I glanced at my buzzing phone, seeing Bev's name flashing on the screen. "Hey, what's up?" I answered, curious about her sudden call.
"You wanna go to Ukraine with me?" Bev's voice held a hint of excitement.
"Not really," I replied, unsure of the idea. "Doesn't sound too fun."
"But you'll have opportunities to teach and talk to young aspiring artists in a University. Doesn't that sound better?" Bev countered, trying to entice me.
"A little bit," I admitted, intrigued. "What's the living situation like?"
"We're gonna stay at a training center in Uzhgorod, and most of our meals will be provided," Bev explained.
I hesitated, remembering Bev's stories of her past experiences in Russia and Bosnia. Images of peas and mayonnaise and cold showers flashed through my mind. "I don't know, Bev. It doesn't sound very appealing."
"But I thought you wanted to change the world," Bev reminded me with a touch of conviction. "You should ask God if you should go."
"Do I need any money? And when are you thinking of leaving?" I asked, starting to consider the possibility.
"We'll leave in two weeks. I have your ticket on hold, but you'll need to pay me $1,400 by 4 pm today if you want to go. I'll take care of everything else," Bev informed me.
"Alright. Look, I literally have about $40 in my account, but if $1,400 falls out of the sky before 4 pm today, I'll let you know," I replied, trying to hide my uncertainty.
"Well, I think I've got $37 in my account, but I'm going. If you want to go, God will make it happen," Bev declared before abruptly hanging up, as she often does. I had come to learn that she despised awkward small talk at the end of a phone call, preferring to end conversations swiftly. It was rare to hear her say, "K, Bye," just before the click.
Irony Written in Ink
I glanced at my phone and saw that it was already 10 am. I couldn't fathom a single way to gather $1,400 by 4 pm for a trip I wasn't entirely enthusiastic about. But Bev's words about changing the world lingered in my mind. If I truly wanted to see change and help artists in a place where they had limited support, perhaps this was the opportunity to start. It came just a week after I felt a divine calling to open an art school, despite having no prior teaching experience or connection to any university. The irony of it all was starting to sink in.
With a glimmer of faith and desire, I mustered a whisper of a prayer, "Okay, God, if I'm meant to go to Ukraine right now, I'm willing, but I need $1,400 by 4 pm." Putting it out of my mind, I carried on with my day. Immersed in painting in the sweltering garage, I dreamed of expanding my creative space in the 2000 square foot building on the property. Not only did I require $1,400 for the flight to Ukraine, but I also needed around $25,000 to establish a proper art studio, and now, I guess, an art school.
A Serendipitous Check Arrives
Around 2 pm, I took a short walk to the mailbox before picking up the kids from school. A peculiar envelope caught my eye, devoid of the usual junk mail or bills. As I held it in my hands, I read the return address, "Haven Gallery, Austin Texas." Ah, yes, I had completely forgotten about that gallery.
It had been more than a year since I last heard from them, and I’m racking my brain to recall what artwork I have showcased with them. Envelopes from galleries usually contain either a 1099 tax document or a check. It wasn't January, so there had to be money inside.
Before I had even ripped open the envelope, I had already spent it three times over in my mind—on bills, art supplies, and clothes for the kids. I had completely forgotten about Beverly's trip to Ukraine and my half-hearted prayer until I laid my eyes on the check amount. In bold black ink, I read: $1,400.
My heart sank as quickly as the vision of paid bills, new art supplies, and children's clothing evaporated. I realized that in two weeks, I would board an airplane with Beverly, venturing far beyond my comfort zone, probably eating peas and mayonnaise, enduring cold showers, and teaching art classes I had never taught before.
The Transformative Power of Divine Intervention
Dread and fear transform into awe and wonder as I come to terms with the fact that God is, indeed, real, powerful, intentional, and personal. I am captivated by the notion that God has set His gaze upon me, plucking me from my daily life and sending me somewhere to effect change and touch lives. My heart melts at His wit and humor. I receive a check from Haven Gallery, precisely for the amount of $1,400. I regret not asking for some additional spending money as well.
Building Lasting Connections with Ukrainian Artists
Now, 14 years later, we have developed Art Social, a platform for artists worldwide, with a dedicated team of Ukrainian developers and designers, whom I know personally through my daughter’s husband, who also happens to be my trusted business partner. This serendipitous connection was sparked when I crossed paths with his sister during that transformative voyage, where her artistic destiny was unveiled.
Since 2009, I have been extending my support to artists in Ukraine, making almost yearly visits. I have journeyed there over eight times, providing mentorship to numerous Ukrainian artists who are now actively reshaping the world and uplifting their nation during challenging times.
Seizing Every Opportunity Aligned With My Destiny
If I had known all of this, the decision would have been effortless, and I would have willingly sold every possession to finance the trip. I didn’t know. My mind was preoccupied with thoughts of peas and mayonnaise. By the way, I did not have to eat any of that or take a cold shower. Every shower was hot, and I ate delicious meals prepared with love and honor.
I have come to understand that every opportunity aligned with my destiny is meant for me to seize and give my whole heart to it. I am profoundly grateful that God stands in my future, calling me toward it with unwavering certainty.