Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Emotions Aren't the Enemy



I’ve tried a million ways to avoid, stuff or numb emotions. They always felt like too much, made me feel like I was too much. When I made emotions the enemy they had power and over time became overwhelming. Maturity has taught me emotions aren’t the enemy, it’s what I do with them or my response to them.

My life has been filled with trauma, which gave me a heightened sense of emotion about a lot of things and made it difficult for me to be rational in many situations. It actually made me afraid of emotions, especially my own. That was never God's design. He gave me emotions to work for me, not against me. They are tools, not weapons.
God has put a specific fruit of the spirit
next to every negative circumstance in your life.- Graham Cooke
I’ve spent years growing and maturing as a daughter, wife, mother and woman and I’m learning that I am in control of my emotions, not the other way around. Even when things feel scary or overwhelming, there is always a “but” - I am feeling (fill in the blank), but I can make good decisions.

I don’t have to agree or like all aspects of myself, I just need to acknowledge them and part of that is recognizing emotions. I don’t have to accept them.

Self-awareness leads to dealing with things I've stuffed and moved me toward healing. It’s just about acknowledging what I’m experiencing.

When I let this practice of self-acceptance go (recognizing and acknowledging my true feelings) I tend to spiral into a vortex of self-practices…

Self-hatred
Self-avoidance
Self-deprecation

It’s not loving! To avoid my emotions is not practicing self-love. It’s key in the greatest of commandments.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
As I sat with these thoughts I made an interesting but not startling discovery, it starts with self-care. If I am not taking care of myself, I cannot be present with my emotions, I don’t have the strength, mentally or physically. Turns out my biggest struggle with self-care is self-avoidance.

As a young girl, I had an eating disorder and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I ever voiced my struggle out loud to another human being. It was freeing. By the time I was in my mid-thirties, I no longer struggled with eating and by 40 I was free. Then life happened and patterns began to resurface and because I was neglecting myself by not practicing self-care it quickly got out of control. I don’t have an eating disorder again, but rather use food to comfort myself when I’m being mistreated, ouch! That is not loving either.

If I would take the time for myself on the front end I’d gain stamina to sit with my uncomfortable emotions and rationalize the truth. The truth of the emotion, the situation and myself.

When I’m taking care of myself and by that, I don’t mean eating chocolate cake, I have peace in my mind and body and am able to come to rational thoughts and decisions easier and quicker. My emotions are in check, I’m confident to face emotions, good, bad or indifferent and process through to a wise choice for myself.

This way of living gives me the tools I need for total self-acceptance and again that doesn’t mean I am accepting that things are the way they are or that they will stay that way. It simply means I’m present in the moment to acknowledge emotions without making irrational decisions. I no longer have to punish myself. It’s a new kind of freedom.

This new practice allows me to:

Let go of expectations
Bury dead dreams (grieve and let go)
Be kinder to me
Have more patience
Practice self-care
THRIVE

This revelation didn’t happen overnight and it has been work to get to these conclusions and I’m still on the journey toward further self-discovery and acceptance, but these are foundational concepts for continued growth.

Self-care has become a buzz word, everybody is talking about it. We see it in magazine articles, advertisements, and blog posts. For me every time I saw it I felt worse about myself because I still couldn’t achieve it. Turns out, I was just missing one of the most important parts of self-care, self-acknowledgment. I have to acknowledge I even exist or have needs and emotions before I ever do anything to care for myself.

If your struggling today with “self-care” please know you are not alone. Spend some time in prayer for yourself and ask the Lord what He wants to show you on your journey to living the greatest commandment. It starts with self! We can’t love others if we don’t first love ourselves.
“I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you.' ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” - Maya Angelou

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Restoring Creativity through Connection


“I’m not creative,” I hear it all the time and while it might be true, it’s not Truth!

Last year I spent time unpacking what it means to be created in God’s image and likeness and how that factors into our creative nature. Recently, He has been teaching me about His desire for restoration back to His original design.

“What does that even mean?” you might be asking. He wants to restore us to the way He created us, His perfect plan for humanity. We know there was a snake, an apple and Adam and Eve, we call it “the fall”, but then there was the cross, which reconciled us to God’s original plan. It is available to take hold of whether we see it manifesting or not.

Recently, I discovered a study by Dr. George Land and Beth Jarvin. They were contacted by NASA to perform a highly specialized test to discern the probable creativity of NASA’s rocket scientists and engineers. They tested 1,600 children between the ages of four and five based on their ability to come up with “creative” solutions to problems. 98 percent of those children fell in the genius category of imagination.

The results were so astonishing they decided to make it a longitudinal study and performed the test five years later. Now only 30% fell in the genius category of imagination. And another five years later, when the kids were 15, only 12%.

What about adults, where are we at with our genius category of imagination, a shocking two percent! When I read that, God took me back to the four and five-year-olds, the 98%, that’s what He wants to do, restore that!
And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

So, what happened to us? It’s the question scientists are asking. I’m asking too!

We know God created us perfectly, in His image, He made our bodies to function in amazing and perfect ways. Scientists are arguing that school is "dumbing us down" affecting our “creative genius” and that may have something to do with it, but what I’m discovering is that everything in life affects that, not just school - failures, disappointments, broken relationships, and damage to our perfectly designed body systems. We are the sum of all of our experiences, good and bad.

Several years ago I sat in on an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) session for a child and the therapist was explaining to them what happens to our brain as a result of trauma, how it gets “disconnected” and how EMDR helps to restore it to the way it is supposed to function. It hit me right then how perfectly God created our bodies, but things happen and sometimes we allow them. They hinder our bodies from functioning the way He intended. He knew that and made provision for it, the cross.

I believe God wants to restore us back to the 98%, restore what’s been lost throughout our life through sin, trauma, pain or anything that has compromised what He saw from the beginning of time.

Will we be perfect? No. But in believing that He came so that we might have life and life more abundantly we can begin to make our way back.

Creativity has become a hot topic these days and something I’m passionate about and hopeful of seeing restored to the body of Christ. It has great benefit in our personal lives, but also in restoring others. God wants us, His bride, restored, so we can restore others. We are His hands and feet here on earth. How many times have I prayed, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Hundreds probably, but I’m part of the answer and so are you.

How can connection help restore our creativity? In and through connection we can have accountability, be armed with the truth of what God says about us, be activated in our gifts and talents and applaud ourselves and each other for successes and failures.

Accountability

Supporting and encouraging each other when we hear from the Lord. Being surrounded by people who will not let us walk away easily when the going gets tough and to confess our faults, so that we may be healed.

Arming

Equipping ourselves to do the creative things God has called us to do in an environment where we can give and receive feedback. A place to take hold of the truth of what God says about us and a place to begin practicing who we really are.

Activation

Participating in activities where our spirits are being activated in our calling whether through art, prayer or teaching.

Applauding

Celebrating ourselves and each other. Many don’t have a safe place or even a group of people for support, we can be this for each other.

Connection is a great catalyst for change, restoration will result. Once we are restored in an area we can begin restoring others. We throw around the term “world changers”, but I believe it’s possible, especially backed by the Holy Spirit. As we grab hold of our God-given identity we can transform our cities and ultimately the world.

In his book City Center, Tim Keller says, “In New York City, minority groups - whether of the ethnic, cultural, or lifestyle variety - can have a palpable effect on the way life is lived when their numbers reach at least 5 to 10 percent and when the members are active in public life. I have heard it said that when the number of prison inmates following Christ reaches 10 percent, the very culture and corporate life of the prison changes.” These are compelling statistics. They give me great hope for the effects of creativity in our communities and society as a whole.

No matter where you are on the creativity scale I hope I’ve given you some things to prayerfully consider and believe for. If you’re looking for creative connection we’d love to have you at the Creative Collective, our monthly gathering for artists.

Our first meeting is tonight, August 20th at Artistry 61, 200 North Bethel Street in Thomaston, Georgia.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Former Things


Often I've held onto what was better left behind. It is one of my most repetitive prayer points and it always comes back to the same thing, fear. Fear of the unknown.

Fear is fear any way you slice it and it points to a lack of trust in God. So, although it looks like I have a problem letting go, I really have a problem trusting God.

It seems like yesterday when I sorted through the storage bin that held the remains of my marriage. There were photos, letters, poems, and scrapbooks, but the people in the photos, who wrote the poetry and letters weren’t the same anymore. The day I chose to sort through the box was surreal, my heart was as ready as you can be to let go of something you hoped wouldn’t end.

My marriage did.

The letters, poems, and photos were now just a reminder of what wasn’t, what would never be. It was an awakening of hope.

That part of my life was over.

Word after word and photo and after photo were reminders of the lie we lived. The years of hiding and faking it being disposed of. (People who do this aren’t really aware they’re doing it, they don’t set out to deceive. It merely becomes a means of survival.) Each decision to let go, freed parts of me to heal, grow and move on.  


Recently I've wondered if I should have kept some of it, but today in the sweetest of ways the Lord reminded me to forget the former things. He is doing a new thing and I’m starting to perceive it and believe it. I didn't take the bait of self-doubt and self-deprecation, I let go and I trusted. It means I'm growing, maturing and yes, it even means I'm trusting God.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19
When you want to hold on, let go.
When you want to run, stay still.
When you want to regret, trust.

Holding on to what is done keeps our heads and hearts from receiving the "new thing", it keeps us stuck and bound. When we let go we posture ourselves to receive the new thing, to press on toward the goal. Don't fall for the trick, I've done it myself too many times to count. But as I'm opening my hands and heart to trust I am much more willing to let go trusting what He has around the bend is better than anything I could ever hold on to.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

An Expression of His Heart



Commissioned pieces usually come in the form of “Can you make a gift for my friend, they like (fill in the blank)?” That’s it. Often Holy Spirit will begin showing me things while they are talking. Like this time.

Initially, I’m ready to dive in, then fear starts talking. 


What if they don’t like it? 

What if you got this all wrong? 

What if you can’t create what you saw?

But every time God shows up. It’s like whispers of love for the person I’m creating for. His love and compassion come through in such a powerful way I typically end up in tears.

I can trust the gift He has given me 


Sometimes when the piece is complete people cry, I don’t know why, but I cry because I’m thankful. Grateful for a God who will lead and guide me every step of the way even when I paint because He cares so much about people and relationships.

More importantly, I can trust Him to accomplish His purposes through my gifts and not because of them

Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:21 KJV
The truth is when I obey - it always works.


They get the painting, He gets the glory and I get to be who I was created to be. Win. Win. Win.
“You see, the essence of your role in the Kingdom is to simply submit your life to the Lordship of Christ, receive the good gifts He has for you and co-labor with the Holy Spirit to release the life of God wherever and however He shows you. The results are up to Him. You are simply called to be a faithful son or daughter in the process.”
Matt Tommey, Creativity According to the Kingdom: Connecting with Heaven to Create with God and Release Transformation
All I need is to follow His lead, the rest, well they’re just art supplies.


Is there something you want to create? What is holding you back? Can you trust Him with the process? The outcome?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Creativity: A Productive Path to Identity


Have you ever wondered who you are or why you’re here? Join about 99.9% of the population. Where many of us go wrong is we wait. We wait until we have figured out who we are and what we are called to do before we do anything.

The Lord put things in each of us from our mother’s womb that would serve His purposes here on earth. Things only we could do in ways only we could do them.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13 NIV
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
A few years ago I embarked on a scary, public journey to discovering who I was. I rented a small booth at an antique store and began to put all my ideas into form. I made my visions a reality, which had previously only been pictures in my head.

Initially, it was terrifying, not gonna lie. I even thought about bowing out before my second month’s rent was due. But I didn’t. The reason -- because I was sure that this was about more than selling my “crafts” at an antique store.

We don’t need to know the why so much as we need to know the Who. I knew the Lord was directing my path and teaching me about my identity. It wasn’t a prophetic vision or word, it was just a knowing, which was enough for me to see it through.

I managed to fight the fear and develop my art and gifts as the years at the antique store progressed. As my projects were selling and I was being promoted to larger and more desirable spaces I was learning who I was. These things, that honestly, I sometimes took out of the trash, were becoming things people wanted to buy. I was learning about what He was doing in me. I learned that as much as I loved taking discarded and broken things and making them beautiful, the Lord loved it even more and He was doing it in me. He was also giving me the heart to do it for others too. To look beyond who I saw before me and view them from His heart, perspective, and purpose.

If we wait until we have it all figured out to create something it might be too late, because it is in the discovery that art is made. What we create is a reflection of who we are.
“If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative,” well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.” Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist
We have put a lot of pressure on being “creative,” but it is not this ominous and unreachable thing. It is the result of our identity being made manifest in our everyday lives for the glory of God. So, take a leap of faith and create something today. You might find something you love to do and if not you will be one step closer to finding out who you really are.

Would you step out today and create something? Anything? Something that might lead you directly to who you are called to be? The world says it’s all about location, location, location, but the Lord is more interested in position, position, position. Position yourself to hear from Him and be used by Him, even if it means being creative. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What Kind of Artist Are You?


Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were five? I do. I wanted to be an artist.
“And in kindergarten, everybody was an artist. Not just an artist, but a two-hands artist: “Me! Me! Me! I’m an artist!” By the first grade, it was still 100 percent, but it was with one hand. Then it progressed. When Gordon MacKenzie talked to the sixth-graders, he would get two or three people raising their hands, nervously looking around like everyone was going to think they were weird.” - James Hamblin
That was kindergarten and then life happened. There was abuse, neglect, nightmares, and fear. I developed coping skills that helped me survive my crazy existence.

In third grade I started writing poetry, little did I know that would keep me from a host of other destructive behaviors that I could have chosen. I didn't know that was art.

I filled notebook after notebook. Writing became necessary for my survival. I believe when things become necessary for survival they lose something.
Survival mode will suck the fun, passion, and spontaneity out of anything, especially anything creative.
I grew up and became hard-hearted and overly responsible. There was no time for creativity or anything artistic. After starting a family in my early 30s I began to dabble in different forms of creativity as time allowed. By 40 I was divorced with four children, but something happened. I was free. I didn’t have to survive anymore so, I started to create again.

While visiting a Christmas market in 2014 I was approached by an artist and she asked me if I was an artist and before I had time to think, “yes,” escaped my lips. She began to say things to me that made my spirit leap, things that sounded like they were straight from the Father's heart and things I needed to hear to come alive again or maybe for the first time.

When we can’t see it, I believe God will use others to call forth His plan for us.

Within two weeks, I was asked to teach a furniture painting class at Home Depot and had a small booth at a local antique store. A month after that, the owners of the antique store moved me to the front of the store despite my fear that they didn’t like me or my stuff and were going to ask me to leave.
A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before the great. Proverbs 18:16 ESV
It was a challenging journey because I was fighting things inside myself I didn’t even understand. It was intimidating to put my stuff out there and wait and see if someone wanted to buy it. It was a new level of vulnerability, to possibly be rejected or worse, criticized.

I was terrified to fail. I was terrified no one would like my stuff, but I pressed on. As I picked stuff up at yard sales and trash piles and transformed them into works of art, the Lord was teaching me about myself and my identity. He does the same with us, picks us up out of the trash piles of our lives and draws us to Himself when someone doesn't need or want us anymore. He breathes life back into us and makes us beautiful again.
“It's not just a fear of failure, (Tom) Kelley said. It's a fear of being judged. Creativity is as much about the ability to come up with ideas as it is about the courage to act on those ideas. He calls it creative confidence. Everyone is innately creative, it posits; creators are just people who act. And, of course, they don't always succeed.” - James Hamblin
God has a plan for you and no matter where your journey takes you or how far off course you stray, He will bring you back and fulfill His purposes for you and through you.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
So, my question isn't are you an artist? Or are you creative? I believe we all are. My question is "What kind of artist are you?, Where do you use your creativity?" If asked the question, “Are you an artist?” or "Are you creative?" Would you raise one hand or two?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Falling Face Down


The pain of going down made me want to scream, but the number and severity of blows kept me silent as I fell. The smell of defeat surrounded me as I tried unsuccessfully to pick myself up off the floor. There I lay bruised and bleeding as the offenders pranced off unscathed, victorious and gloating.


I remember the practice of being facedown that looked much different from the scene that was playing out before me. I was different then, the scars were hidden and the punches came in silence where no one could see. I found solace on the floor. There, prostrate before the Lord I could pour it all out and He would come, He always came.


This time, on my face, there was no prayer laced with praise, only hushed cries from the pain that seared through every fiber of my being. My lips pressed the ground and dirt filled my eyes where tears should be. I would have asked for help up except the overwhelming sense of shame kept me bound, broken and bleeding into the earth.

How desperately I wanted to say, “It hurts,” but I was quickly reminded that there was a protocol for falling and I was breaking every rule.

The truth is, falling hurts. Brene’ Brown

If I even eluded to the fact that I wasn’t okay or might not be able to get up for a while, I was met with religious insight that was like salt in my open wounds. Usually, when falling I was quick to get up, but not this time.

Rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing. I’m not sure if its because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt or if its because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing people still reflexively look away. Brene' Brown

This has been a process, one I am fully participating in, but it has been messy and ugly and painful. Brown says, “We much prefer stories about falling and rising to be inspirational and sanitized.” Well, mine is neither!

Our culture likes to avoid pain because many of us have never been given the tools to work through difficulties in life and come out the other end of the process healed, whole and healthy! Or worse, we see having pain as a sign of not trusting God… what a load of crap! - Kris Vallotton

This happened in December and I’m still rising. I told someone yesterday, “I haven’t risen yet, but I’m sitting up now.” This time I’m going to let the pain have its process and allow healing to fully come. Despite the push to be over it already. I will press in, learn, grow and heal. Religion will not rescue me this time, only the hard work here on the floor. The wrestling with who I am and what I believe and sometimes with the One who made me. Despite my anger and wrestling, I found the words of Jesus, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” to come fully alive. Grief has been a huge part of this process and a vital one. No one likes to grieve, but it’s necessary.

I refuse to be afraid of pain anymore, that has only led to repeating this ugly cycle. I will lay, sit or kneel on the floor as He does His perfect work. For years the process has been started and halted, but there was no lasting freedom in that.

What’s left is a walking zombie, a bandaged-yet-sick heart, and a soul that never prospers! - Kris Vallotton

I won’t go so far as to say I was a walking zombie, but I kept being yanked back into the process and it was hideous. I’d rather have ugly for a while in the process than ugly in the long term because I avoided the process.

Three months ago I couldn't say I was grateful for this season, but today I can tell you it has changed me in important ways. Pain can make or break us and this time I am allowing pain to be the catalyst for necessary change.

If you have gotten this far, thank you. Thank you for not closing this window because my process was less than perfect. This post started two months ago, today as I sit, see, hear and smell spring outside, I know it’s time to release it!