When you find it hard to let go of the work of your hands, the Garden Angel of your soul paints roses around what now languishes in grassy field. This acrylic portrait on canvas encourages the viewer to believe that God can make something beautiful out of something thought to be no longer usable.
I painted Garden Angel when I was nearing the end of my career in education and wrote about the experience of letting go that inspired the painting:
The windows rumble as I shoulder them closed, billows of wind begging to enter and cool my upstairs bedroom. I know the gale will soothe the smoldering heat of the house, but I fear an intruder will enter if I open. I awake with a jolt and ponder the dream’s message to me.
I think about work challenges and tears well within. Things haven’t been going well for me there. The winds have come strong and blown me clean over like a stalk of wheat about to break. What I’ve worked hard to build for over a decade now teeters in the balance, facing possible oblivion. Literacy Labs established in nineteen schools could end at the end of this schoolyear.
I see the wheat before me—faces of hard-working teachers, coaches, and administrators who have sacrificed so much to build support systems for struggling readers. And then new leadership decides to reform. They say the problem is a broken system, but I wonder whether there is more to the truth than I’m being told. I see the wheat stalks bending over so low to the ground that I fear they will snap like brittle twigs. And my heart bends in the wind until I don’t think I can bear the ache in my chest any longer. And I cry, and grief seeps from my pores as worship music plays in my art room.
I paint roses on the Garden Angel, adorning the harsh, empty spaces between her floral face and the nested, antique car that languishes in a grassy field—inactive, abandoned, outdated. Is there room for both in my life? I wonder. Gardens in full bloom from new adventures, nurturing times with family, fresh opportunities to pass on what I’ve learned from nineteen years in the educational profession? Can I bear the memories of work efforts put out to pasture like the abandoned, rusted car in the field? Can God make something beautiful out of something others now see as detrimental to their vision?
I must think so because the flowers flow from my brush and form around the rusted bumper and well-worn tires. Lime-green leaves emerge against the darkened earth, enticing the eye towards the car’s beauty—light streams through broken windows, a silver, glistening-watering can at rest in a bed of garden foliage. The car’s passenger door jarred open to invites viewers to imagine a day from yester years when happy faces rounded corners on their way to Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s home.
What do we do with the broken, cast-off parts of our lives that are no longer valued by those we sought approval from? We paint roses around their frozen forms until the works of our labors, whether Literacy Labs, once-worthy relationships, or whatever the Lord asked us to build and then lay at His feet, entice us to believe God had a purpose in the building and in the letting go.
We paint roses around what we gave our energy to until redemption appears, a silver watering can the Lord can fill with His grace to pour out for other thirsty souls. We paint roses until the abandoned car becomes the focal points of our life’s painting. Until the hurt no longer paralyzes but pleases with memories of good things God did during those fruitful years.
We surrender to the wind of His Spirit—we open the windows of our heart and allow His cleansing breeze to cool our burning anger. We risk vulnerability while knowing full well that intruders might take advantage of our openness. We remember with fondness what God once asked us to build, even though it now languishes in grassy fields. And we praise Him for His goodness—the Garden Angel of our soul.
Reproductions available: JoDee Luna Fine Art America