Sunday Psalms 6/16/19

I love poetry, and I love sketching. Blackout poetry is the best of both worlds.

This is a page from an old book given to me by a friend, who gave me her blessing to toss it or use it any way I saw fit. I generally have a hard time altering a book in any way because I feel like the work of writing is a little bit sacred, and it always felt like dishonoring the pages to do anything but read them.

The joy of creating with the pages of this book is that I have another copy of the text, and so re-using the pages rather than just throwing away the falling apart copy will breathe new life and creativity into the words on the page. So far, this old book has been used by art students to create mixed media pieces, and then they used pages for drawing paper once they finished those pieces. I jumped in on the doodling and created this work.

Consider that art is coming forth at his command.

Alas!

Happy are we when we create.

It is our duty.

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

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.

Are You an Artist?

I had the joy and privilege to serve as the art teacher for the sports camp our church does the week of Vacation Bible School.  We have sports camp directly after VBS, so the kids who sign up for that have lunch after VBS and go to two sports activity sessions.  Arguably, art is not a sport, but it makes me happy that we include it, and it makes me even happier to finally feel competent as a coach.  I have coached Upward basketball several times now, and the only thing that qualifies me to coach is my love for kids.  Even my mom laughed and asked why I couldn’t coach something like softball that I was pretty good at or soccer that I at least know and understand the rules.  I was born to coach art – basketball, not so much…

One of my campers last week was a little awestruck at something I demonstrated and then helped her with, and she asked with wonder, “Are you an artist?”  I’m not going to lie; I would have struggled to answer that question in the past.  It’s a lot like when someone asks if I’m a writer.  I have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to both of those questions.  Neither writing nor art is my occupation.  I’m not sure they could be my day job, and even if they could, I don’t think that’s the path I’m meant to take.  I feel somehow that to call yourself an artist or a writer that it should be your occupation, as in, “I am an artist,” “I am an architect,” or “I am an office manager.”

Obviously, one doesn’t need to be a professional artist to be an artist.  I don’t have to write full time or publish books to be a writer.  I am an artist.  I am a writer.  God gave me those talents, and he created me to be those things, as well as a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a housekeeper, a Chief Compliance Officer, a dog wrangler…  Like most people, I wear more than one hat.

But what great joy it was to be able to declare to my student, “Yes.  I am an artist.  It’s not what I do for a living, but creating art is something I love to do.”

I often doubt myself and where I am, what I’m doing.  Is it enough?  Am I wrong – is this supposed to be my day job?  Should I be trying harder to make money as a writer or as an artist?  These are all the wrong questions, though.  I should instead be asking if I’m doing what God placed in my heart to do.  Am I developing my skills on a regular basis?  Am I using the talents he gave me to reflect his light and bring glory to him?

When I can answer “yes” to God, then I’m on the right track, whatever that track is.  Hopefully one day soon that path will lead to publishing a book; maybe I will sell a painting someday; now, every day, I will work to be the writer and visual artist God created me to be.

What about you?  Are you an artist?  Most of the people I present with this question say “no,” and they say it rather quickly.  “I don’t know how to paint.”  “I can only draw stick figures.”  “I can’t write a sentence, much less a poem.”  We focus the word “artist” a little too narrowly, maybe.  Or maybe I should be asking, “Are you creative?”  I have a feeling I would still get the same quick “no” most of the time, even if I changed the question.  If you don’t think you’re creative, expand your focus: what are you really good at?  You have something in your life that you excel in or love to do because it feels easy and natural to you.  Now narrow your focus there; I’ll bet you’re creative within that passion.

Congratulations, you are an artist.

So, what is your art genre?  Are you a mathematician?  A baker?  An organizer?  A singer?  An actor?  A pilot?  A basketball coach?  Whatever you have been gifted to do, that is your creative space.  God calls us all to create and thereby reflect his creativity.  Innovate.  Sing a new song.  Praise him with your talents.

If you would like encouragement in finding and developing your God-given talents, join the closed Mabbat FB group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/773975689656609/?ref=bookmarks  I’ll be posting prompts to get you thinking about your creativity and how to use it to grow spiritually and emotionally.  Also, starting this weekend, I’ll be posting a serialized Bible study journal for the book of Colossians if you’d like to read along with me.  There are drawing and writing prompts to help you experience God’s word through creative expression.  I’ll post a new study prompt each week, and we’ll continue the discussion through the week in the Mabbat FB group.

If an online group terrifies you, here are a few suggestions: you can always e-mail me at mabbatblog@gmail.com, and you can join (or start!) a small group to help you discover and use your talents.  Every church I know of has small groups (or life groups or Sunday school classes or…) of people who meet on a regular basis to study God’s word together and to encourage each other to live out his purpose in their lives.  Find one and jump in.  The best way to be consistent on your creative journey with God is to be connected to a community of believers who will lift you up and also hold you accountable.

How are you an artist?  I would love to see your answer in the comments!