Tag Archives: creativity

Day 31: Surprise (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsWell, I survived.

I must confess, when I started this 31 days writing challenge, I didn’t entirely expect to finish it. I definitely expected to miss some days.

It’s nice to surprise yourself. It’s nice to rediscover a level of grit and perseverance you’d forgotten about.

Maybe there is space in this crazy, uncertain life of mine for a little more creativity and a lot more dreaming. Maybe there’s space in yours too.

What have you given up on? It might be time to start surprising yourself.

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Day 29: Powering Through (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Can I tell you how many times I’ve wanted to quit this 31 days of writing challenge? Well, actually I couldn’t tell because I’ve lost count.

Some days I had something I really wanted to say, but other days involved a lot of staring at the blank screen before any words would form. Some days I was fine with writing for me whether anyone read it or not, but other days my brain was saying, “For the love, is anyone out there? Why am I doing this just for me? Don’t we have journals for that?”

31daysOfSimpleTruthsBut this was really important for me, largely because I’ve allowed all the writing I do at work to overshadow the writing I do for me. I haven’t been investing in my own words, and my creative soul pays dearly for that neglect. It even negatively impacts my work because I end up resentful of the time I need to focus there.

More importantly though, I am trying to unravel myself from the sticky trap of perfectionism. I always feel the need to have all my ducks in a row before really tackling any project. Which means I’ve been accomplishing a whole lot of nothing when it comes to many of my personal goals and ambitions, especially the creative ones.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for those unfamiliar); it’s an attempt at utter insanity, I mean, an attempt to write 50,000 words in a single month. There’s no time for overanalyzing yourself or making everything perfect. It’s about getting the words out. And I have a book idea (a few actually), but I’ve allowed everything else under the sun to block me from making it happen. But I need to get it out, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I can.

A feat like that requires consistently writing in big chunks, but it also requires consistently writing in smaller chunks—adding something every single day. I have no excuses now, because I have spent all of October stripping them away. No excuses, because now I know, tired or not, blank screen or not, burst of brilliant ideas or not, I can find the words, even if it’s only 200 of them at a time. I can write something, regardless of what else the day throws at me.

So if for no other reason, it was worth powering through October and reaching for the truth in each day. And now, I think I’ll try to write that book.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Creativity, Perfectionism, Writing

Day 15: The Joy of Books (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Growing up, I was the kid who would rather be reading a book than doing pretty much anything else, with the exception of playing music. Books were magic. Characters were friends.

I was the rare kid in high school who read every single book that was assigned, plus a few extra. I remember we always had to report on so many pages of additional reading, and while most of my classmates moaned and groaned about this, I didn’t even think twice about it. I knew I’d be able to complete the “assignment” without trying.

In college, I was lucky enough to have a roommate who also loved books, a lot of the same ones I loved and a few new loves she introduced me too.

But then, somehow, into adulthood, the passion began to fade. Maybe it was the demands of teaching and all the time it required. Maybe it was having babies and all the sleeplessness that ensued. I know there was a spiritual leader I admired who made me feel like fiction was a waste of my time and possibly a poison to my spirituality. But then all the non-fiction Christian books started sounding the same. I just couldn’t do it. I stopped reading. And then, without even realizing the connection, I stopped writing too. No more journaling, no more poetry, no more songwriting.

So when I reconnected with a childhood friend and joined her writing group, I found myself so frustrated because I felt like I was choking the words out. They were stiff. They were lifeless. This was not a problem I’d ever had before in my whole life. Writing had always been like breathing, but not anymore.

I was a little slow getting the hint, but it dawned on me one day—words my teachers had said to me, words I had said to my students: If you want to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader.

Last year, I set a goal for myself to read 25 books before the end of the year. It felt embarrassing alongside the lists from friends who were reading 100 books. But it was what I thought I could manage. I made a list and chipped away at it, plus a few extras, and ended the year with 29 books in my brain and a torrent of new words in my heart.

This year, I upped my goal to 50, and I’m well on track to pass that again. And my creativity continues to come alive. Books are my obsession again. If I can’t manage any other creative pursuit because of life’s craziness, I can’t give up reading. It keeps the fire burning until I’m able to write or sing or art journal again. And no one will ever be able to convince me again that fiction is a waste of time.

Stories matter. Far beyond the craft of writing, stories have unlocked empathy and compassion on me. They have given me insight into people and situations. They have given me an outlet when I couldn’t find a way to express what needed to be said. They call me into rest when I would be tempted to push myself too hard. They offer points of connection and relationship. And yes, I’m pretty sure they make me smarter, and I won’t object to that.

So when my six-year old daughter comes to me and says, “Daddy told me you read almost every night before you go to bed. Do you think I could do that too?,” you’d better believe I said, “Yes.” And smiled inside because I’ve been waiting for this day.

Read, people. For the love of all that is wonderful in this world, just read. And tell me in the comments what some of your favorites are; it’s time to start planning my list for next year.

Also, my friend Suzanne is doing a super fun 31 days series on “shelfies”! Check it out and add some books to your list.

31daysOfSimpleTruths

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What I Never Noticed About Seasons

New life is emerging, even in unexpected or hardened places.

New life is emerging, even in unexpected or hardened places.

On Monday morning of this week, I could not drag myself out of bed.

As if a weighted blanket was holding me down, I could not even will myself to move. I finally managed to open one eye long enough to catch a blurry glimpse of the clock, then squeezed them shut again at the realization of how much I’d overslept.

Eyes still closed, body still unwilling to budge, I laid there and began to mentally rant at myself. Great job, Adela. You’ve thrown off your entire day . . . again. You were a mess last week after Daylight Savings. You can’t do this again this week. You’ll never get anything done. How do you think you’ll make a dent in your never-ending to do list if you can’t even wake up early . . .

(Seriously. Who needs the rest of the world to make us feel not good enough? I can manage just fine on my own.)

So before I’d ever made it out of bed, I had thoroughly belittled and berated myself, as if somehow that would provide the necessary motivation to war against my obstinate body. I dragged myself to the bathroom to begin getting ready, and because no one makes smart choices under the influence of dense brain-fog, I also stood on the scale during this process. Commence mental beat-down #2.

By some miracle, I managed to get the kids up and dressed and fed everyone breakfast without any total disasters ensuing. And I knew in my bones I’d best make time for my morning pages and sipping coffee slowly if I wanted to rescue my day from the oh so precarious position it was dangling from.

Pencil in hand, moving across the pages, thoughts finding their way through the clouds and into the light—and suddenly this sentence appeared on the page: I wonder if part of my struggle has been the result of warring against the season.

This thought stopped me in my tracks for a moment. I’m all about seasons. I welcome each one with its own special little ritual. I savor their unique nuances and invitations. What had I missed that was causing me to be at war?

Even considering the previous week, when Daylight Savings robbed an hour of my life and messed up all my rhythms by letting darkness extend into the morning, I kept fighting—trying to keep the same schedule, the same pace, the same routines—and I miserably lost the fight. Why had I not given myself grace and space to adjust?

As I fleshed all this out in my journal, another question for myself emerged: What would it take for me to look ahead—to see what season is coming and to make the necessary preparations and adjustments? What would it take for me to remember and show myself  grace in the nuances of each season?

I glanced at the calendar and was struck by the realization that the first day of spring was coming. These last few days were the final days of winter. I felt myself resolve to breathe in the final moments of rest before turning my attention to the bustle of spring.

And then there it was. A revelation that literally left me with my mouth hanging open as I stared down at my journal. Maybe you have seen this before, but I certainly have not. We often talk about the pattern God established in creation by resting on the seventh day. For the last year of my life, I have deliberately worked to weave rest into my schedule—at least 30 minutes to 1 hour in every day, and at least 1 day in every week. But I have never seen the much bigger picture.

God perfectly and strategically wove rest into creation through the cycle of the seasons. Spring and Autumn are the working seasons; Summer and Winter are the resting seasons.

Think about it a moment. Spring is for planting and birthing; it is for clearing away excess and remnants of dead things. If there is any hope of sustaining life for the rest of the year, there is a lot of work to be done in this season. Autumn is the harvest season. We reap the fruits of our labor, but it takes additional labor to gather those fruits. It is time to prepare and store, so there is no lack in the winter. If there is any hope of surviving the long dark and cold, there is a lot of work to be done in this season.

But tucked in between these busy seasons are the resting seasons. True—Summer is a more active rest. Things that were planted in spring need to be tended; things that were birthed need to be nurtured. But there is a lot of waiting now—waiting to see what will emerge, what will grow. The heat demands that we take it easy, that we drink deep and restore our souls. And then there is Winter, the deep rest. Winter invites us to see beauty even in death. It invites us to slow down and simply be. It demands that some things be let go in order that other things may live again when it is time.

Even physically, our bodies are not going to respond the same way to our efforts at exercise during the cold months. They are conserving energy and insulating us against the chill. Granted, some of us might have a little more insulation than we feel is necessary, but still, our bodies slow down. Think of it as a kind of hibernation for non-bears!

I believe our bodies respond to these seasons even when our minds don’t make the connection, and that is when we find ourselves at war. We are trying to override our hardwiring, and the results will not be productive. We feel guilty because we are failing to maintain our usual levels of accomplishment, and that guilt sets us up for further failure and frustration because who ever made wise choices out of guilt?

So here we are at today—the spring equinox. And I am ready. Because over the last few days, I allowed myself to linger in the final moments of winter’s rest. And while I still struggled a bit to get out of bed most mornings, each day the fog around my brain has been slightly less thick. It is lifting. My mind is turning to plans for cleaning and organizing, for planting seeds—both literal (mmmm, tomatoes!) and figurative (new ideas, projects and disciplines).

I feel like a clarity has emerged for how I need to live, and I am brimming over with excitement and hope. God outlined the perfect patterns, and I want to embrace them. I am even making notes on my calendar to look ahead, so I will remember to be gracious with myself when the transitions between the seasons come.

Here’s to less warring and more resting in the flawless design of each season!

(P.S.: A little bonus thought – what if the reason so many people fail at New Year’s resolutions is because they are trying to plant new things in the thick of the deep rest that is Winter? What if the first few months of the new year should actually be for further contemplating and thinking and planning, with new efforts not actually fully implemented until spring? Maybe we could actually see the changes we long for! I wonder . . .)

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Owning Our Strengths

Image Source: A Shared Lens

Image Source: A Shared Lens

I sat across the table from a friend today for 3 and a half hours that felt nowhere near that long.  I have not so fully understood someone’s heart or felt as fully understood by someone in a very long time.  And in the safety of that sacred place, I found myself speaking aloud things I have only acknowledged in the depths of my heart and the whispers of my prayers.

We spoke of crazy dreams and big ideas, faith and community; above all, we spoke of the beauty unleashed when women find their voice and their strength, when one person’s courage inspires another and then another and then another . . .

***

A lifetime in church and in faith circles has taught me that among the myriad of thing Christians fear most is pride.  This is not without reason.  We all know pride comes before the fall. Um, hello – we ALL know how Lucifer got himself thrown out of heaven.  For me personally as a worship leader, it is legitimately something we struggle with the most – not pointing people to ourselves and our talents instead of to God.  And if you’d rather throw everything spiritual out of the equation, let’s just go on and say it how it is – no one likes being around a cocky person.

But.

In an extreme effort to avoid this crippling, poisonous vice, we have often diminished the magnitude of our strengths, and as a result, the message of who God is.  The overall effect is a bunch of people walking around with a false humility the rest of the world can smell from a mile away, simply because we have misunderstood what genuine humility looks like.

If I am not willing to acknowledge my strengths, I will not use them as effectively as I could.  I will allow myself to get backed into other areas that are not the best use of my gifts.  I will not spend my time most efficiently and by default, I will not represent or advance the kingdom of God as well as I could.

This is not pride.

Pride says, “I have this strength because I’m just that good.”  Humility says, “I have this strength because God has gifted me with it.”

Pride says, “I will use these strengths to make myself known.” Humility says, “I will use my strengths to make Jesus known.”

Pride says, “I am threatened by people who are stronger than me in this area.”  Humility says, “I will learn from people who are stronger than me in this area.”

***

My fiery friend said it best today when she said, “We jump into the arena with other women, bloody and scarred from battle, not because we are fighting each other, but because we are knocking out the lies.  And when you are ready to knock out the lie holding you back, we will offer you the strength to thrust your arm forward and take it down.”

If I embrace my strength, it will be there in all its force to offer you when you need it.  We most fully illuminate the splendor and beauty of God when we own our strengths, run full force with the powers He has put in each of us.

Here are some strengths I am finding the courage to own:

I am a musician and I am a writer.

I am a good mother, and a creative one too.

I am a good worship leader, and with that, I am very good at building solid worship teams and developing effective worship leaders.

I have an e-book, a novel, a poetry anthology and an e-course brewing inside me – more likely several of all of the above.

I am a visionary and a strategist and a prophetic voice.

***

It is harder than it might seem to write that list, to own the things God has placed in me, especially when it feels a lot of them are overlooked right now.  But it’s a starting point and a step in the right direction.

And now it’s your turn.  What are the strengths you are wired with?  Own them.  Run with them.

 

*Looking for that community that will champion your strengths and cheer you on as you find your voice?  It’s right here.

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Filed under Beauty, Creativity, Faith

Awakening

Image Source: Messy Canvas

Image Source: Messy Canvas 

My heart has been hibernating.

I’m not sure when exactly the long sleep started.  It was not an intentional choice; there was not a specific moment where I decided to knock it unconscious and hide it away in a dark cave.  Rather, it was a gradual numbing, a slowly drawn out decrescendo until its pulse faded from hearing.

But I am beginning to remember how it was done before I fell asleep.

I remember a little girl, 4 or 5 years old, captivated by musicals and passing the hours imagining herself swept up in song and dance.

I remember a 6 year old girl asking her parents for ballet lessons, in her mind thinking she’d better get started on learning to dance if she was ever going to be on Broadway.

I remember an 8 year old girl spending her spare time writing plays and trying to get all her classmates to act them out during recess.

I remember a 10 year old girl grinning from ear to ear as she gently touched the shiny flute in its velvety case, finally holding the instrument she had been waiting for years to play.

I remember the thrill of a 13 year old girl singing a solo for the first time – being all at once terrified and happier than ever.

I remember so wanting to sign up for a beginning art class as an elective in high school, but being too afraid because I had never been very good with visual art (plus everyone said the teacher was always mean to female students).

I remember my heart breaking as I sat through band and choir classes in a school that had no vision or funding or passion for a quality arts program.

There are countless snapshots in my memory.  I could fill pages and pages because there was never a time when art and creativity were not a part of my life.

***

Several weeks ago, in several different settings, I listened to myself being described by others.  Their words were positive.  They accurately reflected strengths I do have.  But there was not one mention of creativity, of music, of artistry – all the things that most intricately make up the fibers of who I am.  I wasn’t upset at them, but I was jolted by a realization.

I have long stopped thinking of myself as an artist.  And of course, no one else sees me this way; how could they when I have not seen me this way?

There are so many things contributing to this shift over the course of many years – disappointments, failures, closed doors, decisions I made, lies I believed – each one a powerful sleeping pill slowly sedating my heart.

But the composition of my heart has not changed, and the anesthesia is beginning to wear off.  I am stirring, stretching, seeking what it is to feel awake and alive again.

Admittedly, this is a daunting moment – daring to believe it is not too late and mustering the courage to re-weave my life’s story.  Is it even possible to change when you allowed your life to be steered down a far different trajectory?

I have to believe it.  I do not want to journey through life with a sleep-walking heart.  I want to be fully engaged, fully alive, fully on fire.  This is the year for unlocking creativity and artistry again.  This is the year for awakening.

 

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Filed under Creativity, Hope, Music, Writing

Blowing the Embers

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have spent most of my life apologizing for myself.

I don’t know who said it first or who said it loudest; the voices have melded over time into a monotonous chant of criticisms all beginning with the word “too”.

Too strong-willed.

Too emotional.

Too ambitious.

Too dramatic.

Too romantic.

Too serious.

Too driven.

Too deep.

Too much.

And I have apologized and tried to be less because I know I am fiery, and I know if you brush up against fire, you end up burned.  I tried to be less “all or nothing”.  Some times I tried to be less to appease others, and some times I tried to be less to give myself a break.  It is wearying to love with such intensity, to be a black and white person in a world tinged with gray.  And when you throw yourself into things with abandon, with all of your heart, there are no such thing as small mistakes; oh no – when I make a mistake, I go down in a not-so-glorious blaze of glory.

Only recently have I come to realize the high price I have paid for the pursuit of “less than”.  At every stage, I have laid down something of my creativity, one piece at a time – first drama, then dance, then instrumental music (I played the flute and saxophone quite well once upon a time), then songwriting, then poetry.  A few weeks ago, I found myself contemplating giving up singing, and the throbbing of what my life would be if I muted myself completely unlocked the realization of how hard I have worked to quench my own fire.  And how beyond the shadow of a doubt that is NOT who I want to be.

The One Who Sees wove my being together this way.  My DNA is threaded with thunder and lightning, flaming fire, roaring rivers, majestic symphonies.   My heart dances wildly – sometimes the fierce dance of a warrior, sometimes the seductive dance of a lover, sometimes the yearning dance of a ballerina, sometimes the carefree dance of a thousand fireflies.  And in His hands, I am not too much.  I daresay, I am an echo of His own passionate heartbeat resonating through the universe.

I declare this heart – my heart – to be holy ground because the Creator of the Universe walks here.  And His whispers have come to blow the embers, to wake the sleeping fire in me.

*This is in response to a prompt from Story Sessions.  Join us?

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Filed under Creativity, Music, Passion