Bearing Fruit in Our Season, No One Is Ever Too Old

A few days ago I watched a beautiful, gentle talk by award-winning novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson. Listening to the great plunging depth of her thoughts and writings was very refreshing!

I noticed how Marilynne Robinson's notable book, Housekeeping (1980) appeared twenty-four long years before she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 for her 2004 work, Gilead.

She said she read, and read and read good books in those intervening years.

This got me thinking about fruit-bearing in general, what the Bible has to say on this subject, as well as long-term fruit bearing, as an artist.

Fruit Trees Must Have a Solid Foundation, A Healthy Root System and Plenty of Water

Vegetable Plants, grown from Seeds, can grow to maturity in as little as one month for lettuce, two months for Carrots, and three months for Winter Squash, from the time the seed germinates.

But Fruit Trees differ from vegetable plants. Fruit trees need more time developing before they can bear fruit.

Some fruit tree Seedlings take years from the time of grafting to bear their fruit. 

A "Fruit Tree" can be, for example, a variety of Apple, Orange, Pear, Apricot, Persimmon, Fig, Carob Bean, etc., etc.

Fruit Trees also bear many types of Nut varieties, such as Walnut, Pecan, Hazelnut, or Almond trees.

These are facts I found online about the Walnut tree: 

"Walnut trees begin producing nuts when they are about 10 years old, but the best nut production begins when trees are 30 yearrs old. Good nut crops occur in about two out of five years."

How Does This Preparation Factor Relate to People, to an Artist, and to Beauty?

Many non-artistic folks I've spoken with tend to think an artist can and should work like “everyone else” - they can just churn out highly creative, culture changing or beautiful things constantly, forty hours a week.

This is usually not true, unless perhaps your idea of "beauty" is a piece of modern minimalist art with a nearly blank canvas, colored simply with just the right shade of "powder blue".

While Color is, by itself, very powerful in how it can affect anyone or the atmosphere of a room, one-color canvases are pretty easy to paint. They can be churned out all day long by almost anyone, without much applied character, or thoughtful effort.

Personally, impressionistic work is created
much faster than something detailed.

This is not to say my impressionistic work has less emotional impact, sometimes it can have even more feeling than more labored pieces, but generally I feel the more detail a piece of art contains, the clearer the painting's message will be.

From my perspective, great works of moving artistic beauty will mirror or depict things which remind the viewer, reader or listener of God's holy and whole character. They will ring true in how they reflect and speak about Christ's Beauty, the Beauty of holiness.

And the character of Christ has many facets, like a cut diamond; or, like a geometric shape which becomes significantly more complicated as more dimensions are added.

Layers, facets, and building depth in a piece of art takes TIME.

The Value of Time, for the Spirit and Soul

While parents may create beauty every day with their words, in how they kindly communicate with their children; and people who craft, build or make things are also in a daily mode of disciplined creation, there are other things of beauty destined to share greatness and power which come less frequently - perhaps even after many years have passed.

Like the years of preparation time behind the creation of some good books, sublime music, large paintings, and stone castles.

The larger a building is to become, the more people it can eventually house, provide for and protect. And the longer it takes to create that building's foundation.

It's easy to misjudge people who sit on couches and "just read books" all day long. Are they not wasting their time? I had a bibliophile for a mother, who liked to read books all night long. What she consequently learned and shared with me and others has been invaluable, on many different topics and levels.

And for Marilynne Robinson, now 74, those intervening twenty-four years between her more famous written works were not wasted “doing nothing”. Those years of thought and study were imperative for her spirit and mind to be sufficiently fed, so she could "build her foundation" and produce another book of great value, at the age of 70.

Creation, even when not "from scratch" as God made the world, is all-consuming work. It requires you to consistently lay yourself out spiritually, emotionally and physically. It involves so many decisions and thoughts to be weighed, sifted, edited, clarified.

Imagine all the intricate details and wisdom contained in the world's Creation!

And, after creating or teaching something of great value, the Word of God teaches us there must be time invested in rest, contemplation and assimilation of life experiences, for another new work to again shine with brilliance.

Nothing of much good comes from hurrying greatness.

An Olive Tree by Rivers of Water - drawing by Elise, circa 2010

The Olive tree represents generational thinking and planning. An olive tree can bear fruit after it is five to twelve years old, but it is said Olive trees produce their best fruit after the tree is eighty years old!

No One is Ever Too Old to Bear Good Fruit

In God's time table, advancing age is a very good thing, if we are living rightly:

The hoary head [grey hair] is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. ~ Proverbs 16:31

No one is cast aside when they are channels of Living Water! By our Father's great Grace, sons and daughters of the King of Kings becoming sweeter, deeper, wiser – more able to receive blessings and be a blessing – like aged food or drink:

Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.~ Psalm 92:13-15

This Hebrew word נוּב "Fruit", above, is pronounced "nüv" and means, "To sprout, to germinate. (The original idea lies in gushing forth, boiling up; ... sometimes to the sense of sprouting, sometimes to that of speaking; also to the sense of rising above, to become high, to raise up, to heap up.) Figuratively applied to the mouth, as if sprouting out words: The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom... ~ Proverbs 10:31. To increase, to receive increase: ...if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. ~ Psalm 62:10. To cause to germinate, to produce." ~ quoted from Gesenius's Lexicon

We should obey the Holy Spirit much more often, in deciding when someone is "too old" to be sent out, have children, take a job, etc. because man's fears about advancing age don't usually correlate well with our Father's plans.

For those with a life-time of gained experience and understanding, their greatest contribution to the world may be still to come! I believe we should look for great things we can share, contribute  or collaborate with others at any time in life.

Even people who have been broken and felt torn by the winds of life can teach others and bear good fruit in their old age!

Every “tree” goes through similar storms, yet some take the brunt of the wind's force, and others will be more sheltered from it. Our world desperately needs the messages of truth which can come from battered, storm-tossed but surviving "fruit trees".

Moses was called to lead his people out of Egypt at the advanced age of 80.

Sarah and Abraham had their son, Issac, when they were aged 90 and 100, respectively.

I doubt Job or his wife were any Spring Chickens, when they had ten more children!

Anna was over 80 years old, serving God in the temple through her fasting and prayers.

Fruit-Bearing Cycles in Nature

In Nature, trees don't normally bear huge harvests every year. Apple trees bear a lot of apples every other year. The same with Avacado trees. It was mentioned above, in the quote about Walnut trees. And this is so with most other fruit trees.

This is called "Biennial Bearing" and is observed in fruit trees across the world.

Also, during the year most fruit trees are bearing "much fruit", this fruitful time is limited to just a short period during that fruitful year.

An apple tree in Vermont's climate always has a time of dormancy through the winter, when the tree looks almost dead, just after bearing fruit in Autumn. It is tired and resting!

And then, by Spring, new growth appears.

The tree must be pruned, extraneous branches removed so the tree can concentrate it's efforts once again, in the healthy branches, preparing more fruit that coming year.

A Staggered Harvest

Try to imagine what would happen if all fruit trees bore their fruit at the same time each year. The planet would be inundated with ripe and rotting fruit!

Now imagine what would happen if all people were all bearing their good fruit all at once. There would be no break, no down time for anyone, from the hard work of harvesting and preserving all that fruit!

People who are at the stage of bearing fruit in their lives are usually excited and joyful, if also somewhat tired out. They've invested months or years getting to this point. We must celebrate with them.

When the time comes to rest after the harvest, if everyone would be in that same place, how very silent the world would one would be rejoicing in their “harvest” season. It might be a gloomy place. But instead, we have a balance. Some people are in dormant stages, some in leafing stage, some in flowering stage, some in fruiting stage.

It is simply marvelous how our Creator has staggered different harvest times for each different variety and kind of fruit tree!

He has also given every man, woman and child their own special giftings and times for both preparing, growing and finally “harvesting” the fruit of those gifts. Then, too, every man, woman and child need to have quiet times of reflection, rest and “reparations”.

                                     Apple Tree Red, plein air watercolor by Elise, 2015

Our Father on Fruit-Bearing - Trees, Seeds and Vines

  • To bear Good Fruit, we are avoid bad influences, and delight in His law of truth - really soak in it, so we may bring forth fruit at a right time for our particular type of “tree”:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. ~ Psalm 1:1-3

  • We are to trust and hope in Him, no matter the surrounding trials. Good things should then continue to flow from us, for our roots go into deep waters:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

  • What we sow matters:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

  • We can rest, and take many breaks, but we must never give up in what we are called to do by God:

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. ~ Galatians 6:9

  • What is on the inside is shown by what comes from us on the outside:

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. ~ Matthew 7:17-18

  • Much time often passes between when a small seed or seedling is planted until the final joy-filled harvest arrives, but we must have faith that the tearful, hot and difficult work of casting small seeds, watering and pruning them - investing in future growth - is not in vain:

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. ~ Psalm 126:5-6

  • We can bear no good fruit at all, unless we are connected to the main Source of Life - in this case, the Vine; but for a fruit tree, an apple would need to be on a twig, on a branch, connected to the trunk's root system:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. ~ John 15:4-7

  • A seed must first die, in order to sprout:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. ~ John 12:24

  • We must exhibit "long patience", not just waiting until the early rain comes, but also for the latter rain:

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. ~ James 5:7-8

  • Bearing much fruit brings our Father glory!:

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. ~ John 15:8

  • Much communication and communion is involved in fruit-bearing – ask for His help!:

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. ~ John 15:14-17

Just How Important Is a Fruit-Bearing Tree?

  • Fruit trees give life-sustaining meat [food], and were always to be protected when there was a need for wood in a large battle, according to Deuteronomy 20:19-20a:

"When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the seige: Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down..."

People were closer to their food sources back then. They had to know by leaf, tree shape and bark whether a fruit tree in a non-fruiting stage was able to bear either Pomegranates, Figs, Olives, Carob Beans, a variety of Nuts, etc.

How do we discern the Fruiting Capacity or Tree Stage of people we meet?

Can we allow people to be in different stages of growth without misjudging or criticising them?

Learning the Importance of Preparation for Fruit-Bearing

Our culture tends to glorify constant busyness. The Industrial Revolution brought in the 9-5 workday, and then we added our modern achievement-driven society to this schedule.

In America, workaholism is praised as "having a good work ethic".

Some people feel obligated by debt, or parenting children alone, or other legitimate reasons to work three or even four different jobs just to make ends meet.

Yet European countries still take a siesta in the afternoons today.

A bus driver told me a few months ago how in Germany, people hardly ever work more than forty hours each week there. The government actually penalizes it. The people of their country still know how to gather with others, face-to-face, after a work day - to dance, feast and build stronger emotional bonds.

In Europe today, I'm told people invest an average of 1.5 hours a day eating three meals. While folks here in America were found in one study to wolf down those same three meals in a total of ten minutes, and during the 10 minutes, the average American shockingly consumes twice the amount of food Europeans eat in their 1.5 hours of time!

In America many don't know how to rest just a little bit each day; or how important rest is for an entire day each week; or how to take time to rest for an entire season; or to rest for a whole year of time.

  • In Leviticus 25:2-5, every seventh year was to be a rest for the garden soil and gardener:

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.

How This Relates to My Life

Recently, after straining my eyes and badly stressing my neck and immobilized body, painting thirty highly-detailed illustrations in four weeks, that sixty-five hours of work did not result in my taking an illustration position I initially had thought I was "born" to take.

2 x 3-inch illustration sample of a running Cheetah by Elise, May 2018

And I realized two things - just because you CAN do something, it doesn't mean you should do it, even when many people around you feel it's a wonderful opportunity.

For me, it would mean sitting in a chair to produce lots of work at great speed, for an extremely valuable and important project, for the next two years. I felt burdened and heavy about this time commitment. The idea felt more like a jail sentence, not a joy.

I've said for the past twenty years "when I'm no longer able to visually paint, 'Plan B' is to become a full-time musician." Plenty of blind musicians play and sing wonderfully. I guess it's time for me to invest more time in that direction, while continuing to paint more loose pieces en plein air.

Pouring out beauty definitely comes and goes in seasons for me, and it's okay to take a step back and think on things, as I continue to seek our Father's will and way for the life He gave me, and which I've given back to Him. 

"My life" is no longer "mine" to order as I wish, as much as I really sometimes want to serve and do certain things! I must accept the closed doors and look for the open windows!

Give God the Glory He Deserves

Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. ~ Isaiah 60:21-22

All this working, all this fruit-bearing, all the potential and present accolades, honor, prestige, money, power, fame and/or beauty that fruitfulness and the use of our gifts bring, can also make us feel pretty empty...unless we are bringing those gifts to the right altar of sacrifice. 

My heart wants to be a tree of righteousness which humbly bears good fruit by the outworking of the Holy Ghost, for His Glory. His commendation is all that really matters.

"...that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations." ~ Isaiah 61:3b-4

For whom do you bear fruit in your life?

Why do you choose to suffer in your service?

Do you bear fruit for simply for man's approval and praise, or do you also desire God's commendation? 

Does your labor and work of your hands really show you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

These are questions I ask myself. 

Sine ceres - without wax, I remain, your friend,


Our Creator designed the cycles of beauty we see in Nature with the help of Wisdom:

Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? 
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. 
She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. 
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. 
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. 
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. 
For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. 
They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. 
Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. 
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. 
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. 
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. 
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. 
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. 
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. 
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. 
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. 
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: 
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures. 
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. 
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. 
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. 
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: 
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. 
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: 
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: 
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: 
when he appointed the foundations of the earth: 
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; 
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. 
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. 
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. 
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. 
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. 
~ Proverbs 8:1-36

On Patience and Decisiveness in Painting and Life

Balancing these two important qualities is imperative in painting and in life.

A painting cannot ever come to life without the making of many, many small and large decisions along the way. And it's the same with Life.

Paintings, and our lives, are a creative progression.

Yet, there are times when the paper is too wet, and the “fuzz” tells me clearly I must wait before painting another layer.

And so, I will set the piece aside, or move to work on another section or area and come back to the wet area later, after it has had time to thoroughly dry.

Our lives are so much like a watercolor painting!

Initially, the paper is completely blank. Decisions must be carefully made in the planning stage, the drawing phase. This is foundational to a solid piece.

In painting and life, taking time for prayer, to ask our Father for wisdom to wait or act rightly is so important!

Watercolors often begin quite loose, as I wet the entire paper, or a smaller section. Timing in applying paint to a wet-in-wet is very important to get right. At a certain stage, the paper is not really dry, but is also not wet enough to paint on any further.

Layers of transparent paint take time to build up, to gain the right strength of color, just as our lives also seem layered with lessons, experiences, trials and tests, which mold and shape us.

One of the definitions of Patience is, “Knowing how important right timing is, in accomplishing right actions.” This is true in painting, too.

Another definition of Patience is, “Accepting a difficult situation from God, without giving Him a deadline to remove it.”

Waiting is really not non-action. Choosing to be patient is, in itself, an important decision!

For example, I gladly chose when I was sixteen years old not to date, but to wait on God for a husband, to seek purity and to honor God with all my relationships. I remember feeling the commendation of God upon my life that day. I didn't know then I would still be waiting now, but I don't regret making this valuable decision.

Waiting for very important things in life is a discipline, which can lead one to maturity, humility, and a different perspective on life.

There are plenty of times when I've wondered what our Father in heaven is doing in my life, in many stages and seasons of waiting.

Sometimes I have waited patiently, other times I have felt impatient. I have wondered if I should take more action, and there were temptations to go ahead of God.

But wrong timing, actions and words can ruin or upset many good things.

My team-mate and I used to teach young Kindergarten children in Oklahoma City schools this definition: “Patience is Waiting and Waiting, with No Complaining, with a Smile.”

There is Beauty in Waiting, too. In my Vegetable Gardens, watching plants unfurl their leaves at their own specific time was a joy to see!

At times in a painting, I would really like to reach the ending NOW, paint the final defining details, see the defining dark values appear, which bring in depth...but I know the piece is not ready yet. I must patiently continue to add more thin layers, slowly building up the strength of the piece.

I think our Father in heaven feels this way about His children, too. He wants to see the end for them, but He knows the wisdom of Patience, and of having us really be ready for final details.

Some have this idea in life: “If it's meant to be, it's up to me.” They are action oriented.

My mother used to tell me, when I was impatient, “Just wait on the LORD, honey.”

These are two extremes. They are each true and helpful at times, but there is a balance point between them.

Waiting can become procrastination.  Non-action can become disobedience; and action could be “taking things into your own hands”, when letting God work in and through the situation would be a much better plan.

Waiting for anything you desire to occur in life can be difficult.

I have loved dwelling on many scriptural passages related to waiting, over the years.

I clearly remember a Christmas Eve homily, when I was living in New Zealand with a Catholic family. Their parish priest gave a sermon on waiting for Christ, and he read verses from many passages of the Bible, without mentioning their location. I remember thinking, “that is Isaiah, and that is from Psalms.” I wrote in my notes that night, “We are to wait patiently, prayerfully, confidently, and expectantly.”

Having Faith, really taking hold and believing that our Father sees and knows what we need and desire will help us, in waiting for anything.

We must recognize His Sovereign power can move and change what seems unchangeable, or even impossible. God often works when we take our hand off, when we “give up” and accept our situation.

Then, when His Spirit instructs us to take some action, large or small, we must instantly obey, take action, and stop waiting.

I painted this Acrylic plein air a few weeks ago. It required me to work very quickly, before the paint dried, to achieve the softness around the mist...

Misty Spring Awakening, Mt. Mansfield, Vermont, 2018, a 16x20 Acrylic on canvas by Elise

Sometimes making quick decisions means the difference between success or failure. Between being able to go places or having to stay home.

Wise and timely decisions can change the very trajectory of your life.

Opportunities can be lost when you are instructed by the Spirit of God to “Go out” by faith, and you do not take action. At times you need to act without seeing all the details, or even understanding why you are told to go.

Sometimes, waiting can be very detrimental, even when decisions are difficult to make and there is uncertainty in their outcome.

Mistakes are made in everyone's life, even when you truly desire to honor God in your waiting and decisions. Many times, for me, being silent and listening would have been a better option than speaking.

And so the balancing goes on, between these two aspects in life. Forward progress can be made in prayer and waiting, as well as in taking right actions, speaking and acting when those things are required.

Waiting and developing Patience is one of the most important principles seen in the Scriptures.

Abraham waited twenty-five years for his promised son, Issac. Joseph waited twelve years to be released from prison. Moses waited for his people's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Martha and Mary waited for Christ to come raise their dead brother, Lazarus. Elisabeth waited for her husband to regain his vocal ability, and for a child in her old age. Christ waits for His Bride, the Church.

Waiting can be a beautiful time of trust and acceptance. But it can as easily be a pain-filled time of uncertainty when an outcome is largely unknown.

For instance, people today wait for loved ones to get well from serious illness, to return home from the hospital. Or, they wait for loved ones who are incarcerated to be released. Or, for military family to return safely home from overseas. Parents wait for children to come to their senses, or to take more responsibility for their actions. Children wait for parents to see new opportunities more positively. People wait to hear about school, job and grant applications...and the list goes on.

And while we wait on and for many things, there is always action to take, to be ready for what we are waiting for.

On Being Patient

These are some of my favorite verses on waiting and Patience:

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. ~ Psalm 37:7

Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him comes my salvation...My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him....Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah. ~ Psalm 62:1, 5, & 8

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the LORD more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. ~ Psalm 130:5-6

Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee. ~ Proverbs 20:22

And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. ~ Isaiah 30:18

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. ~ Lamentations 3:24-26

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. ~ Habakkuk 2:3

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. ~ Romans 8:24-25

Charity suffereth long, and is kind. ~ I Corinthians 13:4a

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the LORD. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. ~ James 5:8

On Taking Action

I remember sitting in an old wooden church pew, and asking my dad a serious question. I was probably nine or ten years old at this time: “Dad,” I said, “when I grow up, there are going to be a lot of decisions to make, how am I going to know how to make the right ones?”

He immediately replied by giving me Proverbs 3:5-7:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct thy paths.

To “acknowledge” means to know someone intimately. I treasure this good counsel.

Other passages which command us to take action, to be Decisive, are these:

In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. ~ Proverbs 14:23 (Oft-repeated to myself, when I didn’t feel like sitting and disciplining myself to paint.)

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. ~ Proverbs 16:3

If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? ~ Proverbs 24:11-12

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

Of course, these verses don’t apply as much to painting as they do justice and mercy, yet artists must act on more than just creating beauty. There is an entire realm of decisions to make on how time is invested in this life.

Readers, do you tend to fall on the more cautious side, and wait a lot in life?

If so, may the Holy Spirit fill that time with insight, hope and light.

Or, are you one who tends to take action and be a do-er?

What or Who gives you the confidence and boldness to take right actions and/or speak out?

Do you stand on the Rock of Christ, and feel His Peace and Presence in all your decision-making, even when there is Great Opposition to your decisions?

May we each learn to patiently and wisely wait, and also to make wise decisions, so that our lives may bring our Father honor, glory and praise.

With a sincere desire to be wisely patient and obediently decisive,
I remain, your painting and praying friend,


LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us [Or, for us]. ~ Isaiah 26:12

My Year as a NYC Street Artist, a Walk of Faith

Note: This post covers an entire year of my life. It is a long and detailed account I first wrote out last November, 2017, after an old friend asked me about my time in NYC. I thought others might want to know what it was like for me to live in NYC as a visual artist, without a regular paycheck, and on a veritable shoe-string. My interactions with some of the people I met, and also my many answers to prayer are what stand out most in my memory.


After our family lost our home of thirty years in early 2009, I prayed fervently about where to go, and what to do. I had just $300 to my name, and it was dwindling fast. We were moving to different friend's homes every couple nights. I knew my mom couldn't afford to feed us.

Virginia Bound and Needing $950

A special family came to mind, so I called and they invited me to come and stay with them, while working on painting their University wrestling room wall with large letters and inspirational words, like Determination, Hard Work, Perseverance, etc.

I left Vermont to go to stay with these old friends in Virginia. I'd done a similar lettering job in a different wrestling room, about ten years prior to this.

A dear friend pressed $140 into my hand as I got on the train to leave Vermont, heading south. I was to need that money in the future. I had spent all I had left on the train fare going south.

I lived with this family, their three daughters and baby son for five weeks, painting in two weeks fifty hours of large encouraging words in many styles, fonts, and team colors.

Another family asked me to teach some art classes to their children. These lessons really helped their children when they later went to art school.

One Spring day in March of 2009, I was outside in the woods behind our friend’s home, praying about several things. One was my need to fix a broken tooth. Another was about attending a seminar in Albany, NY.

My Aunt Helen had called to tell me, “Elise, if you ever want to go to NYC, my mother's old apartment is still there and it's empty. You are welcome to live there for as long as you like.” I remember dismissing this idea immediately. Me, go to the city? I was a mountain woman. What would I do, one who had spent so much time in the backwoods, in a bustling, noisy, concrete city?!

But I said, “Father, if you want me to go to NYC, then all the lights have to be green.” I could think of at least seven things that needed to happen logistically for me to get there.

I remember watching a butterfly, newly hatched from its cocoon, pumping fluid into its wings in the Spring sunshine. Metamorphosis takes a long time for a butterfly caterpillar. Then the thought came to me that perhaps I was to go to NYC and stay awhile. The city was a place I'd never lived in long-term.

My old friend, Nelya, who I mentioned in my Nashville blogpost, had said she was heading north to a hockey tournament in Montreal soon. She said she'd stop by and visit me. I said, “No, Nelya, pick me up, I need to go north to Albany, NY!”

And so, I hitched a free ride north. She dropped me off in New Paltz at another family home. They took me to my dentist's office outside NYC. I was told my broken tooth would cost $950 to fix, including the exam and x-rays. I had only around $200 at this time.

Now I pleaded in prayer, “Father, I am your child, and I know you own the cattle on 1,000 hills. Will you please provide $950 by next week, so I can pay for the dental work in NYC without going into debt?!”

The family dropped me off at the train station to go from New Paltz to Albany on Amtrak and they handed me $22 for the fare. “We want to help you,” they said. I went to the pay phone to make the train reservation and some change fell down into my hand from the phone slot, $1 in quarters.

I got on the train and waited for the conductors to come take my $22, but they never came. So, on the Albany platform, I walked up to two conductors and tried to give them my fare. “You forgot,” I said. They looked at each other and then pointed to the elevator and said, “It's too late now! Enjoy your day!”

Now I had $23 more than I'd had before.

At the seminar location, I waited in the hotel lobby, caught what I could of the information and spoke with people. I stayed that first night with an old family friend, and the next day someone came up to me in the hotel lobby. “I can tell you have been going through a hard time physically, mentally and emotionally, and I was told to give you this,” he said, putting a white envelope in my hand.

“I'm okay,” I replied. “No, I was told to give this to you, and I try to do as I'm told,” he said, refusing to take his white envelope back.

I knew what was in that envelope. Sure enough, inside was $300 cash, in twenty dollar bills!

I decided to stay another day, but needed a safe place to sleep. That night I stayed with a woman at the seminar who had two beds in her room. I told her our story – how mom had been fighting our taxes, lost our home, and that I was now practically homeless. I told her about my need to fix my tooth and how I'd been given the cash in the envelope by a stranger.

The next day I found this man and asked him for more details. “Did you talk to someone here about my need, or did the Holy Spirit speak to you?” I asked this man. “It was the Holy Spirit who told me, and I wasn't sure if I should give you $300 or $350,” he said.

Later that afternoon, the woman I'd stayed overnight with came to say goodbye. “I'm flying back to my husband in California and just wanted to say goodbye,” she said. “The LORD gave me this and I want to pass it along to you,” she continued, as she pressed a different white envelope into my hand. I thanked her, and she left for the airport.

Later that night, on my way south to NYC, in a ride provided by another seminar attendee, I opened her envelope. It contained $650 cash! “You don’t need a job, Elise, people just give you money,” a friend said.

And so, I arrived in NYC with $223 of my own money, and also with the needed $950 to pay for my broken crown.

Our Father had answered my prayers, for the logistical aspects of getting to NYC and for the money I needed to fix my badly broken tooth.

Some doubt the very existence of God, but I don't. The woman I'd spoken with knew exactly what my need was, but that first monetary gift came from someone who didn't know anything about me!

My Year in NYC – April 2009 to April 2010

I bought my first mobile phone for emergency purposes, following the good advice of a friend. It was just a small flip phone that fit inside my pocket.

Then I figured out in two or three days how to get around the city. The metro still gave away paper subway maps at that time. Now they don't, and you need a smart phone to get around. A kind woman explained the difference between the express train and the local, and I began to get really comfortable, really fast. I felt at home in NYC.

Waiting Expectantly, 22x30 2016 watercolor by Elise

A friend wrote me, “Good, you're on your own, now you'll find out how sheltered you were.” But I replied that my mother had not sheltered me - sheltered people don't feel comfortable traveling the NYC subway in only two days! The express at rush hour was my favorite place to be...people watching.

I felt elated and excited by the daily adventure. Goodness, I had had a driver's license by age sixteen and was buying and cooking food for a family of five by then...people are weird in how they see others sometimes! Just because I had lived at home to help my family most of my life didn't make me stupid or sheltered!

I was a bit naive, perhaps. I was told by a friend of Helen's that I was far too open to be in NYC. She was worried about me. This woman’s own daughters had hard, care-worn faces.

I would ask people around me for assistance in reading the street numbers across the road, because I couldn't see them. NYC folks are very friendly. I spent hours walking around, smiling, because I felt I was walking through my grandpa's history. Grandpa had walked nine miles each day as a salesman in NYC, to feed his family. One policeman called my “smiley” because most everyone was exhausted from their work and would go around glumly staring down at the pavement, or their phones.

I’d never really talked to homeless street people before, they had scared me. But now I could relate and would sometimes stop to speak with them. Some were gentle and kind – and they would encourage me.

My apartment was located at 101st and Broadway, only two blocks from Central Park, on the upper west side of the city. It was a great location.

It was a very old building and the apartment had been rented by Helen's family since the 1950's so they had a rent discount. The plumbing didn't work well, but we had a doorman and the building was safe at night. I'm told Leonardo DeCaprio had done a period film there.

I was indoors before dark each night, because I don't see all that well after dark, especially being in a city I didn't know, and it was safer. The apartment contained an out-of-tune piano, which I played for comfort, despite its condition, and I know it must have bothered my poor neighbors. But the homeless people across the street would come outside on the steps to sit and listen to me play them a “concert”.

Only a few rare times I was out of my apartment after 9 PM in the dark. Once was on July 4th to see the fireworks, and another was for New Year's, when I went to Brooklyn to hear a guitarist I’d heard at Redeemer play another gig. And once I went to an evening service at the Times Square Church.


One Spring day I walked through flowering and beautiful Central Park and remember telling God, “I just want someone to tell me everything is going to be okay!”

A little while later, an older man sat down next to me on a park bench and had a short conversation with me. He lived in one of the high-rises nearby, he said. At the end of the short talk he reached over and took my hand, pressing it and said to me, “Everything is going to be okay!” Wow. That was a fast answer to prayer. I wonder if he was really an angel.

The days passed. It was now May, 2009 and my food money was dwindling fast. I was eating rice and beans. For several good reasons, finding a regular job in NYC was something I didn't feel too prepared to do. I began making baskets and tried to find a shop to buy them. One grocery did discuss my making dozens of them, but I didn't know if I really wanted to become a “basket-making machine” for forty hours a week.

I was walking home via Central Park, carrying my baskets, when a stranger going by exclaimed, “Those are hand-made baskets!” “Yes,” I agreed, “they are.”Can I buy one?” I came home with some extra funds that day.

Union Square Greenmarket and Street Market

Then, Helen's son, who worked at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital but lived in NJ came by to see me. He was paying the rent on his grandma's place, but only crashed there one night each month. He told me I could set up a table at the Greenmarket at Union Square, down on 14th street. I visited the Union Square market soon after, with my baskets, and learned I couldn't sell crafts or baskets there, only visual artwork.

An artist named Robert Lederman had fought for his First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech for many years. He had gone out at Union Square with his artwork, and been arrested many, many times, Forty times, I was later told, he'd had his work thrown in the dumpster and had to go before a judge. But he wouldn't stop fighting and finally, they let him and many other artists create a street market of their own, next to the Greenmarket, where farmers sold their vegetables several days each week and on weekends.

This man, Robert Lederman, had prepared the way for me. The very next summer, 2010, the city closed the Union Square market, allowing only 10-20 table spaces where they used to be 200, and you had to pay for those spaces.

I called to ask Helen if I could use the metal card table I'd discovered in her mother's closet. “Anything you find there is yours to use, Elise,” she kindly told me. So, I found a small green tablecloth and ironed it. I painted myself a sign which said, “Original Watercolors for Sale” and had it laminated at the local print shop. I was ready for customers.

Banana in the Sun, 25x22 2016 watercolor by Elise

Spring - Becoming a Street Artist

The first day out on the street I sold two $40 5x7 original watercolors, which I'd taped onto a piece of 8x10 mat board. My new frame shop friend had kindly given me double-sided tape and sold me some small pieces of mat board. I had no plastic sleeves to protect the work then. I went home with $80 and a heart full of joy. This street artist thing was going to work!

I would wake up around 5 AM on days when it was supposed to be sunny and take the 5:57 AM express train from the 103rd street platform to Times Square. Then it took ten minutes to transport my things through an underground maze to the Q or R train, which went on to Union Square.

I carried a metal card table, a metal folding chair, and a small wooden box of paintings. I also had a backpack of food and water. It was heavy at first and sometimes I stopped to rest, but I got stronger as Spring turned into Summer.

I usually arrived at Union Square around 6:30 AM if I could catch both express trains, and went to find a good spot to save for my table. I had to arrive early enough to save a place, even though the real customers didn't usually arrive until around 10 AM.

Standing on the sidewalk all day by my table, until just before dark became my normal day job, two or three days each week, unless the wind was too bad, or it rained. They were long, twelve-to-fourteen-hour days in the summertime.

One day a man stopped at my table and began to expound on the mental benefits of transcendental meditation. I listened without much comment. When I called my mom to tell her about my day, she was very upset. “I want you out of that city, Elise!” My mother had a lot of fear about NYC. She had grown up in Queens, in the days when Manhattan was very, very dangerous. Somehow, I felt strongly I was being led by God to be there, even though it meant disagreeing with my mother. “Mom,” I told her, "if I don't know what I believe by now, I'm in big trouble! I have to listen to all the people who come up to my table!” I never saw that man again. 

My mom was afraid I'd join some cult or get abducted and raped...and what hurt most was she obviously didn't trust my judgment. Sometimes dealing with family can be very trying. I spoke to my mom by phone several times each week, the entire year I was in NYC.

A smart and toothless “homeless” man would go by almost daily, asking me for $1. The artists would each give him his $1, and he would have a better business day than any of the artists, and in less time!

My vivacious sister came to stay with me for a few days in late May. She still has a magnetic personality and is just much better than I am at selling things. She sells herself really well! She helped me a lot, AND immediately got herself invited to dinner. “And you can come with me,” she told me. “Uh huh, who with?” I wanted to know.

Turns out, my presence wasn't much of a protection after all. The man who invited us out was the son of a martial arts expert and he could have killed both of us with no problem, if he'd wanted to. He twisted my elbow half off at the dinner table. We had a nice meal at an Italian place.

My sister also came with me to set up in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts. She got asked out again. It upset her. Men were lining up. The city was no place for my sister and I told her so.

No one bothered me the entire time I was in NYC, with the exception of once, early on, when I went to a man's apartment for the express purpose of viewing his artwork...a former graphic artist, he had said he could improve my composition and design, which is an area I'd been heavily criticized in, at an art course in Ogunquit, Maine, many years earlier. This retired graphic designer didn't have honest motives.

He was pretty ancient, a huge man, looking for another artist paramour, and I refused to participate. “That is not the reason I came here,” I told him. “You're in trouble,” he replied, “When someone invites you to their apartment in NYC there are expectations.” “I'm in trouble? I've dedicated my life to God and no one touches me without His knowledge,” I declared firmly.

I wasn't afraid at all. He sneered, “And how do you dedicate your life to the Lord?” So I began to quote Romans 12:1-2. He cut me off half-way through, and at some point my phone, which I'd just gotten ten days earlier, rang at the right time in my pocket. Only five people had my phone number. It was a friend. When I hung up from taking this call, he ushered me to his door, refusing to shake my proffered hand. I left, unsullied. But it was a stupid thing to have done and I learned not to go to people's apartments for any reason other than group bible studies.

Summer on the Street

It was 2009, the summer after the stock market crash of 2008, and the other artists told me how the street had changed. “It used to be easy to make $200 a day on the street,” they'd tell me, “but now we're lucky just to make one sale.” I often went home with one $35 sale, and I had prayed hard for that one sale. The metro cost $2.25 each way at that time. I figured I was making around $3/hour on most days.

If it was too windy, people didn't want to stop and look. Or if it was too hot, or too cold. There were many, many long rather boring days, when I didn't want to be there. Other times I had great times of talking with a constant stream of tourists and strangers. I loved those days!! I also had artist friends who I could talk with, to help the time pass.

I had fun people-watching. Hundreds of people went by me each day. Many of the men who wore suits didn't stand upright when they walked. Most looked pretty stressed out. In the summertime, women would go by in flowing, beautiful dresses.

In the nine months I was out on the street I had eight no-sale days. I met lots of folks, many were tourists from other countries. A clothing designer of Dolly Parton's “discovered” me, but that didn't go anywhere. He liked my “Trout Paradise” print a lot, I remember.

I happily gave away hundreds of Dr. Werner Gitt's evangelistic tracts at my table, as my business card, because my illustrations were on the cover. Some people thanked me profusely for them, others dropped them quickly, in horror. 

The other street artists became my friends, and we trusted each other. We watched each other's tables when we had to use the bathroom. One artist helped make prints of my work, which was an enormous benefit, as I didn’t have to physically paint each image.

I met artists from Estonia, Amsterdam, Tibet, Turkey, Columbia, the Philippines and many other places! I wrote all the nationalities down in my journal at the time.

One girl was making $40,000 a year on Etsy with her prints. She was at the street market to give out her card. And her work was sweet and funny. Another girl sold unrealistic children’s-style art. Their work sold like hot cakes, bringing people happy memories or laughter.

My work didn't do as well. I was a serious realist. One artist said he couldn't believe I was selling anything.

Mostly tourists recognized my farm animals and took them home to Europe. I was told by one man who stopped at my table, “You're a fine artist, in fact, you are the only fine artist here!” He supposedly built twenty-billion-dollar metro systems around the world. “And we have a corporate account!” he said. “That's great,” I replied. I wasn't sure if he meant I should beg him to buy my work, or not. I gave him my card and never heard another word from him.

A girl who played the lead role in Mary Poppins on Broadway stopped by my table once. She liked Stuart, the lamb, because of the Psalm 23 I had put under my autograph.

A couple times, I went across Central Park on foot, to the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts to see the largest display of Japanese armor outside of Japan, and a film about Japanese history.

On rainy days, I began painting my large full-sheet watercolor doe deer piece, Ensured by Faithfulness which became one of my finest paintings. It was also the painting I later gave to a dentist to fix my teeth in 2015. I listened to Mahalia Jackson while painting, and sang loudly with her, “When I get to heav'n, sing and shout, be nobody to kick me out, Keep a your hand on the plow, hold on.”

Ensured by Faithfulness, 22x30 2009 watercolor by Elise

My apartment wasn't air-conditioned and as the summer came on, it was very hot inside it. Perspiration poured off me, but I continued to paint new work several hours most days I wasn't out on the street, and then I'd go Rollerblade through Central Park. I didn’t have knee or elbow guards, just a broken helmet, but I never once fell badly. I knew I could not afford an injury.

I remember singing the old hymn Count Your Blessings a lot, and another verse I repeated to myself for encouragement was Isaiah 26:3-4:

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:"

On rainy days I was also working diligently to complete an eight-part workbook study from II Peter 5-7 done by horseman, Lew Sterrett of Sermon on the Mount Ministries, which was a huge spiritual encouragement to me. 

I was determined to be “a white lily” by God's grace, amid what often felt more like a black mud swamp.

Sitting out on the broiling hot asphalt street in July and August wasn’t easy. The pavement steamed and smelled pretty bad. The upper class had left the city for their country homes. 

On July 4th, one of my sandal straps tore out and I had to try to drag it home, keeping the sandal on my foot, while carrying everything, because the pavement was too hot to walk on, barefoot.

I remember starting to sing out loud that day to strengthen my faltering heart, amid the horns and traffic noise, while limping along, crossing a busy street. I didn't care what people thought. “You have a plan, Father, when I don’t,” was my pretty constant cry of faith.

It was a mental battle and I fought daily to keep my mind on Christ and to be hopeful for a better future when everything about my life appeared pretty grim.

But, happily, the city didn't remind me at all of Vermont and the home I'd recently lost, so that was good. When I was back in Vermont, seeing farms, hearing the sound of a domestic turkey call or smelling manure often made me feel very sorry for myself. So NYC was a blessing that summer. I was told it was actually a cool summer, it rained a lot, but it sure was hotter than what I was used to!

I began to look forward to rainy days, because they meant I didn't have to go out on the street and could get more rest. Union Square was surrounded by busy streets and my table was often only three feet from the traffic going by. After a day of standing with taxis, cars and trucks rumbling by, I would come home and close all the windows and shut the curtains and try to recover from noise exhaustion.

Helen came down from Maine, to visit me in August. She was exhausted from caring for her ailing husband, Carl. We took the train out on Long Island, to see her old high school friend, Loretta, who then lived in the Hamptons. I went swimming out to the buoys at a private beach and it was a wonderful break.


On some days I painted while sitting outside at the market. One of these paintings became Stuart, Dwelling Securely Forever, which depicts a little wooly ram-lamb face. He became my best-selling image! “Pure Gold,” said my printer. I sold many prints of this image, and the sale of them paid for my groceries.

When I had taken this ram lamb's photo in New Zealand, he had just been culled from the flock, and was on a truck going for slaughter. Stuart the Lamb was a picture of what Christ had done for me – given His life, so I could live.

Stuart, Dwelling Securely Forever, 7x9 2009 watercolor by Elise

The original painting also sold on the street late that summer. I went to Mike, an artist friend standing next to me, and said, “Mike, I've just sold my best painting and I don't think I asked enough, they said they thought it was worth $150 more.” “What did you get for it?” Mike asked me. “$350,” I said. “No!” he didn't believe me. “It's right here in my pocket,” I said, pointing to the bulge in my jeans.“Elise, you've done very well! 90% of the people at this market will never sell an item over $200!” he praised me.

Once, returning to NYC on the train from a short visit to Vermont, I remember tearfully singing to myself the Virtuous Grapevine Song (lyrics at end of blog) which I used to teach to children. The song spoke of how the Vine must be pruned, in order for it to bear more fruit. My mother didn't want me to go back to the city. She felt it was too dangerous. I had never gone anywhere against her wishes but I felt due to our family circumstances, and decisions she had made outside my control, I had no choice. I felt I HAD to find a way to support myself. “When the door closes and I cannot afford to be there, I will leave,” I told her.

On the whole, the city was such a lonely place. I'd tried hard to find trustworthy friends, but I didn't feel I could trust the majority of those who came up to my table. Some would take my number and promise to call me “tomorrow” but never call at all. NYC is full of broken promises.

A few men asked me out or propositioned me. I used to think I knew what I believed, but after my year in NYC, I really know I do believe it.

I lived my faith, day by day. The Holy Spirit met me and blessed me.

Ben, who had come from Africa and was a security guard in a building near Union Square, stopped to meet me one day and talk because he saw the light from my works of art. Several more times he came by and we would discuss mainly spiritual things. He emphasized to me the power of the blood of Christ.

One early evening I attended a platinum photography exhibit at a gallery show opening around 11th St. The photographer's book is titled, We Walk in Beauty. They were beautiful black-and-white photos of Native Americans. One elderly Native American lady was asked when her portrait was taken, “Do you fear for the future of your family, and of the earth?” She wisely replied, “Oh, me and my children, we walk in beauty.”

The gallery was really crowded with people at this opening, and I started up a conversation with the black man standing at my left elbow. I asked what he did. He said he was a red-carpet photographer. “Oh, that sounds like an interesting job.” “No,” he said, “all the models are air-heads and they have nothing intelligent to say. But you sound like you would be an interesting person to get to know, is it mutual?” I had two seconds to come up with a response. “No,” I said, declining his offer...he didn't define what “get to know” meant, and I didn't ask.

Once I asked a street artist how so many people could afford to go to the fancy restaurants...she told me that very few do eat out, most of NYC works to just keep the city up and running.

Communion in the Big Apple, 17x23 2017 watercolor by Elise

I sat on the subway trains going to and from Union Square, and saw the working class fall asleep going to and from their work places. They resembled black slaves to me. They were too poor to move anywhere else, even if they wanted to.

I told one street artist, “This will be an interesting summer to look back on.” “If you can look back on it,” he replied. There was no way I wanted to make this a life-style. It was an experience for me, but for others, it was the only life they knew. They had no friends outside the city, as I did!

By mid-summer I had decided I must find a church to attend, in order to meet better people. Who was going to want to be friends with me, someone penniless, selling my work on the street?


Finding Redeemer Presbyterian

So I started attending different church services. There were a lot of contemporary services, with words on a screen and loud, rock music. I went to five or six places without desiring to go back to a second service.

It took me a long time to find an atmosphere I liked – the traditional service which was then held at Redeemer Presbyterian West at 64th and Central Park West.

They had a small symphonic group of musicians playing every Sunday!! I loved the music, which accompanied old hymns, and it often brought me tears of joy and relief, it was so beautiful. 

I looked forward to the sermons every week, saved my notes, and I often felt they were written especially for me. One in particular was on Isaiah 42:3, "A bruised reed shall he not break..." That "bruised reed" was me in NYC. I was very bruised from all that had occurred surrounding the loss of our home, and in need of His kindness.

I sang in the Redeemer choir on one occasion, hitting high G with great volume and joy, and am still receiving the Voices of Redeemer emails, nine years later, because I hope to one day sing with them again!

I also joined a Redeemer film-making group, wanting to learn about a different style of artistry, and helped out on a 24-hour film project. Film is such a difficult medium!

I also joined a few evening bible studies. I didn't really have much free time for socializing, because I was working too much to stay alive. 

The community bible studies through Redeemer were wonderful because they opened up time each week to get to know others more personally than just attending a short church service.

A Potential Job Offer

In September, a man stopped at my table on a Friday and remarked that I did good work. His name was Richard, and he was a high-end house painter. He showed me photos of the painting jobs on his cell phone, and said he was looking for someone to paint frescoes and murals for his Long Island house painting jobs.

I was glad to speak with him, for I knew winter was coming. I had been praying about finding an indoor job. He asked if I could go to dinner with him that night. “I don't really go places alone, or date,” I said. “Well, I'm meeting a friend, my best friend, so it would be a three-some.” Because I saw him respect what I had told him, I told him I could make it.

I went uptown, dropped off my table and paintings, and returned to Union Square an hour later, joining him and his friend at a restaurant on Union Square. We ate and talked. Richard must have had around six beers and no food – he had finished a big job and was celebrating.

At 11 PM his friend went home because he had work the next morning. I had been up since 5 AM and was very over-tired. I should have gone home, but I decided it would be safe to stay out. 

Richard went to a bar nearby and asked what I wanted. “I'll have a hot water with lemon, please.” “No, please drink with me,” he said. “I'll have a hot water with lemon,” I again firmly told the server. We went to another disco place and I couldn't see or hear. Then a third place.

At 3 AM I was still recounting to him very sorrowful life stories, and he said, “What can we do to make you happy?”

I was in the process of grieving the loss of our home, where I had lived for thirty long years. Pearl S. Buck, who lost her home very suddenly in 1927's Nanking Incident in China, said in her autobiography, My Several Worlds, "Anyone who has lost all his habitual environment by sudden violence will know what I mean, and those who have not, cannot possibly understand, and so there is no use in trying to explain." 

I could genuinely relate to what she said, about feeling "alive and free," even while losing so many possessions which were once beloved family heirlooms. Healing takes time. I was in no position, emotionally, to be courted by anyone. My grief would pass, but it would take time.

At 5 AM, after waiting for an early AM metro that never came, he put me in a cab and I went home, utterly exhausted. I had had about three tablespoons of beer.

Richard then called and invited me to go to dinner, which I declined. He had told me his philosophy, which was, “Christ suffered so we don’t have to suffer.” This is not a Biblical view. And, if someone didn’t know a lot about suffering, they would certainly never be able to understand my life.

That was the closest I got to a date in NYC. A business meeting that turned into a night talking at a bar. A job painting frescoes never materialized. It would have been fun to work with others, for working by myself gets very old sometimes.

Fall – Further Testing

Carl, Helen’s husband, sadly died late that October, and their son and his girlfriend picked me up so I could ride up to the coast of Maine to attend his funeral. I was glad to see my family again and walk the rocky beaches with my little niece!

I also went back to Vermont in November, to attend a counseling course, leaving my brand new $750 gift computer on the NYC subway by mistake, on the way there. I was carrying literally around 150 pounds of luggage on my shoulders and wasn't thinking all that well as a result. I thought it would “save me $20” by not taking a taxi to the Amtrak station...I was wrong. Ironically, it was because I was giving a dollar to an artist soliciting funds on the subway that I lost the computer. I had taken my computer strap off my shoulder to get the dollar, and forgotten to pick it back up. I was distraught. I never left things just happened that day.

Losing that computer was a huge hit. Losing my home, summer clothing, shoes, possessions, camera and computer – all in one year!!! I never saw that computer again, but I was in the right frame of mind to receive counsel.

That fall, payment finally arrived from the job I’d done in Virginia, and this was perfect timing. I needed $400 to frame my doe deer painting, because it had been accepted by Redeemer Presbyterian for an art exhibit at their main offices. 

My doe deer represented fifty hours of work spaced over six weeks just painting her – not including getting the piece matted and framed. 

I remember standing next to the painting at the exhibit reception and hearing the commentary. “Oh, that’s a paint-by-number” one young viewer said, who obviously knew very little about painting and didn’t appreciate high detail. Then another artist from the show stood in front of my deer. “This is the best piece in the entire show!” he enthusiastically declared. As an artist, he could more accurately imagine the large effort behind the work. I was very grateful to have my work displayed at Redeemer.

Christine Receives Christ

One of my street artist friends, Christine, came to my apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving that year. I'd had a very good previous Saturday, making $200, so I could afford to buy holiday food.

Christine and I shared the same birthday, although she was exactly twenty years older than me, and she had insisted on being my friend for this reason, when we first met.

I could guess we'd had a pretty different life and wasn't too sure about it, but back in June, I'd agreed to be her friend. I didn't have much choice, she called me often to talk, as she was very lonely following the sudden death of her husband that Spring. I came to really appreciate her friendship.

Christine found out we had had very different backgrounds that Thanksgiving day.

I knew she’d worked as a prostitute on the streets for fourteen years, before her marriage, but she didn't know much about me. She was shocked when I shared my background, of attending church three times each week with my family, reading my bible daily, praying corporately with family, and singing hundreds of old hymns...

She had not had parents who expressed any love toward her or her siblings but I knew this before she told me about it.

Her common-law husband, George, a lamp inventor, had taken her in so she didn't have to work on the streets, selling her body. They had been together twenty years when he'd suddenly had a heart-attack and died. This forced her to sell her artwork, to pay her enormous rent on Roosevelt Island.

A very creative artist, she also knew how to sell – what to say and when not to speak.

Christine sold faux gold and silver work, which shone after dark. Just before Christmas she was selling well after the sun went down, and she kept encouraging me not to go home and rest, but to stay out for a couple more hours, after dark. But it got so cold and I was so tired. I never sold anything after dark.

Christine was perhaps one of the best reasons I went to NYC. We had a great time that Thanksgiving. If I remember correctly, I made turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry relish, sweet potatoes and green beans, and a pecan or pumpkin pie.

She prayed with me to repent of her sin and receive Christ as her Savior a couple months after Thanksgiving. “Christine, do you feel any different?” I asked her. She told me she felt lighter, and she began listening to sermons on the television, something she’d never been interested in doing before.


When it was a very cold day on the street, I'd go over to Whole Foods and ask at the coffee counter for a large hot water, and then add honey and milk to it, making a free hot drink. The staff knew who the street market artists were and they didn't mind trying to keep us warm. I learned to wear three layers of pants and four on the top. My snow pants probably saved my life.

It was difficult to be out there for hours, standing in the terrible cold in December. I remember how everyone was bustling around getting ready for the holidays, but I had no extra money for gifts and our old decorations at home were gone.

I was disconsolate and full of self-pity...until one evening, while walking through the dark, wet and snowy streets to a musical performance at Redeemer Presbyterian. A passage came to mind very strongly, which I'd memorized many years earlier.

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” ~ Philippians 3:8-10, emphasis mine

Suddenly, I was given a new perspective on loss and pain. Our Father would work even this seeming calamity out for my good and His glory.

Winter – More Answers to Prayer

On Sundays, I would leave my apartment by 8 AM, with a change of clothing in a backpack, to walk two miles each way, to attend the 9 AM church service. I was saving $5 by not taking the metro. Those were my favorite days in the city, because NYC is very silent and quiet on Sunday mornings. 

Bona, my doorman, once told me, “Elise, it is winter and you can’t walk that far in this weather!” But I replied, “Haha, Bona, it’s 30 degrees outside! In Vermont we have -20 below zero, without the windchill, and this is nothing!”

Last minute, my brother invited me home to Vermont for Christmas, and I went. A large monetary gift was given to me by a generous art mentor just before I left to return to NYC. These funds got me through the month of January.

There was a Whole Foods supermarket nearby my apartment, as well as a health food store and some other grocery shops. One cold damp day, as I went to lug spring water back to my apartment, through the snow, for drinking, I remember being watched by the men in hooded sweatshirts, who always sat around on the street edges and watched for prey, like vultures. They began to follow me, probably because I looked so vulnerable and depressed. I went quickly into Whole Foods and determined to project a much more purposeful attitude on the way back to my apartment.

I wasn't selling much of anything on the street by this time, and was struggling to keep going. There were few things I could look forward to, and I really didn’t know how to overcome my health and financial struggles. A friend hadn't come to visit, as planned, and this was also a great disappointment.

In early January, Jack called me. He lived in Cresskill, NJ and wanted to check up on me. Jack is Jessie's older brother and Jessie was my first art teacher. I'd known Jack for years and years. He was around 81 then. He was worried about me. “Every time I hear you say you're out on the street, the hair on the back of my neck rises!” he exclaimed. “Jack, I'm selling my art, not my body on the street!”

Then he asked, “How are you doing? Is your apartment warm enough?” “Yes, I'm plenty warm,” I told him, “I'm wearing shorts it's so hot in here.” “What do you weigh, he wanted to know, telling me, “I wouldn't normally ask a woman this.” “I weigh around 165 lbs, I'm eating well and I'm fine.”I replied. “Well, that sounds okay...You should come and visit me,” Jack said. So I went.

I was thinking about my life and grieving, wondering about how to get through the immediate future while on the metro heading north. What am I going to do? I mumbled to myself.

The train was going toward the George Washington Bridge and because this way was unfamiliar, I went one stop too far. I got off the train to change directions and heard the sweet tones of a black trumpet player, busking.

He was playing an old hymn and his music rang gloriously through the metro platform. The words of his song came to mind, “Ask the Savior to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you, He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.”

I knew that once again, the Holy Spirit was there with me, hearing my cry, caring and watching over me. I could trust Him.

My tears fell as I put a few dollars in the busker's trumpet case, “I was really blessed by your song,” I told him softly, and he nodded, his eyes closed, as he continued to praise God on his trumpet.

I doubt anyone else knew the words to that song that day – just me and him. I got back on the train going south, glad I'd gone that “extra” stop north.


Now one of my wisdom teeth became badly infected. The pounding pain seemed to worsen each month. It needed to be dealt with. I was paying $140 each month for utilities at the apartment, and around $200 monthly for my food, but not the $2,200/month rent. I talked a dentist down from $300 to $100 to pull my tooth. But the shock and fear of having it extracted took a toll on my health.

I couldn't walk two city blocks without feeling exhausted after that tooth was pulled. I spent several days in January lying in bed, trying to rest and heal. Later, a doctor told me the infection was probably going to the brain, and I'd done the right thing to have it pulled when I did. I'm sure the cold weather on the street didn't help at all.

One day, a street-artist photographer-friend gave me his old wooden display so I could hang my prints higher up. It was made of wooden 2x4's and it was too heavy for even me to carry, with everything else.

I learned while in NYC why I am the size I am – I have a large build and by now also had the strength of an ox. No one dare bother me! But this display was the “straw which broke the camel's back.”

I was straining to drag it up the subway stairs one morning, when suddenly I had a flashback to the winter I was thirteen: Our Dad was gone by then, and we were freezing cold. My mom had gone to work, leaving us at home to load the fires, cook and educate ourselves.

We had to go out into the woods every day, to pull wet, icy logs up the driveway, through the snow on sleds. Our mittens and knees were sopping wet from slipping and falling down so many times. “Daddy, daddy, why can't you come home!” we had then cried...

Somehow, those subway steps and the burden I was carrying on my back reminded me of that very hard time, many years earlier. And I felt I was done. No more street markets for me.


Making Floral Bouquets for Valentine’s Day

At the beginning of February I had very little food left, and only $1.25 to my name. I did have 100 EU as my last resort “leave the city” savings fund.

My doorman, Bona, had become a very kind friend. I told him how I'd gone up to 107th street to the floral shop, to put my name in to do delivery work for Valentine's Day. I called this shop on Wednesday, February 10th, and was assured by the woman who answered the phone that they were going to call me in to work.

But Friday arrived, and I hadn't heard anything. I called that shop at least twice, and had gone to see them. Bona told me, “Call them again, Elise.” “But I've already called them! Twice!” I protested. “This is New York City, people get distracted and busy, you must call them again,” he urged me.

So I called them again.“Oh, honey, you haven't been put on the schedule? Well, come in tomorrow morning at 9:30,” I was told. I was there on time and they gave me a few bunches of flowers to take out on foot and by subway. 

I'd worked for fifteen years in Vermont, doing floral deliveries by car on special occasions for the local shop. It felt a bit dreary, wandering down the sidewalk, finding addresses by myself. I was told to bring ID the next time I went to one high-rise downtown.

When I got back to the flower shop, the owner, Sal, exclaimed, “You're a waste on the streets, I'm going to have you stand next to me and do designs!” 

Wow! I had always wanted to create floral designs, but the florist in Vermont was very stuffy, highly educated in the business, and wouldn't let me touch his stems. I was thrilled. 

Sal had gotten 400 orders in on the Tele-Floral machine, and didn't have enough designers to fill them. 

I stood in one place at the counter for hours and made up a lot of orders. I had to ask for a sharper knife. They glanced at each other, wondering if I would cut myself. I can handle a knife. I made up several $150 bouquets of roses and Sal showed me how to shape them slightly.

The next day, on Valentine's Day itself, I took orders from the shop customers who came in to select loose stems from the refrigerator. I had a blast, it was SO much fun working with a team!

Sal told me every time he would eat a sandwich he'd think of me, with my $1.25, which I'd explained to him was all I had left. Sal asking me work for him was another answer to prayer.

I met an old friend later that evening, and she gave me a check for over $200. She said God had told her to give it to me. It was unexpected. Suddenly I went from $1.25 to over $400!

A Slumbering Giant Awakes, 22x30 2016 watercolor by Elise

Time to Leave NYC

After this weekend I went back to Vermont, mainly to see my chiropractor about my wounded cranium, and then wound up staying to help my mother on an important project, going to Maine to have another adventure.

Then, on Easter Sunday, Helen’s son texted that he’d found someone to live in the apartment, and I'd need to move out of NYC soon. I returned and packed and left the city.

I had come through my year unscathed and stronger than ever, in many ways, although with some adrenal fatigue, too. I was no longer afraid of being in a big city by myself. I had learned more about sales and made a lot of artist friends, too.

Christine went Home to heaven, after a long second round of lethal cancer treatments in 2013. If for no other reason, I believe I went to NYC for Christine’s eternal security.

Your painting and praying friend, with love,

P. S. Those who follow Christ are not merely insured or even assured His help; the people of the Living Yah are ensured by His faithfulness! 

These are the verses I added to my doe deer painting, Ensured by Faithfulness:

"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."

~ Psalm 50:10-15

This is Psalm 23, which is on my Stuart, Dwelling Securely, Forever painting:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

The Virtuous Grapevine Song - part of the original CF!E curriculum

1. You've heard tales of a beautiful garden/That shelters a beautiful vine/It drinks from the river, which flow through the vale/And turns to the sun as it shines!


But oh, do you know, of the good things that come/When the gardener sharpens his shears?/The pruning seems painful, but all will rejoice/When the harvest of plenty appears/When the harvest of plenty appears.

2. All the branches grow longer and taller/From the strength of the life-giving roots/And the flourishing leaves pull aside to reveal/The clusters of wonderful fruit!

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