Is it a sign?

Watch oil painting “Road Unseen” come to life in just over 1 minute (time lapse)

This painting is about serendipity and events that make us think about how the puzzle pieces of life fit together, and how important we are to God. I blogged about this painting in a March post called “Roads Unseen“, in which I told the story of this art, and an update. But today, I’m reminded of it because of the alternate reality vibe of this painting.

In the story of my art, I was at the right place at the right time. But what if I hadn’t been? Apparently my role was important to the life of that stranger I met, and whose name I don’t remember. Evelyn? Probably not. I am not likely to ever see her again. But stranger things have happened.

Today’s story is about something entirely different, but along the alternate reality lines. I thought something had happened and because of this, my mind raced through an avalanche of thoughts. Let me start at the beginning, which happened a few weeks ago.

I’d splurged and purchased a little garden sign post and small flag. I call it a “splurge” because I don’t usually buy things that aren’t necessities, related to work, or to help a family member. This seemed like an indulgence, but it feels important this year to show a strong Christmas spirit that begins early.

My plan was to buy a few garden flags to switch out, ending with a Christmas one. I started with an autumn flag that made me laugh when I saw the picture online. It is autumn themed with a pumpkin, apples, a sunflower, and leaves, but also features a cardinal (which if you’ve followed me for a while, you know that cardinals are special to me and I’ve painted them several times), and also includes coastal images (I live near Savannah, Georgia). How hilariously spot on with what our family is about! I didn’t know how I’d figure out what our holiday display personality is, but this was definitely it!

This is the garden flag I bought. (Not my art, just something I found online to purchase)

Well, can you imagine my shock when I went outside and looked at my lovely display to find an EMPTY flag holder! I froze and stared at the sign post, as if I wasn’t seeing it correctly. I looked around. Maybe the sign had blown off. If so, the flag should be somewhere nearby. It wasn’t. I took a closer look at my flag stand, which is a bit different from the one in that product image. Mine has a much tighter holding area.

I snapped a picture of the empty flag holder and texted it to my husband with the message “STOLEN!” I then waited for him to arrive, as he was on his way home. He pulled into the driveway and before I could say anything he told me that he’d removed the flag because it was windy and he thought it would blow away or get damaged.

This whole thing took place over ten minutes or less, but that was enough time for me to stew, and mentally accuse imaginary persons of stealing my flag for vindictive reasons. These unknown vandals might strike again! We’d had some dangerous situations of violent crime in the neighborhood (SWAT teams involved, murder charges) as well as drug busts. Some of these things happened right across the street, while we watched the whole thing unfold from inside the house, while US Marshals were staked out in our driveway. This isn’t the best neighborhood, but it’s not the worst either. Yet, maybe I was a fool to think I could put something nice in the yard where anyone could steal it.

Taking my little flag felt like such a spiritual slap in the face. I had finally had enough trust to put something personal in the yard, only to have it stolen! That’s what I get for letting go and trusting life! All kinds of negative thoughts flooded my mind and my heart while I paced the yard, glancing mournfully at the empty flag. And here all along, my husband was protecting my flag for me!

Such a powerful message: we may leap to wrong conclusions, and assume that life is out to get us, when the exact opposite is true. What we think is stolen, gone, or empty may exist outside of our knowledge; held for our protection. Friends, we are loved by God. We may not always feel it, but it’s true, even when we can’t see it.

Trust

Watch me paint these cardinals in 40 seconds (time lapse)

I just came back inside after an exhilarating experience! We’ve had a male and female cardinal as frequent visitors to our patio garden bird feeder. This spring they apparently welcomed a nest of wee ones into this world. We think there are five. All are juveniles now, very silly and playful, and accustomed to me being around. They now trust me enough to play and eat while I’m standing on the patio, only a few feet from where they are.

Today there were three cardinals flitting about while a hummingbird was at his own separate feeder… all very near where I was standing. They looked at me occasionally. They seem to like the attention I give them. How amazing to have gained their trust!

Trust from the vulnerable is such a precious responsibility. When trust is granted, we have a moral obligation to never deliberately, willfully, knowingly abuse that trust. Imagine having a powerful position over more than just young hungry birds; imagine having power over nations of people who may believe our words and act on them in ways that may hurt or kill them.

When I feel the spirits of wild birds, I feel the power of nature. Nature is a balanced place where predators and prey exist alongside each other. When things are off balance, something happens to counter it. This too is how humanity works. Trust is a sacred agreement from one soul to another. Those who break that trust will face consequences- if not in this life, surely afterward.

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I’ve Joined the Butterflies!

Watch this oil painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse)

I’ve come back inside after a crazy experience with nature! So, first the background story: my daughter found a bright happy tank top blouse at the thrift store and imagined me wearing it as I happily tend to my patio garden. It’s a turquoise/teal with a bright magenta/fuchsia floral print. And, indeed, I am wearing the blouse right now, and was tending to the garden…

I was bent down low to the ground because I was checking on the strawberry plant runners. Before tropical storm Elsa blew through the Savannah area, I removed my strawberry plant from its hanging hook (the winds would have knocked it to the ground), and placed it in the crook of a tree, near ground level. I decided to leave it in that sheltered place and realized it was easy to propagate new strawberry plants by adding small pots to the end of the runners (vines that create knobby sections that produce roots for new strawberry plant offspring if they connect with soil).

Anyway, so that’s what I was doing. I’m a small person (five feet one inch tall) with very dark hair. When I was squatting down near the tree, examining the strawberry runner pots on the ground, apparently all that could be seen of me is my bright floral shirt because suddenly and overwhelmingly I had become one with nature! I’d joined the butterflies or something….

Cardinals came out of the woodwork (literally, they flew out of the nearby woods), and gathered quite near to me. I held my breath, watching them through the branches of the tree that held my strawberry plant. It was quite fun to be so close to these beautiful wild birds! I turned my head to see that I was surrounded by nature, as suddenly a hummingbird was flying directly to me!

There was an awkward moment when the hummingbird realized his mistake. I was not a flower or a butterfly, or any part of his natural world. He hovered in the balance for a couple of breathless seconds. It felt as if time stood still. His wings fluttered in a soundless blur. Then, he zipped away as fast as his little body could go.

With my cover blown and bitten by mosquitoes, I went back inside. But what an exhilarating experience! For a brief time I’d joined the butterflies and was one of “them”, the tiny beautiful creatures of nature. In that world, nothing else matters but the moment. The family of cardinals flew together, taking turns at the bird feeder. Family and food, with a superpower to fly- what a life!

We too can prioritize good food and good company to share it with. It’s really our own choice to deprive ourselves of the daily celebration of life that the wild birds and butterflies have. True, we cannot fly, but we can surround ourselves with beauty, and make joyful basic needs our primary focus. It doesn’t take much money to enjoy a savory meal with people we love. During these troubled times, we need happiness more than ever.

God bless you, my dear friends. Join the butterflies for a few minutes today. The only moment that really matters is now.

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