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!

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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

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

Home. Happiness. Here.

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Home is waking tucked between pillows to the light leaking through rain-glazed windows.
Happiness is opening worn pages to favorite passages and finding strength in familiar truth.
Home is omlettes and homemade biscuits and apple butter with the roomie.
Happiness is growing into a language you hope to one day call your own.
Home is the endless stream of motorbikes weaving around your car on the bypass. It’s street food carts and little warungs and rice with every meal.
Happiness is little cafes and dark coffee and rainy afternoons. It’s acoustic ballads in the headphones and doing work you’re passionate about.
Home is the presence of a heart you trust. One that whispers, cease your striving and just be. I take you as you are.
Happiness is knowing that before all your doing, you are already enough.
Home is a meal shared with family from all over the globe because there’s nothing like food and Jesus to bring people together. It’s probing conversation and honesty.
Happiness is here and now and this.


*the other day, a writer friend of mine asked me what home and happiness meant in the context of that day. this piece was the result. thanks josh!
Home. Happiness. Here.

Contentment Starts Ordinary

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Thoughts on the river:

Contentment doesn’t start in the exotic; contentment starts ordinary.

It’s born in the everyday moment – in gratitude for the little things. Turning routine into ritual and making habit the rhythm of a heart at peace.

Learn to choose joy when it doesn’t come easy and it will surprise you when you’re not expecting it.

“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians‬ ‭4 ‭MSG

Contentment Starts Ordinary

What It Means to Be Hungry

My year begins, but not with the strength and resolve I had hoped for. Usually I have big resolutions and elaborate goals, but not this time.

Instead my year begins with weakness. With blood tests and anemia and liver distress and oh so that explains the deep weariness and heavy spirit.

My vegan stint was short-lived. I stood for a cause and neglected all it required and now there are supplements three times a day and this awful liquid iron that tasted like rancid orange juice or something and sometimes we don’t realize the consequences of our actions until things are falling apart.

I would forget to eat. I would get busy and forget and neglect…both body and soul.

They starve silently. The kind of starving that creeps in slowly, a weariness that slips into every bone, touches every thought like icy fingers – numbing.

I remember my hands cupped around the familiar mug from my favorite coffee shop. Is something wrong with me? The bestie sat across from me with quiet eyes and shook her head. But I can’t feel anything…

They say that if you stop eating, after a while, you stop being hungry and just ache deep – your body is just trying to survive.

Same with the soul. I had noticed last year, like clockwork, how to neglect my spirit-man for three days was to begin falling to pieces behind the fragile surface. I am not thick skinned and hunger bites though my fragile bones like uncooked spaghetti.

There are symptoms that hint to a deeper issue, like a whisper, something is wrong here. Sometimes we try to treat the symptoms instead of digging deep to the root to find the real problem. Like headaches and acne and exhaustion so we try pain meds and face washes and coffee…instead of recognizing our body’s cry for help. Sometimes the truth calls for harder solutions – honesty, humility, discipline.

Gentle doctor-eyes looked at me firm and said “You’re starving.” And I swallowed hard because I knew and it was time to pick up these pieces, these sorry bones and live once more.

So I read Scriptures like the supplements I take three times daily, not because I like them but because I know with time they will make me strong. I pick up a Piper book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. I cry and I journal and I fall back weary onto Him.

I eat. A lot. Or at least what feels like a lot.

A Tuesday night women’s bible study testimony cracks me right open and I wake 23 minutes before my alarm the next morning hungry for truth. All flames start small.

Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.”

You are good and You do good. I journal in purple ink.

And slowly, I remember.

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What It Means to Be Hungry