New Cardinal Friends

See this oil painting of a cardinal come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse video)

New birds have already found us at our new home. These cardinals are different, as I knew they’d be. When I was sad about leaving our “old” cardinal friends, my family was amused because they thought that any cardinal is the same as another, and surely there will be other cardinals. But I was right, these birds are different.

Our old friends were kind of chubby, which may have been our fault by overfeeding them. They were also quirky and would look into the patio doors, interacting with me. The new cardinals are much smaller, leaner, and athletic. They soar straight up like a rocket when they are done at the feeder. They are curious about me, but skittish. It will take a while to win them over.

I take this as a metaphor for any life changes we go through. It’s the “same but different”. New adventures (especially the kind that are forced on us unexpectedly) are a chance for re-inventing ourselves, expanding who we are, and making new choices. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate the things that make us who we are- the things we don’t want to change, but are open to doing better.

A fresh perspective can elevate us to better people if we accept this challenge. Yet, we are the same as when we were born. We don’t “lose” ourselves. We simply fly a little differently, perhaps higher and better.


Irish Angel Revisited

See oil painting “Irish Angel” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Continuing with the ongoing project to upload my painting videos to YouTube, today’s upload needed more work. The raw footage is from my old camcorder and I’m blocking the canvas in a lot of it (tripod wasn’t positioned very well). So, the solution was to edit those parts out, which resulted in deleting and skipping most of the painting stages. It’s always been a disappointment that this special painting didn’t have much of a video for it. But, I have new software now that I thought I’d try. I decided to go back to the original footage and use as much of it as possible, even if my head is blocking the canvas. I was able to use most of the footage by cropping in (technology I didn’t have before). I also found different music.

The end result is a much better video of a painting that was a favorite project of mine. I’m happy to have re-worked this. I didn’t expect to ever get a good video out of it and had chalked it up as lost. Let this be a spiritual metaphor for all of us. Sometimes we hope, plan, and invest in something that doesn’t seem to succeed. Years later, we may have more experience and society may have progressed to a point where our efforts in the past may now succeed in the present (what was then the future).

I believe that this painting will mean more to people at this time in history (and a bit more into the future) than it did when I painted it. People respond differently to a certain type of creative energy than they did before. We are making new choices, better ones. I feel that my work may be appreciated by more people, as if I was born to share art at this particular time, and not a moment sooner. So, no matter how badly I wanted to, or how hard I worked, or how many events I attended, I wasn’t going to succeed then, because it wasn’t my time. But, it was my time to be prepared for the future and I’m glad that I never gave up. If I had, I wouldn’t be ready.

Every day we are blessed to be alive, we must believe that today or tomorrow may be our time. Surely next year, or the year after. Perhaps it will take a lifetime, and if it does, we will live long enough to fulfill our purpose. For it is this kind of perseverance, resilience, determination, and most of all, hope, that brings success at the right time and the right place, when we are ready for the world, and when the world is ready for us.

Natalie putting the finishing touches on oil painting “Irish Angel”

Heaven Again

Watch “Flying to Heaven” oil painting come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I’ve been telling you about my ongoing project to upload my oil paintings to YouTube. This has resulted in editing some of my older work, changing copyright-claimed music, and/or tweaking a few things that could be improved. In this case, I found the original footage (the raw files from the camera) and I re-did the video from scratch, adding a little bit about the context of this painting (why it was painted and what it was for), a painting used as an illustration in children’s book “Grandpa Smiles” about grief, the loss of a grandparent.

The footage is more grainy than you’re used to seeing from me. That’s because I still had our old home camcorder then. I wish I could go back in time and give my past self a better camera, but what’s done is done. I had no way of knowing that it would be important to me in the relatively near future to have clearer (HD) footage of my work (not that I have a fancy camcorder now either, but it’s much better than before). When we start out, staying within our budget is sometimes not only important, but we may not have any other choice at the time. As we change and grow, we can upgrade how we do things. But it makes for a bit of a mess if we’re hoping to have a consistent look and feel to the collection of our work. And here’s where today’s metaphor for life comes in…

We may wish for our lives to be nice and tidy, consistent, with clarity from the start. But that’s not usually how life goes. We may be out of focus, living on a shoestring budget, taking one day at a time- not knowing if what we do today matters for the future, not knowing which things will succeed or fail, and not able to secure anything with absolute certainty. We never know what tomorrow may bring. The best we can do is live our lives one day at a time.

If at some point in the future, we wish we’d had it all figured out sooner, then we are truly blessed. It means that we’ve lived long enough to look back. It means that we learned how to be better.

God bless and keep you, this day and always. “See” you tomorrow.


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Peaceful Change

See oil painting “Candle and Bible” come alive in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

A personal challenge is waiting for you at the end of this blog post, so I hope you make it to the end.

More of my ongoing project to upload my painting videos to YouTube- the saga continues. This is another video with a copyright claim so I changed the music to something else that allows free use. It has created a peaceful change from the original version.

The music in the original means something special to me, as it is a song I knew from my growing up years. “There is a candle in every soul, some brightly burning, some dark and cold… Carry your candle, run to the darkness. Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn… Take your candle, and go light your world”, sung by Kathy Troccoli. We’d sing this song at events and use a flashlight in the darkness.

Many years later, I saw this song performed live by Chris Rice during a benefit concert for a very tragic situation in which I knew the family. At least I think he sang that one. Now I’m not sure if that particular song inclusion is a true memory, or if my recollection of hearing this song as a recording has merged with the songs I heard live at the concert. It was a long time ago.

Anyway, the song is meaningful to me and I thought of it instantly for my candle painting, but the music is of course not the original song by either of the artists I mentioned. It’s a rather plinky instrumental version (something I found online that I thought was free use, but apparently triggers a copyright claim on my video if uploading it to YouTube). So, I deleted it and replaced it with the music in the revised version at the top of this blog.

What I noticed is a peaceful change. And here comes the metaphor:

Sometimes in life we make a decision that seems right at the time. It may be based on our personal perspective, past experiences, and emotions about these memories. Then, a day comes and we are forced to listen to the music we’ve chosen as the soundtrack of our lives. And maybe the song no longer fits. It’s a poor imitation of an original, so it’s already removed from the source. And now it’s been so long (not necessarily in time, but in spiritual growth “years” which can be faster or slower than physical time), that we don’t even feel as strong of a connection to the original either.

Now it sounds noisy. We don’t want to listen to it anymore. It no longer fits.

The new music for this candle video is mellow. It is a peaceful change from the person I was when I chose the first song. I have progressed from someone desperate to make a statement, needy for approval, anxious about avoiding hateful feedback, and frightened by death threats, targeting, and other crimes committed against me, to who I am at this moment. I stand unafraid. I have held my ground against terror group “activists”, who knew my name, address, and children’s faces. I survived being “cancelled”. I have weathered unkind and stupid hateful remarks about my work or about me personally.

And? I’m still working on my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings. What are my enemies doing? I have no idea. They have faded away. Always a new a’hat is ready to take their place, but they don’t have the power they used to have over me.

I do not need to stress out about every detail of my work and how it might be received poorly by others. I don’t need to try so hard to please those who love my work either. I also don’t need to worry that my expression of my faith isn’t good enough or Christian enough for those who choose me only for those reasons. I am doing the best I can with who I am. And that’s a peaceful change.

I am learning a lot about how I want to go forward with my work and my life, through this project that forces me to re-visit my older painting videos. It’s like a time capsule or a diary. The scrapbook of the past few years is bringing an awareness of how different I am today from who I was before. I strongly encourage you to do something similar.

I was also sorting through our family photos and framed several of them. That journey was just as healing, if not more so. Please do that, it is well worth the time. Not only will you have a fresh round of pictures to enjoy, but you’ll find closure that you didn’t even know you needed. It’s easier to know where we’re going when we have a firmer understanding of where we’ve been.

God bless you and keep you, this day and always.


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Invasive or Beautiful?

See oil painting “Cherokee Rose” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This beautiful white rose is the state flower of Georgia. But due to their thorny and hardy nature, they are considered an invasive species when they take off on their own in the wild. If being philosophical, this situation can be a metaphor for occupations, lifestyle choices, and relationships in our lives. Sometimes our circumstances seem very appealing, but are nonetheless destructive, growing ever too fast around us, and are difficult to break free of. January is a good time to reflect on the invasive white roses in our lives and do what we can to change what entangles us. May you break free of anything that is holding you back and look to 2022 with hope.


Mysterious Fruit

See allegory oil painting “Narrow Way” come to life in 2 minutes

The inspiration for this art came originally from the allegory and metaphor found in the Biblical concept of the narrow way (Matthew 7: 13-14), but it expanded into other thoughts: “I kept imagining an apple tree in the middle… between the two paths. I couldn’t let go of that image, so I looked it up to see if there was anything that could grow on a tree that is poisonous, that looks like an apple. There IS. It’s called a Manchineel Tree, or “tree of death”. Then I knew what the apple tree image [I imagined for the painting] was about. The half that is near the narrow path bears good fruit- red delicious apples. The half near the wide path bears poisonous fruit- in fact, the tree on that side is so poisonous that even being near it can be fatal. The tree that bears good or poisonous fruit also reminds me of the fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23 ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law

Today I’m feeling a different connection to this painting. Here we are in a new year, and maybe you’re feeling this too- I feel myself being offered new paths to take. I definitely sense that one path is the clear intended “right” way to go, and I’ll take it. I don’t know what poisonous fruit I would have found down the other path, but I feel that I’ve avoided something miserable. Wherever you’re being led to go, accept that journey and don’t look back to see the path not taken. If you’ve done all that you were destined to do, you have done all you can. You can enjoy the good seasons of the journey and be at peace through the hard times.

Good luck and many blessings for all of your new adventures in 2022!


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Fluttering

Watch this goldfinches oil painting come alive in just over 1 minute (time lapse)

Today I was working on my garden planters when I heard a fluttering coming from a small tree a couple feet from where I was standing. I jumped nervously (which could ironically be described as “all in a flutter”; a nervous, confused, or agitated state). I thought it was one of the larger cardinals who often frequent that tree, but instead the fluttering and tree shaking continued for much longer and it was clear that this was not one of our regular birds. Instead it was a tiny finch, smaller than the usual goldfinch, but similar in color and markings.

The little bird was hopping from branch to branch, seemingly unconcerned that I was standing nearby. I was already jumpy because the tree frogs and lizards had been hiding and popping out at me every time I went outside. They always look like they’re amused by me when they do this.

The last time I shared this goldfinches painting with you was in a blog post called “Birds of a Feather“, in which I talked about something completely different from what I’m talking about now. Right now, I’m thinking literally of the finch. Sometimes a bird isn’t a metaphor for anything. It’s just a bird.

Then again, why let good imagery go to waste? Perhaps being all a flutter over a flutter is a reminder that there is often nothing to be afraid of. What could have been an invasive creature or a trespasser up to no good was only a little bird.

No Grapes, but…

Watch this oil painting “Fruitful Vine” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I talked about my grape vine in a July blog post “Is your life fruitful?” and I mentioned that grapes don’t appear every season, and may take a long time to produce any at all. This season, no grapes, but… the vine has proven useful. I’d placed a young tomato plant on the other side of the grape vine trellis, and as luck would have it, the tomato plant needed to be secured to grow up the trellis and the grape vine was the perfect rope to bind the tomato plant to the trellis. It saved me the work of tying it down, so that’s a happy discovery! I do wish there were grapes this year of course, but at least the vine is helping me with my tomatoes!

This situation feels like an extended metaphor about a fruitful life, as sometimes we expect fruit (results) from one area of our lives, but our work/relationship/financial/energy investment may surprise us with a benefit in an area of our lives we didn’t expect. So, let’s keep going! We may not see what we want right now, but when we put our hearts into each day, we’ll see positive developments, even if it takes a lot longer than we thought it would, and even if some of the changes are not what we expected.


More Coffee

See oil painting “Breakfast with Friends” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I last shared this one with you in my June 1 blog post “Are you my Friend?“. Today, I’m sharing it for a different reason: the warm coffee and breakfast. Now, this is a good breakfast (egg and bacon), but I look forward to tomorrow morning’s treat, the coffee cake I made today. It’s a from-scratch recipe that I used to make throughout my young married days, and while the kids were little. I hadn’t made that cake in a long time, it’s been years. 

I never had a bundt pan, except for a brief frustrating experience with a cheap one that made my cakes stick to the bottom (or actually the top in the case of a bundt pan). I’d make the cake in a regular pan, which was a bit disappointing because the streusel didn’t turn out looking fancy. I finally bought a nice bundt pan and I was excited to make my old coffee cake in it. It turned out beautifully! And it looks fancy too! Well, it did before I cut it all up and my family devoured most of it.

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll stir resentfully until I remember my coffee cake. Then my eyes will fly open and I’ll spring out of bed, anticipating how wonderful it will taste with a cup of coffee. Or tea. I drink more tea than coffee these days. 

The cake tastes the same as I remembered, but having been baked in the special pan feels symbolic of progress. Funny how we can go through most of our lives without having the right tool for the job, and when we finally try the same task again with the right tool, suddenly it call comes together with the finishing touch, like the experienced professional that we have become. My fondness for metaphors brings me to this: the act of living is like baking my coffee cake. 

We begin with a desire for something good, something to share with others, something that makes us happy. And we bake a delicious cake that everyone loves, and we think it’s the best that life can be. But we haven’t seen the best of us yet. The best is yet to come.

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Worn

Watch this “Armor of God” oil painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

There’s a lot going on in the world today, and I feel worn. Do you? I’m sharing this “Armor of God” painting again, a metaphor for spiritual strength, as I talked about in a blog post called “Are you wearing armor?” I could use some spiritual strength today, so I’m focusing on things that restore my spirit.

There is much evidence of wrong, but little justice, enforcement of laws, or deliverance from evil. These things can wear on the soul. It’s good to focus on what we can control. Strip everything down to the simple acts that keep us alive from day to day, minute by minute. Eat good food. Drink water. Rest. Sleep.

Each day we are still here is a day that we were destined to be here. Why? Why are we here? We don’t always know why we survive when others do not, but we honor them when we are grateful to breathe another day. When I am worn, I don’t listen to “news” or let the malice of noise drown my inner voice. I choose gratitude.

Gratitude is what raises us up, because we are empowered by what we already have. At this moment, I am looking forward to eating a fresh salad. It’s a simple thing, but good food matters to this moment. Living moment by moment is what gets us through when there’s not much we can do to change the weight of the world. All we can be is who God made us, but one small act can help another. I hope that my blog posts encourage you. Stay strong, and know that if you’re feeling worn, this too shall pass. No season lasts forever.

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