Observing the Creative Life

sunsetcruise2

I’m writing a new book, and this time I get to do it with a friend.

Wendy and I have been batting around this idea of inspiration, of motherhood, and of creativity for several years now, and as we continue to flesh it out, a message is taking shape, and together we are diving in so that we can share this message with all of you.

This process is requiring more of my time, but that’s okay. I don’t mind sleeping a little less. I consider it training for bringing home a new baby in a couple of months.

I also find myself researching constantly this idea of creativity, and how it fits into life, into motherhood, and into ministry. Everywhere I turn these days, it seems I run into examples of creative people making big impacts. I can hardly have a conversation anymore without some sort of bell sounding in my head:

This person is a creative. Observe! Observe! Observe!

Historical works and figures are not left out of my observations, either. Yesterday at church we discussed Psalm 22. At one point, one of the women in our group made the observation that David seemed a bit “eccentric.” His writings were revelations, they were songs, they were musings – for heaven’s sake, the man danced in nothing but a linen ephod, despite being king!

As she spoke, I had to bite my tongue to keep from blurting out, “David was a creative!”

Indeed, many creatives can be easily labeled as eccentric. Some may even dance their praise.

Creatives view the world differently, looking at life through a different lens. Writers don’t see words, they see stories that move and come to life. Artists don’t see colors, they see vivid shapes that form on canvas, in marble, and in blocks of wood. Bakers don’t see ingredients, they see bold cakes, artistic cookies, and people gathered to enjoy one another over a scone and some tea. Jewelry makers don’t see a hunk of metal – they see a necklace, a message adorning hope and beauty to the world.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: creative people are everywhere. They are all around us, and the more I observe them, the more I am in awe of this process of creating as an act of praise.

I hear music differently these days, because I imagine the process the songwriter went through to pen those words. (And it’s to be generally understood that I’m talking about good music here – not the teeny bopper pop fluff that my kids force me to listen to on a day to day basis). I feel the rhythms deeper as I imagine the pianist at the helm of her craft, or the drummer pounding in time with his heart.

As I research what it means to live this life with a creative bent, I grow more in awe of my Creator as well. Last night, I had the privilege of enjoying a sunset cruise in the Gulf of Mexico with some friends. As the sun dipped behind the clouds, and the sky around us lit up in red, orange, and yellow, I couldn’t help but smile at the master strokes of the One who Created it all.

It’s a privilege to live this life creatively, and if you are doing so, I urge you to keep doing it. Photographers, keep on capturing God’s creation, and revealing the world through your lens as He sees it through His.

Writers, pen your words as an act of worship.

Singers, do not hold back in fear or shame, but let loose a new song as an offering of praise.

To all my creative friends and readers, I offer you this – your gift is worth sharing with the world, and your eccentricities make your gift that much more beautiful to watch.

As this message and this book continue to come together, I will continue to share encouragement. We get one life – one chance to fully live out that to which we have been called. Creative friends – live your art out loud.  

Dance it if you have to!

3 Steps to Tapping into Your Imagination

I had this imaginary friend growing up. Actually, she was more than just my imaginary friend, she was my imaginary twin sister. Her name was Janine, and we had a grand old time together until about the 4th grade when it began to dawn on me that playing with an imaginary sister was probably not the most socially acceptable form of free play.

Still, there were occasions for another year or so when I’d revisit my memories of time spent with Janine. I vividly remember that letting her go was a difficult thing for me to do, but the maturing part of my brain new it was a necessary task.

The funny thing about imagination is that it feels so very real, yet we know without a doubt that the created world inside our heads is false. For children, imaginative play is key to development, with some children exhibiting much better ability at tapping into their inner creativity than others.

For adults, imagination can often lend itself to fear. We know too much about the heartaches of this world, and that knowledge works against us.

There is something quite magical that happens, however, when an adult is able to tap into the healthy places of her imagination. This is where art is created – where stories take shape, paintings bloom on blank canvas, culinary masterpieces are placed on the table, and empty walls are filled with design.

Creativity is birthed in imagination, if we allow ourselves the space to let our minds soar.

imagination

 

Here are three easy steps to tapping into your imagination:

1.) Sit and think.

How often do we sit still as adults? Do we ever allow our minds the space to breathe and expand? For the busy mother, caught in the throes of parenting, sitting in silence is likely an unknown luxury. We hit the ground running from sun up to sun down, and at the end of the day, when given a few precious evening moments, often the television draws us in as the perfect zone out.

But what would happen if you gave yourself five or ten, or even more, minutes a day to just sit in the quiet? To think? To day dream? To imagine? What could you create in that quiet space? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps it would do no more than simply leave you refreshed, allowing you to create at a later time.

But maybe you would find that a whole wealth of ideas lay dormant in your muddled brain. If you’re a creative at heart, I guarantee those ideas are there. They’re just waiting to be discovered.

2.) Get your hands dirty.

There’s something about digging in and working that tends to wake up a dormant brain. While most mothers work themselves to the bone every day preparing meals, washing clothes, cleaning the house, and tending to the 642 needs that seem to arise every hour, we don’t often get away and work on something for the sheer pleasure of working on it.

We don’t let work be a time to engage our brains. Instead, we shut our minds down , laying all thought on the altar of the next necessary task.

Creatively freeing work will look different for everyone. For some, it’s the act of exercising. For others, it’s getting out in the yard and pulling weeds. Some simply need to do the creative work they love to do, while others find that their souls breathe when they’re scrubbing a bathtub.

Figure out what type of work engages the creative side of your brain and make a plan to do it as frequently as you possibly can.

3.) Laugh more.

According to WebMD, some researchers believe that laughter is one of the best, natural medicines.

“We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.

People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout – and may offer some of the same advantages as a workout.

One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.” From Give Your Body a Boost  - WebMD

While laughter is not guaranteed to make you more creative, it is almost certain to lift your spirit, giving you energy, excitement, and the added benefit of joy that often births a creative splurge.

Look for the humor in every day life, and when you see it go ahead and laugh out loud. Just driving down the road gives plenty of laughable material, from the irony in roadside signs (“Huge Garage Sale” planted firmly in front of 4 worn items) to the goofy things your children say on a day to day basis.

“Hey Mom. When you get married, how long can you kiss your husband? And what do you do if you are kissing and you want to stop. Do you just yell, ‘Stop!’ with your lips pressed on his?”

You don’t have to invent an imaginary twin sister to tap into your imagination. With a little bit of effort, and the willingness to carve out a few moments of your day, you could find that a creative muse lay dormant just below the surface.

You just have to let her breathe.

 

When Life is Measured in Days

There is a common belief that women are not only good at multi-tasking, but we thrive on it. While I have no doubt that many women fall into this category of master multi-taskers, I’ve found that, for myself, as years go by I have become less and less deft at the art of multi-tasking. It seems that I can focus on one event at a time these days, and before I can move forward with the next momentous step, I must get through the packed days before me.

lifemeasured

We have 28 days of summer vacation left. As always, the time has flown by and we haven’t fit in all the fun I’d intended to fit in when school ended. Perhaps this is because I always set expectations just a smidge too high?

This is quite possible.

I counted today, and there are 60 days until baby is due. That seems like it should be a long time, but considering how fast time has flown by already, I’m anticipating that the remaining two months until she arrives will be a blur.

If I sit down and think of all that needs to be accomplished in the next 60 days, or all that I still want to do in the next 28, I feel my heart race. Anxiousness sets in and I want nothing more than to hole up in a corner with a good book and pretend it isn’t happening.

Life can easily be measured in momentous events. We can move from one big thing to the next without even enjoying the moments in between. This is the danger that I face, that we all face, every single day. Will I enjoy what today has to offer, or will I get lost in the looming deadline of 28 days, 60 days, and so on…

Part of me dreads the end of this summer break. I love summer, and (most of the time) I love having my kids home with me. While a piece of me craves the routine that school brings with it, the other part of me mourns the thought of those measured out days.

Equally, I feel both anticipation and trepidation at the thought of welcoming our daughter in 60(ish) days. I can’t wait to meet her…but also I can.

There’s a lot to be done between now and then, but most importantly, my goal is not to dwell on the measured length of the days we have left. I want to enjoy today for all it has to offer. The quiet of this morning, and the laziness of today. Friends coming to town, family fun at the beach, sleepovers with friends, and late night movies.

There’s nothing I can do about the life deadlines looming before me, but I can enjoy the moments in between. I have to try, anyway. The alternative is to live from big event to big event, and all the little moments would be lost in the shuffle.

And what is life without the little moments, right?

How do you keep yourself from living from one big event to the next? How do you balance living out your days with planning for the future? What do you do when life feels measured by the days instead of moments?

Creative You

vacation5

I’m back. It’s been a lovely two weeks in which I’ve simply let my soul breathe. I’ve spent little time online, and much time in the very present moment with my family. I feel refreshed, excited, and inspired.

I didn’t know how much I needed the time away.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the creative process in our two weeks on the road. Instead of creating, I’ve thought about the simple art of creating – the act of writing, of photographing, of painting and singing. I’ve watched it and seen it and felt the power of the creative arts.

I stood at the top of the Smoky Mountains, and I marveled at the Creator’s brush strokes – the Hand that carved each path, shaped each height.

Vacation1

I’ve watched my children laugh and play. I’ve listened to their delight as they discovered the thrill of shooting a sling shot, exploring a creek bed, walking beneath a waterfall. I’ve gasped in motherly fear when one got too close to the edge, and tried to be cool though images of them plummeting over the side gave me more than a few heart attacks.

Vacation2

We spent a week in Nashville catching up with friends, both new and old. The laughter and shared life gave way to gratefulness. And not once or twice, but more times than I can count, the conversation of creativity came up. It’s not hard to find yourself amidst a group of creatives in a place like Nashville.

The town is teeming with creativity.

For those of us with a bent toward the creative arts, every day has new potential. We wake up with the longing to build, to shape and mold something out of nothing.

Song lyrics.

Stories.

Melodies.

Paintings.

Delicacies.

Decor.

It’s very real, this life of the creative. We don’t always know how to describe it, but we feel it deeply. We know that we were made to create. Some days that creative power flows freely, while other days it tends to bottle up. Life responsibilities sometimes hinder the creative process, but still it sits, waiting for us to tap in and unleash.

vacation3

I used to think I was alone in this creative life. It made me feel strange, this need to sit down and write, to pen stories for no reason at all. I wondered if my passion for the written word was frivolous. It doesn’t make me much money, so what’s the point?

The point, I’m realizing more and more, is that this art of creating is my act of worship. When I write, I am in communion with my God. The rhythm of the keyboard is my praise offering to Him.

And for you, my fellow creatives, it is very much the same.

That thing you do? It’s an act of worship. You were created with a love for your art, and it is legitimate and real. What you do is a valid form of worship, so give it back freely and joyfully. Don’t be ashamed of your art, and don’t fight the urge to create. Your creative brain holds purpose in this world.

You are a mirror of the Creator Himself. So create.

Embrace it, feel it, see it, and create it.

This is your act of worship.

On Vacation

breathe

I am giving myself permission to do something that I haven’t allowed myself to do in the six and a half years I’ve been blogging.

I am going to take a break.

Funny story: Last week, Lee and I decided to take a spontaneous family trip to Gatlinberg, Tennessee. We rarely take vacations just the five of us – in fact, I honestly am not sure we’ve ever taken a vacation just the five of us. Most of our trips consist of traveling with people, or traveling to see people.

The problem is, I got my dates wrong. I was certain that I made our hotel reservation for Wednesday to Sunday, with the plan being we would leave Tuesday, drive half way, and arrive Wednesday. So I’ve been frantically trying to get us packed and ready to leave tomorrow for three weeks away, because after Gatlinberg, we’re sending Tia to camp in Crossville, TN, while the rest of us go to Nashville. And from there, we’re all headed to Arkansas for a week.

Are you exhausted, yet?

I realized just this morning that our hotel reservations are actually Thursday to Sunday, which means we’re leaving a day later than planned, which kind of disappoints me, honestly. But I’m also a bit relieved because trying to pack for three weeks in three different locations was giving me palpitations.

My brain is on serious summer overload, which normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem; however, I happen to be 64 27  weeks pregnant, which means sleep is already elusive. Add to that a little stress, and this mama ends up tired and emotional.

In an effort to not throw myself into an early labor, I’m unloading a few things from my plate. I simply don’t have the mental capacity to generate decent blog content right now.  As it is, I already have a few deadlines pressing down on me for other sites (the ones that actually pay me to write), and I’m in the final stages of editing my e-book, which I will hopefully get to the designer in the next few days.

So I’m going to take a couple of weeks off in this space. I’m going to breathe a little, enjoy my family, read a few books, unplug, and take in a little fresh, mountain air.

I’ll be updating on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on occasion if you want to keep up with our family and see whether or not it really was a good idea to take a trip to the mountains at 28 weeks pregnant.

Also, Lee and I are attending a celebrity charity dinner in Nashville on Sunday night. Tune in to see what my gigantic belly looks like in a nice dress, and to see if I get to rub elbows with Carrie Underwood, or if I simply stalk her from across the room.

I’ll come back here in a couple of weeks when the dust of family fun time has settled, and I can string together a coherent sentence outside of, “Did you pack your toothbrush? What about underwear?”

In the meantime, I hope all of you are enjoying some fun in the sun this summer break. Sit back with a good book, a tall glass of iced tea (sweetened, of course), and take some time to breathe.