New Year, New Beginnings

Well here, we are, halfway through February and I suddenly realized I’ve neglected this blog. For months. I’m not sure exactly how time gets away from me so quickly. Just when I think I have a handle on my schedule I am suddenly jolted back to the reality that I’ve missed something.  In this case, this blog.

I have three journals going at the moment (yes, three!) and I confess that it’s been a stretch. I did have a fourth but I set that aside temporarily – I hope it’s only temporarily, any way. One is an art journal that I started in January 2015.  I had laid it aside as things got pretty intense with a sick and dying father-in-law, my husband’s new job, two healthy and very active grandkids and my own part time job. I had the best of intentions, but then you know what they say about intentions, right?

I came across it (the art journal) the other day.  I was organizing some things, and there it was. I pulled it off the shelf just for fun, and looked through it. Actually there wasn’t much to look through as I had completed exactly TWO pages and barely started a third.  I had some things cut out and some stencils tucked inside, but still it had been collecting dust on the shelf.  For a Very. Long. Time.

It was like holding an accusation or an indictment and I was feeling pretty sad about that, and a little bit guilty. I DO make a conscious effort to create every day; sometimes it’s for two minutes, sometimes for thirty – and on some precious, wonderful, glorious days it can be an hour!! But here I was, confronted with the reality that despite my best intentions, I had let this go for almost a year. A difficult, stretching, painful, stressful year – and the truth is, if I had kept up with it, my year might not have been quite so intense. It might not have been quite so overwhelming.

Some people go for a walk when they are stressed. Some punch pillows or cry. Others go to the gym and workout, or crank up the radio. I create.

Holding that mostly empty journal reminded me that I had really missed out on something good, something that could have helped me process things and something that would have given me something to pour into. Simply put, I missed a great opportunity. For a few minutes, I felt really convicted. I started to close the journal and put it back on the shelf when an idea popped into my head. Before I knew it, I was happily spreading gesso out on the page – and that’s when I realized that while I HAD missed an opportunity, I didn’t have to continue to miss it. I also realized that things come in seasons, and maybe this past year just hadn’t been the right season for this particular creative journal. Maybe it had been “waiting” on the shelf for just the right time and just the right season.

It made me realize that everyday is the right time for new beginnings.

 

 

Journaling anyone?

I am on a journaling kick.

This is pretty ironic because I have resisted journaling for years. The thought of journaling was mentally appealing, but I had zero follow-through because I didn’t want to get stuck with some adult version” of “Dear Diairy…”  I mean I am married and have kids (and now grandkids). I am way past writing about romantic crushes or agonizing about what to wear. But still there was an inexplicable draw. I loved the idea of journaling. I loved to wander the stationary aisles looking and opening and touching planners and organizers – but I never really knew what to do with them. Somehow, the thought of just writing in appointments and times seemed so, well, so boring. And so tedious. So NOT fun.

Then too, I had this memory. As a little girl I remember seeing my grandma take a black calendar book off the top of her refrigerator every day to record the weather, needed grocery items and big events. I remember asking her, “Do you do that every day? Isn’t that hard? And what if you forget? Does that mess everything all up?”

I successfully resisted the journaling bug until one day I realized that because of my age, the majority of my life is past. I don’t mean that to be morbid; it’s just a fact. I realized that if I were to leave some kind of mark in this life, some sort of legacy to my children and grandchildren that would last beyond their memories, I would have to get moving and start cranking out something!

So, I bought a beautiful leather bound journal. I picked up my favorite pen and found a comfy spot to curl up. Then I opened the journal – and stared at the empty page for a very long time. A very l-o-n-g time. I got nothing. So I put it away, thinking “I don’t have time for this right now. I’ll try again later.” And I did – but the same thing happened. Quite a few times actually.

Then, I realized I was approaching this all wrong. If I was able to draw out my prayers, I COULD journal. It just would be some sort of art journaling! Then the ideas started popping up and my excitement grew because this opened up an incredible realm of possibilities: travel journals, a dream journal, an illustrated prayer journal for each in my family, themed journals, a fruit-of-the-spirit journal, word journals, thanksgiving journals, prophetic journals – wow! My mind exploded with ideas.

I now sometimes think I have journaling A.D.D. because I always four or five – or more – journals going at any point in time. I have sermon journals and word journals, a memory journal, and prayer journals for my family. (I also have a “fauxbonichi” journal that I started when my father-in-law was dying in hospice). I happily move from one to another, sometimes starting this new one and sometimes finishing that one.

Sometimes people ask me what my “must have” supplies are, so I thought I would share a few of them: 140 lb. watercolor paper – this is the best because NOTHING bleeds through. Pitt drawing pens, black of course, but their colored brush markers are fabulous too! Golden fluid acrylic paints (expensive but they last forever), Washi tape (you can never have too much wash tape!) and a favorite stencil or two for background designs. And viola! You have the makings of an art journal!

Give it a try! Worst case scenario you’ll have fun. Best case – you’ll have fun AND have found something that keeps your interests.

 

Purpose to live out His purpose.

I was just thinking today about how challenging being a Christian artist can be.

As a rule (and admittedly there are always some exceptions) Christian artists don’t always fit the artistic mold. (Well, at least I don’t fit the mold). From the outside, I look like any other “grandma”- some graying hair, more wrinkles than I’d like, a purse with suckers and gum “just in case” for the grandkids, some extra weight around the middle (sigh), and “sensible shoes.” (I really do miss my pretty shoes…)

I am waaaaayy past the age of flamboyant clothing, dramatic make-up and edgy hair styles or color. So, in a nutshell, I look pretty ordinary. Pretty normal. Pretty boring.

Now if you spend any time hanging around the art department of any art school or gallery, you would soon see that almost every art student and artist spends a lot of time defining their personal style – with this often spilling over onto clothing, jewelry, body art, and hair choices. (Personal confession: I wasn’t the artsy-fartsy type back then either.) Back then it made me feel a little bit like I was looking in from the outside. Like I was a “pretender” because I didn’t jump in with both feet and “suffer for my art.”

Even today, I find myself thinking along those lines now and then.

That’s about the time I give myself the pep talk – you know the one. The one that kind of goes like this: “I need to stop doubting myself. I AM gifted. I AM talented. I AM an artist, and I DO reflect His creativity. God placed this gift inside of me and He expects me to use it. He will actually expect me to give an accounting for it someday when I stand before the Throne!” (That last one is a really good motivator if I haven’t created art in a while.)

I think this whole issue is part of learning my identity in Christ. It means I have to intentionally look at things from His perspective rather than my own. His perspective is that He has given me a gift He expects me to use; that I am to use this gift to impact my world, and that, somehow, my gift will make a difference. From my perspective, it means I have to be faithful and I must persevere. It means I have to trust that He will use it for His glory and to further His kingdom. It means that He is doing something behind the scenes that I may never recognize or know about – but that I still need to move forward in faith.It means that the art we create as Christians artists has a purpose, and it’s our job to live out that purpose to the glory of God.

So, today, I purpose to live out His purpose. How about you?

Wow!

I can’t believe it has been this long since my last post – despite my best intentions, things really got away from me. It’s been a very busy/crazy/out-of-control month or two!

There have been some rough spots in taking care of my aging father-in-law these past weeks (when you’re almost 90, every day can be a challenge!), a trip to Israel (It was a wonderful, wonderful trip!!), I’m starting a new part-time job next week (in addition to watching my grandkiddos, homeschooling and taking care of grandpa)…  and then there’s the “normal” stuff: planting a garden, laundry, trying to keep up with friends, cooking, paying bills – and still creating art.  I’ll be honest. When life goes beyond what you’ve come to accept as normal, and instead moves into “overdrive,” it can be incredibly difficult to carve out some time. It’s easy to find yourself on autopilot while you try to negotiate the new twists and turns.

I have, however, promised myself that at the absolute bare minimum I will create art once a week. And let me tell you, there were some weeks in there that the absolute bare minimum was all I managed to eke out. Then, before I went to Israel, I felt as though God told me to create some encouragement cards; something incorporating both Scripture and art, something to give away as He prompted me. I actually tried to rationalize (argue about) NOT making art before I left. “All this prep work… packing lists… having to buy what I don’t have but still need… two extra doctor’s appointments for both grandma and grandpa… trip details… bill paying before I left…”  But He wouldn’t relent, so I found myself cutting twenty 2×3 inch pieces of watercolor paper wondering what I was going to do with them.

I started with some prophetic words given the team going to Israel: “Be strong. Be courageous.” After praying, I knew these words were for the team, but even more so, they were for the people in Israel receiving the art cards. Not knowing exactly who I would be giving these to, I thought it would be best if I stuck to an Old Testament scripture (Torah) so I chose “Be strong and courteous. Do not be afraid…” from Deuteronomy. Then I realized that I should probably avoid pictures; I didn’t want to offend anyone believing there shouldn’t be any graven images.

That was a bit of a conundrum actually. Here I am, an artist, making art – but no pictures or images allowed. Interesting… But at last they were done and ready to go into my suitcase.

And then the fun began – handing them out. One by one, God prompted me to give them out and one by one my heart was touched to see the response of each person. Some were disbelieving at first, some touched beyond measure – I saw a tear or two – and some immediately went to display it. Some wanted to give me something in return but I said that’s not what this was all about.

What it was all about, first and foremost, was obedience to God. Then, it was about relationship, about connecting. To my great delight I discovered that in giving, I was also receiving as I saw each card touch another’s heart. Each card, for just a moment in time, caused the two of us to connect.

They seemed to recognize that I was giving them more than just a piece of paper.

I was so blessed.

In His image.

If I were to ask you to describe God in say, five words or less, chances are you would say He is holy, righteous, powerful, all-knowing. You might say He is loving and forgiving (He is!). You might say He is present everywhere, that He is eternal and the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Few people would describe Him as creative, yet God IS creative. Just take a look at what Scripture has to say about Him.

Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created…”   John 1:1-7: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God. This was in the beginning. All things were made by Him and without Him nothing was made that was made…”     Colossians 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created…”    Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.    Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus…

He is the One who’s created everything, visible AND invisible. The word “create” in Hebrew (bara) used in Genesis 1 means to “form from nothing.”

I especially like His commentary after each day of creation… “and God saw that it was good.”  As an artist I examine and evaluate what I have drawn or painted, and when I am pleased at the end result, I think to myself, ‘Good. It’s good.” And I feel a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. (Now, when I say “good” it is very different from when God says “good.” No surprises there!) When God says it, He means a whole lot more. The Hebrew word for “good” used in Genesis 1 is towb. It means “to be pleasant, delightful, beautiful, morally good, pleasing” – and more. Wow! That’s quite a statement for God to make after each day of creation, isn’t it? It shows me just how much of an artist God is! He too examines and evaluates what He’s made, and when pleased with the result pronounces it to be “good.”

So here’s a couple of thoughts for you.  God didn’t just whip up the world and then stop creating. Just like Him, His creativity doesn’t have a starting or ending point.  His creative power is still at work today – healing, restoring, renewing, completing.  It means that because we are created in His image, that creative power is in each of us too! That truth really has changed how I look at myself – maybe it will help YOU see yourself the way He sees you just a little bit more.

cropped-1506780_10205191323724360_9140993399921232283_n.jpg

A little fear can go a long way…

What are you really afraid of as an artist?

We all have fears when it comes to our art. Maybe we’re afraid of failing, or of finding out we’re not as talented as we think we are. Maybe we’re afraid of rejection. Maybe we’re afraid we might have to stop doing something we really enjoy if it’s viewed as “just a hobby.” (Let’s be honest – deep down, all of us are a little afraid we’re not good enough; we’re afraid other people will see us as wannabes.)

I clearly remember a moment that could have derailed my adventures in creativity. And it happened, of all places, at Church.

I was sitting at “the” art table (my Church has blessed me by setting up a table for my use during the service), and I was sharing some artwork with a friend after service ended. A former co-worker was walking by and my friend excitedly asked if she had seen my work. My former co-worker never paused or hesitated; she never even glanced over. She answered, “Yeah, I’ve seen her doodling,” and just kept on walking. It was a pretty cold dismissal.

My friend’s jaw dropped, and I waited for the words to “hit their mark.”  You know, that whole sticks and stones thing…  But they didn’t – and for quite a while, I couldn’t figure out why. (Even just a few years back, those words would have sucked all the joy right out of me. I would have packed up all my supplies and wiped my hands of the whole creative thing and never looked back.) It took me awhile to realize it was because I wasn’t afraid anymore. I’d already come to the realization that I wasn’t creating art for people to like – I was creating art to connect with God.

I’d made up a long list of things I was afraid of when it came to making art – and none of them was big enough to make me want to stop connecting with Him – including someone’s words.

Do you know what YOU’RE afraid of when its come to making art? (Or dancing? Or writing?) Are you afraid people will laugh at your efforts? That they’ll scoff if you call yourself an artist? Maybe you’re afraid you’re not talented enough or that you’ll never measure up. Maybe you’re just afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

I have something really important to tell you! You have to stop feeding your fear; you have to stop giving your fear the power to keep you from using your gifts.

Write them down – every last nagging fear. Then crumple up the paper, run it through the shredder, rip it up, stomp on it if you want, or burn it. Don’t let your list get in the way of using your God-given talents and abilities. Don’t let your list of fears control you, and don’t let your fears steal your joy.

There is soooo much freedom in doing what you were created to do – and it’s sooo much fun! Don’t miss out!

Mentioned by Name

Exodus 35:10 says, “All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded.”

In context, this is the Lord’s command to the artisans and craftsmen called forth to build the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant for the Israelites. But the principle behind it is this, and it still stands:  If you are “skilled,” step up and start making those things God has given you skill to make! This can mean writing, photography, drawing, painting, scrapbooking, gardening, cooking, composing music or dance.

Consider your talents and abilities.

Do you use them – or bury them? Do you consider them to be a gift from the Creative One, and therefore value them – or do you dismiss them with a casual, “I’m not really very good. It’s just a little something I do to relax.”

Let’s look at this from a different perspective… let’s say you are a loving parent or grandparent who really pays attention to your kids and what they like. It’s getting close to Christmas, and you have invested a lot of time and energy into finding the perfect gift for them. You can hardly wait to see their face when they open it! You are soooo excited for them. The Big Day (finally) arrives and they open it… and they are thrilled. They profusely thank you, carry it around with them all the time, talk about it with everyone – BUT then they put your gift up on a shelf and there it stays.You’re thinking, “What’s going on here? I gave that to you to be used, not to sit on a shelf!” so you ask why they don’t use it. And they answer, “Because I don’t know how…”  “I just want to look at it…” or even “I’m not good enough yet.” I think that might be a little of what God feels when we set our talents and abilities up on a shelf, only dusting them off occasionally.

I had a startling thought while I was writing this. There are a lot of names in the Bible, names of people – important people. People God wants us to remember. There are names of righteous men and women, giants in the Faith. There are names of Kings and prophets and priests. (It is also true that there are a lot of names missing!) Yet, among all of these names, we find Bezalel and Aholiab specifically mentioned. You may ask, “Who were Bezalel and Aholiab?” They were skilled craftsmen.

God mentions them by name to demonstrate the importance of remembering their faithfulness and their willingness to use what God placed within them FOR HIS GLORY. Think about it – God mentions two craftsmen/artists by name. In the Bible. (Maybe arts and crafts aren’t so insignificant after all…) That’s kind of a game changer, isn’t it?

Tick Tock, Tick Tock…

The Bible encourages and teaches us to be good stewards – of our talents, our resources, our finances and of our time. This last one makes me cringe.

I am in the “sandwich generation,” taking care of grandkiddos and elderly parents-in-law in the early stages of dementia. Throw in a dog and some homeschooling, a load of laundry or two, and you can see time flies pretty quickly. I don’t begrudge any of it; but I realized that if I’m not intentional, days  – or weeks – can go by without studio time. And let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger. I can’t and don’t want to “wait” until the in-laws are gone and the grandkids are grown up to spend time in the studio. (The last time I tried that, my kids were in their twenties and I still wasn’t creating!)

It used to be that time for creating was the first thing to go when I got really busy. (Do you know that not having enough time is the # 1 reason people give for not practicing their artistic gifts?) But all that really accomplished was me feeling cheated and overwhelmed – and a lot more stressed – while I dropped exhausted into bed.

It wasn’t until I figured out that creating and making art is so directly related to my feeling connected with God, that I began to make the time. (You know that old adage about making time for what is important? It’s true.) I found I could find small pockets of time throughout the day – ten minutes here, half an hour there. Not as much as I’d like, but at the end of the day it adds up.

To be candid, some days are better than others – just because I’ve made art-making a priority, doesn’t mean the rest of the world is willing to cooperate. Some days are a bust. But I also surprise myself – when adding it all up, a good day can find me in the studio for almost three hours! And wonder of wonders, my notebooks are filling up, the art journals are getting finished, and new ideas are popping like fireworks in my brain.

I’m also finding that the more I create, the more I accomplish in the studio. My skills are increasing and what once took me almost a dozen hours (or more) can now be done in half the time with no sacrifice of quality. I also find I benefit from having two or three –  or even four –  projects going at once; if I get “stuck” on one, I can move to the next. If I need to let paint or medium dry I’m not “wasting time” waiting, I’m simply working on the next one. And sometimes, we just need a break from what we’re working on. What are some of your time-management tips? I’d love to be able to add to my tool box!

Ready for a change?

I have a friend who likes to share quotes.

One of her favorites is from Elizabeth Elliott… “You just do the next thing.” This means not letting the big picture paralyze you. It means being willing to walk forward in faith, just one step at a time, one day at a time. It means not getting stuck in yesterday, or letting “yesterday” define or stop you. It’s about taking baby steps.

I have always enjoyed making art.

“Long-ago-and-far-away” I earned an undergrad degree in it. But I’ll be honest – other than occasionally dragging out my supplies to make Christmas or birthday gifts, you would never have known it was something I really liked. There always seemed to be some reason not to work on it.  First there were kids, and a house and soccer games and scouting…  later it was working outside the home.  Art was just something I sometimes “did.” Sometimes.

Even once I started using art to connect with God, it took a long time for me to comfortably identify myself as an artist. Somehow, it sounded pretentious or elitist. And then, I reread Exodus 31:1-5, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.” It really helped me realize God not only has a place for art in the church, He has a place for artistic expression in me. It made me realize that art was part of who I “am.” (And if art is part of who I am, then I take after my Father, and I am therefore an artist). 

We have to stop thinking our gifts are only for us; they are for us – but they are so much more. Our gifts are something God has given us to touch the world and the people around us. They are a way of revealing Truth. They are a way of touching hearts. Practicing our art allows Him to speak things through us that we may not otherwise have words for.

So, I asked if you were ready for a change. Are you?  Are you ready to see your talents as a GIFT from God? Are you ready to ask Him how you should use those talents? Are you ready to turn your gift over to Him and be willing to step aside and see what He will do? You might just be surprised at what happens! (I know I have been.)

Here’s a little “homework” for you:  Find a quiet corner and whisper just four little words aloud. “I am His artist.” Try that for the next week and let’s see what changes!

Whatever you do…

“Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” – I Corinthians 10:31.

Do you make excuses? Say things like, “I’m not an artist, I just doodle…” or “I’m not really that good, it’s just something I do for fun…” or maybe you’ve said, “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. I don’t do art.”

If you think that lets you off the hook or ends this discussion, I’m afraid you’ll be a little disappointed. Because I’m not letting you off the hook!  I am gently but firmly reminding you that whatever talent and ability you have, however great or small, it is something the Lord has given to you – and He expects you to steward it well. It may very well be true that God doesn’t expect you to become world famous – but He DOES expect you to utilize your gifting. The intention behind giving it to you was that it would be used.

It’s not our job to determine if our gift is “good enough” to glorify Him. It is not our job to decide whether God can use us in this capacity or not. It’s not for us to say whether God can or will use your gifts to touch others. Finally, it’s not for us to lock up our gifts and hide them on the shelf, not even allowing the Lord to use them to change US.

The fear of “not being good enough” is a powerful thing. But, I ask you, where does that fear come from?

Have you considered that the Enemy may not want you to use them? That he’s pulled out all the stops to keep you from using them? That he knows something you don’t about the power of connecting to God through the arts? Conversely, have you considered that the Lord may be waiting for you to start walking in them? That He’s excited and pleased when you do?

Here is my heart-felt advice to you: Draw, paint, and create for The One. Don’t worry about who likes or doesn’t like your art. As long as you find yourself drawn closer to the Lord through the art you produce, you are doing what you’re called to do. Remember that the process is more important than the result – and don’t let yourself get stuck arm-wrestling with perfection. The only One that is perfect is God.

Blog Stats

  • 688 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 270 other followers

Follow Drawingnear1 on WordPress.com

Just Checking In

December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031