wake up and dream

Do you know you are brave and beautiful? I don’t usually begin posts that way, but you spoke your fears out loud–you who are made to create–and I am overwhelmed with your confessions. They are my confessions, too.

Fear of failure, of rejection, of working hard and risking vulnerable  just to say what someone else already said better. We are a scared bunch, aren’t we? Longing to be seen but feeling safe when we’re invisible? Waiting for permission to create for real because what if? and what about? and what will they think?

I hope you are diving into the deep, sweet place of authentic this week. And I don’t mean climb into your quiet cave and wait for the Muse. No, I hope you are swimming around in the living; seeing the art in your husband’s eyes, delighting in the way her freckles are sprinkled just about her nose, feeling the warm sun on your back even in the bitter cold. It’s all art. And when we see it, we can better make it.

Wake up and dream to life those things that seem far off. Live the art you dream about. Embrace the ones you have. And then? Sit down and get to work. Because no truth is new truth, friend, it all belongs to God. Your voice is just one, and that makes it unique. You may not be the first to say it, but your saying it may be the first time we hear.

You need to live the art, and then you need to keep on making it. For you. And for us. Will you?

your ego is a burden anyway

One of the biggest things that gets in our way when it comes to making art is our own ideas about it. We make it so mysterious, so ethereal, so other-than us. And it is, in a way. But if you keep it there, it will continue to be too big to touch. You fear you’ll wreck it all up if you dare to reach for it. So you leave it up there in the clouds, sparkling just out of reach. And it looks pretty and you cower beneath it all helpless and victimy.

Today is the day to reach your grubby hands up high, grab that sparkly dream off that too-high shelf and roll around in the mud with it. It is not as delicate as you think. It will not break and shatter. And neither will you. Well, you might. But that’s okay because your ego is a burden anyway. It is keeping you from the risk, and you can’t afford to live a life risk-free. It isn’t what you were made for.

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.”

2 Timothy 1:7, The Message

And so you (and I) operate on this level of constant self-editing, and so our creativity is polite and linear. And then we are discouraged. It’s no wonder. I’m not saying publish a blog post filled with raw rants, or put your first crack at your art on display. But I am saying you have to have a first crack. What do you have to lose?

No really, what do you have to lose? I want you to answer that in the comments, because sometimes just naming the fear sets us free. Here, I’ll go first.

If I create the art that really means something to me, people might not like it.

(I feel better already.)

5 ways to know if the art has to wait

We’ve been suffocated with snow days this week: four days in a row. We’ve gone from the exciting first day (No school!) to the shoulder-slumped fourth day (*sigh* no school). Even the kids are ready to get back. I’ve had to be flexible and gracious with my time. Sometimes I haven’t done such a hot job of it. And it’s made me think about the art we’ve been talking about around here lately. Because some of you are artist who are creating. And some of you are artist who are waiting.

There can be great frustration for those who long to create but aren’t. Maybe you have babies around who need stuff and things – when the twins were born, I was too busy picking dried-spit up out of my hair and staring out the window during my free time to think about any kind of art. Maybe you are taking care of aging parents. Maybe you are in the process of moving and your house is filled with boxes and packing tape, or  you work full time outside of your home and your job responsibilities don’t allow for much else. If you home school or are the president of the PTA or are remodeling your kitchen, you may not see a place in your life for the art.

All of these things could be reasons why you have to wait. BUT (and I’m going to be very bold here), they could also be excuses. It is important to know if you are waiting because of wisdom, because it truly isn’t the right time. It is also important to know if you are waiting because of fear. Here are some ways to discover the difference.

Ask your people. My people would be my husband. For you, it may be other family or even kids. When the twins began to get a bit older, I went a year or so where I felt a pull to write, but I didn’t really tell my husband. What resulted from that was frustration on my part because I was trying to squeeze writing into a schedule that wasn’t allowing it, and also frustration on my husbands part because he didn’t understand how important it was to me. Get your people behind you. The idea of creating in isolation may seem romantic and artsy, but it isn’t.

Adjust your expectations. It doesn’t have to be I’m either going to write a book, or I’m not going to write at all. If you have the idea that you have to finish an entire book or else it doesn’t count, you could be waiting forever. Thirty minutes of writing before the kids wake up still counts.

Art and margin must co-exist. If pursuing your art does not also allow for some white space in your schedule, it could mean that now is not the time to pursue your art. But be honest about this. Decide which things in your schedule you value the most. You may discover huge chunks of time that can be replaced with creativity. Tsh’s book, Organized Simplicity, helped me as I thought about this in my own schedule.

Consider the beginning. If you pick up the Bible and start on page one, the first thing we see God do is to create. It was priority number one. It was not an afterthought. He had a purpose and a vision, and he made it come to be. If you tend to see creating art as a luxury, or if you feel guilty about your creative self, I want to urge you to reconsider. You were made in the image of Someone who places a high priority on creativity. To deny that part of yourself is insulting.

Find the art in the living. I know it may seem like I am contradicting myself here, but if you insist on compartmentalizing your art from your living, you may never find the time to pursue it. The more I see myself as an artist, the more my art spills over into my life. I begin to see meal prep as an outlet for my creative side. I use my writing as a gift by sending a long note to a friend instead of jotting a quick thank you out of obligation. If you can’t find art in your living, keep looking. I promise it’s there.

Three years ago, as I prayed about what 2008 would hold for me, I sensed the Lord speaking these simple words into my heart: It’s time to write. He didn’t tell me what to write, when to write, or how. I had to sort of figure that part out. But I had a clear impression as I considered that the words were from him. As you think about your own art, I want to encourage you to lay it all out there and ask him about it. Because when he calls you to something, I promise he will provide.

how to be an artist

Piano was my major until my sophomore year of college. That was when I quit. Required practice and theory classes and hours upon hours in fluorescent lit rooms with Chopin and Czerny did not bring out the art in me, it nearly made it die. I quit simply because I wanted to love it again. It’s the same reason why I will probably never be a real professional photographer. The art of it doesn’t outweigh the responsibility enough, and so I continue to learn at my own pace and in my own way. I take pictures because it helps me see. And that is all.

For a long time, writing was private for me. Over time and through this blog, writing has become something different. Of all the art there is in the world, writing is the art that brings the most satisfaction as well as the most fear. I can avoid the piano for months at a time. But if I don’t write, there is a distinct possibility I might not exist. I know that isn’t actually true, but that is how it feels.

I write for pleasure, for remembering, for learning, for listening, and for money. I can write in the early morning hours as well as late at night. I squeeze it in ten minutes before it’s time to get the kids and quick while the water boils. Unlike piano or photography, the art of writing outweighs the pressure and expectations. For some people, the art of making music is worth the fluorescent lights with Chopin. For me, the art of writing is worth the fear, the risk, and the isolation.

Because I believe I’ve found the art that is also my worship, it is important to me to use it. To practice it. And to share it. When I played piano, it was always really difficult for me to play for people. I was nervous, embarrassed, and tried to avoid it at all costs. If I would have decided that was the art I wanted to pursue, I think I would have gotten better at sharing it. I would argue that unshared art is still art, but it feels more like a hobby. When you invite others to enter in and receive your creativity, then you are doing something holy, worshipful, and also terrifying. And that is the life of an artist.

to know their stories

We’ve talked here about story before, about how everyone has one and most stories are more painful than we might initially assume. But people won’t tell you that in line at the grocery store or at the PTA meeting. Or at church. But there is an entire population of people today who may not get the opportunity to share their stories even if they wanted to.

There are 27 million people worldwide whose stories are being held hostage because they are living as victims of the slave trade. Eighty percent of those stories belong to women and children. Today, some sources believe that the 2011 Super Bowl will be the largest human trafficking event in US history. While we eat our bean dip, thousands of men, women and children will be trafficked into Dallas for the purpose of sex and labor trafficking.Writing that sentence breaks my heart, and I know it breaks yours, too.

There are more statistics (and also here) and I know they’re hard to read. It’s only been two years since I learned about how serious this issue is. There is a ministry at my church called Aboltion! that exists to raise awareness, to provide resources for partners already established in this ministry nationwide and around the world, and to pray for freedom for the captives. The only hands and feet God has on earth are ours. And today, I beg you to use yours to pray for freedom for the victims of human trafficking.

You won’t be praying alone. Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and that is the most important thing about this day – to raise awareness. We have to know about it. It’s the opposite of what I want to know. I want to put my fingers in my ears and sing. But that won’t save those victims. My friends in Abolition tell me that as their network continues to grow, awareness of the issue grows. And awareness and education are two key components to more rescued victims and more prosecuted perpetrators.

As dark and overwhelmingly oppressive as this topic is, there is hope in this world for these victims. I want to leave you with a glimpse of this hope written by Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission. He tells the story of Glenna, a young woman living in the Philippines who was lured away from a group of friends, and physically forced into the waiting taxi of a pimp. She was terrified, and knew that she was about to be sold. But when the taxi arrived at a nearby hotel, the “customer” was actually an undercover police officer partnering with IJM. The pimp had been under surveillance for months, and Glenna was freed before she could be abused.

“Today, Glenna is a happy young wife and mother. She has graduated from IJM Cebu’s job-readiness training program and is grateful for and proud of her new career, working at a local bakery. She is cared for deeply by IJM Cebu’s team — men and women who seek each day to reflect the kind of relentless love their Maker has shown them.”

Would you join with us today and pray for those on the front lines of the rescue missions all over the world? May the Lord multiply their efforts and protect their hearts from darkness. And may he wrap up each victim in his love, and bring them into freedom and safety. Re-write their story, Lord. Bind up their broken hearts, and set the captives free.

If you would like more information on the issue of human trafficking and how you can become an abolitionist, please visit the following sites:

Abolition! – a step-by-step guide outlining how you can become involved

Tiny Hands International , and on twitter @tinyhandsintl

North Carolina: Not For Sale Campaign -North Carolina, and on twitter @Not_For_Sale

United States: Shared Hope, and on twitter @SharedHope

Around the World: International Justice Mission, and on facebook

Love 146

If you are interested in starting an organization like Abolition in your own church, send an email to abolitionministry(at)yahoo(dot)com

Come, Lord Jesus.

belief on a January Monday

“Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come . . . Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence.”  Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

I don’t know what slowing down and enjoying the journey looks like for you on a Monday in January. But I do know what it isn’t. It isn’t worrying about what tomorrow might bring. It isn’t shaming yourself into better or more productive behavior. It isn’t holding on to fear that perhaps you’ve messed up your kids beyond all repair.
I wrote a post at (in)courage today, about The God of Mondays. You can read it, if you want. I’ve thought more about that post since I’ve written it. I’ve done a lot of planning for the coming year, a lot of thinking about what is to come. And I’ve caught myself more than once trying to fire myself into the future like a cannonball. It helps to remember about the pace of God, how he could have made all of Creation with a blink of his eye, but instead he took a whole week, step by step.

So for me, slowing down and allowing God to set the pace is all about believing. And that can be harder than it sounds, because sometimes it feels like nothings happening right now, and shouldn’t I be busy doing something to make it otherwise? Believing God can be gritty and messy, a lot more so than some people talk about. It isn’t a bowed-head acceptance all the time. Maybe ever. On this second Monday of January, I wonder what belief looks like for you?