Magma, Lava, and an Open Door

So another year has slipped by since my last post on this blog.  It's crazy how much has happened since then.  Obviously, the most exciting and important development has been my son, Judah.  He is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.  Becoming a mom--becoming his mom--has been such a challenging, rewarding, growing, frustrating, stretching, freeing, wonderful experience.  I just love him to bits.  There are pictures splattered here and there on my other blog if you want to take a peek.

Being a mom has saved me from such a huge majority of my existential despair surrounding what I want to be what I grow up.  I'm a mom.  And that is a wonderful thing.  And for the moment, that is enough.  I thoroughly enjoy taking care of Judah and knowing every moment of the day what I should be doing in order to accomplish that high goal.  I don't have to worry about "Where is my life going?"  "What did I do wrong to stray so far from the right path?"  "How am I ever going to get back on the right path?"  Blah blah blah.  Now, my life is the path, and I am living it.  Finally.

I'm reading a book right now entitled Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life.  I highly recommend it.  It has all sorts of evaluations and advice and general goodness.  If you're floundering at all on the subject of purpose, I strongly encourage you to read it.

Now maybe you're thinking, "I thought you were all satisfied being a mom.  What's with the self help book?"  Well, I am satisfied being a mom.  But at the moment, I am back working as a secretary covering my last job's replacement's maternity leave.  And now you're thinking, "Are you crazy?!?  You were miserable in that job."  And yes.  I was.  But this is temporary and part-time, and I felt like God was telling me to do it.  So there you have it.  Being back at this job has reminded me of the dormant but still very much real desire to do something.  Not that being a mom isn't doing something.  Because like I said, I am so satisfied and content with life right now.  (It's unfamiliar territory in my realm of adulthood.)  But there is this distant spot of darkness when Judah (and whatever other littles come along) are in school, and I will be left to do who knows what.  So I am reading this book.

Somewhere in the first chapter, it quotes Ephesians 2:10, which reads, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Do you know what that means?!?  It means that God made me with particular good works in mind.  He had it all planned out from the beginning what I would do with my life, and that plan takes into account who He made me to be.  That means that I have not irreversibly, irrevocably, irredeemably screwed up my life plan!!  I'm walking in it!!  So that is very good news.  I often think about how I chose the wrong major in college and every vocational decision since then has lead me down a path of miserable wrongness.  But that's a lie.  And I can claim the truth now that God will lead me where He wants me to go.  And I have a whole lot of life in front of me in which to do the good work that He has planned.  Huzzah!

So I've still been thinking that I'd like to go back to school.  But I didn't really know for what.  It just seemed like I probably needed a little more education in order to pursue a vocation that I would find satisfying.  And the other day, it came to me.  It was like a volcano.  The magma warming just below the surface...the smoke rising...a slow rumbling in the ground...and all of a sudden...BOOM!  Just like that, the bright warmth of an idea erupted into a decision.  And the decision is this:

I am going to art school.

I don't know why it took me so long to consider this as an option.  Ask me at any point in my life what the three most important things were, and I would have said, "worship, love, and creativity."  Obviously.  I have always wanted to create.  And I desperately want to be an artist.  In some form or another.  I'm sure it's who I already am...in my magma.  But I want to learn the skills that send my artistic lava flowing freely all over my little world.  I could go back to school for spiritual formation, but I know the books I'd have to read, the disciplines I would have to master, the resources I would have to consult.  I have competence enough there that I could do it all more or less independently.  But to be an artist--a real artist--there are skills I just cannot teach myself, materials and tools I don't have access to, critique I cannot offer myself.  And I want it.  I want it all.  I want creativity to be the atmosphere I breathe.  I want to call myself an artist and really believe it.

So there you have it.  Satisfaction and contentment just in time for a new vision.  But I think this was the perfect time for me to have this little eruption.  In Live Your Calling, the author talks about how your primary calling is to be in relationship with God.  And then you have secondary callings including life roles like daughter, mother, sister, friend.  And then your vocation is only a subset of those secondary callings.  And to hear that was so giddily freeing.  To know that I have most of my life figured out, that things like vocation and location are only contexts in which to live out my primary calling and my lifelong roles...it was like laboring and struggling to push open a door only to realize that I had to pull it open instead, and with just a simple reversal in my approach, it swings easily open on its hinges.  And now all I have to do, it walk through.

My next steps at the moment are to finish up working at my old job, which will be completed in the middle of March, just in time for me to have a week or two of prep and making for Judah's first birthday.  And then, I'm going to look into what I need to do to put together a portfolio and start a class or two on a very part-time basis.  And then...well, we'll see when I get there.

So all that is very exciting to me, and that's where my little heart has been in the recent days.  I don't know if I will be updating this blog more regularly or if it will continue to be my annual cardiological check-up.  But either way, thanks for checking up with me.


Where God Is Smiling

On this, the one year anniversary of my last post on this blog, I decided that it was time for a little update...

Back in July, I quit my (hopefully) last secretary job ever. I wasn't sure how long my break from the working world would be, but Jason and I decided that we would look at this time as a new season whose duration was unknown rather than a little break between jobs that crush my soul. In order to make this work, Jason took a few extra jobs on campus (totaling about 30 hours a week in addition to his 25 hours a week as a youth pastor and being a full time student and full time super husband). We also moved into a one bedroom apartment.

I decided that I wanted this time to be productive. So I designed a little schedule for myself including exactly what I wanted my days to look like:

7:50 Rise and Shine
8:00 Devotions
8:30 Breakfast
9:00 Quick Apartment Clean-up
9:30 Music Hour (playing guitar, singing, writing, recording, learn new instruments)
10:30 Non-Fiction Reading (spiritual formation, books about art and culture)
11:30 Just for Fun Reading (fiction and blogs)
12:30 Lunch
1:30 Time for Creating
4:00 Write on my Blog
5:00 Make Dinner
6:00 Eat Dinner
Rest of the Night: Free Time, Hang out with Jason, Small Groups, etc.

My schedule was loosely based on a day at Delanco Camp, because that is where I've always felt closest to God and consequently where I've always felt like the best version of myself. I wanted to plan my days to rediscover this "best me" that I've felt so isolated from the past few years. I wanted to rediscover my passions, my gifts, my identity, and to discern what God had for me in the next stage of life once Jason graduates from seminary. I arranged my days with all of my favorite things, hoping that in doing everything I loved, I would be able to see what area God was smiling over and therefore be able to know what direction I should pursue (music, crafting, further schooling, writing, etc.).

Somewhere in the midst of all this planning, Jason and I talked about wanting to have children and that maybe now would be a good time to do that. I don't really know this happened, but those conversations always occured in isolation from the rest of our planning (moving into a smaller apartment, me quitting my job, all of these things I wanted to do to reclaim my identity, all of the extra work Jason was taking on, etc.). It seems like having a baby was just this whole other realm of discussion because we didn't take any of those other things into account when talking about what it would mean for me to be pregnant.

But then I did get pregnant. And suddenly, my entire existence became all about supporting the little life growing inside of me. I spent my first 20 weeks of pregnancy lying on my bathroom floor trying to figure out what to eat next in order to keep the nausea at bay. Jason spent those long weeks (in addition to all of the extra work and school stuff) taking care of me and doing all of the house work. I have no idea how he kept his head above water. In addition to the fact that he is simply amazing, I think it has something to do with the fact that doing a ton of extra work and caring for a physically needy wife was still a much lighter burden than having a miserable wife who he couldn't do anything to help.

I've made it past (what I hope to be) the worst of the pregnancy sickness. I am now 7 months into pregnancy. I'm also 7 months into voluntary unemployment. And for all of my planning and scheming and designing my perfect schedule, I have not followed that schedule one single day in those seven months...

I was reflecting about this in spiritual direction. I said how I felt content and connected to God, but that I also felt like I hadn't used this time as well as I could have because I hadn't stuck to my plan. I hadn't done anything I wanted to do or discovered anything I anticipated discovering. I had no clearer sense about God's direction for my life or who He wanted me to be. I had made no progress in my skills as a crafter or my development as a songwriter and artist or my academic and intellectual desires.

Now I could make all sorts of excuses about how I haven't been physically up to doing my schedule, about how I want to do devotions when I wake up but if I don't eat something first I feel sick, about how I don't have a good space to be creative, about how difficult it is for me to ignore Jason's presence and just pursue my own plans for the day...

But here is the reality: If I really wanted to follow my schedule, if I really wanted to do all of those things that I claim to love and value so much, if those things really were so central to my identity, I would figure out a way to make it work. It wouldn't matter how I felt or what kind of space I was living in or what Jason's plans were. The fact of the matter is that we make time for the things that are actually important to us.

So my spiritual director asked me, "If that's true, what has this time actually looked like for you? Despite not sticking to your schedule, where has God been smiling in your life?"

And looking back over these past 7 months, here are the things that I have discovered:

1) For all of my complaining about wanting to pursue my passions and being thwarted by stupid jobs over the past three years, what I really needed and most deeply desired was rest. Time to regain a handle on a reality that included a loving God who is on my side and has good plans for me, time to rest without expectations of myself that were impossible to meet, time to recover physically from a honeymoon that nearly killed me and a lifestyle that tried to finish me off. I just wanted to rest. And I've done a lot of that. Nearly guilt-free, which is pretty miraculous. That rest has made me a much more sane and loving person than I was before. And even if that's all it has accomplished, I think that's worth it.

2) I have the most amazing and caring and supportive husband in the whole wide world. This is something I didn't know before. When I was working, things were difficult between Jason and me. I resented him for getting to pursue his passions while I slaved away at jobs that I hated. I felt used and betrayed and forgotten. I still loved him, and I knew he loved me. But it was hard. Over the past seven months, I've rediscovered what it's like to be loved unconditionally, to be taken care of, to be valued just for who I am without any expectations. And that has been more life-giving than I can communicate. Now Jason and I pray together and read the Bible together and have actual real conversations like we used to when we were dating. We spend substantive time together really enjoying each other's company. And I can say now that I don't only love my husband...I really like him, and I really like being married to him.

3) I have a deep need for community. This is something I knew about myself. I knew it was lacking from my prior life. And my mom even warned me when I shared my perfect little schedule with her that it was lacking time with other people. And despite feeling sick and not being very proactive, I have spent a lot time deepening relationships and forming new relationships over the past 7 months. I've gotten to spend time with some really wonderful women who live in my building. It's been so life-giving to have peers again, to be able to talk about things like marriage and kids and work and life goals with women who also have husbands in seminary and who are also terrified of what that means for their future lives. For the first time since getting married, I have a community of friends who don't live forever away, people I can run into accidentally and have a conversation with and see face to face on a regular basis and actually know what's going on in their lives. I didn't realize how much I missed this until I had it again, and it's been like taking that first breath after you realize you've been holding your breath for no good reason.

4) Despite not sticking to my schedule, I have actually made a lot over the past seven months. I've finished some overdue projects and presents. I've learned a few new skills. I've followed through on a few really good ideas. And I've started new projects that I'm really excited about. I haven't started up my etsy store or done any of my own shows or figured out my brand or kept up with my crafting blog or made any sort of big business decisions. But I have continued to create. And that is exciting to me. Because I feel like that says that whatever else is going on, creating is something that is important to me and that I will make time for, even if it isn't as structured or deeply existential as I would like it to be.

So here's pay off one: I don't feel like I'm any closer to discovering a life path or even a direction. But the reality is that what's coming next is this: I'm going to have a baby. And it's interesting that God has been smiling in my life in all sorts of places that are preparing me for that. He's restoring my physical health and giving me the rest I need to grow a baby. He's restoring my relationship with Him. He's restoring my marriage. And He's giving me gifts of community and creativity that restore some of my key values so that when this baby comes, I'll have something more to give him than simple sustenance.

And pay off number two: God can give me exactly what I need even apart from the little structures I create for Him to communicate to me. I figured that because I had failed to follow through with my plans for myself, I had missed out on discovering God's plans for me. It seems silly to say it like that. But it's like I had wanted to get everything quiet so that I could hear God and instead He wanted me to see Him. And I was seeing Him, but He was harder to recognize through my sense of sight because I was expecting Him to come another way with another message.

And for the grand finale: As soon as I came to those revelations in spiritual direction, my mind immediately jumped to this, "And then, once I see where God IS speaking to me, then I can create NEW structures that take that into account and will be more effective in aiding our communication." And then I had to tell that little voice to calm down, take a deep breath, and not miss the entire point, which is this: God will reach me how He wants to reach me. No matter how much I tweak my little life, He is going to do things that I don't expect. And seeing Him is not a matter of perfecting my world; it's a matter of knowing that it's His world.

Well, that was forever long. I figure a year of silence justifies a way-too-long-rambling post. Nevertheless, gold stars and check plusses for those who persevered to the end, and a hope that you see where God is smiling in your life, too.


Light and Warmth

(Disclaimer: First of all, let me take this moment to say that I am no longer going to be writing in all lower-case letters on this blog. It's just too much of a hassle. When this was my only blog, it wasn't a big deal. But now that I have two, and I write using normal caps on the other one, I go to add an entry here, and I forget the lower case thing until I'm about halfway through, and then I go back and change everything. No longer. I'm just going to write normally from now on. There's a good chance that I'm the only one who noticed the lower case thing or who would notice a change now, but for my own piece of mind, this is an intentional change to keep me from going crazy, and I'm stating it here so that you and I will both know that I am making a conscious change rather than a mistake. There. I feel much better now. End Disclaimer.)

I can't believe I didn't post this before. I don't know why I didn't. It's an old revelation. From back in October. Maybe I thought it was just too personal. But I figure it's time to let you know about it.

This is yet another revelation stemming from my time in small group. We were studying breath prayer that week. The most commonly known breath prayer is the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It is a prayer meant to be said repeatedly in rhythm with your breath so that it eventually seeps into your spirit and becomes a part of you. It's mostly used in Eastern Orthodox circles and was made famous in The Way of a Pilgrim, a spiritual classic of the Russian Orthodox tradition.

We had spent a week studying breath prayer and crafting our own prayers with the following format:
Breathe in --> a name for God and a description of God
Breathe out --> a desire and a description of myself

Shortened versions of breath prayer are just a name for God and a desire. For example, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me," or "Breath of God, breathe on me," or "Almighty God, give me strength," etc. You get the idea.

In small group, we were given a period of silence for us to each have a conversation with God. We were to tell God what our name was and to ask what He calls us. Maybe this is a little mushy and strange, and maybe that's why I haven't shared it until now. But here is the conversation I had with God, written in a sort of poem/psalm form because that's how it felt, and "selah" seemed the best way to notate pauses that were full of the Spirit. So without further ado, my conversation with God...

He asks, "What is your name?"
I answer, "My name is Broken."
He asks, "Who broke you?"
I answer, "I think You did...
And we wait.
I ask, "Is that okay to say?"
He answers, "Yes, that's okay to say."
He says, "That is not what I call you."
He asks, "May I give you a new name?"
I answer, "I would like to hear it."

Then we dance.

I breathe in, "Namer of the stars,"
I breathe out, "What do You call me?"

He breathes a name, "Beloved."
I answer, "That is not enough.
No, I am not Beloved."

I breathe in, "Namer of the stars,"
I breathe out, "What do You call me?"

He breathes a name, "Beauty."
I answer, "I understand Your meaning,
But no, I am surely not Beauty."

I breathe in, "Namer of the stars,"
I breathe out, "What do You call me?"

He breathes a name, "Depths."
I answer, "There is sadness there.
No, I am not Depths."

I breathe in, "Namer of the stars,"
I breathe out, "What do you call me?"

He breathes a name, "Light."

He continues, "You name is Light
because your Light has not gone out.
What you think you've lost
You have not lost."
I receive, "Thank You for my name.
Yes, my name is Light."

And we wait.

I ask, "What is Your name?"
He answers, "My name is Warmth."
He continues, "I am what you need
To feel safe and loved and happy."
I confirm, "Yes, that is true."
He continues, "But My name is more.
My name is a covenant with you.
Warmth will fan the flame of Light,
And I will restore your fire.
If you will absorb My Warmth,
Then you will burn brighter,
Radiating my Warmth through your Light."

I don't pretend to understand the physics of this conversation. It wasn't a "voice from heaven" sort of deal. And it wasn't me making up God's script, filling in what I expected or wanted him to say. It was more like a stirring in my heart. I would ask, and He would answer. And I knew it was Him. Without question, without striving, without conjuring. He was just there with me, speaking to me. I don't know why I feel the need to say that this is not my normal experience. I don't know why I feel compelled to disclaimer this into insignificance. The simple truth is that God gave me a gift. He gave me a name. When I felt like I was withering, He encouraged me and renewed my strength.

"A bruised reed He will not break.
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish." -Isaiah 42:3

That weekend was my church's women's retreat at a convent in Biddeford, Maine. As I walked into out meeting room, I noticed a painting on the wall of the order's foundress, Marie Rivier.
I asked the nun in the gift shop if they had any postcards or prints of the painting, and she said she would check. On the last morning of the retreat, she gave me a postcard she had found of the picture. I framed it, and it sits on my craft table as a reminder of the name--the gift--that God gave me and His promise to sustain my light with His warmth.


if you want me to

in our last small group meeting, everyone brought in a song that most aptly leads her to prayer or describes her current prayer or conversation with God. music has always been a huge connection point for God and me. but i don't really listen to a whole lot of music. i guess it just makes me a little bitter that those people have record deals and publishers and rock star lifestyles and i am doing data entry and fixing copier jams and sorting things into filing systems that nobody cares about. but enough about all that. the real point of this post is to share a song with you that one of my small group girls brought last week. this more than any other song that i know or have written most describes what's going on between God and myself. ginny owens was a big favorite of mine before i went to rock'n'roll camp and swore off all christian music. i think i'm going to have to take a trip back to her self-titled album and use it to help me remain open-handed in my posture towards God in this continuing season of loneliness and purposelessness where i find myself.

the video is kinda cheesy, but it's the best i could find. if it's distracting to you, just close your eyes and listen. in fact, i would recommend just going ahead and doing that. it's a much more profound and enjoyable experience that way.


holy listening

i know i've talked about spiritual direction quite a bit on this blog. but last night, i had quite a different experience with it that i wanted to share. first, a little back story...

in small group on wednesday night, we broke into twos and practiced "holy listening." one person is the speaker and the other is the listener. the speaker shares where God has been for them over the past week and the listener listens. when the speaker finishes, the listener doesn't give advice or try to analyze or fix anything or share how she had experienced something similar. she maybe asks a clarifying question or two, but on the whole, the listener simply bares witness to God's presence, notices God's movement, and receives the speaker. that's basically what spiritual direction is. after our time of speaking and listening, we came back together as a group and shared what the time was like for us. then our group's leader encouraged us to allow God to be our "holy listener" and to be His holy listener in return.

i've been in a strange place with God over the past couple of months...not bitter or resentful like i was last year. having discarded some of the unhelpful images and ideas i had about God, i've been waiting for Him to show up and replace those images with His true self. but i am still very tentative with Him. He hasn't fully regained my trust. and so my invitations to Him have been awkward and irresolute. it's been difficult for me to pray, wanting Him to open up the sky and speak to me, scared of what He would say, more scared that He wouldn't show up at all. so even in my new plan of "initiating" contact with Him in order to be more receptive to His presence, i've still just been speaking to myself, too scared to actually invite Him to participate in the conversation for fear of rejection or abandonment in some form or another.

so last night, i decided to pray a little differently. i dusted off my journal, and i began to write. i told God that i wasn't ready to invite Him to speak quite yet but that He was more than welcome to be my holy listener, to be with me as i journaled to myself, to bear witness to where I was and to simply be with me there.

maybe this isn't any sort of revelation for anyone else. maybe this is how you've prayed all your life. but it's something different for me. i receive love in presence and in interaction. i've always had someone i can pour my heart out to, and that they listen and respond is how i am affirmed in our relationship. my relationship with God used to be like that. i wouldn't hear audible voices or anything, but my prayers were by and large interactive. i don't really know how to explain it any better than that. but in the past few years, i haven't felt that exchange from God. i've felt abandoned and manipulated by Him, or rather, who I believed Him to be. so now, in this season of regaining some footing and rediscovering Who He Is, it was incredibly peace giving to just talk and for Him to just listen, to just be with me. i could feel Him. and He wasn't shushing me to get a word in, He wasn't chiding me for not letting Him speak. He was just there. listening. loving me. receiving what i had to say. and i just talked to Him, not even about my relationship with Him, just about what i was going through in those moments.

i haven't returned the favor of being His listener quite yet. i'm still fearful of the isolation i would feel if He didn't show up or the guilt He could inflict upon me if He wasn't pleased with me. i know He has the power to destroy me--not with lightning bolts or a giant thumb smiting me, although He could--but with His Word and how He chooses to reveal Himself to me or hide Himself from me. and I am terrified. but last night, He was gentle. last night, He was content to just listen and receive me where i was. and that was a gift.



on friday night, jason and i headed down to jersey for a quick 24 trip to meet my new niece, molly grace benson. let me just say, i am so in love. she is the smallest, sweetest, most adorable little baby ever. ever. here are a couple pictures to solidify the point:besides molly-gazing and holding and loving, we fit a lot into a very short amount of time. in the 12 hours we were awake in jersey: we met our niece, jason and justin went golfing, we ate three delicious meals, saw megan and justin's house-remodeling in progress, took a walk, saw josiah's first experience with real food (liquid rice cereal), spent time with my grandfather, got our truck fixed (the gear shifter was jammed and wouldn't shift into park), ichatted with amy and jesse, and my mom and i did a little felting. a very busy day proceeded by and followed by 6 hours driving from and back to boston. *phew.*

i[re-]learned a few things from my trip back to the Promised Land (aka south jersey):
  • i love my family. i desperately want to live closer to them, but in the mean time, i'm so glad that we are in weekend-trip-driving distance.
  • south jersey water is the best water on the planet. it's just sweeter and more refreshing and delicious than any other water anywhere.
  • i love being an aunt to all my little nephews and niece.
  • i'm getting more comfortable with babies. not quite sure where that's going to lead except that pretty soon, maternity leave will not be the only reason i want one.
  • jason is an excellent road-tripping companion.
  • i don't know what the world did before gps's.
  • despite very enticing sunday plans that would include hanging out with friends and picking apples and eating apple cider donuts, if i have a busy saturday, i cannot escape the allure of the sunday afternoon nap.
Fishy Face!


Revelations in Time Management, Isolation, and Extroversion

I've gotten a little of track the past couple weeks with my other blog...not quite keeping up with my weekly deadline as well as I would like. I think for the most part, I've been handling my weekly challenge in a healthy way, not becoming too obsessed about it or too upset with myself when I'm a few days late or when my projects are not as awe-inspiring as I think they should be.

But this week, I had a breakdown...one of my hardest falls in a very long time. I was in deep despair over my future and my ability to be a functional human being. Here's what happened:

Jason and I made plans to hang out in our guest room/craft room/study. He was going to blog or study Greek, and I was going to make something. But then Jason remembered that there was an event on campus that he was supposed to attend, and I told him that was fine. I had plenty to do to keep myself busy. So he left, and I looked around the kitchen and thought about making dinner, but the sink was full of dirty dishes, including the pan I needed, so I sat down on the couch and started reading The Last Unicorn, which apparently is this great fantasy classic that I had never read. (I'm about half way through now, and I can't say that the story is very compelling or that the characters are overly likable, but it is very well written.) So I started reading, and with every approaching end of a chapter, I told myself that I would get up off the couch and make myself dinner and then I would get started on a crafty project. The chapters slipped by, and so did the hours, and before I knew it, it was almost 9:00, and I was still on the couch. I hadn't eaten a thing. And I had no energy to get up and be productive, even in a fun and creative way.

This happens to me a lot. I'll have these great big plans to do something when Jason is gone, and I'll end up wasting my entire night. The reality of this hit me that night, and I completely lost it. I began to think about what it is going to take for me to be able to start my own business: discipline, perseverance, energy, motivation, drive, passion, initiative. I began telling myself that I didn't have any of these qualities and that I would never succeed because I am incapable of being alone. I told myself that I was completely dysfunctional and that I would always have to have a job that I hated because I can't do anything by myself. It was unbearably depressing. I spent quite a long time crying on the bathroom floor in the dark.

When Jason and I talked about my melt down, I told him that I wished that I wasn't so dysfunctional, that I could just be a normal human being. I told him that when I'm by myself, I am incapable of conjuring up the energy to be anything but lazy and unmotivated. And he told me that that doesn't make me dysfunctional--that makes me an extrovert. He said that feeling lonely doesn't make me less of a person--it makes me human. And that's alright. He suggested that when I'm by myself, I should set smaller goals like "eat dinner," and if that's all I do, that's okay. Emily gave me similar advice a few weeks ago when I was in Chicago, saying that doing nothing was a perfectly sufficient way to spend an evening by myself, and I should give myself permission to do that. Through Jason's and Emily's counsel, I came to the following realization:

I shouldn't expect my alone time to be my most productive time.

That might seem small and inconsequential. Or it may seem absurdly obvious to anyone who knows me well. I have always been more productive when someone else is in the room, even if we don't say a word to each other. By their mere presence, they energize me for the task at hand. And yet, when I have time to myself, I expect that I should be able to accomplish great feats of creative brilliance, complete and concrete and furiously productive. Clearly, those are ridiculous expectations. But I don't think I'm alone in envisioning that artists should be able to create by themselves. And I so desperately want to be an artist.

Jason and I went to convocation this morning at Gordon. (Convocation is kinda like chapel but more academically focused. Every Friday instead of chapel, there is convocation. The theme for convocation this year is Creativity.) There were a panel of faculty, each presenting a different aspect of creativity. One professor started her presentation by naming several creative people: Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, some writer I had never heard of. She asked us to picture each person. She asked if we envisioned them with the tools of their craft. Most people did. Then she asked if anyone pictured these creative geniuses with anyone else. Not a single hand was raised. She said that is was interesting and devastating how our culture elevates the work of the individual and conjures stereotypes that we can and should and do accomplish great things in isolation. The reality is that each of the creative people she mentioned had a co-collaborator, someone to listen and reflect their ideas. She reminded us that we were created to be social beings. That is not a weakness. Our need for other people is a mark of the image of God in us. Even God Himself creates in the community of the Trinity. If we are His image-bearers, how much more do we, the created, need to approach creative work in a communal context!

It was healing for me to hear today that even the most brilliant creators in history did not create in a vacuum of isolation. It gives me hope that I can achieve something after all. It gives me the freedom to need people and to be honest with myself about that need. And maybe if I can be honest about my needs, I can slow the crippling bottling I do when I am hurting. And maybe I can find the motivation to reach out to people, who might need me just as much as I need them.