Monday, July 11

Creative Contentment

What comes to mind when you think about 'following your passions', pursing your 'gifts', creatively expressing yourself through art, or music or construction or words?

Do you find the time to do it? Do you make the time to pursue the other parts of your self (besides cooking, cleaning, chasing after kids & grocery shopping) that are jumping up and down inside your soul saying "I'm here! Use me!" 

Or...after all is said and done at the end of the day, are you just too plain tired...

I find myself in both places...often...jumping up and down with enthusiasm, ready to make a plan and make the time...and often even being successful at fitting in some good writing time, or reading something headier and theological than usual, or creating something fun and useless out of craft supplies from Michaels. 

and other times I'm just too darned tired...

and then life happens...

It gets really busy, the laundry piles up, the kids are cranky, the meals are unplanned and everything gets a little fuzzy, and unscheduled, unproductive...and while some of that is good (some unscheduled, unproductive, impromptu time with your family), too much, for too long, leads to frustration and a definite sense of being "out of balance" ( I cringe a bit to use that term...because I wonder if true "balance" is ever actually achievable, or is it just some far off, too high expectation we've set for ourselves. Nonetheless, I'm sure you know what I mean.)

All that to say that my heart started jumping up and down when I recently came to  chapter on pursuing your passions during motherhood in a very good book I've been reading. The book is called "Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul" by Angela Thomas...I've been reading it on and off during my morning "quiet" time for a couple of months now and it always speaks to my heart.

Thomas says:

"I love being around when people are exercising their gifts, doing those things for which they are created. Watching them do something great wakes me up...I am inspired to be passionate. Energy and skill, practice and perseverance, aspiring, training, becoming-- these traits perk up my spirit and call me toward an intentional life." 

Have you ever felt that way? I remember a winter, several years ago, just before Christmas, Scott and I were still living in Boston and went to see the Holiday Pops (Boston Symphony Orchestra) concert. I don't remember specifically all of the scores that were played, but I do know they did pieces from Handel's Messiah (you too have likely heard the "Hallelujah Chorus" as it is sometimes called) Every note of that beautiful concert was precise, every chord perfect....I closed my eyes for a moment and thought, "THIS is what heaven will be like. This is what the music will sound like."  

The perfection of it, the beauty of it, the passion and preciseness of it sent tingles through my entire body and almost brought me to tears. It was THAT moving.

(For what it's worth, it doesn't matter whether it's beautifully arranged classical music or some other art form. I was working at a Christian High-School  in Lexington, Massachusetts several years ago and a young Christian rap artist came in to do a concert for the kids. He was so passionate about what he was doing, and his ability to draw the students in because of his evident passion was also so contagious that it was clear that this was a guy doing what he was meant to do. I actually bumped into him the hallway after the concert and mentioned that it was obvious that he was really using his passions and gifts to serve God and that to see it was encouraging.) 

I think that is what Angela Thomas is talking about in her passage here. When people are using their gifts, their God inspired, true gifts, to their fullest, it moves moved me to want to be able to do something in my own life as well as I possibly good and to be able to move others in the process. For me it will never be through music, but maybe words or a meal, or a note of encouragement. 

But,  just when I get all excited to venture out and start using my passions passionately...well, something always happens. Life happens. And so I find myself awkwardly on this journey where I sometimes feel like I'm straddling two very different distinct parts of myself. I want to be able to spend more time on the artistic desires, or spiritual growth, or service towards others, but life and motherhood naturally pulls us in the other direction, sometimes more frequently than we'd hoped. 

Should I just give all of these other things up? I wonder to myself sometimes. It would be easier to not try and then I wouldn't be disappointed," I sometimes find myself thinking. 

 Thomas  goes on to say...

"But just about the time I get inspired, thinking that God has put something passionate inside of me, the world marches in and screams, "Wait a cotton-pickin' minute! What is all this aspiring, gifted, intentional stuff? You are a mother. You have four (or in my case just two!) small children, for goodness sake. You do not have the time to be passionate about anything that does not involve a home and kids. If you want to be passionate about homeschooling, fine. If you want to be passionate about soccer, fine, If you want to be passionate about cooking, okay. But you do not have the time energy or resources to purse the passions of your heart. Don't you need to iron something. Now get those crazy ideas out of your head.
    Many days I am tired and it is easier to believe the world. " 

There are 3 dark, black, penned in, penned over stars drawn next to this paragraph in my book...

Did this woman just crawl inside my head and transcendently bring my thoughts onto her page?.

Oh my heavens! I wanted to jump up and down and call Angela on the phone and say, "Sister, we need to talk. NOW! Please tell me how you do it. How you have done it. How you have managed to pursue your passions in the midst of mothering FOUR children."

It's a struggle. It's a balancing act for sure. And truly, only God can help us pull it all together. 

God's been speaking to me a LOT about this lately. He has been telling me to slow down a bit and perhaps start adding things back to my plate very slowly...and through careful prayer and discernment.  I'm just starting to realize that I need to trust him...that He knows how important my role as a mother is and he ALSO created me to be brimming with ideas.  That perhaps he is not actually asking me to do less, but that if I slow down and say no to some things,  he may even be able to do more with what I'm giving because it will be within his plan. Does that make sense?

I'm going to leave you with a few more words from Angela Thomas because I think she put it quite poignantly...

     "I figure I spend about 95 percent of my life providing for my family, caring, loving, and pouring myself into them. For me, the question is not how to get more time away from my family. I want them to have the whole 95 percent. The question I ask myself is, "How can I bring glory to God with the remaining 5 percent? Will I squander that time and energy, or will I use that small portion to pursue my passions?
     "I am choosing my passions. I do not get to choose them often, nor do I get around to that 5 percent of my life every day. But, I belive that God wired me with some gifts that He intended  I sue for His glory. Passions do not have to be separate from our roles as wives and mothers. We do not have to forsake one to pursue the other...In my heart I know that God is calling me to pursue those passions even in my season of motherhood."      

Amen sister...thanks for that big hug via your wise words.

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