How an Unexpected Mentor Transformed My Life and Shattered My Limiting Beliefs


I have the privilege and honor of mentoring artists and entrepreneurs.

When I was a young artist, I so badly wanted a mentor; I approached many artists who were more successful than me and asked them if I could pay them to mentor me. Not one of them wanted the job. A few were honest in telling me they didn't want to teach someone else what they knew and create competition for themselves. So I went about my career with my artist husband, John, making a ton of mistakes, getting cheated and mistreated, taking the long road and doing far too many stupid things. Finally, when I was thirty years old, I met Beverly and asked her to mentor me.

Meet Beverly: My Unexpected Mentor

Beverly is not an artist — she is a preacher! She travels the world, says the things out loud most people only think, and is about the most hilarious person I know. When she gets a microphone in her hand you never know what will happen: the whole place could be in tears, sobbing through one of her heartfelt stories, or laughing in hysterics, rolling in their chairs while gripping their sides.

Beverly told me the key to public speaking is to “get them laughing and get them crying, then you have their heart.” I asked Beverly to mentor me because I knew I wanted to grow and I needed wisdom. I had a lot of fears and limiting beliefs. I knew if I could overcome these and have true wisdom, I would be unstoppable.

At the time, I was a bit of a church girl. I spent my weeks buried in the obligations of women's groups, Bunco, and “giving back” to Sunday school. John and I painted all the time and sold our work to dealers to make a living, but we lived with very little purpose. Deep down I knew there was greatness inside of me, but my humble-little-church-girl self felt ashamed to even admit it to myself or live it out.

I shrunk myself back into a very small world with a voice that ruled over me saying, “Who do you think you are? How dare you think you can be great?! You are so arrogant. What will everyone think?” I was a mess! I lived in the vast wilderness of living for others, terrified of what other people would think of me, and afraid of being showy, too much, or not enough. I was miserable.

Beverly set me free. She would often shower me with words of my potential, of my greatness, and tell me that God saw my future and was calling me to it. With every word I could feel myself opening up and blossoming.

I traveled with Beverly to many countries, but my first trip was Mexico City. I was still horribly shy and insecure. I watched Beverly go all around the city speaking with one group after the next. She made them laugh and she made them cry; I saw how she made an impact.

No one was ever the same after they met Beverly. She would speak to them in the most powerful way, revealing ancient mysteries of their destiny that was planned before time. I saw people lift and expand with the possibility that they had a purpose in God. She inspired me to want to empower people in this way too.

Shedding My Fears and Limiting Beliefs

I was never the same after that trip. I shed a thick layer of false humility and pride and left it in Mexico. After I returned, I noticed I had the confidence to go into stores alone. I could speak to strangers and walk a bit taller. I had the confidence to begin to dream again and imagine my life in the fullness of my own destiny.

I continued to travel with Beverly to the Philippines, Ukraine, France, Hungary, and Greece. There were so many adventures, laughter, tears, arguments, victories, and joy. She gave me opportunities to teach, share, and speak publicly. I taught art in universities and small groups. My fear of other people's opinions faded and I became a fully functioning confident person. Beverly gave me much more than I ever gave back, but the best gift of all came through her love of the poem Song of Solomon.

The Poem that Changed My Life: Song of Solomon

Artist Elli Milan standing in front of her artwork series "song of solomon" inspired by the poem

Anyone who knows Beverly will say, “She tells a great story. She will make you cry, she will make you laugh. And she loves Song of Solomon.” When she talks about this poem, she is transported. She lights up the room. Before long she is in tears at the thought of how much God loves us. At first I thought the whole thing was weird. I was concerned about my new mentor and why she loved this erotic poem so much. As the church girl, I couldn't figure out why this “preacher” constantly talked about a poem that was all about SEX!

After countless times of listening to her dissect the poem and explain the symbolism, I started to understand it. She showed me how every word mattered and had at least five levels of symbolic meaning. For example, most poems and songs speak about the color of someone's eyes. This poem is different. In this one, he says her eyes are like doves. If your eyes are glowing white like doves, they are clear and opened wide. Only someone who has stared deeply into someone's eyes for along time will notice how the white in the corners are the shape of a dove's wing.

Beverly says, “He says her eyes are like doves because he loves her faithfulness. A dove has no peripheral vision and can only see straight in front of her. She mates for life!” Beverly's favorite part of the poem is: You have ravished my heart with a single glance of your eyes, with a single bead of your necklace. She grips her chest and throws her head back every time she recites it and says, “Did you hear that? With one bead of her necklace. Your neck is your will and if you just move it the slightest amount, a bead of your necklace will move. It's her obedience! She ravishes his heart with one small gesture of obedience!”

This poem unraveled a deep mystery for me and showed me how magically profound the Bible is. God has a language that speaks right to our spirit. Just one image can represent a universal, multidimensional wisdom and a personal message directly from Him all at once. I begin to see honey, and figs, and wine, so differently.

Through Beverly and this poem, my whole spiritual life became alive. I started to see how God spoke to me in the dreams I had at night and everything meant something. There were no coincidences and life was no longer random. As an artist I realized that what I painted, like the Song of Solomon, had prophetic meaning and were symbols that spoke of deeper mysteries. Art could be interpreted like dreams. My world, which was once gray and flat, became vibrant, rich, and round. Everything seemed to be lit.

From Mentee to Mentor: The Ultimate Reward

One day, after about ten years of being mentored by Beverly, I heard her say from the stage, “I've been mentoring Elli for a while, but now she's passed me up and I don't mentor her anymore.” I was shocked. I didn't feel the same. I thought, Is she dumping me? Just like that, I'm orphaned and on my own?

It wasn't until years later I realized what a great mentor she was. Insecure and controlling teachers want their students always just behind them or not quite succeeding. Beverly's greatest desire is to watch the ones she teaches surpass her. This has inspired me as a mentor.

My own daughter, Dimitra, has already passed me up. Many of our students are on their way. One of my greatest achievements will be to see thousands of artists change the world with their art and know I got to be a part of their journey.

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


  • Rebecca Woodland

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. No words. Only tears.
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Aww! Rebecca, you are such a sweety pie! I miss you!

  • Rachel

    I loved this story! It really spoke to me as I am at the stage of realising that I feel like a vessel for god’s word to pour from – I’ve been so unconfident in what Im painting and only just started reading the bible in a quest for the truth. its like layers peeling back one by one and things seem different. My old mindset is battling with this new wisdom and I’d love to let my paintings speak in the way I feel them when painting.
    What a fantastic mentor to have as well! What a blessing! Love the story of your paintings (Blessed in the city) too arriving at the gallery just in time and the woman who connected with that painting. We don’t hear those stories often of the people who do connect with our work and the power and transformation that can take place! Thanks for sharing! x
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    That’s so exciting Rachel! Art and spirituality are something incredibly profound. Its hard to even put into words.

  • Erum Qureshi

    This is so profound Elli. Whenever I see you or read your words I know you are my mentor. Every word of your story resonated with my soul and what I am going through right now
    I know you are my mentor. I am from Pakistan and soon I’ll be under your mentorship💕
    Bless you🌸
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Aw! Erum! Nothing would make me happier! Im so glad you reached out and we have the technology to be able to connect although we are worlds apart!

  • Natalia

    What a beautiful story! Your words always fills me up with courage to pursue my dreams.
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Yeah!! 🙌🏽I’m so glad.

  • Angie Toungate

    What an inspiration! God for sure had a plan for you. Thank you for listening to that voice telling you to do God’s work. It is his will, always to see us prosper in all things. The book and poems of Solomon, have inspired many creative over the years, but to see it on canvas was so profound and spiritual.

    I look forward to classes online every day. God gave me painting art 6 years ago, it got me through 3 cancers. Now, as soon as I start your program, I find out the thyroid cancer spread some place else. I almost quit art when I heard that. But, my husband said, it was meant for me to take these classes. And to be filled with hope. You certainly have, inadvertently done that.

    So this warms my heart to read, he has directed your steps that has helped so many with their dreams to become a successful artist. It helps us look forward to the future.

    Thanks again. Your fan in art.
    Angie T @Angiesartjourney

    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Wow! Angie. I’m so sorry to hear about your health challenges. It sounds like that could be very discouraging. You are blessed that your husband sees you and knows you well to encourage you forward in your art. Art is very healing! All the best and pray for your healing and full recovery. 💕

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