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Keeping her last name wasn’t the main reason Kelli decided to marry John (they already shared the name Ellis), but it was certainly a nice bonus in a relationship with an already amazing man. Kelli first saw John on one of the fitness guru’s commercials when she was wanting to get in shape for a TV appearance. Kelli knew she had to meet John, so she decided to join his gym and attend one of his classes. He wasn’t there the day she went, but in his typical, enthusiastic style, John called her the same day and they met for lunch…a “lunch” that lasted four hours. Not a bad first “date” if you ask me.

They realized their parents had gone to the same high school and they grew up only an hour away from each other. They’re also both left-handed and both had former dreams of becoming a geologist. The instant connection and its refusal to fade over time is why Kelli calls John her soul mate. After dating for two years, they got married, and their love and appreciation for each other has only grown since then. Kelli loves John’s affection, generosity, and that his life is dedicated to healing and sharing. He wants everyone to succeed and be happy.

Their piece incorporates crushed pearl and crushed red coral and sand from Joshua Tree National Park (a beautiful area near the place where I met Kelli and John). John’s words from The Compass, “share your wisdom” and Kelli’s feelings, “I love when he holds my hand” are embedded in the composition to mirror the purpose and devotion in their life together. 

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Commissioned painting for Pieter and Carol VanWarde

Twenty years is a long time to stay committed, especially to an entire group of people. But for the members of Woodcrest Chapel, the past two decades have been filled with love and excitement because a special family committed to them. Pieter is the senior pastor at Woodcrest, and anyone who’s ever been close with a leader knows that Carol’s role for the church requires at least an equal amount of sacrifice and dedication.

Piet may seem like an unlikely pastor. His rebellious spirit led him to the party scene in his younger years, but it’s a quality that helps him challenge the status quo (and one that his community members love). As a leader, he’s also passionate, creative, an excellent communicator, culturally connected, and an inspiring speaker. Carol balances his intensity perfectly. She’s contemplative, patient, and peaceful – stabilizing and supporting Piet through all of life’s complexity.

This piece is a reflection of the gratitude that overflows from the church community for Piet and Carol’s years of selfless giving. They’ve given much time and energy of course, but perhaps more importantly, the gratitude is for their role in changing people’s lives. Piet’s own spiritual story is one of transformation, and he serves his community and everyone he meets with the radical conviction that faith, service, and people can transform anyone’s life. The patrons of the piece explained to me that no one can live your experiences and completely grasp how it feels to be you. There is deep loneliness in the knowledge that only God can fully understand you, but it is the providence of God that brings us here together to share our journeys.

As I was creating this painting, I reflected on Piet and Carol’s devotion. As well as the sentiments and stories shared by members and leadership of the church. I contemplated the colors of Dutch heritage, and the colors of their home and creations. The use of crushed pearl was important to include because it symbolizes a new beginning, a change, a transformation, and our fragility and beauty through the eyes of God. The words “The Providence of God brought you here together, the Providence of God kept you here” are integrated into the painting, as well as the phrase “You turned Left,” which is a significant part of Piet’s life changing, but simple, act of turning away from a life of emptiness and into a life of God’s work.

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Commissioned Paintings for The Monnig Collection
One of my favorite things about an original piece of art is its uniqueness. You take various materials and put them together in a way that’s completely new and different. Jan is a passionate art collector and understands this aspect of art and wants to fill her home with pieces that are not only unique, but carry personal meaning for her. So when I went to Jan and John’s home, I paid close attention to their walls. When you first walk in, there’s a wall filled with photos. It holds beautiful pictures of children and grandchildren, offering insight to guests and acting as constant reminders for Jan and John of all their reasons to celebrate their life.

Yet what struck me as I observed this wall was not the joyful times they’ve had – it was the hardships. Or rather, how they’ve chosen to respond to hardships. I loved interviewing Jan and John and learning about their life together. They have had some hard times, but they’ve persevered, leaning on each other to get through difficulties. I created their painting as a tribute to all the good in their lives that exists because they always made the choice to persevere. I hope it’s now functioning as another special piece hanging on their wall, reminding them to celebrate their commitment to family, unity and perseverance. 

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In St Louis a home is forming to empower women to live free from abuse, addiction,and prostitution. Each resident wrote on the painting in their own words what they believe the future holds for them. We have partnered up to create a painting that reflects what the residents love about themselves. Read on!