The Catalyst That Catapulted My Career In a New Direction - The Conclusion


 "Blessed In the City" - Abstract painting by artist couple Elli and John Milan

Her words sent a chill down my spine: “We may have to cancel the show…”

My heart sank. After the great miracle of discovering that my art meant something and realizing I actually had a voice, we secured this dream opportunity—a solo show in a beautiful gallery—and now, the dream was vaporizing before our very eyes all because UPS lost our box?!

The Mystery of the Missing Art Box

My thoughts swirled, grappling with the idea of the missing box, wondering where the guardian box angles went. How could such a large box go missing? Where could it be? The box was huge and we paid a fortune for oversize freight. It was so colossal that it used to house an extra-large screen TV! That’s when it dawned on me: had someone mistaken it for a TV? Of course! We are so stupid, so naïve!

The UPS Lost Box Mystery

Someone probably thought there was a TV inside and decided to claim it. Perhaps a worker, during a late shift at the Indiana warehouse, saw the TV box and thought he hit the jackpot with an unguarded TV for him to take. That was the only explanation for the missing box.

I shared my theory with John. Despite the seriousness of the situation and the horror of possibly canceling the show, we both found it humorous to picture a UPS worker at home gleefully unpacking a shiny TV, only to discover a bunch of dumb art. John and I couldn’t help but laugh at the thief's disappointment in seeing “Blessed in the City” and “Blessed in the Country.” I doubt he realized those 15 paintings could easily buy at least three high-end TVs. We were amused at the thought of his dilemma over what to do with the 15 paintings.

It struck me how art could be so precious and life-changing to one person, yet to another useless trash in comparison to a TV. John and I prayed that the thief who took the box would do the right thing and bring it back. We imagined him sneaking it back into UPS just as he had snuck it out. There was nothing we could do except hope and wait. Our fate was completely out of our control.

The Unexpected Arrival of "Blessed in the City"

Elli and John Milan's solo exhibition "Heavens Exchange" - artist john milan posing in art gallery of abstract art by artist couple. Two hearts one canvas

The following day brought joy. Susan called, her voice bubbling with excitement, reporting that the gallery received an open box with all the paintings haphazardly stuffed inside. Our “Blessed in the City” triptych made it to the gallery. The show was back on track and Susan had time to have her crew hang the artwork before Friday's opening.

We were so grateful. After so much resistance, we felt like there must be something really special about this show. Heaven’s Exchange would surely touch people's lives and leave a lasting impression, potentially altering the course of future events.

The Catalyst That Changed My Career

Susan emailed us late Saturday with updates. The opening night was a success with a good turnout. Many people were intrigued by our work, especially that a husband and wife collaborated on each piece. She said that two pieces had sold, and although it wasn’t amazing, we were off to a great start.

The following week, we experienced what every artist lives for. Susan sent us a heartfelt email, encouraging us to never stop painting. She shared that a renowned gospel singer and art collector from Detroit had visited the new show. Upon seeing the city triptych, “Blessed in the City,” she was visibly moved, her knees buckling as tears filled her eyes. Her tears turned to weeping as she fell to the floor. After spending some time with the painting, she shared her story with Susan.

The Spiritual Connection Between Art and Its Beholder

She revealed that years ago, she had received a prophecy, a divine calling to transform the desolate places of Detroit into thriving communities of strong families. She witnessed a lot of abuse, despair, drug addiction, and poverty. But the city’s overwhelming darkness was too much for her, and she contemplated leaving Detroit. She was losing hope.

When she saw the painting, memories of her prophetic experience from years past flooded her soul. As she looked into the painting, she saw her destiny. She saw an eternal promise that she was blessed in the city. She had to buy the painting for her home in Detroit to remind her of her purpose. To serve as a source of inspiration to persevere, and a testament that God was with her.

Art's Destiny and Purpose

We were overjoyed to know the depths in which this painting touched someone. Just weeks before, we thought the art was just decorations to match furniture and throw pillows. It was forever etched in me that when an artist creates, there’s an unseen magic at work.

Every piece has a destined owner. The collector has their own story and life they are living, filled with highs and lows, twists and turns. They have desires, dreams, and aspirations. They experience serendipity and nuance signs from above. When they connect with our art, truly taking it all in, it becomes a catalyst, an answer, a confirmation, a solace, or a healing force. This moment marks the artwork’s completion.

Our art is not finished until it is claimed by the one it was created for. Like “Blessed in the City,” it may have a long and eventful journey. It might sit in a corner, overlooked for months, or be passed around from wall to wall. It may even embark on an extensive journey and get painted over or revised. But eventually, it finds its home and fulfills the purpose for which it was created.

A Newfound Vision and Direction for My Artist Odyssey

This is my joy as an artist. This is what brings meaning to every hour spent behind the brush. It's worth every sacrifice and every moment of frustration. It's how I express love.

That was a pivotal moment in my career, and I never looked at my art—or anyone else's—in the same way again. It has made me even more determined to create the very best work I can while I'm here.

Share your experience in the comments below!


  • Sheila

    Tears streaming down my face reading this, I can see God blessing you and your family, what a beautiful testimony and a lesson for me, I’m 66yrs, and have been desiring to paint for yrs, I’m forsure going to take one of u’r classes, you and your family inspire me to not give up, I just new from the start following your work you live God, how awesome
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    I’m so glad this story inspired you. Don’t give up. Just grab your brush and get painting. Don’t worry about the outcome.

  • Connie Faull

    Curious, was the gospel singer CeCe Winans? Great story.
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    You know what? I think it was! Thank you! I totally forgot who it was. An artist just wrote to me from Detroit and told me that the city has changed dramatically in the last 10 years and especially in the last 5 years. It’s so wonderful to hear!

  • Murphy Norma

    Beautiful story and meaningful insight to our art and never knowing who’s heart we will touch. On another note, we once purchased a bunch of inexpensive computer boxes, packed a bunch of dishes, while my husband was going in and out loading the truck two guys came and he caught them stealing the boxes. They ran away, but it would have been hilarious for them to find a bunch of bowls and dishes vs Dell computers! Lol
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Oh my gosh that is so funny!

  • Rachel Greer

    Wow, so incredible to read this weeks Odessy.
    I once had an artwork go missing in my final year of school, I was so mad! I loved that painting and so did many others. I totally feel different about it now, pondering on how it may have ended up with the right person in the end some how, maybe the person who took it maybe not.
    Maybe it is on a wall somewhere reminding someone of something very personal and encouraging 💛
    Thank you for sharing these stories Elli!

    Elli Milan Art replied:
    It so true. The cool thing is that no one really has the heart to throw out or destroy artwork, so it always ends up somewhere. Even if it is worthless to someone, they still cant just toss it, so it just passes through them until it finds the one it was meant for!

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