Creatively thinking: Back when I created how I wanted to

When I was in high school and college I wrote and sketched and photographed what I wanted without much thought to how it might upset or bother someone.

I would definitely say I was much more in tune with my creative brain back then. I stayed up late creating either through drawing or writing, rarely concerned with someone seeing my work and casting judgments about it being “proper” or not.

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During that stage I wrote poems like “Living Statue” but never showed them to anyone. After all, poetry wasn’t really my thing – my brother was the poet. Plus, what would people in my life think about me writing about the half-naked model in my college art class. An offside about that, I had no idea we’d be drawing half-nude models when I signed up for that class.

I went to a smaller state school and had no idea they were progressive enough to allow such things. Imagine my pleasant surprise at being given the chance to sketch the human body, but also imagine my complete embarrassment at being asked to stare at that human body for an hour class. Luckily my art teacher wasn’t progressive enough to provide a completely nude model. Ha! I might have passed out during class.

Over the years my poor brain took a beating from the judgments of others and I, sadly, let those judgments affect how I created. Even sadder is that sometimes I still do. Echoing in my head are voices of the past scolding me for creating the way I wanted to, squelching what I really want to say or show.

To this day, I find myself thinking: “Who will be offended by this?” “What Christian will call me out and tell me I’m not Godly enough?” or “Who will remind me (again) they only hire photographers who pose their color-coordinated dressed family with perfect backdrops?”

Luckily I find myself doubting what I create a little less than I used to, hoping I can someday get back to the early days of not caring what others think, knowing there will be some who like what I create and some who don’t and accepting that I can’t make everyone happy.

How about you? Have you found your creativity has become more stifled or more open the older you’ve become?

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Just love her

So often I try to figure my 3-year old out.

Why is she napping today when she slept in late, but yesterday I woke her up early but she didn’t want to nap at all?

Why is she throwing a fit about bath time when normally she loves bath time?

Why has she suddenly decided she’s afraid of the dark when I always turn off lights before bed and she’s been fine?

Why does she now have breakdowns over almost everything- usually related to the fact she wanted to “do it,” whatever “it” was and daddy or I did “it” and now her whole world is burning down in flames.

Then, one day, after a particularly brutal series of breakdowns, a thought popped into my mind out of nowhere: Don’t try to figure her out. Just love her.

It wasn’t a conscious thought. It just suddenly came into the tangle of thoughts I was having at that moment as she fell asleep in my lap. Yes, it felt like God was saying it, reminding me that sometimes I need to stop overthinking, worrying, over analyzing and just live and love.

And lately I’ve needed this reminder when it comes to her, not because I don’t love her or loving her is hard but because I keep trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with her when nothing is wrong with her.

She’s three. Her emotions are jumbled inside her and she hasn’t yet developed the mental capacity to recognize them, handle them or make sense of them.

 

I’ve been so overwhelmed with her behavior lately, and my feeling of inadequacy I’m figuring out what triggers her tantrums I’ve heard myself more than once ask “what is wrong with you?!” as if she can actually answer a question she doesn’t even know the answer to.

Imagine my heartbreak when I heard her say in the midst of a tantrum one day “I don’t know what’s wrong with me! Why can’t I calm down?” We were in the bathtub, trying to relax her and her eyes pleaded with me as if I could answer her, explain her out of control feelings. I heard my own voice in hers because her words are something I’ve said so many times before. I’ve asked God out loud what is wrong with me when I am in the midst of a mental crisis because my mind won’t stop racing through all the what ifs or the why mes

It is truly a weakness and problem I have. I over analyze. I mentally dissect issues and situations so much that eventually I have completely lost sight of the actual issue and have spiraled mentally into a hundred different directions and in the process thrown myself into a pit of desperation driven anxiety.

Most often I do this with my own health but also the health of my children, my husband and family members.

And when I’m not over analyzing I am desperately trying to escape my panicked What-if based thoughts through meaningless distractions.

When my toddler asked me “what’s wrong with me?!”

I took her gently by the arms and I looked her in the face.

“There is nothing wrong with you,” I told her, firmly. “You are normal. You’re struggling with how to handle your emotions. That’s all. You’re normal, you’re ok and I love you.”

She stopped crying and let out a big sigh.

“Okay,” she said and I hope she heard me, really heard me.

As for me, I don’t know how many times God will have to tell me nothing is wrong me with, that I’m not broken, that He loves me no matter what before I listen, but I hope I’ll keep hearing and keep listening.

Don’t let someone else tell you what God is calling you to be

When you search the internet for the word “calling” one of the definitions is “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.”

In the Christian definition we often use the word to describe God’s plan for our life and we often believe God lays one calling on us and we are to do nothing but that ONE thing. This idea is further perpetuated by some in the Church who feel it is their job to suggest to others what their calling in life is.

When a well meaning friend or family member or church member says God called you to whatever it is that person believes you have been called to you can take what they say and think about it, but there is nothing that says you need to claim it. Remember that person  is human like you and not God and their definition of what your calling is not necessarily God’s definition

Today I heard an interview with Bishop T.D. Jakes and Pastor Steven Furtick. In it Jakes warns to not let what others say your calling is limit what God can do in you and through you. As someone who has not been limited by one title, Bishop Jakes has recently written a book, “Soar: Build Your Vision From the Ground Up”, about learning what God’s plan is for your life.

“I never knew the way people described you would become a prison until they did it,” he said. “When I met me I was not a preacher so I didn’t know they would incarcerate me with the title. You are at your best when you are authentic to your core and you have to be what you are, not what they call you. You understand what I’m saying? Some people will call you a name and you will start living up to that name and it limits you from what else God wants to do in your life. . . . What happens in life as we evolve as a person is we can not allow ourself to be incarcerated by anything people would describe us as because we limit what the Holy Spirit can do in our life.”

There are many women who are writers, mothers, artists and business people all in one.  There are many men who are fathers, entrepreneurs, employees and men of God preaching on Sunday.

There is not always one thing you were meant to do and now you’re not allowed to be anything else. Being a mother is the highest calling there is but I know mothers who harbor guilt because they want to be a mother and an artist, a mother and a business person, a mother and a writer but someone has told them, well meaning or not, that their calling is to be a mother and only a mother.

This guilt and unrealistic expectation is especially true in the Christian community where women are often told “your calling is to be a mother and that’s where God wants you in this season of your life.” Oddly I’ve never heard the same thing said to a man about being a father. Have you? Wouldn’t it be odd in our society to hear someone tell a man, “God wants you at home with your children and to pursue no other calling until they are old enough to go to college and live on their own.”?

Though I understand the premise behind such comments toward woman and while I believe God desires women to be the caretaker of children and engrained this maternal instinct in our sex, directives that a woman should desire nothing more than to be a mother and wide often heaps guilt on women already prone  to guilt biologically.

Some women believe that they must pour everything they are into motherhood and if they fall or fail (failure based on their own standards I might add) they failed at the only calling God ever gave them.

Yes, God called women to be mothers but no, He does not call all women to never pursue other passions, interests or callings in addition to being a mother. He never told Esther he couldn’t use her because she was a woman and meant to be a mother only. He never told Abigal, wife or Nabal, that she couldn’t  be a peacemaker between her husband and the warrior David (1 Samual 25:1-38) because she possessed a womb and desired to be a mother.

Therefore I don’t believe He has told other mothers their only calling is to care for their children. Yes, there are women whose main calling is to raise her children, but it doesn’t have to be her only calling.

So often we think we only have one calling and we need to find that one calling. If we don’t find that one calling we have failed in life, we have failed God. I have held on to this one calling lie for the majority of my adulthood, searching it out like one might search for the lost grail, waiting for it to be shown to me with a bright light from heaven. Unfortunately, that just isn’t going to happen and I have begun to accept that my “calling” may go beyond one vocation or role.

Hearing Pastor Jakes remind me not to be limited to what others have called me to be. Hopefully we can all remember to not limit God and to encourage others, especially mothers, to join us in taking the chains off God. Let’s take God out of the box we have put him in and let him show us a path of limitless opportunities,  possibilities and callings.

 

Sometimes we are fake

Sometimes I feel like such a fake.

I write blog posts about trusting things will work out and having faith and enjoying every moment and there are days – seriously – where I just don’t feel it.

Like right now I am writing this on a computer that randomly pauses and freezes and only works if it is plugged in because the charger port or battery or something is broken and there is no money in the budget to replace it.

And it isn’t from a lack of praying  for the funds to replace it, or believing God provides all our needs. The changes in our situation simply don’t come, for whatever reason. 

I say none of this in an effort to illicit pity because computer issues and financial woes are something many deal with and quite frankly it is nothing compared to people running for their lives or not having food to eat or clean water to drink.  

I write this to do my best to be authentic because honestly I’m tired of the lack of it on social media and in the world today.

How many times will we put on a good face and smile and kick out 10 Bible verses a day to show how positive and faithful we are all while we are dying inside and questioning God and wondering why we thought we heard Him clearly tell us to take one path but then He never blessed it? Or we are questioning why a family member is suffering physically or why a young child suffered for so many years and then died in his mother’s arms.

Here we sit with empty bank accounts and broken dreams and smashed-to-smithereens budgets we attempted but fell apart from unexpected expenses. Here we sit with empty and aching hearts and minds jumbled with a thousand thoughts.

And here we sit with a thousand questions of why we can’t seem to make this thing called life work and how we got here, moving money from this account to that account, and trying to stay sane and happy like everyone else while feeling guilty about being depressed about things that seem so trivial compared to the trials of others.

 

It’s hard to be positive sometimes and to share struggles and then tie it up in the end in a neat little bow, like a sitcom or a Hallmark movie.

Sometimes there are no good endings, or at least not yet.

Sometimes we just sit in the midst of the struggle and we can’t fake it anymore.

We can’t say ‘God’s got this’ when there are days we simply don’t know or trust He does.

Do doubts make us any less of a Christian?

There are thoughts in my mind that tell me they do.

But there are other thoughts that tell me no, because many in the Bible doubted and didn’t trust and learned to live life the hard way. They were real and honest and never hid their doubts. David is one of those people who come to mind when I think of the doubters, the struggling ones, the ones who paused and had the audacity to ask God just what he thought He was doing.

Scrolling through Facebook there are quick little memes from well known pastors or authors or speakers and they are meant to be encouraging but one Wednesday morning I just sat there like a loon and I yelled at my phone “I know! I get it! And that’s what I’m trying to do but nothing is happening! I prayed and I asked God and I’m trying to stay calm and I even got a prayer journal and I watched that movie about a prayer closet and I’ll make one if I have to but NOTHING IS HAPPENING!!! I’m tired of jumping through hoops.”

My toddler, who sleeps in our room because our house is too small to make her a room of her own, woke up and looked at me and said “Well….that was just crazy…”

And it was crazy.

A crazy moment of saying “Thanks for all the cute little posts with cute little phrases but sometimes it just gets old to see these reminders over and over and over and over but feel like it’s all lip service.”

I can say something over and over and until I’m blue in the face and I can believe it, but guess what? Sometimes even that doesn’t work and sometimes even that doesn’t launch us over the road block we have hit in our lives.

I listened to a blogger talk about her struggles recently  and when she got to the part where she said “I mean for like three months we like really like struggled with our finances and like it was like hard” my head almost exploded.

Then she said “And so we like prayed and I like got up every morning and like over night we were making three figure salaries every week and it was like amazing.”

Again. My head. Ow.

Because – like – I have been on my knees about several looming life issues for YEARS not three months and I still am wandering like a lost sheep in the wilderness.

So why does California girl get her miracle “like over night” and mine hasn’t even come in 800 some nights?

I don’t know.

Yep, that’s right.

I don’t have an answer for you or for me.

Not yet anyhow.

And maybe never.

I don’t know why God chooses some to struggle for years and others to find relief in hours. I don’t know why some of us struggle with health, some with finances, some with marriage, some with loss after loss, some with self-esteem and some don’t.

Right now, right here, I am supposed to say “all I know is God is good.”

But sometimes?

I don’t feel like God is good.

And right there I bet a few people decided I should have my Christian card taken away.

But sometimes I feel like He is very far away and like good people die too early and that if He is God then why has He let this world go on with so much pain in it for so long?

I mean, seriously, don’t you ever feel that way?

Yet even as I feel that way I see my daughter and my son, children I never thought I’d have, and I remember moments in my life where I prayed and in minutes a prayer was answered.

 I remind myself that no, I don’t have all the answers, and yes, I may often feel frustrated and lost and doubt, but even when I’m ready to say it’s all pointless, like I am today, I feel something inside me urging me not to miss out on the joy of life, even with the sadness of it seems to be pushing me down.

So, I keep listening to the sermon podcasts, even when I yell at them THAT I AM TRYING BUT APPARENTLY I’M JUST NOT DOING IT RIGHT!

And I keep reading the encouraging blog posts even when I want to say “Whatever. I bet your life isn’t really that good and you probably have doubts too but you’re afraid of being marched out of the Positive Christian Mom Blogger Club.”

And I keep looking at the memes and reading the devotionals and listening to the positive songs.

Because what is the alternative?

Filling my mind with more darkness, more negativity, more hopelessness?

Seeing only the bad of life?

Seeing only failure?

Seeing only mistakes?

Seeing only sadness?

It’s not an alternative I’m willing to grab ahold of.

The negatives, the sadness and the feeling of hopelessness will be there.

But the joy, the smiles, the light peeking through the clouds will also be there and I will try my best to focus on those bright spots as well.

Do I promise I will showcase only the light times and speak as if it is like a walk along the beach at sunset? No. Because to do so is dishonest, it’s an illusion, it’s not what life really is.

Life is not all cotton candy and rainbows and sunlight.

For anyone.

No matter what they show on Facebook, instagram or to your face.

Life is not all those good things all the time but there is joy and I hope it doesn’t sound like I don’t want that joy celebrated because I do, I very much do.

But if some of your moments aren’t joyful know you’re not alone.