I AM the LORD of the Dance

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.

When I envisioned this piece I pictured the lyrics to Tom’s song etched into the sky along with music notes dancing about. I designed the piece without knowing how I’d pull it off! I had one idea that failed miserably 😉 But then I thought… what if I had the words and music notes preprinted and then I could build the painting on top of that. It ended up being such a perfect option for this project!

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 told my hubby, “I’m already getting emotional!” He responded, “I’m not surprised, sweetie.”
I built the sky in two separate painting sessions to allow time to dry since I was using watered down paint.
It was finally ready to move to the easel to begin using my acrylic paint.

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.

I began with the hillside.
And next came the tree I had envisioned.
I knew I would want to add more coloring to the tree later, but it would need to happen after my textured paint dried completely.
Next I scripted the words. Most of the time I save that until the end… but I couldn’t wait to see it standing in it’s place. His declaration and invitation to enter the dance.

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!

I let this set for 24 hours. I would periodically come into the room to gaze upon it. To thank God for this opportunity to adore Him in art form.
To complete the piece I wanted to add more coloring to the tree. God’s Light is transforming and makes the ordinary extraordinary.
My Daddy Bill made the frame for this artwork! It was an extra special family affair.

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.”

Here’s a picture of his daughter Ann who wanted to make this gift possible!
I thank the Lord for knitting our hearts together.

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 want to see more art from me, go to Story Designs on facebook or you can go to my website: www.storydesigns.org to see reproductions, tshirts, and mugs available.

•If you are interested in purchasing the book, go here.

A better-than-chocolate, Valentine #Giveloveaway

by Heather Gilion

When I’m not in the throws of being Super Mom or Super Wife or just Super Crazy,

or when I’m not traveling with my sister Holly sharing Jesus with all my Fristers (friends + sisters),

or when I’m not writing and sharing my thoughts with those on the other side of the screen…

I am painting.


Photo credit to Ziegler Photography


Photo credit to Ziegler Photography

A year ago I started doing this thing… I started using one of my talents in a new way. I had no idea I’d be up to my neck in orders a year later, but that’s what happened when I said,

“God, what could You do with this?”

So, yes. I’ve been silent on this blog for far too long. I’m striving to learn balance in all the ahhmazing things God has birthed in my heart to do. But even though I may have seemed silent on the blog, it’s only because my paint brush has become another way I use my voice. So I thought it was time to give my two worlds a proper introduction. Shake hands, why don’t you! I think you are going to like one another.

If you’ve read our book, Dancing On My Ashes, then you know it is FULL of Scripture upon Scripture that God used to speak into my life and bring healing to my bones. His Word gave me direction, hope, fire, home-sickness, joy, peace… purpose. A year ago I prayed,

“God, what could You do with this hobby of mine? It’s Yours! These hands are Yours. My time is Yours. Show me how to use it to point people to You.”

Well, be careful what you pray for, right?

No! Pray. Don’t be scared. Pray them BIG prayers, it’s fun. Well, I’m watching God do what only He can do with a willing heart and refurbished wood and paint. You see, the Scriptures that I’ve treasured in my heart are now hanging on walls in homes all across the country. I started with some of MY favorite verses and then requests started pouring in for me to paint YOUR favorite verses.

“Can you make Isaiah 41:10 for my wife. It was the verse she clung to all through chemo.”


“I’d love to have a piece with Ephesians 3: 20 hanging in my home. I went to a women’s conference and God really used it to speak into my life.”


“We are adopting from Africa, and this verse is why.”


“John 1:5 is our verse. We have been called into the darkness to stand as a beacon of light.”


“I’m praying this for my grand baby.”


“Joshua 24:15 needs to hang in our home for our friends and family to see that we are anchored to Him.”


“Jeremiah 29:11 always seems to bring me back to the truth that I can trust HIS plan for my life.”


Sometimes I just paint what is on my heart and watch how God will use it.

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And almost every time, story after story would emerge of how God chose to use each piece to display His goodness to His people. A love that is more than just wood and paint… it’s a supernatural love that pursues us. Relentless. Beautiful. Present.

Look where this piece ended up! It was purchased to be placed in a new shelter in Ethiopia through a beautiful organization called “Out of the Ashes.” She sent me a picture yesterday and I bawled my eyes out!


“Can you paint my mom’s final words she said to my sister and I before she passed away?”


Other times I have been asked to paint favorite songs…

“My mom’s favorite song is Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) by Chris Tomlin. I’d love to surprise her with it.”


“My sister and her family want the Creed hanging in their home as the theme of their lives.”


These three pieces were made for families after losing children. Can you imagine the tears I shed over each of these pieces?

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So this is just a quick look at all the fun God is letting me have in painting truth on wood 😉 And it all comes back to this for me.


HIS Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I will continue to ask God to use what I have. My gifts at times feel like a couple loaves of bread and some fish, but when we take those things and hold them up to God we can watch what ONLY HE can do with them. I’m thankful to get to paint and meditate on His love letter to His people.

Which brings me to the gist of this post. I thought it would be fun to do a little giveaway. I’m calling it a Give-Love-Away! #giveloveaway


Here are three pieces and I’m going to give ONE away on Valentine’s Day!

#1 Be Still

#2 It is well with my soul

#3 The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me {psalm 138:8}

I’m also giving away our book, Dancing On My Ashes to the winner! Follow steps one through three below and you’ll be officially entered… #4 and #5 give you an extra shot.

  1. “Like” the “Story Designs” Facebook page: StoryDesignsBySandH
  2. “Like” our “Dancing On My Ashes” Facebook page: DancingOnMyAshes
  3. Leave a comment here on this blog stating which art piece you’d like to win and why. {Maybe you want to enter to win one of these pretty pieces for someone else? That would be AWESOME! Enter to win FOR THEM! That would be in line with #giveloveaway!}
  4. Share this post with the hashtag #giveloveaway and get your name in the drawing twice! Whoop whoop!
  5. Follow the blog while you’re at it and get ANOTHER ENTRY in the drawing!

I will announce the winner on Valentine’s Day! Entry deadline is February 13, 2015, at midnight (CST). The winner must be in the lower 48, unless you want to pay the extra charge for international shipping.

Okay! I think that’s it! Happy liking and sharing and giveloveaway-ing!