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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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!

 

img_7473

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

img_7474

 

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!

 

pb-cookies-2

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!

On Being Creative {A Series}

Welcome to the homepage for the “On Being Creative” Series!

On Being Creative: A Series for the Hearts and Minds of Creatives Everywhere

 

This has been on my heart for awhile, because of what God’s been doing IN my heart. Writing for this series feels like I’m stretching some shaky, uncoordinated mental and emotional muscles with shaky, uncoordinated words to match.

 

But if you’re willing to walk a tremulous bridge of vulnerability, I welcome you into a deep and secret place where all my thoughts and desires regarding creativity live. May my pain meet yours where it’s at, may hope chase close behind, may my fumbling words say something good (may they say something period), and where you and I encounter my limits, may we see beyond them to the limitlessness of God, the first and greatest Creator.

 

You’ll find links to each post as they’re added. Come back any time! And please, I welcome your own contributions to the conversation. As we’ll see, stories build stronger bridges between us, and yours is no exception.

 

Day 1: Creativity: Practicality + Purpose + Place

Day 2: The Impossible Ache of the Creative Soul

Day 3: The One Word That Kills Creativity

Day 4: Five Tips to Cultivate Creativity

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

Day 6: A Creative’s Playlist

Day 7: Minstrels and Bards {That’s What We Are}

Abide: When You’ve Run Out

Once upon a time, I spent a most satisfying hour at my favorite coffee shop, Cavu Coffee, sipping something delicious and planning out my Christmas Etsy projects.

IMG_4062Oh how I savored that hour! I lovely place, a lovely drink, and a lovely plan full of lovely intentions.

And then, December. What is it about this month that turns on the crazy in the world?? And I know you’ve probably experienced similar moments.

A Thrill close up

You know- when you walk into your house in the middle of a week that ended up full of commitments, which somehow all ended up happening within the same 48 hours, and now your standing in the middle of debris comprised of unopened mail, a mish-mosh of Christmas and fall decor (yet to be put away), various and sundry laundry, papers, and you don’t even know what else? You know what I mean?? When you’ve already had 3 cups of coffee and just feel like another 2 might get you through? Oh, and that there’s still more to go?

Yeah. I’m with you. I can’t even pretend to have new/cute pictures of anything to show you today. But I think it’s good. Because the chaos begs the question- what was I relying on again? My own capability? Responsibility? Ability in general?

Oh, yes. It was Jesus… at least, I’d intended it to be. But I’ve realized in a couple of weak moments this week (today… 2 minutes ago…) that even in weakness, his strength is made perfect. Meaning- not my strength. Like when I get home to my family and feel like I have no good thing left to give them after a full day of work- just utterly lacking- the abundance of Christ is still there.

Prepare Him RoomWhen I run out of time? God provides. Energy? God provides. Kindness? God provides. Money? God provides. Hope? God provides.

When I inadvertently default to the shabby shelter of myself and it collapses around me (like it always does), God provides a shelter in himself. As Colossians 3:3 says,

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

In light of this, the Christmas Story expands with the fullness of Jesus, the vast expanse of glorious implications for us.

I also just so happen to read this verse this week:

You give me your shield, which is salvation; your answers make me great. You lengthen the steps I can take, yet my ankles do not turn.” -Samuel 22:36-37

You lengthen the steps I can take. Doesn’t your mess look much smaller now?

Everlasting Light 2

Let’s remember today, in the fray of December, that the peace of Christ is available to us even now- that we can abide in him. After all, there’s this:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

God with us.

Bearing Fruit {Or: Is Perform a Dirty Word?}

I’ve been doing some studying. Some reading. Some puzzle-piece-together-putting.

And it’s been about as unwieldy and awkward as that hyphenated mess I just typed. But I think it’s an unwieldy and awkward step in the right direction.

In this season of peace, this abiding, God has laid out some truths for me… some dots that I’m connecting.

First, I started with John 15. Okay God, I said, Let’s read this again… And I read verse 16, which says,

“You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you.”

Did you catch that? (No, I’m not talking about Jesus’ copious use of the semicolon, which just makes me feel like my run-on sentences are justified.) Well, I guess there was more than one thing really…

What first stuck out to me was that he says he has commissioned us to go and bear fruit. I felt like that was a little wink from God, just because it called to mind someone commissioning something from an artist. And as a creative whose abilities lie in performance, whether on a stage or a piece of paper or on this blog, I feel hope.

Performance has become a dirty word in certain circles, and for good reason.You’re cringing a little just reading it, aren’t you? The idea of performing tends to call up images of pandering for approval, or showing off, or being insincere in your faith, or just going through the motions. And a performance (usually…) intends to incite positive response of some kind from someone.

It’s one of the biggest pebbles in my shoe. I’m always stumbling over things like motives- why am I doing this? Why do I create- and then feel compelled to share my creation with someone else? Shouldn’t delighting the eyes of God be sufficient for me?

To answer this, I’ve realized we must walk a fine line as artists. We must remember that what we create isn’t really ours. I mean- it both is and isn’t. (Isn’t our faith full of delightfully baffling paradoxes?) But the part that isn’t ours is the gift it comes from. God gives us abilities, gifts, whatever you want to call them- to glorify Him. 

I put that in bold as if I know what it means to do that.

But a big grace of God’s is that he’s leading me into a new season of learning. Graciously, generously, he knows I’ll fail over and over. He knows that taking a brave new step will test my mettle.

And he knows that my mettle on its own will fall short- without Jesus.

That’s why the other piece of that verse that sticks out is that we’re commissioned to bear fruit- fruit that will last. Wow. I don’t know that I’m capable of producing that kind of fruit.

Scratch that- I’m definitely not capable of producing that kind of fruit. Like it says back in verse 4,

“Stay united with me, as I will with you- for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.”

Another way to say “Stay united with me” is “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” Can you feel your soul breathing a little easier?

I can. And I’d read some verses from our churches Brave series a few weeks ago that reminded me who God is and what God does.

[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” – Psalm 103:11

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – Psalm 46:10-11

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord?… It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle… You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” – Psalm 18:30-36

 

God reminds us that he is a shelter, he is a fortress, he is a shield. And if he is all those things, then it follows that we are not. 

My issue is forgetting that truth and going about my life as if I’m the fortress. I’ve got to make things happen, hustle, hurry, worry, strive… perform. And when I’m doing all those things? My purpose quickly deteriorates into building up my own counterfeit kingdom, exalting myself.

But if I’m not the fortress, and if I’m not God, then I can’t protect. I can’t produce.

And I most definitely cannot bear fruit. If performing is all we have, it’s more like wax fruit, as one of the commentaries in my Blue Letter Bible app put it.

But the pressure is off, dear friends! We aren’t saviors, we are the Beloved of the Savior. Our fortress, our shelter, our true vine. Come inside- it’s safe to dwell here in Jesus.

I know it’s hard. For me, it’s hard because I’m so distracted by others who seem to be running a faster, better, more beautiful and Instagram-able race that I am. And for that reason, I’ve decided to follow less people on Instagram. It’s not a big deal, I’ve just realized that, as my friend, Kara said to me this morning,

Too many voices clouds your calling.”

Right?! (I liked it so much, I whipped up a free printable for you! Which you’ll find below. Okay, so it’s kind of rustic, but this is just for you- not for my shop or anything other than just being free encouragement. Especially because I just noticed I added an unnecessary “s.” Or does it still work, grammatically? Ah, well. Either way, it just goes along with acknowledging my imperfections. Maybe I’ll make a nicer version of this quote some time.) 

So, it’s ok if you need to do that, too. I’ve decided I don’t need to be incessantly Instagram-able. And my goal isn’t to manufacture success- or something that looks like the success of others. I don’t really want their life.

Clouding Your Calling 2

I want abundant life- that comes through Christ. Amazing how much I’ve talked about longing for abundance here. To bear an abundance of fruit will mean abiding in Christ.

So, let’s stop performing. At least- let’s stop performing in our own power. Because as creatives, sharing your creations often technically is a performance. But when we abide in Christ, he does amazing things through us.

We’re wired to perform in some way. Let today be a day that we surrender our gifts to the Lord, who will complete the work he began in us, even if/when we try to take it from his hands.

Let’s run our own race. As dear Aimee reminded me recently,

Here’s the deal… Let’s all just stay in our own lanes running hard after Jesus within our own gifts. Let’s also cheer loudly for the folks running their own race in their lanes.

Comparison is a dirty, rotten scoundrel. It belongs in exactly no one’s lane.

Be your own kind of beautiful.”

When it comes down to it, that’s exactly what I’m getting at today.

kara quote

If you need encouragement, I’ll tell you- you’re looking good over there in your lane, my friend! Let’s abide in Jesus together today.

Abide: Season of Peace

To say I enjoyed October, is to put it mildly.

And I’d been joyfully praying over and planning what to write about in November (and possibly December). It’s kind of an odd phenomenon to be this plan-y for me, you guys. But I really like it!

Especially, because it gives me an opportunity to look at what God is saying to me lately.

The message has been overwhelmingly, abundantly clear: abide. 

I’ve longed for peace.

I’ve asked for clarity.

I’ve prayed to know the Lord better.

And I keep hearing the answer: Abide.

Amidst all of the swirling questions about things that do and don’t matter, I find I mix them all up and require an anchor. The answer keeps repeating like a sounding joy, Abide. 

To my shock (not really), abiding doesn’t fall within the spectrum of things I’m good at. And it’s grown more evident, like a whisper that rises to a shout, that passage in John 15:

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Abide

So, that’s what we’ll be exploring around here as we enter into my absolute favorite time of year! Abiding in Christ to cultivate a season of peace.