I have a special story to share with you… and it’s personal.
Here’s a little backstory. I came to know of Tom and his sweet wife Kay about 7 months ago. He and his wife have one of my art pieces hanging in their home. Shortly after their purchase, his daughter realized I had written a book (Dancing On My Ashes) and thought it would be fun to share it with him. After reading the book, Tom crafted the kindest and most encouraging message to me that at just the right time, in God-fashion, ministered to this gal’s heart. He shared, “Your use of words and meaningful phrases spoke to my heart and God used your book to give me new insights into my own walk with Him. You may be interested to know that I am a 78 year old man and a seminary trained ordained minister. And yet, your words gave me insights that were new and fresh.” He encouraged me to keep writing… which I quite often long to dedicate more time to.
To make a somewhat long story a tad shorter, Tom had another piece of art in mind for his home. His daughter thought it would be the perfect Father’s Day gift, so she reached out to me to see if I would be up for creating this special piece. I asked for all the typical details that I need to get a custom piece in the works: size, style, words, imagery, color pallet, etc. After discussing things with her dad she shared that he didn’t have much for me to go off of, except he had a song he wanted me to be inspired by called, “The Lord of the Dance” (an old Irish tune). He also shared that the inspiration for the painting should be based on MY story as told in Dancing On My Ashes. (insert shocked emoji!) Whoa! He also wanted the words, “I AM the LORD of the Dance, said HE.”
I was completely moved and humbled that I was to create such a piece. I prayed. For a couple nights I laid in bed tossing and turning over it. I chatted with my hubby… and… to be honest, I almost said I couldn’t do it. It felt too overwhelming. I was stumped. But I couldn’t say no to Tom, now could I?!?! I shot his daughter a quick email and said, “I don’t know if I can do this. I may have to talk to your dad some more. It just feels too overwhelming. I need more details.” And the moment I pressed “send”… I had a thought, that led into another thought and then another and another. I started to build the design layer by layer. I designed the artwork without even thinking about how I might pull it off, but it was such a unique and beautiful experience. I can hardly describe it except that I can look back and see how God was guiding my thoughts and hands.
I pictured the lyrics in the sky along with music notes dancing in the background. When I think about what the Lord has done in my life, I come back to how He met me on a hillside. When my world became ashes I went to have it out with God and I stood on a hillside in Vermont to tell God I was done with Him. I stood on that hillside looking up into the dark sky and that’s when it happened. He spoke to me. It wasn’t audible, that I know of, but it was crystal clear, “Heather, I know you don’t understand, but I do love you.” I knew that was my crossroad moment, right there on a hillside, in the midst of the worst news of my life, with tears streaming down my face, life as I knew it completely wiped out, my husband gone, my sister’s husband gone… and in this moment I had God asking me to believe that He loved me.
I wanted to run from Him. I wanted to hate Him. But I knew He not only loved me but His heart was hurting with me. I could not deny His love. SO… on that hill I surrendered my life to Him. I said, “I may never understand why You’ve allowed this to happen, but Lord, I humble myself before You. You are God and I am not. And from this moment on I’m trusting You.”
So as I was building the artwork I pictured the hillside, the surrender, the sky seemed to be before me as I heard from Him. And friends, can I just say, that’s where I began to dance… not a physical dance, but a life dancing with my God, letting Him lead, following His moves. It didn’t happen when I’d made it past the year anniversary, or when I moved into my own place, or got on with life (whatever that means?!)… no, right there in the midst of my ashes, I danced. In the midst of the worst pain my little heart had ever experienced, I danced. And He danced with me, guiding my steps. And that’s what we do, we do our best to keep in step with Him.
I sent the family my design idea and they said, “Go for it!”
The painting began.
I prayed as I began. I mostly paint Scripture or the truth tied to it, and I don’t take that lightly, so it’s not abnormal for me to pray as I paint. But this felt different. With my first stroke I started tearing up.
I turned on some worship music and started creating. It was such a surreal experience that I struggle with putting words to. I would cry, I would have to stop and just lift up my hands and worship God, the memories and the way God has led me through the years came flooding my mind. From the songs that filled the room to the ongoing conversation I was having with the Lord, it was such a sweet time of remembering.
As I began painting myself standing there on the hillside, He spoke to my heart… “I had my own hillside. I had my own tree.” (God dropped the mic on me!)
He wanted to remind me that He is acquainted with our grief. He understands our pain. He had His hillside moment of surrendering to the will of the Father on His tree (the cross) and His hillside teaches me how to surrender on mine. And with that I went to my knees and worshiped the God who is the great I AM!
After completing the piece, I was able to work together with Tom’s wife Kay and his sweet daughter Ann to surprise Tom with his painting on Saturday. Surprises are soooo fun! I’m not able to deliver my artwork often, but this seemed like the only appropriate response to a project like this.
We stood and talked about the painting, about the details, about how God was in this seemingly “different” request.
I told Tom if he didn’t like the painting that I would just take it home with me (haha). He was glowing as I shared with him how I truly believe God had him ask me to paint this piece. It was such an unbelievable honor and I’ll NEVER forget these precious painting-moments with the Lord and my sweet time talking about Jesus with Tom.
I loved watching Tom take in the details of the painting. He smiled and said with tears in his eyes, “It’s perfect.”
I’ll end with this… Tom and I would love to encourage you today by saying, this world is full of heartache and joy, but if you aren’t in the dance you’re missing your purpose. He invites you to dance with Him. You can trust His leading, His steps, His rhythm, His song. He is the God that sings over you: “The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
He offers you His hand, “May I have this dance?”
•If you are interested in purchasing the book, go here.