Monday, August 29, 2016

Faces of Change

Lucy.  A beautiful pint sized woman with a huge heart. However, things were not always this way. People say that “He who loves much has been forgiven much.” I guess this can be said of Lucy. She was a drug addicted young lady set free from the terrible grip of addiction. She grabbed hold of the Master’s garment wanting healing. Life changed for her after that. She was set free from the addiction. Her heart was burdened for Camden. This is the city she grew up in.

Now a growing group of people that have the same vision as her come out every Sunday afternoon to feed, clothe and offer rehabilitation to those who want it. Lucy smiles and I hug her. She thanks everyone for coming.  I reply, “Thank you for having me.” She tells everyone the main emphasis is love.

Teams are formed and we get whisked to a street where everyone is setting up. I am assigned to the soup line with others. “Would you like some soup sir?” “Yes. Thank you.” I hand over a cup of soup to weather worn hands with a smile. Kids come up wanting the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We give them as much as they want. Kids who grow up poor usually don’t know they are poor. Parents know if they are poor. One of the boys rubs his belly looking at it. The sensation and satisfaction of a full belly. I look over to the man who is sitting after eating with the 3 little boys. His head in his hands while looking at the concrete sidewalk. “Don’t cry.” I tell myself. Is he a parent overwhelmed? As I am thinking and praying, another person comes over and chats with him offering help. 

Less than 1 hour all the soup is gone. The line disperses to find clothes at another table. Faces look familiar as I look through the group.  Each person is so different but we all have basic needs. Miracles happen every day even though we may not see or hear of them. Behind me is the reassuring uniformed cop smiling as we start to close up and leave.

The sun setting sky colors the backdrop of the skyscrapers of Philly as night quickly approaches, as I look across the Delaware River from Camden. Summer is quickly ending. I wonder where will they go?  Soon it will be colder and the winter winds will roll across the river cutting into the skin feeling like a thousand knives. We all gather together and pray. Hugging and encouraging each other as we depart.

Restless as I go home. Sleep evades me as faces of the homeless fill my mind. Faces of Change. It’s appropriately named for Lucy and her husband Will’s vision and ministry for Camden. Many people have been changed and rehabilitated in the last 3 yrs. It’s so encouraging to see the ones who were homeless, coming back to serve after they are rehabilitated. More photos are here:

In appreciation of their work, artwork bought from my Website for this year will result in a portion of the proceeds going to Faces of Change. 

Friday, July 22, 2016


The inspiration behind this painting of cherry blossoms is a true story that happened in my life and my family in Japan. It is my hope that you will be encouraged and be blessed.

Some of us cling to hope because it’s all we have in this life. This is all we did have at first when we heard the devastating news about the earthquake and tsunami hitting Japan on March 11, 2011. My relatives live in the area where the tsunami hit. It left over 20,000 dead. For three days we scoured the internet looking through the list of names that were found alive to no avail. We were looking for my cousin Cheiko and her mother Shizuko who lived in the Ishinomaki, the coastal town where the earthquake and tsunami hit. The tsunami was up to 128 ft. high in some places and stretched 6 miles inland.

My mother and I prayed that they would still be alive. Even though we didn’t hear anything, we remained hopeful.

We found out later that a man on a boat went by as my cousin Cheiko and her mother Shizuko were on the 2nd floor of their house trying to avoid the flood. He asked if they wanted to come in the boat. They replied, “Yes!” He carried my aunt since she was wheel chair bound. They went to a nearby town and stayed at a school. They received a bowl of rice and one strawberry. Cold and tired, they remained there.

On the third day after the tsunami, my cousin Kishiro finally found his cousin Cheiko and Aunt Shizuko. Love and determination spurred him on. Phone lines were down and many roads were impassable. He finally found them in the school. They had their heads down looking at the floor when he saw them. They were overjoyed when he came to them! He was a familiar face come to rescue them! We were also overjoyed to hear the wonderful news that they were safe!

Faith, Hope and Love. “Three things will last forever - faith, hope and love. - and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

He provided a place for them to rest at his home in Shiogama, giving them each a hot bowl of rice. Exhaustion hit them as they slept for an entire day. When they awoke, they decided to go home and rebuild. After numerous obstacles they were able to rebuild in time, as well as much of Japan.

In late March when there were some cherry blossoms that bloomed, it was a shock to some of the Japanese people. It caused them to look up. It was hope renewed in their hearts. All through Japan's history cherry blossoms have represented new beginnings, hopes and dreams. The blossoms are beautiful enough to take one's breath away and then soon disappear. Cherry blossoms stir up their emotions and have a special place in the hearts of Japanese people. The Japanese name for cherry blossom in Japan is Sakura. Since the tsunami, thousands of cherry blossom trees have been planted on the coastline where it took place.

Renewed hope comes after the winter as each spring Sakura fills the sky. 

~ Margret Howard

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fluorescent Zebra, Joy and Thankfulness

Fluorescent Zebra, Joy and Thankfulness

While working at an event airbrushing t-shirts, I saw a young man in a motorized wheel chair approaching quickly towards my table. He was smiling. As he came closer I could see that he had support for his head also to keep it in place. Wow, I thought…wondering why was he smiling?

He shared that he wanted a custom t-shirt for a raffle. He wanted to bring awareness to his cause, EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.) It’s a genetic, connective-tissue disorder that makes joints too loose and the spine. He gave me a business card which stated more about this condition. I asked, “Is this what you have?” He replied, “Yes.” Speechless as thoughts overwhelmed me and I held back tears.

So I painted the shirt and made it colorful. Just the way he wanted it. When he returned, it was so nice to see the joy across his face as he looked at the shirt.

As he was leaving, I felt the urge to pray for him. So I did and continue to do so.
Sometimes in this life, I feel like my problems are insurmountable. The weight of it sometimes will bring me to my knees. It seems it may be God's way of reminding me to pray.

However, after that moment, I felt that I don’t have any problems, well, none like his. It’s just a day to be thankful. As I am thankful every day for little and big things.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cascade of Blessings by Margret Howard

As a little girl, I remember snuggling beside my mom on the couch. She would take a pen or pencil and sketch something beautiful on the paper. Like magic, something beautiful would appear on the paper. How did she do that? I would wonder. “Mom, sketch something for me. Please.” After a matter of minutes a rough sketch of a boat would appear gliding on water. Wow, I want this ‘magic’. 

Since then I have always chased the elusive “magic of art.” As I grew, I have found that it is more learning, practice, more practice and application through a period of time rather than magic. It became part of a disciplined life. This is my life; the life of an Artist.

You will make known to me the path of life. In Your Presence is fullness of joy. In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. ~ Psalms 16:11

When I seek God about my life, He shows me the path. When I choose to follow, a cascade of blessings begin to come. It usually doesn’t come all at once and sometimes it comes from unexpected places. This path can be rough and often hard at times. However, contentment, a peace that transcends all understanding, gratitude, joy, serving and sharing with others, blessings from others, are a small part of what comes. For this I am thankful.

When I asked my mom to translate the title “Cascade of Blessings” into Japanese kanji for my painting, she wrote “Fullness of God’s blessings”. She said, “Even with a flowers short life, God puts so much beauty into it.” 

May we all view life this way. No matter how short or how long to see the beauty in it.