Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Crestview Hills-Lakeside Park, Ky.

There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t talking to Jesus every day. I was reared Christian, in the Methodist tradition, and so it has always been part of my life. To me, it makes no sense at all to breathe in and breathe out and think that there’s nothing beyond that. There is something so powerful behind it all.

For 32 years I did commercial work for the Kroger Co., illustrating their food for advertisements. It would take me out of town two to three weeks every month, so the church was our family’s landing spot. It kept the family glued together in those years, and we met a lot of our dearest friends there.

In 2002, I became a full-time oil painter, in large part thanks to the advice of my dear wife. I’m a signature member of Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionist Society. I’ve taught workshops in Italy, France and all around the United States. Thanks to the Lord, I get to have fun doing what I love.

God has brought me a lot of good teachers throughout the years. One is an artist I met 20-some years ago. He would lay his hands on a blank canvas and pray. I do that now too. I ask God to give me what I need to make something out of this canvas. It should all be done to glorify God. It’s a good way to live—to know we are partnered. That’s what’s nice about being a Christian too—you never feel alone. I feel the Spirit all the time, and I see God in all things and in all people.

I’m inspired by nature, and I love being out in nature. I love the Smoky Mountains as much as any place on the earth. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited U.S. national park and one of the only ones that doesn’t charge admission. You get up into those mountains, you’re around cascading waterfalls, you take a deep breath in, and those negatively charged ions just light you up. You can feel God.

Growing up, I struggled through all 12 years of public school and was always falling behind because I couldn’t keep up with reading assignments. I didn’t know why, but I was diagnosed with dyslexia in 1982. I was working for Kroger at the time and was living in complete fear I’d be called upon to read something in a board meeting or something. I found a psychologist to talk to, and after my first session he told me I was dyslexic. I wish I would have known earlier there was a name for it.

An artist I met 20-some years ago would lay his hands on a blank canvas and pray. I do that now too.

I have a specialty called legacy art, where I create paintings to mark a person’s legacy. I actually dial into a person’s personal history by interviewing them so I can find out where they’re at spiritually, professionally, socially and with family. I then create a landscape painting that radiates that energy. It’s done on a limited basis because there are only so many people who are willing to open themselves up for something like that.

I’m a Lutheran because I see being Lutheran as an adventure, being a champion of good, trying to do the right thing whenever possible, and being able to think clearly. When I take the bread and the wine, it’s a healing experience. I feel the community of my brothers and sisters together in that moment, and that community we have in the Lord is the most precious gift we have.

God’s grace is upon us no matter what we do. There is always forgiveness and love and new beginnings. Life is a whole bunch of new beginnings. You begin over every day, and God’s grace does that for us.

It was a leap of faith to become a full-time oil painter. I’m not making the money I made as a commercial artist, but I’m so much happier. I don’t have the drop-dead deadlines that used to cause me stress headaches. Now my work isn’t as predictable so, out of necessity and belief of course, I have to live by faith. When it has been a while since I’ve sold a painting, I have to hand it over to the Lord, and it always seems to work out when I need it the most. He keeps me humble, though. He doesn’t throw it at me casually—it always happens at just the right time.

Every year I go on a men’s retreat at a Jesuit retreat center in Cincinnati. It’s a three-day silent retreat every January that helps me get recharged every new year. I like taking that experience back to my Lutheran church.

We all need to make a living one way or another, and I feel privileged and honored that I’m allowed to make my living bringing beauty into the world. What a wonderful thing.

I think low self-esteem is the biggest disease we have in this country. People are measured so much, so often. We live in a society of comparison. I’m grateful the Lord has put people in front of me who have helped me feel valued.

God talks to me in many ways but mostly through nature. You look at one little leaf and we humans haven’t figured out how to do what that leaf does. That leaf takes in light and turns it into oxygen. That’s not accidental. That’s a creation thing. That’s how I look at it all.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is a former content editor of Living Lutheran.

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