May Planner

May 2019 Planner CoverI have been lost this week since I didn’t finish and print this month’s planner until today.  I can definitely tell when I’m not reflecting and prioritizing my day’s work; my motivation wanders, and my brain feels scattered.

This month’s cover art is from a series of photos I took of the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, Alabama on a weekend with my sister several years ago.  Vulcan is the Roman god of the forge, and his likeness presides over Birmingham whose primary industry when the Vulcan statue was created was steel.  The back cover is a “cheeky” nod to the fact that everything south of Vulcan is continuously mooned by his apron-less backside (which is where I live).

If you used the April planner, I’d love to hear how it worked for you or if you have any suggestions.  And if you try the planner this month and like it, be encouraged that I prepared June and July and have already scheduled them to post here on the blog before those months begin. 🙂

Here’s the free May planner:

2019-May Planner

April Planner

April PlannerEvery new year, or new school year, I end up on the hunt for the perfect planner.  Much of my search is a misguided attempt to create the perfect schedule that will allow me to complete every task and goal (so long as everything runs perfectly, and I can run on coffee instead of sleep).  While that endeavor is doomed to fail, I have learned a few things over the last few years about what helps me be the most successful and productive in my realistic plans.

I need to be pretty constantly reminded what my biggest goals are so that I can work on them a little bit – even if it’s only five minutes – every day.  I need to encourage myself with positive thinking, and I need to remind myself that every day will present a challenge.  I also need to hold myself accountable for some basic daily ritual tasks, and I need to evaluate how I’m living each day.

I’ve learned that consistent journaling and evaluation helps me spot depression symptoms and potential relapse issues before they get too big to deal with.

So, I spent about a month each in several planners and decided to just make my own that had the things I wanted to track and the questions I needed to journal through each day.  I stripped out my personal details to make a blank I could pass on to my neighbor, so I thought I’d share it here if there are any other writer-artist-depressed-dieting types out there.  It’s a fairly niche market, but you can also take what’s there and change the categories to suit yourself.

The file is a pdf, so you can print it if you want to use it, and it’s here for you to click on and open – no strings attached.  I’m only doing a month at a time, so if you use it and like it or have suggestions, please pass those on.  You can comment here or drop me an e-mail at mabbatblog@gmail.com.  Also, I’m working on setting up a mailing list this weekend, so if you like the free planner and Bible studies, please sign up.  I’ll share more details on that post.

April 2019 Planner – BLANK

You Do You – How to Find Your Creative Gifts

Writing and arting are the ways I best express myself, and I use those as outlets for spiritual growth and emotional healing.  (I know “arting” is not a verb, but here’s the post that made it a verb for me: https://wordpress.com/post/mabbat.blog/974 )  I am passionate about encouraging people to find their own creative gifts to grow spiritually and emotionally, so I want to write more about how to do that practically.  Not everyone is made to write or paint, but we are all made to be artists in our own unique ways.

What is your artistic gift?  If you just snorted/laughed/rolled your eyes, I promise you this: you are creative in some way, and that is your art.  As a creation of God, you are called to share your art and use it to reflect God’s creativity and grace.

My husband and I are total opposites in our creative outlets.  He hates writing and generally avoids all things “artsy-fartsy.”  But if you put the man at the controls of a wrecker, he will come alive with a special kind of energy.  I can see his brain working through the wreck scene, calculating angles and weights, and making a plan to clear the road as quickly and safely as is humanly possible.  That is clearly his artistic gift, and his natural leadership abilities are a gift that complement his talent in applied physics.  The intentional practice of our talents is a spiritual discipline in the same way that prayer and Bible reading are.  In my husband’s case, that faithful practice has opened doors to work with incredible people and to share his faith with people who wouldn’t listen to a preacher or set foot in a church.

So, how do you find your artistic gift?  I imagine books could be (indeed, have been…) written on the subject, but I’m only going to offer a measly blog post.  Actually, I’m only going to offer two questions: what are you good at doing, and what do you love doing?

The answer to both may be the same activity, which is probably your answer, but if you struggle to answer either of those questions, let’s dig a little deeper.

What are you good at doing?  If you automatically answer, “nothing,” you need to look more closely.  What do you do that feels as natural and simple as breathing that other people struggle with?  Put another way, what do you do that people often remark that they wish they could do as well as you?  It’s very likely that you don’t see that thing as a talent because it is just so easy for you.

Do you organize people or files or data well?  Do you cook without measuring because you just know how to make food?  What is it that you do that makes you feel like you’re “in the zone” or like your body and brain are totally engaged?  If you’re totally at a loss to answer this question, ask your family and friends what they think you’re good at.  I’ll bet that you’ll be surprised to find that it’s something you’ve never even considered to be remarkable.

What do you love to do (whether you are good at it or not)?  What makes you feel happiest and most alive when you do it?  What makes your brain feel like the most cells are working at top speed?  What makes you feel competent and strong?

This one is not a question anyone else can really help you with, but you know the answer if you think about it honestly.  For example, I do not love to clean.  Anything.  At all.  It is not a natural desire for me, nor is it something that makes me happy to do.  I see it as a necessary evil, actually.  But give me paint and canvas, and I am a happy woman.  It doesn’t matter if I paint a masterpiece because the simple act of putting paint on the brush shuts down all other thought but the color directly in front of me.  It’s meditative.  It’s an act of creation that always fills me with joy.

If you have given our two questions some thought, and you’re still not sure what your gifts are, try out a few things.  Take an art class or a dance class or a cooking class.  Start writing in a journal.  Take note of the skills you use in your job and work to develop those.

The thing about creativity is that it’s not limited to a single outlet.  Our gifts can change over time, too.

I used to dance, and I was pretty good at it.  If I laced up my pointe shoes now, I would surely die, or at least break my body in at least three places.  While I still enjoy dancing, my skillset has changed, and I am not working to develop my dance.  I am working to continue developing my writing skills and my visual art skills.  I’m old enough that those are probably two things I’ll focus on the rest of my life without outgrowing, but I also know that I plan to work on other things that I love to do but may be less talented at naturally.

Our ability to develop gifts into artistic expression will also go through seasons of varying productivity levels.  Don’t panic if you don’t have as much time as someone else to invest.  Maybe daily practice isn’t possible, but another regular interval is.  Do what you can with what you have as often as you can.  Sometimes that will be hours a day; sometimes that will be once a week if you’re lucky.  As the parent of a tiny human who also has a day job, I know that a daily schedule can be daunting.

Don’t be daunted.  Be encouraged by the time that you do have with your art.  You do you.