Do, then See

Watch me paint “Redwing Blackbirds” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

First the inspiration for this art, then the update. When we say yes to a project, action, task, journey, or relationship, we then see things we’ve never seen before.

“When sharing a painting that was inspired by a dream about the birth of my son ("Blue and Yellow Bird"), someone spontaneously said his favorite bird is the Redwing Blackbird. He couldn’t possibly have known that my son was born in a small town called Red Wing. The serendipity of that conversation was so startling, that it inspired this Redwing Blackbird painting, in which the birds seem to be in a conversation that only God understands.”

- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

The story from here gets pretty wild… This past week I was working on a project about serendipity and divine intervention, signs of hope and connection, and other spiritually mysterious events that bring hope to individuals, such as special connections to loved ones who have passed away. I’m nervous about this project because it has the potential to be shared with a wide audience (part of a new publishing platform that I was invited to participate in, I will have no control over its audience).  

One of the stories in the project is about my cousin. The timing of this segment was serendipitous in and of itself because I was prompted to submit the story the same week that would have been her birthday. The story (which I will share at a later time) involved our sons, who had been born on the same date ten years apart. 

Immediately after submitting my story about my cousin and our sons, I received a new email. The first word in the subject line was her son’s name! How did that happen? 

When my eyes first saw it, I was in a sleepy state, having just finished writing and proofing the story and in need of some tea. So, for the first second, my brain thought, “oh no, I didn’t intend to use her son’s name!” For privacy reasons I’d referred to him only as her son. My fuzzy brain thought I was still on the story submission page for the project!

But no, the project window was closed out after I hit the submit button. This was my email window. It was a random message, a marketing teaser for an impersonal mass-mailing newsletter. It had nothing whatsoever to do with me, as it wasn’t a personal email. Her son’s name isn’t common, but it is of Biblical origin. The sales email referred to a Bible story to illustrate a marketing principle that barely made sense. The story didn’t have much of a connection to the point the author was making, so it really did seem as if her son’s name appeared for no logical reason and out of nowhere, to land in my inbox at precisely that moment. 

The odds of her son’s name being the first line of the email I saw immediately after hitting “send” on the story was very slim, slim enough to defy logic and probability. I told my daughter about this and she said, “Must be she approves” (my late cousin approves of the story I wrote about us and our sons). It was a sweet thought, and I hope that’s true. Confirmation of this may have come yesterday…

Yesterday was her birthday, and you’ll never guess what I saw! I saw a bird that I’ve not yet seen here. Not only did I see that bird, but a whole flock of them. Only one stood out as strikingly beautiful though, heavenly even! I gasped when I saw it and could barely get the words out to tell my family to look, look, look!

It was a glorious redwing blackbird! All of the birds in the flock looked like the ones in my painting, except for one bird that landed last. The sun hit his feathers and he nearly glowed with radiance! He had a vibrant yellow streak on his wings, in addition to the red and white markings. This vivid neon yellow is what flashed when the sun hit his wings. 

You might recall that the Redwing Blackbirds painting connects to my earlier art “Blue and Yellow Bird” (a bird that doesn’t actually exist in real life). The yellow bird dream is a story about my son that I plan to write about in the next installment of the same project that features my cousin and our sons. I was dithering about whether that story should be in the project, but now I’m convinced I should commit to it.

I’m still amazed by what happened, and it would make even more sense if I shared the full story, but I’ll keep this brief. The message on my heart to share with you is this: “Do, then See”. Sometimes we are given an opportunity to do something, and we don’t feel any strong connection to the project, volunteer position, task, job, event, travel opportunity, or relationship. It may not even be entirely our choice, as the situation is born out of hardship or circumstance. But if we make the commitment to do it anyway, we may then see how meaningful our action is, and how it relates and connects to other pieces of a marvelous and mysterious puzzle.

“Seeing” is not usually so literal, with the sudden appearance of a spiritually meaningful rare bird landing just a few feet from where I was standing! I can’t promise heavenly sightings that instantly validate our decisions, but when they happen, they take our breath away! The effect of it never lasts long though, and our human doubts creep back in like the tide. Most of the time, we must have faith without the fancy spiritual appearance of birds, butterflies, rainbows, and other signs that people commonly feel encouraged by.

“Seeing” happens after we’ve done what has been offered to us to do; after we’ve had the faith to see it through, especially if we initially had no reason to believe that our action would prove to be meaningful, beneficial, special, or fruitful in any way. Perhaps our rather ordinary action will simply be another task to tick off our lists. But nothing we create, do, or share is in isolation. Every interaction with this world has a reaction. We may not always see it, but sometimes we DO.

It may take many years for something we’ve put into motion to be seen and felt by us. It can take a great deal of faith to remain loyal to a person, action, or path. But if you know in your heart that what you’re doing is what you are meant to do, believe it. Do, then see.

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