New Painting, Finally!

See this oil painting of a yellow rose come to life in about 1 minute (time lapse)

I’m finally back to work after our big sudden, unexpected move. The move took wild turns and we ended up buying a house at least a year before we were ready to do so. The way it came together wasn’t what we wanted, but we have landed in a place I already love, and I will heal from the things that happened. There’s a lot I can’t say here, that I’d say if we could be in person and have a long heart-to-heart over a cup of tea or coffee. I’d bring one of my cakes or a batch of cookies. But, here we are, chatting through my blog that anyone can read. It’s a bit like being at a party, having a personal chat, and a person with bad intentions overhears- twists our words to hurt us, or takes offense at something that wasn’t meant for them, and spiritually had nothing to do with them.

Anyway, I think you know what I mean. I wish I could fully describe the extreme highs and especially the lows, but I can’t. I’ll say this: I have felt profoundly hurt and disappointed by some of the unfair and bitterly unjust events that unfolded, but through it all, I felt divine intervention and spiritual support that can’t be explained away by logic. We’d have to believe in a complicated series of coincidences to dismiss it all, and that would frankly be more of stretch to believe than to simply take it as it was: I was being spiritually supported in a mysterious way that I can’t understand, but I’m grateful for. My family felt it too, but I don’t say much about their experiences on the blog, as those are their own stories to decide to publicly tell or not.

So why did I choose to paint a yellow rose as my first painting in my new home? Because, shortly after we moved in, my rose plant bloomed for the first time. It is symbolic for me because yellow roses have a special meaning in my life. My grandma loved them and would keep her roses on a hill that was highly visible. When she passed, I thought of her whenever I saw yellow roses. Since I always admired them, I wanted to grow some. Grandma was successful with hers in upstate New York, but we were living in Minnesota at the time, which has much harsher temperatures in the dead of winter (sometimes as low as -25 F). I could only have a specialty engineered rose, an “arctic rose”, in yellow. That’s all I could find that had a good chance of thriving. It did thrive, and those were the roses that were in bloom long after they should have been, when I was Mom’s caregiver and bringing her cut roses. The roses finally stopped blooming after she passed- which was after the regular season when my roses had usually already stopped producing new roses for the year. If you garden, you can probably relate to how surprising it is when flowers, fruit, or vegetables survive much longer than expected. It feels like a miracle, especially if there is a heavy emotional impact.

After we sold our hobby farm that we’d built (after years of fixing up dirty rundown houses while living in them, selling and saving toward having a nice new house one day and meant as a “forever” family home), because the company my husband worked for moved out of the country and laid everyone off after they trained their replacements, and I lost my job too since my arts school was based in my home studio, we moved several times (my apologies if you’ve heard this story too much, but new people join us regularly and don’t know my story so I have to summarize it fairly often). While moving around, I didn’t want to get another arctic rose, so I waited until I could live someplace warm enough for real traditional roses to thrive. Then I waited some more because I could find any- they were sold out when I tried to get some- and I was always a day late and a dollar short. Time slipped away, and I never did get my real yellow roses… until a few weeks before we learned we would have to move from our rental house sooner than we planned.

Fortunately, because we were renting, I planted my new roses in a grow bag container, not in the ground. So, when we were blindsided by the vacate notice, it was easy to move it to the new place. It was a new plant and hadn’t produced any flowers yet. I was optimistic it would survive and I’d finally get my yellow roses, but until proof of this appeared, the yellow roses were still just a hope, not a reality.

It was astonishing that as soon as we moved everything into this house, the first bud appeared. Even though of course flowers bloom, that’s what they do, it still felt like a breathtaking surprise, as if I was not really expecting to ever see yellow roses. It was glorious! So pretty, dainty, and perfectly yellow- just as I imagined my yellow roses would be!

But then, it opened. And I was amazed at how beautiful it was. This was truly a real rose, not a close copy. I tried to capture it by photographing it and then painting it. I looked outside the window as I painted the rose to see the leaves in real time as well (the flower itself had already faded from its peak glory by the time I finished painting it). In the end, it’s only a representation of what I saw, because there’s nothing that can capture what it feels like to see a rose in person. I hope I came close, and that you can feel the emotion. If I felt uncertain about the love of God blessing my new life, all doubts fell away when this rose opened its lovely pedals. I imagine this spiritual connection to flowers is universally felt by all who feel a connection to nature, regardless of your faith, background, or social status.

We may have to wait a long time for something our heart desires, or for grief to lift. It can take years, and twists and turns we didn’t want to take. We may have to live in places we didn’t want to be, and we may be pushed to go on a new adventure before we are ready. But one day, we will arrive. The time has passed. And we are home. That is when a new yellow rose will open up, the sun will strike upon its glorious color, and we’ll know we are loved by God. Wherever we are sent, in this life or the next, there is something beautiful waiting for us. We are never truly alone, even when it feels like we are. We are never abandoned. We are human beings who feel the weight and burden of time, pain, and fear, that clouds our judgement and burdens our hearts- blocking us from seeing the yellow roses. Until the right time, and my time is now.

I hope you join me on my new painting adventures in my lovely blue home with the red door in Savannah, Georgia! How I got here is complicated. How I’ll live here may be complicated as well. But I know I will have a good life because I choose it. God bless you and your families. Never give up. Always look for your yellow roses to bloom.


Letting Go – Again

See angel releasing dove oil painting with real beach shells come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I’ve used this same painting for a very similar blog post called “Letting Go”. In that post I said these wise words “We may not have control over time, and future events, but we always have a spiritual choice about how we respond to change.” Ha! I better take my own advice to heart, lest I be a hypocrite. The past couple of days I was in a sour sullen snit about the shocking news of learning that we have to move in about two months, when we intended to continue renting this house until after my husband’s graduation (he’d gone back to school after losing his job when the company he worked for moved out of the country, and he’s nearly done- graduates in June- but too late to get us out from under this predicament).

Today I pushed myself to start the taping of the Easter show even though that was the last thing I wanted to do, as I need to start packing! But I’d already committed to doing the show and had invested in it. Yesterday I finished making my dress and I finished the set design this afternoon. Taping has begun! The first segment is done- and it went much better than I thought it would. No matter what’s going on in our lives, we have to choose whether or not to let those temporary circumstances paralyze, discourage, or destroy our purpose. I could have canceled the show, but that would have been wrong.

Letting go of worry, anxiety, dread, fear, resentment, bitterness, despair, and anger is a perpetual experience. Life will never be perfect and if we allow our human condition to stop us from acting on our plans, we will leave things unsaid, inspirations never created, places never traveled, and destinies never reached. So, we must plow through and do the things our heart is stirred to do, even when we don’t feel like it. “Fake it ’till you make it” is real. Not only will we get to where we want to be if we keep doing it, regardless of how close to the bottom we are when we start, but we’ll also become joyful if we fake feeling joy.

Today’s work on the Easter show included dressing up in an outrageously festive gown and singing songs that are truly joyful. I may have started out faking the joy, but shortly after I forced myself to be joyful, I really was! I had a happy time today. I am glad I gave up my stubborn attitude and chose to let go.

My stressful circumstances will change, with or without my cooperative attitude. I can stomp my feet and tantrum my way through this ordeal, or I can aim for high energy to work at a smooth transition. I can look for positive serendipitous events that fall neatly into place. If I look for these things, I will find them. If I work for a smooth transition, I am likely to have one. Change is often difficult. We can hate every minute of it and be no better off. Or, we can rise to the challenge and fake joyfulness until we feel the joy.


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”

What does Peace Mean?

See oil painting “Dove of Peace” come alive in just over 1 minute (time lapse)

“Peaceful” is a word used often lately in a way that bends, twists, and propagandizes the meaning. What does peace mean to you? Do you imagine a legal usage of the word? Do you visualize mockery, lies, cover-ups, and agendas? That’s a sad state of affairs. Turn off that dark noise and reject the chaotic world where up is down, and down is up. Virtue is malice, and hate is love.

Believe what you know, not what you are told.

Peace to me is a beautiful space where tranquility, calm, acceptance, closure, and letting go exists. It is a spiritual realm where we can choose contentment even when despair is the easier choice. Peace is what it means to be forgiven, to receive mercy, and to be set free.

Let no one alter what is uniquely yours alone, your private sovereign journey. Peace can’t be changed to fit a narrative or to coerce others to submit to their will. Spiritual peace is a gift that can never be denied to those who accept it. What enslaves is not peace, for peace is deliverance.


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Shocking Update

See oil painting “Visiting Rabbit” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

There’s a shocking update to the post I wrote yesterday called “On my Mind“, please read that one first. More about the history of this type of beyond-the-grave communication is found on the “Visiting Rabbit” page. OK, now for my update. It was really pressing on me to try to figure out the meaning of the many signs and symbols that felt like Mom was trying to tell me something from beyond. It started in again this morning and I felt that this would continue until I got the message.

I decided to do an Internet search for her family members. With the very first name I tried, as someone I knew she was close to, I found an obituary notice for this person’s partner of many years. Having passed away less than 2 weeks ago, this is still a very fresh loss. Mom’s frantic spiritual messages started a while ago, I can’t remember how many days ago. I am convinced that this is the message I was meant to receive and I’m now feeling at peace about it. I will act on the message and reach out to this person.

Well, that’s the shocking update. Always be open to messages beyond this life. We don’t have to know how these things happen, only be willing to hear the message, and help people who need us. Having said that, to be perfectly honest with you, this sort of thing freaks me out. Not my comfort zone, but who says life is meant to be comfortable?


On my Mind

See “Bird of Light” oil painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Before I type anything else, I just noticed that the exact temperate outside at this very second is 62 degrees. It’s been in the 50s, 40s, and 30s for weeks on end and now exactly 62. I’ve been seeing 62’s all day. I also had a dream about Mom a couple of nights ago, and a little bird (a tufted titmouse) has been driving me crazy by throwing itself at my patio window, inches from where I’m sitting now, cheeping incessantly. Now, there’s a scientific explanation for this behavior if the little guy is attacking his reflection, which can happen, but spiritually it was very unnerving and now suddenly he’s stopped doing it after several days of tormenting me. When Mom was dying, it was a yellow goldfinch that was at my window behaving oddly.

What does it all mean? I don’t know! I can’t think of anything memorable about this date or any reason why there should be such a strong pull. Anyway, although I’ve shared this story before, if this is the first time you’ve seen this painting, here is the explanation:

Oil painting “Bird of Light” was created especially for this collection, and specifically for this section on “Life after Death”. I wanted to share with you about how Mom seems to communicate with us. Numbers were important to her, and Mom had a habit of calculating figures in a notebook. She would do this by hand, usually to add and subtract purchases. She kept a balanced checkbook and would become anxious if even a single penny was off. She’d do the math over and over until she found the error and the account was balanced. This type of focus is a big part of who she was, so it makes sense that, instead of seeing cardinals or butterflies- as many people see when loved ones pass- we were instead seeing a number. Specifically, we were seeing the number 62. It took us a while to catch on that this number kept popping up, happening so often that it defied the statistical laws of probability, but eventually we made the connection. Mom was sixty-two when she died. That number was connected to her, and I also knew that the age she was would have been significant to her. So, it makes sense, as long as I’m open to the idea that our loved ones communicate with us in a way that is recognizable, identifiable, and also timely. As in, we see 62’s more often when we are going through a hardship, approaching a milestone, or coming up on the anniversary of something. We’d see 62 on a license plate directly in front of us, on billboards, in a show, on a receipt, in a price tag, in a phone number- anywhere where numbers are found, we may see a 62 several times in a single day. I didn’t know how to paint a number, without actually painting the number, but the idea came to me to paint an abstract that captures the idea of the number, drawing into my emotions about Mom, and the essence of her- what colors did she like, what colors seemed to represent her? I began by literally painting the number sixty-two on the canvas and using a variation of the “doodle game” that she and her family used to play with me when I was little. I could always draw very well, like my dad. The other side of the family was enchanted by watching Dad and I draw. They’d draw a doodle- just a curved line or shape- and challenge us to draw something from it. When I painted the number sixty-two, it felt like Mom had given me a doodle game challenge, which I thought I’d blend into an abstract art, but it took on the shape of a bird. I was attempting to blend the colors while deliberately avoiding making recognizable shapes, but shapes formed anyway. It looked like wings were in my brush strokes, and part of a bird shape. I realized that Mom wouldn’t like abstract art, but a subtle simple bird in her favorite colors would probably be her cup of tea. So, again, it all made sense… as long as I was open to the experience. And that’s how, instead of an abstract named “62”, Mom’s painting became “Bird of Light”. Then, something breathtaking happened the next morning to this painting, and I took a video of it to show you.

About 1 minute in (after my closing remarks) I show you what it looked like the next day

And now I’ve just burnt cupcakes that I’ve made several times before, perfectly. Well, they aren’t burned exactly. They overflowed and the batter that ran onto the oven floor is now burning and it’s filling the house with an obnoxious smokey burning smell that has sent one of my kids downstairs to make inquiries! 😀 Well, I don’t know why they overflowed like lava when that’s never happened before with this recipe, but I pulled them out just now and scraped some of the burnt batter off the oven floor. By then, they were cool enough to test a bit of the sloppy edges- delicious! So, they still taste fine, but they look TERRIBLE! It looks like one big massive cake. You can’t even see the cupcake paper liners because the cake has completely over taken the entire muffin tray!

What a strange day. I’m now trying to quickly air out the house before the rest of the family comes in the door. I guess that’s it from me. See you tomorrow! WAIT, don’t go yet…. UPDATE Ok, I’m back for a minute with an update: we figured out what happened with the cupcakes. I had tried a struesel topping which sank into the middle, causing the batter to overflow. That’s it, mystery solved. The cake is DELICIOUS and all clean now because the family came in and ate all the parts that spilled over, and each took a sloppy cupcake besides, LOL. All are happy and it was an easy problem to solve!


Inspiration

Watch oil painting “Wings of Heaven” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This oil painting was inspired by Psalm 36: 5-7 “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… You, Lord, preserve both people & animals…. People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

Sometimes I go looking for inspiration by trolling through my memories, searching for Scripture, looking at photographs, or by making lists of things that I feel would fit the collection I’m working on. That was true of the “Wings of Heaven” painting. I wanted something sky related and I looked for Scripture to give me ideas.

Other times, I paint from the heart after hearing music that stirs me, upon recalling a person or event, or after seeing something historic in the public sphere. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t seem to matter if I paint from my imagination, from looking at a personal photo, if using a stock photo as a reference, or any other source of inspiration- it makes no difference to YOU, the person I’m communicating with through my art.

I’ve found that you will respond to some paintings more strongly and intimately than others, but you are all very different in your tastes. You do not respond differently based on what has inspired me, or anything to do with me. Well, except for those of you whose spiritual strength is tied to empathy and therefore you respond more strongly to what you sense is meaningful to the artist… but that’s not because the art itself jumps out as “better” than the other works. It’s because of how you connect to others.

I have found it frustrating that I can’t predict what you want from me or plan my paintings based on what will be more popular, because I’ve found fans for virtually EVERY painting I’ve ever done, without much difference in popularity. Some of the paintings I don’t like, my own daughters will choose those instead of the ones that I think are my best. Of all the people on the planet, surely I’m the most similar to my own children- yet we don’t see my paintings the same way. How can I possibly expect to find universal agreement among people I’ve never met?

Some subjects are more popular than others, and some of my paintings have a controversial or emotional pull, but in the end, that doesn’t carry much weight when it comes to what you want to see from me. So, this has been a struggle, until I realized how off course I was in being overly concerned about what people want from me. It is a mistake I’ve made often throughout my life.

It’s FREEING to know that you don’t seem to care much what I paint, as long as I keep doing it. You will turn up as you wish, and you’ll connect with my work in unpredictable ways. One man specifically wanted me to one day paint a puffin, and I decided that it would fit in well with my plans for the 2021 collection about Nature. Another guy wanted a painting of redwing blackbirds. Several like my cardinal paintings, others like the eagles best. So you’d think that everyone likes birds then, right? No. They each had personal reasons for why these particular birds mean something to them. And, some people choose flowers. Others like angels. And many like it when I do something unexpected, like a piano or a frog.

I will stop trying to guess what you want, as your life is uniquely yours and you have your reasons for why some paintings draw you in and others don’t do much for you. You might not even know why you like certain things and feel nothing for others- you simply do or don’t. So I will keep painting and sharing, and I’ll let the language of art speak to you in your own way. It’s best for me anyway- it means I can simply paint what I’m inspired to paint, just as I’ve always done.


The Unexplained

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

I explained the story behind this mysterious encounter with a wild rabbit on the “Visiting Rabbit” page. This week there have been some serendipitous events, nothing of the emotional magnitude of the rabbit in my yellow roses, but powerful nonetheless. It would be difficult to explain all of the small connections that have lined up in an improbable string of consequences, but it really doesn’t matter what is happening in my little world. The larger picture is that this sort of thing happens to all of us, sometimes because we’re paying attention to it, and other times because it’s so in-our-face blatant that we can’t ignore it.

What’s on my heart tonight is to remind you that we are loved beyond what we can understand. We know this- without a doubt- when mysterious unexplained events happen to us, that make it clear that there is a God who loves us, sees us, and wants us to know that He does. There are strange signs, and things that only we know, that come together in perfect synchronicity. I believe that when we feel spiritual lonely, all we need to do is pray for a comforting sign. Then pay attention to what happens. We are never alone. Everything is connected.

God bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace. Good night, dear friends.


When Lions Fly

Watch oil painting “Guardian Lion” come alive in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

I last shared this art in a blog post called “Guardians“, which was about protectors and believing in spiritual protection. That’s a big idea sort of post. Today was much more down to earth. I was trying to accomplish a lot of things in a short space of time. I was more like a caged zoo lion than this winged one. I felt like I couldn’t get off the ground.

But when lions fly, nothing is impossible! I managed to finish my new painting and I’ll post it tomorrow. I also got about half the things on my list done. The problem is that I kept looking at the the things I haven’t done instead of the things I did. So much of our prosperity and happiness depends on perspective. When we think we accomplish little, little is the result. When we think we can fly, we do!


Garden Walls

Watch this oil painting come to life in under 2 minutes

(time lapse)

In June, I talked about this painting in a blog post called “Solitary Roses“. The part of that post I’d like to highlight today is this: 

“It’s healthy for brains to occasionally build garden walls, where we can retreat into a creative, spiritual, reflective space. ‘Unplugging’ is about much more than simply unplugging from the Internet, cell phones, televisions, or any other electronic gadget or screen. If our mindset is still controlled by the world’s pacing and agendas, we haven’t truly unplugged- we’ve merely paused the stream. What we need is garden walls inside our minds, a place we go when we need to connect our minds to our spirit and body. In that space, we are at peace: undisturbed, unhindered, and unburdened.”

It can be challenging to take time to simply be still, without letting our thoughts race, without staring at a screen, without multi-tasking, and resisting being occupied every second of the day. But if we do this, we can slow down time. Time passes from one hour to the next, one day, month, and year to the next, in a blur of mostly insignificant events that we don’t remember later. When we focus on the passage of time and reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and who we can be for others, we stop the manic pace that makes time race forward without any awareness of it. When we feel gratitude for every moment and pause our lives to notice, time slows.

It is when time slows that we learn the secrets that children, the elderly, and people under emotional crisis (such as grief, post-trauma, disability, etc.) already know: all that matters is right now, this very moment. If only we could feel this way, think of what we’d do with our blessed moment, our most priceless treasure! Time is what we all want when the end is near. Why wait until we’ve lost what we most desire and can never buy? We have time now. Tell your dear ones that you love them. Do something that makes you happy. Build garden walls inside your mind.

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