First we were served a brunch and then went into the packed chapel to hear the keynote speaker Liz Lemon Swindle speak about her amazing world renowed LDS art pieces. I have been a big fan of hers for many years and so I was really looking forward to this meeting. But I was also looking forward the less well known speaker Sister Sheena Joyce who is the Utah Mission President's wife. My good friend Bonnie told me what an incredible speaker she was after she heard her speak at a local baptism for an 18 year old man in our community. I was very impressed with her and the love and sweetness that just oozed from her every word. She is from Scotland and her accent was so charming.
Her main message was that we are all of value and of great worth.
She spoke about how every single person is loved by the Savior no matter what they have done or not done with their life. She talked how we are all daughters of God and that for that reason alone we are of great value. We ARE of great worth because we come from a Father in heaven who is a God. Each of us literally is a child of God. Her testimony was so strong about the power of the atonement and how it is not only for the sins we have committed, but for all the hard things we go through...our sicknesses, our infirmities, our temptations, our trials and tribulations, all which have already been suffered by the Savior as part of the atonement.
One of the main things that I want to remember from her message was a mantra she lives by in her life which is...Hallelujah Anyway!!! I just love that! Isn't that the truth? Life is going to be hard and we are going to have to suffer at times and we will make many mistakes along the way, BUT...there is also so much to be grateful for! We can still rejoice in life even when it gets us down. Hallelujah Anyway is my new mantra! She gave us all permission to use it if we want!
She is an extremely gifted and talented artist and we were so privileged to get the opportunity to hear her testimony of the gospel and of the Savior. Her words were so touching of how she has come to know the Savior through her talent of painting him. She said she must really study His life in order to know how to portray Him in her paintings. She brought many of her original works to display and I was just in awe at how true to life she is able to draw and paint Him. She gave us some background on some of her paintings and there was one in particular that I wanted to know the story behind. I had never seen it and unfortunately she didn't share the background on it. It is called simply Mother. I wasn't sure why at the time, but this piece really spoke to me.
This is the painting.
Here is a close up of it.
I really wanted to know the background to this one and so Audrey asked the friend that came and introduced her. He told us that she was inspired to paint this particular piece because she has a son that is 6 ' 6", and he often will come up from behind her and wrap his arms around her in a loving embrace as the Savior is doing in this picture to His mother Mary. She thought how much the Savior loved His dear mother and she was able to capture a simple gesture between them in this intimate portrait of Him and His beloved mother. This represents the week before He was to die, which He knew, but she did not. You can see the pain in His face as He is embracing her for what He knows will be one of the last times while on this earth.
As her friend was relating the background to us, I had tears welling up ready to spill over because it touched me so deeply as the sweet and tender memories I have of my own son before he passed away began to resurface. As I glanced over at Audrey, I could tell she was feeling the same thing I was.
Here are a few more of my favorite paintings by her.
She Shall Bring Forth a Son
Let the Children Come
Worth of A Soul
The picture above titled Worth of a Soul is also one of my favorites because I met the man that was the model for the Savior in this one. Last year when I attended BYU Education Week, I sat right by him (totally unbeknownest to me) in a class that he had come to because the speaker was one of the founders for Mothers Without Borders and he did a shoot in Africa along with them and Liz Lemon Swindle. I was taken back by how much he resembled the Savior not only in appearance but also in his mannerisms. As I struck up a conversation with him, as I often do when at Ed Week with those I sit by, he was so soft spoken and so kind. As we were talking, in walks Liz Lemon Swindle (also unbeknownest to me.) She walked over to him and they started to converse about the Africa trip. His name is Philip Miner and I learned what an amazing experience they had while there. If you are interested in that story go here.
These are photos of him while in Africa. The little boy he is holding is named Kennedy and he wanted to just be held by him. How could anyone resist him? His mother and father had both recently died from Aids. He is also the little one in the painting above.
She told the story of how many of these children are orphans as well as HIV positive. When they saw Philip, they really thought he was the Savior. The link above tells more about that too.
This is Philip and his wife, whom he met while on the Africa shoot, talking to Liz Lemon Swindle.
I think we all came away from that meeting feeling so uplifted and inspired. At least I know I did.
The video clip below is the song we sang. Sorry, it's not US singing, but at least you can hear what an incredible song it is! Remember to hit pause on my playlist first!
And BTW...if you are reading after the posted date, be sure and go to my music playlist (scroll to the bottom of my blog) and click on the song Hallelujahs by Kenneth Cope. It's so beautiful and goes great with this post!!!!