How Painting Began for Me
I am a painter who loves creating textured abstracts. Through my art, I process with the Lord thoughts that can sometimes seem overwhelming, and I invite Him to heal my heart.
“IT IS FINISHED (A tribute to my mom)
I do not have formal training in painting. I believe the Holy Spirit guides my artwork, especially when I meditate on the Word of God in my quiet times with Him. In fact, it’s because of the Holy Spirit that I named my website “Paraclete Hands.” I believe my paintings are not about me; I use them to give all the glory to my Creator–the Living God.
I started painting as part of my grieving and healing process. My mom was a single mother, and we were very close. She took up Fine Arts as her pre-law course and encouraged my older brother and me to draw when we were young. I was too insecure back then, but I knew in my heart that I had the desire to paint abstractly. It was clear that my older brother inherited our mother’s talent, and he won several art competitions inside and outside school. As for me, I did not pursue art. In fact, I did a 180 degree turn, running as far as I possibly could from it. I believed in the lie that art was not for me. I reasoned to myself that I couldn’t draw or paint or follow grid lines the way my brother or mother did. Therefore, I suppressed any dreams I had of painting.
A young Marj with her brother and mother
When my mom passed away in 2016, I wasn’t able to properly grieve for two years. There were family responsibilities thrown at me after her death, and some complex issues came up concerning our property. Anger from my own relatives left me emotionally wounded and drained.
Painting with the Lord
In 2019, I went to Elijah House, a ministry that imparts life-giving principles and that counsels and facilitates God’s healing for those with hurting hearts, confused minds, and wounded spirits. I needed to heal and grieve the loss of my mom and everything that came with it. I found some of my mother’s art materials and unfinished portraits. I gathered the materials and brought them with me. I thought it might be therapeutic to paint and process my grief through art as I continued my healing process in a furlough season.
As I spent more time with the Lord and His Word, He healed and replaced false identities and lies about who I believed myself to be, and how people defined me in the past–including the lie: “Art is not for me.” I realized that the lie lodged in when I felt I wasn’t good enough; when I compared my skills to that of my mom and my big brother. The truth was revealed to me that I did not have to be like them! God had created me differently. Uniquely. Fearfully. Wonderfully. For a specific purpose. (Psalm 139:14)
A photo taken when mom was still alive. Yes, I am unique!
I exchanged my insecurities with a secure and firm Rock on which I could stand on–Christ, His Word, and His finished work on the cross. I am who He says I am, and I can do what He says I can. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Since then, painting has become a part of my quiet time with the Lord. The Holy Spirit impresses His heart to me differently each time–sometimes a verse comes to me; at other times, a vision; and at times, I dream and awake to paint what I dreamt about. In whatever way He speaks, the Word of God has always prompted and inspired me to create art. Painting taught me, and still does to this day, to really listen to the Holy Spirit.
My Paintings as Reminders from God
I am still continuing to heal and for me, my paintings represent my scars. They are reminders of God’s healing and faithfulness, as well as a representation of facing my fears head-on with God’s love and grace sustaining me daily. There’s always a sense of joy in fully depending on the Lord and not relying on my own strength everytime I paint. It’s like an adventure where I jump into the unknown, while I completely trust the One who tells me to jump in total surrender. Each time doubt enters my mind when I paint, I’d stop and go back to God’s Word.
I pray that my paintings will speak to people in a personal manner that they will understand. I think that artworks are meant to communicate to people’s hearts and are more than mere aesthetics. My hope and prayer is that when people look at my paintings, these artistic creations will minister to their hearts as much as they have ministered to mine. This is the very reason I opened my works to the public even when it felt vulnerable at first. I share them because I can’t “unsee” the bigger picture that through them, the Word can be preached and the love of Christ can be made known.
FISHERS OF MEN Inspired by Matthew 4:19
Motivated by Jesus’ Mission
I became a Christian in 2004, but ever since I was young, I’ve always had a heart for missions, even wanting to become a nun at one point in my life! After accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my heart for missions grew, and my desire, longing, and love to reach the nations and preach the Gospel intensified.
I underwent formal training at church and our partner missions training agency, the Asian Center for Missions. Then I served as a missionary to Thailand from 2009 to 2011. After this, I followed the Lord and went wherever He called me. My last job prior to becoming a freelance painter was at Operation Blessing Philippines, the humanitarian arm of CBN Asia where I served as a fundraiser and events coordinator.
My Nothingness as Backdrop of God’s Glory
Just like so many of God’s servants, I know I am “not qualified.” It’s a good thing that He doesn’t call the qualified, and that He qualifies those whom He has called! In the words of John Ortberg, “I believe there is something–Someone–inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside you that wants to walk on the water–to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God” (taken from the book, If You Want to Walk on Water by John Ortberg).
Jump even when you’re afraid. When the Lord tells you to jump, you jump. When He tells you to rise, you rise! Because when He tells you He will be with you, indeed He will. He who started the good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ’s return (Philippians 1:6).
So be strong. Be courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
A Sneak Peek into La Cara
My motivation and inspiration for La Cara, an ongoing portraiture-themed exhibit organized by Art Lovers PH-Cavite Chapter, are the following: those who are lost, the heartbeat of God towards humankind (gospel), cross-cultural missions, and the unreached people groups, particularly the tribal bloc. The tribal bloc served as my collection’s theme: “Nameless Faces.” These are the people who are of the different tribes around the world and who need our prayers so that they will come to the saving knowledge of Christ.
I did a bit of research about THUMB (tribal, Hindu, unreligious, Muslim, and Buddhist), an acronym for the five major blocks of unreached people groups in the world. Since we just celebrated “Missions Month” in church, I decided to paint THUMB portraits on bilaos. Because I wasn’t trained to paint portraits, I was scared to do it. It was actually my first time painting portraits since my previous paintings were all abstract! I laughed and was brought to tears at the same time as I witnessed the paintings progress into completion. There is nothing I can boast about except the grace of God that enabled me to create them.
Though my paintings are personal and are inspired by different aspects of my life, I am open for commissioned work. My works can be seen in “Paraclete Hands” on Facebook and Instagram.
Here are some of my notable works at the La Cara exhibit, which currently runs until September 24 of this year. You can find my paintings at the ground floor of Lotus Mall, Imus Cavite:
This Matigsalug piece was inspired by Nanay Cora, my late grandmother, who passed away in 2020. The Matigsalug tribe is close to my heart because I lived with them for two weeks during a local short-term missions outreach in Mindanao way back 2007 or 2008.
“Karen” and “Akha” pieces are purely imagined faces. They were inspired by the hill tribes visited by our missions group in Thailand where I served the Lord for two years.
“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” (Revelation 5:9)
SIZE: 8.3″ x 11.7″ (A4 excluding frame)
MEDIUM: Acrylic on canvas
INCLUSIONS: With wooden frame and Certificate of Authenticity
Marj Laurena is an abstract painter/ secret poetess who sometimes runs out of words, so she paints instead.
I was moved by your works. It was like meeting your mom again in another time through your works. My high-school memories is not complete without your mom in the picture with her hand works. Her love manifests in you and your brother. It freely flows and you are both wonderful human beings embraced in and by her love coming from the ultimately from our Creator God.
Congratulations and I wish you more success. ❤️
All glory to our Lord po! 🙌 This blesses and warms my heart po, Tita Nona. ❤️ I am grateful to the Lord for all of you. Thank you for loving mama and treating her as your sister. Your friendship in your batch is such an inspiration. God bless you always!
Thank you so much, One Voice Magazine for featuring my artworks and God’s work in my life! 🙏
All glory, honor, and praise belongs to you, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! 🙌❤️ Increase in me as I decrease in You!