More than Sparrows

First the Sparrows oil painting and the inspiration behind it, then a challenge for self reflection. Are you “worth more than sparrows”? Do you live like you are?

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

“The inspiration for ‘Sparrows’ comes from Matthew 10:29-31 ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.'”

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

Update to the above story…

After painting “Sparrows” I saw those birds in abundance. They seemed to have had a nest in the trees by the front door. Sparrows were in my line of sight day after day. I have since not seen many sparrows, but one returned yesterday and was sitting all alone on the trellis on our patio.

My first thought when I saw what kind of bird it was, “Oh, it’s just a sparrow.” I’d been hoping to catch another glimpse of the mythical Blue Cardinal that I told you about in yesterday’s blog post. So I didn’t run for my camera.

In the Biblical metaphor, the sparrows have little worth, yet they don’t fall to the ground without God knowing. I’ve noticed that the verse doesn’t say “without God saving them”, “without God preventing the fall”, or “without God regretting the loss”. If we were to take the verse at its word regardless of how many translations it has gone though throughout history, then God knows what happens to the sparrow and that is meant to be enough comfort to us.

I’m imagining this in two different ways. One, from the perspective of a king. The king has a vast kingdom with many treasures, including living assets. He counts them all. He knows the value of each, and the status of every living asset. He keeps watch over every asset in the kingdom, but some assets are far more valuable to him than others. We can imagine that his vigilance and investment into those more valuable assets would be far greater than the rest.

The second perspective I’m imagining is from that of a parent. A loving and dedicated parent knows what their children are doing, even as they grow to become adults living separate lives. One day, a call may come. An adult child is in the hospital and is in a bad way. The parent arrives at the bedside as soon as possible. The child’s response is not, “Why did you not prevent this from happening to me?”

The child is relieved to see the familiar devoted face of the parent who knows them, who sees their worth, who loves them unconditionally. This face brings the child comfort, regardless of how old that child is. For many blessed parents, a day will come when it is the child who arrives at the bedside, and the same comfort is in reverse. When an older person is dying, it is often their child who they want at their side.

What if we felt as free as the common sparrow? When I saw the sparrow yesterday, he seemed to have not a care in the world. He had easy access to food but was perched a few feet away from it, just looking around. He wasn’t jumpy, as if afraid of predators. Indeed, he had the place to himself. There was nothing to fear in that moment.

When we are perched in a space where our needs are met and there are no immediate dangers, why are we sometimes unable to let go of fear? If God knows what’s happening to us does that give us comfort, or is peace impossible without insurance that no harm will ever come our way? If we refuse peace we enslave ourselves, do we not?

I don’t have the answers, but I do know this… I’ve been at the bedside of the dying. In my experience, in those final days and moments, they don’t say, “Why is this happening to me? This is unfair!” They don’t rail at God or blame others. They seek out the faces of those who know their worth. Their gaze unmistakably says, “I’m glad you are here.”

When we know that we are worth more than sparrows, we live as if we are. We are a living investment that has the potential to increase the value of others. We can choose to let go of resentment over the times when there’s no divine intervention to save us. We can choose instead to accept the peace that is offered: we are known, valued, and loved.

We are worth far more than sparrows! Our best life is not to perch in the space where basic needs are met, where we’re temporarily safe from harm. It is not to rest in days of good weather. That’s a very small life, worthy of a sparrow.

When life hangs in the balance, what’s most important?  Acceptance of the limitations of humanity seems to come naturally to most dying persons. So many have this regret: “If only I understood this (what truly matters is love) when there was still time to live fully.”

We have time. We are worth more than sparrows. What will you do today?

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Cardinal Promise

First the oil paintings then the stories behind them. Don’t miss the beautiful real life video update filmed just yesterday! Grab a cuppa, settle in

Read More »

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day before Easter, and is associated with: Resting, waiting upon the Lord Examining one’s own life and spiritual journey Being expectant

Read More »

Good Friday

To mark Good Friday as a day of remembrance and humility, an artistic rendering of the cross is typically focused on the beauty of redemption,

Read More »

Maundy Thursday

Another Lenten season ends. As we head toward Easter weekend, my blog will feature Easter related oil paintings and short videos of live music events.

Read More »

Mythical Blue Cardinal

First, my oil painting of a blue heron and the update. Then, the mysterious and bizarre story about what happened yesterday! Don’t miss my challenge to you to “go blue”.

Watch me paint this blue heron in under 1 minute (time lapse)

“A strikingly beautiful blue heron appeared at the lagoon one day. I quickly took its picture to paint later. This is a different style from how I usually paint. It looks like a watercolor because I was trying to get away with using cheap paints that turned out to be watery and hard to work with. This was a happy accident, because the watercolor-like effect captured the mood. He has only made one more appearance that I know of, but I hope he will return next spring. On the day he arrived, he just happened to be standing at the water’s edge when the light reflected the colors of the trees in a streaky wave of color. He was all alone, with no other birds or creatures in sight, which only added to his mysterious presence.”

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

Update to the above story…

The blue heron still comes back occasionally, always alone. We see him about 2-3 times per season. It’s always a treat to see his blue feathers and serene spirit. His presence is calming.

“Calming” and “serene” are NOT the right words to describe the bird I saw yesterday! Oh my! So, let me tell the story…

I’m just sitting at my computer, same as usual, when there’s a flurry of motion at the patio doors a couple feet away from my chair (the same patio doors I keep showing you in my other bird videos). This is a small house with only one source of windows on this side, just the patio doors. I’m inches from my portal to the outside when I’m talking to you.

I was typing when a flurry of motion caught my attention. I turn my head to see a glorious vivid neon blue bird hovering in front of the glass. Keep in mind, he is so close that I could almost touch him if not for the glass between us. At some point he stands on the welcome mat, which brings him so close to the glass that I can see his distinctive cardinal shaped head.

He looks just like a red cardinal that someone tinted blue! Now, some say that this mythical Blue Cardinal doesn’t exist, and this bird is likely a Steller’s Jay. I have looked into this, and the bird I saw doesn’t look like a Steller’s Jay enough for me to claim it as absolute. He really does look like a Blue Cardinal. He doesn’t have a dark head like the Jay, and his face looks like a Cardinal, not a Jay.

Watch the 1 minute video – in this footage you can see how he flies into the scene like a blue angel. What you don’t see, is that he did this many times prior to me getting the camera and having it ready to film him. He was also “hovering” like hummingbirds do… (unfortunately I didn’t get that on film) staying in one place, mid-air, directly in front of the patio glass, seeming to make direct eye contact with me. To be honest, it rather scared me and I called out to him, “What do you want?”

Although I didn’t get a clear shot of him on video because he was always in motion when I had the camera on him, when I saw him before I got the camera out, he stood on the welcome mat, still. I got a very clear up-close look at his face. I could identify this bird in a lineup.

My daughter saw him later in the afternoon and said she saw red markings on the tips of his wings. I don’t recall seeing that, but it’s possible I didn’t notice. The footage of him is while he’s flying and fluttering. It would be next to impossible to detect small red markings on the wings.

So, my family is now hoping to catch a glimpse of this bird. I want a good clear picture of his face to show you. This is driving my husband crazy because once again we’re talking about an exotic bird and he can’t see it. It took over a year for him to finally see the Painted Bunting with his own two eyes.

I don’t know why this bird came directly to me, and seemed to be trying to get my attention. It was unnerving. I may talk a big game, but when something happens that seems spiritual in nature, I am afraid… uncomfortable. My truest reaction is that I want the experience to stop. And then it does. If I were to hazard a guess, I’m open enough to see these wonderful things, but not quite “there” yet to see it through. I become easily spooked and then the whole thing shuts down… whatever it was.

I feel I’m getting braver. Perhaps next time I won’t panic and blurt out scared questions. I was asking the bird, “Why are you here? What do you want? Why are you doing this?” Of course I didn’t get an answer, but the bird did fly away.

Even if my blue angel meant nothing at all, but was a random intersection between nature and humanity, the quest to see a glimpse of the mythical Blue Cardinal will keep my family entertained all weekend. Hope is a gift. All it takes is one small thing to alter a mood and elevate all the people who live in this house.

Whether we wish to see the calming presence of the Blue Heron, or we seek the exhilaration of discovery in the flurry of a mythical Blue Cardinal, the quest to see something extraordinary keeps us alive. Energy begets energy. Today, I challenge you to “go blue”. Look for blue spirits in nature. Seek, and ye shall find. Report back… did you see a blue butterfly? A bird? If you see the mythical blue cardinal, take a picture!

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Cardinal Promise

First the oil paintings then the stories behind them. Don’t miss the beautiful real life video update filmed just yesterday! Grab a cuppa, settle in

Read More »

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day before Easter, and is associated with: Resting, waiting upon the Lord Examining one’s own life and spiritual journey Being expectant

Read More »

Good Friday

To mark Good Friday as a day of remembrance and humility, an artistic rendering of the cross is typically focused on the beauty of redemption,

Read More »

Maundy Thursday

Another Lenten season ends. As we head toward Easter weekend, my blog will feature Easter related oil paintings and short videos of live music events.

Read More »

Beauty of Time

Oil paintings, the stories behind them, the real life picture I took this morning, then the update… Are you open to the idea that we don’t understand what time is, and often fail to see its beauty? What does fate, serendipity and destiny mean to you?

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

“Serendipity, the mysteries of life, and how the pieces of a great wondrous puzzle fit together, are beyond our comprehension, yet when we are free to hear the whispers beyond our universe, we hear God’s voice saying, ‘You are not alone. You matter. You belong. You are loved.’ If we know how to look, we see how people, animals, nature, music, art, and events are synchronized, as if the meaning of life centers around only ourselves, one single individual, who, along with the energy of millions of others, form the masterpiece’s gestalt. Time is fleeting, no matter how long we live, or even if we’ve never lived outside of the womb. In the vastness, time is but the anticipation of a single breath among a mighty wind. Time is precious, more valuable than wealth, more valuable than achievements, more valuable than governments. Time belongs to no one, yet is for everyone. Time has no physical boundaries of space or human limitations. Time is both grand and intimate. Time is beautiful.”

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

When I was Mom’s caregiver, I knew her little apartment inside and out because I was the one who cleaned it. Yet it looked completely different when Mom was no longer in it. That first time I entered the place after she had passed was when the first round of grief attacked me. Her tea cup was still sitting by her chair. It wasn’t right that it should be there if she was never coming back. Yet moving her cup was wrong too.

Sorting through Mom’s life was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. During that fateful weekend, we gave away many of her things and sold a few items. One of those items was a very large filing cabinet. We’d placed it into the hall with a sign on it.

A short while later, I opened the door to see a woman in her early twenties in the hallway. I was surprised, because Mom had been the youngest person on that floor, the third floor where only a handful of older people lived. The woman was interested in Mom’s filing cabinet. She liked to sew and thought it would be ideal for holding her craft supplies.

She was holding a newborn baby. It had been a long time since I’d last seen a baby that young. A strange feeling overtook me, as a thought struck my mind. I asked, “When was your baby born?” even though my heart already knew the answer. Yes, her baby was born on the same day that my mother had died.

There are many reasons why I shouldn’t have even seen the young mother standing there with her newborn baby. I also shouldn’t have been alone when I saw her. But in that narrow space of time, we connected. I was meant to see how as one left departs, another life enters. I don’t know if I can put it into words why this comforted me, but I’ll try.

I kept thinking, what if I’d done more? What if I’d nagged Mom earlier about going to see a doctor? What if I’d persisted when she refused to make the recommended lifestyle changes? Mom had said, “I made my own choices, Natalie. There is nothing you could have done.” But I struggled to let go of the idea that maybe I could have persuaded her to make different choices. Mom often said, “If it’s my time, it’s my time.”

One life entering in joy, as another (whose name was Joy) leaves this earth… it was Mom’s time. If she had been meant to stay, she would have stayed. I looked at that sleeping baby in his mother’s arms and said, “You have a beautiful baby. Congratulations!”

I took this photo this morning of the first bloom of the season from my potted patio roses. Isn’t it beautiful, standing tall in the early morning light? Compare it to the painting I shared yesterday. See how tall it’s grown? Notice that the tallest rose used to stand below the top of the trellis and now it is soaring above it.

In both my real life patio rose and the painted roses in my idealized garden, the color is strikingly beautiful. Roses such as these were difficult to grow in the frigid climate of rural Minnesota, where I was living when Mom was alive. I kept “arctic” roses that were born of hybrid research, and when in full bloom looked more like carnations than roses. These didn’t have the vivid colors of the tropical varieties I now have here in Georgia.

Mom would say that she didn’t have a “green thumb”. The only plant she kept was a pair of 70’s style plastic (now considered vintage) home decor gold-painted wall hangings, an outline of flowers on a vine type stem. My subconscious mind seems to have painted a loose likeness of those flowers in the “Time” painting I shared at the top of this post.

The antique watch in the painting is my husband’s, inherited from his grandfather many years ago. We now live in a place that neither his grandfather nor my mother have ever visited. We have a family who has grown past the ages when they were known. If they were seen now, they’d be as strangers.

Time has created a new life for us, and in this life, the roses are red. They are real, and they are beautiful. I do have a “green thumb”, as I love plants, animals, people and life. When it’s my time, I shall be sad to leave.

But I’m still here, and I envision a long life ahead of me. I have been gifted with time. How much love and joy can I pour out while I’m here? What is time, but an opportunity to connect… to add our unique piece to the universal puzzle, and for those who choose… to accept the challenge to live up to the purpose destined for us.

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Cardinal Promise

First the oil paintings then the stories behind them. Don’t miss the beautiful real life video update filmed just yesterday! Grab a cuppa, settle in

Read More »

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day before Easter, and is associated with: Resting, waiting upon the Lord Examining one’s own life and spiritual journey Being expectant

Read More »

Good Friday

To mark Good Friday as a day of remembrance and humility, an artistic rendering of the cross is typically focused on the beauty of redemption,

Read More »

Maundy Thursday

Another Lenten season ends. As we head toward Easter weekend, my blog will feature Easter related oil paintings and short videos of live music events.

Read More »

New Painting – Something Cool!

Watch me paint this jellyfish in 1 minute (time lapse)

Make sure your sound is on for full eerie effect. The ocean is a surreal place, isn’t it? This art is part of the 2021 collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“. I’ll start the next one today. Another one toward my lifetime goal of 1k finished oil paintings!

Never miss a new painting!

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Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day before Easter, and is associated with: Resting, waiting upon the Lord Examining one’s own life and spiritual journey

Read More »

“Jellyfish”

Watch Natalie paint this jellyfish in under 1 minute (time lapse)

This art is traditional oil paint on black canvas. The paints seem to glow because of the stark contrast in hues on the black canvas. The effect is stronger when seen on a screen (through light). “Jellyfish” is included in the collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas. For more examples of painting on black canvas see blog post “Painting on Black“.

Oil Painting of a jellyfish by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Small Print “Jellyfish”

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

$33.50

Medium Print “Jellyfish”

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

$65.50

Large Print “Jellyfish”

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

$98.50

Cardinal Promise

First the oil paintings then the stories behind them. Don’t miss the beautiful real life video update filmed just yesterday! Grab a cuppa, settle in and enjoy. 

The first cardinal I painted was for Grandpa Smiles, a children’s book about my son and my late father who died long before he was born. Dad was only thirty seven when he died from cancer after serving two tours in the Vietnam War. He didn’t live to see me grow up. And yet, his life made a significant impact on mine, and on my son’s.

When I was a child attending Dad’s memorial service I remember thinking, “Who are all of these people, and why are they coming to our (private) service?” The church was packed. The speaker said things about Dad that sounded like he led a whole life that didn’t include me, and I wasn’t aware of.

Years later when my husband was deployed to the war in Iraq, I left Germany where he was stationed and came “home” (I don’t really have a home, as I’ve moved around so much, but I went back to the town where I spent most of my school years). I got a job at the same factory where my father had once worked. Except he had been a manager in the offices and I was working second shift as a factory worker in assembly (a story for another day).

While working at the factory, I ran into people who had known my father. They were eager to tell me stories about things he had done. I had never known any of what they were telling me. Hearing it for the first time was as if they were talking about a stranger. It was a strange feeling to realize that Dad had been living a secret life.

 

It was clear that these people not only remembered my dad, but held him in high esteem, with an almost hero legacy. They told me stories of good things he had done, how he’d helped people and even financed getting someone back on their feet again (Dad was not a wealthy man). All of this was kept secret because Mom would have been livid if she’d known that he used some of the family finances on other people. 

I wish he’d have told me, but he DID tell me. He told me through the good things that he did in his life, that remained to be shown to me long after he died. That’s what happens to goodness and truth: it remains. It becomes a legacy to follow.

Watch me paint “Cardinals” in under a minute (time lapse)

The next cardinal I painted (in the video above) was years later, a pair, male and female. This was for the children’s book “Bird Days“, my last children’s’ book. I later left children’s book illustration behind as I launched into my “inspired by” oil painting series for the adult market. “Cardinals” was included in the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith“. 

 

 

The painting “Cardinals” became one of my most popular paintings, especially as it has deep personal meaning for people who have lost loved ones. But even without that profound connection, others see cardinals as a symbol of hope, faith and promise. Still others simply enjoy the quiet beauty of cardinals and feel peace at the sighting of one, whether in real life or in paint.

My third cardinal painting features cardinals on my patio feeder in “Come to the Garden“, which I blogged about recently in the post called “Quiet Joy“. Now I’ll pull a quote from this painting’s description from the book, because it’s time for a real life video update.

"The birds don’t usually come around all at once... ...The tree on the right is the butterfly tree that I showed you in a previous painting. The shepherd’s hook is there, with the bird feeder below it. The cardinals sometimes pose exactly like this. We’ve changed things up a bit since I did this painting. We’ve added a red tower for smaller birds, that’s supposed to attract the elusive migratory Painted Bunting I showed you earlier. We’ll see, come spring!"

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

So, as you know… the elusive Painted Bunting DID return, and has been a regular visitor every season since! I’ve blogged about him several times, including just yesterday:

 

Well, after I blogged yesterday I saw the painted bunting again, and tried for (and got!) better footage, which I’ll show you… but this isn’t the video I was excited about… that’s coming later! But watch this short clip first.

Oh and this one too… very short, only 24 seconds.

THIS is the video I’m excited to show you. Remember when I said, “the birds don’t usually show up all at once”? Well, sometimes they DO, and when that happens, it’s GLORIOUS! 

Graced by the promise of a cardinal, overwhelmed by the beauty of an elusive painted bunting, and cheered by a diminutive chatty hummingbird, how can one not feel certain of a divine plan after seeing this? Surely we are loved, by a Father who keeps many secrets, but reveals them in truth. The goodness we see is the legacy that teaches us how to live. The pursuit of happiness begins with openness, continues with kindness, and is fulfilled in acts of love.

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More than Sparrows

First the Sparrows oil painting and the inspiration behind it, then a challenge for self reflection. Are you “worth more than sparrows”? Do you live

Read More »

Beauty of Time

Oil paintings, the stories behind them, the real life picture I took this morning, then the update… Are you open to the idea that we

Read More »

Cardinal Promise

First the oil paintings then the stories behind them. Don’t miss the beautiful real life video update filmed just yesterday! Grab a cuppa, settle in

Read More »

Feeding Critics

First the oil painting, then the story that inspired this art and the update. Do YOU feed your critics? Everyone has critics, whether you do

Read More »

Hummingbird Swing

I hope you had a joyous and spiritually restful Easter weekend. Now that my Easter art posts are finished, “Stories that Inspire my Art” series

Read More »

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter! Today I’ll share peaceful and joyful oil paintings and songs with you. May you feel the burst of new spring life in your

Read More »

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day before Easter, and is associated with: Resting, waiting upon the Lord Examining one’s own life and spiritual journey Being expectant

Read More »

Good Friday

To mark Good Friday as a day of remembrance and humility, an artistic rendering of the cross is typically focused on the beauty of redemption,

Read More »

Maundy Thursday

Another Lenten season ends. As we head toward Easter weekend, my blog will feature Easter related oil paintings and short videos of live music events.

Read More »

Lizard & Elusive Painted Bunting

First, the oil painting, then the shameful story behind it… make sure you don’t miss my bonus video- real life new footage of the elusive Painted Bunting!

Watch me paint this lizard in 1 minute (time lapse)

“During our first summer in Georgia, the thing I feared most happened: the air conditioning went out. We had to deal with the intense humid heat with no AC [air conditioning, cooling]! The days and nights dragged on as we waited for the situation to be resolved. The weeks before this happened, I’d made a new friend: a cute lizard on the glass patio door. He kept me company while I was working on my computer nearby. I named him Henry. On one of our sweltering nights without air conditioning, I left the glass patio door open, which exposed a small gap in the seal of the sliding screen door. The hour was late night, nearly midnight, and my husband was working the night shift. That’s when Henry got IN. I chased him until I was overheated and sweaty. Finally, with the help of a spray bottle of water, I corralled him out the open door, while yelling, 'Get out, Henry, you bast-rd!' I realized too late, that our new neighbors didn’t know 'Henry' is a lizard. Since then, I’ve rekindled my friendship with our patio lizards, as they keep the doors free of bugs. I’ve watched a lizard eat an entire pesky moth in two seconds time. As long as they stay on the other side of the door, we are good pals.”

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

Update to the above story…

If our neighbors heard me in my crazy fit of heat-induced delirium, they’ve politely never mentioned it. No air conditioning while knee deep in the humidity of a scorching Georgia summer is akin to boiling one’s organs while draining the brain of consciousness. When chasing that slippery little lizard, I was near the brink of delirium.

Fortunately, the air conditioning is working just fine so far at the beginning of this new season. We saw the first sightings of the return of the lizards. One tiny lizard was declared the cutest one she’s ever seen by my daughter, and then she spotted another lizard that seemed to change colors (like the lizard in my oil painting video, which is inadvertent due to changes in lighting while filming, but it gives the illusion of the real life way that lizards change hues from green to brown and back again).

 

 

The lizards have a much higher favorability rating since they’ve not come back indoors, but they can’t beat the popularity of the birds. The cardinals are active and seem to have a nest nearby. Hummingbirds are crazy with hunger at all times of the day. But, it’s the elusive one that most catches our breath…

The painted bunting is back!!! There seems to always be just one each season (and sometimes his female companion). I call him the “elusive” painted bunting because it’s hard to get photos and video of him. He’s skittish of any sign of movement. It’s difficult to adjust the camera or zoom in to follow his movements, or even be quick enough to capture him at all.

I was able to get fantastic footage that I shared previously in the blog post “Bunting is REAL!“. I captured that during last season, from inside the house. This time, I was outside, from a different angle. The new footage isn’t as nice, but it’s fun to see anyway, as it puts you in the moment.

When I was processing this video for you this morning, I saw a flash of light from the patio window. I had a feeling… yep, it was the sun hitting the tower bird feeder because someone was in it and made it sway… YES! It was the painted bunting, back again this morning for breakfast. I tried to grab my camera, but he flitted off.

Here’s the glorious footage from last season, in case you missed it and didn’t want to bother clicking on the link I shared earlier… or if you just want to watch it again to compare. Notice how bright his colors are? It’s very difficult to get the breathtaking vivid hues to show up on camera. I’m glad I painted him. Oils do this bird justice better than my camera does. But, this footage here is pretty close!

I’ll continue to try to capture the elusive painted bunting. It would be nice to catch him when he’s perched on a more natural habitat, like when he’s waiting in the trees for the bird feeder to be free of pesky threats like other birds or women with cameras.

Not every blog post has to be a metaphor for loftier thoughts, but I do see one in this post. Why do my husband and I gush over this elusive bird, while largely ignoring many other types of birds, and never filming the lizards at all? Is it because the painted bunting is so exotic and beautiful, or because he is rare, his season with us very short, and he’s difficult to catch sight of?

Our human nature is to value more the things that are fleeting and rare, the moments that are difficult to obtain, and the experiences that require work and luck to achieve. It seems we’re always chasing after that mysterious combination of destiny and control. So while the common lizard may zip past our feet, we’ll barely glance at him when the painted bunting flies overhead.

But when winter stretches on too long, as this one did, and the first lizard makes his appearance, the sighting of his tiny green crawling, climbing, and leaping body induces relief and delight! So happy to see you, dear Lizard! For when we are without the joys of abundant life, we miss the lizards equally as the elusive painted buntings. All creatures great and small, we appreciate them all!

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Random or by Design?

First the oil painting, then the story that inspired this art and the update. Is YOUR life random or by design? Ponder this as you digest today’s blog post. You may be surprised at where your thoughts lead you.

Watch me paint Porch Flowers in under 1 minute (time lapse)

“When we moved here, I didn’t know that the shrubs near the front porch were the flowering kind, until one day they burst out in beautiful pink and white blossoms. The flowers graced the ground when they fell, leaving a carpet of petals. The floral shower right outside our door was such a nice surprise! Sometimes in life we fear the unexpected- the call we don’t ever want to receive, the news we can’t bear- but there are times when the unexpected is a blessing. From the big surprises we didn’t see coming, to the small ones, an ordinary day can change in an instant over a cascade of flowers.”

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

Update to the above story…

A few years have passed since I wrote that description. True, it was such a surprise that first year we moved here and the shrub burst forth in gorgeous large blossoms, flowers that “graced the ground” when they fell. This makes me chuckle now, because “graced the ground” has morphed into “made a mess”, making the property looked unkempt and neglected.

 

The shrub was planted too close to the house, something we’d not have done if we were planning the landscaping. Now it is a nuisance problem that we have to take care of. It is crowding into the porch and blocking the sidewalk. The once-pretty flowers are now more like an infestation of blooms that blot out the shrub itself and shed petals that, after a rain, become slippery wet piles of debris.

“Porch Flowers” is a good metaphor for living a life by intention (by design), or letting random events and circumstances dictate our lives. As in all things, balance is the answer. Letting fate steer us can be exactly what we need; to learn about new paths. Sometimes fate is cruel, but often it is pleasantly surprising, like the welcoming porch flowers when we were new to the area and felt so lonely. I’m still grateful for that surprise.

But life, and evolving into a higher spiritual place, is about changing. Whether we want to or not, the world grows around us. Sometimes random events of the past create problems for the future if we are unwilling to take control and shift gears from a reactive, defensive and passive existence to one of deliberation, intention, and active design. The predestination of our lives doesn’t exclude our participation in the planning.

When you think about your life today, how much of your daily routine is a result of random events, and how much of it is by design? What might improve for you if you plan an area of your life that has overgrown its place? What was once pleasing and wonderful may now be a disheveled mess.

Today, my husband and I will be trimming the overgrown shrubs and trees that surround this house. We are renters, due to circumstances that uprooted us from the home we’d built and loved. But our journey back toward living in our own home is not as long as it once was, and we’re already planning our future flowers, shrubs, and trees in our hearts.

Acceptance of fate, random events, and forced circumstances is a necessary skill for a happy and positive life. But, few journeys stay on the same road indefinitely. At some point the terrain changes and the path narrows. There are forks in the road and choices to make.

 

What then? Do we let fate decide? Do we flip a coin, or let superstition rule? Do we say “this must be a sign” at the slightest random shift in the wind? Or do we live by design and intention, making a conscious decision about which path we will take next?

Balance. Let go and let the winds of fate guide your sails, but don’t let yourself be steered into the rocks. Recognize when it’s time to take control. Life by design can be just as freeing. Imagine taking the wheel of a motor boat and zipping across the unknown waters much faster than you ever thought possible. When you like where you are, you cut the engine and let your boat drift a while.

Reflection is meant to be gently led. Metaphors are useful for applying to your own situation; leading not forcing.

 

  1. Imagine the porch flowers in your life, and name them (small picture).
  2. Next, imagine a fork in the road (middle view). What decisions do you see in your immediate future? Even small decisions can make a difference.
  3. Finally, imagine yourself at sea (big picture). What type of boat are you in? Are you being steered, at the wheel, or drifting?

 

Think about living by design… you may be surprised at where your thoughts lead you.

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“Robin with Eggs”

Watch Natalie paint “Robin with Eggs” in this 2 minute time lapse video

This art is part of a larger project, “Easter Sunday with Grandma” and is featured in the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“.

Small Print “Robin with Eggs”

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

$33.50

Medium Print “Robin with Eggs”

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

$65.50

Large Print “Robin with Eggs”

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

$98.50

New Painting – Something Happy!

Watch me paint “Hedgehog” in just over a minute (time lapse)

Let this cute hedgehog lift your spirits and put a smile on your face. Sound on for full effect. The music choreographed to my paint strokes is wonderfully quirky and cheesy!

Another painting for “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature” is done! I’m starting the next one today. No rest for this artist if I want to reach my lifetime goal of 1k paintings. Some paintings are intense, some are in a different style than I’m used to, and others are simply delightful.

Certain animals just look happy, don’t you think? Like the Puffin – enjoyed painting that little guy. Today, stand tall and proud like the funny puffin, or curl up cozy and relaxed like the hedgehog. This is your time! We are all part of this crazy world of nature. Savor every minute.


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