Happy Mother’s Day!

Wishing you a joyous Mother’s Day in reflection of where you came from and who you are today. Who will we be tomorrow? If you have children, may you feel especially blessed.

 

My mother has been gone many years now, so I understand the sadness that may dampen this day for many of you. Time is precious. May we be inspired to live joyfully in this present moment and inspired to place our hope in the future as well.

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What do People Say about You?

First, please watch this 2 minute video. It’s my introduction to a dance course- ignore the references to dancing and replace dance with “life in general”. Whatever actions you are engaged in, no matter how big or small, imagine that I’m giving you this advice:

Now, imagine that you can listen in to what people are saying about you. Perhaps, like me, you CAN. Maybe you have keyboard critics all over the world who leave reviews and comments about you on all major platforms. If so, do you read them? Why or why not?

I was recently updating my books page, and I visited the free “Grandpa Smiles” version on Google Play. I didn’t know there were so many reviews, and I started reading them. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of praise. Then I stopped reading, even thought their words were very kind.

I don’t often read reviews, after learning the hard way that it’s demoralizing to read hateful comments (not constructive criticism, but purely nasty remarks for no purpose other than to destroy/cancel someone else’s creative work) and it affects my ability to work mostly for free day after day toward long term goals. I become distracted from my purpose and even begin to doubt that it’s worth putting my heart and soul into this journey.

Curiously, I felt equally uncomfortable reading positive reviews by strangers. I was eavesdropping! If they wanted me to hear their comments, my contact information is easy to find – it’s even inside the very book that they were reviewing. When they post their thoughts on the review page, that’s not really an invitation for me to join in. That’s the place for readers/viewers to talk among themselves. So, I stopped reading.

It was enough to see at a glance that my special book is appreciated and has given comfort to people who needed it. I can hold that in my heart and remind myself that what I do matters, and that I make a difference. On days when I am exhausted, in pain, or discouraged, I can remember that my efforts are worth it. But, I really need to stay away from seeing what people are saying about me.

What do people say about you, and why should you avoid listening? To answer that question, we must ask ourselves whose approval we live for. If we live for the approval of others, who are these “others”? How much power do we give complete strangers? How much power do we give to acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family?

"...take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others."
- Ecclesiastes 7: 21-22 KJV

That quote is from a section of the Bible that is labeled “Limits of Human Wisdom”. I’m not sure if I interpreted what I read in way that is standard, but I what I took away from this is that it’s not wise to listen to what people say about us. We are all guilty of unfair and unkind thoughts, sometimes uttered aloud, and other times wisely kept to ourselves. When we eavesdrop on what others say about us, we may not like what we hear, but I think more importantly we need to understand why it’s damaging to let the opinions of others influence us- even if they say something nice.

The Bible seems to describe being cursed by others as part of an ordinary human experience. Humans both curse and are cursed by others, and apparently these curses bring us no wisdom. What they do, is distract us from our purpose.

In this way, I believe that unless someone is speaking intentionally to us, we shouldn’t eavesdrop on positive comments either. Why? Because by doing so, we elevate “what people think” above wiser sources of motivation. If we are motivated by the approval of others, we are standing on shifting sand. If we are motivated by a higher calling that no person can distract us from, we stand on rock.

Advice, suggestions, and warm praise are positive things, but should never take the place of our own voice. Stay true to your path, no matter who attempts to destroy you. And when you overhear praise, don’t let it distract you. Our purpose is not determined by the limited wisdom of humanity, who often gets it wrong, even when they’re saying good things. 

Don’t do more of this, because others say so, or less of that, because others say so. Ask people you trust for advice when you want help, and read the words of those who inspire and motivate you. But resist listening to random, unexpected or unreliable opinions, some of which weren’t even intended for us to hear.

Watch me paint this art from Grandpa Smiles in 48 seconds

(time lapse)

There’s wisdom in the advice from famous people who say that they never read their reviews. Replace the words “read their reviews” with the phrase “listen to what people say about them”. Apply this to your life in any way that it fits. Trust yourself. Lean on a higher power, not the limited wisdom of humans. We’re all just muddling through life; we can get it wrong. If you know you’re doing what’s best for you, put on your spiritual noise-cancelling headphones and keep dancing.

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New Painting – Something Windy

Watch me paint “Autumn Tree” in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

Do you spiritually go “wherever the wind blows”? How much of your life do you plan, and how much do you leave to fate, circumstance, random connections, or stagnation by default? Do you want to move, but you stay? Do you want to stay, but you move? When the world is windy, are you rooted down or are you swept away?

When we are rooted like this tree, we may be shaken, twisted and knotted up, and nearly bent to the ground, but we will not fall. When the winds cease we will stand once again, and new leaves will grow. The more challenges we face, the stronger we become. 

When we no longer fear storms, we are less concerned about which way the wind is blowing. We know that we’ll survive it, regardless of which direction from which it comes. I’ll depart from my metaphor and be more specific: we hear lies and rumors of lies at a pace that is extraordinary but not unprecedented in world history. If we believe that we cannot withstand the storm, we may submit, comply and surrender, even if our hearts are begging us not to. However, if we know that we are deeply rooted in our beliefs, values, and spirit, the winds can hit us from all directions and we will not only survive, but will eventually thrive.

Be as a tree. Stand rooted in who you are. Do not allow the noise, which has revved up to a mighty din, influence you. The babble competes for your spiritual attention and attempts to control your days. You are not part of the collective, whose only value is to enrich the powerful few. You are an individual whose thoughts, emotions, and actions are important to the eyes of God, and when joined together are collectively powerful for the many.

Keep your own counsel. Seek your own knowledge. Follow your own intuition. Always question what those with motive to lie are saying, but never doubt the discernment and wisdom that is a gift from God. As a dog will growl when he senses a bad person is nearby, so will your spirit growl when you sense something is wrong. Don’t ignore that feeling. Heed it.

As trees need water, soil and sunlight to remain healthy and strong, so do we. We need sustenance both in literal nourishment and spiritual. This is a good time to pursue things that necessitate that we believe in a future. For example, plant something. In doing so, you commit to the idea that you expect to see it grow. Plant both literally (flowers, herbs, vegetables, etc.), and figuratively (begin projects that require a commitment to future events, or have long-term goals). When we choose the future, we generate hope. The two cannot be separated.

The winds of this world howl, but may we stand as strong as a deeply rooted tree. Don’t fear the storm. Believe that we will survive it, and even one day thrive. Let your mind, body, and actions make you stronger. Commit to the future, and plant hope.

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New Painting – Something Cute

Watch me paint “Penguins” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I hope this brightens your day! Here in the United States, we are past the dreary days of winter. I’d lived in snowy areas most of my life, but now I’m in the Deep South, where it seldom snows (it snowed the first season we moved down here, leading me to think that I brought it with me!). But even though I don’t have to shovel snow anymore or worry about freezing temperatures as low as -25 Fahrenheit, like when I lived in Minnesota (-31.6 Celsius), I still appreciate when the flowers bloom again, leaves return to the trees, and the sun warms up the land.

Oil Painting “Penguins” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

This lovable baby penguin still cheers me, even though I’m embracing spring as I share this new painting. Joy is never out of season. May you feel as free and loved as this little penguin, no matter whether you stand in snow or atop warm dry land.

Never miss a new painting!

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Something Funny

Watch me paint this terrifying children’s game of tag in 1 minute (time lapse)

Thought we could use something lighthearted today. Surely you too have played this childhood summer game of “Goose Tag”? No? Well, first you need a pair of mean geese. Then you need bullying neighbor kids and goading cousins. The final ingredient to achieve the full experience is to be the scrawniest kid in the pack.

"Summers spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s in upstate, New York included many adventures. One of the most harrowing was a game called 'Goose Tag' which was hosted by the neighbor kids whose family kept live geese in their yard. The geese would get riled up at the very sight of us and give chase. We’d run as fast as we could before they could 'tag' us. The last kid to make it to the safety of the porch got bit on the seat of the pants. Since I was the youngest and smallest, that person was me more than once."

- from book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

This oil painting was first published as children’s book illustration art for the book “Fred“. It’s now included in the collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“.

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Dreams to Prepare

Watch me paint “Blue and Yellow Bird” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Have you ever had a dream that prepared you for future challenges? Yesterday’s post “Do, then See” mentioned the above painting, which is about a dream I had when I was pregnant with my son. I believe it was meant to help me prepare for the fear and challenges ahead. Spiritual preparedness made all the difference when we didn’t know if he would survive the delivery.

“I didn’t want to know gender of my babies, but somehow I intuitively knew each time. During my second pregnancy, I had a dream about the spirit of my unborn baby- a beautiful vivid blue bird with yellow markings. I knew the blue meant I was having a son and the yellow meant a health related worry. I was certain of what the dream meant, and felt I knew my baby before he was born. I had a difficult experience, that I won’t get into here- but one of the scariest, longest moments of my and husband’s life was when our son was born with the cord wrapped around his neck. Not breathing. When they got the cord away from his neck and his little blue body started to breathe, it was as if everything in the world was the best it could possibly ever be. He developed jaundice, which made his skin very yellow. He was yellow for days. My dream helped prepare me. My unborn son had a spirit that I connected to. God gave us a way to communicate, and prepare me for the fears surrounding his birth and newborn days."

- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

The up-to-the-minute update on this story is that my son is right at this exact second in the kitchen a few feet away from where I’m sitting here talking with you. He’s making bacon. He’s recently discovered that he can have bacon whenever he wants if he makes it himself. For the past two weeks, he’s had bacon every day. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of bacon frying. Morning, night, or afternoon, apparently the craving for bacon can take him over at any time. 

I don’t know for how much longer he will keep this up. Other than saying, “that smells good” or “that turned out perfect!”, I stay out of his way. For, when we want to grant someone more independence and freedom, we must keep out of the kitchen and let the bacon fry.

He’s not my fragile blue and yellow bird anymore. He is much taller than I am, and his shoulders are getting broad like his father’s stocky build. He’s finding his own way, and I have a feeling the next dream I may have about him could be to prepare me for when he leaves the nest.

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Watch me paint this terrifying children’s game of tag in 1 minute (time lapse) Thought we could use something lighthearted today. Surely you too have

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Do, then See

Watch me paint “Redwing Blackbirds” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

First the inspiration for this art, then the update. When we say yes to a project, action, task, journey, or relationship, we then see things we’ve never seen before.

“When sharing a painting that was inspired by a dream about the birth of my son ("Blue and Yellow Bird"), someone spontaneously said his favorite bird is the Redwing Blackbird. He couldn’t possibly have known that my son was born in a small town called Red Wing. The serendipity of that conversation was so startling, that it inspired this Redwing Blackbird painting, in which the birds seem to be in a conversation that only God understands.”

- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

The story from here gets pretty wild… This past week I was working on a project about serendipity and divine intervention, signs of hope and connection, and other spiritually mysterious events that bring hope to individuals, such as special connections to loved ones who have passed away. I’m nervous about this project because it has the potential to be shared with a wide audience (part of a new publishing platform that I was invited to participate in, I will have no control over its audience).  

One of the stories in the project is about my cousin. The timing of this segment was serendipitous in and of itself because I was prompted to submit the story the same week that would have been her birthday. The story (which I will share at a later time) involved our sons, who had been born on the same date ten years apart. 

Immediately after submitting my story about my cousin and our sons, I received a new email. The first word in the subject line was her son’s name! How did that happen? 

When my eyes first saw it, I was in a sleepy state, having just finished writing and proofing the story and in need of some tea. So, for the first second, my brain thought, “oh no, I didn’t intend to use her son’s name!” For privacy reasons I’d referred to him only as her son. My fuzzy brain thought I was still on the story submission page for the project!

But no, the project window was closed out after I hit the submit button. This was my email window. It was a random message, a marketing teaser for an impersonal mass-mailing newsletter. It had nothing whatsoever to do with me, as it wasn’t a personal email. Her son’s name isn’t common, but it is of Biblical origin. The sales email referred to a Bible story to illustrate a marketing principle that barely made sense. The story didn’t have much of a connection to the point the author was making, so it really did seem as if her son’s name appeared for no logical reason and out of nowhere, to land in my inbox at precisely that moment. 

The odds of her son’s name being the first line of the email I saw immediately after hitting “send” on the story was very slim, slim enough to defy logic and probability. I told my daughter about this and she said, “Must be she approves” (my late cousin approves of the story I wrote about us and our sons). It was a sweet thought, and I hope that’s true. Confirmation of this may have come yesterday…

Yesterday was her birthday, and you’ll never guess what I saw! I saw a bird that I’ve not yet seen here. Not only did I see that bird, but a whole flock of them. Only one stood out as strikingly beautiful though, heavenly even! I gasped when I saw it and could barely get the words out to tell my family to look, look, look!

It was a glorious redwing blackbird! All of the birds in the flock looked like the ones in my painting, except for one bird that landed last. The sun hit his feathers and he nearly glowed with radiance! He had a vibrant yellow streak on his wings, in addition to the red and white markings. This vivid neon yellow is what flashed when the sun hit his wings. 

You might recall that the Redwing Blackbirds painting connects to my earlier art “Blue and Yellow Bird” (a bird that doesn’t actually exist in real life). The yellow bird dream is a story about my son that I plan to write about in the next installment of the same project that features my cousin and our sons. I was dithering about whether that story should be in the project, but now I’m convinced I should commit to it.

I’m still amazed by what happened, and it would make even more sense if I shared the full story, but I’ll keep this brief. The message on my heart to share with you is this: “Do, then See”. Sometimes we are given an opportunity to do something, and we don’t feel any strong connection to the project, volunteer position, task, job, event, travel opportunity, or relationship. It may not even be entirely our choice, as the situation is born out of hardship or circumstance. But if we make the commitment to do it anyway, we may then see how meaningful our action is, and how it relates and connects to other pieces of a marvelous and mysterious puzzle.

“Seeing” is not usually so literal, with the sudden appearance of a spiritually meaningful rare bird landing just a few feet from where I was standing! I can’t promise heavenly sightings that instantly validate our decisions, but when they happen, they take our breath away! The effect of it never lasts long though, and our human doubts creep back in like the tide. Most of the time, we must have faith without the fancy spiritual appearance of birds, butterflies, rainbows, and other signs that people commonly feel encouraged by.

“Seeing” happens after we’ve done what has been offered to us to do; after we’ve had the faith to see it through, especially if we initially had no reason to believe that our action would prove to be meaningful, beneficial, special, or fruitful in any way. Perhaps our rather ordinary action will simply be another task to tick off our lists. But nothing we create, do, or share is in isolation. Every interaction with this world has a reaction. We may not always see it, but sometimes we DO.

It may take many years for something we’ve put into motion to be seen and felt by us. It can take a great deal of faith to remain loyal to a person, action, or path. But if you know in your heart that what you’re doing is what you are meant to do, believe it. Do, then see.

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Something Funny

Watch me paint this terrifying children’s game of tag in 1 minute (time lapse) Thought we could use something lighthearted today. Surely you too have

Read More »

Do, then See

Watch me paint “Redwing Blackbirds” in 2 minutes (time lapse) First the inspiration for this art, then the update. When we say yes to a

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“Silenced” oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas I painted the above art “Silenced” years ago after I was censored and blacklisted, put on target

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New Painting – Something Beautiful

Watch me paint “Flower Angel” in just over 2 minutes (time lapse). Please turn sound on to hear the beautiful music that brings emotion to this experience.

 

I put the last brush stroke on this painting this morning. It is still on my easel. And now the afternoon is before me, with glorious sunshine and plans to spend time with my family and in spiritual reflection. We have another new week ahead to prepare our minds, bodies and spirits for. Rest well, my friends.

Never miss a new painting

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Something Funny

Watch me paint this terrifying children’s game of tag in 1 minute (time lapse) Thought we could use something lighthearted today. Surely you too have

Read More »

Do, then See

Watch me paint “Redwing Blackbirds” in 2 minutes (time lapse) First the inspiration for this art, then the update. When we say yes to a

Read More »

Fully Human

Watch me paint “Miracle of Life” in 2 minutes (time lapse) The inspiration behind this art is the alarming trend toward genetically modified humans (GMHs),

Read More »

Are we free?

“Silenced” oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas I painted the above art “Silenced” years ago after I was censored and blacklisted, put on target

Read More »

Wild or Roped?

First, the Wild Horses oil painting, then the inspiration behind it, how I created this art, and a new challenge for self reflection. Are you