Warner Robins artist expresses faith through art, uplifts others through positivity

Sun News correspondentMay 8, 2013 

Warner Robins artist Jody Maichele uses scripture as inspiration to create artwork. She delivers her testimony through the canvas.

Using positive thinking and her own life experiences, Maichele, a counselor at River Edge Behavioral Health Center in Macon, also advises and uplifts others. She uses the philosophy of paying it forward as a catalyst for change.

“Knowing the Bible is important,” Maichele said, because it helps her relate the scripture to her life and vice versa.

“It’s how it applies to me in the moment. I’m not adding my own meaning to it, but it’s how it presents itself to me in any given situation,” she said. “The same scripture could mean different things depending on the time of my life. For me it’s cool because it’s evidence that it’s the living word. That it’s not just a historical something.”

Her favorite tool for her art is the pencil.

“I like the control of it. It’s probably the first utensil I ever used. I can press really hard or be really light. I like the feel of a pencil in my hand. Some women like to buy shoes and all that stuff, but I am, like, a pen and pencil fiend,” Maichele said, adding she grew up in a family of artists and was always encouraged to express herself.

Leslie Swan has known Maichele for eight years. On seeing her paintings for the first time, “I was really surprised. It was a secret talent; I didn’t know she had studied art. I didn’t know how talented she was.”

Maichele’s life hasn’t always been easy. As a teen, she slipped into alcoholism and substance abuse, which she said became a 20-year addiction. Facing the fact that she could lose her children, Maichele went into treatment. Swan was one of the people who was there for her. She took in Maichele’s children when she started treatment and is now godmother to her daughters.

Maichele said her scars have healed, and her mind is clearer. She’s been sober since 2005. Having people counsel her got her through the hard times.

“I think she’s grown in many ways. I think she found her path in life,” said Swan. “We all change over time, but I think she’s really matured a lot and come into her own. I think she’s found the confidence she didn’t have eight years ago. It shows in her work. It shows in her pride for her work.”

Now Maichele pays it forward by counseling people who are suffering from the same issues that she overcame.

“I’m very proud of her, and I’m anxious to see what the future has for her,” said Swan.

Her experiences help her in her role as a counselor at River Edge, Maichele said.

“Identification is really important. I know from my own experiences, especially early on, if you didn’t know where I’ve been, then you wouldn’t understand, and I wasn’t going to listen to you. That was how I felt,” she said.

“The people would share their story with me, and if their story was kind of like mine, I could say, ‘OK, they get it. They could understand it, and they moved on from it, and they’re doing this now.’ That gave me hope. Now I can do that same thing for the population of people that I work with.”

Swan said she thought being a counselor was Maichele’s calling.

“Her goal is to eventually go to graduate school and then get her doctorate. She’s going to accomplish that in time. I think she has a gift with people. People really open up with her.”

Maichele reaches patients using the concept of positive psychology, where the emphasis is on strengths, to cultivate the best in the patient rather than focusing on the problem.

“Traditional psychology focuses on the disorder; positive psychology focuses on the good stuff, what’s right with people,” said Maichele. “That’s the real truth. We’re supposed to build people up. It’s just as easy to build them up as it is to tear them down. Although the disorder is part of the picture, strengths are the other side, and that is what makes the picture full. You can use one to treat the other.”

Contact A.I. Carter at callexthea@gmail.com.

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