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My Ebenezer Series (Unabridged)

This is My Ebenezer series. A narrative of the Lord’s past, present, and future pursuit; a place of defeat, a place of lamentation, and a place of victory.


In the last year, I've struggled to put to words, let alone constrain it to paragraphs, the movements of the almighty God. After grasping for sentences that simply could not convey the gratitude and awe I held, I began my own renaissance, diving into a space of declaration and remembrance of the Lord's faithful pursuit and healing.


This series is raw and real, portraying the beautiful yet painful narrative of encounter, transformation, patience, equipping, and calling.


The seven pieces are hung in chronological order.


(1) “Depths of My Soul” details a fresh and holy encounter within brokenness and messy defeat.

“If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:8


The evening of January 28th, I sat in a small church in Oregon where the Holy Spirit struck my mind with the most vivid image of the walls of Jericho surrounding my heart. The obtrusive walls stubbornly prevented anything from going in or out. In the image, I saw the walls break, as if a dam exploded, and overwhelming overflow followed. A prophecy for what was to come.


The image of the towering walls was so evidently revealing of years of hardened layers around my heart that, unknowingly, was preventing the full experience and goodness of what the Lord longed to offer. They were discreet but felt so palpable from years of distrust, pride, unacceptance, lack of vulnerability, pain unsettled. Allowing me to be a “Christian” but not be a daughter of the King.


That night, though I know it was months, if not years, in the making, began my preparation for transformation. The Lord’s pursuit of my heart as He circled my walls.


A month later, I lay further isolated, questioning, and more broken than before. God felt a distant being; one I knew but did not belong to. But I yearned for him, and He for me. I felt a call to fast, a discipline I had never practiced before but learned that biblically, God’s people often fasted before a move of God, victory, or in brokenness. I suppose it seemed all too fitting.


For three days I fasted and prayed for clarity, for answers, for purpose, for calling, for my Jericho walls to come shattering down. Abandoned and alone, yet I could feel the march around my walls. And I made my bed in the depths of hidden pain and questions.


And as I lay broken in the messy bed I had made, the Lord met me with the most persistent pursuit, a fresh encounter unlike I have ever experienced. As if fresh wind caught my sails filling my lungs. He met me with my personal revival, miraculously shattering every wall and barrier surrounding my heart that prevented me from fully accepting, embracing, and finding peace and utter joy in his Holy and perfect relational presence. The Lord struck through my pride, revealing my brokenness and meeting me and healing me in the midst of it.


It is not until you are in the midst of the holiest being that you feel the full weight of your true brokenness and unholiness. In the moments of pure, indescribable peace and tangible presence of the Holy Lord, I realized what an absolute and undeserving gift the powerful presence of my King and Savior is. To experience His relational presence and pursuit is single handedly the greatest honor of my life – leaving me in complete and utter awe and gratitude that the Creator of the universe, the King of heaven and earth, would pursue me, surround me, and take delight in me as His daughter, that I have no other choice, no other desire, but to radically and wholeheartedly align my life fully to the Kingdom mission and the calling the Lord has placed on me and continues to equip me for.


And just as He promised, his decree came to pass. The walls fell down flat.

I prepared for the overflow.


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS



This painting details the specific evening of fresh encounter with the Lord.


The textured background details the darkness and roughness of the depths of depression and questioning. Often, whenever I include dripping paint in a piece, it symbolizes the streaming tears of sorrow, pain, aching.


The scriptures and writings were taken from old devotionals, each placed with care in a manner that reflects the almost chronological encounter with God, from bottom to top:

Desperation, yearning, contrition, devotion, transformation.

The messy bed meeting the pages symbolizes the overlap and holy touch of encounter, the Lord meeting His children where they are.


When I came across the verse from Joshua about the walls of

Jericho in the devotional, I immediately knew it would have a spot on the piece as the Lord faithfully fulfilled His promise just as much to me as He did for Joshua.


(2) With “Anew,” I wanted to depict the excruciating liberation and vulnerability of dying to your old self and being transformed from old wineskins into new.

I will never forget a revered man praying over me one evening at a church in a small Oregon town. He specifically spoke into the strange season of life I was experiencing and my unknown calling back to Portland. The Lord revealed that my time here was a specific training period. That He was working within me to shed my old wineskins and transform me to who He was calling me to be.


I had never paid much attention to the parables of the wineskins until then, but it’s always beautiful the way Jesus would teach in very practical and cultural ways. As much of the culture knew, wine vessels were made from animal leather because of the material’s ability to stretch as the wine-fermenting process required. However, old, used wineskins were already stretched and would burst if new wine tried to ferment and expand in the old vessels. When Jesus spoke of the importance of new wine skins, He was shining a light on the new things He was here to do. If anyone tried to make sense of His works through a lens of old expectations, they would miss the amazing things brimming.


The wine of the Kingdom of God is bubbling and brimming over with life. Trying to understand it with the confines of preexisting ideology will destroy it in translation. This is the importance of shedding old layers, of leaving your old self behind to fully soak up the living, powerful Word.


Interestingly, before pouring in the first amount of wine to a new vessel, the wineskin must be heated, rubbed, inflated, rinsed with water, and filled with wine for days -- which is then discarded. I feel like that process alone is testament to the journey of becoming and transforming.


My old skins were laden with old ideology of who God was. A distant being and ruler. A being I had a lot of knowledge about but lacked personal and intimate relationship with.

__


He can heal the pain no one knows about, the unresolved aches of traumas, roots, past, family, and shame. In the encounter of the Lord breaking down my heart walls, it was as if a physical flood-gate opened and released every imaginable pain and past trauma to the surface.

Excruciatingly exhausting yet indescribably liberating.


I spent the next days obsessively writing down every once-buried pain I endured, and as quickly as they came to the surface, it was as if the Lord ripped the paper off piece by piece, ignited them to ash, and miraculously healed all the shame and wounds that accompanied each one.

It’s honestly strange to describe in words, but I’m grateful God is gracious in His deliverance, providing indescribable freedom and joy in return.


Through the pressing, through the crushing, through the ripping and tearing, the Lord tore back my old skins and made me a new vessel, ready to be reshaped, trained, and equipped for all that He was calling me into. For the powerfully healed become powerful healers.


Something interesting happened when the Lord made me a new vessel. It was as if I had been wandering in the wilderness with dirty, undrinkable water by my side. Being made a new vessel was like coming up to a never ending stream of water, thirsty and desperate to fill this new vessel with the pureness and goodness that was before me. All my desires shifted and changed. A thirst that could not be satiated yet was met with completeness each time I sat with the Lord, read His words, heard from His heart.


Despite growing up culturally Christian, I had never had this desperation for more and more of the Holy Spirit. An absolute hunger that still makes my heart race with each encounter.


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS


I struggled the most finding a way to symbolize the transformation of old to new wineskins in a way that evoked the raw emotion attributed to that process of becoming.


I wanted the piece to portray the excruciating liberation of dying to your old self, being released of old baggage, shame, and pain. It is not pretty or glamorous, and the piece reflects that.


There were stages of my transformation that felt like palpable layers being physically torn from me. I wanted to give this piece physical depth, ripping away a distressed layer to reveal a new one. I created worn-leather from tattered and crinkled paper. Distressing, sanding, and tearing the pages to mimic that personal transformation and represent the tearing away of old wineskins. Creating drips of wine through oil paint, hot glue, and a final coat of modge-podge for shine.


Writings detailing the process of becoming are hidden throughout the layers, and the papers’ edges are singed in tribute to the way it felt like the Lord ripped off my old pain piece by piece like paper, igniting them to ash, and delivering me in that healing.


(3) “Shadows of Was” was painted in heartbreak. A reminder that new growth does not come without intimate pruning. I found healing in the permission and space of woeful reminiscence of past blooms while still finding gratitude and joy for all that lies ahead.


Painting of pruned rose bush

The shadow of what was is both haunting and hopeful.

A reminder that the forward movement is not earned without sorrows of lost branches. In the pruning process, you are reminded, sometimes daily, of the blooms of last season. The beautiful buds that burst into color when the time was right. You recall the ones that died, the pain of pruning, and the life you watched wither away knowing it was woefully necessary. In the intimate pruning process, the Gardener is not left unscathed, taking on the pain of pricks as each thorn and limb is sheared. Yet He continues to fulfill the duty, knowing the temporary pain paves way for the abundant life ahead.


And in the longing and preparation of the next blooms, you brutally prune. Prune back everything that no longer gives life and growth to make way for the coming season. Yet still, fondly or painfully, you will be reminded of what was, who was. Chapters and seasons beckoning your nostalgia. Each shadow was love learned and lessons studied, community built and plans derailed. But these shadows, having made the roots deeper and canes stronger, were not in vain. And the vibrancy that now decorate those once barren limbs promise abundance ahead.

_____


I’ve often struggled to give my heart grace to grieve. Avoiding negative emotions as if it were a slap in the face of discontentment with God. But in understanding more and more the beautiful attributes of God, it allowed me to understand, being made in His image and likeness, that emotions from sadness to righteous anger to grief to beautiful joy and dancing are valid, welcome even, as they reflect my Creator and who He made us to be.


Healing has no timeline or blueprint, a reminder I continue to grace myself with. But active healing is liberating and vital for new growth ahead.


This piece can relate to a lot of life and loss, but it’s a beautiful reminder that it’s okay to grieve lost expectations, plans, people, and seasons while still being content and grateful for what the Lord is doing.


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS


I painted this piece pining the loss of a person, a place, and a community. The painting was therapeutic for me, giving me time and space to grieve and process the pruning but look forward to the abundant growth ahead.


I’ve always been fascinated with roses, even more so after moving to a city of never ending rose bushes. I also associate roses with special events or people in my life. So it seemed all too fitting to portray a rose bush for this piece.


This piece was painted in heartbreak as I gave myself permission to feel the pain of the loss of something beautiful.


The shadows can be interpreted in two ways: hope of forecast, or the way I see them, the shadows of what once was.


I followed the cuts of the bush to interpret where the shadows would have fallen in the bush’s last bloom. I painted the shadows of both buds and roses in full bloom, from branches that seemed pruned too soon or just on time.

Though a mistake at first, I decided to leave my pencil marks of the first round of shadows I drew. As if to leave the ghost of shadows still lingering from seasons ago.


I loved the painful detail in the trimmed bush, the thorns, and the vibrant growth, allowing the focal point to be on the growth bursting ahead.


(4)“Waiting in the Wheat” comes from an image from God of being expectant but present as He readies me for His call.


In the beautifully redemptive refining process that the Lord was training me through this past year, I could not help but feel overwhelmed for what was being stirred up and prepared within me. As if the puzzle pieces of years of work were weaving together to reveal the long-awaited picture.


In my anxious perplexion, the Holy Spirit met me with the most vivid image the morning of April 9th. I was bowed down in a field of wheat at the feet of Jesus, His face blacked out as if I were staring directly at the sun. I was overcome with the

greatest sense of peace in knowing that the Lord was waiting in the wheat with me. He was with me in the preparation, weeding, pruning, and sowing, and He will be right there in the harvest.


I then thought about the Gospel miracle of feeding the five thousand, one of the most told miracles of Jesus. But in this narrative, we so often neglect to acknowledge the preparation process that began long before the bread was broken. The wheat that was planted and sown, tended to and harvested, crushed to a powder, and then baked to its purpose. You see, the patient preparation process is often where the Lord does His most crucial heart work. Sowing seeds and giving life and nutrients to properly equip the soil.


Poised, expectant, and anxious for what was to come, I eagerly waited for the harvest when the fields were just beginning.


For me, the call was to be presently patient. Expectant and eager for what is promised, but present and steady in the preparation. Making home, to whatever extent that means, in the growing wheat fields where He has planted and called me.


And maybe your wheat field looks more like wilderness. Barren and desolate. The God of both deliverance and inheritance is waiting in the wilderness just the same, eager to bring you into the harvest He has already fulfilled.


Lord, I don't want to rush on ahead. I'm not in a hurry when it comes to Your spirit, when it comes to Your presence, when it comes to Your voice. I'm learning to listen, just to rest in Your nearness. I'm starting to notice you are speaking.” – Will Reagan, “Not in a Hurry”


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS


We often get frustrated, confused, or begin to question God’s plan when we are left idling in the in-between. This was a reminder to me to be present and patient as the Lord equips the fields for harvest.


The wheat field was inspired by the image I had of resting at Jesus’ feet in freshly planted fields.


I painted the chair I purchased for $5 at Goodwill the day I moved into my new house in Portland. As silly as it seems, purchasing furniture felt like I was finally giving into the Lord’s call to be here in Portland. I was stepping into that obedience to be present and make home where He had placed me, as difficult as it was.


The lamp was a last minute addition from a lamp I came across in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats. A small tribute to the solo cross-country journey that got me to these fields. But the chair and lamp together made it seem more like a home for these fields.


After finishing the piece and showing it to a friend, he mentioned how he loved the way the light was peeking just below the mountain. As if the fields themselves patiently yet eagerly awaited the sun’s approaching touch. While not intended at first, that’s my favorite part about art.


(5) “Equip Me” depicts the way I have continually related with my Creator -- being clay in His hands as he has molded and shaped me. However, as the Lord has pursued me, trained me, and guided me this last year, I feel a pull to step towards His new call to be co-creators with Him.

The analogy of the Potter and the clay is one that has always resonated with me as a creator. For so long, I have seen myself as the clay in the Master’s hands. Molded and made with tender attention in the process. Shaped with firmness and purpose.


But in this last year, the Lord revealed His readiness to take my hands, to guide me, to teach me, to train me. He has readied me and equipped me to come alongside Him as a creator made in His likeness. To step into the full manifestation of who He has made me to be.

A disciple and a teacher. A creator of soul stories.


Oh Potter,

I am your clay, your creation,

Your apprentice, formed in your likeness.

Make me and mold me.

Leave your lasting fingerprints in every being

of the vessel you have made me to be.

Interlock your fingers with mine. Equip me.

Guide my humbled hands, Oh God,

that I may create with you.


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS


This piece is perhaps my favorite as I relate to it the most as a creator.


In my art residency this Spring, I learned what it meant to throw pottery. The firm, steadfast, and delicate pressure required and the process of kneading, molding, throwing, pinching, shaping, scraping, grasping, and pressing was all so intriguing to me. It’s no wonder we are referred to as clay in the Potter’s hands as “becoming” feels much like that process.


In the piece, I wanted to depict my hands, or that of a child, surrounded by large, fatherly hands coming from the shadows. The four hands intertwined together to co-create.

I wanted the hands to be beautifully dirty in action, signifying my child-like eagerness and messiness to create.


(6) “Here and Now” was painted when I was baptized this year. An ode to the Holy waters of baptism, but also a reminder in the times I felt overwhelmed by the Lord’s great call, that your individual drop of impact begins here and now, exactly where the Lord has placed you. In steps of obedience, He will diligently carry out the ripple effect to a degree far more than we could ask or imagine.

Seeing the unquestionable hands of God at work in my life left me eager yet overwhelmed with the greatness of the larger picture. Flooded with feelings of inadequacy but called, nonetheless, to faithful obedience; trusting that the Lord will use me and equip me simply as His vessel,

a conduit for His kingdom work.


Let this piece be a reminder to you as much as it is to me, that the Lord has placed you exactly where you are. Equipping you through the Holy Spirit for the purpose He has called you to. To be an epicenter of His impact where you are. Leave it to God to diligently carry out the ripple effect to a degree far more than what we can ask or imagine. As His living water is poured into us in steps of obedience towards Him, the overflow of our hearts pours into those around us.


The Lord will carry out the ripple effect, so do not be overwhelmed when all you can do is start exactly where the Lord has placed you, here and now.


Perhaps you have been waiting. Waiting for the right tools, the “perfect timing,” the alignment of “signs” (whatever that means) before you discover and/or step into purposeful work. The Lord has faithfully reminded me that He is the tool and the timing; it is through Him and Him alone that we are made ready.


I am reminded of Joshua 3-4. And I encourage you to read it for yourself. It details a story of profuse trust as the Lord delivers a nation to a land of inheritance. Joshua 3 tells of God calling Joshua and the leaders to obedience to take the first steps into the Jordan river before He would split it. “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.” And so they did.


Before the river was split and the path was made clear, they stepped expectantly and with great faith into what the Lord called them to.


And just as He had done it before, He did it once more.

Splitting the river and revealing the path for His people to walk on dry ground. . . again.

Some of us need to hear that.


What are the waters you have been called into?


In teaching, in sales, in music, in IT, in art, as a bus driver, as a CEO, a pastor, an admin assistant, a parent, a photographer, a student, a counselor, a janitor, a baker, a

barista?


To His people, I hear the Lord saying, “You are exactly where I have placed you and for which I have done my work on you. Now begin your work.”


While there is a time and season for waiting on the Lord’s specific calls, there is also a beautiful honor in stepping in faith in spaces He has already planted you. To begin your ministry at your very own table. Drop by drop, here and now.


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS


Though this piece is at the end of the series, it was the first one I painted -- not knowing it would fit perfectly into the fuller picture.


I painted this piece when I was preparing for baptism at the end of April. A way of both processing what He had done and commemorating the beautiful steps that were about to be taken.


I felt overwhelmed with goodness during the time I painted this piece. Eager but overwhelmed. There was peace in this mildly mundane water drop picture. It was restful to paint as I tried my hand at the new oil paints I had.


The Lord was creating such overflow in my heart, yet I did not know where to channel it except drop by drop. Picking up my paintbrush felt like a step towards those drops.


It was simple yet personally powerful.

A piece I love in its complex simplicity.


(7) Lastly, I felt the series would not be complete without a seventh piece, for which I have left blank; primed with purpose.

I felt that the series would not be finished without a seventh piece, the number of completion, for which I have left blank -- primed with purpose.


The six prior pieces narrate the past and present pursuit from the Lord, but I was reminded that it is just beginning. This past year has primed me in every corner. Washing me white, sanding me down, preparing me for what the Lord is doing.


Despite burning eagerness, we often fight lies and fears of insufficiency and inadequacy, yet still, the Lord faithfully pursues, prepares, and calls. I am continually reminded of Moses’ fears and excuses, “Who am I that I should go?” (Exodus 3).


But praise God that we are but His vessels as He mercifully and faithfully reminds us “I will be with you.”


The poem on the piece is:


“Primed”


The empty daunts as my blank stares back.

Longing potential seeping at my woven pores. Stretched and bare.

Bareskin lures promise; vulnerable yet poised. Raw.

Raw palettes eager to be pervaded with pigments.

Is it fire or fear?


Flooded with inadequacy, insufficiency. I’m not ready for these colors.

Yet still, you prime with gentle strokes, sand me down to your likeness. Painful.

Painfully you shape me in my desolation. Peacefully you stroke me, prepare me.

“One more layer,” fear begs.

Barren bristles stir the hues for the story I’ll tell.

Tell the critic, the connoisseur, O Creator.

Captivate my fire, thin my fear.

Overflow these craving corners,

Primed for your purpose.


ABOUT THE PAINTING PROCESS


I primed a canvas I had already painted on. That alone felt a tribute to a new life washed white, blank with purpose. At the last minute, I decided I wanted to include a poem from a

typewriter. A more intimate writing process that challenged me to pause for each letter as I felt the punch of each word.


This series is that for me. A challenge to pause in gratitude to remember what the Lord has done and encouragement for all that is yet to come.


So “Here I am.” Primed, ready for these corners to be filled with abundant hues beyond measure. Not for my gain and glory, but His and His alone.


This is My Ebenezer, my stone of remembrance for generations to come.


My prayer is that elements of this series will resonate deeply and uniquely with individuals that come to soak in the goodness of God's reminders. That it would stir up questions, desire, longing, peace, healing, and hope.


The Lord is so good. It is a privilege to cultivate a space to share these pieces with all who come. All glory to Jesus.


If you have questions or would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to reach out here or DM me on instagram (@juliaalexis.art).

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