In Awe of the Creator: Art, Life, and Beautiful Strength

I have loved art since I was a little girl.

I remember being maybe eight and standing in front of just one panel of “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum and feeling like I might begin to understand the Bigness of God. I would imagine jumping in the painting and then falling through to the water, but God lifting me up, sitting me firmly in the center of a lily pad and asking me my thoughts on life and the day.

This is the Creator I always wanted to know more about, who fascinated me to no end.

When I met Kati Kleimola I was instantly struck by the air of creativity that surrounds her. Kati is a professional artist, wife, and mom of five. She has a home studio, exhibits in juried shows, and teaches classes at local galleries.  Her Instagram is a bevy of vibrant color. Every time I look at it, I am struck with that same intimate, yet bursting-at-the-seams, feeling I experienced with Monet’s “Water Lilies.” In Kati’s work, I see Life and that is no mistake.

She tells me,

“I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and come from a family of makers and fixers. Art has always been a part of my life. Even as a child I was always painting and drawing. Capturing the world on paper has always helped
me see it better. Having a rhythmic relationship with my Creator is something that I need to function as an artist, wife, and mother. The fact that God has blessed me with so much that I don’t deserve or couldn’t imagine keeps me humble and keeps me wanting to share His beauty with the world around me.”

Kati and I have dreamed for a while now of a study that helps people learn of a Creator that isn’t far off from His creation:

One who redeems.

One who loves fully, vibrantly.

One who shows us His own handiwork in both light and dark, sunshine and shadow.

Then, when I wrote Altogether Beautiful, all I could see was imagery everywhere. Two words kept rolling in my head:

Strength & Beauty

Kati saw it too and calls it,

“The give and take of things from one extreme to another.”

How do you capture that with words on a page alone?

When I met with the team at Concordia Publishing House to dream about a vision for the study I kept trying to describe things that look like strength and beauty to me-

Pride and Prejudice, the field, ridiculously large coats, dawn, birds, cat tails, slightly unkept hair, fog, sunlight, striding toward

the pillars and steps of the St. Louis Art Museum on a sunny day, a pond and paddle-boats at its base

dark chocolate, melted, strawberries, and the taste buds to enjoy it

and Kati’s artwork.

Flowers could be just flowers on a canvas, yes, but an artist brings strength and life to them with a bold pallet, brush strokes, fine details, and the Creator working in them.

Our God brings strength and life to His world and His Word through his own large strokes of time, plans, and space. He gives color and meaning to the grey and mundane. Even the very dark is cloaked in the velvet of His purposes.

He reaches us with His Word by sharing the glory of all He has made, in order for us to understand all that He is.

Here’s just one example in Song of Songs 5:1 –

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
    I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
    I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
    I drank my wine with my milk.

What of a world without honey, a world without sweet, without spicy? We don’t have to know that world, because He gives all of it to us in plenty.

Art helps us to see this, to capture this.

Concordia Publishing saw the same thing in Kati’s art: an opportunity for us to connect to the Creator visually, while we tarried in the Word; a way for the ripeness of God’s descriptions in the Song of Songs to come off the text rather than be trapped in my words and descriptions alone.

Kati recently told me, “When I read the Song of Songs I see really stark contrasting images…Luscious life, spring time, deep colors, flowers all over the pages, animals, seasons, shapes, colors, and land features. The contrast within the descriptions is so poetic and at the same time reflects what artists have to do in shaping images with light and dark.”

Here are some pieces of her inspiration when she was working through the Song. What do you see? What stands out to you in the Biblical narrative and in Kati’s flat lay below?

So, we did it! We created a book, a Bible study that not only uses words, but uses Kati’s art alongside Scripture’s rich language and Truth to help us connect and understand a Creator who would be connected enough to Redeem us.

In Altogether Beautiful, my hope is that you’ll see vibrant life on each page, I hope. Because of God’s Word. He shines brightest, as He should. I also think you’ll see the Life He gives a little bit clearer because Kati Kleimola put brush to canvas and let us include her work.

Wait until you see the finished product.

Check out more information and get a free sample of Altogether Beautiful here.

Connect with Kati and see her pieces available here.

Where do you see strength and beauty around you in His Creation? Where do you see Life in His Word? Who helps you to see it? Share with us in the comments.

Strength, beauty, art, and Life – altogether beautiful.

My All-In Strawberry Patch: Risk and Relationships

Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.

I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.

I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.

If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.

I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.

What I should have told them was:

“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”

Let me explain.

I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”

Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.

But you know what…

Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.

I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.

Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.

And so I planted a strawberry patch.

I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.

It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.

Look at this bounty –


Then, God called us away.

He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:

Will they like me?

Will they want me?

When will they get tired of me?

I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work and sometimes it seems that finding other people who want to be all-in are scarce.

Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.

Give your whole heart.

Plant something.

Start something.

No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.

Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

All-in, my friends. All-in.

The Best Christmas Gift for Your Marriage

My husband entered the room one day last week and asked me this question:

“You like camo, right?”

In my mind I’m thinking,

“Hmm. That’s weird.”

And then I realize, it’s Christmas.

“I like camo, army camo, not leafy camo. No hunting camo. That’s your thing, not mine. And no camo with pink on it. That’s weird. I don’t really like color infiltrating the camo at all, maybe grey or black.”

“What about brown and camo? You like brown and camo, right?

Oh boy. I have to answer this question carefully. He has a little boy hopefulness going on and I have mixed emotions about brown and camo.

“Well, it could be cool. I’d have to see. Do you remember that camo shirt I showed you downtown last week? I like that camo.”

“Ok, good. Yes. Alright.”

Dave leaves the room, while I chuckle over my mug of tea. He’s just the cutest and I love being thought of when I don’t even know it.

There was a time when every year it was an epic decision for us whether we would buy gifts for each other. Pennies were tight, furniture was thread bare, and student loans demanded attention.

But guess what?

Pennies are still tight. Money still needs to be managed. Teenagers eat a lot of food or they die, I’m told. Coats handed down from one kid to the thirteenth at some point wear out, to my chagrin. And all the while my marriage is still there, still constant, still hollering for some attention.

Through changing seasons, locations, and attitudes, I still believe this to be true:

It’s better for your marriage to give your spouse a Christmas gift.

It’s better for your children when you give your spouse a Christmas gift.

Why? I wrote that article for the Concordia Publishing House blog. 😉 Find it here:

The Best Christmas Gift for Your Marriage

Gifts won’t solve marriage problems or wave a magic wand over the way your kids view relationships, but they are a place where I think we often ignore our marriages for other things; a place we gloss over as unimportant.

I also know I could give Biblical evidence for caring for your marriage, psychosocial evidence for what it does for your kids’ future marriages, and all that good stuff, but I can’t make money grow on trees and there’s no rules about how to best care for your marriage. So, you’ll also find some practical ideas for making your spouse feel included and thought of this Christmas season, even on the cheap.

You can hear all about my thoughts in this I Love My Shepherd Podcast Episode:

Please share some ideas of your own for others!

How have you gifted and included your spouse at Christmastime?