Do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows. — Luke 12:7 NASB
A note from Anne: When we were in the planning stages of Entertaining Angels, I wanted to hear others’ stories. We all have them; we just need to dig deep to see God’s hand moving. I asked my social media followers for their angel stories. Amy Carlisle, being a fellow artist, had one of the stories we chose. I haven’t met Amy in person but know God has touched her heart as an artist. Enjoy this story knowing that His eye is always on the sparrow... and on you!
I come from a family of artists. My grandmother was an artist; she traveled from continent to continent, painting. My mother is an artist; she had a scholarship to college on her talent. My sister sings like an angel, and my brother is a blues singer.
I am all of these, and yet as a young woman, I never felt confident enough to pursue my gifts wholeheartedly. So I became a dental hygienist, met a Southern hunk, and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. I spat out four kids faster than lightning and loved being a stay-at-home mom, thriving in the normal joys of everyday life. One thing I always wondered, though, is why the Lord spared my life in a horrible car accident in high school. “Can’t I do something great for Your kingdom since you left me here?” I would ask Him. Mothering my children is my number one calling, but for whatever reason I knew something else was coming.
One day when my four children were little, I needed extra money so I revived my dental hygienist skills. While cleaning a woman’s teeth, she told me her kids had just been diagnosed with, and wouldn’t survive, a rare, genetic neurological disorder called Batten disease. I silently prayed over her that day. I went home and tucked my kids into bed that night and wept. I told my husband, “I think I need to try and help — maybe I should paint?” After all, God had given me this gift, which wasn’t being used. Time went by. I was so busy changing diapers and wasn’t brave enough to try.
A few years later, my husband called me with panic in his voice — our child had just had a seizure. I was scared to death and got a bone chill when asked if we had ever tested our child for Batten disease. We spent months trying to get a diagnosis. In that time at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the uplifting art decorating the walls grabbed my eyes and made me feel better in between moments of worry.
I was especially emotional one day at home while cleaning the toilets (we had a house full of boys!), and I cried out to God, “Father, what is all this for?!”
I heard in that moment, Help families. Find that mother. I knew whose voice it was, and I knew it was time for me to come out of my insecurities and give Him my gifts with all my heart. My music, my art; it all belonged to Him. I then heard, Paint!
That is how my art started. I studied my grandmother’s art sketches, and I painted my way through tears of worry for my own child and grief for the mother I had met years before. In between brushstrokes I stared at a painting that my grandmother had made of birds, and the Lord whispered, The birds of the air don’t worry. I take care of them. Paint.
I finally did what God told me to do: I found the mother whom I had prayed over many years ago. I took her the very first bird painting I ever made.
“I can’t believe it’s birds!” she said. “Do you know I had a sparrow tattooed on my wrist in honor of Milla’s life? She loved birds so much, but it’s also a reminder that God’s eyes never leave me. So I am just floored that you have a painting of birds for us.”
I was told Milla had lost her vision, but she could still hear the birds chirp.
Given how special birds were to this family, this moment was the first of many experiences God had planned where I saw Him use art as a way to bring healing and bring Himself glory.
God blew my mind, but that was just the beginning of how He would use art as a way to bring comfort. I now sell my art in galleries and interior design stores, and I send 10 percent of every piece I sell to a foundation in memory of that little girl and her sister, who is now with her in heaven. Kids are able to receive free grief therapy from this foundation, Milla’s House, in Memphis. I also send paintings in the mail to mothers who have lost their children, along with a children’s book written about Heaven.
I’ve seen God pay for shipping. I’ve seen God deliver a painting for a grieving mother I had been called to paint for but didn’t know. In this instance, a friend of mine from Austin, Texas, randomly went to a Bible study, and the mother who was to receive the painting unexpectedly sat down right next to her. When they exchanged names, I know she was surprised when my friend said, “Umm… don’t think I’m crazy, but I have a painting in my closet that is intended for you that was sent all the way from Tennessee. We just moved here.”
These stories go on and on as God continues to allow me to paint for others. The spiritual lesson He imprints on my heart each time He calls me to paint is this: don’t hide your gifts! You never know why God placed them in you. My goal is to keep high-fiving the Lord as He sells my art, leaving me the ability to keep giving to more grieving parents and to the foundations that help them. My child is seizure- free today, and we continue to be grateful for healing.
I mainly paint church scenes now, to represent healing in relationships and my love for the South. My mother painted them when I was growing up. She wanted to see diversity in the churches of the South. Her wish is coming true. I have never stopped painting bird scenes, however, always remembering Milla and her family. I send them into the world to spread the news that God’s eyes are on the sparrow, and I know He watches over us.
~ Amy Carlisle, wife, mother, and artist
Excerpted with permission from Entertaining Angels by Anne Neilson, copyright Anne Neilson.
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Luke 12:7 is a special verse to me. God says that the very hairs on our head are numbered; that’s how closely He knows and guards us! We’re more valuable than a flock of sparrows whom He watches over. What gifts has the Lord given you that you can use to express His love to others, or to worship Him with? He gave them to you for a purpose! So, use them! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full