Category Archives: Devotion

Devotion Based on 2 Artworks by Mary Cassatt

In Mary Cassatt’s painting, A Young Mother Sewing, a little girl is leaning on her mother’s lap. Do you think her mother is working on a dress for her? We can imagine though, that she’d really like her mother to stop and come play.

Have you ever had to wait for an adult to finish something before helping you or playing a game? It’s hard to be patient at those times.

A second artwork by Mary Cassatt, called The Fitting, reminds me of a time like that for me.

The Fitting by Mary Cassatt, The Brooklyn Museum, public domain

When I was young one of the hardest times for me to be patient was when my mother hemmed my dresses. She began by measuring up from the floor with a wooden yardstick. I had to stand straight, with no drooping to the right or left as she placed pins at the right place. As she went round and round, checking, re-pinning, and checking again, Soon I’d start feeling wiggly, because I wanted to go play.

Have you ever had to be fitted for or shopped for clothes for a special event and thought the adults took too long? Did you feel wiggly and want to play?

Now I’m grown up, I know my mother was being careful because she loved me and wanted me to look my best. And when I look at The Fitting, I’m reminded of these verses from Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:1-5 NIV)

We are God’s children, and He uses the Bible as His yardstick to show us how to become more like Him, our loving heavenly Father.

Can you think of a time when the Bible helped you see a change you needed to make in how you treated friends or family?

Pinning is only part of the hemming process. In A Young Mother Sewing we see that hemming is done by hand and takes time and skill. It’s important not to get the stitches so tight they cause the cloth to pucker or so loose they fall out.

A Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt,1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

In the painting, I can imagine the mother laying her hand on her daughter’s head, encouraging her to be patient so the dress will turn out beautiful.

God has laid His hand upon us and encourages us to learn from Him. He knows us and doesn’t push us so hard that we get frustrated, but He also loves us enough to keep helping us make our lives more beautiful to glorify Him in the world.

Think of one lesson from your Bible that you can put into practice this week. Do you need to use kinder words? Do you need to be less impatient and wiggly when you have to wait for Mom or Dad to come play?

Let’s pray: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for knowing and loving me. You are always with me. Please help me become more like Jesus. In His name, amen.

Before You Go

Go here to learn about the painting, A Young Mother Sewing and how to enjoy it with your children. Go here if you’d like directions for a children’s art project based on Mary Cassatt’s paintings.

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

And be sure to visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids, and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on art by Mary Cassatt. If you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you’ll soon receive our May newsletter with more fun things to do.

in this photo Molly is learning to sit inside a hula hoop and wait patiently for me to say she can get up.





Devotion based on John J. Audubon’s Paintings from Birds of America

John J. Audubon studied and became an expert to paint birds for his book, Birds of America. We can study them, too, but often we’re in a hurry and don’t notice the birds flying around our own yards gobbling up insects.

In my previous post I said the encounter with those cliff swallows building nests on a West Texas hotel began my fascination with them. I started researching, and learned it was also cliff swallows that returned every year to the old mission of San Juan Capistrano in California.

Mission San Juan Capistrano, CA, author photo

Only they weren’t returning anymore, so the mission consulted a cliff swallow expert for help. For many years Dr. Charles R. Brown of the University of Tulsa has been studying cliff swallows along the Platte River in Nebraska, where thousands return each year to build or rebuild nests.

One spring I traveled to Nebraska and spent a day studying cliff swallow colonies with Dr. Brown and his assistant. The swallows still build nests on the cliffs that in places overlook the river (part of the Oregon Trail included crossing the Platte River, and some pioneers mentioned the swallows and their nests in diaries and letters).

But today many swallows take advantage of man made structures, so we had to tramp across fields to enter huge culverts while trains rumbled overhead and put on tall wading boots to get to nests under bridges.

I had learned a lot from my research, but it was exciting and fun to see them up close with someone who’s been studying them for years. When we walked under a bridge hundreds of swallows rushed out the other side, but soon they returned, swooping by us, and slipped back into their nests. They’d immediately turn around and poke their heads back out, the white spot on their foreheads shining in the dim light and letting everyone know they’re home.

I got to poke a long handled dental mirror into nests, while shining a flashlight just so, to see the eggs inside (not as easy as it sounds!). And we spent several hours baking in the sun while quietly observing the behavior of the swallows as they came and went from their nests.

Here’s some of what I learned that day about how God feeds just one of His many types of birds!

  • Cliff swallows winter in South America, so they fly thousands of miles to return each spring to the western prairies of the United States and Canada for breeding.
  • This kind of swallow lives in colonies that range in size from a few dozen nests to thousands honeycombing a cliff or under a bridge.
  • Cliff swallows like to return to the same places each year, but will periodically abandon some sites when these become too infested with parasites.
  • They eat insects, scooping them from the sky as they fly.
  • Cliff swallows need open fields and farmland where warm updrafts stir up insects for them to catch.
  • Snakes sometimes invade nest sites to feast on eggs and baby birds.
  • Cliff swallows will sometimes sneak into others’ nests to steal nesting material or even lay eggs.

One of the most fascinating ways God feeds cliff swallows is that the colony serves as a way for swallows to find those updrafts of insects. Dr. Brown has discovered that when a swallow returns with a mouthful of insects for its babies, other swallows will follow it when it leaves again so they can join the feast. The colony works a little like a computer clearing house for information.

And one thing Dr. Brown said that day has stayed with me. He believes that though many people go long distances to study various creatures, many of us can find and study amazing creatures close to home, even in our own back yards!

Birds are everywhere, and this time of year they are returning to build nests and raise families. Just today I saw a house finch gathering nesting materials in my back yard.

Take time to see the work of the first and best Artist! How many different types of birds share your backyard? Notice the patterns on their wings. Has God made their beak for seeds or worms?

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

If you can, get outside with your children. Take along a field guide and learn more about the birds in your neighborhood.

When we look carefully to “study” how God has designed each bird, we see that He gave each bird just the right beak, feet, body, tail, and wings to be able to gather its food in the environment He designed it for.

All birds have beaks and wings, but… God gave hummingbirds wings that beat super fast so they can hover and stick their long beaks deep into flowers to sip nectar. And He gave cliff swallows just the right beak and streamlined shape to be able to gather mud pellets for a nest and swoop through the sky to grab tasty insects.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matt. 6:26

Jesus used God’s care of the birds to teach us that our heavenly Father knows our needs and provides for us just as He does the birds.

Jesus didn’t mean we shouldn’t pray about our needs. He tells us to do just that in the Lord’s Prayer, (Matthew 6:9-13). But He also wants us to realize we don’t have to keep worrying; we can pray and leave our worries about our daily needs with our heavenly Father. Jesus wants us to soar on to scoop up more important things—heavenly treasures from our Bibles that teach us how to love God and our neighbors.

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for providing for our daily needs. When we look at the birds of the air, help us learn from them to trust You with every part of our lives! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up above for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning more about how God feeds the cliff swallows, and you’ll get out and enjoy learning about the birds in your own backyard! Come back next week for a fun art project about birds and to learn if swallows have returned to San Juan Capistrano.

Devotion Based on The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

Everyone loves rainbows, and in The Milkmaid painting we can find all the colors of the rainbow. Did you know that when there’s a lighter second rainbow above the first, the colors are opposite the first rainbow?

But without light we couldn’t see rainbows or any of the colors. How wonderful that God created light on the very first day!

Darken a room as much as you can and read Genesis :1-2. Encourage children to notice they can’t see color very well, if at all, when it’s dark.

Turn on the lights as you read Genesis 1:3 when on the very first day of creation God said, “Let there be light.” And notice how the colors spring to life.

With God’s words, our world went from the darkness of verse 2 to a world He would fill with colorful skies and plants and creatures!

Try one of the following activities to help children appreciate the colorful world God created:

  • Write colors on slips of paper and have children draw one. They then name something natural of that color. For example, if the paper says pink, they might say a rose. For orange they might think of sunsets. Challenge children to be creative and think of the orange eyes of an lemur, or stripes on a tiger.
  • Have each child make a color wheel on a paper plate with the 3 primaries and 3 secondaries painted in pie-shaped wedges, (they could use markers or crayons instead of paint). Then send them on a scavenger hunt around your house and yard to find things of each color.

Rainbows appear after storms when sunlight shines through water droplets. The light slows down a little and gets bent or refracted, so it separates into the colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. (ROYGBIV) (In a color wheel for art we leave out indigo)

We can be so thankful that God created light and made the world such a colorful place for us to live. But the rainbow shows God’s love for us in another super important way.

Together read about Noah and the ark in Genesis 6-9:17. (depending on the age of your children, use a children’s Bible or read selected passages)

Imagine what it was like when the ark came to rest after the flood, and Noah led his family and all the animals out. Do you think they just walked?

I think the kangaroos bounced down the ramp, and parrots flapped away to find trees. Striped zebras kicked up their hoofs when they felt dry ground, and giraffes stretched their long necks to reach their favorite leaves. What do you think other animals would do first? What would you have done?

Then Noah built an altar to thank God for saving him and all those amazing creatures. AND what did God do? He put a rainbow in the sky as a sign and promise to us that He would never again destroy the world by a flood.

Instead He would rescue it and us through the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, through whom all the fullness of God shines (Colossians 1:19-20 and 2:9), showing us a heavenly rainbow of the Father’s love, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the light that makes the world so colorful. Help us remember when we see a rainbow to thank you for Jesus who came to this earth to rescue us and give us a brand new life in Him. In His name, we pray. Amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Molly loves how the light makes her coat look shiny in this picture! She and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. Next week we’ll have an art activity based on the painting.



A Devotional based on an Iceberg that Played Hide and Seek

Have you ever hidden so well during a game of hide and seek that no one could find you? Was it a little scary? Can icebergs play hide and seek? In 1999 an iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke away from Antarctica and went missing! That’s right, but let’s back up a little.

In the Northern Hemisphere, from February to July, chunks of ice break off or calve from Greenland’s glaciers. Some also calve from glaciers in Alaska. Chunks may be small or as large as the ones shown in Church’s painting. Most of an iceberg is out of sight below the water, and it’s this part that’s so dangerous to ships.

The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church, Dallas Museum of Art, public domain

In the North Atlantic, ocean currents often carry icebergs from Greenland to an area off Newfoundland called Iceberg Alley. This was where Church went to study and sketch icebergs for his painting. So many icebergs in this area important for fishing and shipping, have caused the loss of many ships and lives over the years. Ship crews had to be constantly on the alert for this threat.

But everything changed on the clear and calm night of April 15, 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to New York.  Titanic sank within 2 ½ hours, and over 1,500 passengers and crew drowned.

The disaster prompted several countries to meet and establish an International Ice Patrol to keep track of icebergs in the North Atlantic and warn ships of their locations.

This patrol, part of the United States Coast Guard, still operates. At first Coast Guard ships patrolled Iceberg Alley from February to July. Since WWII they use airplanes to spot and keep track of icebergs.

Today the International Ice Center also uses satellites. In 1999 that dangerously large iceberg calved from Antarctica, went missing. SeaWinds, a special radar to help improve weather prediction, had recently been launched aboard a NASA satellite, and it located the iceberg drifting off the coast of Argentina. Since then, satellites also help track icebergs.

God doesn’t need ships or planes or satellites to keep track of icebergs.

Chapter 38 of Job tells us God has created and continues to care for every big and small part of His creation. He has “walked in the recesses of the deep,” (verse16); has “entered the storehouses of the snow and seen the storehouses of the hail,” (verse 22). God knows “from whose womb comes the ice and who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen, (verses 29-30).

God created icebergs. They can’t go missing from Him.

Has there ever been a time when you felt lost? Maybe you had an argument with a friend. You got in trouble at school. Or a pet has died. Did you feel confused or scared, or all alone?

We know from the psalms that King David sometimes felt lost and afraid. But in Psalm 139, he writes that God knows “when I sit and when I rise; (verse 2). And “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (versus 8-10).

David knew God would never let him go missing.

Next time you feel lost and alone, remember that no chunk of ice, no matter how big or small ever goes missing from God. They’re always on God’s radar and so are you. He’ll never let you go missing.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always being with us. No matter where we are you will be there to comfort and guide us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas and devotions for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church. Come on back next week for an art activity based on the painting.


Pause from the Hustle and Bustle to Glimpse the True Meaning of Christmas in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Painting

This year many of us are back to a more normal and busy season of shopping, decorating, and preparing for Christmas! What a blessing after many months apart, but sometimes the hustle and bustle becomes overwhelming and takes our eyes off the true meaning of Christmas.

In the Renaissance Florence, Italy was a city filled with hustle and bustle. It was a major center for weaving and dying wool and silk, and merchants made lots of money exporting their cloth all over Europe.

Their wealth helped fuel the Renaissance. Florence produced some of the most famous artists of all time:

Ghiberti (the bronze doors of the Baptistry), Brunelleschi (the architect who finally figured out how to build a dome big enough for Florence’s cathedral),

St. George, Donatello

Donatello (revolutionized sculpture with relaxed poses and realistic figures),

and of course Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

A few years before the pandemic my husband and I joined the thousands of tourists who daily spill out of trains into Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station and into a city still filled with hustle and bustle.

Getting our bearings outside Santa Maria Novella train station

Long lines await those who come to tour Florence’s Duomo (cathedral), gaze at the masterpieces by Leonardo and Botticelli at the Uffizi Art Gallery,

The Uffizi, author photo

Madonna and Child by Botticelli, photo by author

and see Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Accademia.

Not to be outdone, Florence’s streets are a shopper’s paradise. High-end fashions, gold jewelry, and home goods fill stores and overflow into big outdoor markets. Venders of leather products are everywhere, making it a toss-up whether the sales pitch, or the smell of leather is stronger!

Florence bustles even more at night. Families with babies in strollers and dogs on leashes emerge for their evening passeggiata, (stroll), joining tourists still snapping photos. Everyone throngs the streets, walking, shopping, visiting, and dining in outdoor restaurants. In every piazza (square), street musicians and puppeteers draw happy crowds. It’s fun, but can become overwhelming.

After a couple days we wanted a quiet place to refresh our tired minds and bodies and found it at the Museum of San Marco in what was once a Dominican monastery.

Surrounding a quiet cloister is some of the most beautiful art in Florence, though few people know about it. A cloister sometimes refers to a whole monastery, but is technically the covered walkway around a peaceful garden that the monastery buildings surround.

In the 1430s Dominican monks took over the monastery, dating from a much earlier time, and began renovations. One of the friars, Fra Giovanni, soon known as Fra Angelico, painted frescoes of the life of Christ throughout the monastery and in each of the monks’ cells (rooms).

In fresco painting, paint is applied to a freshly plastered wall, becoming part of the wall itself as plaster and paint dry together.

Once only monks could see Fra Angelco’s frescoes, but today anyone can wander through the quiet halls, looking into each small cell to see brightly colored frescoes of Jesus’ life on the otherwise plain walls.

One large fresco, The Annunciation, once greeted the monks, and now greets us, at the top of the stairs to the monks’ cells. Because the stairs turn a corner, we didn’t see the fresco until we were right below it. Then it filled our eyes as we climbed the last few stairs.

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation is a beautiful annunciation painting, showing a moment of quiet serenity in a cloister like the one downstairs. The archangel, Gabriel, bows before Mary to announce that she will bear the Christ Child, and Mary folds her arms in humble submission to God’s will.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

The fresco is part of a plain wall. It has no elaborate frame, but the simplicity of the painted columns and arches create lights and shadows that draw us into its painted space. They frame the serene Annunciation in beauty as no gilded frame could.

Archangel Gabriel’s colorful wings and gold embroidered robe catch our attention next. The robe drapes in graceful folds, showing rich shades and tints of pink.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, detail. author photo

That pink repeats in just two other places—the floor of the open cell behind Mary and on her headband. The repetition of pink takes our gaze from Gabriel to the woman seated on a humble wooden stool. Mary’s plain, white robe contrasts with her dark blue mantle and frames her face and folded arms.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, detail. author photo

Fra Angelico didn’t want us to miss her sweet expression and submissive gesture.

Behind Gabriel in the fresco, a garden blooms with delicate flowers and lush greenery. A walled garden in annunciation paintings symbolized Mary’s purity and virginity. It also reminded viewers of the Garden of Eden and what mankind lost when Adam and Eve sinned.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

Devotion, based on Luke 1:26-38

Fra Angelico eventually became prior of the monastery of San Marco. The Dominican order was founded, as were the Franciscans, as Europe transitioned from a mostly rural economy to a time of more trade and bigger cities. Traditional, often rural, monasteries and monks couldn’t easily help city dwellers.

Dominicans and Franciscans didn’t stay in their cloisters. They went out into the busy city streets to preach the gospel in down-to-earth sermons and minister to people in need. During the years of the Black Death thousands of friars died caring for the sick.

When the San Marco friars returned at the end of a busy day, they would pass through the quiet cloister and trudge up many stairs to their cells.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

  • As they turned the corner and Fra Angelico’s fresco of The Archangel Gabriel coming to Mary filled their eyes, were they reminded of the vast splendor of God and His heaven?
  • When they looked at Mary, did they share her attitude of humility and submission to be obedient to God’s call?
  • When they looked at the garden, did they think of the Garden of Eden and mankind’s fall into sin and separation from God?
  • When they looked at the cloister and thought of their own cloister downstairs, did they long for a permanent rest from their labors, especially against their own and others’ sins?
  • Did they stand in awe of the amazing love and grace God has given us in the gift of His Son?
  • Were they amazed anew by the miracle of God taking on human flesh and being born of a virgin to dwell among His people?
  • And did they praise God for opening the Way to return to a renewed and eternal garden of peace with God through faith in Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection?

Most of us today can’t withdraw into a monastery to get away from the hustle and bustle of the materialistic holiday season.

But perhaps we can daily find a little quiet space and time to think on God’s splendor, our humble estate, our longing for a permanent rest from struggling with our own sin and a sinful world, and praise God for opening the Way through Christ back to the Garden!


Molly and I hope you’ll come back for just one more post in December for an angel art project for your children. It’s so simple, yet bright and beautiful, you will want to display it on your tree or table!