Bare Bones Creativity

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Today I come to you with an unusual style and a not-so-graceful technique. Let’s call it a bare-bones moment of complete honesty. The stuff I normally write about- parenting lessons, hope after loss, motivational messages for women– are all important topics to me. Actually, they are what make me “me.” Every single word is penned out of a personal experience that I feel will benefit someone else from reading it. So I write it and allow you into a small corner of my world to see life through my eyes for 500 – 800 words.

But I’m not writing about those important things right now. I’m writing about writing and how this artistic extension of myself has created something new in me just as much as I have created something new with it. Think about that for a second. While I’m creating, I’m being re-created. I get to recycle my stories, some good and some bad, by sharing them with you. All the while, I’m being made new as I allow my heart to pour out onto the page.

Creation is a wonderful mystery!

In honor of this revelation, I’ve decided to throw out the idea that I must have a mainstream topic in order to have an audience and just write for the sake of writing. Call it an act of defiance or a rebellion against pop culture.I don’t care. I’m not here for popularity. I’m here to create. For me and for you.

I’m learning that this process only works if vulnerability is expressed.  Even though many of you have gone through similar things as I have, our stories are still different. I’m different. Which makes it extremely difficult to share my perspective sometimes. Because similar isn’t the same. And different isn’t always welcomed with open arms.

But it’s important to speak the truth. And my truth starts with broken and ends with beautiful. Every day I’m changing, transforming, becoming something different than I was the day before. All you have to do is look back at one of my old posts and compare it to one from the present to see that process unfold.

My brokenness stems from my inability to open up to you for so long. Too long. I didn’t start writing until I had no other choice. I had held my stories hostage inside my heart like the clouds hold back the heavy rain. And then the blessed time came for me to choose: write them down or be a victim of drowning in the flood that was welling up inside of me. I chose to open up the floodgates and share my stories with you.

And an unmistakable change has taken place. Beauty has come out of my letting go of what I thought I desperately needed to hold on to. The words flowed out of me so effortlessly as the dam of seclusion that I had built around my heart broke.

I’m no longer afraid to be real with you, no matter what that looks like. My opinions on things don’t depend on whether or not you like what I have to say. And that’s plain huge.

Galatians 1:10 – “You can see that I am not trying to please you by sweet talk and flattery; no, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please men I could not be Christ’s servant.”

I write what God tells me to write. And that may not sit well with you. But, at the end of the day, when I’ve written raw and real about my life, I can sleep soundly knowing I have created something beautiful. There may be cracks in my story that separate you and me but there is always, without a doubt, the same storyline every time: My ugly, imperfect mess becomes His stunning, perfect message.

And for that, I will be forever grateful.

 

Photo Credit: Clay Banks

 

The Stranger Who Saw My Sorrow

 

I have the awesome privilege of having Aimee Niebuhr of MamaCentric guest post on my blog today! This gal’s writing has blessed me so much in very personal ways. Her posts are so raw that you feel like she is writing from your diary. (At least that’s how I feel) and I couldn’t be more grateful for it because she motivates me to be brave with my truth. Her courageous writing will stir your heart to feel and your spirit to soar. You read her honest words and feel compelled to share love with someone else. She radiates love and truth in the most beautiful ways. Read on and be blessed, dear friends.

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I was twenty-one years old. The world before me should have been bright; a horizon of possibility spread out and shimmering like sunlight glinting off of the endless ocean. But life didn’t feel like the beauty of the horizon meeting the vast, blue sea at all. It felt like a torrent of crashing waves, hitting one after the other, intent on knocking me down.

My sister was at the end of her battle with leukemia. It came fast. It hit hard. Within six months, with the arrival of a bitterly cold November, we were preparing to let her go.

Somehow, I managed to work through my college classes during that fall semester, furtively writing papers and preparing for the exams I would take after returning from the weeklong Thanksgiving break. The Thanksgiving I would always remember as the last time I held my baby sister close, the time when I said goodbye.

Classes resumed on a Monday. My peers were full of cranberries and turkey and joy. The whole world seemed to be filled with a goodness that didn’t include my pain or me, at all. I was an outsider.

I stood before my favorite professor – the one who spoke loudly in front of our classroom and taught history in a way which made you want to rise up and be better because of it. “How is she doing?” he asked me. Tears filled my eyes, as I managed to whisper, “Not well.” He hung his head in sorrow, and I knew he understood.

And though I will always remember his gentle grief, the ways he mourned for a girl he did not really know, it is the moment that happened next, which has stayed imprinted upon my soul, all these years later. It was the girl who followed me out of the classroom and tapped my shoulder who made me feel as though I was not alone.

“My brother had leukemia. He died seven years ago.”

I searched her face, trying to remember. Had we ever spoken, this girl who had sat quietly beside me since September? Every Monday and Wednesday for months we had walked into the same little classroom, and I had never even asked her name. How did she know my agony? Was it because I had been wearing it for months, cumbersome like a heavy coat drenched in the soaking rain?

I had never said a word to her, and yet, in that moment, there wasn’t anyone else on the earth that could have known me better than she did.

“What should I do?” I managed to ask.

“You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One foot, and then the other. One foot, and then the other.”

It was so simple, and yet profound.

My sobs erupted. Every ounce of heartache I had been carrying for months now spilled out into the space between a stranger and myself, into the void between my grief and her memories — our collective sorrow building a bridge neither of us knew we needed.

She opened her arms; I fell into her embrace. My tears dropped wildly onto her shoulder and into her hair. I didn’t even know her name, but she didn’t seem to care. Perhaps seven years ago, she had found her strength in a stranger’s arms, too.

One week later we would take our final exams. I never saw her again. I never even learned her name.

It has been ten years since a girl I had never met held me in a hallway and absorbed my grief. She saw me drowning under the weight of my sadness amidst the sea of goodness, and brought the goodness to me.

I’ve always wished that I could go back and tell her that I am so sorry that she lost her brother. That I am so grateful she chose to turn her pain into a beacon of light to help guide the weary home. That I whispered, “One foot, and then the other,” to myself hundreds of times in the days after my sister’s passing. I held tightly to it in the years I spent adjusting to my new normal without her, falling back upon the familiar comfort of the phrase when the days felt too difficult.

Most of all, I wish I could tell her that I have had my chance to be the stranger with the strength. I have held others the way that she held me and gently reassured, “one foot, and then the other,” as they have wept their own stories into my soul. Finally, I have understood what it means to draw forth from the well of sorrow, and find that there is still goodness to be shared.

Maya Angelou has told us that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This world will always house wounded people who are desperately trying to tread the waters of their grief. It is up to us to decide if we will answer the calling to be the compassion, the understanding, and the light of the Spirit.

I don’t remember anything else my classmate said to me that day. I can’t even really recall what she looked like through my blurry tears. But I will always remember her; her kindness will live on within my grateful heart, forever.

Aimee of MamaCentric Headshot

 

Aimee is freelance writer and homeschooling mama to three on a journey to get real with motherhood. Whenever she can find a quiet moment, she writes soul-searching reflections at MamaCentric. She holds tightly to the belief that a centered spirit inspires a centered home. (And maintains that hiding out from the kids to sneak some chocolate is good for the soul!) She hopes that her words inspire others to always seek the joy in their lives.

She would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram.

 

The Ingredients for a Balanced Life

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Honesty is very important to me. It’s probably at the top of my list of “Things that Will Keep Me in Your Life.” Without it, there is no point in engaging in relationship with someone. It’s pretty easy to point out the people in the public arena who are dishonest on purpose. A dishonest public life will earn you a bad reputation. (How many celebrities can you think of that have done this?)

More often than not, though, I am seeing something I like to call Personal Dishonesty (PD). It’s the initial spark that ignites the fiery chain reaction of widespread deceit. In essence, PD is telling ourselves a lie and then believing it to the point of acting on it.


PD trends that seem to plague our world:

I am ugly because my body is not like the model on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. I will starve myself until I look like her.

I am unimportant because my family doesn’t take the time to listen to me when I speak. I will stop speaking up and hide my feelings from everyone.

I am weak because I cry about everything, including Hallmark commercials. I must suffer from depression and need to take medication for the rest of my life.

I am a failure because I can’t find a good job. I will stop looking and just eat doughnuts and watch Netflix on the couch forever.

I am tainted goods because of what happened to me in my past. I will never get married so why even try to take care of my body and dress nicely?


Did you notice that each of these PD moments start with a thought that inevitably ends with a supporting course of action? It’s not hard to see then how our world has become wrought with external deception.Our scale of honesty is off balance due to false perceptions of ourselves.

We can’t even begin to be honest with those around us if we aren’t first honest with the one looking back at us in the mirror. The devil is called the father of lies for a reason, people. If he can get us to believe one little seemingly insignificant lie about ourselves, he can manipulate us into believing that a life of deception is acceptable. After all, it is the norm these days, right? (Again, take a look at Hollywood.)

Allow me to counter the list of common PD trends with some God-breathed truths. First, a necessary disclaimer: *These truths only turn into actions when we BELIEVE them.*


Counter-cultural truths to apply to our swindled souls:

I am beautiful because God says I am a masterpiece, made by His own hands, breathed into existence by His very breath. He saw His creation (you and me!) and He said, “It is good.” (Ephesians 2:10, Genesis 1)

I am valuable because God says His thoughts toward me are precious and too many to count! He has put His own words in my mouth so that I can speak life and love everywhere I go without fear of what someone else might think. (Psalm 139:17-18, Isaiah 51:16)

I am strong because God created me in His image and He is all powerful and mighty to save. This means I have power and might. In fact, the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of me! (Psalm 147:5, Romans 8:11)

I am victorious because God has given me the ability to endure through hardship and not give up. He says that I am more than a conqueror through the unyielding love of Jesus. (Colossians 1:11, Romans 8:37)

I am made new through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The old days have been redeemed because of God’s amazing grace. He makes my face shine and never looks on me with shame. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Psalm 34:5)


Let’s start a revolution of honest living! Read the verses referenced above. Pray them out loud until your mind, will, and emotions accept the truth for what it really is–

The ONLY thing that can set you free.

Silence the liesby speaking the TRUTH.

A Four-Letter-Word Christians Should Be Talking About More

I am so excited to have my new friend, Gloryanna Boge, guest post today! She writes for Only A Season about motherhood, marriage, and faith. I believe, in one way or another, that we can all relate to the sensitive topic she addresses.  Prepare to be encouraged through her authenticity and blessed by her truth filled words. Please like, share, or comment to show her some love! Thanks, friends!

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Sweat trickled from my brow as I dabbed my chin to try and keep my makeup from smearing. I had worn my favorite bright pink dress, with “cork” heeled shoes. I wore Adidas perfume religiously during my teenage years. I went to my favorite church camp every summer for three years in a row during my middle schools days. Of course camp was during the hottest days of the year. Meetings took place outside. If we’re all being honest, camp was about seeing that boy you had a huge crush on, wearing that pink dress, and what little makeup I wore was all about impressions.

I think back to those times when I would sit outside under a huge tent and listen to the pastor talk about pleasing God. I remember when the messages hit my heart hard and crying and praying and going to bed feeling the love of God wash over me. Then there were the nights when the pastor would talk about how to please God and what seemed like “rules” we had to follow in order to feel his love. I remember a particular night when the pastor talked about idols in our life and for us to “take a good hard look” at ourselves and what we were worshipping as idols instead of focusing on God. As a 13 year old girl who had eyes for the boy sitting in front of her, idols was a topic that seemed ridiculous. No one worshipped statues anymore.

I’m gonna be honest here and say that the word “idol” is not one that I use often these days as a 30 year old, and most times, I associate those crazy people in the Bible who worshipped an actual object made out of, what was it, gold? And since we’re being honest, I tend to get glossy-eyed when I hear pastors talk about “modern day” idols and how we need to be on alert against the enemy or something like that. Idol was a four letter word that was rarely used in my “Christian” vocabulary.

It wasn’t until one restless night when I felt the Lord tugging on my heart. I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing. Turning. And you know what I was thinking about at 3:00 A.M? My blog. I was thinking about all these topics I should write about. I was thinking about how I needed to be on social media more but then my stomach started to turn because social media is draining. I felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was focusing all my energy on this hobby I call writing, and losing my peace in the process. Yet, I kept coming back for more. I kept returning to this empty well, searching to be satisfied. Then that tug on my heart became pretty clear.

Those moments of nodding off in church when the word “idol” came up had bolted me awake in the middle of the night. My blog, which initially started out as a means to encourage others in their relationship with Christ, had become an idol to me.

I’m not here to throw fire and brimstone. All I can do is share with you how I was choking the life out of something that I initially gave to the Lord. Satan had taken something good and was twisting it for his purpose. It started when I quit waking up early for my quiet time with the Lord. This was a result of me staying up late working on the back end logistics of my blog. Instead of taking a few minutes during lunch to pray or read a devotional, I was flipping through all the social media on my phone trying to promote my blog and build blogging relationships. Not to mention times I was messing with my phone while my son was crawling about waiting to play. Then it got worse. Instead of spending time with my husband after our son went to bed and the dishes were done, I would whip out my laptop to research a plugin I needed for my blog. Some of my other relationships started to suffer because of the time I was spending with my blog.

Do you see the picture here? Slowly, God became smaller in my life as my blog became the image in my forefront. The image I was pressing towards to make bigger. After all, part of the definition of idol is an “image” of worship. If you dig deep into its etymology, you will find that “mental image” is part of its meaning.

All I was focusing on was this image of myself as a blogger and where it was taking me. God wasn’t a big part of that picture anymore. Until recently. Until that night at 3:00 AM when I made the decision to give my writing back to the Lord.

I think what bothered me the most about this revelation was how easily I let it happen. How easily I let down my guard down. To keep myself guarded and reminded of His truth, I have made the conscientious decision to speak out loud God’s Word anytime I feel like I am losing balance in my faith.

When I feel like I am not being my authentic self, I speak His Word about being a Child of God and holding on to my child-like faith in him.

When I feel like my blog isn’t growing enough or I let social media affect my peace, I speak His Word finding favor with men for God’s glory. Not mine. I remind myself that life is not about likes. I don’t need others to validate my work. God will do that in a way that is best for me.

I speak His Word out loud to keep His image in front of me. To keep myself from letting idols creep up into my life.

I encourage you to take a step back and look at what is robbing you of peace in your life. Is it something that you have inadvertently turned into an idol? Yes, say it. Idol. It’s not some vague word that doesn’t apply anymore. It’s a word that we need to talk about more often. A word that we need to guard our hearts against.

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Gloryanna is a teacher turned SAHM whose identity is found in her relationship with Christ. She is married to her high school sweetheart who insists that dirty clothes can be left on the floor. Gloryanna writes to encourage others in their walk with Christ, no matter what season you’re going through. If you want to be encouraged, you can follow her writing at Only a Season. You can also catch snippets of her faith and scribbles on Twitter, FacebookInstagram and Bloglovin‘.