You Glow, Girl

You Glow, Girl

We crest the little rise about three houses above our home just as dusk falls. My daughter runs inside to shower, and I follow my little man, who runs into the swath of lush, early summer green, fireflies glowing up around him.

I forget my tiredness {and the convoluted walk with the pulling dog and the many stops and the poop bag I had to bring for the dog and the mini cooler my son asked me to bring with a drink, a sandwich, and a Thomas train}.

The dimness bathes the brick side of my house, the flower bed, and the gate into our back yard in a light that transforms it, renders it full of a mystique and charm I didn’t recognize a moment ago.

I’m transported into the momentary magic, captivated, and we walk hand and hand into the back, clicking the gate shut behind us.  I sit at the scroll-y metal café set my husband has put at the edge of the yard.

I loose my focus, let my eyes go wide, and take in the whole of the yard, instead of focusing on my little man and how I might wrangle him inside for bath.

The lightning bugs are breathtaking. Maybe it’s perfect timing. Maybe it’s the damp weather. But, they glow and glow, almost in unison. A breath, two … and then a delicate upward spiral of united glow, in what seems like a hundred different spots at once.

***

We are artists, every last one of us. Creative beings. Fearfully and wonderfully made.
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My medium might be pen and paper; yours might be chocolate chip cookie dough. Your art may be the way  you encourage young hearts, while mine may be the way I paint swoops of color with perennials in a garden bed.

The honest truth is that, all too often, we look at ourselves and our lives in the harsh light of day, instead of the forgiving light of dusk or dawn. We opt for day or night, black or white, creative or not. God begs to differ. He challenges us to take a new view, to slow our rapid race to get the next thing done, and, instead, observe — really, truly, see.

He asks us to view ourselves the way He does. To become enchanted with our own beauty and potential, our innate creativity, and the possibilities of living out our creative gifts, hand in hand with Him.

He asks us to come out of our hiding in the deep summer grasses and start the light show.

***

Our God  is the ultimate Creator, the first and foremost when it comes to exquisite and precise workmanship.  His hands did not slip when he formed us and planned out all the days of our lives. God prepared us with the skills and resources we need to fulfill His unique plan for each and every one of us.  We are created singularly, beautifully, and with great attention to detail. Our creative gifts – whether or not we have recognized them as such – are just that, precious presents from God.

“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” 

Ephesians 2:10

We’ve all been gifted with creativity; the question now becomes, are we brave enough to show our glow?

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{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

In May, I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m talking with Liz Lanza, a friend of mine in real life, and a talented food blogger {The Fresh Plate}, jewelry artisan {After Dinner Designs}, and mom of three boys.  Liz is offering the lovely handmade cuff bracelet pictured for one lucky reader {scroll down to learn how you can enter the giveaway}.

Q: When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity?

When I became a mom, I found that I started funneling my creative energies through my  kids and their needs. As the boys have grown, I’ve spent countless hours planning themed birthday parties, cute school treats for their classes, and decorating their bedrooms based on their personalities. In the last sixteen years, I have gotten pretty good at it, and I truly enjoy it.

Q: How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

I find the time to create when the kids are at school, and at night, after they’ve been put to bed. I usually reserve weeknights and weekends for family time, but I always make time for creating. I have a need to get in the studio and create, and I consciously make time for it.

Q:  What role does spirituality/your relationship with God play in your creativity?

God plays such a big role in my creativity. I struggled for many years with self-esteem, and because of that, there were years of dormant creativity. When I became a Christian, in my twenties, my outlook on myself changed dramatically. I realized that working with my hands and creating things brought me joy. I am so blessed to be able to stay at home with my kids and run a small business that allows me the time to be a wife and a mom first, while still being able to use my creativity on a daily basis.

Q: What is your biggest challenge at this season in your life, in pursuing your creative passions?

My biggest challenge has been trying to juggle marriage, parenthood, and friendships while trying to grow a business and continue to make quality products for my Etsy shop. I have had to learn to say no.

Q: What are your favorite creative pursuits?

I make broken-plate jewelry, accessories, and home decor from bits of recycled plates, cups, and saucers.  So, naturally, I love junking — going to flea markets and barn sales to look for unusual plates, cups, and saucers!

Q: When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel?

The payoff, for me, is that I get to use my creative energy and recreate pieces of jewelry from broken pieces of china that are unusable. And there is a satisfaction at the end of the day when I know my creations are being worn and loved by my clients.

Q: What would you say to a mom who claims she’s just not a creative “type”?

I think everyone is creative. You just have to believe in yourself and take that leap of faith to pursue whatever it is you love.

Q: What advice would you give to a mom who says she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

Like all aspects of motherhood, you have to make time. It’s easy to throw in the towel and say you just don’t have time or you are too tired. I do it sometimes too. But once I consciously make time to create, it becomes a part of my routine.

Q: What do you think God’s take is on creativity?

God made each of us with a creative spirit. We need to learn to channel it and ask Him to nurture it.

 Liz is a wife, mother, food blogger, and jewelry artisan who lives in Western Pennsylvania {though she has a move on the horizon!} with her husband and three sons. She has been featured in Edible Allegheny Magazine, Family Food & Fun Magazine, and will have a recipe in the new Gooseberry Patch Grilling cookbook coming out in January 2014.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us how you fit creativity into your busy life and/or what role God plays in your creative pursuits. Earn an extra entry by visiting Liz’s Etsy shop and leaving a separate comment with your favorite After Dinner Designs shop item. The giveaway ends in one week {July 3, 2013}. 

                  

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

Last week I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m honored to be talking with poet and mom of three, Sarah Dunning Park, who’s also offering a signed copy of her new book of poems, What It Is Is Beautiful, for one lucky reader {scroll down to learn how you can enter the giveaway}.

Q: When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity? 

A: Becoming a mom has affected my creativity tremendously, in a variety of ways. But before I get into that, I want to note that getting married also had a major effect on my creativity. With both types of life changes, you have to figure out how to balance the new relational needs and responsibilities with your own desire or need to find time for creative pursuits. To be honest, I would say that I’m only now beginning to figure out a healthy balance, though I’ve been married for about twelve years. Our kids are now 9, 6, and 6 years old. But I wish I’d made it a priority sooner!

When my first baby was born, I really threw myself into the creativity of homemaking. For instance, I got into baking bread with a sourdough culture (which needed daily tending). I can see now that I found that particular creative outlet out of necessity, in the best way I was able to, for that chapter of life.

Three years later, our twins were born, and I entered a very difficult period of a few years — I had three kids preschool-age or younger, and I was also battling a chronic health issue (severe leg pain). The pain (coupled with the challenges of being home with three little ones) led to depression. So I found myself in the position of needing a creative outlet more than ever, and yet not only could I not find the time or energy, I also couldn’t remember what I even liked doing, creatively speaking!

But this story does get better… About three years ago, I spent three weeks on my own in Manhattan, seeing a specialist for my leg pain. It was the first time I’d been away from the kids for longer than an evening out. That time was transformative. I finally had a moment to sit and think and breathe. And another moment, and another, consecutively! Suddenly I had a thousand thoughts I wanted to do something with, and that is when I began writing my recent poems about motherhood.

So the very challenges that had made it difficult to find time for creativity (those constant demands of motherhood), became, in the end, the raw material for my creative work, once I was able to take a step back and start making.

Q: How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

A: Of course, I couldn’t stay in Manhattan and live the life of a solitary writer! I came back to my home and family, and decided I had to figure out a way to make space for writing. My kids are all school-age now, and I work part-time, not full-time, so I try to take advantage of hours during the school day to get writing time. Once I have a draft of a poem, I’m able to squeeze in the editing work here and there — getting up earlier, grabbing a half hour while the kids play outside after school, and so on. But it really helps to have an uninterrupted chunk of time when I’m first starting a poem. And that, for me, is a matter of timing; I could never have found such time when the kids were all much smaller. Summers are still difficult.

One thing I’ve found to be quite helpful is note-taking. When an idea for a poem pops in my head, I try to get it down on paper (or email it to myself) as quickly as possible. I keep a file of those ideas. Or if I’m driving around, running errands, I try to use that time to wrestle, mentally, with a problem I may have come up against in the writing of a poem.

Q:  What role does spirituality and your relationship with God play in your creativity?

A: I believe that God values creativity, and art, deeply. After all, look at this intricate world we live in! But it’s easy to write off creative work as unimportant or frivolous. A luxury. So when I’m questioning the value of my creative work, I have to take a step back and revisit what I believe about God.

When I’m writing, I’m very aware that the beauty or truth I’m trying to capture is pre-existing. I’m not the source of it — God is. I’m just uncovering it. And so there’s this wonderful joy in the discovery, and a lack of pressure or fear with regard to “coming up with something good.” The good is there, God-made. And it might not be tidy. But I have the fun of taking part in it, playing with it, and helping others to see it.

I also feel that God has taken this creative work and used it for good in my life in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to predict. It’s been very healing work. So that bolsters my sense of how huge God’s dreams are for us — he wants to do great things in our lives, things that heal us and others, and that bring him glory.

Q:  When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel? 

A: When I write a poem, I’m helped by the process in so many ways. Writing a poem enables me to clarify an issue in my mind. Often I start one about a particular problem, and I honestly don’t know where the poem-writing will take me. But the process of writing it helps me figure out a new way of looking at the problem, or even “solving” it, in a sense.

In addition to gaining a better overall perspective by the end of writing a poem, I also benefit from the ongoing creative act of mental play. One of the things I love about writing poems is that I get to work with words so fluidly, finding echoes in how they sound together, and really paying attention to the subtle differences in meaning. It’s exercise for my mind, and it lifts me up out of the repetitive cycle of household tasks.

Q: What advice would you give to a mom who feels like she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

To the mom who can barely find time for a shower, I would say, “I know. I totally get it. If you have five free minutes, take that shower, enjoy it, and don’t feel bad about not being creative, too.”

I’ve been there, too, and I think it’s important to not make “being creative” just another to-do item to feel burdened by. If you long for a creative outlet but feel swamped by your life, then make a tiny, incremental goal. Find *one* way to, say, make your kitchen table more beautiful, whether it’s putting a single flower in a jar, using cloth napkins, or simply removing all the piles of mail for once! I know it seems small, and not as “worthy” as working on a painting or writing something, but it’s vital. Small steps like that will keep the creative parts of your brain alive and hungry for more. And if there’s a hunger for it, you’ll start finding other ways to make more space for creativity.

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      Sarah Dunning Park is a wife, mother, and writer who lives in Virginia with her husband and three daughters. She and her husband run the simple online budgeting program,   PearBudget.com. Sarah is the author of
What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us how you fit creativity into your busy life and/or what role God plays in your creative pursuits. The giveaway ends on May 17, 2013. 

 

       

        

{Guest Post @ Life Your Way} Permission to Play

{Guest Post @ Life Your Way} Permission to Play

Sparkly Sparkly Crazy Hair is famous in our family. A My Little Pony who sells ice cream sundaes for $50 a pop, she also has a perennial bad attitude. And, if you argue with her, the price just skyrockets. We’re not sure how she stays in business, but she does.

Though my daughters are 10 and 8 now, and they haven’t really played ponies in years, they still remember Sparkly Sparkly Crazy Hair — the fun, goofy, off-the-cuff invention of my husband — and they’ve kept her. {Pretty amazing considering how many preschool toys have been donated and/or sent the way of a garage sale.}

Maybe you’re like me — the mom who all too often takes the weight of the world onto her shoulders and feels she doesn’t have time to play. Have you ever looked on wonderingly as your husband {or babysitter, or parent} gets down on the floor and just plays?

Have you ever wondered what would it be like to just let the laundry pile, and the dishes sag sideways in the sink, and the emails and notifications stack up unread?

Join me over at Life Your Way today, where I talk about how freeing it can be to start saying “yes” to play.