How I Rediscovered Creativity and Resurrected My Passion

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A little over a year ago, a mentor of mine told me that God was getting ready to wreck me – that He was going to knock down the structures I had built in my life and rebuild them from the ground up.

Well, that wrecking came a few months ago. Somewhere in the middle of my crazy fall semester of 18 credit hours, working part time, and volunteering several hours a week, I began to crumble. Exhausted, spiritually anemic, and weary to the depths of my soul, I knew something needed to change. I had forgotten how to be a human being and had become a human doing instead. Limping along on busyness and productivity like crutches for my broken heart, I was hiding from a deeper issue – anger and disappointment with God over some things that had happened during the year.

Yet even while I was throwing a spiritual tantrum, He was showing me things – really ugly, uncomfortable things about myself. The more I tried to fix myself and make it feel okay, the worse things became. I thought if I just planned better, tried harder, and accomplished more then maybe I would deserve the things I wanted, maybe I would be enough, and maybe I would be happy. It wasn’t working and I had to stop.

Christmas break finally came and I spent the last few weeks of 2016 slowing, exhaling, letting go, lingering with family, playing, coloring, laughing, listening. I prayed over and over,

Alright, God, I’m done striving and I’m done hiding. What do You want? What should I do now?

And each time I prayed, the unmistakable answer came. Do you trust Me?

I think so…

Then wait.

*sigh* Okay, God.

In the waiting and the resting, my tension and anxiety-bound heart began to unravel. Somewhere in the midst of coloring books and mugs of French press coffee and family reading and lingering conversations, the healing came. For months, years even, I had been finding my value in what I could do and the things I accomplished. But there, sitting around the table with colored pencils and stories and laughter, I found the value of simply being. Something in me began to reawaken.

One of my gifts at Christmas was a book on living a creative life and how the life we live is our greatest work of art. I underlined and highlighted and cried my way through those pages. In them, I found something that I had been denying myself for a long time – permission. Permission to create for the sake of creating. Permission to be creative because that’s how God created me to be. Permission to be artistic, and not just useful.

I grew up in a creative home, but somewhere along the way I had convinced myself that pursuing creativity and art was play and could only be enjoyed when all the work was done (so basically never…there’s always something more important and useful to do, right?). With this deep belief, my inner artist – along with the part of me that dreams and delights and wonders – began to suffocate under responsibilities and obligations and to-do lists. And I wondered why I felt so lifeless. I found little to no passion in my job, relationships, or even the hobbies I once loved.

But this simple and powerful read changed my thinking drastically and shifted something deep within me. I began to realize that I was created by a creative God, who made me in His image and thus designed me to be creative; therefore, He delights in my creativity. The act of being creative in itself glorifies Him. This new thought was revolutionary. I began to explore the idea and the ramifications of living out such a novel belief. It began to make sense, and take root. God intended for me to create beautiful things, just like He does. God is an artist, and so am I.

With the new year came, not resolutions and detailed plans like usual, but instead a commitment to cultivate creativity in my life every day. My word for the year was clear: create. More specifically, create space – space for health (spiritual, mental, and physical), relationships, and creativity to flourish.

At a conference during the first week of 2017, the Lord gave me a mental image of a city leveled to the ground. Where once stood structures and strongholds remained nothing but wreckage; it looked barren. He told me that this is what I looked like at the moment, but it was because He was getting ready to lay new foundations and put up new buildings that will be stronger, taller, and more beautiful than the ones before. I was finally ready.

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I’m recognizing that I am not the architect of my life and that is a good thing, for even my biggest plans and dreams are far inferior to those of my Creator. My job is to listen and to follow His instructions. As I am faithful to lay each board and hammer each nail, He will bring the project to completion, though I may never see the blueprint. Often my hammer slips, catching my thumb and causing pain, or my nail goes in crooked and I have to pry it out and try again, but the Great Architect is deeply patient. He guides and steadies my hand, as He designs a structure more elaborate and beautiful than I could ever image.

And with this conviction, I have begun to lay foundations. Over the past several weeks, I have thought long and hard about my core beliefs and values – the truths that my life is built on – as well as the things I need to let go of, and the way I should structure my days. Living with purpose means being intentional in every area of my life. Learning how to be faithful in these small things is preparing me for the much bigger things that the Lord has planned.

One of the ways I am laying blocks for a firm foundation is by having a daily “morning space.” This is where I recenter, practice letting go, fill myself with truth, and position my heart to be molded and my mind to be renewed. I am also learning how to pray boldly and specifically, both for myself and for those around me. Beginning my days with intention, gratitude, and faith is changing everything, most importantly, the way I see. I don’t do this perfectly, but keep pressing on, standing back up when I falter and taking another step forward. Little by little I am being rebuilt in the quiet and secret spaces, where a foundation always begins.

My creative space is a little less structured, but it is just as centering and strengthening. Through stream-of-conscious journaling, I am learning to show up daily with no judgments, no expectations, and no criticism, just honesty and enough bravery to begin, giving myself permission to think and feel and write whatever comes. I am also rediscovering my love for photography, drawing, and hand lettering with daily practice to hone and sharpen my skills. Baby steps toward big dreams.

Over the past few weeks of pursuing these practices and habits, I have come alive in ways I didn’t think possible. My relationships are far healthier. Fresh dreams and ideas and inspiration come to me on a daily basis. I feel more passionate about life and no longer shrink in fear and anxiety when I think about the future. I don’t know what it holds but the possibilities feel endless and exciting, rather than terrifying and crippling. I am discovering the beauty around me and realizing that the process is far more important than the destination. It’s not where I’m going that matters, but who I become on the journey. And what a glorious, exciting, creative journey it will be.

 

 

I hope that you are inspired through my words today. I hope that you will think about them and be moved to take action, whether it be as simple as starting a new creative project, or as big as rethinking your core beliefs and values. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts or questions or struggles regarding these things. Please feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email.

Also, I am beginning a new creative endeavor over at www.graceelaine.org where I will be focusing more on my creative journey and sharing the things I learn along the way. If you consider yourself to be a creative person, or would like to be one, I would love to connect with you over there. It is a safe space for all creatives and aspiring artists. In addition to that, I am beginning a 100-day creative project where I will be sharing daily work and thoughts over here.

Thank you for sticking with me through this terribly long post! Blessings!

How I Rediscovered Creativity and Resurrected My Passion

7 Ways to Spread Kindness this Week

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My heart aches for my country today. For the hatred and the alienation, for the division and the brokenness. My heart goes out to those who feel betrayed by their own country and for the damage that has been done, as I strive to respect the leadership that is now in place and trust God’s hand in all of this.

My mind is heavy with words yet I am at a loss to know what to say.

Broken culture is everywhere – media, entertainment, business, and politics. We have watched while Hollywood waters down masculinity and femininity, inflames racial issues, and perpetuates destructive worldviews. We have been alienated and put down and shamed and belittled in a thousand ways. Silence and passiveness have been celebrated as well as abuse and violence. Our differences have been labeled as weakness, rather than strength.

We shed tears for the state of this nation, but may we weep also for the times we have remained silent while all this was happening around us—when we closed our eyes to the pain and the hurt. May these times awaken within us that which has stayed dormant for far too long. May we embrace our God-given differences, our individual strengths and recognize how desperately we need each other.

So how do we process this? How do we not only cope, but rise up and take action?

Friends, I implore you, look for the light. If you can’t find kindness around you, be it. Be the good that you wish to see in the world. Envision the kind of world you want your sons and your daughters to live in, and begin to live in that hope. Champion hope, for hope is the substance of change.Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Cast vision for the broken people around you and lend them strength to keep fighting for love and unity.

Most importantly of all…pray. Intercede on behalf of broken leadership, broken systems, and broken hearts. Pray Daniel 9 over this nation. Pray for repentance, unity, truth, love, and deep healing in every heart. Pray for those who stand against you, even when it’s hard…especially when it’s hard. Lean into the heartache and grief; let them fuel your prayers for radical change. Encourage others to do the same.

And in the meantime, here is a list of 7 things you can do to promote kindness this week. #spreadlovenothate

7 Ways to Spread Kindness this Week:

  1. Practice gratitude. Write down 3-5 things every morning that you’re grateful for. Point out things you love about the people around you. Look for the good in people.
  2. Listen first. Be slow to criticize. Pay attention to what kind of vibes someone is giving off—are they stressed or uptight or defensive? Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about what they may be feeling and why.
  3. Let love be the motive that guides and informs you. Forgive. Extend grace. Let go of the outcome.
  4. Do something that brings you joy. Take a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood. Color a picture. Bake brownies. Call a loved one. Paint. Write. Tell a silly joke. Be intentional about it. If you are joyful, you will emanate joy to the people around you.
  5. Do a small act of kindness—anonymous or not. Write a thank you letter or note of encouragement. Bring someone coffee. Do the dishes. Send an encouraging text. Bring home flowers. Hold the door open.
  6. Ask someone how they are and linger for a few undistracted minutes. Take time to genuinely listen to their answer. Don’t touch your phone. Let them know they are seen.
  7. Smile. At your loved ones, your neighbor, that co-worker that drives you nuts, the stranger in the grocery store. Look them in the eyes and genuinely smile. Say hi, nod your head…whatever it is you do, but smile. Spread kindness.

Now go do it, hope warrior. We’re counting on you.

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7 Ways to Spread Kindness this Week

A Prayer for a Broken Nation

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My second alarm pulls me out of bed at 6:39 and I stumble to the bathroom still heavy with sleep. Email notifications come tumbling in and another screaming headline falls heavy in my chest.

More dead and injured in these racial wars and haven’t we had enough??

Yet another round of bullets tear through skin and hearts and the seams of this nation.

What has happened to you, America? When did you become a land of fear and hate instead of the freedom you sing of?

How can we “keep calm and carry on” when people are fighting each other, as if people are the enemy?

We have pushed God out of the picture and failed to see the spiritual war waging around us. Faces buried in technology and hearts bound with busyness and striving, our souls are starving for love and acceptance. Our words have become weapons, putting down and wounding the very people God has created and called beautiful.

It’s all part of Satan’s cunning plan – his plan to break the heart of God by hurting the ones He loves – blinding humanity so they fight each other instead of coming together against him, the true enemy of our souls.

I see a video of flashing lights and gunshots and motionless bodies and the tears stream down these pale cheeks. I’m not proud to be an American today.

Yet my heart is grieved for this country of mine and what am I doing about it?

I’ve often quipped, “Oh, I’m just not into politics…” and carried on with my head in the sand but is this right?

Conviction cuts deep.

Father, I ask that You would shake our sleepy bones from their graves of complacency. Break our hearts for the state of this world and this nation. Awaken us to be the people You have called us to be. Give us the faith to stand on Your Word and the courage to speak up and speak out for Truth.

“The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by God to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,”
honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
you’ll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.”

(Isaiah 61:1-7 MSG)

Family of God, this is our anointing too. We are the prophets, the messengers of God in this age.

I implore you to search your own heart. Get on your knees before God. Let Him break your heart for the things that break His. Allow Him to humble you, and to raise you up again by His grace to be the hope that this would so desperately needs.

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If ever there was a time that Daniel’s prayer rang true, it is now:

“I turned to the Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing rough penitential burlap, and kneeling in the ashes. I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God:

‘O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We’ve done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. We’ve turned a deaf ear to your servants the prophets, who preached your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we’ve been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we’ve been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin. ‘Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to you when you told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what you said. We defied your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we’re paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God’s servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against you. You did to us and our rulers what you said you would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!

‘Just as written in God’s revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving you a second thought, oblivious to your clear warning, and so you had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.

‘Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what you have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, your very own city, your holy mountain. We know it’s our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents’ sins, and now we’re an embarrassment to everyone around us. We’re a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who you are, not out of what we are.

‘Turn your ears our way, God, and listen. Open your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after you. We know that we don’t deserve a hearing from you. Our appeal is to your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope:

‘Master, listen to us!
Master, forgive us!
Master, look at us and do something!
Master, don’t put us off!
Your city and your people are named after you:
You have a stake in us!’”

(Daniel 9:3-19 MSG)

 

 

A Prayer for a Broken Nation

The Truth About Coming Home

I’ve learned, as a writer, that there are certain words you can’t force.

There are times when you must write even though you don’t feel inspired and that can certainly be useful, but there are certain times you can’t.

These are the words that come from quietness and pondering; the kind that seem to overflow from somewhere deep within.

This is what I have found to be true.

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I have been back on US soil for over a month now and I’ve wanted to write about it all – how crazy and scary and amazing the past 9 months have been – but I couldn’t. The words weren’t ready.

But as I’ve began to finally settle into a rhythm in this new-old life and discovered that it’s far harder (and far easier) than I anticipated, words have been simmering at the back of my mind and in my spirit.

And when 4 different people (who you didn’t even know read your blog) in the last two weeks ask about your old blog and if you still write on it because you should…you know it’s time.

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For me writing has always been about breakthrough, about sorting through the pieces after a storm and making sense of it all, turning it into something beautiful, something useful, and passing it back to those who follow.

But lately there has been this whisper in my spirit – something about writing humble, about not having some wisdom to offer after everything is alright, but being something to offer in the midst of the process. Something like carrying hope alongside the hurting and not merely throwing it back from the finish line.

I’ve been humbled a lot over the past few months – had my eyes opened to who I am without God, when I loose sight of His way and misplace His Lordship with my own. It’s a terrifying thing to realize you are capable of doing the very things you’ve judged others for.

And I’ve prided myself in being a non-judgemental person, an empathetic. But sometimes God strips away the person we think we are, and shows us what we really are apart from His grace.

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No part of me wanted to leave Indonesia. And I had plans to stay. I had it all worked out in my head how I was going to make it happen. But that last Friday in April I was offered a choice that wasn’t really a choice to return to the US and continue my studies. I cried ugly for a whole weekend, threw a lot of questions at God. Yet His only answer was the same thing He always says,

Do you trust Me?

So I swallowed hard my plans and my tears, packed two suitcases, and hugged my friends and life in Bali goodbye.

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I know this is just a season. And I’ve come to understand why I’m here. The Lord has work I need to do, people I need to talk to, things I need to learn. It’s a process. I’m learning patience, trust, and discipline.

But I now have a job that I love and is challenging and stretching me in new ways. My church is launching a new campus in a different part of town and I get to be a part of that. I am meeting new people and building relationships and making connections. I have an opportunity to study at a great university with wonderful professors. God is good. He is really good.

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I’ve learned that you can’t force things, and sometimes you can’t choose.

There are times when you must follow blindly, just trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He really truly does know best.

And with quietness and pondering,

This is what I have found to be true.

~Grace

 

P.S. I am thoroughly enjoying being back with my family. ❤

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The Truth About Coming Home

Inhale, Exhale

I just realized that I start almost every poem with “And…” as if the words that follow are simply the next breath.

Because these days I write poetry like breathing.

It began again one day about two months ago with a sudden spark of inspiration from an obscure corner of the web where one brave soul had posted beautiful, honest words.

It drove me to pick up my peach felt tip and for the first time in forever, I scrawled halting lines in the yellow notebook. Suddenly I can’t stop.

Suddenly everything and everyone is a poem and I tuck it all away in pages both physical and digital.

I chuckled to myself the other day about how my brain works – how I can bookmark certain thoughts or moments that I know will become poetry – return to them like dog-eared pages in my mind the next time I have a moment.

And every spare moment is a moment to write…to dream, to think, to process – in meetings, in coffee shops, tucked behind friends on motorbikes.

Some days I can’t see straight until I scatter thoughts across paper to clear the fog of them all.

Some days I can’t make sense of my heart until feelings are emptied and dealt with in lines and rhythm.

Rhythm has always been healing for me. It’s why I write, really – to breathe easy and deep.

I have discovered the stability of a soul that lives in rhythm. And even in the craziness, the absence of schedule and routine, this soul finds her rhythm.

This rhythm of inhaling and exhaling beauty and heartache in each one’s time.

And in this way you can find delight even in the tired days.

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered…” Luke 12:7 ESV

 

Inhale, Exhale

Home Across the Pacific (Thailand pictures)

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Bangkok skyline

It was incredible coming back five years later to the country that had such an impact on me growing up.

I was raised to have a curious mind, to explore the beauty of language, to love cultures different than my own.

It was in this city that I found Jesus as my best friend, where I learned that family is one of the most important things you can have, where I became convinced that Thai food is undeniably the tastiest food on the planet.

I knew such a huge part of me was wrapped up in this land of traffic thicker than the humidity and blatant stares and friendlier smiles. I remember days when all I wanted was to leave. But you can never run from who you are. Missions runs through my veins and I knew I’d come back. I’d always come back.

This time it felt strangely like…home.

Home is one of those words I always stumbled over.

What is home?

I had moved so many times early in my life and I rebelled mentally about settling in the unexotic Midwest. And it wasn’t until I’d been back to Thailand twice, Kenya, Costa Rica, and finally Greece to realize that this little Midwest city that could hardly be called a city wasn’t such a bad place to come back to.

I fell in love with the smallness, the simplicity, the coffee shops, the culture. Even after my two closest friends moved several states away, I was content.

And for the first time I knew how it felt to be planted – my roots grew a little deeper. Suddenly I realized I had two beautiful places to call mine.

Friends come and go and home isn’t always where all the friends are. My people span too many continents for that.

All at once I realized that home was less about my surroundings and more about my heart. It was about the coffee shop I visited two afternoons a week, where the Americanos are strong and the baristas know my name. It was about my favorite streets and downtown memories and old houses full of character and charm and stories to tell. It was about the library brimming with the worlds and adventures that filled my childhood summers. It was about family and shady trails and quiet creeks.

It was when I became content to call my little Midwest “home” that Bangkok suddenly felt like home as well.

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Now I’m packing my suitcases and moving back to Southeast Asia, though a new part for me – a little smaller, a little more beachy, a little less familiar.

I’m less sure than ever about what the future holds and far more excited than I ever hoped to be.

New country, new people, new adventures to be had and memories to be made.

I am so looking forward to adding Indonesia to the places I call home.

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Home Across the Pacific (Thailand pictures)

I Choose

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These past couple weeks I’ve learned a lot about forgiving people – including myself. I’ve learned how to pray for those who have hurt me.

Praying blessings is powerful – to bless those who curse.

It’ll change the way you think about them, to intercede on their behalf, to plead with the Father for their happiness and well-being, to pray deep faith and abiding peace and overflowing joy over them.

It’ll do things to you – eliminate selfishness and bitterness, change the way you love.

Not for the faint of heart but I highly recommend it if you’re willing to learn a lesson in humility.

That’s where I’m at for the moment.

Humbleness. Prayer. Letting go of the need to be right, to be understood.

Because let’s face it, we’re going to be misunderstood sometimes. People aren’t always going to stick around to hear our side of the story and we’re not always going to get our apology.

And it’s okay. Really.

Their opinion doesn’t define you. It’s how you respond that defines you.

So I choose forgiveness and blessing and grace.

And that is when the healing comes.

I Choose