2014: We Will Make Art

It was cloudy when we got off the ship in Miami, an unseasonably cool day for the area. The weather didn’t bother me in the least. I was simply glad to see land. We spent last week cruising in the Caribbean, a first for our family.

MiamiI learned many things on this vacation, several of which I’m sure will show up at the end of the month for my What I Learned post. The first and most important? If someone is trying to convince you to go on your first cruise and one of the arguments they use to persuade you includes the words “the ship is so big you can’t even feel it move,” don’t believe them.

They sit on a throne of lies.

But if they also tell you that the food is delicious and abundant and available at every turn, you can believe them on that. More than once I piled my plate up high because I could, only to have to stop mid-way through because, well, I couldn’t. My small stomach put my big eyes to shame.

ship foodSometimes January has big eyes and a small stomach, too. It can be easy to stack your plate high with intention and goals, only to sit down at the table, take two bites, and realize that’s all you can digest right now.

I used to think my inability to live up to my grand January ideas was some kind of personal flaw, but now I’m re-considering.

I think I’m made to live small, to move slowly, and to hold just one thing at a time

It’s been three years since Annie sent me that 5 word email that became a 55,000 word book, the one that said “2011: We will make art.”

To this day, if I get quiet enough and let myself consider the impact her words have had on my life, I still get a little emotional. It means a little something different to me now than it did then but needless to say, We will make art has changed things for me. I know it’s changed things for some of you as well because you’ve written me and told me so.

But one thing I’ve also heard from you is you wish you had a next step, an easy way to discuss the book with others, a way to more practically apply what it means to make art in everyday life.

I agree. And so I’ve been working on some things for you.

During this first month of the new year,  I want to move forward into living art and to dive more deeply into these concepts so that in 2014, our art will come from a place of love and not fear.

Each week in January I plan offer some practical tools to help solidify what might seem to be a dreadfully abstract concept – making art with our work and our lives.

little ways

So let’s grab a reasonably small plate and begin to practice holding just one thing at a time.


  1. Ginny says

    I have always thought it was a weakness that I lived small. I’m beginning to accept it as the way God created me, and I’m grateful.

  2. says

    I believe the idea of living small, moving slowly and holding one thing at a time is the way to go for me. It does not take much to get bogged down with this and that, always something coming up…….Trying very hard to handle one thing at a time, and am encouraging a young friend who was not too keen to go back to university where she always felt overwhelmed. Hopefully I will learn things here, that I will be able to share with her.

  3. says

    I appreciate you sharing your insights on living small. I was inspired by your book so I’m looking forward to reading your ideas on making art in the days ahead. Thank you!

  4. says

    Diving back into my art this morning — three weeks until edits are due — and I am committing to an approach with no fear. The work is there. The story will lead me. Anxiety will not be my master.

    Thank you for all the ways you show me this.

  5. says

    This post was a perfect word for me. I have the goals and pursuits stacked high, but I realize that lasting fruit will only come in small steps and every day consistency. :)

  6. says

    I’m so excited about diving into A Million Little Ways! It’s sitting on my nightstand in “the stack.” Thanks for the reminder to start slow and realize that little steps are the way to start : )

  7. Cathy Y says

    I agree with the small plate. Three years ago I gave up resolutions for choosing “one word”. This year my word is “quiet” so I am reminded to listen more. I loved your book and love the idea of practical tools. The book has already made me think differently about everyday moments such as listening to boys share their hearts and encouraging them. Art is there. :)

  8. says

    Your perspective on January and resolution/goal making is so true. I quit making resolutions many years ago when I had the ‘duh’ moment that I could resolve to begin anew, change, etc… any day of the year — nothing that special about January. And I definitely agree and like your thoughts on the small plate.

  9. nirma says

    Did you honestly say”So let’s grab a reasonably small plate and begin to practice holding just one thing at a time.”? I LOVE YOU!!!
    I just yelled at myself (outloud)to do one thing at a time. I tried to carry a soup bowl full of soup with buttered toast, a water bottle, a bottle of airborne and a bottle of vitamins to the dining room table so I could answer 3 emails from folks wanting to make plans for this month. All in a Sudafed-head cold daze. Did I mention that my planner had spilled its guts all over the table yesterday as I started to plan a calmer, more gently purposeful 2014 ? That mess sits beside the computer and now the food I almost dropped.
    When will I learn to make art one thing at a time, one day at a time for my good and His glory?
    Thank you!

  10. Sandy says

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Emily. Your words about living small reached a place in me that God has been speaking into recently. I’ve been rebelling the past year (in a good way) against living small out of fear. At the same time, have struggled with the ways in which my small life doesn’t seem to stack up to what I think it should. Living small out of fear is not what he intends for us, but living small in areas because he made me that way? That is good and I thank you for giving it words I couldn’t find for myself. Popped over to the attached blog about your book and was struck as well by these words:

    ” I … now know the size of our dreaming isn’t the point. The size of our God is. Christ’s pursuit of me is more important than my pursuit of anything else.” and “There isn’t one great thing you were made to do. There is one great God you were made to glorify.”

    To that my heart says “Amen!” This year, let me glorify my Lord in whatever way He wants – small or big, easy or hard. Just let me bring Him glory through my life.

  11. says

    “I think I’m made to live small, to move slowly, and to hold just one thing at a time.” <– me too!

    Emily, I have so appreciated applying A Million Little Ways in so many daily thoughts. I see evidence of "little" pieces of art all over. Thank you so much for hearing Annie's words and sharing them with all of us. I'm so excited to make art in little ways every day in 2014.

  12. says

    I agree with everything! But most of all “I think I’m made to live small, to move slowly, and to hold just one thing at a time”. Wow, that is me to a T! Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. says

    Your book and your presentation at Allume inspired me to take a small step. I don’t think of myself as an artist, at least not in traditional ways. I do, however, have a number of friends who are artists and musicians. This past weekend, some friends and I hosted an art show at our church to celebrate and affirm them in their gifts.

    Organizing is a kind of art, yes?

  14. says

    Oh Emily! This may be my favorite post ever by you! (And that’s saying A LOT!) I’m a girl who binges on “I will’s” in January; it’s become my own private disorder. I then endure the battle of the bulge of flabby failures in February. This was just what my heart needed. Hugs to you!

  15. says

    Emily you have grasped the wisdom in holding one thing at a time; it is enough for many in our culture to mull over and apply for the year! I have another friend who speaks of people holding salad plates or platters for how they live life; I am a recovering platter person. I no longer desire more…one thing well is enough. What the one thing is for each moment right now is the resolve to listen well and act from what I hear. Listen well, then act. Resolve. Looking forward to continuing to make art in a million little ways with you and this community.

  16. Sarah Schulz says

    I love that you’re starting with “making art in small ways.” Two of the goals that I’m hoping to put into practice this year are bite-sized, which is new for me: write every day (even if only for ten minutes) and network once a month.

    I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts as we all step out to make art this year. I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

  17. club20 says

    Can’t wait… my “one little word” for 2014 is “create,” and I welcome the ideas! Thanks as always for making me think.

  18. says

    These words: “I think I’m made to live small, to move slowly, and to hold just one thing at a time,” so true to what God has been showing me over, oh, most of my adult life encourage me to keep walking forward on my own unforged trail rather giving into false guilt and my desire to please others by walking on the well worn trail of speed and multitasking. The showing has become more persistent and while living small and slowly and holding one thing at a time is sometimes painful, living in a way counter to how I’ve been made and what I’ve been made for is more painful still.

    Looking forward to your words this month. Always, really. Thanks.

  19. says

    I love your metaphor for food and January resolutions.
    I am making art in small ways by doing 3 pages a day, and finding submission guidelines this month. Deep breath.

    Sarah M

  20. says

    ahhh…deep breath.
    thank you for this.
    for permission to hold onto that one thing…to take my time with it…instead of piling on ten more and then forgetting what I even started with.

  21. Kelly says

    Oh Emily and Sweet Sisters- It’s like you are peering into my soul. I’ve always felt a need to live small, but have felt that is wrong, unambitious,or lazy in some way. I too am feeling the need to be quiet this year, and listen for God’s voice. I loved “A Million Little Ways”, and am now reading “Grace for the Good Girl”. Not only did I take a step down from being administrator for our church’s women’s Bible study, but I am taking a break from attending the Bible Study as well (that had nearly 100 women attending). Honestly, it was starting to feel too big. I’m really looking forward to some time alone with God, and offering him up my small plate with joy!

  22. says

    I read A Million Little Ways between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m about to begin again because it was like drinking from a fire hose…in the best sort of way. I have a short list of books that I consider revolutionary and it made the list. It is changing the way I look at life inside these walls with these little people. My perspective had become distorted in all the mundane and I am beginning again to see beauty and art and Him tucked into the corners of our day. I look forward to seeing all that unfolds here in the coming year. Thank you for showing up here and writing true week after week. I always look forward to reading.

  23. says

    I adore this post, Emily. May we all toast the New Year by discovering afresh the ways we make our everyday art and celebrating what this looks like in our lives.

    {And boats are not my friend, either. From a cruise ship to a pontoon boat — they show no mercy on my stomach.}

  24. says

    I chose “Pray” for my One Little Word this year, but my other options both came from your book – “Art” or “Entrusted”. I loved everything about your book, and realized that in order for me to live as an artist, I need to start with prayer. Thank you, for impacting me so greatly with your words, your wisdom, and your honesty!

  25. says

    Something told me to check your blog this morning and oh my goodness I am so glad that I did. I kind of hit a resolution wall yesterday, six days into the New Year. Such pressure we put on ourselves! I am co-chairing a early childhood conference in March and I know it will all come together, but I literally wake up gasping for breath in the night, thinking of all the teachers I might let down:(. Then my resolution for leaving work at work and focusing on the family fell throught the cracks. I have to learn to take smaller steps. Your analogy of your plate of food and resolutions…genuis:). I am so looking forward to your plans to accompany your beautiful book.

  26. says

    Living small has always been one of my greatest fears, and I’m ready for that idea to be proven wrong. I’m not sure I know what it really means to live small, but I’m anxious to discover what it means for us and our art.

  27. says

    Emily! Thank you for this post! And all you’ve written in blogs and books that have so deeply encouraged me. I read Graceful this summer and, paired with my study of Galatians I was doing at the time, God made your words active in my life. Also, your writing was so personal and relatable I feel like you have been a dear friend, even though I’ve never spoken to you! I decided it was about time to actually introduce myself :) I am starting A Million Little Ways and so far I love it! (I’ve decided to stop reading without a pen because I’m an underliner and each thought to remember that I pass without putting ink underneath drives me crazy :) ). So I am super exited of this January of art! Starting 2014 right by living to glorify our artistic, intentional creator :)

  28. says

    I’m so thankful I’m still, slowly, reading the book. I’ve saved the “chats with the girls” and watch after each chapter(s). Slowly. I’m getting there….

  29. says

    The frozen forecast stalled my plans for an efficient start to the new year. Long lists shrunk to small snow days and I’m still processing how to let this gift of change and mold my year. Your thoughts add to my questions. Thank you!!

  30. says

    Emily, thanks for the little extra download. I’m reading chapter 10 tonight. Hubby got your book for me for Christmas! I shared some thoughts on your book with a friend today over Chinese food!

  31. Marinalva Sickler says

    Yes! I will make art this year – one at.a. time. A Million of Little Ways makes me float on clouds. I cry. I smile. I feel the urge inside of my throat. Or I simply rest my head down in the arms of eternity and meditate. Or I scream to Him His goodness. I am now wondering what program you’re planing. I’m in it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *