This remains one of my favorite events with my kids. Husband is taking the video. This was the first year after Mom died and we had to fill the time we would have spent with her on Christmas. It was also the year that my husband was losing his job and training his replacements (the company was moving out of the country). We had recently sold the house we’d built, meaning I too lost my job because my teaching studio was in the home. We were spending Christmas in a house we’d rather not be in, for what we knew was a temporary arrangement. It did not feel like home, and we had no family members to visit.
I planned, and the kids agreed, that we would volunteer to perform at the free community dinner on Christmas Day. So, my son played guitar for some songs and we sang several carols. But the best was this song in the above video, as it was our last one and we felt such relief that we’d made it through the emotions of the morning.
As you can hear, it was very noisy in there, an absolute din from robust conversation. The vulnerable and needy were surely joyful on that Christmas morning! They were enjoying food and a happy atmosphere. It was hard to even hear us, but we did our best. After we finished, the family that was sitting only a couple feet away from us and had been riveted the whole time, came forward gushing as if we were famous celebrities, “We had front row seats!” 🙂 Behind them, few seemed to even be aware that we were singing, yet this family felt so special; as if they had the best seats in the house for a packed theater!
I will never forget how that felt. Then, we went back to our quiet place, our first Christmas without Mom and our home, and we saw our cheerful tree and our nice presents waiting to open. We had plenty of food in the kitchen, and we had each other. We were truly blessed.
I hope that no matter what your circumstances, that you are able to look around you- even if the place is not your home, even if you can’t be with your loved ones- and you still find the parts of your life that are truly blessed. For if we are alive today, it is for a reason. We are all precious, and we are loved by God. Peace be with you. Merry Christmas!
I shared this painting in March in a blog post called “Power of Steam“. Today I’m reminded of this again, as I had a creative and productive day. I put in two sessions on two different painting projects and I also did some gardening, and researched a few baking ideas for the upcoming holiday season. And that’s when I learned that I was limiting myself without even realizing it.
Because, it had never occurred to me before now to learn what that fancy large sugar is on top of gourmet desserts, sugar that looks like tiny pieces of broken glass. I just never questioned what it is, or how I can get some. I knew my place, and I stayed in it.
I come from a family who was offended if any of us acted “bigger than our britches”. Doing something more than what the family always did was being fussy, fancy, or acting like we’re better than everybody else. So, we baked from-scratch cookie recipes with few ingredients, the same kind everyone else made. We did not make scones!
For quite some time, I didn’t even know what scones were. But one day, I had a scone and it was glorious! It had fancy sugar on top. It was part of a world that didn’t belong to me, and I knew my place. It wasn’t the sort of thing I’d make.
Today I looked up a recipe for scones. From the list of ingredients I clicked on a link for sparkling white sugar, or sugar crystals. So, that’s what that fancy sugar is called. It never occurred to me to look this up before now, or that I could simply purchase that kind of sugar. It’s not even an uncommon type of sugar. There was absolutely no reason not to know about this ingredient. It’s hardly magical, and it’s not out of reach for an average person, or even out of reach for a below average person. I didn’t need to super-achieve to rise to a level where it’s socially acceptable to purchase fancy sugar to decorate scones. But now I can even extend my new class status to muffins!
It’s silly that I’ve limited myself all of these years. I could have known the secret of fancy sugar all along, but I never thought to look for the answer. Even though I love scones, I didn’t give any serious consideration to making them. I just stayed in my lane. I knew my place. Why? Why did I do this? I don’t know. It’s like apathy or laziness of the brain. Then, today, I had an epiphany. I could learn how to make scones.
Scones were NEVER out of reach. It’s crazy that my mind had shut itself off from them without even entertaining the idea of trying. Scones are a trivial example of how we don’t see what’s possible, but it’s a delicious one. Are you limiting yourself? Is there something you’d like to do that you’re blind and deaf to the possibility of doing? Sometimes we stay where we’ve always been and we’re not even aware of our mental habit.
Embrace the pioneering spirit and exhilarating freedom of the Steamship Savannah! Our everyday ordinary lives can be more joyful if we don’t limit ourselves. Whether it’s learning how to make scones, or something much bigger, may we push ourselves to explore more possibilities and approach life with an adventurous spirit.
I had a friend who rides horses whenever she wants to escape stress, relax, or just feel happy and free for a while. Since I’ve always felt intimidated sitting on top of a large animal, I can’t relate to this. I guess my “ride” would be a different type of escape. Perhaps my reigns are paintbrushes.
Do you want to ride with me? If you didn’t remember or see this before, I shareda complete 12 week FREE art class here on this site. Available any time, day or night! It’s a paint-with-me type of class if you want to, or you can just watch the videos for interest if you don’t want to do the art yourself. This “Wild Horses” painting is one of the ones that I did during the class. I also blogged about this horse painting in a post called “Wild or Roped?“.
I hope that you are enjoying your November so far, and are looking forward to enjoying relaxing activities as the holiday season is soon upon us. Be joyful, be free! Be inspired. God bless you and your families.
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.
I painted this as an imaginary landscape, but it turns out that those red flowers are real, and I may soon have one in my possession! The flower looks remarkably like it to me, anyway. My daughter took a photo of a red flower that looks very similar to these red ones I painted and said that she always sees hummingbirds near those flowers on campus. Later, she texted that there will soon be a plant sale on campus. So we’re hoping that they’ll be selling those red flowers!
If not, we’ll track down where to buy them, and eventually we’ll have new red flowers for the hummingbirds. I love it when there’s a new surprise quest to find an elusive (elusive to me, the flower doesn’t seem uncommon for this area) new nature treasure. Sometimes my paintings seem to foreshadow future events in ways that are quite mysterious. In this case, it’s just a simple red flower that becomes a joyful treasure hunt and special memory with my daughter, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
When I one day have this red flower, I’ll take a picture of it- hopefully with a hummingbird near it at the same time. Small quests give us something to look forward to. The more quests we accept, the more we are given. When we expect to be surprised by serendipity and joyful connections, we are!
It may be hard to feel like this today, a joyful prayerful state of praise. But when we don’t feel joy, be thankful anyway. “Be”, as in the verb, the willful, mindful choice “to be”, an action. We may not feel thankful emotionally, but we can choose to BE thankful. We can choose the intentional act of gratitude. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. It may be impossible to feel thankful when we are struggling with hardships, anxiety, worry, grief, anger, or fear.
But if we commit to the action of thankfulness, we may be surprised at how our action affects us. Even when our hearts are weary and our minds are stubbornly clinging to depressing thoughts, picking at all of the worst case scenarios until we’ve convinced ourselves that this world is dark and hopeless, standing in gratitude can lift our spirits despite our emotions and our circumstances. Being blessed with one more day on this planet is a gift that so many others didn’t have today. Why us?
We are here for a reason. We have a destiny to fulfill. We are chosen for this time, we are special, and we are loved by God. When we believe these things, it is easier to feel thankful even if we can’t quite reach “prayerful praise” in the moment. Gratitude for what we do have, for our loved ones, for the life we’ve lived, and for our very breath can outlast any hardship, loss, or fear. And one day, we will stand before the spiritual ocean once again, feel the salty breeze upon our skin, and the sun on our face, and we shall feel joy. Until that day, may we be thankful even when we don’t think we can be.
Here we are, another Sunday will be soon over, and July too is gone. It’s now August and a new season is upon us. As we approach this upcoming week together, I wish you a productive and joyful experience- no matter what turmoil and fear is outside our doors. Spiritually, may we maintain focus and inner peace.
First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… make sure you don’t miss the most joyful 2 minutes of your day, a video of us playing a game with our real life lambs!
Watch me paint “Spring Lambs” in under a minute (time lapse)
“I mentioned earlier that we used to own a hobby farm [in rural Minnesota]. We had two little Babydoll Southdown lambs named George and Harry, after the Bailey brothers from 'It’s a Wonderful Life'. They were sweet and lively. They loved playing hide and seek and chasing after pumpkins- that they’d then eat. We spoiled them with treats and they’d bleat for us to give them food or spend time with them.
One day, when my youngest was about seven years old, George- now a fully grown and heavy sheep- blocked the gate so that my daughter couldn’t leave the pasture. He hated when she was done playing and didn’t want her to go. He was stubborn and even treats weren’t enough to persuade him to move. I had to push and prod him from outside of the fence. Finally he resigned himself to her leaving and took the treats I offered.
When we moved down South, I didn’t expect to see this specific breed of sheep again, or any sheep really, but there are nearby family farms that raise Babydoll Southdown sheep and other breeds. Rural areas are less than an hour’s drive from the heart of Savannah metro.”
- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
Update to the above story…
Selling our hobby farm was one of the saddest days of my life. Government policies led to entire companies moving out of the country, which ghosted little towns like the one we lived near. My husband lost his job, and our dream farm that we’d worked many years to build by cleaning up old homes and working very hard to sell them, by scrimping and doing without things we wanted and needed… all to have to give it up and give away our precious animals… and move to a city, to rent a small house, no pets allowed, and only a patio plot to be outside… where the sounds are no longer the winds across the prairie grasses, the coo of pheasants or the bleat of lambs… but the roar from the nearby airport and freeway, booming car stereos, and the endless delivery and service trucks slamming doors and revving engines.
At that time, my mom had also just passed away, and my role as her caregiver was over. I’d also lost my job as a the teacher and director of a small private arts school, as my studio was in the house we were selling. In addition, my firstborn was leaving home for college.
All of these changes and losses were piling up, but right around the corner a new journey was in the making. I hadn’t looked at my happy videos of our hobby farm and our beloved lambs in years, as I didn’t have the heart. But today I dug through them to find this little gem to share with you (the short video below), and I am relieved by how I could enjoy the memories without feeling the loss. Those were good days, yet many good things in life are fleeting. The temporary nature of things that we may pine to be “forever” should never destroy the joy we experienced, and will always have; should we choose to focus on the enduring legacy. Every loss carries with it the gains from each chapter in our lives, and those are ours forever.
Watch me and my daughter play a game of tag with these adorable lambs!
I hope you’re enjoying my blog series, “Stories that Inspire my Art”. There are many, many more stories to tell! I’ll post these daily, but if you prefer not to check back to see if there’s something new, please subscribe to my blog to be notified when there’s a new blog post ready.
“This art (‘Jumping in Leaves’) is the sixth illustration for my first oil painting book Grandpa Smiles, published in 2014. It is a short sweet inspirational and comforting children’s book about losing a grandparent. A family’s love is forever.”