When You’re Misunderstood {And There’s Nothing You Can Do}

It’s hard to be a lover of beauty and creating and things of the soul and be misunderstood by other human beings. I mean, just because someone isn’t artsy doesn’t mean they don’t have a soul; technically, aren’t we all soulful in some way?

Photography credit: Kara Cline Photography

But in spite of this, other people can seem like another species, whether it’s people you’re related to or someone you work with or even a friend. Maybe someone has misunderstood a dream that breaks your heart with its bigness, or maybe they misunderstood comments you’ve made, or a text you sent. (As far as communication goes, texting can really be the worst.) 

Sometimes, I think there are seasons of misunderstanding, or being misunderstood… or both. Where is the grace? It’s tempting to ask, brandishing a fist at the world. I think it’s a good question, especially as members of the body of Christ. How do we have grace with each other, no matter who is doing the misunderstanding?

Ecclesiastes 7:20-22 says,

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins.

Do not pay attention to every word people say,

    or you may hear your servant cursing you—

for you know in your heart
    that many times you yourself have cursed others.

Sometimes, we hear other people’s words, and we store them up in our heart and let them define us. At least, I do.

Photography credit: Kara Cline Photography

But they don’t define us. Neither does a perception someone has or even a lot of people. Even if we do something wrong, that doesn’t define us either.

We are defined as children of God. That’s where the grace is. Or rather, He is where the grace is. God is there, clothing us in redemption, and clothing others in it, too. Even those who misunderstand and hurt us (intentionally or otherwise). 

It still stings when they do. It’s not easy to just respond from a place of grace all the time (especially if it’s someone who just pushes your buttons, right?) But I’ve found that if- at the very least- I can catch myself before my blood hits boiling point, that I can coach myself to remember Christ. Oh yeah- and those redemption clothes I mentioned.

Where is the grace? It comes from God- and now because of Christ, it comes from me too. You know- theoretically. But perspective makes all the difference. Often, we have to fight for it.

So, here’s some perspective for you:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2: 1-11

You know what gets me about that section in Philippians 2? The part where it says, “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” My first instinct is, “Yes. That’s a good thing. Loving and serving others. Totally.” But my second is, “Wait, what? Even that person who has contributed nothing but stress, drama, angst, and tears to my life for months? Years?? Value them as better than myself????”

To which Jesus says, “Yes.” And that’s all he has to say. Because he has the authority to say it. If we are in Christ, then we are children of God, and therefore we are on level ground, because we are all his sons and daughters. So, I must give grace to Thorn-in-my-Side, because before the Lord their name is Child. And so is mine.

Photography credit: Kara Cline Photography

If you’re finding yourself in a conversation, a relationship, or a whole season of just being plain misunderstood, may this encourage you to settle into the good garments of grace- given through Jesus, who- to put it mildly- knows what it’s like to be misunderstood.

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How I Happy: Pre-Fall 2017 Edition

Once upon a time, I intended for this How I Happy type of post to occur monthly. And it did, for awhile. Then, I had a baby. My second to be specific. And ever since then, I’ve been- to put it mildly- transitioning.

I mean. Isn’t she CUTE?!

Still, it’s been one big transition, and it’s taken almost an entire year for me to find a new rhythm. I know. It’s totally normal to feel this way whenever you add a new member to your family. But certainly on my list of priorities, blogging fell so far down the list, it shared ranks with things like cleaning out our storage unit or going to the dentist. (So like, it wasn’t even on the list.)

So, how am I happying lately? Let me just shake the dust off my brain and I’ll tell you.

First of all, I’m happy- SO happy- that summer is almost over. OVER, I tell you! And now that we’re almost totally through September (how did that even happen?) pre-fall is thoroughly underway. Shortly to be followed by actual fall. (And there was much rejoicing. MUCH.) 

Okay, truth be told, the most summeriest parts of summer went extra quickly for me; well, not quickly so much as they basically didn’t even happen from my perspective. This is because I ended being sick with severe pneumonia for about a month…as in, it was so bad I was hospitalized. Yeah. It was horrible. The scariest thing was the shallow breathing that carried on for days before I finally realized I needed to go to the ER. Have you ever not been able to breathe normally? For days??? I mean, it was over a week before I finally felt able to breathe like a near human being again!

Look at this sweet baby. This was when she saw me for the first time after I’d been in the hospital a couple days; she just laid herself upon me. Oh my heart!!

However. We were so abundantly blessed by people from our church giving their time and- equally important- their food to help us get through all the mess. One of my good friends even brought me Starbucks and a bag of face wipes and dry shampoo and amazingness! (What do people do who don’t have church family? Who brings them casseroles when they can’t even inhale and exhale???) 

We were also super thankful to my mom who came over to kind of take turns with Ryan watching the girls and/or visiting me (and bringing me goodies and magazines), as well as my amazing mother-in-law who stayed with us the whole week after I was discharged from the hospital so I could, you know, actually recover and my kids would not, you know, go insane. So many good people.

Man. Thank you, good people.

Okay so that was all number one but I promise the others won’t be as long-winded. (Ha. That’s hilarious.) 

Secondly, I am happying because my 3-year-old daughter LOVES FALL AS MUCH AS ME. You guys. I can’t stress enough how adorable it is when my child recognizes fall decor, gasps audibly, and cries out with great jubilation that she sees fall stuff.

Examples:

1.We went to Dollar Tree back in early August (you know how I feel about Dollar Treebecause of their fab faux-leaves and garlands and whatnot to replenish our fall faux-leaves and garlands supply, and as soon as we got home, she said excitedly, “After nap time I wan’ decorate wiv’ you for FALL!!!”

I was planning to wait awhile…but when she said that I was like, “OKAY YES LET’S DO THAT TOGETHER!!!!!!” So obviously, we had to decorate for fall even though it was still a billion degrees out. Who even cares?

Post Dollar-Tree Adventure Starbucks, naturally. Don’t even worry about that double chin. It’s all good.

2.The other day, I pointed out a tree with leaves already changing to yellow to her, and I said, “Do you know what that means?” And together, with equally crazy eyes and jubilant voices we simultaneously shrieked, “FALL!!!!!!!” after which she threw herself into my arms and cackled with alarming giddiness. It was awesome.

3.Following this revelation, she has proceeded to bring up said tree to every person with whom I have a conversation lasting longer than one minute. I JUST LOVE HER. (Except when she throws tantrums of apocalyptic proportion…but let’s not go there.)

Moving on to Happy #3… Sometimes, there are just people in your life whom you know are wonderful kindred spirits that totally get you and make your life better. So you impulsively get them a present. An awesome present, featuring a pink mug with a unicorn prancing upon it declaring, “Just Believe” which I think we can all agree is in equal parts hilarious and awesome and would make anyone feel like a boss in their life…

And then, when you tell this particular bestie you have a present for them, they’re like, “Whaaaaat????!!!! You don’t need to get me pres- oh. You know what? I actually have a present for you too.” And you get together and the present they give you IS SO EPIC AND AMAZING AND PERFECT YOU NEED BETTER WORDS TO DO IT JUSTICE.

Yeah. That totally happened to me. The bestie? Ella. The gift? As follows:

  • A veritable cornucopia of beautiful little faux-pumpkins from the Target Dollar Spot (that I had lamented my Target not having any because I’d wanted some!!!)
  • A BEAUTIFUL travel mug with gold leaves etched on it (also from the Target Dollar Spot because that place just don’t quit, y’all…well, except when they run out of faux-pumpkins.)
  • And- AND?! A PAWNEE GODDESSES T-SHIRT YOU GUYS. (Listen, I know I’m writing in all-caps a lot, but that is because I have big feelings so I’m using the big letters and I’m just owning it.)  The link right there is exactly the shirt I have!! Well, I think it is. It looks exactly like mine anyway, and it’s awesome!!!!

Other awesome things that happened over the last few months? Well, I quit nursing on August 30th. WOOHOO!!!! I know lots of mommas love nursing with their whole being and that is great for them, but y’all, I barely made it to eleven months. I was already over it when Evie hit 4 months, so basically someone should throw me a parade for doing it as long as I did.

Also, in August, I had the honor of being commissioned to paint a Scripture mural on a wall at the church where I grew up. That was SUCH a fun project!!!

Fyi, I based this pretty closely on a design I found on Pinterest by Cory Say. There were some things I changed, but overall it’s very similar.

(I also got to see Andrew Peterson in concert that same weekend, but was too exhausted to think of taking any pictures while I was there.)

I also acquired some Apple Cider hand soap by Mrs. Meyers and it is The Best Cider-scented Anything in Creation (except maybe actual cider). Go get you some.

Last but not least, I got to go to Experience Conference in Orlando a couple weeks ago; it was SO good and so life-giving for both my husband and me. We’re both really passionate about creative arts and worship ministry (and ministry in general, but that was the focus of this conference) and this marked the first opportunity since our girls were born to get away together! Admittedly, though it wasn’t a relax by the beach vacation or something, it was 100% the most relaxing thing we’ve done this year.

I even got to go to a songwriting pre-con workshop!!! YOU GUYS. Along with somewhere between 25-30 others who participated, I got to meet and connect with actual industry songwriters including Jon Egan, Michael Farren, Krissy Nordhoff, Paul Baloche, and Andy Rozier. IT. WAS. AMAZING.

Not only did we get to listen to them review and give helpful (and gracious) feedback to a handful of songs submitted by attendees, we got to break up into groups and do a co-write with them. I had never gotten to co-write with anyone, which is actually highly unusual in the real songwriting world. Naturally, I felt a degree of apprehension. But even though I’m so green to cowriting, I absolutely loved every second of it. Do you ever do something and you are just the most fully alive version of yourself when you do that thing? That’s how I feel about singing/songwriting.

Four other attendees and myself got to write with Andy Rozier and a fellow songwriter and friend of his from their church, Harvest Bible Church. I really could just write about this experience for a whole day, but I’ll just say that the Holy Spirit moved in many ways. For me, I felt a distinct shift in my posture regarding songwriting, and really life as a whole.

My favorite thing Andy said was that God didn’t give us the gift of songwriting to bless the church. He gave us the gift of songwriting to spend time with us. Wow. I would argue that that statement carries truth for many parts of our lives and isn’t limited to songwriting alone. He also said that when you write a song, it’s like building a boat: sometimes it’s a big boat that will carry a lot of people like “Revelation Song” for example, and other times it’s a boat that’s only for you and Jesus.

These two statements alone would’ve been worth traveling all the way to Orlando. Because they’ve clarified my vision and my approach to the creative faculties God has put inside me.

Someday, I’d love to share the song we wrote, but I don’t have a recording of that ready yet.

Clearly, much has transpired in the last several months! And today, just so happens to be my precious baby girl’s first birthday!! But I’ll be doing a separate post about that because there may or may not be a thousand pictures involved…

This is a small space, this blog where I write. And I have had to let go of writing regularly here for the past year. I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to let go of creative pursuits for a season. I find myself in a beautiful season, but one that requires a lot of fluidity; I work a handful of jobs as well as working on a handful of hobbies. But most importantly, I’m hanging out with an awesome guy and taking care of some sweet little girls that won’t be little for long.

If you read my posts regularly here, I hope you’ll forgive my absence this year. Here’s hoping this year I’ll be able to write a little more often! (I miss it; for one thing, it helps me remember my life a whole lot better!)

This was a long and semi-scattered How I Happy, but I do hope you enjoyed it! Here’s to new seasons- literal and figurative. And let’s hope fall gets here, already!

 

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MomGirl Products are HERE! Plus, a Giveaway!

Look! Up in the sky- it’s a bird! It’s a plane! No. It’s MomGirl!!!

She is here, y’all!!! MomGirl products are officially up on my shop to order! I’ve been working so hard on these for a couple months, trying to figure out how best to offer my messy-bunned, legging-clad, coffee-drinking superhero to the world.

So, if you are in need of some MomGirl in your life (or if you know someone who does), here are all the goodies so far! Click on any of the pictures to be taken to the listings within my Etsy shop.

(Side Note: I sense this post will be filled with all the exclamation marks and much all-capping. You have been warned.)

First, greeting cards!!! 

There are 3 cards up in the shop at the moment, which are the following:

 

GAH. Aren’t they so cute?!?! (Is that ok to say about your own artwork? I’m just so excited about them!) Each card comes with the teal envelope you see pictured.

Each card has a fun caption inside, too.

 

 

Here’s the second one:

 

And here’s the third:

Plus, they’re pink on the back!

You can see more details and/or purchase any of the cards over on my Etsy shop, Ebenezer Designs! 

 

NOW. Prepare yourself for what I’m all giddy-like-Hermione-Granger-in-Gilderoy Lockhart’s class about.

Letters from MomGirl- aka a MomGirl Subscription!!!

YOU GUYS. I’m so excited. SO EXCITED!!! Ok. Here’s how it works. You can choose from a 3, 6, or 12-month subscription, which will feature one 5×7 MomGirl print per month, with a short note of encouragement on the back from me, MomGirl! (Gasp! I’ve said too much…now people will know I’M MomGirl…) 

Here’s what I can promise about the encouragement: it’s real, it’s brief, and it’s lighthearted. Moms carry enough weight- baby or otherwise- and levity is such a gift when you’re parenting littles and overwhelm hovers ominously close by.

Plus, it arrives each month in a pretty pink envelope!

This subscription is an ideal gift for new moms, no matter how many children they have! But really? It’s a gift for anyone who feels like a hot mess. MomGirl is here to say- “Me too, girl.” She wears a messy bun for the fourth day in a row, throws on that pair of leggings with the mysterious crust on them, and loves on her people the best she can- often while doing one or more jobs on top of all that!

I wanted to offer something that would be a means of support and a smidgen of self-care to those who need it. Hopefully, these Letters from MomGirl can be a vehicle for that!

SO. In celebration of launching these MomGirl goodies, I wanted to offer a gift and a giveaway.

Here’s how to get the gift:

The first 3 people who purchase the MomGirl subscription (regardless of 3, 6, or 12 month) will receive a custom print of themselves as MomGirl!

Here’s the giveaway:

One lucky winner will receive a MomGirl care package including one MomGirl greeting card, a pack of these watercolor thank you cards, and a Starbucks gift card! (So you can get your coffee on.)

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Purchase any MomGirl product.
  2. Subscribe to this blog.
  3. For bonus entries, repost one of the MomGirl posts on my Instagram and tag me in it using the handle above!

This giveaway will run for one week, ending on May 25, 2017!

I have been so excited to share this with you, and hope you enjoy these goodies!!!

Keep on momming.

MomGirl, out.

 

P.S. You know what another fabulous method of self-care is? Listening to the Kindred Mom podcast which just launched yesterday!! I am already enjoying listening to these ladies share encouragement from their journeys in motherhood. PLUS, THEY are doing a giveaway too, which includes stuff from Magnolia Market y’all. MAGNOLIA MARKET. Go check them out here! And enter their giveaway by following them on IG @kindred_mom

A Few Tools for Creative Juices {And Spring Starbucks Cups}

So, one of the purposes of this blog is theoretically to talk about and/or wrestle with being an artist (in all the senses of the word) and in particular, being a follower of Christ who is an artist. But obviously, I’m not able to write as regularly as I was pre-second baby. Which is totally fine!

But lately, I’ve felt the nudge again; I’ve felt the pull to tell you some things. Namely, I want to say- Remember! This is a safe place, where hopefully you’ll feel the hospitality of the Holy Spirit to bare your battles and burdens as an artist, and where you can come on over any time to get a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your- well- cup of tea) and we can say all the things to each other. Probably a lot of, “Me too!!!”

Things like:

  • I’m discouraged.
  • I feel like I’ll never be the type of artist I want to be
  • I feel overwhelmingly small, like a dust bunny swept under the rug.
  • Is anyone else out there feeling this way?
  • I know God is faithful, that he gave me dreams and desires, but I’m having trouble shaking the dust of today off of my perspective.

OR

  • I’m loving my life right now and I just want to see and/or celebrate all the pretty things.
  • I am so thankful and encouraged.
  • I’m praising Jesus!! Because I’m feeling security in my now, not because everything is secure, but because he is.
  • I feel small in such a good way, because he is so much bigger, and because I know he can do big with small things.
  • My art is my art, and I’m going to do it and feel joy abounding, and not question it.

OR really, any other think you could think. (No, that’s not a typo, but we’re working on “Seussical Kids” at the performing arts center right now, and that’s an actual song from it.)

Also, I love the idea that occasionally when you come for a visit and for the aforementioned hot beverages, you might find something helpful in your artistic journey. Something to encourage and bolster you with the stalwart ferocity of a British sea captain in the 1800’s (or at least one from the movies).

So, here are some ideas to help provide encouragement and bolstering and stalwart ferocity:

  1. On Being Creative– Remember this? Well, if you don’t, it was a series I poured my heart into last spring, all about many of these struggles we face as creatives/artists/people in general, and specifically about my own struggles.
  2. Frannerd and Iraville on Youtube- if you’re an illustrator, THESE TWO are my favs right now. Find them on IG. Just do it. You need the beauty, the inspiration, the skill of these ladies… Also, Fran is HILARIOUS. She likes cussing a little bit, though (can we all just admit we like doing that sometimes?), so if your kids are around, you know… wait til they’re not around.
  3. Art & Faith Conversations– My friend Libby John has been doing some big things in the past year, like recording and releasing her album (WHAT!) and now, launching this new podcast with her friend, Sarah. They talk about exactly what’s in the title: conversations about all things art and faith, the battles a creative fights, identity, Jesus, how we approach art as believers, and of course- C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, because can you talk about art of any kind too long before bringing up those guys? No. No you cannot. You can also find links to the podcast on her Facebook page here or you can just search it in the iTunes store.

So, these were just a few things I thought I might share with you, my artsy friend. Keep making your art, okay? If this isn’t enough stalwart ferocity for your British sea-captain sensibilities, I suggest renting Master and Commander.

 

P.S. Have you SEEN the springy cups at Starbucks?! They are my new favorite thing. Here’s one I doodled this week. Doodle-able cups are the best. (Fyi I used a red micron pen, a light pink tombow dual brush marker, and this random blue pen that just says “Le Pen” on the side.) Also? That aqua/turquoise color is MY JAM. That is all.

Happy 2017- Wait. Let’s Try That Again.

The month of January was a month of false starts. After traveling for two weeks with our little girls, we got home. Ahhh home.

After we unpacked and ever-so-promptly did all the laundry and cleaned up the assorted Christmas debris, I prepared to settle in, get a new calendar, arrange my life in ever-so-orderly a fashion.

Focus, I thought to myself. Focus shall be my word for this year. I will cultivate true presence with my husband, with our children, in our relationships. I will engage in the varied jobs and responsibilities I have with humility and attentiveness. I will be patient with where we are in life and savor the season with gratitude and joy. I will practice listening to the Holy Spirit and quiet my chatty soul.

And all in all, I shall transcend the heretofore tolerated messes in my life and failures of character into a rosy, glorious existence of serenity and wisdom.

I mean. So much serenity, you guys.

These are the things I considered with much anticipation as we undecorated in the last day of December and first of January. And then, January second arrived, and I’m pretty sure Peeves the Poltergeist was lurking somewhere  enjoying the coming upheaval, cackling in delight. He was probably also eating popcorn…

First, I got a cold. Then, in those first days of January, Ryan asked me, “Where’s your wallet?” I unconcernedly assured him I didn’t know, but that I’d find it. Fast forward to a week later, by which point we had ransacked all of our earthly possessions and even gotten so desperate as to call the Cracker Barrel we ate at on our way home from Christmas traveling. No luck.

On top of that, one of my big toes started hurting. Real bad. It started as a minor annoyance that first week of January, but by the end of the second week, I was limping around pathetically, with a swollen, gross horror movie of a toe. I decided I was probably dying.

So, we paid the urgent care $100 only to have the doc come in and say, “Yeah, I don’t do toes. That’s infected. You should go to a podiatrist.” And I was like, “Greeeaaat. Would you like to tell me any more obvious things while I light some more money on fire?”

Later that week, we went to the podiatrist. Let’s just leave some mystery there. I don’t think you really want to know what they had to do to my toenail… Regardless, it was expensive. So, you know, a really good time to lose my wallet (and the extra Christmas money we’d received which was inside it).

“Focus.” I flinched as my glowingly good-intentioned word for the year arose in my mind. The irony was not lost on me.

Meanwhile, marchers protested and blew up the internet with their signs and their rage and their holy hashtags. What was all this about? I wondered. I looked into it and was kind of like, “Wait, so what are they marching for again? Did Trump like, veto women’s rights to vote and I missed it??? Oh. They’re just…preemptively protesting. Got it. Well, they’re allowed… Oh, and pro-life groups were removed from the list of protesters. Okay.” I felt increasingly disconnected from this group. Which is weird, since I’m a woman.

But I say this because the holy hashtaggers flooded social media, and subsequently another wave in the onslaught of political arguments resulted across the board. Friends I know deactivated their Facebook accounts. (I didn’t. Because cute pictures of other people’s babies, you know.)

So it felt like I’d stumbled into 2017, into a loud, distracting mess. I wanted to back away slowly- back into 2016. Maybe no one would notice?

But we can’t run away from our messes. Does that mean we join protests? Do we take the bait and follow the crowds? Follow the popular instagrammers, YouTubers, some who used to be pillars of faith and now have decided a deep end of half-truths is a better place to dive than to face the hard things- minor or major- head on?

Clearly, I experienced some disillusionment as these things transpired. Not that I now despise anyone who is well known or think blogging is a waste, or that hashtags are evil. (They’re not necessarily. They’re fun, and I usually overuse them.) But I just reminded myself that I’m not one of their “followers.” I am a follower of Christ.

No, I’m a disciple of Christ. And that means certain things for how I view the world.

For one thing, it means that when a mini-maelstrom of minor calamities befalls me, I don’t feed my fearful, suspicious side. You know, that ominous voice inside that says, “It’s a sign. Doom is at hand. This will be the year of crap.” 

Instead, I say, “You know what, no.” Just because January threw a fit and marched in protest of not being 2016 anymore doesn’t mean it’s worth coloring all the other months in similar hues. I am not the victim I once was. Not that I’m not weak, but that Christ’s strength is growing inside me. This is a time to be a victor.

So, whatever, January. You sucked and you’re over. Also, you didn’t suck because the Lord helped me drive a stake in the ground and declare that even times of losing my wallet and subsequently our Christmas money, times of stupid toenails and stupid toe infections, times when I have a cold on top of all the other stuff and can’t take any normal decongestants because I’m nursing, times when half-baked opinions and wholehearted unkindness is rampant- in the midst of times like those, I can be joyful. Because the Lord is sufficient in all things; he always gives us what we need.

And he did.

Aimee always says that laughter is usually her default. I decided that was a better plan than implosion. So I tried laughing at all the distractions. I asked God to help my trust sing louder than the noise- trust that he would provide, that we could handle this, that light is still brighter than darkness, and that darkness is paltry and puny in comparison.

It worked out well. Because you know what? Someone left a Walmart gift card with a hefty amount on it anonymously at our door. Ryan ended up receiving a chunky check for some work he did recently. And several other providential, out-of-the-blue things like that happened. In fact, only a few hours after my procedure at the podiatrist, we received word about that check. Hours, you guys.

God is good. He gives us everything we need. And I realized these distractions were just opportunities- to focus. So that’s still my word for the year.

Therefore, I will not be joining the ubiquitous tantrum that everyone is throwing about how terrible things were in 2016, or will be in 2017, or whatever.

Instead, let’s throw a party. Or at least have some cake pops. Let’s be people who add flavor to the world. It’s February. Happy New Year!

Imperfect, Artful Living. {Sweet Days + iPhone Memories + Art}

Man. I can’t believe our 2nd baby girl is about to join us. Any day now… Really. Any day. *AHEM.*

I was looking through my phone and the RIDICULOUS amount of photos there, and saw the increasing fullness of this year- from my belly to our schedules- and back to my belly. It’s been dizzying (sometimes downright nauseating- ha), unexpected, miraculously productive, risky, and so good.

 

all-the-art

 

I’ve been so blessed to work on multiple custom orders for the shopnew exciting illustration projects that hopefully you’ll hear about some time, whimsical thank you cards, and of course the autumn pieces I shared recently which are my happy place. All of this means I’ve not only created more items for the shop, but I’ve had more business- real, actual business- from the shop this year! Easily more than double last year! That’s such a huge blessing.

 

Beyond work or the shop or any measurable productivity, as summer wraps up- ANY DAY NOW please– I find the deluge of iPhone photos reminding me it hasn’t been all to-do lists and travels (though often it felt that way). 

There have been coffee shop visits, in which much prancing around in tutus occurred:

coffee-shop-1coffee-shop-dance

 

There was the annual weekend lakehouse trip with our small group:

 

lakehouse-4

lakehouse-2lakehouse-3

 

There was the incredible and unexpected experience of getting to perform 8 months pregnant at Gospelfest in Kettering, Ohio alongside 9 other artists (and Sidewalk Prophets!)- all of whom had to audition back in June (except Sidewalk Prophets…obviously). That process alone was a risk for me, and definitely a challenge, considering Ryan had to take the afternoon off work and lug a keyboard and equipment and our toddler across town to make that even happen!

It was one surprising moment after another- not the least of which was being asked by one of the audition judges to be on her radio show the day before the performance! I’ve definitely never done that before. Lucy enjoyed it, too!

 

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Oh, don’t mind my crazy eyes and dorky face. I was just freaking out a little…

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The concert happened the next day in an outdoor venue. Naturally, the weather decided to helpfully be either 91 degrees with 200% humidity or crazy thunderstorms that caused a 45 minute delay- RIGHT before it was my turn to perform. So, just more time for me to feel nauseous backstage, no big deal… (My husband was so awesome; at one point during our wait, he said, “You’re gonna Adele the crap out of this place.” I just love that man.)

 

poncho-tastic

 

In case you’re wondering what love looks like? It wears a raging bright orange poncho. And it runs through the rain to make sure all your stuff is okay.

Oh yeah! I had a booth there too… that’s the stuff to which I’m referring. All the artists had the option of utilizing a booth, and this was my very first time actually having all my Etsy shop stuff out somewhere for purchase!

 

booth-5

 

(Hey look- Bethany is totally hiding in the background! And WOW I’m so pregnant in this photo. Who knew I could get even more pregnant than this?)

That whole weekend was filled with such meaning and encouragement! Dear friends rode over with my parents- a 2 hour drive one way- to come and see me perform (and get totally drenched in sweat followed by torrents of rain). Not to mention people from our church who came out to support me, and even other extended family who I rarely get to see! I felt overwhelmed with encouragement and that they all took the time to come and be part of such a great experience with me!

Then, the last two weekends were occupied with two separate women’s retreats…at which I led worship. Because I’m super good at planning. Yet, in spite of how exhausting it is to really do anything at this point, all of those endeavors were such a blessing! I’ve prayed for God to open doors and provide opportunities for me to utilize the abilities I have, and I’ve even prayed for opportunities to risk!

This year has been chock full of those. Throughout the summer, I’ve just prayed desperately that God would help me get all the work done I needed to before Evie is born! But now, other than my desire for her to arrive, I’ve prayed that he would help me savor the sweetness of these days, of these answered prayers, and especially this time with Lucy before we go from a family of 3 to a family of 4.

Yesterday, I told Lu we were going to have special Mommy + Lucy time and do fun stuff. “Fun stuff!” she gasped, “For us??” Just like that, which was the cutest ever. I kept it simple, which is pretty much all I have capacity for anyway, and documented our “fun stuff” as follows:

  1. Fall Coloring Pages- free via Google!

coloring

I decided to make it feel semi-preschool-ish and talk all about fall, because obviously. So, after we talked about pumpkins and acorns and leaves and colored several pages, we watched some youtube videos for kids about fall which she loved. (Notice: she is looking super adorable in Ryan’s old Cubs t-shirt from when he was a little boy! How cute is that?!)

2. Making Peanut Butter Cookies! This was a brave activity for me to do with her. It was the first time I’ve ever had her help me make anything, thus I picked the easiest thing I could think of that was also cookies. My mom’s PB cookies have literally 3 ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes and BAM! Peanut butter cookie deliciousness. There is no possible way you can mess these up. Oh, and you can sprinkle sugar on the top of them if you want. That’s optional. However, making a criss-cross pattern with a fork on each one is mandatory. I’m pretty sure that’s what makes them so good…

 

Lucy was a great helper! She helped dump the sugar in:

dumping-the-sugar

Then she got to help stir with the bright green “fa-tchua!” which pretty much made her life.

excited-cookie-face

 

And then that 10-minute wait, in which we could barely contain our excitement as the cookies baked… Then they were done!

 

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Then this happened so fast, I’m pretty sure she just inhaled it.

eating-cookies

 

These aren’t perfect pictures. They were not carefully curated to be part of a blog post. But they’re here because this is part of living beautifully.

This is part of leaning into the art made in the imperfect moments: when you still have storage bins in the middle of your living room that have been there for weeks or your little one is in mismatched pajamas, or you find yourself wearing the same top and leggings all the time because literally nothing else fits because of the new life preparing to arrive (as evidenced by this rare photo of my prego-profile… I don’t typically post lots/any of those).

 

prego

 

I’m happy sharing our moments of imperfect art with you. Freshly baked from my iPhone. With a criss-cross pattern and sugar sprinkled on top.

For a little while, I’ll take a breather from writing here. But rest assured I won’t be able to stay away long! See you soon- most likely with lots more iPhone photos. Much Love!

 

pb-cookies

 

P.S. I almost forgot!!! 4 of my original songs are NOW AVAILABLE on Noisetrade!!!!! Eeep! I’m SO excited about this!!! CLICK HERE to go visit the page and download them!

Day 6: A Creative’s Playlist

Welcome to Day 6 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.

Day 6

So far, we’ve talked practical questions about creativity and our purpose as creatives, we’ve talked about some of the deep aches and struggles of the creative soul, and what kills our creativity and what cultivates it.

Dang. We sound smart, right?

And since we’ve talked at length about our doubts and discouragement, giving ourselves permission to dig deep and know that a breaking heart can provide breakthrough for our art, let’s take a breather today.

We’ve thoroughly acknowledged our struggles with darkness, so let’s just as ardently and bravely celebrate the light.

Rejoice 2
I recently created a playlist on Spotify specifically for encouragement as a creative and to remind me to live life palms toward heaven, continuously worshiping and surrendering. And today I’m sharing the link with you.

Here it is!

It’s a mix of worship and folks songs by some of my favorite artists. Here are my top 10 must-hear songs from the list:

  1. Fool with a Fancy Guitar by Andrew Peterson
  2. Shine by Christa Wells
  3. Meant to Be by Carrollton
  4. No Longer I by Matt Redman
  5. Many Roads by Andrew Peterson
  6. I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad
  7. The Sower’s Song by Andrew Peterson
  8. Warrior by Hannah Kerr
  9. Break Every Chain by Jesus Culture
  10. Grow by Kolby Koloff

Fool with a Fancy Guitar, Shine, Meant to Be, and Many Roads are especially relevant to the heart of a creative, and if you’re limited on time, I’d at least listen to those first! In the video I linked to Fool, Andrew explains he wrote it after reading someone’s negative review of one of his albums. I love that! Because it’s good to experience a piece of art created in response to struggle, isn’t it?

Armor Shop Pic

I hope this gives you some beauty, some truth, and some powerful encouragement. I hope you can take some time to yourself when you can really pay attention to the lyrics of these songs; let them sink in.

(Did you know that I have my own music page here on the website? It’s at the top of the page under “Music.” Or you can just click here.)

 

 

 

Day 5: Why Believing in Yourself Doesn’t Work {For the Creative Who Can’t Right Now}

Welcome to Day 5 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.

You don’t have to be a millennial in order for your growing up life to have been saturated by the phrase “Believe in Yourself.” The longer I’ve been alive, the more this phrase fall flat like a cliche. For one thing, it has appeared in so many inspirational sports movies and Disney channel TV shows that it’s become culture’s favorite platitude. Not only that, but whenever I’ve been daunted by a challenge or outright discouraged by a failure, being supplied with the phrase “Believe in yourself” has felt more like a knife than a pat on the back.

Is there something wrong with me? Am I just chronically bad at believing in myself because of my own insecurities? Is this even a biblical concept- believing in yourself?

Day 5 edit


If you’re a creative discouraged by the unwieldy task of living out your art, and if being told to believe in yourself just makes you feel like you’ve failed already, than this one’s for you. It’s a longish one, but stick with me, because I think it’s important. If you’re LeBron James, feel free to skip this post.

Recently, I encountered a week of seemingly out of the blue discouragement, in which I felt overwhelmed by all the negative thoughts my brain could muster. My thoughts consisted of things like None of my creative work matters, and I have no impact nor will I ever; everything I do is merely to soothe my own ego. 

I questioned and judged everything from my motives to my work itself, wondering if the little things I do- my little Etsy shop, this little written space-if they’re just my way of wallpapering over disappointed hopes. Or worse- have I just been trying to give myself an “image?” So I could look at myself and see something of value? Questions like this filled me with fear that all I am is a petty wretch.

424188Sounds pretty melodramatic, right? Well, it didn’t feel like melodrama. It felt much deeper. How did I get to this point, I wondered? What had I let into my spirit that had this kryptonite effect of immobilizing my ability to believe anything true or good about both myself and my gifts?

It must’ve been gradual. Discouragement and all its friends chisel away small breaks at the heart, until all it can do is bleed for awhile.

It’s not fun. It’s not inspiring. It sucks. However, this bleeding of the heart can lead to healing. But you’ve got to find the source first.

Here’s How.

Feel all the feelings. I know it sounds funny, like a hashtag hormonal women might use (not that I’ve ever been or constantly AM one of those), but feelings are important. Maybe this sounds obvious to you, but as someone who has been a lifelong, intense feeler-of-things (aka overly sensitive) I began just wondering if they were just a nuisance this whole time, not to be trusted.

Sometimes, I tend towards the dramatic it’s true, but I promise you that without an ounce of melodrama I found myself thinking- and believing- that none of the creative work I do matters. That the smallness of my abilities and endeavors was matched in proportion to the mass of my pretension (how dare I have thought so highly or dream so greatly as I had thus far). Fueled by feelings of disappointment and frustration, these thoughts fanned themselves into flames that ganged up on me and choked out any breathable truth in the atmosphere.

Let’s pause here. Because I’d had flickers of thoughts like this before, but always reassured myself with the Word or called on friends who reminded me what the voice of God really sounds like.

348070But this time, I didn’t call anyone. At least, not right away. It all felt so heavy that I didn’t think any argument or encouragement could lift the weight. And I also felt a voice telling me not to just dump on others. And more than anything else, I knew I didn’t have the capacity to believe their words.

If any of this is you, let me urge you in the bossiest tone I can muster to CALL YOUR PEOPLE ANYWAY. You are in no state to think helpful thoughts, so find someone who is.

I waited a whole 36 hours before I mentioned a hint of this discouragement to a spiritual mentor of mine. You know what happens when God uses someone to come alongside your breaking heart?

Breakthrough.

I confessed to my mentor the unfamiliar sensation of being so overcome by my thoughts and feelings that I just wanted to bury the deep desires of my heart and the feelings that accompanied them.

I’ve never wanted to not want something anymore. Especially not something that’s hardwired into my being.

Instead of handing platitudes back to me, she handed me truth. She reminded me that feelings are good; just as your physical feelings can indicate something wrong in the physical body, feelings act as tools to gauge the state of the soul.

But she went further by pointing out that feelings are a partial picture if you don’t dig to their roots. Ask yourself- why do I feel this way? Your feelings are probably based on a belief. Arguably, the next step is the most crucial: ask yourself if that belief is based on truth or a lie.

4You probably figured out already what’s taken many years plus a two-hour conversation for me to realize. That many of my feelings were based on lies, lies no one but me allowed myself to believe.

Among other things, I discovered that I was holding myself to an impossible and wrong-headed standard.

Take songwriting for example. Without exactly knowing it, I’d been supplying myself with every sort of reason why I wasn’t or am not a professional singer/songwriter. Everything from physical appearance to assuming my talent is subpar to heaping shame on my soul by declaring that those who ARE professionals simply must have a deeper and better relationship with God than I do.

(We wouldn’t say things like this to our worst enemies- why do we say it to ourselves?!)

It became clear I’d taken a desire and let it morph into an impossible standard that hung impossibly far above me. And then I read this:

You fear you’ll wreck it all up if you dare to reach for it. So you leave it up there in the clouds, sparkling just out of reach. And it looks pretty and you cower beneath it as if it were something too important for you to handle. What do we call things that are placed up high, things we bow down low beneath? We call them idols . And in a way I’m sure we don’t intend, denying the art and the dream may be the very thing that opens the door to making the art the god rather than God himself. You revere and respect the artistic potential of a dream rather than recognizing God as the Creator who gives the gift of co-creation to us.
– Emily P. Freeman,  A Million Little Ways

Yes! A thousand times yes! My thoughts of burying the dream and desire were just as mistaken as those that placed them on a pedestal far above me. In either situation, believing in myself was just something I couldn’t do.

So ithis idea of believing in yourself even valid? I wondered this aloud to my husband. After all, God doesn’t call us to believe in ourselves; he calls us to believe in him. Right? But my husband pushed back a little on this and I came away from the conversation realizing (somewhat begrudgingly) that there IS truth to it. Maybe it can be more than a nebulous, feel-good hallmark bandaid over life’s gaping broken-hearted discouragement.

I searched the Word for evidence, and found this:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b]predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. – Ephesians 1:5-6

And this…
 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. – Romans 8:14-16

And also:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. – Colossians 2:8-10

 
And we can’t forget this:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 1 Timothy 2:6-7

What I hear from these verses is that there is strength in us; there IS something worth believing in inside of us- because of Christ. (I love the version of that 1 Timothy verse which says “sound mind” instead of “self-discipline.”) In fact, in light of our identity in Christ, doesn’t the phrase “Believe in yourself”  hold MORE truth and become less of a cliche?

Maybe this believing is more of a partnership, like co-creation is a partnership. God graciously extends an invitation for us to be part of his infinitely beautiful, superior, good creating process through our own small creations. Their smallness is made big somehow through his life in us.

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Remember, You are a poem written inside the person of Jesus Christ. You exist to carry out his inner desire. This is your good work. So this is our job, to carry out the inner desire of Christ. And the inner desire of Christ is to bring glory to the Father

So, if the idea of believing in yourself is still valid through our identity in Christ, if we’re truly given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind; if we’re image-bearers and all the glorious truth that goes with that, why is it so hard to do?

Why doesn’t it work?

Well, can it really be any surprise that we can’t properly believe in ourselves when we feed our belief a steady stream of lies? In that case, it becomes not a matter of SHOULD we believe in ourselves, but CAN we believe in ourselves?

If you’ve built something with rotten wood, renovation is inevitable. If you’ve built up yourself and your dreams with lies, that house is going to fall.

If you find it impossible to believe in yourself right now, if the weight of a broken heart threatens to crush you and bleed you dry, know that there is hope.

Because a breaking heart can provide breakthrough for your art.

And here I mean the art you create not only with your gifts, but with your life, relationships, successes and failures. Let yourself be hidden in Christ again, hidden in his creative work, which the Trinity is continuously accomplishing. Remember you are his poiema. That is something I can believe in.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19
 
Realizing I am the poem and not the Poet reminds me of one other key part of this. Poems have limits. They have a start and finish. God does not. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. If I have limits, then certainly my gifts have limits too. Yet I have viewed my limits as a handicap instead of a holy boundary. Instead of an opportunity. 
 
This place of feeling our limits? It’s a sacred place to be. Instead of beating ourselves up and merely trying harder, let’s take off our shoes on this holy ground and worship. God can handle the seas of our can’ts. And through the Holy Spirit, he empowers us to part the waters and walk right through them.
 
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 44:4-8 which says:
 
You are my King and my God,
    who decrees[c] victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
    through your name we trample our foes.
I put no trust in my bow,
    my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
    you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
    and we will praise your name forever.[d]
 
Strong words from David, who through faith killed Goliath with a sling and a stone. King Saul outfitted him in armor, but he didn’t wear it because he wasn’t used to it. Saul didn’t even want to let him fight Goliath, except that David made this appeal.
 
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lionand the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” – 1 Samuel 17: 34-37
 
At this, Saul relents. The Bible says David took with him just his staff, his shepherd’s bag (into which he put 5 smooth stones), and his sling. That’s it. David approaches what no one dares to with what look like the standards of limits- of his limits as a shepherd specifically. But what is unseen is the path he walked in holy confidence in the Lord, the knowledge of who God is and what God has done (God had saved him from multiple dangers already). In this confidence- this belief in what is true and Who is true- David’s limits become a banner, his apparent weakness proclaiming God’s strength to the enemy of unbelief looming large before him. And you know what followed…
 
Lucy LightDid David believe in God? Obviously, yes. Did he also believe in himself? Yes. So in God’s upside-down kingdom, believing in yourself is not contrary to believing in God, but it is instead a healthy result of believing in God.
Much of the beauty in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.” – Henri Matisse
I love this quote. I think it pertains to our relationship with God, too, in that much of the beauty of knowing God happens when we come to the end of ourselves and begin to know the unending fullness of his Spirit, his love, his grace, his character.
Our limits leave room for his limitlessness.
I think it’s a gift God wants to give us, this coming to the end of ourselves. Not so that we dwell in discouragement, mourning our insufficiency. Instead, here is the place we meet his all-sufficiency. We’re hemmed in by holy limits so we can become true worshippers, so we can be set free. That is where we learn real courage.
 
Courage isn’t just ‘believing in yourself’…It happens in the deep, secret place of the spirit, the place where my life is joined with God’s.” – Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways
 
I know there have been so many quotes from that book in this post alone, you’d think I was getting a cut of the profits. (I assure you I’m not.) But God used this book as one of several lights piercing a time of discouraging darkness for me. It’s something I’ve felt compelled to share ever since.
This post is something I labored over, postponed, wrote multiple versions of, and finally hit publish on today. It’s not perfect, but I hope it can be a companion to you, my fellow kingdom creative.
 
If you’re reading these words just knowing that you just can’t believe in yourself right now, I’m telling you it’s ok. I’m also telling you to go find your people. Let them remind you of the truth- the truest truth. The kind that sets you free.
Day
My prayer for you is this:
May you learn to believe in yourself again- in the gift of who you are as one of God’s walking poems.
May you remember that a breaking heart can provide breakthrough for your art.
May you learn to walk confidently within your limits, rejoicing in the glory God is bringing himself through them.

Five Tips to Cultivating Creativity {Day 4}

Welcome to Day 4 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.

 

Let’s talk about cultivating and maintaining our creative gifts. I imagine it to be like tending a garden (of which I have little knowledge and even less skill; don’t entrust your plants to me). Because it takes time, patience, and continued investment of resources. But also like a garden, the stuff of our creativity lives within boundaries. We can only do so much as creatives just as we can only do so much as humans. (How many times can I say “creative” in this series? Place your bets now…)

So how do we bear the fruit of our creative work well? (There it is again…) Today, I’m sharing a brief list on some tips to cultivating creativity. Five tips to be exact.

Day 4

 

Give Yourself Margin

Maybe you didn’t know this, but creating is work, not rest.

I’ve discovered that when I try to just keep creating- unless it’s one of those rare river-of-creative-juices-rushing type of things- I end up creating crap. And/or I don’t like what I’ve created. And I’m grouchy and thoroughly useless to my family. Hmmm this is what happens when I’m overworked or burned out too. Interesting…

Processed with VSCOcam with n1 presetSo I’ve had to discover what fills me up when the creative tank runs dry. Mostly, it’s the following:

  • An uninterrupted hour (or two) walking around Target + Starbucks in hand
  • Shopping with my mom.
  • Taking Lucy to story time at a local coffee shop.
  • Writing letters to Ella.
  • Planning Girls’ Weekend.
  • Or fun projects like how to make my rental laundry room more exciting or at least less chaotic…

Basically, I give myself permission to stop creating for awhile.

It’s kind of like music. Have you ever heard someone point out that music is both sound AND silence? It sounds obvious, but when you think about it, those silent moments are just as important as the sounding notes. If there’s no silence or pause at all in an entire song, no change in dynamic, then it can sometimes not only sound monotone, but can also grate on the senses. And- for those unfamiliar with reading music- did you know the silent moments are actually called rests? 

So find your margin. Figure out a few things that replenish you, even if it’s just a very slow walk through the Target Dollar Spot.

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Say No

I don’t know why this is such a hard thing to do. But it’s so life-giving when you own your No’s. It’s also kind of rough, because of course when you say no, you might be missing out on something really cool, but missing out on that thing strengthens your commitment to your Yes’s.

The Nester wrote a post called Why the World Needs the Makers to Say No Boldly, in which she says the following:

I’ve learned that I am the ONLY person who will protect my own creativity and livelihood…I’m learning what it means to be intentional with both my life-givers and creativity-killers. I don’t have a lot of answers but I no longer see the personality and scheduling ability of a Maker as a weakness.

And in a recent post, Emily P. Freeman (her sister) said on her blog,

I’m learning the language of my own yeses, and they tend to speak with excitement, not dread.”

Learning the language of your yeses (isn’t that brilliant?) means you’ll also therefore learn the language of you no’s. Sometimes there’s nuance in deciphering them, but it’s worth it. I’m just beginning to experience the gratification of saying no to something that doesn’t fall within my right-now capacity, capability, calling and/or competence.

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Do the Work

 

There’s not much I can add to that. Except to say that every time this video pops up somewhere, I listen to it again. Because I need to keep hearing his words encouraging me to essentially keep on keeping’ on. I need to hear that my taste is good and my work will catch up to it one day.

Plus, it makes me breathe a sigh of relief that yes- sometimes I do feel that disappointment in things I create. But to keep going serves your art and your audience, while quitting serves neither.

 

Don’t Be a Helicopter Mom to Your Art.

I first heard Glennon over at Momastery talk about the fact that hovering around your art and making sure people are being nice to it is not your job. And also, it’s an exhausting misuse of your energy and creative juices. Your job to survive a creative life is instead the following:

  1. Create!
  2. Call it Good!
  3. Rest.

She also shared this quote which you may have heard before: “What others think of me is none of my business. “ – Dr. Wayne Dyer

And to that, I would add this articulate demonstration of artistic philosophy:

 

But seriously. If Taylor can do it. You can too.

tea cup

Keep Surrendering Your Art to God

Remember that Ecclesiastes verse I love?

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Verses like this remind me of the beauty both in margin and in work, in stillness and in action. More importantly, they remind me of the steadfast and supremely creative character of God. Have you ever thought about how creative God must be, that he has made everything beautiful in its time?

Even me. Even my laundry days. Even the days when no matter how I try, the lines don’t leave my pen right, the strokes baffle my brush, and the keys sound trite and spiritless no matter how I arrange them.

I think of the times I’ve failed or been rejected, creatively or otherwise. The thing is, with God nothing is wasted. That’s how much we can trust him.

He’s so creative, he brings beauty even out of failure- even out of nothing. So keep surrendering your art to God- remember it belongs to him anyway. He has put us in charge of our efforts, but not our outcomes.

I put it to you, creative kindred spirits- what else would you add to this list? So far, to cultivate our creativity well, here’s what we’ve got:

  1. Give Yourself Margin
  2. Say No
  3. Do the Work
  4. Don’t Be a Helicopter Mom to Your Art
  5. Keep Surrendering Your Art to God

 

Next Up: Day 4: Why Believing in Yourself Doesn’t Work {For the Creative Who Can’t Right Now}

Day 3: The One Word that Kills Creativity {And Everything Else}

Welcome to Day 3 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.

Day 3

There is one word with which I’ve noticed myself fighting some of my most frequent battles. Actually, I look around and see a whole world of people fighting battles with this word. And it’s not just creatives. It’s pretty much everyone to some degree at some point in their life.

We’ve allowed it to become utterly welcome in our vernacular. And I’m here to tell you it must be eradicated. Because it’s gotten WAY too comfortable. It promised a short visit, but in fact, we’ve let it unpack it’s belongings and freeload off of all our emotional, mental, physical, and often spiritual resources until everything we do serves this word.

That word is should.

Never has a guest been so unwanted in my life as Should- especially recently. Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person and there are just SO many people out there doing amazing creative things and offering creative advice and courses and spreading their work all over the internet until they seem ubiquitous and I think- I Should too.

Should reminds me like a judgy, toxic friend that there’s barely enough of me to spread over a dry piece of toast. I say it reminds me because it’s been telling me that for years. 

Let me be clear here. Because you might be hesitant, wondering about the times when Should is an appropriate guest. What about when we Should do the right thing or some other example like that? I thought that myself. And it’s true, there is a time for conviction. But Conviction is a friend that empowers; it enters to do holy, healing work. Should on the other hand speaks the language of guilt, and guilt is not of God. The difference between Should and Conviction is like the gap between east and west. Should yields death, but Conviction yields life. Should is the work of Satan, but Conviction is the work of the Spirit.

That is a monumental difference, friends.

In the book Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan, they had this to say about Conviction:

Conviction brought about by the Holy Spirit is not to be confused with shame. Holy conviction leads to repentance, while shame only leads to bondage and hiding. Shame cannot exist in the light, though it flourishes in the darkness.” (Connolly/Morgan, p. 56)

Should is really just Shame dressed up in it’s Sunday best, pretending it totally belongs here. I think if anyone embodied what Should personified would look like, it would be Professor Umbridge, with her pink, frilly everything and her coifed hair and her tightly wound, ready-to-pounce-on-your-every-move stance. There’s no grace in Should. Just a lot of destruction and pain and judgement living under a thin visage of goodness.

Let’s just have a moment right now ok? A big, loud moment where we tell Should to shove it and GET OUT OF HERE. Take your prissy, know-it-all attitude and your unwanted frilly pillows and NEVER COME BACK.

But batten down the hatches, friends, because Should might look like it’s leaving for good, but it’ll be back, banging on the door at 3:00 AM to screech its tired but timeless methods of breaking our spirits once more.

You mustn’t let it in. Don’t let it come in and tend the soil of your soul, because it has a grey thumb that only grows painful, choky thorns that tell you nothing good can grow here inside you.

Brennan Manning once said, “Don’t should on yourself.” Amen, Mr. Manning.

Should will kill your creativity by telling you you’re not doing enough, you’re not talented enough, and you’ll never reach any level of “enough.” But God is more than enough, and it turns out, talking about your talents as enough or not enough misses the entire point.

Remember the boy with loaves and fish? If there ever was an instance of something not being enough, that was it. But just as God turned meager crumbs into a feast, he turns our talents into beautiful, powerful ambassadors of his kingdom.

Don’t clothe yourself in rags anymore. You are a child of the Most High God. They call him the Almighty, and we bear his image. So, wear the might of your Father’s love, and be mastered by Should no longer.

Let’s no longer be slaves to something as meager and puny and mewling as Should, not in our creativity nor in any other capacity of our lives.

Let’s sing this song instead.

 

Next Up: Five Tips to Cultivate Creativity {Day 4}