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

The Hard Truth about Faith and Kingdom Living

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The sun came out and just like that, it was spring.

I’d been waiting. So long.

Winter always seems the hardest.

I was eating regularly and sleep was a priority and strength dripped life slowly back into these fragile, anemic bones…yet I still felt just that – fragile.

I usually loved clouds but there was no break in them for the sun and I was breaking deep in my own stormy mind. It kept hitting me fresh – my apathy in the face of Christ’s agony and here I was stuck face down in the mud of my own self-pity. Who was I anyway?

He was breaking me piece by piece and there were hard conversations and tear-smeared pillowcases but there was grace. Always grace.

Monday night bible study and Dawn’s sweet words like hope in my tired days. Giant plates of sushi and teasing laughter and good conversation. Americanos and finished homework. Long bike rides and hot baths.

Grace. Little tastes of Him in the everyday moments.

And it came late morning on a Thursday – after several early mornings of sleepy bible reading and seemingly unfruitful prayer time – like the breaking of clouds, like sunshine on cold pavement:

The spirit-fog lifted.

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG)

It came back like an old, familiar friend – this focus, this urgency for the kingdom of God.

What have I been doing??

Comparing myself and my doubts and my failures to His holiness and perfection…and here it was in front of me the whole time:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

I wondered if I’d ever really learn that deep down.

But here He was reminding me again: It’s not about you! Silly you… It’s not about your life or your job or your future…it’s about ME. It’s about eternity and MY kingdom and how are you working towards that?

Um. Well…

It’s not about yesterday and how you’re not all you thought you’d be and how you’ve messed this up again…it’s about who you are in ME and how you let ME work in and shine through you right now in this moment.

Oh yeah…

Okay, God. Help my unbelief.

It’s time to put down the self-pity and self-condemnation. It’s time for purpose once more, for focus, for kingdom living.

Sunshine pored through the blinds, spilling across my desk and into my spirit. Warmth, like life in these bones.

So this is living now.

The Hard Truth about Faith and Kingdom Living

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