“The Christmas Dance”, a special moment dancing with my husband during last year’s Christmas show. Little did I know how much our lives were about to change. It’s hard to recognize these moments when they happen, but sometimes the awareness is there at the time- something stirring in the heart saying, “Remember this always.”
God bless you and keep you, now and forever. As it is the week before Christmas, please keep a candle lit inside your soul. Let it shine before others.
Catch the first glimpse of my Christmas Show 2021!
Had a bit of fun putting this intro together, approx. 1 minute.
Painting, singing, dancing and joy!
Share my show with your friends and family! If you’ve not already subscribed to my blog, please do so. You’ll be the first to know when the show is launched. You’ll see something fresh and original, never before seen. Fun, inspiring, and surprising.
I like to use this painting for my updates. The music in the video is an instrumental version of “Be Thou my Vision”. The lyrics are appropriate for how I feel as an artist.
My update: Well, today isn’t going to work out for painting. I do plan to have the next one ready to share soon, but it probably won’t be tomorrow. I’d planned tentatively in my head for tomorrow, but I’m fine with a delay. I’m ahead of schedule, as I’ve been working on the 2022 collection for a while now. This gives me leeway to take my time if other things pop up or if lighting conditions aren’t great (natural sunlight coming in through the windows is preferred over solely artificial lighting).
In other news-
The holiday show is coming along. It’s a Christmas one, and will be the last live-taping event show I do for 2021. You’ve met my whole family by now in the videos I share, but this will be the first painting variety show in which all of them will make a guest appearance at the same time. I hope that you tune in when I share it and please share it with others. There are so few of us producing original shows that are positive and authentic. I want my work, and my family’s gift of their time and talents as well, to make a difference. For a short half hour, may we bring hope and smiles to you through our singing, dancing, art, and happiness (and one surprise act that I’m not telling you, as it would be a spoiler!).
In the end, it’s not about the talent, work ethic, or social power of what we create. It’s about the lives we touch and the love we share. These are challenging times. We need for every lit candle to light another. So, please do share my special show when I share it with you. And if you could also hold supportive thoughts for us as we begin to tape this show soon, I’d appreciate that as well.
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In June, I talked about this painting in a blog post called “Solitary Roses“. The part of that post I’d like to highlight today is this:
“It’s healthy for brains to occasionally build garden walls, where we can retreat into a creative, spiritual, reflective space. ‘Unplugging’ is about much more than simply unplugging from the Internet, cell phones, televisions, or any other electronic gadget or screen. If our mindset is still controlled by the world’s pacing and agendas, we haven’t truly unplugged- we’ve merely paused the stream. What we need is garden walls inside our minds, a place we go when we need to connect our minds to our spirit and body. In that space, we are at peace: undisturbed, unhindered, and unburdened.”
It can be challenging to take time to simply be still, without letting our thoughts race, without staring at a screen, without multi-tasking, and resisting being occupied every second of the day. But if we do this, we can slow down time. Time passes from one hour to the next, one day, month, and year to the next, in a blur of mostly insignificant events that we don’t remember later. When we focus on the passage of time and reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and who we can be for others, we stop the manic pace that makes time race forward without any awareness of it. When we feel gratitude for every moment and pause our lives to notice, time slows.
It is when time slows that we learn the secrets that children, the elderly, and people under emotional crisis (such as grief, post-trauma, disability, etc.) already know: all that matters is right now, this very moment. If only we could feel this way, think of what we’d do with our blessed moment, our most priceless treasure! Time is what we all want when the end is near. Why wait until we’ve lost what we most desire and can never buy? We have time now. Tell your dear ones that you love them. Do something that makes you happy. Build garden walls inside your mind.
“Apple Orchard” is part of the 2022 collection “Seasons” (of life and nature). This oil painting represents autumn and celebrates family traditions. See more of Natalie’s 2-minute art videos by clicking on your favorite themes below.
I did a series of blog posts related to this painting: “Are you a lion or a lamb?“, “Be a lion“, and “Be a lamb“. But today I’m thinking of the traits meek and mighty. As we reflect on the week ahead, in which areas of our lives do we choose to be meek, and which areas do we choose to be mighty?
My personal focus is to be meek when it comes to control, and mighty when it comes to power. I want to let go of those things I can’t control. I have done my best, and that’s all that is expected of me. Humility allows us to accept that we are not capable of all things, and that others have gifts and callings that we do not. We are not always the best person for all jobs. We are only asked to play our part, not to worry about responsibilities that belong to others.
But when it comes to those responsibilities that belong to us, may we be mighty in power to do what’s asked of us with strong energy, a positive mindset, and a spirit of hope. Whether our roles are rooted in servitude, like cleaning up after others, or performing other acts that seem “low”, but need to be done (and are perhaps unpaid tasks), or whether attempting big projects and lofty goals, may we be gracious in accepting the work given to us and do it well.
Productive work is a human right. It creates a sense of purpose, which leads to happiness, peace, and health. Focusing on the work we’re asked to do, and letting go of responsibilities that are not ours, also leads to happiness, peace, and health, because we manage stress, reduce anxiety, fear, resentment and depression; and we sleep better at night. May we be meek about control, but mighty in power. God bless you this week and always.
In my blog post “New Painting- Peaceful Landscape” that I shared with you in June, I said, “I’ll talk about what this painting means to me in a future blog post. For now, I just want to share it and let you let it speak to you.” But I forgot to follow up! I never did tell you what I was thinking when I painted this.
This was a landscape from my own imagination, in which I didn’t look at anything while painting, nor did I plan it out. I intentionally let the art tell the story and evolve, as I listened to music and let myself feel whatever came to my heart. I meant to paint a scene that is warm and inviting, and would appeal to me as a retreat, but that’s not quite what happened.
Instead, it seems that I painted the deeper feelings; the reason why I wanted a special place to retreat to. Because this place doesn’t look relaxing to me. It’s very remote and a bit lonely looking. Quiet, and pretty, yes, but it looks like someone’s missing from that empty rocking chair, as if suddenly taken from their favorite spot and the tea or coffee cup that never got cleared. There’s probably still a last sip in it.
The cardinal is observing the scene, as if he understands and has empathy. The flowers are still in bloom, the fields reach toward a clear blue sky, and the evergreens are as fresh as ever. But the walkway has no feet upon it. The steps are vacant. The rocking chair is not in motion. The last sip will never be drunk.
Reflecting on those we’ve lost, and realizing the passage of time, and feeling the weight of the dark world upon our shoulders, sometimes it feels as if we need a retreat from the burden of broken dreams and better days that must wait, or may never come at all. But in imagining a retreat, I instead inadvertently, subconsciously, painted the emotions that were driving me to want a retreat.
Maybe next time I’ll paint the actual retreat, but by the time I finished painting through the feelings I didn’t even know I had, I felt as if I’d already had my retreat. It was me observing the cardinal in the tree, from my vantage point on the other side of the canvas looking in. Seeing the scene through his eyes was enough to restore my spirit for another day.
Nature goes on uninterrupted. Seasons change. Flowers bloom. Trees grow. Then all of it repeats. There is something comforting in the sameness, and even more comforting is the pattern of change. This (spiritual) season will change. Meanwhile, we can embrace the quiet, the steady stillness, and the cabin that waits for someone to come back. When we are blessed to be here for another day, may we never leave the last sip to grow cold.
Watch this “Dove of Peace” oil painting come to life in under 2 minutes (time lapse)
This was a short project that I hope felt relaxing and calming to watch. May you have a blessed weekend of good positive moments, no matter how alarming and stressful the state of the world may be. Do something you enjoy.
Watch oil painting “Sparrows” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)
The last time I shared my sparrows painting was in April, in a blog post called “More than Sparrows“. But today I’m thinking about the “don’t be afraid” part of the scripture that inspired this painting:
Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
There are dire warnings of all kinds of upcoming calamities and a predicted dark winter, and indeed, we are facing many fearful events in this age. It’s important to control our fears and learn how to not be afraid. It’s normal to feel afraid, but the act of being afraid is a matter of spiritual choice. We can choose to be courageous even when we feel afraid.
We will never be able to eliminate all of the dangers that life throws at us, especially if powerful forces are intentionally creating terror and suffering… and throughout history, this has always been true to some degree. But if we allow our fears to consume us, we will not thrive, and we may even make ourselves ill. Survival isn’t about just barely making it through the ordeals of life, but ensuring that we are strong enough to endure it with such determination and resilience that there is a beautiful life stretched ahead of us.
To make it through to the beautiful life ahead of us, we must find the beautiful moments within the hardships. We can’t wait until life looks like we want it to, as we need peace and joy every day. Like nutrition for our bodies and wisdom for our minds, we need happiness for our spirits. It’s possible for humans to give up the will to live in their sleep and never wake up. That’s how powerful our spiritual self is. Despair is dangerous. We must fight against it!
May the common sparrow encourage us. They seem to have an insignificant life, yet they are wonderfully made to instinctively know how to find food and survive the challenges of nature. They do more than survive, they thrive. As in, they lead a full bird life, the best that a sparrow can do. I see them flying about, gathering socially with their fellow birds of a feather, and settling in on the platform of our bird feeder. Their needs are met, by nature and by mysterious interactions with others (like me, putting food out there for them to eat).
We too experience more moments in which our needs are met than moments when we are in lack. This is easily proven by the fact that we are right now still alive. If we had too many moments of lack, we’d- to put it bluntly- be dead. But we are not dead, and we mustn’t ever let our soul feel deadened when we are clearly very much alive. May our blessed condition of living be enough to desire to not just survive, but to thrive. Seek joy in every little thing. Do not be afraid.
You might remember when I shared this painting previously here on the blog, I asked the question “What do people say about you?” It was one of my longer blog posts, about why we shouldn’t let criticism or praise influence us too much, that we can be distracted from our purpose and our own voice. Today, I was reminded of this painting because it is autumn and the painting is about the fun of jumping into a pile of leaves.
Most people reach an age when it’s not physically fun anymore to jump into a pile of leaves. It still looks fun when we see children doing it, doesn’t it? We may be willing to rake leaves into a big pile just to see children jump into it, laughing, and playing.
But, we probably don’t want to do much jumping into piles of leaves ourselves. So what DO we think is fun? What is fun? According to the online dictionary Merriam-Webster, “fun” is a verb: to indulge in banter or play, and “fun” is also an adjective: providing entertainment, amusement, or enjoyment. We might describe this as “what makes us laugh”.
We may not laugh while running and jumping into leaves, but we’ll laugh when someone else does it. We’ll laugh when we hear a funny joke, or when caught by surprise by witnessing something silly. A milder form of fun may be entertaining, like doing a project we enjoy, or listening to our favorite music.
Maybe we have fun dancing, cooking, and visiting with family or friends. Maybe we feel so positive after a job well done that we actually think that work is fun, especially the kind of work that benefits us personally, such as renovating a home or organizing our living space. Perhaps we love how it feels to surprise others with a generous or kind act, and we think that giving our time, energy, or money to others is “fun”.
Fun is the carefree, wild playfulness of a child jumping into leaves- a type of energy that creates a strong, healthy, happy life. May we find ways to have fun. Joyful living elevates ourselves and all those around us.