SURPRISE: An Animal of the Year? Yes

Already my quote of the year has been active: “Plan to be surprised.” from the movie Dan in Real Life. This week I am surprised I am sharing with you about my animal of the year instead of my word of the year. I will share the word next week – at least that is my plan 🙂

Why an animal? Sometimes I miss the obvious, and have just realized that after many unusual encounters with animals over the years, there may be seasons where God speaks to me through a particular animal or aspect of nature. Now I am thinking back over the years. For two years in a row, a particular animal appeared six times. It was unusual, and some of the encounters were very unique and direct answers to prayer. When I researched the symbolism of the animal, it helped me during the time when I was seeking my identity in Christ. Now I am more aware and noting the spiritual significance in the natural world. We are both spiritual and physical beings.

One of the most encouraging things in my life happened after five long months of grieving and darkness. I finally got the courage and faith to start an art project inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s quote, “Faith is the bird that sings while dawn is still dark.” I was like a little sparrow trying to sing in the dark, so I asked God to give me some sparrow photo reference for the painting. That Saturday, a family of a mother sparrow and three babies stayed on our patio floor all morning while I took photos through the glass window. To this day it reminds me of God’s tender care for us as individuals and that He is involved in even the little things. To God, I matter.

Another time, during a particularly stressful time of stepping out and risking, working on a difficult project that took nearly a year, hummingbirds would regularly visit. It happened only that year. They seemed to be talking to me as they hovered at eye level directly in front of my face. Sometimes the little bird seemed to scold me, sometimes encourage me to keep going, and sometimes to remind me to take a break and have some fun.

So when a deer, doe in particular, appeared twice in unique ways in November and December it caught my attention. Also, during that time I was reading through The Passion Translation of Song of Songs and had highlighted the metaphors of the deer. I wondered if and how the animal related to my word theme for 2016.

After I had finished the drawings for the Colorful Blessings coloring book, my husband and I went to the coast for a couple of days. One morning I took a long walk on the beach, praying, listening, noticing the ebb and flow of the tide, more extreme at that point when the tide is turning. I walked a long way and reached a place where I was alone on the beach, except for a lone doe walking through the shallow water of the surf, much like I was with my rubber boots. It wasn’t something I had seen in all my years of walking on the beach. It walked out of the surf onto the sand and stood still for a very long time. We looked at each other before it sprang into action and disappeared into the woods. I asked God what it might mean. I felt Him smile, “You love a mystery.” I smiled and knew I would be researching the symbolic meaning of a doe.

The deer symbolizes grace, compassion, gentleness and natural beauty. It is free. The doe has feminine qualities and independence, alertness and energy. The deer uses gentleness to lead and guide through love and understanding. Wisdom and innocence. In the Song of Songs deer and gazelle are symbols of the joys of love.

“As the deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?”
Psalm 42:1 NRSV
As this year begins to unfold, I will be sharing my journey into deeper meaning of my word and with God. What is God giving you to focus on and look forward to in 2016? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.
A Brief Description of my Art Process and Materials used:
– I sketched one deer from my photos lightly with pencil directly onto the watercolor paper of my journal page. Then I traced over it with a size S black Faber-Castell Pitt Pen. The other one, I sketched onto deli sandwich paper and then traced over it onto the journal page using graphite paper face down between the drawing and the journal.
– Then I traced over the transferred line with a size S black Faber-Castell Pitt Pen. I went on to write and draw borders in pencil, designing as I went along.
– Then I traced over my lines with a Pitt pen. I added doodles and designs with Pitt pens.
– After I was finished I erased the lines with a kneaded eraser.
– Then I brushed a coat of matte medium over the pages and let dry.
– I used a Royal Soft-Grip round brushes to paint the fluid acrylics
– The colors of fluid acrylics I used are: Phthalo Turquoise, Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, Paynes Gray, Raw Umber, Sap Green, Dioxazine Purple, Napthol Red Light, and Iridescent Gold Fine Bright. Both Golden and DecoArt Media Fluid acrylics work well.

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  1. Valerie, I, too love a mystery and am waiting with great anticipation for your word of the year. I just discovered your art and blog recently and I am so inspired by your art and your words. Your openness to hearing God speak through His creation is wonderful. As for your art, your use of color, shading, lettering and layout is always a treat for me to see. I just love your animal of the year post! I hope someday to be able to take one of your workshops! Thanks so much!

  2. A beautiful post and lovely thoughts Valerie. Your reflection reminds me of First Nation spirituality which many Christians, particularly Eco- feminists are embracing, where we recognise the world belongs to God also and that our oppression of the earth instead of our care and stewardship is contrary to God's will. God can speak to us in so many ways. Thank you for your insights.

  3. Workshops? I don't suppose you will be in the Pacific Northwest anytime soon? That would be so much fun. Love your post and the idea of an animal for the year. I especially love how you link your creativity to Scripture. Awesome.

  4. Dear Valerie,,,,I am so grateful you share with us like this. It is very inspiring and motivating. I heard a snippet of a Christian radio program the other day when driving. This teacher was saying we need to look for miracles. How everyone saw apples drop from trees but it took Isaac Newton to see gravity at work. And everyone saw a lid bobble around on top of a boiling pot, but it took –oh, who was that? well, one guy to see the potential to build a steam engine. I like "prepare to be surprised". It makes me want to keep my eyes and ears open! xox Sandy

  5. Thank you Sandy. We are in sync. I've been thinking about these things a lot lately, that God is always showing us new things to discover when we are open and aware of His presence, watching for His revelation.

  6. Valerie~
    We are so kindred hearted. In discovering your blog a few years back, I feel I've discovered a sister. I too wait every year as the Holy Spirit gives me a word. Last year it was Thrive. I'm still waiting for this year's word. I found it interesting that you've also been given an animal. Love the Passion Translation & the deer & Sing of Songs is perfect! Thanks for sharing your life, walk & art (especially thankful for product lists).
    Blessed to "know" you! Deb

  7. Hi Valerie. Your work is so beautiful. Do you have a class that deals with the application of the fluid acrylics, or can you recommend where I can learn? Thank you.

  8. Sharon, Yes, I use fluid acrylics in my online art journaling classes. The two classes that specifically teach application are the "Beautiful Backgrounds" class that goes over various types of backgrounds. The "Lettering & Doodling Hope" class goes over how I do lettering and doodling in an art journal made out of a sheet of watercolor paper, and how to paint them. You can click on the link near the top of my sidebar that says, Online Art Journaling Workshops. Here is the web address: Blessings, Valerie

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