The Painting
           Several years ago I entered an art gallery in Detroit, Michigan and instantly fell in love with a beautiful painting of a lovely woman holding a bouquet of lilies.  I had just purchased a new home and knew instantly that a painting of this magnitude was financially unrealistic and out of my price range.  I asked the art dealer how much the painting was and he quoted me a price of $1,500.  I wrote down the price and the name of the artist and thanked him for his time.
     Two years later I saw the same picture in another gallery and dared once again to ask the art dealer how much the painting was and the name of the artist.  He told me that it was now selling for $1,800; he added that this particular painting was a limited edition and that the price would increase over time.  Once again I headed out of the door with my head hanging low.  There was something special about this particular painting.  It reminded me of a time in my life when my expectations were low and my dreams were just beginning to materialize.  It was hard for me to let go of the idea that one day this beautiful painting could be mine.
     As the years went by I began seeking God on a whole new level.  I wanted to be used in anyway that he saw fit.  My role as an Officer changed day by day.  I began tapping into my spiritual intuition and that inner voice that somehow leads me through any and every situation.  I guess you can say that I slowly began to trust myself.  I also heard and believed that the Lord knows the desires of our hearts, and will reward those who are worthy and who diligently seek him.
    My daily prayer would be that the Lord would reveal what he needed me to do, whether that be to sit and listen or offer spiritual guidance to anyone who was struggling.  Jails and prisons can leave a person spiritually bankrupt over time.  Many of the individuals I come across just need a word or gesture of encouragement.  Somehow that alone can impact someone's self esteem for days or weeks.  I've come to understand over the years that by putting myself in a position to be used as a vessel, the Lord will reward me with special gifts as a reminder that he is present in my life and pleased with my obedience as a Christian.
     One day I was walking past another art gallery in Ypsilanti, Michigan and that inner voice told me to step in.  I inquired about the portrait by Charles Bibbs and Gilbert Young of the lady holding the lilies.  The art dealer led me over to her office where she began her search by using the internet.  She informed me that there were three paintings available in the United States and that one could arrive in less than three weeks.
     I instantly began thinking to myself, "What am I, crazy; I can't afford this, I'm about to start grad school and this just isn't practical."  My inner knowing kicked in and assured me that everything was going to be alright and to go ahead and order the painting.  I was reminded of the special effort that I put forth as an Officer and how I am highly favored by the Lord and how my commitment to pursue a higher education will open more doors to serve others.  Well that was enough for me, I asked the dealer how much and she told me that we could get it for $1,200.  I took a deep breath and told her that I would return shortly with a money order.
It was approximately two weeks later when the art dealer called me at home; she told me to stop by the gallery because she had something special to show me.  It turned out the artist put a special picture next to his signature which is called an artist "remark", which also adds value to the painting. 
     The miracle of this particular painting is that the woman in the painting resembles me twenty years ago.  The artist never saw a picture of me or even knows who I am.  As I write this story from my laptop and look around my family room, it is full of gifts that have shown up in my life as a reminder that I am highly favored and that God is pleased.