ended up sitting and listening to several of the young adults’ stories. Where were “the mommas” of these kids? “These kids need love. True love- the type that is patient and kind, not one that keeps records or so on. One that always lifts up, always trusts, always hopes, one that does not ever fail.” Most of the teens needed to be heard by someone that night, and every single one of them needed to be loved. To see the brokenness, violence, and cast aside feelings rise up in their eyes made my heart scream, “why don’t more people do this?! Invest in the ones here and now that need to be Loved Up.” Loved Up- the way God intended our hearts to radiate to one another.

If we spend more time and energy focusing on where the needs are in our society and we step out and DO, rather than shouting opinions at one another and then go back to our comfortable living arrangements of our own lives, we could actually change this world. If we Loved Up.

I started Blue Plume with a $100. God said to me, “Go be a light on a dark corner, change this world for the better.” That takes stepping out every day. That takes doing every day. That means I work til my back aches, til I my hands are tired, and my soul is drained, but at the end of each day, I know it is a job well done. Because I loved the best I possibly could that day. And you know the cool part? God replenishes for the next day and the next! God’s love source never runs dry. His love is truly living water, we are replenished by. Many lives have been transformed through trusting that mission I stepped into in 2010 with the start of my studio.

Love God, love others. It doesn’t matter what color skin you have, what gender you are, what is or is NOT in your bank account. We all have a human responsibility. That is LOVE. No matter what. And if we do it well, we won’t need marches.

Share Your Journey in His Favor: January – “I am Inspired”

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Over the last six years I have done something a little different. I have skipped New Year’s Resolutions. Completely. Instead, I decided to actually become a better person. A person not just riddled with fear and anxiety of not being perfect, but decided to intentionally work and grow as a deeper individual in a specific area.

In 2012 my journey of intentions began with a simple phrase- “Be Brave, Conquer your Fear.” And that year, I took a deep breath, and started my little art studio, Blue Plume, in a tiny spare bedroom.

2013 was my “Year of Transformation,” as I felt the rumblings of change, and something big, but I did not know how big it really was. As I began to explore my creative heart, I found my business growing immensely  and outgrowing my tiny home studio, which was bursting with creativity. But as an artist, authenticity was so important; I was yearning for acceptance in this. My marriage was in a perilous state, caught in between my anxious housewife duties, keeping our “perfect little modest house” in order- and the vibrant and bold creativity that kept me awake at night. Within a few tearful months, divorce papers were signed, and I numbly packed what was divied up as “my half” of the belongings. The sense that I had just walked through a fire, left me scrambling to save my heart somewhere amongst the ashes. So- I traveled America in an ice cream truck. Totally a reasonable thing to do, right? Well, it was the only thing that seemed to make sense to me, even though everyone looked at me dumbfounded as I told them about the tour I was embarking on. Sherwood to New York, two months on the road, it seemed as though I found myself and lost myself along the way. What I walked through, drove through, and painted my way through was a huge “Year of Transformation.”

2014 started isolated, quiet, and fighting for survival. The year of 2014 was the “Year of Sacred Time.” After walking through the explosive year prior, I was utterly exhausted. I hunkered down, living in a tiny white cottage with a red milk barn for my art studio. This was a year of many songs written, heart cries to God, begging for answers, and all the while, working 3 jobs to make ends meet. This was the year I attempted to take my life- but then God said, “I’m not done with you yet.” I had lost everything and had gained “Sacred Time” to discover the woman he had destined for me to be.

2015 I entered into a new found love and freedom of who God said I was-his daughter; so this became my “Year of Unbridled Freedom.” My fragile little heart was mending, but still weak, and I stepped into another marriage quickly without heeding warnings from friends and family. Even through a lightning-fast end to my second marriage, God poured His love out to me, kept me safe, and amongst all chaos, and comforted His daughter in her time of distress. It was through this time I learned what living with God-given strength and peace actually meant. My changing living situations, juggling my personal life while running a business, God taught me how to live in “Unbridled Freedom.” I was literally set free.

After going through a few years of utter wreckage, one either sinks or swims. I had fought for my life, almost lost it a few times, and it was as if I had swam so deep, I had uncovered a treasure chest deep within my heart. Thus 2016 became the “Year of My Heart’s Treasure.” In one of my journal entries, I described it like so,

“ My heart’s treasure, all the desires and dreams I watched crash and burn, fall away, like ashes from past days. God touched my heart with a Father’s love, with a stranger’s prayer, a 90 acre field, a rusty old barn; and in that place of loosing everything that had fallen through my clenched fists, I gained everything. To the world, it may look like I have nothing; but to me, I have found my heart’s treasure. As I reach to accept the contents within me, I now possess the desires once dead, the dreams once forgotten are now awakened to a place deeper, stronger, and bigger than I ever dreamed, for I have a father who loves me.”

This past “Year of My Heart’s Treasure,” I had realized my worth. I had realized my wealth. Although I started living 2016 in a sweet little rented room, smaller than my parent’s walk-in closet, and everything I owned fit in the back of my ole truck, I started the year with love from the Father above. That love radiated so full and so rich through my life, I ended 2016 happily married to a wonderful man who loves me for all that I am worth and all of my quirks. My big ole truck loves our farm and helps out when we need it to contribute to our bountifully big dreams we have dreamt for this sacred place. I traveled far and I am finally home.

So, this brings me to 2017- in prayer this November, I heard a whisper that welled up in my spirit. “Share your journey.” A few days later, I heard it again, “Share your journey in my favor.” I realized I had been sharing my story with people one on one that have come through the studio, going through difficult things and needing hope. But I realized God wants me to step out more. So 2017, This is my “Year to Share my Journey in His Favor.”  When I am able to share in His favor, all things good may flourish. In you and in me. For He is so good. I have so much to share with you this year, and this is just a snapshot of the journey God and I have traveled. and from this journey with Him, I gain my inspiration, and keep journeying through this amazing thing we call life. Everyday now, I live authentically inspired. I challenge you to do the same. Let’s see what 2017 brings.

Once Lost, Now Found.

I used to believe the lies that I was:

Not whole, weak, incomplete, weird, too blunt, not kind enough, small, unlovable, boring, a coward, stress-filled, hotheaded, not fun, unstable, too timid, not taken serious, not nurtured, not enough, ugly, too insignificant, too open, falsely hospitable, always attracted to the most needy of souls, uncomfortable, dying, lacking in blessings-

Why didn’t God see me anymore? A daughter forgotten- the worst lie of them all.

A pretty nasty list of unlovable, untouchable characteristics, don’t you think? The problem was, these were NOT really me! I had chosen to believe a lie and foster a seed of poison that had been planted somewhere in my journey- some even rooting in childhood.

As life went on, and more and more lies burdened me down, I finally went through self combustion in my mid to late 20’s. These lies all bubbled to the surface, and I found myself drowning in a depressed sense of self. I had to be free.

So I went through some crazy things the last few years.

Like going through a divorce.

Like traveling across America, from Sherwood Oregon to New York City, New York in an ice cream truck bringing art, music, and sweets to 55 towns in 13 states.

And going through a survival period working 3 jobs while trying to save my little art studio from going under.

Another marriage happened -quickly flashpoint ending in divorce yet again.

I moved 11 times in 3 years total- at times on the brink of homelessness. Everything I owned had been paired down to what could fit in the back of my truck. I slept on the floor with a tiny mattress pad- cushioning with blankets made by my grandmothers and my mom, reminding me of the once comfortable life I had lost.

And yet, I never went without a warm shower, a roof over my head for the night, or a meal or two each day. Provision came in miraculous ways, literally!

My art studio moved locations 4 times in those 3 years, as I struggled to make rents, keep a steady flow of clients though the doors, and all the while showing up, trying to be a blessing to my clients- investing in their hearts, art, and lives. I did not know if I could maintain the little God-given dream placed in my heart a few years before.

My doctor diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and said if I didn’t find a way to lower my stress, my body was in danger of shutting down entirely, which could lead to extended hospitalization or death.

And during this time I cried out, “Where are you GOD?! I did everything right! By the book! And my life still ended with divorce! And complete life devastation!”

It was at this point I contemplated suicide. Nearly everything was stripped away by my own unravelling for I had believed the lie that I was unwanted, a burden to society; Thus my life was ending in disaster, maybe I should just end it all.

So I went out into a field on a dark and rainy March day after being in this mess for about a year. I went there to die. And as I sloshed through the field in muck boots, a song I wrote when I was 16 popped into my head.

Is this the simple life that I’m living in?

Is this the way that I’m supposed to be?

Is this the way that I’m supposed to walk along?

Your way is going to set me free.

I’ve been trying hard to find my way home

Walking along

So alone

Wishing for one to comfort me

Every night is a lonely prayer

With only sheets to love on me.

Is this the simple life that I’m living in?

Is this the way that I’m supposed to be?

Is this the way that I’m supposed to walk along?

Your way is going to set me free.

I’ve been fighting devils in my dreams

Oh and the battles daylight brings

Another day of wishing away

Unsatisfaction

Teach me

Teach me your ways

To the simple life

Is this the simple life that I’m living in?

Is this the way that I’m supposed to be?

Is this the way that I’m supposed to walk along?

Your way is going to set me free.

By the end of the song, I was choking out the lyrics- utterly devastated that my little 16 year old voice had prophesied what was to come in my life- no real place to call home, being utterly alone, and being haunted by day-to-day tasks- but then, something amazing happened.

As I collapsed in the muddy field, the sun pierced through making the field appear to be a radiant gold color. Not just light beaming on a golden field. No- the field turned so bright of gold, I had to squint and hold my hand over my eyes.

Then a loud voice bellowed, “ I’m not done with you yet. Get up.”

Right then, two great blue herons flanked me side by side and showed no fear and started fishing for food. I whispered, “Angels.”

I got up, the herons didn’t move.

To my left, I saw a castle on the hill- it was so beautiful! I had never seen it before! I heard a whisper, “This is my plan, my inheritance for you. You are my daughter, and I am the King.”

That was it. God breathed life back into me that day. The next two years were still a struggle. But now I had hope. And one by one, through friends, through strangers, through circumstances, God started renewing my mind and showed me the lies I had been believing, and what His truth really was. Once I had been stripped down to the bare essence of belief, I found many beliefs I held for so long were wrong- and had been the detriment to my circumstances.

God started gently speaking truth into the identity of who I was.

Today I believe I am:

Whole, strong, complete, unique, honest, kind, bold, loving, funny, brave, peaceful, fierce, fun, steadfast, adventurous, adorable, nurturing, enough, beautiful, a world changer, open, hospitable, medic of souls, comforting, full of life, blessed, and daughter of the Most High King.

God gave me freedom from the ugliness of life- freedom from my dangerous self.

Each day, I partner with Him, and I wake up with a new life perspective.  “Good Morning God! Today is a gift from you! Thank you from breathing life into me. What is today’s adventure and who are we going to bless?”

My life has almost changed overnight. Business has doubled. And God brings people through my doors to change their lives through art, a cup of tea, and conversation.

My health is back. I am no longer sick with adrenal issues. I am rested and feel peace most days.

I am happily married and thankful that God worked on my mind sharing the TRUTH that I am WORTH LOVING and blessed me with a love worth everything.

I still have hard days too, don’t get me wrong, but I have a God- the King of Kings that goes before me. He literally has set me free, breathing truth and life into my being.

If you are bitter, angry, scared, questioning, don’t know if there is a God, or wondering how there even COULD be a God because of circumstances, know this.

There IS a God. And He is ALWAYS GOOD. There is also an enemy. And he is everything that God is not. Think yin and yang. But the good thing is God ALWAYS wins. If you let Him.

Start a dialogue with God today. You may be surprised with how much the Creator of the Universe loves little itty bitty you. For to Him, YOU are worth it all.

Life Verses that I’ve held close to my heart the last couple years:

Isaiah 54

Isaiah 61

Colossians 3

Philippians 4:4-9

Philippians 4:11-13

Thanks for experiencing my journey,

Jen

 

Chrome Tailgates and Electric Guitars

4:30 am. The cool early morning air filtered through my open screened window, the first chirps of the birds began as they awoke in the trees. Suddenly, the air was filled with amplified country music… LIVE country music. I lay cozy-like, all wrapped up in my sheets and blankets, smiling as my ears filled with songs my feet knew how to dance to. by 4:45, I knew I had to investigate. I pulled on my running clothes, clipped the leashes to the sleepy dogs, and jogged out the door. The cool crisp air met our running pack, Toto, Foxy and I were off to find the early morning music. We arrived at Cannery Square in Sherwood, and were pleasantly surprised to see a full scale country band- cowboy hats, boots, singing out their love songs.

All around, car collectors and their vintage cars were parked as they gathered around to share their pride and joy for their vehicles, their cherished, timeless pieces they had poured love, sweat and time into preserving to a pristine classic. I glanced at the dogs, as they started up their run at the end of their leashes again. I joined in to lead, as we worked together to keep a steady pace. Running with the cars and music behind us, I reflected on life work. We all have it inside. We all have something inside that wells up, that makes us tick, that fuels us, that spurs us on. The 4:30 am band- sang their hearts out as they celebrated their life work. The crowd filtering around their cars, once a year gather to share their fixed up cars.

I thought of my life work, celebrating art-making with others, and painting my heart out on stages through live performance painting, my passion for Africa…. And as my feet pounded the pavement to the music, the sun rose in its full glory and sparkled off the chrome tailgates and electric guitars. Another day was here, blessing us with another moment to enjoy our life work. Image

Growing Up to Find Hope.

Growing up. For some, it just seems to happen one time. It is the day one graduates from college, the moment one says “I do,” and the instant one hears her baby cry for the first time. Or, it may just occur on a simple day like every other day. For instance, a young woman glances in the mirror, and notices her first wrinkle. She panics, but only for a second as her grandmother’s words ring in her mind, “My, my. Look at you, all grown up.” For others, like me, growing up does not happen all at once, but it is about becoming who one is created to be. Most of all, growing up is about finding my purpose and hope.

The process started one sunny day when I was a little fair-skinned and blond six-year-old, living in southern California. On this day, my mom had given me my weekly allowance to spend at the local toy store. Happily, I skipped down the aisles to claim my prize: a beautiful black baby doll with a sundress that resembled my own. Her ebony skin was happy and almost appeared warm; she was perfect.

My mom walked up behind me, stooping to pick up another baby out of the basket, she inquired, “ Jennifer, don’t you want a baby that matches your own skin? Did you see the little white babies in here?”

Appalled, I looked at my mom. “Mommy! This is my baby, Hope. She is beautiful and I am adopting her!”

During my fourteenth year, as Hope sat neatly in a basket with my once-loved toys of the past, I slouched in my world history class, in hopes to quiet my gurgling stomach. It was almost lunch period and the clock was ticking away precious time I could be spending with my middle school friends. Exasperated that the class was not paying attention due to the pre-lunch lull, our teacher shut off the lights.

Once she had our attention, she smiled and said, “Just a little food for thought.” She pushed play.

Brilliantly colored fabrics and huts panned the screen. Images of half-clothed children smiled and danced in front of the camera. The video soon zoomed in on their lice-infested hair, bloated stomachs, blistered feet, and infected sores. A narrator’s voice explained that most of these children had been orphaned by a pandemic sweeping the African continent called AIDS.

My heart was screaming in my chest, Please, do something! Ashamed of my innocent ignorance about the devastation poured onto these children, my eyes welled with tears. The lunch bell rang and my classmates ran to the door to join the lunch stampede. I, however, sat in my chair completely numb. My teacher tinkered around with the video player and finally asked if I needed anything.

I managed to smile, tear-streaks and all, “ I don’t think I can eat lunch if those little babies have no chance of eating today.”

A few more tears snuck out from behind my eyelids. My teacher smiled, “You have a lovely heart and that is a good thing. It’s okay to go get lunch. God has blessed you with what you have been given for a reason. You can use that to change things.”

The rest of the day was spent in a numb fog, as I barely even heard the bells. Finally, the sixth period bell rang, snapping me out of my daze. I dragged myself to my art class and sat with a blank piece of paper in front of me. My mess of emotions flew tears and colors onto the paper and by the end of class a beautiful African queen was staring up at me. She was every color of the rainbow. Red danced upon her brow, while blue painted her eyelids. Yellow accented her cheekbones and purple twirled through her hair. She was perfect, hopeful and complete. I was exhausted.

Years of paintings ensued, as Africa continued to be my main subject. Every time I came across a child that I could not physically help, I painted him or her. My mind raced with the images of the orphans, and I could not produce paintings fast enough. I won many awards through my art making and secured a spot in the art department of a southern California university. In my third year at college, I was offered a chance of a lifetime: to serve on a college team traveling to South Africa. My job: to teach art to the orphans.

Months of preparation brought us to the day when we finally arrived in Africa. To see the faces of children similar to those I had been painting for years was phenomenal. As we walked through the township of Kayamandi, children pointed and ran to us.

“Umlungu! Umlungu! (White people!)” they shouted excitedly in their language of Xhosa.

They held out their hands, and smiled for “sweeties.” Most people that briefly toured the township would feel a twinge of guilt and reach in their pockets to slip the begging children a leftover after-dinner mint from a restaurant, or their last stick of gum.

Shaking my head, I said, “No sweeties, but hugs.”

I did not travel over twenty-four hours, prepare eight months to teach, or dedicate eight years of creating art just to give out guilt gum to these precious children. I was not here to hand over a quick afterthought of a dinner mint; I was here to hand over some love. Love and hope for the children of Kayamandi.

After being in Africa for a few weeks, I met my dear friend Nothemba. She was beautiful. Wild cornrows framed her soft face and she stood straight and dignified. Nothemba served as my mentor, spiritual advisor, and best friend throughout my stay in Africa.

One day, I asked Nothemba to tell me her life story. The twenty-eight year old woman began to weave a poetic tale of her womanly strength. She shared of her adoration of her daughter’s birth when she was fourteen, her young love for her husband when she was nineteen, and through her tears, I learned of her tragedy at twenty-two from one fatal knock on the door. It was the Mafia, the Xhosa and Zulu African gang in search of wealth, fame and power.

“In Africa, we are a family, a community. We share love; we share life. My husband opened the door of our shack expecting to see a brother, but was confronted by a foe. The Mafia had come to our home. My husband was calm and told them to take what they wanted, but that was not enough for them. They shot him dead. They shot me too, the bullet glided right in front of my spine. I lay there pretending to be dead until they left. They took everything from us except what the hospital could spare: my daughter and me.”

Tears filled my eyes as I witnessed my friend’s tragedy told in her own words. I then asked Nothemba what her name meant.

A sparkle reflected through her tears, “Why Sissy, my name means Hope.”

My mouth dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I had been destined to meet Nothemba from the time I first picked up my baby doll Hope at six years old. I shared the baby doll story with Nothemba that day and made her a solid promise that if I adopted a little girl one day, her name would be Hope. She hugged me tearfully and I knew that I could never forget my promise.

In late March of this year, I learned of the fire in Kayamandi from other teachers I had served with on my team. It was as if the wind was knocked out of me, for these African friends of mine were like brothers and sisters to me. I quickly emailed my students and friends in Africa, finding out that 22 sponsored children from Horizon International, and one of my art students whom I have remained in close contact with had lost everything.

As Phumlani wrote: “ I am busy rebuilding and I got the material to rebuild. Since all my stuff got burned I have to start from scratch. I did get some support from other people for clothes…. the major problem now is house stuff like furniture: a table, chairs, bed, gas or paraffin stove since we don’t have electricity yet. Since I also lost my computer from that fire… I am stuck with school stuff and other work. I lost my art portfolio … so still confused on how to begin a new start. I will be grateful for your help my friend!”

A few weeks later in an update about rebuilding progress he shared, “in side of all these rusted shacks I can see hope in the eyes of many people…hope that some day they will move to better housing…. and poverty still remain as other issue in this community.”

Phumlani always had a big smile on his face when we would start art class, and joked with me asking if I thought he would fit in my suitcase, so he could come visit America, a place he has always wanted to travel. He, along with another 4,500 people lost their homes, security and shelter. But, the amazing thing about the African people is when tragedy strikes, they open their eyes and hope radiates within them. Hope fuels their fiery passion inside, for promises waiting to be fulfilled and for desire for a well-lived life. This is why I am proud to be a sister to these brothers and sisters in our world. This is what fuels me to do all that I can to empower them.

Currently, my life is here in the States, but Africa is with me daily. I have felt that from the time I was six years old, my growing up has been all about my mission to help children in Africa.

Now that I have met the children, I feel desperation to help in a tangible way. Years ago, my middle school teacher told me that I could use the blessings I had been given to help others. I keep painting for this reason. My current series of paintings is comprised of portraits of the orphaned children that I met and worked with during my stay in Africa, as well as scenic paintings of the African Bush and Townships. My goal is to send the proceeds back to South Africa to help with clothing, food, rebuilding and education.

I know that growing up for me is not about happening, but becoming. The act of becoming starts the life-long process of learning and gaining wisdom from experience. The process started one sunny day when I was six years old. Today the process continues, as I help one life at a time through my search to give and find hope in Africa.

Tonight, I invite you to make a difference in this South African community’s life. It will impact the futures of many children, showing their nation the kindness and compassion that wealthy Americans can have. I have never regretted giving what I can to those who need it more than I do. However, I have regretted the times that I don’t.

Join with me – “Siyathemba Kayamandi”…“We hope for a Sweet Home.”

Email me at Blueplumestudio@gmail.com for more information Image

Fashioned To Fly

Image“Fashioned to Fly” (For Sale, Contact Jen for art inquiries@blueplumestudio@gmail.com)

Taking off:

I stare out my tiny heavy paned window quietly as we climb to 35,000 feet. The cabin pressurizes with cool air blasting, and the low rumble of the engines keeps us pressing onward. Around me, a dull drone of passenger’s words travel, like them and their luggage, all placed on this flight, were their various worlds intertwine with one another, until the plane lands and all of us aboard move onward with our individual stories as we live our lives.

It’s fascinating to me when we connect with others through moments of happenstance, when our busy lives briefly connect and share within other’s stories. Since arriving to the airport and plane, I met a few enchanting people. A lovely couple sat by me from Washington, as we waited for our plane at the gate. The wife shared about her love for painting birds after seeing a rendering of Ansel and Georgia I busily worked on as we spoke. Another woman, whom we sat next to in our aisle on the plane, excitedly shared with Dan about her granddaughter’s swimming competition and how she traveled to Portland to watch her compete. She then shared about her life in Juneau, explaining what a great place it is to live. All of these conversations happened before we even passed snow-capped Mount Hood, rising through the clouds.

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Six-year-old free fall:

As I look out over the wind and into the clouds, I think of the times when I was a little girl, wondering if I built a pair of wings long enough, if I would one day be able to fly. I remember waking from dreams of me flying over my hometown, over the freeways, looking down at ant sized cars traveling in our Los Angeles suburb. I remember thinking, if I just had wings, I could fly right over the mountains to reach the ocean, than have to meander around them and through the canyons of Malibu. I remember my sixth birthday. I woke up thinking that this in fact, was my time to fly. I climbed up our brick and stucco Jacuzzi wall in our backyard and jumped as high as I possibly could, flapping my arms, so that my guardian angel would for certain lift me, and CRASH! I stumbled off the ledge, as I had jumped high, but not far enough out and came crashing down with bloody cuts, tear-welling eyes, and a battered bruise on my pride.

I did not give up on flying. Years after my 6-year-old “flight” had ended in a disastrous free fall, I still dreamed of flying. In my dreams at night, tucked safely in my covers, I devised plan after plan of fashioning my wooden wings that would stretch across the skies. I even remember asking my dad on the way home from our weekly 7eleven run to get our “Saturday Slurpee’s” “Dad, how many balloons would it take me to fly?”

My Jamaican wings:
Five years ago, my brand new husband and I set our sails to the island of Jamaica for our honeymoon. While we were soaking up the sun and swimming in the crystal turquoise waters, I had my sights set up in the sky. I saw the parasails, and I wanted to fly. Hands intertwined, we walked along the sand, the water playfully lapping at our bare feet. All of a sudden, a speedboat splashed up with three smiling Jamaican men. My eyes scanned the boat… “Parasail” the side read.  “Want to go up in da air?”  One man asked. I smiled, grasping his hand to climb aboard. My husband scrambled on board behind me, quietly fuming some choice words as his face began to pale. He grasped my hand and scolded, “Jen! You don’t jump on random boats with random Jamaican men!” He was probably right, as Jamaica was listed at the time in the top three most dangerous countries to travel to at the time.  I responded with a coy smirk, ” Well, I am going to parasail, we are already on the boat, so are you coming up in the air with me or what? “
Furious, he muttered he didn’t have a choice now, and my poor husband was filled with as much fear as I was filled with excitement! We strapped our harnesses on and made our way to the edge of the boat. We gained momentum and up sent our sail like a balloon, and soon after, we were towed along.  Higher and higher we climbed, my husband’s knuckles now white with fear, cutting off circulation of my own relaxed hand. My eyes filled with sights of the ocean below, and I excitedly pointed out our resort and even the jungle below.  “Dan look! It’s the whole island!” I glanced over, and he hadn’t even opened his eyes! “Dan! We are flying! This is the closest thing we will get to flying until we reach heaven one day, so open your eyes and look!”
“Well, I’m really angry that we might be going to heaven sooner than I anticipated!” He managed to squeak out with his eyes scrunched shut.
“Daniel James! Open your eyes!” I don’t know how I did it but I finally convinced him. And we sat in our harnesses silently in awe. It was so peaceful up there. I was so surprised how quiet the air was. W could hear muffled sounds from down below, but up in the air the atmosphere is silent. I had finally been given wings big enough to help me fly. For 7 glorious minutes.

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Soul Wings:

I don’t know how this fascination for flying began, or if it is even gone… Perhaps it has morphed into tangible ways I can ” fly”. Through writing, composing music, and creating artwork, my soul has grafted its own wings and allows me to boundlessly soar. With Blue Plume Studio art lessons, I love to daily watch wings attach to the souls of those whom I teach, and watch them soar through their artistic journey. Through my love of birds, I am able to share in the freedom of watching them take flight. Owning doves has brought me so much joy as there are so many metaphors their gentle spirits and wings encompass. I find inspiration in their flight, transferring symbolically in my own life and the lives of my students.

As I watch the metal wing as it soars now 35,000 feet over snow capped and sun kissed mountain ranges pointing to the silhouette of the early evening moon, the wheels decent prepare for landing. I reflect on these young memories of trying so hard to physically fly on my own. Now that I am grown I realize I was flying all along, I just didn’t realize that as humans, our feet may stay grounded, while our souls fashion themselves  to fly.