I Am Encouraged

It’s hard to believe that we have been amidst a pandemic and its consequences for a whole year, and with only tentative signs that we may be able to emerge to some degree in the near future. People have suggested that the situation we find ourselves in is now the ‘new normal’, as if we have moved to a different permanent way of being than the one we had before.

But the reality is that there is no permanent way of being, new or otherwise. Life moves on. You can never stand in the same river twice. So we need to have resilience and resources to draw upon.

I am blessed to have a loving family, fabulous friends, wonderful church fellowship, and amazing colleagues, who all help with my resilience and give me emotional and practical resources to deal with what life brings along. And I have God.

I have blogged elsewhere about the loss of my Mom due to Covid, and the way in which I was held by God through the prayers of others (you can read that blog post here https://janelydialoves.wordpress.com/2020/05/29/hopefulness/)

And God has been very present throughout the last year, someone to run to when grief comes, or pressures become too much. God is my safe space. The words of the well-known Psalm 23 come back to me often …

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” Psalm 23: 1-3

These verses give me encouragement that I am not alone. Even on the darkest days, my Shepherd God walks with me, leading me to a safe, calming and soothing place where my soul can be restored, ready for whatever life brings my way again.

This piece of art is part of my ‘A to Z of me’ which I started, I think, back in 2014 and which, as you can see, I haven’t progressed very far with. This project is to encourage me to think about my faith identity and how God speaks to me in it and through it. Having to think of a word beginning with a specific letter that describes my identity is an interesting and challenging discipline. But it’s also one that helps me to develop my relationship with God. This particular entry reminds me that God is with me, encouraging me, supporting me, cheering me on, through the highs and lows of life. God is dependable and reliable, he is always there. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us that the Lord will go before us and that he will never leave or forsake us. That is an incredible promise.

Sometimes we may feel that God is distant; we can’t sense his presence and we may feel abandoned. But God promises always to be there. As the psalmist cries out …

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:7-8

There is no place that we can go that God’s presence is not with us, even when we can’t see it or feel it.

So be encouraged! God will go before you; he will never leave you. He will make you lie down in green pastures; he will lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.

I hope and pray that even amidst the chaos and uncertainty of this pandemic, we may open ourselves up to the ever present God, and that through his love, our souls will be refreshed and restored, so that we might face whatever lies before us.

The Artwork:

This book is simply a blank sheet notebook. I glue two pages together to prevent bleed-through as they’re quite thin. I used Arteza coloured pencils for this image as they are waxy and so blend well. They do make it difficult to write on afterwards though so some perseverance is needed with a permanent fineliner to outline the images.

You can see the previous entries in this book here https://janelydialoves.wordpress.com/tag/a-to-z-of-me/



These are difficult times for us all and many of us are grieving – some of us have lost loved ones to covid-19 or other causes during ‘lockdown’ and we can’t do many of the usual things we would do to grieve.  Some people have lost their jobs, some have lost their much-needed contact with family and friends, and some have lost their usual patterns of living. 

I lost my beloved Mom in March to covid-19.  I then became ill myself from the virus.   Grief has been a huge part of every day since.  Sometimes it feels too difficult to bear and other times there is a numbness which I have interpreted as my mind’s way of shutting out what it can’t cope with.

But in amongst all this grief there is also hope.

Hope has come to me in the presence of Christ through the prayers of my family, friends and church fellowship.  Their prayers and messages have sustained me through some of my darkest times, giving me hope that there is life and purpose beyond the grief.  I have felt God’s presence through the outpouring of love and concern for me and my family.

During this time of grief, I have found comfort in creativity.  In the midst of the chaos and the lack of things I can control, I have connected with my Creator through the gift of creativity that I’ve been given.  This creativity has allowed me to connect with beautiful things. 

Isn’t it interesting that when someone is grieving or ill, one of our first instincts is to send flowers?  I have received lots of flowers over recent weeks and each gift has told me in its beautiful blooms that I am loved and cared for and held.  But more than that, these flowers are signs of hope; that despite the darkness and the loss, there is still beauty in the world to behold.

As I come to terms with my loss and recover my strength after my illness, I am appreciating my wild garden with it’s flowers that sprout up each year despite my best efforts to neglect them.  I see rose bushes that have been brutally pruned during last autumn, flourishing once again with beautiful flowers.  The Buddleia bush, pruned back to about a foot and a half, is now around six feet again and getting ready to be food for passing bees and butterflies.  Life has sprung where once things seemed dead.

This is the message of the Christian faith.  We believe in new life; resurrection; that death is not the end.

The image above is from my sketchbook and I painted it during the few days after I lost my Mom.  It is an image that is bright and colourful, depicting my need for hope during the darkness of loss.

These words from scripture also give me hope in the darkness …

‘ The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young people stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.’

Isaiah 40: 28-31

The artwork:

This is a painting in a simple sketchbook, on thick cartridge paper, using my Koh-i-noor watercolours, which I love for their vibrancy.  I then used some coloured pencils to pick out details and give some depth.  And finally I used a fineliner to pick out detail and shape the flowers, leaves and stems.  This picture was imagined by me – I didn’t use any source material – so the flowers aren’t real ones and to some extent I just let the paint do it’s own thing on the paper.  So the flowers and leaf structures are imposed afterwards.

Advent Words 2017 – day 4


This didn’t get posted yesterday because I was flat out working all day and all evening. It was a long day and I knew it was coming so I did this page in advance.

I prepared – not only for the day’s training I was delivering, and my evening Deacon’s meeting, but also a number of logistical things to make sure my sons were where they needed to be and had what they needed, because my husband was away on business. Oh and of course I prepared my Advent Words page in advance.

It’s a common view that a working Mum’s life is like juggling, or spinning plates. But what this image doesn’t capture is the preparation that has to go in; the amount of mental energy it takes to think ahead and anticipate potential problems and clashes and to take steps to ensure everything runs smoothly.

And sometimes the unexpected happens. The person leading a short session of worship at the start of my training day got the time wrong and was half an hour late meaning we started late and I had to improvise in the moment and then afterwards as I clawed back time to keep us on track.

Later, one of the key people involved in the day had to leave early to respond to a pastoral emergency.

But the point was, because I’d done my prep, I was able to adapt and be flexible and to respond sympathetically to both of my colleagues.

Preparation equips us to handle the unexpected positively.

When we spend time in prayer and meditation on God’s word, we equip ourselves for the moment when God calls us to do something, whether that is simply to respond in empathy with someone going through a tough time, or to say yes to a new ministry.

As our verse in Malachi says, ‘He is coming’. Are our hearts prepared for the mission He will ask of them?

Called and Kept

I am coming to the end of what seems like a long journey towards ordained ministry in the Baptist Church of Great Britain. A month ago, my college went on a 24 hour retreat together where we spent time thinking about what it meant for each of us to be called and kept by Christ.My reflection and response was to create a picture… (See end of post for artwork info)

Although for me, my reflection was particularly about what it means to be called to ordained ministry, all those who believe in Christ are called and kept. 

My picture shows a representation of the risen Christ, a human yet divine figure, who cherishes a heart in his arms. The heart is patched to show that it has scars, it has been broken and patched up and that some pieces have fallen away. The lamb at the bottom of the picture illustrates the sacrifice that Jesus made in order to catch the pieces of our hearts and bring them to himself.

For all those who follow Jesus, we are called to enter into the same sacrifice and the same response to love, affirm and cherish the hearts of others. My call to ministry has meant sacrifice in many areas of my life but through it all I have been kept by Jesus. I have been vulnerable and my heart has been exposed to knocks and hurts but Jesus has faithfully patched it up and continues to hold me close.

My calling is to love and affirm God’s people – that everyone has value in God’s eyes. My sacrifice is to be vulnerable, to be open to being hurt, and to continue to be vulnerable no matter what. My identity is in Christ, where I know I am beloved and kept safe.

Do you love and affirm everyone as God does?

Are you prepared to witness to Jesus’ sacrifice by being vulnerable?

Do you know how much you are beloved by God and kept safe for Jesus?

… Then may mercy, peace and love, be yours in abundance…

“To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ: may mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:1b-2

The artwork
The blue and purple background was painted using water soluble felt pens – just cheap children’s ones – and then painting over them with a brush loaded with water. The colours are vivid and vibrant and the paint effect is like that of chromatography. I then cut out and collaged the rays around the head and the pieces of the heart from paper that I’d painted using ordinary watercolours. The remainder of the painting used watercolours, coloured pencils and felt pens including the lettering which I drew freehand then painted. Finally I picked out details using a fine liner pen.

Happy Easter

Yesterday, three young people in our church led the Easter Sunday service. It was based around a ‘butterfly eucharist’ written by one of the group.  The idea was to use the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly (via the cocoon), as a metaphor for Jesus’ death and resurrection. I was so proud of our young people who were aged 13, 14 and 15. 

During the service they encouraged us to think about how we could be involved in God’s plan to transform the world and as symbols of this we took part in two activities.

Firstly, we made this beautiful cross from butterflies decorated with drawings, prayers, words and names…


And then we potted sunflower seeds to take home, nurture, and then to plant somewhere unexpected in order to transform.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away ….  And the one who was seated on the throne said,”See I am making all things new … It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”‘ Revelation 21

Where have you seen transformation? in your community … in the world …? what part could you play in transforming them?

Have you experienced personal transformation?

May the risen Christ transform you today.

The Red Poppy

[mixed media art journal entry]

Today is Armistice Day here in the UK, when we remember those who have lost their lives in military service. We use a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance because after the First World War, poppies grew across the fields of Flanders where previously people had fought and died.

It’s often a day that provokes mixed feelings. I know people who are uncomfortable wearing the red poppy as they see it as promoting and glorifying armed conflict.

I understand this point of view but I am sad that people feel this is the case. The poppy bloomed across the fields after the war was over. To some the visual display of red was a reminder of all the blood that was shed in that terrible conflict. But at the same time as the red might be reminiscent of blood, the fact that poppies grew on these fields is, I believe, a symbol of renewal and restoration. That something beautiful can again grow, where once there was pain, suffering, loss and despair.

Over the last few days, two news stories have stood out for me. The first item; a Marine has been charged with murdering an enemy combatant who had surrendered. The second; through social networking sites, hundreds of people gathered at the funeral of a 99 year old World War II veteran who they never knew, but whose life they felt it was important to honour.

These stories for me stand alongside each other as an illustration of the divided and dividing nature of armed conflict.
We live in a broken world, and there are often no human solutions to our very human problems, and life is messy.

And it was into this broken and human world that Jesus came. He came to bring reconciliation, and peace, and liberation from the brokenness of this World.

And so while I hate armed conflict, war and violence, for me it’s not an option to just let Armistice day go by without marking it.

I wear the red poppy to remember …
To remember, but not to celebrate.
To remember, but not to glorify.
To remember, but not to be triumphant.
To remember, and to acknowledge the loss, the pain and the sacrifice.
To remember, and to be grateful for peace.
To remember, and to keep alive the horrors of war and armed conflict, so that we do not take today’s decisions lightly.

I take comfort in the vision for our future depicted in the book of Revelation …

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Revelation 21:1-4

[Digital image produced using Paper 53 for iPad]

Simply praise

I think the content of this one is self-explanatory …


The process however …

I found a beautiful book of fairy tales in my local charity shop. I bought it because I wanted to do an altered book and turn it into a journal (more of that some other time). I needed to remove some pages to make room for things to be stuck in or painted on, and I’ve kept these pages to use for other things.

I was really taken by this image, originally of Cinderella. The illustrator of the book is artist Jane Ray whose work you can see here. I love her style. Please go and have a look at her work as she is truly brilliant. I have a book of the Christmas Story that she illustrated and I particularly like the fact that she has painted middle-Eastern looking people (one of the things that annoys me is a blonde, blue-eyed Jesus!).

Anyhow, back to the journal page. I tore up some text and borders from the book as well as the picture of Cinderella and pasted them on the page. I then gessoed most of it leaving the picture of the girl with the dove. On top of this I used acrylics and permanent promarkers. I thought the image of the girl and dove really lent itself to this quote from Psalm 63. So here it is, just a declaration of praise and thanksgiving.

Oh and this is going to be my contribution to Paint Party Friday so hop on over there and check out some other artist awesomeness – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.