On Creating and Messes

On Creating and Messes

A few weeks ago, I was attempting to make homemade mayo in the food processor, while cooking dinner at the same time. My 11-year-old daughter was nearby, doing homework on the family computer. The egg yolk, vinegar, dried mustard, and salt started to emulsify into light, creamy goodness as I painstakingly tipped in olive oil one drop at a time — oh, wonder of wonders! — and then promptly “broke,” turning grainy, oily, and generally unappetizing.

Darnit! I said, banging on the countertop with my hand, and then repeated darnit, darnit, darnit! three more times for emphasis.

{Except I didn’t say darnit.}

My daughter looked up — she’s a pretty good swearword watchdog, because it’s something we don’t do {with the occasional parental lapse} in our house. Later, she was concerned: I’m sorry your mayo didn’t turn out, she said. I assured her there were far worse things and that I should have bit my tongue — not to mention stuck with my tried-and-true, whisked-by-hand recipe.

But, here’s the thing.

I’ve been realizing lately that, for all our successes {whether spiritual or writing or crafty or cooking or whatever-related}, there is a lot of trial and error, and even more mess.

And, I think mess — at least for me — represents a barometer of how much my creative life is flourishing.

dirty dishes

Right now, there’s spilled nut flour and puddles of coconut oil on my perpetually smeared countertop; there’s bits of herb and chopped veggies smashed into our kitchen’s faux peel-and-stick tile. There’s some funky smell in my basement that made my husband take out the trash and open the windows. {Then I had to break it to him that I’m attempting to ferment sauerkraut and the funky smell is here to stay for a couple of weeks, at least.}

There’s paint and magazines and fibers and washi tape and mod podge and books all over my dining room table. {Thanks to Christine, a self-taught spiritual art journaler, who facilitated an art journaling session at Kris‘ Refine retreat in April, I now have another way to make a big mess on yet another large surface.}

Here, I dig into the Word, here I attempt to sort out thoughts and emotions, and here, I hope to paint a visual image of where I am now and how God figures into it all.

art journal

Your creative mess is probably different. Maybe, it’s related to the women’s bible study you’re writing and the piles and piles of notes and books that threaten to engulf your nightstand. Perhaps, it’s the mass of flowers you’ve yet to pot for your amazing patio garden.

You know your mess. And, like me, I hope you’re coming to terms with it. Because mess = life.

You see, we’re all creating, all the time. And, it’s rarely neat, controlled, or tidy.

We’re creating our faith lives, crafting them one verse, one experience, one prayer at a time. We’re falling away and then returning. We’re taking steps forward and steps back.

We’re creating our family lives. Caring for kids and husbands, grandkids and aging parents. We’re realizing as soon as we think we have things figured out {with an illness, a life stage, a job}, the rules change, and we’re re-creating.

We’re creating with our words, spoken and written, shaping relationships or stunting them, infusing love or imparting harshness {sometimes both on the same day}.

We’re creating with kitchen hands and craft-table fingers– making pork stir-fry or playdoh smushes. {Or we’re calling out for pizza or popping in Planes for the 10th time.}

I like to think that the better we are at creating, the bigger our messes — and the more we learn to be okay with that.

I used to think I couldn’t create until my email inbox was cleared, the dishes done, laundry folded, and the kids all off at school. You can imagine how well that worked.


Setting ourselves up to be creative perfectionists sets us up for failure. But, when we are willing to let things get messy {or stay messy}, we open up space to create. When we try new things for the sheer joy of it — while still knowing they might fail spectacularly — we are saying we value the creative process and the experience of making something more than a Pinterest-worthy end product.

As for me, these days, the dishwasher always overflows; the bathroom is often a few days’ past its “clean-by” date; and the laundry heaps on my basement floor have been there long enough to harbor creepy-crawlies underneath. My husband finally gave up and put our Easter decorations into their bin in because the pile has just been sitting there since, well, Easter. {I was hoping it might migrate magically into storage.}

I’ve been busy — you know? I’ve been cutting letters out of old cards and getting paint all over my hands, having dinner with friends, making homemade fruit leathers and jewel-like beet puree, and wrangling my three small people.

It’s been, undeniably and indisputably, messy. But, it’s been good.

What lovely messes have you been creating?


Five Reasons Why Doing Nothing May Be The Best Thing You’ll Ever  {Not} Do

Five Reasons Why Doing Nothing May Be The Best Thing You’ll Ever {Not} Do

Last year, I did an occasional blog series on creativity called Spark Moms. I’m adding some new posts this spring, including today’s musing about one of the most powerful ways we can boost our creativity — by making sure we make time to do … nothing. If you’re new to the blog, and want to catch up on my other posts in this series, you’ll find the series indexed at the bottom of this post.

I recall this morning in the blissful early days of June last summer. I’d just grabbed my coffee mug, journal, and Bible and headed out to our deck, before the kids woke. It was summer, and the long days {late bedtimes} were keeping my trio of kiddos snoozing until at least 8 a.m. I had been sleeping in a bit myself and still getting that coveted block of morning quiet. Sometimes, if I were really lucky, I’d sneak in a little extra reading, or even some writing.

This particular morning, I was primed to get going and get stuff done. {Oh, how I love to get things done.} There’s nothing like checking things off the list.

Sign up for VBS – check!
Catch up on emails – check!
Clean out craft table—check!

And, cue: Sigh of deep satisfaction.

This is not going to happen this morning.
This is not a productivity tale, nor is it a woe-filled tale of an early rising child.
It’s a tale of nothing.


I got ready to open my Bible, but felt an overwhelming sense that I should do nothing:
Sit still. Observe. Breathe in. Breathe out.

God, really? I asked. You don’t want me to read my Bible and pray?

I was a bit mystified, but knew I hadn’t heard wrong.

I was rewarded richly. I witnessed a squirrel game of hide-and-seek. I saw robins and blue jays and cardinals. I heard birdsong and the high creek rushing behind the safe confines of the chain-link fence at the far edge of our yard. I smelled that fresh green smell of crushed lawn and faint flowers. I felt the slow, steady climb and fall of my own soft breath.

I experienced the unique pleasure of exhaling. I realized that while we seem to know we need more breaks from constant connection and online time, most of us have yet to realize that even talking to a friend or reading a book are still forms on inhaling, taking in more stimuli.

Doing nothing is the only way we have to process all we take in. It’s the only way to exhale out what we don’t need, so we can inhale the fresh, clean oxygen we so desperately need to breathe.

Doing nothing actually does five vital things for us:

1. Helps us hear God more clearly. So often, I am busy with my own quiet time agenda – prayer list, passage of the day, scripture memorization — that I drown God out. Doing nothing stops me from talking over top of God.

2. Allows us to tune into our intuition. You know that quiet voice that could tell you a thing or two? That if you let it speak would urge you not to reach for the second oreo, or to yell less and calmly redirect your kids? Yes, that one. You might want to listen up.

3. Boosts our creativity. The constant pressure to do and be more dries up our creative juices. Allow yourself some freedom for nada. Gift yourself the permission to be utterly, beautifully negligent – if only for a few minutes each day. Watch those juices start to flow.

4. Opens space in our lives. For me, motherhood often feels like being trapped in a box … and I’m claustrophobic. If you’re like me, you often fixate on the confines of that box {feeding schedules, naptimes, bedtimes, sports schedules, homework} and how they prevent you from doing what you really want/need to do. Doing nothing — while counter-intuitive — clears the air, releases you by its very indulgence.

5. Provides much-needed rest. Ever feel fried? I do at some point, almost every single day. Our constant intake of stimuli – fighting siblings, spilled milk, mommy, Mommy, MOMMY! – adds to the brain-deluge until we are so under water, some parts of our wiring sizzle and pop. Our minds need some tabla rasa time to repair those connections and refresh our perspective.

While I need to work on doing nothing – an oxymoron if I ever heard one! – I’m so grateful I listened and obeyed that morning. I left my little nothing session feeling rested and inspired.

So, the next time you have a spare minute, I hope you will choose wisely. I hope you will learn to reach for the beauty of absolutely … nothing.

Want to catch up on the Spark Moms Creativity Series? Here’s an indexed list of previous posts:

Spark Moms Posts:

Igniting The Spark
Permission to Play
Why You Need A List of Affirmations
The Done Vs. The Doing
You Glow Girl
I’m Not Creative … And Tomato Basil Tart

Spark Moms Interviews:

Melissa Aldrich, of Quiet Graces Photography
Liz Lanza, of After Dinner Designs
Sarah Dunning Park, Poet

Spark Moms Guest Posts:

Gindi Vincent, Do Your Right Work
Elise Daly Parker, In Living Color
Kathy Howard, Created To Be Creative
Christine Wright, Just Crazy Enough

{Creativity Series} Guest Post: Do Your Right Work

{Creativity Series} Guest Post: Do Your Right Work

Join me today in welcoming my friend Gindi, as she posts about her recent “aha!” moment when she realized that she was indeed a creative soul. 

She stood on stage, looking out at the hundreds gathered for lunch as she accepted the prestigious award. She spoke of the challenges she had faced to finally find this place in life. Then she challenged everyone in the audience to find their “right work” and do it.

She proceeded to give examples. She shared what the introverted person might look like and what their right work might be, and then what the academic person might look like and what their right work might be, but then she gave an example of what the creative person might look like and what their right work might be.

“Maybe you design amazing Christmas cards, and that is the one card everyone looks forward to receiving during the season.” I sat up straighter. I do that. But I’m not creative.

“Maybe you plan elaborate parties with coordinating themes and cakes and go all the way down to the napkins with your stylized design.” I leaned forward. I do that. But I’m not creative.

40915_fr_proofTwo more examples followed. Each one a bird’s eye view into something that I love to do and that I do well. It stumped me. I don’t sing or play an instrument (though I love music). I have zero artistic talent in the traditional sense (can’t paint, sculpt, draw, etc.). I have no idea how to scrapbook. I’ve never done anything remotely crafty with my kids’ school projects; never touched a glue gun; never sewn a stitch.

I grew up with a brother that could play the guitar and the drums and taught himself the keyboard and wrote music and painted and sketched and wrote imaginative short stories. I made straight A’s in math and science (and English and just about everything but art). HE was the creative one.

As I stewed over this concept at the airport, I thought of this Spark Moms series. I even remembered when Elizabeth asked a few of us to consider guest posting. {She and I are in an online blogging group together.} I didn’t even give it a second thought. I figured the creative writers would come up with something inspired and, well, creative, to contribute. What can a lawyer for an energy company contribute to “Spark Moms”? C’mon!

But, then I realized that by not recognizing the gift of creativity God gave me, I failed to honor Him. I failed to acknowledge His creative hand at work in my life — how he instilled in me a love for color and fonts and beautiful paper and imaginative ways to entertain.

Do you know what I collect? Napkin rings. I love to set a beautiful dinner table with eclectic napkin rings around my assorted cloth napkins. I used to love hosting parties, cooking, and entertaining, but once I had triplets, I hadn’t the time, funds, or clean space to do so anymore. So that part of my creative self withdrew. But it was still there, in a different way, and I failed to recognize it.

You see, I create elaborate children’s birthday party themes and spend a month designing our Christmas card. I come up with funny coordinating triplet Halloween ideas (last year my two-boys-and-a-girl triplet set who just turned three were Captain Hook, Peter Pan, and Tinker Bell).

So I’m acknowledging it. And I’m taking Elizabeth’s advice to heart from her affirmation post I will make creating a priority in my life, and I will try to do one creative thing each day. <<<Tweet This!<<<

If I could tell you one thing today, it would be this: That even in the depths and drudgery of motherhood, that creative self is still there. It may be buried under mounds of laundry or piles of Tonka trucks, but that painter, writer, entertainer, photographer, designer, dancer, musician, planner, imaginer is still in there, just begging for an outlet.

Find her one. Do your right work.

703638_3746187232670_145804625_oGindi is wife to Bray, momma to 3 year old triplets, and full time attorney for an energy company in Houston.  Her book, Learning to Lead, released last month.  She blogs daily over at Gindi’s – A Refreshing Spot for Working Women of Faith. She loves coffee, girlfriends, and shoes — and believes that her life is a living testament to the fact that God can do more than we could ever ask or imagine.

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.
<—-Tweet This!

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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