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A Masterpiece Out of Life's Mess

by Anne Neilson

I started life as a rather fearful child. Perhaps you remember me telling you that I would wake up my sister to go to the bathroom with me in the middle of the night. As I grew up, though, I became what many people saw as fearless. I skydived. I rappelled and climbed vertical slants. I left a sure thing—teaching—to sell pottery. And I succeeded at so much in life. I’m sure there were people who looked at my life and thought, She probably never feels afraid.

But fear lies to us all.

Fear lies to us about what has happened, is happening, and will happen.

But fear lies to us about more than that too. It lies to us about who we are. And this is where shame can grip us. Fear tells us we’re not good enough and never will be. It lies to us about our strength and ability to fight through the tough trials we face. Fear lies to us about whether we’re loved, worthy, or beautiful. Fear, he is a liar.

Fear lies to us about circumstances—this is how my fear of flying developed. At one of the charity auction events for which I had donated a painting, Clark and I won a bid on a trip. Our four children were still young at the time, and time alone with Clark was in short supply. We so looked forward to jumping on a plane and enjoying the crystal-clear waters of Turks and Caicos. About two weeks before our departure a terrible fear of flying gripped me. What in the world? I thought. What is wrong with me? I tried reasoning with myself. I talked it out (or attempted to). I prayed. But fear continued to slither in my ears.

Becoming a mom and knowing what I could lose and who I would leave behind changed my entire perspective on the adventure of travel. I needed to trust God, not just with the actual process of flight but also with what I risked every time I left my family, whether I was driving to the grocery store or boarding a plane for a marriage getaway. You never may have experienced a fear of flying, but you probably have had anxiety surrounding situations in your life.

That’s why, years after I wrestled with God about flying to and from Turks and Caicos, I took the time to write my family and speak truth into their minds and hearts. I wanted to be part of God’s work to dismantle the lies fear tried to breathe into them. Ironically enough, after God had delivered me from the fear of flying, I wrote these mini letters to Clark and my children while airline techs de-iced the plane I had boarded during a snowstorm in New York City.

If something should ever happen to me, know that each of you were my life! I love you all more than you will ever know. Please find God in all of this. I know there are times it seems hard to believe, but we do have a living God.

Clark, I should have responded to your text and said, “I love you too.” These past months, I’ve been so mad about all the baggage we bring to our marriage, but I am so grateful that through it all we can be a beacon of God’s light not only for our children but also for others. I do love you and always will.

Kids, I pray that you would be tenderhearted toward your dad. He is a good man and I know he loves each of you dearly. Give him grace. Love him unconditionally.

Clark, I pray that you would continue the healing process and that your relationship with our kids would continue to grow into a deep, compassionate, unconditional love for each of them. They are amazing kids, but they so need to connect with and know their earthly father.

I have just traced for you the brushstrokes of love and truth that I want to paint onto the canvas of my family’s lives.

We counteract fear not only with courage but also with truth. Fear is a liar, and we need to speak words of encouragement and hope into one another’s lives. That’s why I took the time to write these truths to my children and husband. I wanted to fill their minds with God’s truths that empower and encourage. Fear keeps us in bondage; it holds us back.

The Bible also reveals that the purpose of the Father of Lies is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Don’t let fear steal your joy, kill your hope, and destroy your identity.

Fear is a liar, but God is the way, the truth, and the life you crave. I’ve chosen to reject fear and follow Jesus’ way. What about you? Why not take this moment to write a paragraph to someone you love, affirming their identity and encouraging them to live beyond fear? Now, dear friend, why don’t you spend a moment reading the truth God wants to paint onto the canvas of your heart and mind today? You can start with these verses from the book of Isaiah:

But now, this is what the Lord says . . .

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . .”

Taken from “The Brushstrokes of Life” by Anne Neilson. Copyright 2023 by Anne Neilson. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.

Anne Neilson is well known for her ethereal Angel Series, which are inspiring reflections of her faith and recognized for their stunning use of color. In response to demand for more access to her acclaimed Angel paintings, Neilson published two coffee table books and launched Anne Neilson Home, a growing collection of luxury home products, including candles, note cards, Scripture cards, prints, and journals. Neilson also owns Anne Neilson Fine Art, a gallery located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Representing more than 50 talented artists from across the world, the gallery is dedicated to being a lighthouse in Charlotte and beyond, illuminating the work of emerging and established artists.

As a wife, mother of four, artist, author, and philanthropist, Anne paints and creates with passion and purpose, always giving back to others by contributing to local, national, and international charitable organizations. Learn more about Anne, her artwork, and Anne Neilson Home products at


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