Letting Go

Watch this Angel Releasing Dove painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse), using broken pieces of shells I found on the beach, and a tiny “dove” from inside a sand dollar I also found there, at Tybee Island, Georgia.

There are times when we must let go, and let our hearts say, “Go in Peace”. This may be a spiritual letting go, a time of grief, or a physical letting go. It’s back to school time for many families and those of us who are facing this transitional time may be feeling more anxiety than usual. After deferring college or other situations, we may have expected a better situation for this year, only to find that the situation has escalated.

Letting go is difficult under ordinary circumstances, but when we are pushed harder than anticipated, it can be more challenging to reach spiritual acceptance of the change of seasons. School is just one obvious example, as it affects so many of us at around the same time every year. But all of us are touched by the change of seasons, as we see summer end and the passage of time has brought new things into our lives that may have been expected or wanted, or may be unexpected or unwanted. Either way, change is difficult.

Even good and happy changes bring a strong degree of stress. It may help to imagine our spiritual self as this angel, and the dove may represent the peaceful outcome of letting go, accepting that life is changing. If the change involves another person, we may wish blessings and a glorious, happy, prosperous, hope-filled flight into the unknown. May we rely on the strength of our love for others to see them through to the other side, if they have passed, or to see them into the future if they are launching into new experiences.

Perhaps the process of letting go is about ourselves. When life changes for others, it impacts us. Even if no one in our personal circle has a major life event, the seasons still pass. Time itself brings changes that cause us to reflect upon our lives and adjust to our new self. As we see July slipping into August, we may feel the change of seasons closing in. We may not have control over time, and future events, but we always have a spiritual choice about how we respond to change.

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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 lists, and crimes were committed against me. This is eerily prophetic of what was to come. But, that’s not what I want to talk to you about today.

I’d like you to please pay attention to the above video of “Dove in a Forest“, one of my older paintings when I was first starting out as a career artist. I had my old camcorder then that was not HD, and this isn’t the most flattering footage, but it was nonetheless what I had chosen to share. I found this original video when sorting through my files. It was later replaced with a different video that I will share in a few minutes. I will explain why it was altered and potentially forever gone.

When I posed the question in the blog title “are we free”, many current situations probably came to your mind. However, I’d like you to think further back in time, and think smaller. Let’s contemplate how our creativity, independent voices, expressions, communications, and connections have been corralled, limited, and controlled in subtle ways that have happened over time, with many people not realizing it, and perhaps even denying the reality of. For it is there that it began, and why so many do not even recognize our present slavery.

One must understand the value of something before its loss is grieved. When a treasure is stolen, but the victim has no awareness of its loss or value, the victim is twice wronged. Firstly, the victim has been manipulated by the thief to believe that he has nothing of value to be stolen. Secondly, the thief has stolen it brazenly, without the victim even realizing the crime. But one day, the victim may understand this robbery has hurt him in ways he wasn’t aware of, and an otherwise organic path toward spiritual and intellectual growth has been trampled.

Social engineering is such a crime. It is an insidious technological form of mass manipulation that steals a treasure that most people aren’t aware of (our creative, intellectual, and spiritual freedom to live an authentic and organic life that is not covertly or overtly manipulated by profit or power driven entities), and don’t realize that this treasure has been stolen from us. It is theft nonetheless, and one day the impact of this spiritual and intellectual robbery will be greater understood.

 

This is a simplistic list, but quickly we can summarize how social engineering by governments partnering with tech companies and corporations target specific individuals and groups:

  • personalizing forms of censorship, covert or overt blacklists, throttling, blocks, algorithmic hiding of results/info, or deletions that apply to some persons or groups, but not to others; that apply to come topics, but not to others (controlling information)
  • corralling persons into groups that are meant to influence that individual, manipulating the natural path toward meeting people organically by showing certain people or groups while hiding or suppressing others (controlling association)
  • blocking some information while pushing others (propaganda and/or aggressive marketing)
  • skewing the frequency, rating, and feedback of communications to give a false impression of popularity or unpopularity (controlling perception)
  • engineering certain topics to appear to be “talked about by everyone” and thereby making that reality happen (steering conversation)

All of these things lead to people making choices in thought, word and deed that they may not have organically made. At a basic level, we may purchase something we normally wouldn’t have. That purchase may deny a worthy less politically connected competitor from our support. Or perhaps we wouldn’t have made any purchase at all if not steered toward doing do. In which case, the damage may be to our own bank accounts. 

Further, we can examine how a single purchase may alter our daily lives. A new appliance, for example, may change our routines, which may impact an entire household. This change may be positive, negative, or neutral, but if the decision for change was not organically chosen by us, it was not fully our choice. To the degree that we are manipulated into making choices we’d not have naturally done if all information was granted fair and equal access, we can’t accurately measure. 

The degree to which we are manipulated into changing our lives through purchases of services or products can vary widely. Someone who organically wouldn’t have chosen to subscribe to a streaming service, for example, may have otherwise found less captivating entertainment on television and perhaps would have spent his time unplugged. Maybe a book would have been read, or a journey to the backyard garden would have occurred. A conversation with a loved one, a decision to make dinner rather than order in, or any number of alternate paths could have been healthier and more spiritually beneficial than watching a screen.

In the case above, a single steered purchasing decision may have had a negative impact on the health, relationships, and spiritual and intellectual growth of an individual. That damage may be slight, but if time is treasure, every minute is precious. Add those minutes up, and the theft is greater than originally imagined. But, that’s still not where I’m headed with this post. 

It’s easy to see how physical decisions such as buying a product (the example of an appliance that changes a daily routine), or a service (the example of a streaming service that changes a lifestyle), can impact our lives. It’s also easy to see how censorship, throttling, banning, and secret tweaks to algorithms can change out lives; we have more or less visibility for work and relationships, we have more or less information in areas we wish to learn about, we are steered to think about policies and issues to vote in certain ways that will impact us globally, and much more. Yes, we can see all of that.

We can study this for years and still not get to the bottom of how insidious this evil is. We didn’t leap from a freer global society to one that is tightly controlled overnight. We didn’t go from the days of dial-up and civilian-run message boards to government/tech-allied moderated social media platforms overnight. None of this happened at warp speed, and much of it happened in subtle ways that most of us didn’t notice. That’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Compare this revised version of “Dove in a Forest” with the original version I shared with you at the top of this post.

Sometimes I created new versions of my videos because I have new software that will allow me to crop in tighter to the canvas. But often my revisions were not my choice. Social media platforms changed their time/size restrictions for uploading videos directly to their platforms, so I had to shorten my videos accordingly. Let’s play “spot the difference” briefly….

The revised video has me cut out of it entirely. You can no longer see my face. Now, truth be told I didn’t think unsmiling and rather unflattering footage of me was an asset, but at one time I was willing to share that vulnerable real side of me. That is the contemplative look I often have when I’m preparing to paint. I organically, originally allowed that to show.

It was that original video that led someone to request a print of “Dove in a Forest“. Something about this art really connected with them. Here’s a photo they shared with me of the framed print as displayed in their home.

What a humbling honor it is that my art is part of this family’s life! They are creating memories in this home, while something I’ve created quietly supports their laughter, tears and love as it rests on their furniture. For each blob of color is infused with a genuine desire for blessings and goodness, protection and prosperity.

But just think- what if this person had only seen the second video, the revised one? Would that magical connection to my painting have occurred? You can see that the second video has a different feel to it. It is shorter, faster, and less personal. The speed of it, just seconds faster, changes how it feels to view it. The music is different to accommodate the new speed, and possibly because I could no longer remember where I got that piece from. Music matters. A different composition changes the emotion.

For every compromise we make, a subtle shift occurs. Perhaps some of these changes are positive. It’s good to see clearer footage of my work, and shorter videos mean that more people have the attention span to watch them. However, are these changes meant for our own good? Just because we can make lemonade out of lemons, it does not mean that we would have chosen the lemons. How much do we value creative and intellectual freedom? And do we underestimate how easily we “the masses” are manipulated by emotion?

You may be aware that social media platforms, the entertainment industry, political parties, and nearly any organization or individual who market their policies, work, agenda, products or services rely heavily on market research. Short, clipped language is attention grabbing and addictive. Drama sells. They know what makes us tick. They study us. And we keep giving them more and more data to make their research increasingly more accurate and effective in manipulating us. 

With AI, they can dissect us at the speed of light. Knowledge is power- when they (entities in power over us) know us, they can control us. Our data is very valuable and as such, it is worth a lot of money. But it seems few of us understand this value, and how the theft of it hurts us. Even when we consent to the use of our data, entities are not honest about the extent in which our data is used to study us for the purpose of steering, manipulating, and controlling us. We are also kept in the dark about the compilation of our personality composite for government databases, shared with allied partners.

Anger is good for business. Short clipped messages seed miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misjudgments. When we are restricted in our language and limited in our sharing, we are less likely to contribute positive, thought provoking content that elevates and enlightens individuals. Rather, we unwittingly contribute to the fast paced culture of seed-feed-greed.

We seed the fertile fields of suspicion and malice when we short-sight our vision. We feed the masses when we contribute to the fast, chopping, clipped, and incomplete global conversation of hostility and fear. We satisfy greed of narcissists and dictators when we comply, when we willingly silence or cut short our creative voices.

Our data is valuable. What is meant to be extracted from us is the means to manipulate and control us: seed, feed, greed. But what if we rebel? What if we refuse to give them our anger? What if we become bored with drama? What if we reject steered conversations? What if we yawn and move on… to something fresh and new? What if we take back our power to think, speak, and create as we wish? What if we do not respond to the issues they push on us, but we listen to our inner voices and divine inspiration?

In this way, we protect our treasure. They are neither able to extract from us what they want, nor able to package it to push their agendas or grow their profit margins. We have rendered them impotent. We secure what they intend to steal when we value our treasure. They won’t know what our future thoughts and creations will be if we raise our spiritual and intellectual selves to new heights. They and their AI machines will never be able to successfully predict who we are because they have underestimated us. They have evaluated us on predictive programming alone, not by spiritual wisdom, discernment, and evidence of the human spirit.

Will you join me in my personal challenge? I am making a conscious effort to be aware of when I edit my words or when I alter my creative vision to conform with arbitrary or manipulative standards, or when I cave to the fear that the mob will retaliate against me. I will honor my God given purpose and I will not edit myself from view. I will not comply. I will do my part to restore intellectual and spiritual freedom to humanity. I will fight! Will you join me in this effort?

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New Painting

Watch me paint this “Autumn Leaves” oil painting in 2 minutes (time lapse) No matter what is happening in the world or in our personal

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Lion of Judah oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Quiet Lion

Watch me paint this lion oil painting in 2 minutes (time lapse) I changed the music for this video today. Whatever you’re experiencing, you probably

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Not Again!

Watch this oil painting about the dark side of the animal kingdom come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse) I don’t have a painting

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Happy Grief?

Watch this hedgehog oil painting come to life in about 1 minute (time lapse) You might remember when I painted this one and shared it

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Melancholy

Watch this lighthouse painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse) I share this one when I’m feeling melancholic, flitting back and forth between

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History

Watch this oil painting of the day (July 23, 2020) that the Statue of Liberty in New York City looked to have been struck by

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Things we See

Watch this jellyfish oil painting come to life in just over 1 minute (time lapse) You might remember when I shared this one in April?

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Inspiring

My oil painting of my daughter reading in the butterfly garden… this one doesn’t have a video because I painted this before I started filming

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Sunday Rest

Watch this Irish Angel oil painting come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse) The image in the video above is a photograph of

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Sand Dollar

First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… you’re invited to reflect upon what this means to you.

Watch me paint “Living Sand Dollar” in a minute (time lapse)

“I saw this living sand dollar in the touch pool at the Marine Science Center, but I’ve also seen many sand dollars at the beach. The living ones are dark and pop through the sand during low tide. We are not meant to take those, as removing them from the ocean will kill these special creatures. One time I saw a woman with a full bucket of living sand dollars and I felt grief stricken. But, when a sand dollar is light and dry (bone white and brittle, or turning that way), it is no longer living, and may be collected as a wonderful beach treasure souvenir.
The sand dollar is a fascinating simple sea creature with markings that have deeply religious and spiritual meaning for many Christians, and are especially meaningful at Easter. There are markings on the front and back, and “doves” inside (discovered only when a sand dollar is broken open).For many, the sand dollar represents the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
1. Five slits in a configuration may represent Christ’s wounds while on the cross
2. Markings look like an Easter lily with a star in the middle, symbolizing the birth of Christ
3. On the opposite side is an outline of a poinsettia, or Easter lily
4. Tiny doves of peace and hope are inside (white bird shapes that were once the sand dollar’s teeth)
Besides all of this, sand dollars are special to me because my dad brought one home to me when I was a child. He had been to Savannah for a military training exercise and had found the sand dollar on the beach. He told me that I needed to go one day, that I would love it. Dad died from cancer at age thirty-seven, after having beat it once before when in his twenties. He had served two tours in the Vietnam War. I had recently turned sixteen years old when he died. Many years later, I not only got to visit Savannah, but I now live here, and hope to make it my forever home.
When I found my first sand dollar on the beach, I held it up to the sky and said, 'This is for you, Dad.'"

from book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

 

The art in the second video “Angel Releasing Dove” probably looks to you as if I was painting my sand dollar story as it relates to me holding a sand dollar to the heavens for Dad… but my conscious mind wasn’t aware of this connection until now, when putting this blog together. It was simply another painting project.

 

At the time, I’d found a bit of a broken shell that looked like an angel’s wing, and the idea to incorporate the actual shell into a painting of an angel was born. The “dove” idea came later when I realized that it was the right size to add to the painting. But really, it was just about using cherished treasures from a beautiful day at the beach with my family, especially my daughter who was walking with me when I found the broken shell and agreed with me that it looks like an angel’s wing.

 

So, it was new memories, not old, that inspired the angel and dove painting. And yet, obviously, it looks very much connected when I see the previous sand dollar story next to the angel and dove video. In this way, I once again see how our past, present and future are always connected- even when we can’t see it.

 

Sometimes that connection is seen easily by outside eyes, while we are oblivious to it. But does our unawareness made the connection disappear? I think not. Someday, we may see it. When that happens, it doesn’t make the reality suddenly reappear, it simply means that we are aware of it. Our awareness, recognition, admission, or approval of reality is unnecessary for truth to exist.

 

Nor do we need to understand serendipity or natural wonders, for those miracles to exist. And that brings me to a timely point to ponder:

 

If the religious meaning that some assign to a sand dollar is offensive, could a sand dollar be “banned”? The sand dollar is a living creature. Only when it is dead does it become a “thing” to possess and reassign to our own significance. The reality of the sand dollar’s life or death is not altered by the opinions, beliefs, passion, appreciation, or malice of humankind.

 

I invite you to ponder what happens when the free will of people to determine for themselves those thoughts that are kind or unkind to share, the words that should be said or left unsaid, and when the power of language that may hurt another may be considered a weapon; is controlled, stifled, and enforced by entities who perceive themselves as a moral authority over thoughts, ideas, words, and the association, distribution, possession and communication of these concepts. What happens? Is the truth altered? What is changed? Is the world a better place?

 

Is the sand dollar living or dead? If people no longer believe in religion, as is the wish of a very large movement (which is, of course, in itself a religion, though they are blind to it), for the “good” of the planet, will the sand dollar’s markings fade? Will they be erased? No, of course not. We cannot remove all traces of symbolism or reminders of what humankind believes, thinks, or feels that is “wrong”.

 

The sand dollar is a primitive living creature who is in many ways more free than we are. It is allowed to simply “be”… except when opportunistic beach goers collect these fragile beings while still alive, thereby killing them. The reasons for controlling other living beings may be scorn, condemnation and the prevention of influence and ideas that entities do not like… but sometimes control is about possessing another being, even if that possession denies them the freedom they need to thrive… or survive.

 

When I posted my Easter show yesterday, I named the video file “spring show”, because I wanted to avoid censors that blacklist the term “Easter”. Whatever your feelings about religion, politics, and other causes, I invite you to ponder what affect it has on us when entities control our freedom of thought, and our ability to share our thoughts with others.

 

Just as a sand dollar can never be “banned”, we are alive-imperfections and all- and are meant to be free.

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Painting Angels

Angels of Protection Help and Comfort Peace and Healing

Painting angels is about more than glowing halos and virtuous smiles. Art is a language. What do we want to say? The oil painting “Turning Angel” was inspired by a monument, a statue that stands watch over the graves of five children. I learned of this beautiful statue when it made headlines because it was vandalized and toppled- broken.

When angels watch over us, what are they watching out for? Perhaps the evil of hate and ignorance, greed and selfishness, and all other dangerous motivations of humankind? Was man (in any way) at fault regarding the tragic factory explosion in the early 1900’s that killed the children? When their graves were disrespected by a vandal, what darkness drove him? I don’t see yellow halos, golden hair, or flesh tones when I imagine this angel as “alive”. I painted for the first time using only black and white- no color at all. When we think beyond what’s expected, we discover a whole new way to look. 

The next example, “We are the Angels that He sends“, was inspired by a serendipitous connection with someone I never knew that well to begin with (and when I did know her, it was over twenty years ago). Have you ever experienced a mysterious person showing up at the exact moment when you needed help, and it seemed like an “angel” was sent to you? In this case, she was literally at my door. She had been travelling across several states and I was a stop on her way. She arrived at exactly the right time, as my husband was recovering from surgery and I was alone. She kept me company for hours as I poured the coffee and she poured her heart out to me. Later, when she returned home, she was amazed that I thought of her as an angel at my door, because she thought I was her angel on her journey!

When the story we want to tell is high-energy and rich with with contradiction (highs, lows, urgency/crisis and calm/resolution), the use of full glorious color works well. Many colors, details among barely sketched areas, sharp lines alongside smooth– all of these contradictions and the sheer business of it all communicates angst and hope existing in the same space (compare with the stillness of the first piece I shared, “Turning Angel”).

In this final example, we have almost a merging of the styles from the two paintings above. The stillness and simplicity of “Turning Angel“, through a solitary figure and minimal background composition, is combined with the the rich colors and living interaction of “We are the Angels that He Sends“. Except, the encounter in “Autumn Angel“, is not communication with another person/angel, but with a dove. Anyone who has felt a connection with a bird or animal knows the peaceful understanding from one spirit to another. In this way, the dove is not just a symbol of peace, but tells the story of peaceful experiences that nature and animals provide.

You may have noticed that these three paintings were painted on different sized canvases. “Autumn Angel” was painted on a small 8×10, while “Turning Angel” was the next size up, and “We are the Angels that He sends” was on an even larger canvas. When photographed, the size of the canvas doesn’t matter, as the art becomes whatever dimension desired. But, it matters when viewing the original canvas live, and when painting the piece. Without realizing it, the tight control of painting small may affect the outcome, and likewise, the vast space to fill when painting large may impact the art. Sometimes artists factor all of these things in when deciding what medium to paint on, but other times, the decision is random- based solely on whatever canvases are on hand, happen to be on sale, whatever size there’s enough paint on hand for, whatever space is available for displaying or entering the piece into a competition, gallery, or display, etc. Whether a planned, conscious decision or a forced or random one, the size and type of medium can make a difference, but in my experience, it doesn’t make much of one. Let nothing hold you back from creating. Constraints and obstacles are challenges that give us an opportunity to learn something new.

“Autumn Angel”

Watch Natalie paint this art, and all 50 oil paintings in this collection (menu below)

“Bonaventure Cemetery was made famous when one of its sculptures, a statue known as “Bird Girl”, was featured as a book cover and in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. The statue was such an attraction that it needed to be removed to preserve it from the many hands of tourists, and damage from vandals as well. It was relocated to the art museum (Telfair Museums’ Telfair Academy), where I was able to view it.

Angel statues in the historic Savannah cemeteries inspired me to paint an angel in a similar pose and style to the stone sculptures. My angel is in full color with a fantasy landscape, as if giving life to what was cold and dead. As fall represents death, yet contradicts itself in color, forecasting an impending stillness, yet change, visiting the memorials felt much like the changing of seasons. There was peace and beauty, yet bittersweet, as endings and loss permeate the grounds.

Autumn Angel oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Small Print “Autumn Angel”

All small prints are approximately 8 x 10. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$33.50

Medium Print “Autumn Angel”

All medium prints are approximately 16 x 20. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$65.50

Large Print “Autumn Angel”

All large prints are approximately 24 x 30. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$98.50

List of Oil Paintings in this Collection, linking to their pages here on the site, and also citing physical pages in the hardcover book:

  1. City of Savannah
    1.1 “City of Savannah” page 6-7
    1.2 “Natalie at the Fountain” page 8-11
    1.3 “House in Savannah” page 12-13
    1.4 “Guardian Lion” page 14-15
    1.5 “Autumn Angel” page 16-17
    1.6 “Steamship Savannah” page 18-19
    1.7 “Boiled Peanuts for Sale” page 20-21
    1.8 “Bulldog” page 22-23
    1.9 “Serenity Piano” page 24-25
    1.10 “Painting Colors” page 26-27
  2. Tybee Island
    2.1 “I Love Life” page 30-31
    2.2 “Living Sand Dollar” page 32-33
    2.3 “Matthew the Sea Turtle” page 34-35
    2.4 “Fungie the Dolphin” page36-37
    2.5 “Angel Releasing Dove” page 38-39
    2.6 “Flag on Tybee Island” page 40-41
    2.7 “My Kids at the Beach” page 42-43
    2.8 “Lighthouse near Tybee Island” page 44-45
  3. Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians
    3.1 “Gator and Snake” page 48-49
    3.2 “Tree Frog” page 50-51
    3.3 “Lizard” page 52-53
    3.4 “Blue Heron” page 54-55
    3.5 “Hummingbird” page 56-57
    3.6 “Painted Bunting” page 58-59
  4. Flowers and Trees
    4.1 “Pink Flower” page 62-63
    4.2 “Porch Flowers” page 64-65
    4.3 “Clover” page 66-67
    4.4 “Butterfly Tree Flowers” page 68-69
    4.5 “Savannah Tree” page 70-71
    4.6 “Dancer in a Floral Forest” page 72-73
    4.7 “Come to the Garden” page 74-77
    4.8 “Cherokee Rose” page 78-79
  5. Faith and Food
    5.1 “Floral Cross” page 82-83
    5.2 “Lenten Flower” page 84-85
    5.3 “Celtic Cross” page 86-87
    5.4 “Mary of God’s Favor” page 88-89
    5.5 “Lion and the Lamb” page 90-91
    5.6 “Breakfast with Friends” page 92-93
    5.7 “Peaches in a Bowl” page 94-95
    5.8 “Peach Cookies” page 96-97
    5.9 “Peach Pie” page 98-99
  6. Seasons and Weather
    6.1 “Pumpkins and Mums” page 102-103
    6.2 “Autumn Cottage” page 104-105
    6.3 “Spring Lambs” page 106-107
    6.4 “Peach Tree Hurricane” page 108-109
    6.5 “Eye of the Storm” page 110-111
    6.6 “God’s Promise” page 112-113
    6.7 “We Gather Together” page 114-115
    6.8 “Savannah Snow” page 116-117
    6.9 “I Believe in Santa” page 118-119