It’s March, 2020, and time for my favorite art show, the Rappahannock River Waterfowl Show in White Stone VA. I love it because it’s in my home county where I grew up. It supports the local fire department. I went to school with the local organizers. They’ve worked hard to produce a top-notch show worthy of any of the national juried wildlife art shows I’ve participated in. It attracts the best wildlife artists, and as such, has been named one of the top ten attractions in the Southeast. Consequently, it attracts serious art collectors throughout Virginia and beyond. The tiny town of White Stone explodes with thousands of visitors every third weekend in March. They come to connect with artists, purchase art, and eat local seafood in one of Virginia’s most rural and beautiful areas on the shores of the Rappahannock River as it pours into the Chesapeake Bay. It is a “buying” kind of show!

I was in this show for over two decades before moving to the mountains in 2007. For most of those twenty-three years I lived only four miles away. Even after I moved, I went for two more years, because I had good friends to see and to stay with. So, last fall I made the decision to go back this spring after an absence of 11 years. I sent in my booth space fee. Jim designed and ordered new, updated business cards for me and a six foot banner. I had beautiful ceramic tile coasters made up with my paintings heat infused into them as a new item. And, I had a whole new body of work better than ever! The closer it got to “show time,” the more excited I got. I looked forward to renewing old friendships, reconnecting with former customers, and making new ones. I would relish the fragrance of salt air, eat baked rock fish and soft crab sandwiches, and savor the exhilaration of being back in my old stomping grounds of the Northern Neck.

Enter the coronavirus. Originating in China, it wasn’t long before it was world-wide. Over here in the eastern US, we felt protected by distance when it first appeared on the west coast. As it jumped to New York and Florida, I still felt life would go on as usual. But that nasty little covid-19 virus halted life as we’d known it, and created a new “normal.” It leaped state by state, finally entering Virginia in the north, then Virginia Beach, then suddenly in Harrisonburg, 55 miles down I-81 from me. The governor closed all schools K-12. He sent out warnings, then banned all gatherings of more than 100 people. Businesses began closing. Panicked customers stripped essential items and food from store shelves in a day. The W.H.O. declared covid-19 a pandemic, which made the stock market drop like a stone. The President declared a National Emergency. Suddenly, everything was being cancelled. That included my favorite art show.

Hope died that Jim and I would not be touched by this demon virus. We had done a lot to prepare for my show. Was it all for naught? Would the big May art show in Roanoke I’d applied for be cancelled as well? What show wouldn’t be? What was I doing this for? I admit to feeling very confused for a couple of days. And then, there was the precipitous fall on Wall Street. Fear. That’s when the discretionary income that people use to buy non-necessities like art gets tucked under the mattress instead. Similar to Black Monday in 1987 and the housing bust in 2008, the art market now could be in the doldrums for years. It was easy to wonder why I’d been doing art in the first place, and easier to it give up. I questioned if I should just stop painting altogether. These were dismaying thoughts!

So, what to do now? Although I was very disappointed at the show cancellation, and dismayed at the thought of others I’d applied to being cancelled, after a few days I felt strangely at peace inside.

Knowing the fluidity of the situation, Jim and I prayed that God would provide answers. We made a conscious decision to be proactive instead of reactive about how we responded to the circumstances. Most of all, we knew we must not let this time be a time of fear, but of confidence. Confidence, you ask? What could we have confidence in when the world is falling apart? Well, we know this pandemic will end, and we should be ready when it does. We know, because of our age, we need to make common sense adjustments in our routines to protect our health. We have confidence that there are reasons for everything that God has allowed to happen even if He didn’t instigate what’s happening.  We may not know them, but we also know our God will protect His children who trust in Him. Best of all, He has given us the blessing of time in the middle of a crisis! We must be the best stewards we can be of this precious commodity. Time to fall back and regroup. To concentrate on the things that matter. To look to Him for wisdom and guidance instead of giving in to panic. Love is liberating, so, we must use our time wisely to love, support, and connect with our families, and our friends and neighbors as best we can.  Jim and I must be good stewards of this valuable time.

Jim and I must be good stewards of the abilities and finances God has blessed us with as we seek to use these gifts for His purposes. We’ll use this lull to increase our efficiency and inventory. I determined I would not give up painting. God gave me the gift and expects me to use it. However, instead of increasing my inventory of large paintings, which I love to do, I’d concentrate on smaller pieces which would be more affordable. I plan to set up a streamlined bookkeeping system that inventories everything in its place. This is the perfect time. I’m researching limited edition Christmas ornaments of some of my paintings. And, I need to write more. Jim will continue tweaking my website, which is an on-going process anyway. we’ll add time-lapse photography videos of my painting process and some short teaching videos on pastels. This should increase my visibility on the internet. There is no shortage of things we can do to achieve better success in the future if we apply our due diligence to research, resources, and feasibility. We’ve talked about these things before, but now is the time to act. When March 2021 rolls around, we should be ready for a wonderful year ahead.

Fear is paralyzing. Fear is not of the Lord, but by the one who seeks to stop us from the Lord’s work. We might not be able to attend conferences or shows, or other gatherings we’d scheduled for March, but we have volunteered our time, through our church and privately, to help others in need. Helping others helps us realize our own blessings when we see those who are in deeper need.

It’s unsettling watching a metamorphosis in our society caused by a virus. But I have confidence in this time of crisis that we’ll come through the other side of it shining like beacons of light on a hilltop, as long as we keep our eyes on the things we can do instead of the things we can’t do. In this manner, we can all get through the corona virus pandemic!