Tag Archives: creativity

A Look at How I Journal

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old journal stackWhen most people find out that I keep a journal, their response is along the lines of: “Wow, that’s impressive; every time I’ve tried to keep a journal it just hasn’t worked.” It’s always an interesting response to me, because I don’t believe a person can “fail” at journaling. It’s something you do for yourself: recording whatever you want to, however you want to, whenever you want to. There shouldn’t be any pressure to make your journal anything but the space you want it to be for you.

In the spirit of that, I wanted to share how I personally use my journal. Not simply to give you ideas, but also to encourage you about how limitless, personal, and valuable a practice it can be in your life.

What I Write

There are a few things I (currently) record in my journal through words and writing.

Gratitude lists. If you’ve known me for nearly any length of time, you know that I don’t shut up about gratitude [and if you didn’t know that, you can read this]. Cultivating a grateful heart has completely changed my life in the best ways. The only thing that is a guarantee for me to journal every day is a list of the things I’m grateful for throughout the day. Writing these lists is the highest form of self-care for me, and re-reading them over time is a delight all over again.

When I wake up, I write the day’s date, pen the words “Thank you for:” in the corner, and start bullet points down the side of the page. I fill in the list as things come, or in a moment when I need to focus on building up the good. Sometimes the list will fill the page, other times I’ll draw a dotted line to make it a separate column from something else I’m putting in. I don’t have a minimum or maximum daily count; I just let it happen naturally and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised.DSC00314

Scripture reading log. I don’t follow a reading plan. I tried to in the past, and sometimes it worked for me, but often the plan would ask me to read too much in one sitting, or would make studying scripture feel like something to check off my to-do list instead of something to pour myself into. Right now, I simply read one chapter of the Bible a day. There are some days I don’t read the Bible, such as when I had pulled a near-all-nighter doing homework in college and could feel my eyes closing but was still reaching for my Bible when I heard clearly in my spirit: ‘Tessa– go to bed. Your mental health matters to me. We talked today, it’s fine.”

I decide which book to read by alternating between the Old Testament and New Testament in their orders. Recently I finished reading Numbers, and I am now reading Matthew; next I will read Deuteronomy, then Mark, and so on. If it’s a more difficult book to read, such as the books of the Law, I will also read a Psalm.

In terms of recording my scripture study, I pen a bracket and the name of the book and chapter I’m reading that day. As I read, if something stands out to me, if I have thoughts, or if something confused me and I did some research, I will write notes on those things or even process them through writing. Once I’m done, I pen the other bracket at the end. Sometimes, there are days I read the chapter and simply don’t have anything to say about it. In those cases, I will still pen the other bracket after the book name and chapter, so I remember I read it. It’s okay to not “get something” out of scripture every time you read it; desire to learn is already a delight to Him.

“Proper” journal entries. When I have a lot of feelings I need to sort through or when something happens in my life that I want to remember, I write a journal entry that resembles what most people probably think of when they picture journaling: straight up writing, stream-of-consciousness.

I think what intimidates most people about keeping a journal, what makes them feel like they’ve “failed” to keep theirs, is that they imagine they need to write entries like this every day. I definitely don’t write entries like this every day; I only write them when I want to, when I have something to say or process. If I tried to write entries like this every day, I would probably start getting discouraged and feel like my life was boring! They’re helpful and enjoyable when they’re written out of desire rather than duty. I just write what I care about; it isn’t for anyone but myself, so there’s no pressure.

Drafts. Occasionally, if I want to write something for my blog but am unsure about how much of my personal story and feelings to include, I’ll write the first draft in my journal. Sometimes it truly is a first draft. But sometimes, once I’ve gotten it all out in my journal, that’s where it stays, because that ends up being the best place for it to live. Starting blog posts in my journal has become a healthy habit for me because, to be honest, I’ve probably avoided some conflicts by doing it.flowers and journal

Book notes. Every once in a while, I will read a book so impactful that I want to take notes on it. When that’s the case, I write the name and author of the book, then below that I’ll record quotes or what I’m learning. When I stop reading for that sitting, I might write down which chapter(s) I read in case I want to find something in context again. I draw a little swirly line to separate my book notes from any other journal entry that might go on that page. It’s interesting to re-read later and see how my book notes have similar themes to my regular journal entries and scripture studies from the same timeframe.

Beginning-of-the-year thoughts. I don’t really set goals at the beginning of the year, but I do like to dedicate the first page of the year to writing out a few hopes for it. If I start a new journal in the middle of the year (which is a guarantee for me because I fill them with so much), I rewrite those hopes on the first page of the journal as a reminder.

Calendar notes. I have a calendar on my desk and do not at all ask my journal to function that way, but I do like to make a note of holidays, birthdays, and milestones next to the day’s date, just so I can easily remember if I look back.

[I also use a prayer journal and a poetry journal, but I like to keep those separate from the rest of my writing.]

How I Decorate

A colorful, thrown-together journal might not work for everyone, but it adds some extra sunshine to my life to be able to decorate my pages. Most of my decorations end up serving a purpose, too! I use a few different things.

Quotes. I’ve always collected quotes from anywhere I find them, so incorporating them into my journal pages makes a lot of sense for me, and also makes it a bit easier to find one if I want to go back to it.

I write them on any blank spot on the page I’m currently using. I prefer to use fun gel pens or markers, but if I only have my simple black pen with me I don’t mind using that, either. Cursive hand lettering looks pretty regardless of the pen you’re using.

I don’t really go looking for quotes to add in, because I regularly find a good amount that leave an impression on me in everyday life– from songs I hear, tweets, Pinterest, books or blog posts I read (I don’t often take notes on whole books like I mentioned earlier, but sometimes there are just lovely lines, aren’t there?), movies I watch, Tyler Knott Gregson’s poetry blog (swoon), and anything else relevant for me at the time.

Photos. At the end of every month, I look through my photos and print out a few highlights from that month to make a page or two into a mini scrapbook. I write “[Month] Moments” at the top of the page, arrange the photos to my liking, attach them with regular scotch tape rolled on the back, then add any little commentary I want to below the photos. Sometimes I won’t have a photo from something that happened, so I’ll bullet point those moments somewhere on the page. If there are photos from a particular event and I also have a little memento from it, such as a concert ticket or wristband, I like to pair those together.DSC00457DSC00323

If I have strips from a photo booth, I like to add those into my journal, too, but I probably wouldn’t wait until the end of the month. I would instead just add them when I got them, on the journal page from that day. I do the same with movie tickets.

Apart from my monthly scrapbook page, I regularly add in a random photo or two to most of my journal pages, simply because it brings me a little burst of joy; I’m very visual and love having lovely images around me. These random photos aren’t usually my own, instead I scroll through my Pinterest and find a handful that I want to print out. I print them wallet-sized on regular office paper from my home printer and save them in an envelope I’ve attached to the back page of my journal (if the journal doesn’t have a built-in pocket) until I want to use one. Sometimes the photo fills in an empty space on the page, other times I add the photo first and work around it. How I execute all my creative journal additions depends on my mood, which I like, because my feelings seem to be reflected on the page visually even if I didn’t write a journal entry about how I felt.journal spread photos

Washi tape, doodles, & stickers. These things generally serve as space fillers and just add a nice bit of color and interest to the pages.oooooooooooooo

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my journal, and that maybe you’ve even found a spark of inspiration for your own. Don’t succumb to any pressure you feel to be a daily writer, or make every page a work of art, or do anything a certain way. Just do it for you.

Do you journal? What works well for you? What about it makes you happy?

I Started an Etsy Shop!

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art drawerThe idea to sell my artwork and some of my other creative projects through Etsy has been in my head for over a year. But I immediately faced discouragement when I first began vocalizing it, so I mostly shoved the thought away.

In November, however, I was given an opportunity that I so wanted to take hold of. It was going to cost more money than I had (or would have any time in the near future), but I had such a desire for it that I was ready to start taking the idea of an Etsy shop seriously and see if I could raise funds that way. I began to research, ask friends who had experience, and work on what I was going to be selling.

But because my situation is unique (living with my family and working on creative pursuits from home, with no income to speak of), I faced a lot of setbacks during the process. Starting a business was intimidating. Okay: it was terrifying. I was determined to push through the fear, but running into roadblock after roadblock was becoming more spirit-crushing with every instance. And when the opportunity that had spurred me to start working on this in the first place fell through… I just kind of left everything alone. I didn’t intend to give up. But I did give up.

When I had been working to build the business and began facing discouragement, the Lord had been so clearly and openly supportive of me. He pointed me to the story of the Eiffel Tower; when it was being built, the art community in Paris was circulating a petition to stop the work, claiming it would be an ugly mark on a beautiful area in the city. The builders continued anyway, and created a piece of artwork so widely loved that it has become an icon. He told me this story, and encouraged me to keep building. I wanted to listen. For a while, I did. But eventually I let the discouragement get to me.

Lately I have been revisiting some of our conversations from that season, and seeing what He said and didn’t say… and what I did and didn’t do. Etsy was something He said was good. And something I have ignored. I don’t want that to be the case anymore.

Last week– I opened my Etsy shop. Tessa Maye Makes Things is alive.

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I know I will face challenges. But I will face them, as they come, instead of letting them cripple me or keep me from something that could be good. I am nervous. But when I put the final piece of information in and saw my shop go live for the first time? I took a deep breath. I felt relieved, and I felt hopeful. I’m not going to ignore that.

If you want to check out my artwork/projects, feel free to visit the shop! I am brainstorming more ideas for it already. But, if nothing else, I want to urge you: that thing that still invades your mind sometimes? That He placed a desire for in you? That maybe He’s even told you He’d support you in?

Keep building.

Hopes I Lived in 2016 {Part One}

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My greatest fear is that what I hope for will not come to pass. There are so many good things I want to experience, and with every disappointment I face I become terrified that they won’t work out. That is why I keep a list.

I have an ever-growing list of things I hope for. I call them my “looking forward to” lists, to keep me trusting. Last year I decided to see how many things I’d lived from them– and found the number was fifty-six.

Dreams are made for life. Sometimes, it really doesn’t look that way. But I still believe it’s true.

And to strengthen that belief, I’m sharing some of the dreams I lived in 2016– of the 77 total. Let’s do it.

Reading more books. | Reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. | Reading more fairy tales. | Reading the Anne of Green Gables series. | Reading If You Feel Too Much.

I set my reading challenge to thirty books this year because I thought, “I was in college half of last year and I still managed to read 18 books! I can read thirty this year for sure!” I didn’t quite realize that I like taking my sweet time to read; I didn’t even reach 18 this year. What I did read, however, was overall wonderful. My favorites were probably The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers (I wrote about it), and the last four books in the Anne of Green Gables series. You can see everything I read this year on my Goodreads Year in Books.

Going to more concerts. | Going to a rap concert.concertssssss

I was surprisingly able to go to a handful of shows this year! Meigan and I saw Rend Collective in February, which was a wonderful time of what felt like a family gathering; my mom and I took a mini road trip to Fish Fest in August with Cindy and Jamie, where we spent all day in the hot sun to see many acts, including Switchfoot (they played the song I secretly hoped they would and my heart soared); and in September I got to take a fun trip with Meigan and Brandon to see NF and Fleurie, two artists I admire so much.

Holding babies.

I did this often because I volunteered in a nursery. I also realized that working with children is not my passion, and stopped doing it. It was a weird discovery, but I think I’m relieved to not be guilting myself into serving a certain way anymore.

Seeing meaningful new movies. | Seeing new Pixar movies.

I’m not as much of a movie person as I once was; I do a lot more rewatching of films I already love as opposed to exploring new ones. But I still got to watch quite a few stories that touched me in some way this year. It terms of new films/Pixar films? Finding Dory was so, so wonderful and Rogue One shocked me with how much it made me feel.

Getting better at painting. | Making art that gets me excited when I finish it. Getting better at art-journaling. artttt

I practiced with acrylics a lot more this year and have become much more comfortable with them. Working in an art journal was a great way to try out different ideas and expand the ways I create. Something I’ve learned this year is that the greater volume of things you make, the more okay you are with making imperfect things, because you know there’s a lot more to come and that you’re getting better all the time. [The prompt journal I’ve used is the Wreck This Journal, if you’re interested in trying it out!]

Hiking a calm little forest trail. | Being reunited with college family. | Having a simple breakfast with people I love.spencers-hike-group

I got to spend a day last month with most of my little group of friends from college. It was refreshing to see them again. It’s also becoming refreshing to feel less tied down to what things were like in college and to welcome what’s here now. I’d never hiked this particular butte, and the view was wildly wonderful even on the cloudy day. I love Oregon. [Photo by Cooper]

friendiverseryIn August, I also happened to be in the same place with the three original friends I met during orientation years ago! We’re still cuties, aren’t we? [Photo by Meigan]

Buying scented candles and lighting them all the time. | Smelling roses and other wonderful smells.

I actually started using a candle warmer this year! I like how long the wax cubes last (much longer than a regular candle), and discovering where to find new scents.

Visiting the coast again. | Camping with people I adore.coastttt

I spent a night in a yurt with my grandparents. It was rainy and cold, but we found graffiti under a bridge and cried laughing while playing Jenga and Bananagrams. The next day was much more sunny; we visited a lighthouse and a lookout point. Oregon, man…

Taking a class from my beloved writing teacher again.

I wrote this on my first “looking forward to” list. I wasn’t sure at that point in time if I’d ever go back to college or not, but now I’m sure I won’t (which is completely fine with me; preferable, actually). But when I found it in my lists as I was preparing to write this post, I stopped for a minute and sat in all the emotions that came. My writing teacher died this summer. I’d experienced grief before, but not like I experienced it for her. She was supportive of me and invested in my growth during a time when I could have given up myself. I still remember what she taught me, both in writing and in being a person, every single day. I love you and miss you, Ms. Lee.

Learning an instrument. | Feeling more skilled in things I currently feel like an amateur in. | Having my passion for music be known by the people around me, instead of bottled within myself.

Last year, if you had asked me what I do, I would vaguely mention art; I was ashamed of my skill level in music, didn’t feel like a true music-maker. That has changed this year. I’ve discovered songs in my ancient Casio’s keys during my frequent playtime with it, and teaching myself to play a few songs through YouTube tutorials has been helping me train my ear and get better at using both hands. I love saying, “I play with piano.” It’s truly like a delightful game for me. I have so much more to learn, but I am learning, and I love it. Music is home.

Setting up my easel and painting somewhere outside. | Having painting parties.artttt-oopsssss

When your best friend calls you asking if you can come over “like, right now” and paint with her from a birdwatching tower, you say yes. Such sweet times with her. Thanks for getting me to dip my toes in the world of oil paints, Sierra. It inspired me to go and paint the lake grew up next to the next week.

dsc07810I also had a few friends over to play around with watercolor near my birthday. Look at how great they did (mine’s the one that looks like it’s framed by fruit loops ignore that one)!

Getting letters from people I love. | Writing letters.skinners-with-katie

Always writing to Katie from across the country, except now she gets to write about her wedding plans! Love her so much. She came to visit during the summer.

Discovering more musicians I’ll cherish forever. | Growing more associations with albums and seasons of my life.

The most impactful discoveries this year were NF, Fleurie, Anthem Lights, Jeremiah Daly, and Kings Kaleidoscope. You’ll find them all on the playlist I made throughout 2016, which is on both YouTube and Spotify if you want to eavesdrop.

Adopting a pet. | Holding adorable little animals.dsc07779

Jonas came into my life in October. I wrote about him.

Wearing more pretty dresses.

I became a little obsessed with my black and white striped dress, and may have just gotten a navy and white striped dress with longer sleeves because I like the look so much…

 Seeing my best friend again and going on a random little adventure with her.

Our adventure this year didn’t go as we planned. But with all the children’s books, car talks, tea, bad karaoke, borrowed pajamas, and Eloise at Christmastime gushing? We’re still my favorite.

Coloring with children.

My dad had me watch his friend’s granddaughter on the fourth of July; her adventurous spirit and ability to color way beyond her age’s typical skill level were wonderful surprises.

Making notebooks for friends.

I don’t make them for my own school notes anymore, so I like being able to still put them in schools somehow. Having my friends be the vessels is the best way I can think of.

Making prayer-art a regular part of my life.

In high school I met a woman who “prayed in color;” she’d paint in a journal whatever came to her mind as she prayed, and was able to express some of the wordless things she was feeling. I was inspired and wanted to do the same thing, but it didn’t really connect for me like it seemed to for her. I’ve learned that it serves a different purpose for me. When a friend asks me to pray for them in a specific way, sometimes I’ll feel like I’m supposed to paint about it, so I’ll do that as I pray, and will often send them the artwork afterwards with a note about any impression I was getting. I also feel driven to create when tragedy hits the world in some way.

Watching fireworks at our annual Fourth of July barbeques.

I went through a video-making phase during the summer, so I have this year’s fireworks set to music. You can watch it here.

Playing Loaded Questions.

We played for hours at a church group I go to; I laughed harder than I had in a very long time. We’re good at being a bit intense in our discussions, so it was nice to have a light-hearted night and get to know each other’s personalities a bit more.

Making more quote signs.principles-painting

A pretty common practice for me, but always fun. And the past month or so, I’ve been working out some plans concerning my little encouragement posters! Hopefully you will hear about it soon.

Writing about some of the big things. | Finding new things to write about.

I wrote about being kind to myself; about having flaws, and how maybe that’s okay; about forgiveness that doesn’t stop being necessary; about getting defensive on the internet; about using religion as a tool instead of a fence; about being hopeful despite the fear of getting crushed; about not finding a place shaped like me; about love being the cure; about shame, and what it was like to grow up in church; about my pornography addiction and honesty; about God’s revelation to me concerning anxiety and the tools He’s given me to replace it; about my promise to be your friend in our differences… yeah. Some of the big things.

Seeing friendships grow deeper. | Hugging people I love.dsc07791

Two of my favorite things about life. Enjoy this photo of my sister and I near our birthdays.

Finding a purse that suits me.

I haven’t had good luck with purses because I don’t want to lug around something big, yet I want room for a sketchbook or journal amongst my other little things. Finally found something in a good size that’s also pretty cute (and it was on sale)!

Driving in tree-filled areas during the fall.

My situation is a little different from what it was last year, and I was a bit downtrodden when I realized I probably wasn’t going to be able to drive much, if at all, this fall. But I did get to drive a few times. And one particular day, I drove under so many trees that I was able to be in the dance of what felt like hundreds of leaves by the time I reached my destination. Grace.

Owning more band merchandise.

The concerts I went to this year helped! I super enjoy my t-shirt with some of my favorite Switchfoot lyrics, and my NF hat (I’ve discovered a love a good ball cap, by the way).

Watching more episodes of great web series.

Oh my goodness, Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party came out this year and I loved it! Not only is it hilarious, but it’s super well-written with a mystery that I couldn’t nail down until the very end. If you want to see classic authors blame each other for murder in the most hilarious ways, but also be curious and in the dark along with them, definitely check out Poe Party!

Giving and receiving words of love on our message board.

We do this super often now that only two of us are home during the day. My mom writes little notes every single morning; sometimes there are puns…

Making food for people.

I put the frozen pizza in the oven every Monday night. I’m saying that counts.

Drinking strawberry lemonade.gee-katie

I’m not the biggest fan of Roadhouse Grill, but we go there once a year for my parents’ anniversary and I get the strawberry lemonade every single time. Wow it is good. I also had watermelon lemonade at a little picnic with Katie and G’ma Edie this summer.

Writing new poems that express what I want them to.

I’ve written a poem every day this year. Not only has it helped me as a writing exercise (if you’re a writer of any kind, study/read/write poetry; it teaches economy of words and gets your head voice familiar with what sounds right), but sometimes it’s my opportunity to get what’s inside me out and find the starting point of some closure or insight. Gems have come from it, at least in my perspective. I’m working on figuring out what to do with them.

You can find my “looking forward to” lists here, here, and here.

Next week I will be posting part two of the hopes I lived this year!

A Peek at My Daily Poems

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journals on deskI write a free-verse poem every night as a way to express and process, as well as to have some kind of creative discipline. For the past month, my poems have often ended up putting words to what the Holy Spirit is teaching me. I don’t normally consider sharing these little poems because they are such vulnerable, exposed pieces of me. But nearly every day last month, I had a desire to let others read what I had just written. That’s what I’m doing today. I hope you hear something in them like I heard as I wrote them, at least in some measure.

December 22, 2015–
On the bad days,
I hope your remember me.
I hope when you feel your holes, sore and gaping,
You remember I carry healing in my own.
I hope when you are restless from isolation,
You remember I choose you and seek you.
I hope when you host the burden of your questions,
You remember my arms are the answer, period.
I’m sorry you have bad days.
But I hope you remember me when you do.

January 1, 2016–
Not every day will be easy to live;
You’re a human, and humans hurt.
But you also know God.
And God heals.
Not every day will be easy to live;
But He’ll be with you in all of them.

January 6, 2016–
Today was a hard one.
It slowly wrung you out, in the same motion as suffocation;
You struggled to breathe.
I’m so glad you kept trying.
Rest tonight.
And know I am with you for all of it.
I will never leave you to ache alone:
I will do it, too.

January 7, 2016–
Let the happiness bubble out of you.
You don’t have to ask why He gave the gift;
It’s enough to Him that you loved it so much.

January 10, 2016–
We get to share this life with so many,
And I’m wildly in love with that.
But this life belongs to us alone.
You get to decide what we do with it,
And I’ll follow you in love.
And we’ll hope as many as possible still want to share in it.

January 14, 2016–
Sometimes we hold so tight
To our hurts, our ticking bombs,
Because they remind us of what we need.
Sometimes we are so afraid to let go
Of the hopes placed on our burdens,
Because the only part we choose to see is hope.
Sometimes, our fingers must be pried
Off the weights keeping us from life–
Because we are far too loved to be held down.

January 17, 2016–
I am cruel; you are kind.
I pray your thoughts invade my mind.
I am broken; you will heal.
You are here with me and you are real.

January 23, 2016–
You are always growing,
Always becoming.
And I am always in love with you,
Every stage.

January 26, 2016–
It’s in the pieces.
It’s there you can get stuck in the mess–
Or you can find joy in the beauty of
Every
Little
Thing.

January 27, 2016–
I forgive you.
For this, and this, and this, and this.
Every day I will write these lists on my heart,
Will remember you did what you could.
I cannot stop forgiving you,
Or you will never stop hurting me.
Yes, I forgive you.

January 30, 2016–
The voice of fear is loud and close–
But it is cowardly.
Speak back to it, boldly.
It will run as fast as it wanted you to.

On Making Art I Hate

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The longer I’m alive and the more I create, I am beginning to see that I’ll never make art I like unless I keep making art I hate.DSC01456

I don’t know if I’ve ever hated something I’ve made, but it has sometimes been difficult to have a glorious image of what it will look or sound like in my mind, only to fall short in being able to make that with my own limited hands. I think that’s the hardest part. The piece might not be terrible, but it isn’t what I wanted it to be. So, to me, it is terrible, because it’s a tangible reminder that I fall short.

For a long time, I let that feeling discourage me from making anything.

I would cut up magazine pages to make flowers because I had unused creative passion in me, but I didn’t want to paint, and I definitely didn’t want to try penning any lyrics. There are so many gifted artists in this world, in my own life, even, and it’s sometimes hard to believe that I have something worth listening to when there are a lot of people who could express it better than I can. Some already have. And I just don’t know where what I make fits into all these voices.

I’ve realized it’s okay if multiple voices speak the same thing.

A few unfinished paintings have been sitting around my easel for a while, shoved under a tablet of watercolor paper, me being completely uninspired to do anything more with them. But the past two days, two friends have visited my house. One painted with me as we watched a Spiderman movie, and told me as she looked around my nearly covered walls that she was getting inspired; the other asked about my art and what it meant, telling me she loved all of it. I didn’t know I needed to hear those things, but oh I needed to. Something in me just clicked into place, and I just keep making things. I just keep asking for inspiration, and finding it, because I’m looking. And because I say yes to using it.

I often fall into telling my soul, “Someone else will write a brilliant verse about that;” “Someone else would be able to portray that wondrously;” “I’m excited to see that when someone else makes it.” And over time, I’ve grown tired of hearing it. I’ve been choosing to just try, even if I won’t do as well as I think someone else might in making that thing the best it can be. If the inspiration happened inside me, who else can I ask to create it? Only the Lord and I get to see it when it stays walled up. And that is one of the biggest reasons I keep trying.

Yesterday, I finished the unfinished things. One had to be cut small and pasted onto a journal page. One kept wanting more, so I continued to mix colors throughout the day, trying to appease it, until it said, “Hey… maybe now I’m enough.” One was a surprise, starting out as an “I-don’t-want-to-waste-paint-so-let’s-just-smear-it-all-on-this-paper” piece but becoming a garden that made my mouth curve slightly upwards. And one… one just needed to be looked at a while longer, until I decided it was okay. None of them made me particularly excited, but I was so grateful to finally be making something, to finally breathe the rest of the life into the half-made things. And then…

He gave me three song ideas. Three. And I started all of them, and I felt alive again.

Music is my heart’s desire, so much so that it terrifies me and I need the people around me to continuously remind me not to run from it. But I haven’t written lyrics in so long, because there are poets and writers and singers so much more eloquent and gifted than I am. I fear deep in my bones that I am not good enough.

When all I need to do is say yes.

I ran with the inspiration, not away from it. I believed that maybe I can express at least some piece of what I see. And even if nothing became a glorious work, I worked gloriously because I said yes to doing it.

Those finished paintings from yesterday didn’t end up like my hopes for them; they weren’t wonderful. But because I had enough in me to say yes to making them, I said yes to the next inspiration, too. I spent hours on it today.

And I really, really like it.

I didn’t know if it would capture a bit of what I was seeing inside me. But I was willing to see, to give it a chance. And at the end, I backed away… and I caught a glimpse. My heart fluttered for a moment, and I just sat and stared.

I wouldn’t have this if I didn’t have the good-enoughs.

I wouldn’t be able to create what I love if I didn’t create what I hate sometimes, too.

One of The Good Days

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I am bursting. I have joy bubbling up inside me, joy that’s making me dance in circles around my room even though the song on my playlist right now is hard rock. It’s weird, and I know this isn’t going to make a lot of sense to you, maybe, but that’s okay.

Look what I did:life watercolor on easel

I painted. I painted on a full-sized piece of art paper. For the first time in such a long time.

For over a month now I’ve been in this place of complete open seas, not knowing where the Lord is leading me but knowing that He is leading. It’s a place that I’ve been grieving in, a place that I’ve been confused and hurt in, a place that I’ve wanted to leave. And I’m still here.

But today was the first time I saw a sign that I really am going somewhere.

I told you a few weeks ago that I feel so inadequate to make the art I want to make sometimes. And that having those insecurities comes from doubting that God is capable of using me in the ways I secretly dream He would use me. Knowing that I left college because the Lord wanted me to do some kind of creative work, the fear that I can’t make good enough art is crippling. But things are getting better. He’s teaching me to create again. He’s teaching me to go into creativity with the thought in the back of my mind, “There is a definite possibility that I could like this when I’m done with it.” And He’s teaching me to trust Him and what He says about me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made something creative and been really excited about the way it turned out. But today broke that. I love this piece. And although I hope other people like it, too, it doesn’t matter to me a lot if they do. Because I think it’s lovely and it gets me excited every time I look at it. There are hard days, days that make me feel like I’m not going to be able to do what He wants me to do and what I want to do.

But there are also days like this.

I made blank space on my walls when the semester ended. I took down the pieces that didn’t carry deep meaning for me, but I also unintentionally made it so that I needed to fill those empty spots with new art. And I’m excited to start the refilling with this new piece, this piece that is ironic and kind.

On Creative Drought & Faith

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I baked cookies in the heat today.bowl of cookie cookies and bowl ovenready cookies

Why? Because I feel completely dry of creative juices.

I have written the same blog post nearly all day for two days now, and I don’t even know if I’ll end up posting it. I’m not passionate about it, I feel like I didn’t convey things the way I wanted to, and I don’t know if anyone else could even benefit from it.

“What’s the point?” my inner critic asks me bitterly.

I sketched out the beginnings of a painting I wanted to work on yesterday. The lines are there now, but I don’t want to fill them in. Because I can’t shut the thought out of my brain that it won’t end up looking the way I want it to look.

“Why would I waste so much time on something that I’ll end up finishing with the words ‘good enough’?” my inner cynic asks, a whisper of sadness in her tone.

I love my friends. I don’t get to see many as often as I used to and I’m trying to cope with that. I’ve been writing letters with a friend back and forth, but it’s been a while now since I’ve received her letter and I still haven’t written back. Because I feel like what I write her has to be uplifting, and I just don’t know if I have the right words.

“Why is it so hard to just make something heartfelt and be happy with that?” I whisper, hugging my legs in my desk chair.

That’s why I made cookies today. I want to– have to– create, but I am terrified that what I make isn’t good enough.

Cookies are easy. As long as they’re golden brown and taste like a cookie, they’re successful. There’s no pressure; I don’t view them as an expression of my soul. They don’t have to be unique, expressive, interesting. But what I write here, what I paint onto a canvas, what I say to someone else… it matters to me. A lot. I want it to be good.

I want to be able to create things that don’t get in the way of what I’m trying to express to you. I want to make something that captures what’s inside me and speaks into your life. And I’m being completely honest with you: I feel like I just can’t. I feel like I don’t have a voice to match my soul. My soul has so much in it, so much I wish I could share. I wish I had that ability. But, today, I don’t feel like I do. There are days like this that are just hard.

This is so hard for me to handle, because creating is what Jesus has asked me to do. I left college because He wanted me to create. I can’t express how weighed down I feel by the thought that I can’t do what He’s asked of me. If I can’t do it, what else can I do? Is anything left?

Phew. I’m sorry. Thank you for listening to my ugly.

I wrote a poem about a month ago when I was feeling like this.

Do you ever feel like you fail before you start?
Because it’s not what you do–
It’s you?
I am telling you, soul: this is your design!
You were created for this.
And the only person who can truly get in your way?
It’s you.
Believe in who you are;
Trust Him who made and is leading you.
There is so much beauty here, and–
It’s you.

And it makes me think maybe I should just keep creating, even in the slough. It’s not my best, but it’s not my worst, and I think I said what I wanted to say through it for the most part. If it helps no one else, it’s helping me.

After I wrote it, I realized that doubting my ability to create was a symptom of doubting the Lord. Knowing He asked me to take some intense risks in order to create, and knowing that all He’s been saying to me lately has been to express and create, what could make me think that I’m not able? This is His will for me. I am on the path I followed Him onto. Nothing is going to stop Him from accomplishing His good purposes, not even if I am lacking. This is His. He is in this. He has strength for my weakness. He has prepared these things in advance for me. I can create expressive, interesting, unique, meaningful art, because He wills it be so.

When I don’t trust that I can do it, it’s an indicator that I don’t fully trust Him. Creating great art seems impossible because I’ve been trying to trust myself for it, and put all my stock in my own abilities. And the truth is–

I don’t have what it takes. I can’t do this alone.

But Jesus?

He can take me there. And He’s told me He will. And when He does, it won’t be because I’m wonderful and talented; it will be because I am swimming in His grace. It is hard to sit back and wait, but it’s even harder when I find that I’m not trusting Him. When I don’t trust Him, I end up not even trusting what He says about me. And He says that I am chosen, royal, holy. He says that He does all He does for my good. He says that I share in suffering in order to become more like Him.

And He says that He loves me. He loves me enough to give up His life for me, to call me His friend, to walk with me every day.

I am growing in believing Him deep in my heart.

I haven’t believed You.
But it’s more than that.
I haven’t believed You because…
Because You believe in me.
And I don’t.

May we have so much faith in you, Lord, that we will have faith in your promises, too. May we seek to glorify you in what we do and may that be enough for us, because it is enough for you. May we feel deep in our souls that you are our reward, and that you understand our depths even when we can’t express them. And may we see an inkling of what you see in us. We love you.