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CT, United States
Cell: 203-570-7480 Email: juneflower7@gmail.com Website: www.lauradonofrio.com

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

हे मात्र प्रभु (Oh Lord, My God)

This particular painting's origins were different than all of the others… All of my previous paintings began as images in my head. But this one was different – I knew that I had to have a beautiful Indian woman in my series. However, I had almost zero experience with the Indian culture, and could not see a clear image in my head. Turning to my Indian friends, they helped me create an image that not only would be beautiful, but also understandable and representative of the Indian culture I so adore.
This painting is a symbol of all Indians, their beauty, their rich traditions, and especially their faith.
 
One friend of mine, Margaret, taught me the best way Indians show respect to their elders. She explained that they bend down and touch the feet of the elder, and in turn the elder puts his hands upon his or her head. This is a way of receiving an elder's blessing – acquiring intellect, knowledge, strength and acceptance towards progression. Brides will kneel down before their fathers, prior to their marriage, in order to receive these blessings. When Indians bend down to touch the feet of their elders, they are surrendering all their ego at the feet of the elder. So when a Hindu woman meets Christ for the first time in heaven, it would make complete sense for her to show respect in this same way to her Lord.
 
Another friend, Doris, helped me name this piece in order to effectively translate to the Indian people my message. Doris felt the best title should be "Oh Lord, my God" (pronounced "Hay Mayreh Prahbu” in Hindi). Unfamiliar with the culture, I was worried this title would be offensive to a Hindu, but she explained to me what "Lord" means in India. There is a clear patriarchal system in the Indian culture, where the woman's husband is considered closest to God. The wife will call her husband "Lord," as a form of deep respect for his position as patriarch and his closeness with the divine. To say "Oh Lord my God" to Christ, is a sign of sincere gratitude for her completed life, and all that it held for her. In Hinduism there are over one hundred Gods that they know and worship. Hindus see Christianity as a faith that worships Christ, who is a God, and they do accept this whole heartedly.
 
The one thing this woman in the painting does not yet know, however, is that Heavenly Father is the Father of all creation. Christ touching her head is a symbol of allowing this woman to progress forward on her spiritual journey. Christ is the prince of peace, and it was important that my painting showed the peace she felt while in the Savior's presence.
 
Now that I had a better understanding, and an image respectful of the cultural context, I could put this painting together for the world to love.
 
Psalm 95:6-7 "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand..." 
Every time I complete a piece, I say to myself. "This one must be my favorite!" I suppose this is my new favorite! There is so much love in this painting! A friend of mine who is not religious said she felt this peace radiating out of it, which is a wonderful complement!
 
I know beyond a doubt that God is the Father of all, and Jesus Christ is the savior of EVERYONE, including this gorgeous Hindu woman, whom He understands far more than I ever will. My hope is that the Indian people will see this painting and know that Jesus loves them deeply, and that Christ offers a way of progression in their spirituality that is intimate and dear. This painting is my gift to all of them.
 

It was so much fun creating this piece, particularly her hair! I have always had such awe for the Indian's gorgeous, thick, long, black hair! This painting also required a bit of reverence, so I dug into my savings and booked an Airbnb in a remote location overlooking a lake. For three days I painted in isolation so I could get this finished before my children's school lets out. During that time I had no reception – I couldn't text or make phone calls! So I listened only to music that would inspire me as I painted… trying different meditation compositions, classical Indian music, hearing thoughtful mantras from Deepak Chopra. (I fell in love with meditations from this CD; I even bought one for myself!!) 
 
 
It's difficult to choose just a few songs, but here are some great ones that inspired me for this piece:
 
Eventide, by Michael Hoppe
 Even if You're Never Awake, by Stars of the Lid
                                      Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest), by Kari Jobe
 
Thank you to the gorgeous Mounika, whom I found through a friend-of-a-friend when I was searching far and wide for the perfect model that would best fit this piece. Mounika, you were beyond perfect, a real miracle brought to me!
Thank you to Margaret and Doris for their insight in helping me understand and communicate the message of this painting.
Thank you to Karin, who still believes whole heatedly in my series and has watched my little Sofie so I could get another painting finished.
Thank you to Brent, who has always been my Jesus hands and feet.  And of course thank you to the talented Christine Simmons, who is my eyes so that I can bring these pieces to life.
Through all of you I was able to create "Oh Lord, My God," And it couldn't have been done without the much appreciated support and help from each one of you!
 
To all of you who are reading this, I wish you peace.
I wish you profound love in your life.
And I wish you joy, from my heart to yours.
 
As they say in India, Namaste.
 
Laura

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"Praise Be to Thee"

Last year I had the honor of attending one of the happiest funerals I had ever been to. Could a funeral be a joyful event? This one was!! My husband's uncle Richard had fought Cancer in his last days, and God eventually called him home. I have heard that sentence before: "God called him home," but I never was able to take it literally until I attended Richard's funeral.

The church was the largest modern Christian church I had ever set foot in. It made our small, white New-England steeples look like crumbling village huts. We were asked not to wear black, because his passing was considered a celebration, and we were not mourning. As I entered the main hall, it resembled a concert hall. The casket was at the foot of a stage, and on it was a full band, with lead singer, backup singer, guitarist, and drummer. It was not a sad song they played, but instead they played the most unlikely song I ever thought a person would choose at their own funeral. It was the one I heard often on my KLOVE station:



I was moved in a way I almost cannot describe, as we raised our hands and shouted the song I knew and sang only in my car until that day. I shouted the chorus loud and proud, as if Richard were dancing in elation as we all sang "I FEEL ALIVE! I COME ALIVE! I AM ALIVE! ON GOD'S GREAT DANCE FLOOR!" This was the first time in my life where I experienced something other than quiet reverence when singing to God. It was the first time I sang out in a loud praise, and it was absolutely freeing. I'll admit it took a little bit of getting used to, but I realized that loud and joyous praise is something that is essential for many people in worship.

To me, conversing with God had been a tribute of peace and reverence. I thought words spoken to God could only be in quiet thoughts, or in a quiet place. There was one time I was inside a temple in Manhattan, New York, and I was completely alone. I felt so happy, that I sang a hymn "I Stand All Amazed" out loud. I thought I was alone, but someone came around the corner and asked me to not sing. I was completely embarrassed, and immediately stopped. Was it wrong for me to sing in the Lord's house? I still am not sure the answer to that question. In fact, today I have more questions than I have answers to these days. But between you and me, I think God would welcome both the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as well as a Christian rock band in heaven! He made us all so unique. I'm sure any honest praise to God is well received.

I always knew that there was someone out there who when they met Jesus, they would be so elated to meet their God! I didn't quite realize the amount of happy that could be until after Richard's funeral. (Maybe I need to spend more time in the American South!) When I came home I clearly envisioned a new painting in my series: A man was so happy to meet Jesus, he would kneel, raise his hands above his head, and shout "Hallelujah! My Lord is with me! Praise be to thee!" And I imagined Jesus having a big smile on his face, and open arms, looking into the face of the man that is one of his finest souls. He was a man that made other's lives sweet, jovial and hopeful. God made that man's soul to be contagious, where everyone couldn't help but be around him because of the grin on his face, the song in his heart, and the bounce in his step. People would ask that man "How can you be so happy in a time like this?" And that man would say "Because I know God is real! I know he loves me! And he loves you too! He can take away our pain, and he is coming again! That's something to be happy about!"



I personally have a lot to learn when it comes to this kind of attitude. Depression is sometimes at the very edge of my conscious, where I blow away like a tumbleweed when tragedy strikes. I dislike how sadness can have such a firm grip on my heart, and wish it wouldn't, but that is how God made me. He created in me intense empathy and love, and sometimes it is crippling, so I shut it off and put up a front so I won't be hurt so badly. But this man has no sadness, no wall, no fear or anger. He knew how to lay it all upon the altar of his Lord, and burn it up to the heavens above. Maybe I need to learn how to do that too. "Let go, and let God," as one friend told me often.

1 Peter 1:6-9

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season , if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing , ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith , even the salvation of your souls. "


"Revelation Song" by Kari Jobe was the one song that helped me truly feel the joy in this particular piece. Enjoy!



Special thanks 
Christine Simmons, my talented photographer friend who took the photo references of all my Sacred Art Series.
David Wilkes, My joyous model! Thank you for letting me experience this sweet happiness. It was an honor to paint you and your sincere love for Jesus.
Brent Alvord, I hope you are doing well in San Francisco, I miss you and your family. I'll forever be grateful for your help in bringing Christ into my heart for years to come.
And a really big, special thanks to my sweetest friend Karin Guynn, who watches my Sofie while I paint once a week. I don't know another friend as selfless and kind as you.

Until the next painting, may joy be with you all!
Laura