Insight From a Master Landscape Artists AND 3 Helpful Lessons To Help You Reframe Your View of Your Next Chapter

 Happy Belated Mother’s Day Momma!

I hope it was all things beautiful, and lovely, and fun! My flying schedule was unusually crazy this week due to lot’s of crazy weather, delays, and not enough rest. But I’m here now. And this one’s for you, Midlife Momma (And those of you on your way – or further down the road than me). 

The party’s over Momma!

Unless you come from a family that rolls out the red carpet for you on a daily basis, your 24-hour, star-studded, princess-hero status is a thing of the past.

But hey…there’s always next year!

The cards, flowers, gifts, gift cards, text messages, visits and Facetime calls I received last weekend, from those I affectionately refer to as, The Crazy 8, were wonderfully sweet and thoughtful, to be sure.

My flowers are still lovely, I haven’t taken off this lovely bracelet off yet – or spent my TJ Max gift card. And I can not wait until our new patio is finished so I can serve my family and friends with my new cute little beverage cart. (How I’d love to push this fancy thing down the aisle of a 737 on my next trip! (Okay – not really). 


But what I find myself marveling at as an empty nest momma following this past Mother’s Day, is not all the lovely gifts I received, but the people who gave them.

And this midlife thought:

Although my kids (and grands) are a significant part of my story,

…they don’t tell the whole of my story.

This past Mother’s Day for me, was yet another reminder of the individual and unique way each one of my kids have added value, meaning and purpose to the overall landscape of my life.

And I love them all the more for it; for who they are; and who they have become. They are eight treasured gifts in every way imaginable.

All images shown are original oil on canvas paintings by Gary M. Stretar, Artist of the Western Reserve (Spencer, Ohio). I’m blessed to call him my brother-in-law.

Who doesn’t love a beautiful landscape painting, right?

At this stage of my momma journey (as a 58-year-old empty-nester), I get to step back, take in, and appreciate the layers upon layers of texture, depth, perspective and beauty that each child, their spouse, and grandchild, brings to the bigger story that God is telling with my life.

Imagine yourself, midlife momma, standing in front of an exquisite landscape masterpiece, like the one above.

One that expands the full length of a large wall. One rich in-depth of color, quality, value, and meaning.

At first glance, you almost walk by and miss it because it seems rather plain. But something inside you tells you to slow your hurry – and pause.  

As you fix your gaze on the canvas before you, and really look at it, you suddenly find yourself being drawn to another place in time. In your slowing, you begin to first admire the simplicity and elegant beauty of the image.

GaryStretar1GaryStretar2GaryStretar3GaryStretar4GaryStretar5The colors, shadows, light and dark contrast, invite you in – and compel you to stay and linger longer still. As you take it all in, something piques your curiosity even more. Like an invitation

To participate in something very special.

Something wonderfully unique.

Ssomething worthy of your time, attention.

Something that beckons your respect. 

Stepping back a few feet you now find yourself admiring the complexity of detail of the story being told through color, shape, icons, lines, and hue.

Not only are you captivated by the full scope of the painting, you begin to hone in on the fine strokes of genius (literally) at play. A sense of longing sweeps over you – to walk among the open field – to enter the time and place of the space before you, and wonder about the stories that lay within the dwellings portrayed.

Stone upon stone. Story upon story. The landscape comes to life!

Your eyes begin to follow the foreground of the painting, gradually progressing to middle, and slowly making your way toward the background. As you ponder the expanse of the work, time passes.

And like a quiet brook that bends and turns downstream ever so slightly, you are left standing beside it…feeling inspired, humbled, lifted, and grateful.

All of a sudden, you come to realize something very significant!


Your respect is not for the painting alone…but for the artist himself – and the wonderment of the story being told.

  • What of this landscape artist?
  • Who is he?
  • What do I need to know?
  • Why do I long to know more?
  • What is the story being told through the images placed on this canvas? 


There’s More to the Story.

So that I don’t make a complete fool of myself on this subject of landscapes, I decided to interview a true modern-day master landscape artist/painter, my dear friend and brother-in-law, Gary M. Stretar – Artist of the Western Reserve, who painted all of these lovely original landscapes before you.

I recently interviewed Gary on the topic of “landscapes” and he graciously answered a few questions from his perspective as a 53-year-old, American landscape artist, who has been greatly influenced by Northern European paintings from the Dutch and Flemish tradition (16-18th century Baltic School); French Barbizon, and Royal Academy painters in England.

Here’s what I learned from the master, himself.

“In landscape painting – you’re really telling about what you think is important, or noteworthy, or really interestingabout your environment. Many times, I’ll take literally, a blank canvas and I’ll look at the shape of the canvas.

That sounds so obvious – but the shape of the canvas will start to dictate in my mind what it is I’m going to start to paint. Because I think a certain shape – is going to communicate a certain frame. No different from a film maker – an expanse through a narrow key key-hole view of something, he is thinking in terms of what little snippet of a story he wants to tell…

Am I letting this breath? Am I giving someone a panoramic, sweeping view?    Or…am I focusing in on a smaller subject?

More specifically, when I sit down to paint – I generally am paying a tribute to somethingabout the American Landscape. When I paint, I’m thinking about what it is that I find specifically worthy of elevating us? I don’t think about making a political statement, and I don’t think about making a purely aesthetic statement, although asthetics in design are very important to me.”

He adds,

“As an artist, you must have a vision of what you want to communicate. Sometimes it’s just a little kernel – you don’t know how to express it until you get into the project of a vision. For me as a landscape artist – a painter of American Imagery – I have an idea (a vision) of what I want to remind people of. Or what I want to inspire them to.”


Gary’s perspective and wisdom is helpful for many reasons, but let me just highlight a few ways I think his wisdom and skill as an artist, can inform those of us in midlife.

  1. Landscapes paintings tell a story.

Whether you realize it or not sweet momma, your life is a story. And your story is of great significance!

Where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are, has profound meaning and purpose and value to the story being told with your life, and you’re the future of your next chapter.

The work of birthing, parenting, and letting go of your kids contributes greatly to the landscape story of your life. The mundane, the struggle, the health issues, the wayward child, the joys, the losses…it all adds to the rich story of grace God want to tell in you, with you, and through you.

It’s also significant to the story that is still being told. 

And let me assure you dear momma…YOU are a one-of-a-kind masterpiece because the landscape story of your life has been wrought by the Master himself.

  1. It’s the artist that determines the story being told.

Gary’s words also give us a glimpse of into the mind of a well-trained artist that knows his craft.

It is he, the artist, who determines the story he will tell – the canvas belongs to him alone.

I was stopped dead in my tracks when Gary spoke the words: “I generally, am paying a tribute to something.”

These words have profound significance and help me consider my life in a fresh new way. Here’s how:

As women, (daughters, sisters, aunts, wives, in-laws, mothers, grandmothers, and friends to other women) we need to remind ourselves that we are more than the roles we play, the needs we meet, and the work we do. Because when all of those roles and titles and duties are no longer in play – we come to realize that we are merely a child of God. We belong to him. It is God who made us…not we ourselves.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do not believe we are masters of our own ships…but rather, that “our steps are ordered by the Lord” and that every single stroke of our story us being guided my his sovereign plan and will.

God is the master story-teller of our lives. And we would do ourselves a kind favor to pause our busy selves, lean into Jesus, the Master artist, author, and director of our lives and listen to the story that He is telling and wants to tell.

The beauty of our journey through womanhood is in the bigger picture – the landscape view – the one that our good and gracious God is telling with our lives.

The master is still at work on the canvas of your life – adding more layers of interest and beauty. He has a vision of where he wants your story to go – how he wants it to end – and how others will be blessed by it. 

  1. Landscape paintings are only as good as the one painting them.

My brother-in-law Gary has been honing his craft for over 33 years. And he would never draw attention to his giftedness, but I can tell you with great confidence, that he is indeed known among the circle of his peers, as a modern-day master oil painter.

This also means that his paintings are worthy of more prestigious juried art shows, that they hold a higher value, and that His work speaks for itself. The shows he participates in   (only a handful a year) to sell his paintings are by invitation only. Those who don’t measure up to a certain standard, are not accepted.

Those who are able to pay the price of one of his art pieces understand that they have purchased something of great value – because of his reputation as skilled artist. And if they don’t quite understand who he is as an artist or a person – the work still speaks for itself because of it superb quality.

I suppose that’s why so many people are drawn to his paintings and are willing to travel far and wide to his art shows or personal gallery. Happy are those who own one of Gary’s works of art.

And so it is with you midlife momma!

The landscape story of your life, has been carefully, and intentionally envisioned and planned by THE MASTER!

You and I are the canvas’ on which God paints his best works of art. He is an extra ordinary God, who use the ordinary, to create the extra-ordinary. And because of that, you have great value and worth.

You’re story is one of tremendous beauty, embedded with rich textures, portraying a hopeful expression of God himself.  Your stories of darkness add to the layers upon layers of complex details and drama that have framed you life and shine forth God’s redemptive light.


But what is most brilliant about you – about your story – is the brilliance of the Artist himself!

  • The one who approaches each canvas with precise vision, intention, purpose, thought, and care.
  • The one who holds the brush and places each and every broad and fine stroke of our story. 
  • The one who knows every detail of the foreground, middle ground, and background of our lives.

My prayer for you today beloved friend, is that you will remember these three important things:

  1. The landscape story of your life matters!
  2. YOU are his masterpiece; He is the master artist.
  3. THE MASTER has painted his best work on the canvas of your life – which means, YOU are a portraits of his grace and mercy to draw the attention and gaze of others who also need to know this Master – who told his greatest story on the canvas of his one and only Son, Jesus…HIS GREATEST MASTERPIECE OF ALL TIME!

Now it’s your turn!

Q1: What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your midlife journey?

Q2: What spoke the loudest to you in the post?

Q3: Are you an artist? If so post your link below. I’d love to know how you approach your craft? Does Gary’s insight ring true for you also? How so?

Please feel free to share your comments in the comment box below. I know how precious your time is. So thank you for sharing a few minutes of your day with me.

Until Next Time…



***One final thought about this post***

My interview with Gary, was truly delightful – and it’s my pleasure to share Gary’s talent with you! 

You can find Gary’s work and Art Show Schedule at: 

Gary resides in Spencer Ohio with his wife Mary…also an incredible artist.


Gary shared much more with me on the subject of landscapes which I found so interesting! If you’d like to listen to the entire audio (sadly, I was unsuccessful in saving our video conversation) please email me at and I’ll send you a link. (Or if I figure out how to add the link – I’ll update this post and place it here.)

What can I say? I’m a painting in progress!





If you are struggling to know how to get unstuck in your midlife journey, I want to invite you to let me help you! I’ve been where you are midlife momma….feeling lost, lonely, discouraged, and depressed about my next chapter.

What I discovered, is that being lost, lonely, discouraged and depressed are all part of the journey. I figured out a few things that helped me find my way. A big part of that is remembering the one who is writing our story.  And remembering who he made you to be.

If this describes you, I’d love to help.

It would be my honor to help you discover more of the person God made you to be and to see you get excited about your next chapter!

Feel free to contact me at to schedule your coaching call today! Or Click Here to book your call or if you would like more information about my service: NEXT CHAPTER COACHING CALL

I look forward to hearing from you. 



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