The Empty Nest Portrait

by Robin Turnipseed

“Did I ever tell you about my empty nest portrait that Gayle painted for me?” My sister-in-law Kathy asked me this over the phone a few weeks ago.

At the mention of Gayle’s name, I smile. Gayle is a dear family friend. One, whose friendship with my mother-in-law spans over five decades. Gayle is the friend that all our mothers pray we earn at some point in our lifetimes. She patiently listens, nurtures, and always gives an encouraging word.

However, more notable than that, Gayle is the friend that shows up. If there is a death in the family, Gayle shows up. A wedding or a bridal shower thrown, Gayle shows up. Through life’s victories or defeats, she continues to show up. I think of it as her own brand of superpower.

I sat and listened as Kathy’s story of the painting unfolded, and a thought dawned on me. Gayle shows up through her artwork as well. Her lovingkindness reflects with every stroke of the brush.

She uses her gifts to reaffirm faith, bless, and encourage many, and Kathy’s story provides a prime example.

Here’s the sweet account of a piece of artwork with considerable meaning:


PPT: What is the complete history behind the painting?

Kathy: The “empty nest” season of my life approached faster than I thought it would. My marriage of twenty-six years ended, and I decided to sell my home to move closer to my family. My sister helped facilitate the move and found the cutest cottage only three miles down the road from her own home. Eager to make a move, I put down the deposit on the house, sight-unseen.

It wasn’t until a month later that I took a full home tour. While walking the front yard, I noticed a bird’s nest resting high up in a tree. Too high for me to fully look into the nest, I decided to stretch my arm as far as I could to take a picture instead. Mainly, I wanted to see if there were any babies still living there. When I saw that the nest sat empty, I went about my day, forgetting about the photo.

Later that night, I looked back at the picture, and my heart dropped. The realization struck, and I said out loud, “This is my empty nest home.”

PPT: So, how did the picture come to be a painting? Did you commission it?

Kathy: No. The painting of the empty nest came about after I spotted a similar one hanging on the wall at a wedding shower I recently attended. During the event, Gayle and I stood in the mudroom putting away our purses when I took note of a beautiful nest portrait on the hostess’s wall.

I looked over at Gayle and shared the story of my own empty nest and its special meaning. Gayle paused and then asked if she could paint it for me. Gayle is a remarkable painter, but I knew she would not let me pay her. I believe this to be a Divine moment to gift me with one of my most cherished pieces.

PPT: I know that this painting is of an empty bird’s nest, but what is the importance behind the nest to you? What makes it memorable and unique?

Kathy: Well, the empty nest signifies my biggest achievement. My children, my babies, are my greatest gift. They are all doing wonderful things with their lives, and I am so proud of the work it took to become an empty nest momma. Although I anticipated sharing this with my husband, the reality is different yet still so sweet.

Gayle knew about my story and how the Lord had provided for me. When she called to tell me about the finished project, she divulged the “artistic liberties” she had taken. One of the most impactful is how she made the vine a little more prominent to signify that Jesus had been holding me as only He could through that season of my life.

PPT: I love how small details can carry an abundance of meaning. Finally, is there a lesson that you have gained from the painting or the painter?

Kathy: The painting now hangs in my foyer, waiting to be framed. Gayle’s creation has become one of my most beloved pieces, and I will treasure it forever.

It stands as my gentle reminder of the reward of raising children and that Jesus’ love will never fail me. Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” And then John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.”

PPT Personal Note:

To all the Gayle(s) in the world, thank you for showing up time and time again. May this superpower inspire us all to continue to show up for our people as well.

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