How I Rediscovered Creativity and Resurrected My Passion

creativity

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.

isaiah

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!

Advertisements
How I Rediscovered Creativity and Resurrected My Passion

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.

IMG_1486e

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.

IMG_0092eprof

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.

banner

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.

IMG_1116e

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.

IMG_1680e

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. ❤

IMG_1438e

The Truth About Coming Home

Home. Happiness. Here.

IMG_0129
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.

This Is Salvation

I’ve been fascinated with him, ever since I picked up a book titled The Jesus I Never Knew. Philip Yancy writes frankly of his surprise at the contrast of the mild, almost timid Jesus he grew up being taught about to this suddenly bold, character who waltzed into the middle of comfortable Judaism, so sure of himself, arguably arrogant with his lofty claims, this daring rebel who defied tradition and spoke like he created the universe.

And it’s been argued for centuries who he really is – liar, lunatic, or the Lord he claimed to be.

Yet if he really was this – this person with the fullness of the mighty God all wrapped up in human flesh – what does this mean for us?

For the God of the universe to have visited this little planet…dare we grasp the gravity of its connotations?

Sometimes I forget. I walk blindly through my days, apathetic to the person of Jesus – who sweat agony in a silent garden – Very God humbled to submission. He took on all my guilt and shame and worries along with the rest of the worlds’ and how can I not fall humbled in adoration at the thought? I worry like it’s my right when the God of the universe suffered so deeply that I shouldn’t have to… I insist on carrying my own guilt like a punishment, on earning my way back into favor like His kind of love could possibly falter at a little thing like human weakness. He already knows. He knew in that moment when he felt every failure on his shoulders.

And he loved anyway. He died anyway.

Ann Voskamp once wrote of how we’re left wrung out when we try to climb rungs we weren’t meant to – as if we could reach God by our own efforts – because the task is kind of like dragging camel humps through needles’ eyes and we will never earn our way to goodness or happiness or fulfillment. Yet still we insist on trying. And God watches us with gentle eyes, always waited for us to give up – and give in to the Love that closes the distance between the weary heart and His own.

So I read this Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ and even the tedious details cannot hide the wonder of a God who gave up splendor for human brokenness to break through our thick-skinned apathy to him.

Because we had grown tough. Humanity swallowed centuries of disappointment and hearts swelled heavy with the burden of religion, of blind repetition to redeem their constant failures. Continuously reminded of their shortcomings, they grew so heavy – jaded. Distant from a God whom they could never reach.

I prayed like that for years – throwing my prayers upward, figuring most times they bounced off the ceiling, but if I was faithful enough, fervent enough, they would be just strong enough to touch the gates of heaven and bounce weakly into the throne room.

And it wasn’t until reading Brother Lawrence that I suddenly knew in my spirit He was here right in front of me and behind me and beside me and inside me and no matter how quietly I whispered to this God of mine, it was as loud as could be because He was here, leaning into every word.

And this God wore His heart on His sleeve for hundreds of years, aching deep at generation after generation of rejection yet ever patient, waiting for that perfect time to send His biggest gift. The one He’d been saving…anticipating since the first breaking off in the first garden. His presence in human form – Immanuel. So we could touch Him and hear Him and know Him. So He could dwell with us and in us. So we could once more be like Him.

This is Salvation.

And this is the truth our souls ache to seek out, to explore the mystery of this God who once limited Himself so there would be no limit to knowing Him.

This Is Salvation

Advent Begins and He Swells in Us

advent

Thanksgiving passes and my heart still swells with gratitude for the people and time and life I’ve been given.

Advent begins. It’s my favorite time of year. We talk quiet around candles and good food about the Greatest Gift – the one given 2000 years ago that only gets sweeter.

We talk of how her womb swelled round with that precious gift from heaven. Sweet Mary waddling heavy with the skin wrapped God-child that would save this broken, aching world.

Anticipation swells and these dreams burn in me. It’s a dangerous and glorious thing to give ear to desire.

With desire comes wild hopes and random tears and ugly fears – and space for soul-searching.

With desire comes healing and life abundant.

I fall sick again, but in shivering skin and dizzy headaches, dreams and plans run wild and close.

His strength comes yet again through my weakness.

This year holds big things. I feel it already and this time I’m not afraid. Perhaps the biggest things always happen inside of us anyway.

The Christ-child grew in human belly and he grows in us as we make space for him. His greatest present to us was His presence – Immanuel, God with us – and we can become walking tabernacles of His presence. Every moment is a miracle when we know this deep down.

His greatest present was His presence and in turn our greatest present to Him is ours. May we become ever more aware of His nearness in this very moment.

Advent Begins and He Swells in Us

The Beauty of Smallness

Kenya 146erc

I was thinking the other day about how wonderful it is to feel small in the face of something good or beautiful. There are times smallness is an alarming feeling – a feeling of inadequacy and weakness and fear – but in the presence of the beauty of a magnificent landscape or the incredible goodness and strength of the Father Himself, smallness is a liberating and secure feeling.

There is nowhere I feel so loved and awed and humbled as when I experience my God in His Greatness.

This is probably the most significant thing I have discovered in my travels: how very small I am in relation to the world and its history and Creator. Time and space exceed my comprehension.

It’s a humbling feeling to know there is so much more than this tiny span of time and space that I claim in my sojourn here.

People who don’t believe in God, who claim to be their own…how very small their universe must be. To think this is all there is, that there is no greater purpose to their life, no greater Mind to trust in.

Trust is a scary thing but when the One in whom we trust is perfect in Wisdom and so inherently good, there is no safer place to rest, no sweeter release. I’ll gladly let go of my limited understanding and the need to act out of what I know if I can hold to One who is far greater –  He who directs all circumstances into a beautiful story, not void of pain and hardship, but more glorious and meaningful then I could ever dream up.

How trivial my problems and concerns seem in light of the span of this small space between beginning and eternity, of the awesome goodness of the Creator.

Smallness is humbling; it’s being vulnerable and trusting. Smallness is knowing release and deep soul peace.

The Beauty of Smallness

Why I’ll Never Belong and What I Plan to Do About It

DSC_0203er

I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a poetry blog and that everything I write doesn’t have to flow with perfect meter and prose. Life rarely does anyway and I’m learning to be real.

Honesty is hard and I tend to leave out the uncomfortable parts so bear with me.

I’ve been thinking too much lately. It seems like the more I think the less I know.

But for the moment, here’s what I do know:

I’m not afraid of silence, but of not having the words to fill someone else’s need. I am enough for myself but will I fall short for you? I can listen to your story, hold your heartaches, but are my stories enough to make you feel less alone?

So many times I’ve been told I’m different. (*mentally inserts the word too before different*)

I’ve been jokingly teased about being too quiet, too skinny, too healthy, too disciplined. I’ve felt guilty for seeking to be the best self I can be. I’ve been ashamed to talk about the things I hold most dear because I might make someone feel bad.

I’ve let my fear of being seen as less than sincere keep me from saying the things my heart whispers. I’ve tiptoed around strong opinions, hurtful gossip, and shallow conversations.

I have nothing to contribute to discussions about popular shows. I’m not a movie critic. I don’t know actors and celebrities and hipster bands. I haven’t even read every book of my favorite author.

I study Greek vocabulary and psychology and vegan cookbooks in my free time. I prefer to rise before the sun. I’ll take a book over a TV show any day. If I watch anything, it’ll be a documentary.

My mind tells me that I’ll never belong anywhere, that I’m too different. That no other nineteen-year-old has pieces of her heart in five continents and holds no interest in dating and would rather just learn to write poetry in another language and read nonfiction and do yoga.

But last year I met my best friend who moved from Spain long enough ago to not fully belong there anymore yet still not long enough to regrow roots here, who loves talking to strangers, who dreams about Broadway and musicals and cities she’s never been to and I realize that people can be so different and still fundamentally so the same.

We tend to alienate ourselves from people because of our differences instead of looking for all the places we intersect. (Well…I do anyway.)

All of us are looking for the same things. Every soul wants to be seen, to be known deeply, to love and be loved, to make a difference. Deep down we all have the same desires, the same disappointments, the same hopes. It runs through our veins no matter our history, the place we call home, or the things we strive for.

So I guess what I’m suggesting is perhaps loneliness is a prison we have chained ourselves into and learning vulnerability and honesty is the key that unlocks the shackles.

I’m seeking to live more authentically and I invite you to join me. 🙂

dew

Currently reading Daring Greatly and hoping to shed some light on this issue of vulnerability that I have wrestled with for so long.

Why I’ll Never Belong and What I Plan to Do About It