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After I posted Christmas at the Caravan, I received the following comment about the bird painting I did for my mom’s Christmas present:

jenna @ dearest love asked:

That painting is beautiful!! I’m so crazy about hot air balloons. What is the inspiration behind it? I’d love to know! It looks like you and your family had a wonderful Christmas!
Thanks for linking up with the coffee date!!

Well, Jenna, I’m very glad you asked because the inspiration behind the painting is very special to me.

I guess you could say it all began when I saw this illustration by Marc Johns about three years ago:

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“After years of flapping his wings, Jeffrey was fed up and decided to try something else.”

Birds are supposed to fly. I mean, it’s their purpose. Why would the bird give up on flying and travel by hot air balloon instead?

Believe it or not, I can relate to the bird. As a person who struggles with perfectionism, there have been moments when I’ve had to give up, like poor little Jeffrey. And I’ve hated those moments because they remind me I am weak and incapable of fulfilling my purpose without God’s help.

I know this was probably not the artist’s intention, but as soon as I saw this picture, I immediately drew a parallel between God and the hot air balloon. I felt like Jeffrey, a burnt-out bird resting in the safety and care of my Lord and Savior.

I often waste my time trying to resist God’s help (hence the years of flapping my wings), but eventually, I have to give up. Like the Bible says, you and I can’t do anything right without God’s help. When I get tired of striving for perfection, I have to try something else. I have to let God be the One who carries me.

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I started my mom’s painting with a starry, galaxy background. I know that birds don’t live in space, but I wanted to give the sense of a dream-like world full of hope, imagination, and endless possibilities- just like our God.

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With the background done, I painted, not one bird, but five.

The first bird (seen in the top, left corner) is the dove we found injured in our backyard several years ago. My family took care of her until they felt like she was completely healed and ready to be on her own. When they released her, she wouldn’t leave. She actually came to the windows and looked inside. Whenever we went outside, she flew over to us and landed on our shoulders. My family brought her back inside as the weather grew colder. She died when she accidentally got out of her cage, and one of our dogs attacked her. The loss was devastating. We all really loved her and still do.

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The second bird (on the bottom right corner) is our cardinal. We also rescued her a few years ago when she was just a baby and still have her with us.

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The birds in the basket are the baby sparrows we rescued this past summer and then released.

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My finishing touch on the painting was to cover the edges in gold glitter.

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Just as the message of the illustration is significant to me, the birds we took care of are special to my mother. Her and my sister Joy started caring for the dove right around the time I left for college. When they were in the process of letting it go, I couldn’t help but think of how it was symbolic of how hard it was for my mom to let me go off to college.

The birds are so special to my family and I, especially my mom. The painting was a way for me to combine the story of the birds and a powerful message of God’s ability to carry us through life when we can’t fly ourselves.

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