Blessings to you on this day! Today I’m sharing things that are stripped bare and honest. No formal gowns. Nothing fancy. Just authentic sharing from the heart. First, a clip (in the video below) that I’ve shared here before of a regular day at home when my daughter agreed to sing the hymn “In Christ Alone” with me spontaneously, no music, reading the lyrics I pulled up on the screen in case we’d forget the words. I can’t remember why I wanted to film this song for my blog that day, but sometimes it’s nice when all the music is stripped away. There’s no stage, there’s no audience. It’s just the words and human voices. Lyrics at top of the screen so you can sing along.
Next, one of my early paintings. There is no video for this one, and it’s a bit strange, so I have seldom shared it. But, since I’m sharing raw and authentic things, honest things, I’ll share this one today and talk to you about what it means. Here is the version I added text to, to help explain it.
This is how it felt when I was Mom’s caregiver and she asked me to scrub her feet for her. I thought I would talk about this at length but I realize I’d rather not put too many private details about the family on this public space, so I’ll have to try to communicate without the full story. Imagine if pushed to your limits on what you think you can do, feeling humbled to a breaking point, feeling alone in that point of despair. Does anyone see you? Does anyone know what you do for others, when you feel you can’t go on another minute? I felt in that second (washing her feet) that Jesus was there. No, I didn’t see Him, but it was a certain and strong impression, as if I’d see Him if I turned around (and it felt like I was not allowed to do so). I tried to paint what I saw in my mind, what I felt I’d see if I turned around. Sad eyes, full of empathy, and it felt like a message “For the least of these you do for Me”. It wasn’t a voice, it wasn’t an image, but the message and face was kind of like when we see and hear things in a dream as we’re about to wake up- when we know we are dreaming but the dream is finishing as we’re coming into a wakened state, so the conscious/unconscious merge. As if we can see things that are behind us, even though our dream self is not looking behind, we just know what is there. That’s the best way I can think of to explain it. Of course, one could argue that I was so emotionally stressed that I imagined this, or that I induced a dream-like state. That’s certainly one way to look at it. But in my heart, I know what I experienced, and I believe that I was given encouragement that we are never alone, and He sees what we do for others when we feel broken and weary. We matter, and we are loved. Just after I felt that impression, Mom looked at me in a very unusual way, as if she’d just seen Jesus too- but a stern scolding Jesus, not the empathetic one I saw. She immediately said, “You don’t have to do that, Natalie” and she never asked me to scrub her feet again.
Last, I’d like to share one of the first paintings I have video of. It’s called “Dove in a Forest”. The dove is an important symbol of Christianity and Easter, and it brings peace to us in ways that are personal to each of us. I selected this one because I painted it from imagination. I didn’t have a big website presence then, or thousands of social media followers. It was before I was targeted by hate groups, before anyone knew who I was. It was when I simply painted what I felt in my heart to share. Sometimes what we share when we are being most ourselves, alone, and trying to connect our solitary thoughts with the greater family of humans is our best work. Is it my most detailed, experienced and artistically best work? No. But I believe that that’s not what God asks of us.
Redemption isn’t about perfection or pleasing mankind. The beauty of Easter is freedom through mercy and grace. We cannot earn that kind of supernatural love. It is a gift. And that gift brings us peace.
God bless you and your family on this Easter Sunday and always.
Note: I will be starting the next round of projects for the 2023 collection called “Joyful Living”. Some of those will be short and light, others will be detailed and will take longer to complete. I hope you will enjoy this year’s series. Please subscribe if you want to be notified when there’s something new here (if you haven’t already).
My Easter show is done early this year (the video above), plenty of time for you to please share it with your family and friends. The new oil painting is called “Jesus in the Garden”. The hymns my daughter and I are singing have the lyrics on the screen and you’re invited to sing with us. God bless you and yours as we approach the joyous Easter season ahead.
Subscribe to receive notifications when I post something new to this site. (This is an automated service that gives you a new blog post announcement in your e-mail and you can turn it off at any time):
I’ve started working on the 2023 Easter Show. The painting is planned, the music is chosen, and I’ve ordered this year’s dress. The art will be powerful. I hope you will remember to tune in.
Here are my past shows: Painting Shows if you’ve not already seen them, or if you want to watch them again. Also, I’ll share a few of the shorter videos below:
See my oil painting “Jesus at the Table” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse video above). I chose a monochromatic color palette to focus more on the emotion and textures. With little color in this art, the fish and silver stand out, and the contrasts in light and dark are stronger than usual.
For the next art of Jesus (the 12 minute video below, slower film speed and some of it in real time), I decided to use no color at all – only black and white (with shades of gray). I was emotional while painting this, and while singing. This painting is called “Jesus at Calvary”.
This next painting is called “Cross and Lily”. See it come alive in less than 2 minutes (time lapse video below).
If you’d like to see more faith paintings, click here.
Subscribe to be notified when I post something new. This is where I share my new paintings. Have a wonderful first day of spring. God bless you and your family.
If you watched the above video (a clip from this year’s Easter Show), you saw how emotional I was while singing the cover of “I Can Only Imagine”. I could barely choke out the new lyrics I added to reflect the dark times we live in. Why?
Why do we get emotional when singing, painting, or maybe even some of you got a little teary while viewing my art? Just seeing the image of Jesus may make us feel powerful emotions. For some, it’s intense anger and malice, for others it’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.
I’ve attended many kinds of churches in multiple states and multiple countries. When living in Ireland, my family attended a church in downtown Cork. They were excited to see Americans, as an American had recently returned home and they were now without any in their congregation. They were keen to show off their “light lunch”, which they started up as a new tradition after their American friend told them about potlucks after church. Well, something got very lost in translation!
Yes, Irish and Americans both speak English, but trust me, Cork English is very different and hard for the uninitiated to understand. Also, the use of language and story telling, our different backgrounds, and the way we turn a phrase can cause some confusion. However it happened, the event they called “light lunch” was the biggest church feast I’ve ever had!
They were interested in our response. Did the Americans think that they’d done it up well? I’m laughing just thinking about it. It was a buffet rivaling a casino’s all you can eat binge fest- nothing like the more modest potlucks with casseroles (or “hot dish” as the Minnesotans call it), baked goods, and a few sides. Not that I haven’t been to large potlucks in which people went all out, but the Irish really took it to a whole new level. I have no idea how they got such an impression about American church lunches, but it was quite the experience!
I bring this up as an example of how church is all about perception. What we think church is, what we think it should be, and what it really is can sometimes match up perfectly, but often does not. A church is run by imperfect people and attended by imperfect people, so it will never be perfect. The history and religious foundations may be misunderstood, altered by political powers, or lacking understanding. The music may be off key. The speakers might stumble. The sound system may malfunction. Worst of all, people may leave church feeling more alone than when they came in.
The social and political aspects of church sometimes distracts and suffocates us. Maybe all we really want is the shared hope of life after death and seeing our loved ones again, redemption, mercy, unconditional love, forgiveness, deliverance, peace (“it is well with my soul” even when troubled times come), and gathering with other human beings who also want these spiritual gifts; sharing our lives with other families, seeing babies grow up, couples marrying, and supporting those who grieve- a community based on a genuine desire for everyone to be blessed by God. But the reality of how a church operates can be a vastly different experience than the raw honest emotion and connection that we long for.
So do we want to go to church? Is it worth the risk of feeling angry by something said at the pulpit, or by interactions with the congregation? It is worth feeling lonely, misunderstood, and rejected? Is it worth getting up early, making ourselves presentable, and pushing ourselves socially?
These, and more, are the questions I ask myself every time we move to a new place and need to settle the church question. I also go through this when a church situation is dysfunctional for our family and we need to look at making a change.
We’ve made changes. We’ve taken breaks. And we’ve somehow managed to still want to go to church. There are times when the Holy Spirit is in that place, and the love between fellow humans- many times complete strangers- is very real and powerful.
We have our boundaries though, and 2020’s government control of churches was one of them. We were half the choir, but when they banned singing as a response to orders without scientific foundation, we decided that they banned us. We did not return. For me, a church must be about the people who attend. More so than the political and religious order, more so than the government, more so than history and tradition, the church must be about the people. Jesus never pushed the lepers away, He went to them. He never rejected the elderly or the children. I can’t imagine a scenario in which Jesus would have agreed with the order to ban singing.
And in the end, I will not attend a church that violates my individual sovereign beliefs. Because, what critics say is largely untrue. Many of us do not attended church as cult-like drones, but instead our personal faith is the deciding force wherever we are, including church. And because of this, church (in many cases) is real. It is a space where humans gather, where personalities sit alongside each other, and our differences are tamed only by our desire for love.
When the government goes after the churches, we can imagine it’s because our gathering together gives us power that they do not want us to have. That alone should be enough reason to want to go to church? Maybe so. As I sit here today I don’t feel ready to face a new church experience, but I’m open to changing my mind and heart. I still want the things that I go to church for.
I hope you are enjoying this Easter weekend with loved ones and are feeling peace in your spirit. I’ve uploaded the Easter Show 2022 in separate short videos of the different segments (two oil paintings “Easter Lily” and “Jesus at Calvary”, two songs “I’ll Fly Away” and Irish hymn “Be Thou my Vision”). The best viewing experience is here on this site because I can upload the highest quality large HD files. However, your family and friends probably prefer to click on a platform link that they know, so I’ve put these clips and the entire show on YouTube also.
I decided to give YouTube another try. My videos weren’t been seen on there anymore so I gave up on it. My subscribers weren’t getting notified and it seemed as if my account had been (secretly?) turned off. Many of my painting videos had ZERO views on them. None at all. That’s a bit hard to believe because surely someone would have at least accidentally clicked on one of them! Anyway, the platform seems to be different from what it was a couple of years ago so I thought maybe I could start putting my videos there again. Indeed, it seems as though my videos are seen now.
Well, today I put this painting of Jesus on YouTube and it triggered a copyright notice. No problem, I have permission to use the song, but it meant that the copyright holder could monetize my video and therefore profit from my art of Jesus through ads. I didn’t like that idea. I am not monetized and I’m not sure how I feel about ever doing it with particular subjects. I was inspired to paint this and the purpose may be cheapened by ads and the tacky nature of it.
But also, it bothered me that the copyright holder is a big record label, so there was an element of big corp involved too- once again exploiting those of us who actually CREATE things and don’t have the visibility or power that they do to turn our work into wealth. The music was on a site that advertised royalty free music that creators could freely download and use however we wish. What wasn’t understood is that the minute we publish our videos on a site that allows monetization, the copyright holder will claim our videos.
This means we can’t monetize our work now or in the future, and will never get paid for it. So, the music is NOT “free” then. Our work is the payment. It feels like stealing when big business profits from clever tricks like monetization, while the creators don’t earn income from the work that is monetized. I can understand sharing the monetization, that would be fair, but only one copyright is allowed per video. That’s convenient for big business, isn’t it?
So, in the end I quickly deleted the video I’d just uploaded. I removed the copyrighted song and replaced it with a copyright free one. The result is that the new song choice is a better fit for my painting. I’m glad that I listened to my intuition and didn’t give in to the unwanted 3rd party profiteering from my art.
So, there’s that… but it’s not hate. It’s just the cold side of big business. They grow rich from the work of others, and that’s infuriating, but if I let that get under my skin it would only make me bitter. Usually I put it out of my mind and don’t think about it. Today I was pushed to think about it because I had to make that decision about my painting of Jesus.
Now I want to talk about the hate part of what happened. The “syncing” or “mirroring” feature (copying the video to another 3rd party video platform) was still active, so this Jesus painting video was also simultaneously published somewhere else- where it was nearly instantly downvoted. I figured it was downvoted by someone who had an issue with Jesus, and not with me or my art, but I didn’t know. Maybe someone didn’t like my painting. I tried to set it out of my mind. A few minutes later a comment appeared and the downvote mystery was quickly resolved.
The person had an issue with the ethnicity of Jesus. I depicted him to be of historically noted Middle Eastern and Jewish heritage. The comment claimed that Jesus was white and not an “Arab”. I am very suspicious of this exchange because it seemed that this person was trying to bait me into an argument that would make me appear to be racist in some way. I’ve had trouble before with trolls trying to get me cancelled in a setup argument. I did not fall for it then, and I did not fall for it now. I replied simply with a link to an article by historical experts who discuss what Jesus likely looked like. If this harassment continues, I’ll block future contact. This incident was not a big problem, and it’s not why I bring it up.
My point is not this specific incident, but the pattern and cycle of hate. When we pour out love, we will- to a certain degree- receive hate in return (along with love, thankfully!). We must be willing to be hated if we want to do big things. Big things attract hate. That is the price we must pay to be a shining Light of creative energy. No matter what new ideas you may contribute, someone will counter your creation with destruction. There is a yin for every yang.
We cannot avoid hate or control everyone’s actions around us. What I find peace in, is the acceptance that hate exists and I am strong enough to face it. My response is not to uselessly try to eradicate it, or force others to give me a safe space. There are no safe spaces when we choose to expand ourselves. Instead of controlling others, I give power to myself. I can see hate as it presents itself, calmly observe the probable motive for it based on the words or behavior displayed, do a risk assessment of how dangerous the incident is, and carefully consider my response.
My rules of engagement are these:
I do not respond if the attack is stupid, silly, pointless, off track, etc. If it’s simply provocative and meant to get a reaction from me, I do not give that person the attention that they are seeking. I don’t reward abusive behavior or encourage more of it by engaging. So, NO engagement for this type of incident.
However, if the attack can harm my brand, my work, my reputation, my character, or my family, then I will respond. I keep the reply very short, just a simple short explanation in logical defense of myself, or my choices, or my work. I will reply in a way that would hold up well in a court of law if any of these attacks should ever escalate. I am never rude, emotional, or on the offensive. I respond specifically and directly to the accusation or insult.
If the attack involves a criminal offense (slander/libel, character defamation, hacking into secured areas of my site, putting me on a target list for harassment and harm, mob/group targeting, threats upon my life or my family, etc.), then I issue a public legal warning statement that they must cease immediately or the authorities will be involved and I will bring a legal suit against them. Know your rights and defend yourself.
I don’t know if any of you may find those rules of engagement useful, but those are just the practical literal ways to respond. What’s a bit murkier is the emotional, mental, and spiritual response- the private response that the hater will never see, and that we may not even fully realize has happened. Hate is powerful. Its destructive force may settle into our soul, causing us to doubt ourselves, our purpose, and whether or not we are worthy. We may wonder if what we do is worth it. We may crave solitude to hide from how much it hurts to be hated.
When I feel this way, as I did today, I remind myself of how positive, confident, and cautiously hopeful I was before someone burst my bubble. There are two well known stories that come to mind to illustrate how I can mentally/emotionally/spiritually choose to respond to hate. One of them is from the long running Peanuts comic.
Lucy invites Charlie Brown to kick the football while she holds it. Time and time again, good old Charlie Brown gets his hopes up and runs with his full heart to kick that ball high, high, high to the sky! But of course Lucy yanks it away from him every time. He’s never going to kick that ball because Lucy (life) is hateful, and Charlie is a loser. He is stupid to trust her and stupid to get his hopes up. What a fool he is. What a fool I am when I put my heart out there time and time again, only to have life yank the ball away from me!
But the second story is quite different. It’s called “The Little Engine who Could”. In it, a little engine has an impossible challenge that other bigger and more capable engines refuse to accept. A stranded engine needs help and the little engine helps him, never giving up even though the mountain is steep and the burden is heavy. He continuously tells himself “I think I can, I think I can!” When others don’t even try, he not only tries, but he refuses to give up when the journey is difficult. He thought he could, and he did. I am unsinkable! I will take on worthy challenges and never give up!
So, I can choose which story is my response to being hated. Do I respond with, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Brown-iest!”, and tell myself that I’m a fool to get my hopes up? Why even try anymore! That ball isn’t that big of a deal anyway. I’ll stop trying to kick it. I’ll stop wanting to kick it. I’ll avoid that horrible Lucy forever.
Or, do I respond with the little engine’s attitude? No matter how hard the journey, how impossible the task, how negative others are, or how heavy the burden, “I think I can, I think I can!” And I will.
I will achieve my lifetime goal of 1k finished oil paintings. I will continue to paint whatever inspires me, and share it freely. No matter how negative the forces around me are, I will persevere with the right perspective and unsinkable optimism.
This is the short time lapse version of one of the featured paintings in Christmas Show 2021 (the full 45 minute variety show with painting, singing and dancing is available on this site, YouTube, and BitChute). This nativity scene is larger than the one I’ve done in the past, as this one includes more than the central figures of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. Added are the wise men, shepherds, animals (cow, donkey, sheep) and angel. The Christmas star is included in both paintings.
I hope that you are enjoying a peaceful time with your loved ones, as we reflect on what Christmas means to us as individuals, and as we participate in our family traditions. Speaking of traditions, old and new: Tonight was the last surprise meal for our Secret Santa game. I said yesterday that I’d talk with you about that, so here it is: our youngest daughter made chicken gnocchi, and it was DELICIOUS!
We had a wonderful Secret Santa exchange this year and now we have gourmet leftovers to help us through the busy day tomorrow. I hope our family has inspired you to give this idea a try sometime. The week leading up to Christmas is a good time for families to share the cooking and try new special dishes.
Tomorrow is already Christmas Eve! I wish all of you peace, love, and joy. God bless you and your families.
Please subscribe to my blog to get notified about new posts.
This was last year’s painting from Christmas Show 2020. Tomorrow I plan to launch Christmas Show 2021. This year, there are TWO featured paintings as well as a variety show format of other entertainment- singing, dancing, merriment and holiday sentiment. Please tune in tomorrow and share our special show. It is a longer show and I hope that you will enjoy it.
I have quite a lot on my heart about Advent, but this will have to keep until tomorrow. I need to wash some paint brushes as I’m running out of time to get my special Christmas paintings done on time and I’ve made a mess of my supplies. When my best brushes are all dirty it’s a frustrating session. I also have a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and a family that has a very early morning of final exams and other stressful events that they need support for. So, it will be a bit of a late night for me and a very early day tomorrow. Today I baked an important cake that went well for the most part. I will explain more about that later also. Sorry to push my stories off, but I’m sure you understand. Life is about balance. When I need more time to take care of the household, I prioritize that. I will “see” you tomorrow. Until then, good night, dear friends. Sleep well and God bless you.