Strength of Woman Series, Vol. V
48" x 30" oil on canvas by Ellen H. Rice.
The Narrow Path, Strength of Woman Series, by Ellen Rice
"... Straight is the gate, and narrow the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it." -- Matthew 7:14
"Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." -- Proverbs 4:26
"Thou will show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." -- Psalm 16:11
No matter a person's age or place in life, there is an innocent, pure child within seeking the right direction to go in life.
Every day, even as young children, we are faced with countless decisions in what has become on the surface an increasingly complex world. A study several years ago came to the conclusion that the average person makes in excess of 35,000 decisions a day, from choosing what toothpaste to use to making major, life altering decisions. In truth, life is far less complex, though it's often hard to see.
I've prayed for direction in my life as far back as I can remember. The image of this painting came to me in answer to prayer at a time when I felt I was not in the "right place" but didn't know how to change it. These Strength of Woman Series paintings have always come to me in times of seeking, and I may not at first understand their meaning, but usually when the painting is completed the message I was intended to get becomes clear and I share my thoughts in writing, like here. Often others get different insights from the paintings, and it makes me happy to know a painting has reached someone in a way I hadn't seen. That means it's doing its work.
I saw The Narrow Path several months after the Great Recession hit. My sole income from a flourishing gallery that I'd started over a decade previously went to half the month the first bank fell. We'd been having a banner year, but now people had a hard time making up their minds about whether to buy a greeting card, let alone a print, and were buying $5 bookmarks to frame for holiday gifts. For the next three years, as worldwide financial uncertainty grew, sales continued to decline.
I had started over financially at age 50 after divorcing my husband. I didn't want to start over again. What now, God? He had provided then, through ideas for paintings and oddly enough, a map illustrating maritime research that miraculously drew national media recognition, gallery representation all over the country, put me on national television representing the state of Delaware on QVC's Quest for America's Best and gave me the funds to put a deposit on my house and later start my gallery.
As month after month uncertainty about meeting financial obligations grew, I'd pray, let go, pray, let go, over and over and over, month after month. All that came to me in prayer was more ideas for paintings. I had to trust that and I stayed the course.
For years I've seen people's response to my more inspirational paintings and have been in awe. It's made me acutely aware of the source of the painting ideas not being me. My work is not perfect technically, but I frequently get personal thanks, some as long letters telling how a painting has helped them or a loved one, particularly my Strength of Woman paintings. Could I give up on doing this and go back to the professional world? More painting ideas came, as did commissions and an award turned corporate commission - all just in time to pay my bills.
"Faith," the Bible says in Hebrews, "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith continued to be tested. Before the great recession let up, road construction in front of the gallery took over.
I'd been looking for a new gallery location ~ and asking God if I should close the gallery ~ for years. One day this spring after the gallery's location had been roadblocked for over three months, I told God, "If I'm meant to stay here and keep painting, I will, but You're going to have to support this gallery that was Your idea, not mine, and this career that was Your idea, not mine."
Within days, a very unexpected opportunity came to move the gallery to a new location this spring, a place so much better than I'd hoped for or thought possible.
And then, after four years of contemplating the meaning of the image of this painting it became clear. It didn't matter where I was physically, humanly. It mattered more that wherever I was and whatever I was doing was God's plan.
I don't know what lies ahead. Life is not predictable, even under the best of circumstances. But this I do know. If you pray and listen and follow what you hear in prayer, what you discern may not take you where you thought you were headed, but you will be on the right path, that "narrow path" to a spiritual life of God's making and that innocent child within will flourish as you were always meant to.