What does it even mean to entertain angels unaware? I remember studying Hebrews 13:2 back in junior high and not quite grasping the concept. In midlife, the verse encourages me to see with the eyes of my soul. I imagine angels as fleshy wingless humans with a message. Is it a reminder to stay awake and not expect wisdom or truth to arrive in the usual trappings? Lord knows there are mysteries within mysteries and love comes in disguise all the time. Artist and philanthropist Anne Neilson writes about meeting such messengers. ENTERTAINING ANGELS True Stories and Art Inspired by Divine Encounters (Thomas Nelson, 2022) explores stories from contributors including Ron Hall, Sheila Walsh, and Kathie Lee Gifford.
Interview With the Author of Entertaining Angels
After spending time with the book, I wanted to know more about Anne Neilson, and she was gracious enough to share her heart in this interview.
Viewing & Creating Art as a Spiritual Practice
Hello Lovely: Stories shared in ENTERTAINING ANGELS are beautifully reflective of moments when the veil between heaven and earth seems to thin. Yet it is the sacred quality of your paintings that speaks to my heart in a profoundly meditative way. In contemplative Christian language, I recognize this as Visio Divina. As I gaze at your painted sheep on page 74, I feel gently reminded of my worth, of a shepherd who notices me.
How does spending time with art deepen your own spiritual experience and journey?
ANNE NEILSON: My time spent painting is very personal to me on a spiritual level. I paint to praise music and allow the Holy Spirit to move from the depths of my soul out onto the blank canvas. Over and over again, this experience is much like a worship time spent with a living GOD whose promises are like a piece of art.
Anne Neilson’s Creative Process
HELLO LOVELY: I paint abstract seascapes and know precisely when a piece is complete. This level of confidence is missing from every other facet of my life!
Do you instantly sense when there is nothing left to add to one of your angel paintings? Are there periods of time where you are not inspired to paint?
ANNE NEILSON: Most of the time I do know when the painting is complete. I always allow ample time to paint and praise…I cannot be rushed in this process. Yes, there are many times that I am not inspired to paint. And ‘inspired’ might not be the right word — maybe ‘time.’ I have to allow ‘time’ — to set aside time, to clear my thoughts and mind and the day-to-day noise.
I love to come into the studio and put the praise music on and get inspired! My husband always comments on the days I have been painting…I think I am a lot calmer — nicer!!
Divine Movement in Everyday Life
HELLO LOVELY: Seeing angels or divine movement in our ordinary lives can feel childish or foolish to some. What does a childlike faith look like for you?
ANNE NEILSON: Just to believe. No matter what. I had such a powerful experience encountering Jesus as a child, and I write about this in my upcoming memoir THE BRUSHSTROKES OF LIFE (on sale April 2023).
I held God at arm’s length as a teenager and into my mid-twenties…but grabbing ahold of His hand and never letting go — that is the childlike faith!
Beauty & Art in Modern Life
HELLO LOVELY: Since beauty and art have the power to break down barriers and speak a universal language, is it more essential than ever in the 2020s?
ANNE NEILSON: Art speaks to so many people on so many levels. And, what people call ‘art’ really spoke to me back in 2003 when people were spending 100K, if not millions, on ‘shock art.’ I knew that God gave me this gift and desire as a young girl to be an artist and bring beauty in this world.
Yes — now more than ever people need to see beauty in creation, in art, in the way we speak to one another, the way we act towards one another. I had no idea that these ethereal angels would touch the lives of SO many over the course of these 20 years. Today — using the art combined with my ‘story’ and the story of others — my prayer is that His light and His love would be evident to all bringing HOPE and LOVE to a broken world!
Can We Become the Angels We Long For?
HELLO LOVELY: In my own life, there is a pattern where at the end of my resources, in deep desperation, the eyes of my heart begin to see, truly see the divine appear. When I look back at these chapters, I can see that my suffering belongs.
Do you suppose that in seasons of contentment we go blind and forget our calling to show up as the angels others are praying for?
ANNE NEILSON: I think that contentment can cause us to get comfortable and not step out in faith. In my journey God does not let me stay in that comfort zone. Running three businesses, writing, painting, being a wife and a mom…there are always factors involved that would force me to keep my eyes focused on Him. Again…great stories will be revealed in THE BRUSHSTROKES OF LIFE. It is so important to not lose sight of what God is doing in the midst of all seasons of life.
What is Bringing This Artist Joy?
HELLO LOVELY: I’m not particularly wise, but I am very open and love to grow. As I age, I find this immensely freeing. What are you learning just now, and what brings you a sense of freedom right where you are?
ANNE NEILSON: In publishing a book [my third now and more to come] and my expectations of getting the word out there [so to speak] I am asking God – what is the lesson today? Am I truly drowning out the noise of the world and social media to listen to where He is leading me? Some days [no] I want to conquer the social media platform and count all my ‘likes’ towards glory — and then there is the pause – “Comparison is the THIEF of JOY.”
So, I regroup and take a look back at all that God has done and continues to do in my life — my painting — my businesses — my family. And that brings me joy — knowing that no matter what He sees my heart. He will do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20. My favorite verse!
HELLO LOVELY: There is a generosity in your spirit and behavior impossible to miss from your personal stories in ENTERTAINING ANGELS. How can we begin to open our clenched hands and live fully in abundance and not scarcity?
ANNE NEILSON: I was taught at a young age about tithing and giving back to God…it was embedded in the depths of my soul. Whether it was an allowance check or birthday money, I would always ‘give back’ to those less fortunate than me.
Many years later when I began painting in oils I was volunteering at a Homeless shelter in Charlotte, NC…it was one of the most powerful days of my life. I was in the kitchen preparing the ‘physical food’ and 300+ neighbors [homeless people] were in the gym worshipping like they had everything. I was a mess. I got into my brand-new suburban to drive to my brand-new home and just was sobbing.
I remember having this conversation with God — My passion wanted to paint…I wanted to be a good wife and mom…but my heart wanted to serve! HOW in the world was I going to do all that and do it well? I felt the whisper to ‘paint and give back.’ That was the day I arrived home to a message that all three of my small angel paintings had sold to a lady [they were for sale at a local gift store]. Right then I knew that God had a plan. If I just have OPEN hands and open heart…surrendering all to Him…I will watch and see what He will do. It’s been a journey. I am grateful for this journey! He gets all the glory!!!
You’ll Love Anne’s Art & Books
HELLO LOVELY: Thank you for keeping your hands and heart open, Anne. For creating beauty and sharing your journey so beautifully in ENTERTAINING ANGELS.
Do visit Anne’s site where you can purchase her art and learn more about her work. Have you experienced something in life where it felt as though an angel was in your presence?
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Peace to you right where you are.
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