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  • Writer's pictureJenni Lien

Mel Kistner, a Painter and Art Therapist Based in Florida, USA

Isn't it so wonderful to meet Christian women using their talents for God's glory?

Ever since I met Mel (on Instagram), an artist and art therapist, I've been greatly encouraged by her hope-filled art as well as her faith-filled testimony. In life, perhaps we're always waiting on God for something so encouragement to wait well is always welcome. Blessed are we to have friends that encourage us... and as well as encouraging art pieces to decorate our home! I have a print of Mel's piece 'Lifter of My Head' (see below) hanging right outside my kitchen and it always fills me with joy. There's something about the bird's expression that reminds me to keep my eyes fixed on above, with my faith deeply rooted to hold on, hold on no matter what because God is faithful. He is.

Read on below to learn about how God has used art to reveal himself to Mel and to teach, challenge and change her in unexpected ways!

Name: Mel Kistner

Location: Oviedo, Florida

Age: mid 40s

Family life: Married to Kevin for 22 years and we have 3 children, Cameron 17, Gianna, 15 and Gabriel who is 6. 

Hey Mel! Thank you for sharing with us today. Could you start with how you became a Christian?

I became a Christian at age 14. I had been hanging around a rebellious group of friends making some bad decisions and my Christian mother “made me go” to youth group. I hated it the first year but over time I began thinking more about the Bible and what it meant to me. I went to a Christian camp with that youth group the summer before I started high school and I responded to an altar call to give my life to Christ. My mom later told me she had called the youth pastor and asked him to pray for me. I have been so blessed in my life by the power of a praying mom

Mel Kistner Art Lifter of My Head
Lifter of My Head

What’s your favourite way to experience God?

I love experiencing God deep in the heart of worship. I love to sing worship songs and just release everything in my heart to Him as I sing lyrics and just freely praise while listening to worship songs. During a trial these past two years, I have also been walking outside on our land praying and praising God and these times have allowed me to connect with God in new ways and hear His voice. I start out praying but end up reciting truths in scripture, thanking him for what He’s done and praising Him by declaring His attributes. This process has allowed me to take my focus off my concerns and remember who God is. I’ve also been able to listen to Him more outside in this busy season of my life. There’s something about physically getting outside and experiencing nature with God that has grown my faith in new ways. 

What does celebrating your God-given design mean to you?

The first step is recognizing our strengths and seeing that naming them is not prideful but honoring who God created us to be. I think there is this tendency to downplay our gifts. But when we realize God has gifted all of us and created us in His image, recognizing these gifts becomes a way to honor Him. When we can recognize our unique gifts along with our weaknesses and give all of it equally to God, He can use us how He intended. There’s this balance of staying humble and being willing to give anything up to follow where He leads us while at the same time being willing to step out and use our gifts boldly for His kingdom.

When I was in high school there was a period in which I was failing a class because I didn’t “feel like” doing the work. I remember my dad being stern with me yet very loving and telling me that it’s not up to me to choose how God made me. He encouraged me to do my best with the strengths that God has given me and that included working hard in school. By working hard and using the gifts God has given us for His glory and to serve others, we honor God with our lives. 

Mel Kistner Art Facing Fear
Facing Fear

When I was working as a counselor I found that a lot of clients had a hard time recognizing their strengths. I would help them start a list with two columns: strengths and traits. We would write down things they were good at and skills they had in the “strengths” column and then character and personality qualities they had in the “traits” column. Sometimes asking friends and family members you trust to write down three traits they see in you and three strengths is a helpful way to get started. I find that sometimes the things that come most naturally to us are part of our God given design and we often don’t recognize that others are not gifted in the same ways.

Satan wants to keep us feeling bad about the things we are not good at but we need to see the larger picture of the body of Christ and how we all work together with our unique gifts and strengths to bring Him glory.

I have spent a lot of time feeling bad about things like not being able to whip together a meal that is easy to deliver to someone in need. But I have recognized that though I am not good in that area, I love to encourage people and have deep conversations about how they are doing. There are others ways I can help that come easily for me and those are the things I need to focus on and do more. Sure, God does call us to do difficult things and there is work involved when we step out to use our gifts. But in determining our God given design I think we can look to the things that seem natural to us and are a joy for us to do for others.

How do you hold onto this when times are tough?

When times are tough it’s so easy to focus on the problems and to let our imaginations go wild with everything else that could go wrong.

Two years ago, we experienced some significant damage to our home that insurance didn’t cover. We had recently bought our home and land, certain that God had brought us to this specific place. When this trial began, it was a huge hit financially and we questioned if we had gotten it wrong to move here. There were some things the former homeowner didn’t disclose so we ended up having to rip out all the damage plus fix drainage issues on the land that we are not aware of. Initially, I just felt depressed and overwhelmed. I was literally looking at the issue every day and found it hard to focus on God and pray. I didn’t even know what to pray most days.

My faith that God could do the impossible and that He was still present in our lives never wavered but I was confused about what He was allowing and what to do next. 

When we were at a point of decision about our keeping our home or selling it “as is” because of where we were financially, my husband had some wise words. He said whatever the outcome, he didn’t want this trial to be “wasted.” He wanted God to be able to use this in our lives in whatever way He needed to in order to draw us closer to Him and live our lives more fully for His purposes. 

Mel Kistner Art Out of the Darkness
Out of the Darkness

The truth was that before the trial, we were creatures of comfort and God shook us up to be used more for His kingdom. 

We attended a prayer group where the leaders encouraged us to say scripture out loud and to boldly ask for God to move in new ways. We realized we had been timid in our prayers. That’s when the Holy Spirit prompted me to start walking the land and praying every day. I did this for several weeks until I felt a release in the need to do it daily. When I looked back, I had done this for 40 days which I felt was confirmation from God that He was at work in all the details. We both felt a peace come over us and we released the house to the Lord. He provided a way for us to stay and lead us to a lawyer that believes our insurance company should have covered the damage. We don’t know what the outcome will be, but our continual reading of the word, praying when we didn’t even know what to pray and seeking His will has given us a peace that He is at work. Through this trial we have grown closer to God and both stepped out in faith in ways we would not have done without the trial.

So to sum that up, when we hit a trial it’s time to press in and ask, “Lord, show me how you want to use this in my life. I trust you and I surrender.” After 2 years, we have gone from being devastated to thanking God for this trial and the work He is doing in us and through us. 

I love seeing your amazing art! Can you share more about your art journey?

Art has always been a way for me to communicate with others and find hope. When I was a child, I filled notebooks with drawings of faces, thinking about their stories and what they might say if I met them. I declared I wanted to be an artist at age 5. When I was in high school, I experienced some health issues and art was a way I could express my feelings in order to cope with what I was experiencing. I went to art school for college and through my paintings I saw images emerge that lead to a correct medical diagnosis. It was then that I saw the power of art, both in the process and the product. 

Mel Kistner Art Walk for Water
Walk for Water

After getting my BA in painting from the Art Institute of Chicago, I went to graduate school for art therapy so I could help others use the healing power of art. I became a licensed clinical therapist and worked as a counselor for 12 years before leaving to focus on painting while I homeschooled my children. 

It was during that time that I realized I had kept my art separate from God. In art school and the years following, I knew God had given me talent but I would create art then pray for Him to bless my journey as an artist. As I returned to pursuing art more fully after my time working as a clinical therapist, I realized I needed to invite God into my art making process. I also needed to surrender my goals as an artist to him. As I began to pray more before and during the painting process, I saw new images emerge. 

In the past few years I realized that I was “striving” for things in my art career that God had never intended me to pursue. They weren’t bad things and in fact may be part of the path of other artists who are seeking His will in their lives. But I needed to surrender my identity as an artist, my pride and my own ideas of how God wanted to use my talent. 

Recently, God has been revealing ways He wants to use my skills as a counselor alongside my artwork to bring healing and encouragement to those who are experiencing anxiety and difficulty trusting God. 

What is one thing God has taught you through your art?

Wow, God has taught me so many things though art. He has taught me that we are a work of art in process and sometimes, just like in a painting, we have to sacrifice things in order to become who He intends us to be. Sometimes there are great parts of a painting, but it’s not working as a whole. I realize I have to take something I love out of the painting for the painting to be able to communicate what is on my heart. It’s through this process that God leads my paintings and I end up with an image that is even better than what I intended because I was able to let go of my preconceived notions and let the Holy Spirit lead the process. 

Mel Kistner Art Sorrow and Joy
Sorrow and Joy

I also have learned that there’s no “quick way” with my art, just like in life. It’s those layers of paint on the surface that I have found so interesting in my process as they create a texture that communicates this sense of depth and time. There are times in our lives when we want circumstances or seasons we are in to go more quickly. We want to avoid the waiting times that God allows. But through those waiting times and through the trials, God develops this beauty in us because of the rich layers of life we have experienced and we are then able to be used in the lives of others. 

God has used art to reveal himself to me, to teach, challenge and change me in unexpected ways. I have seen the power of images to transform our thinking and remind us of Biblical truths.

I am passionate about creating work that people can hang in their homes or work spaces to remind them of truth and encourage them to trust God.  

Can you share one God-sized dream he's placed on your heart? Would love to encourage and pray with you!

God has placed a desire in my heart to use my art and therapy experience together to encourage those who experience anxiety or fear and want to trust God more. I would love to have a thriving business and ministry where I can increase my reach and be used in the lives of others to encourage them with the images God has given me and words of hope. I would love opportunities to speak to groups and to have an online training ministry to help those face fear and fly into what God has for them. 

My other passion is to bless more and more ministries that provide food, clean water and care for the most vulnerable. My For the Least of These series of paintings and prints is designed to bring attention to what we are doing for the least of these and to challenge us to serve those who need it most. 

Favourite things 

Bible verse: Philippians 4:6,7 (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Worship song: So many! But the one that I’ve listened to the most over the past few years to help me lay everything back down and trust Jesus is: “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli.  I also love “Victor’s Crown” by Darlene Zschech.

Way to worship: Singing along with songs, singing on my own, praising Him on walks.

Food: Dark Chocolate. (that’s a “food”, right? )

Beauty product: I’ve never paid much attention to beauty products. I use natural skin care and make up and I always have black mascara. My favorite home product is the Volcano candle by Capri Blue. It smells amazing and even though I would recommend essential oils over a candle, I have bought this product and gifted it more than any other. It’s my instant mood lifter. :) 

Piece of clothing: A black t-shirt and jeans.

Place: Italy. I went there to meet my relatives when I was younger and then studied there in college. Hoping to go back some day!

Social media Links

Instagram: @melkistnerfineart

Thank you for sharing with us, Mel!


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