Sharing the Story

Watch oil painting “Nativity” come to life in 4 minutes (time lapse)

In my blog post called “Season of Advent” I told you that I had a lot on my heart about Advent, but my story would have to wait because it was a long day and I was going to bed. Tonight I will try to put into words what I’m feeling. Those of you who have been following me for a while already know the story of this oil painting, but I’ll summarize it (and yet it will still take a long time to tell even the short version).

I painted this before I became a full time oil painter. You can probably tell that my setup was primitive. My art board kept sliding and falling because it was on a flimsy table-top easel. I didn’t have good lighting, and I filmed this with my old camcorder that didn’t have HD. But my heart was into this painting, more so than many of my others that would follow.

Dad died when he was 37, Mom died 25 years later. Both died from slow, torturing terminal illnesses. I was in my bedroom that shared my parents’ bedroom wall when Dad was dying from cancer in his room. I knew it was the end, and I tried not to listen, alone in my room while the relatives were with Hospice on the other side of the wall. Many years later, I was my mom’s caregiver. So, I experienced the deaths of both of my parents and both died traumatically. As in, these were not sudden deaths or dying-in-sleep deaths, but slow deaths that ended only after wishing it was over, and then feeling crushing guilt for feeling such a horrible thing. I could speak volumes about this, and maybe one day I will, as I think it could help others going through watching a loved one die. But that day is not today. I’ll move on:

When Mom was dying, she talked about Dad and her memories went back to when they were young and dating. When she died, it was like Dad died all over again, like they’d both gone together. No one (but me) would ever tell his stories again, as no one in my circle had ever met him. He was gone before I met my husband. The loss of my parents made my soul ache in a way I never knew was possible.

A few physical, tangible things remain, that prove their existence in this world. One of those is the Nativity set that they made together. Mom poured the ceramic molds to create the figures. Dad hand painted them. I was inspired to paint the main figures of the set as an oil painting representation (the art at the top of this blog post).

Telling the Nativity story with my kids
Nativity set that my dad painted
Nativity set with lights on

My story will now abruptly switch gears. This (the images and video of my Nativity painting) is the art that BLM/Antifa conspired to delete from my website. At the time, I had very few visitors to my website, so it was very obvious what had happened. But, just in case it wasn’t clear, they made sure to upload a snarky devil cartoon in place of the blog post and art that they deleted. This was part of a larger terror campaign against me and many others in January 2017 (and this sort of thing- and worse- continues to happen to this day). I had done nothing wrong. I was just on a list of names of people who had supported an independent social media platform (one that I later quit, and never had any real association with other than enjoying posting my art there and making friendly connections). Anyway, rather than get too far into this, I want to focus only on how it affected me to be targeted, afraid that they’d go after my kids, and how violating it was that they deleted my art.

It was a spiritual attack. My parents were both cremated. I have no grave to visit. I have no flowers to lay down. My painting was a memorial tribute to them. My website at the time had few eyes ever on it, so it was such a shock when my site was invaded and my files were rummaged through. I’d told the story about my parents in that blog. Who could be so heartless as to delete it? No empathy? No human warmth?

I had done nothing to these people. I didn’t even know who they were. I was no threat to them. I was a broken, grieving person who was experiencing the loss of my husband’s and my own jobs, the uprooting of our family, having to sell what we built and believed to be our “forever” home, watching our kids take pictures of their favorite climbing tree and every room of their childhood house (the house in the above pictures)… while we were headed for years of rental homes and instability as we worked to rebuild our lives.

We are still not fully arrived into our new lives, but we are nearly there. My husband went back to college and there was an internship period as well, so it’s been a long road. But he is now on the last leg of it. I too am “nearly there” in my new vocation. As we move into this season, there’s a lot to reflect upon and a lot to look forward to. When sold our home, we also sold most of our possessions to finance the rebuilding of our lives. None of the things from the above photos are ours anymore, except for the Nativity set and each other. So, this particular set by my parents is very dear to me, as well as nativity scenes in general for their spiritual meaning.

Advent is a time of year when many Christians go through a time of serious reflection and joyful expectation. Like I mentioned, I went through a prolonged period of deep reflection and hope that lasted several years, and it was during that time when the “activists”, sponsored by my own government, put me on a target list. I was frightened that they’d find my kids on campus, as they knew their faces and where I lived. I didn’t know how far they’d take the terror campaign against the people on their list.

Yet, even then, what struck me the most was the deletion of my Nativity painting. Something inside me changed that day. I learned who I am, and I am a fighter. I believe strongly in honoring life, both on this side of it and beyond. I will never give in, give up, or back down. I will not be silenced. I will not be defined by others, by a collective, a mob, a cult, or a government. I am an individual. I am sovereign. My motives are my own, based on my life experiences that are unique to me. I will not be judged or condemned by those who have no spiritual authority over me. I will not lay down my paintbrushes. I will never stop reflecting on what was, nor will I ever stop expecting joy in the future.

The season of Advent brings out the Nativity scenes, and I will never be able to experience this in the same way again. It is highly personal, and the spiritual connection is much stronger than it ever was. And because of this, I am currently working on a new Nativity oil painting. I hope you will connect with it, and feel the beauty of peace, reflection, and anticipation of joy- in this life, and beyond. No amount of hate can stop this love. It is a gift for all who wish to receive it. God bless you and your family.

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Catching up

See oil painting “Breakfast with Friends” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I think of this painting whenever I feel a connection with you, the friends I make when I share my life online. This art was inspired by my habit of eating breakfast at the computer, waking up in the morning as I catch up with what everyone’s talking about. What did I miss? The world never sleeps.

That’s my old coffee cup in that painting. I haven’t used that one in a while. That’s also my old phone and a small dish I stopped using for my egg. I cook eggs in a large batch for the whole family now, as everyone’s eating more eggs these days. I don’t know where that blue pen is anymore. Interesting how ordinary, trivial things change over time. When our habits change, it’s a small reflection of how our lives are changing in a more profound way, ways that are much more significant than coffee cups and how we prepare our eggs.

Yesterday, in my blog post called “Season of Advent” I said that I had a lot of thoughts about Advent on my heart to share later, and I also wanted to tell you the story of the special cake I made. Since today was another very long day, I’ll just catch up with one of these: the cake. Advent will have to wait for another time, although the cake is related in a way.

This is the cake I made, using a wreath mold and decorating by sculpting items out of fondant.

The cake is chocolate with all kinds of things thrown into it. The topping is a white chocolate peppermint glaze (the pinkish red you see is finely crushed candy canes added on top of the glaze, in addition to what’s already in the glaze). Sorry for the sloppy presentation, as it is sitting on a cookie sheet that is cluttered with glaze. Hopefully you can figure out the shape of the cake. It really did look very pretty.

The red and gold ornaments are sculpted out of fondant. The bow is fondant shaped over the molded wreath. As I said yesterday, it went well “for the most part”. I loved the glaze, which ended up being my own take on it because I substituted a couple of things. But I did not like the cake. I found it revolting! It had a custard or bread pudding type texture, kind of spongy and wet. It was gross in my opinion. The guys liked it and are apparently going to end up eating the whole thing (most of it anyway), which is quite a feat, given that the other issue I had is that the cake ended up much larger than I expected. It did not fit in my fancy dessert display stand! That’s why it’s sitting on the messy cookie sheet in my pictures. After decorating it I had nowhere to move it to!

So, it was a hit and a miss. The “hit” parts involve the mold being awesome and easy to make snazzy with decorations. We also really liked the new peppermint glaze that I made with white chocolate chip morsels (8 oz), 1/4 cup candy canes crushed into a fine powder (so fine, it’s like dust, using a mortar and pestle), peppermint extract (1/2 teaspoon) and 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream. I had seen a similar recipe but didn’t follow it exactly and I really liked how this came out, so I’ll make my version again in the future. I think it would be delicious on chocolate cupcakes and I’ll try that next- with my own chocolate cake batter this time though!

The good news is that I’ve been looking for new things to add to our family traditions and the wreath mold will definitely make a return next year. I also think the peppermint glaze will see a number of returns. In the balance, I consider the special cake to be a big success even if the girls and I didn’t care for the cake itself (the guys are not displeased that they have the entire rest of the cake to themselves!). Mixed reviews, but overall, it was worth doing and I’m happy with the experience.

I’ve been pushing myself to work harder and try new things. BE more by doing more. It’s amazing how much more joyful life is when we put more of our energy into living. A cake isn’t “just” a cake. Nothing is too small to make bigger. Everything matters when we believe that it does.

God bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and give you peace, joy, (and peppermint glaze from me)!

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