Painting Eden

I met Robin Turnipseed on Instagram. Well, that was our official meeting. Robin had been part of my audience for years. I just didn’t know it. 

From her early days, Robin knew about spiritual manipulation, legalism and control. Something I’ve also survived, hearing God used as the “heavy” to enforce unnecessary, inhumane rules. God’s name in religious communities is often used as the bully, just as “science” (or what is passed off as science) is the bully in secular circles*. Every human group has its authorities, leaders we can use to manipulate others to toe the political line.

Dale and I have endured, survived, and recovered from years of this problem. In our own recovery, we found a name for it in the church: spiritual abuse. Others experts call it a “betrayal by spirit”**.  Robin found this phrase quite helpful. These words gave significance to what she had endured. 

When Robin saw Dale’s story of spiritual abuse at the same college she attended (watch those PCC videos), she dove deeper.  She learned that you could heal from spiritual abuse and once again enjoy being friends with God. She learned how spiritual abuse was actually the opposite of the God from the Bible. Spiritual abuse took God’s name in vain, and the very Ten Commandments have something specific to say about that. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord God.” Exodus 20:7

Robin didn’t just find our work at Soulation (our non-profit, 2005 – 2018), she let the healing ripple throughout her life.

That’s when I met her on Instagram. 

Robin runs a blog dedicated to naming and noticing the special things in our life. She tells the stories behind things we might easily throw away, weaving meaning from stuff like a tackle box, a rhinestone barrette, a fav T-shirts. As Robin explains at her blog Placement of Pretty Things 

“I help the world use the past as a reminder to stay present.”

And this summer she asked me to paint her favorite family heirloom. It wasn’t an artifact, it was a street sign. Her grandmother Mimi’s street sign. As she put it 

“Mimi’s home was my ‘Eden’.”

Robin also sent me a picture of her Mimi’s home. That’s when we decided to combine the street sign and the house into one house portrait painting.

We all need places like Mimi’s Home, like Robin talks about in her blog, these momentos that remind us who we actually are. These are the places we need to remember, so we can heal deeper than we ever thought possible. 

These are the places I have the privilege to paint.

What a gift to me for Robin to step up and ring my (Instagram) doorbell. I’m so glad to know a woman like her was helped by my work. I’m so honored to have painted her special place. 

*Here’s a recent example of how scientific studies dominated Americans “Do Masks Work? A Review of the Evidence“.

**Betrayal by spirit is exponential in its damage, even more than physical, emotional or sexual abuse. This is because you believe God is the source of your suffering. So you have no recourse to a higher power for relief. You cannot pray for the abuse to stop because you come to believe God wanted it for you. “Betrayal by spirit means the person who betrays the victim also plays a crucial role in the resources the victim has for defining meaning. The victim’s spiritual path is blocked.” from Dr. Patrick J. Carnes The Betrayal Bond, p 68-69. Recovery from spiritual abuse is no small undertaking. But God can smooth any destruction, if we invite him.


For house portraits, the actual structure is the main point. I really liked the trees around Mimi’s house, and I knew I wanted the light on the roof to feel almost like a halo, consecrating this place Robin felt known. So I spent some time composing the scene to be sure those triple roofs were the stars of the show. The trees and the light on the lawn helps a lot. I liked how there were at least 18 vertical lines (can find them?) all balancing out the hard horizontals of the roofs.

I moved the Westminister Drive sign into the shadowed area of the house. And when I painted it, I made sure to suggest the words “Westminister Drive.” I could letter them in perfectly, but that would distract viewers who would zero in on reading the sign. Letters, faces, people are all tricky like that in painting. They automatically make us look. For house portraits, nothing should steal the attention away from the home .

This is why I also had to soften the brickwork. If I painted every brick, this would ruin a good painting by amateurish detail. Detail and photographic exactness is not a sign of good painting. 

An artist leads your eye, just like a woman leads a horse, right to the drinking trough. Relax your eyes and then just notice where your eye moves. If I did my job you’ll notice the roof, the trees which will lead you down to the shadows, over to the sign, across to the other shadows, up the tree, over to the branch to the roof and around again. 

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Beautiful work. The painting is so warm and inviting, you can understand right away why it was her Eden. I think that’s the beauty of having somthing painted, it allows you to capture the feeling and the sentiment of a place more than a photograph can. If done right, it’s like the soul gets breathed into it….as you did here.

Betrayal of the spirit is a great term to use when spiritual abuse doesn’t resonate. Most people can relate to betrayal of some kind but the idea of abuse even if they have experienced it can push people into hiding I feel. Maybe because of all the things abuse is attached to it feels so bold and vulnerable where betrayal feels like….”ok, maybe I’ll crack that door open and peek in.” And in that crack is where God enters to heal and smooth as you said. What a beautiful way of putting it, Smooth any destruction. That’s where the healing begins when we can realize he’s here to smooth not condemn, accuse, discipline……

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