I have been on a much needed break from my art business since the kids were born. I honestly got kind of burned out from only doing commissioned works of art, and I don’t know if I’ll return to that. When I graduated college, I built up a large portfolio of acrylic paintings, mostly flowers and landscapes. It was a time of discovery and growth for my painting skills as I tried to find myself as an artist. But over the next five years, I focused mainly on commissioned paintings for people and stopped painting for fun. I also developed so many insecurities about being an artist. I didn’t really know who I was comparing my work to, maybe imagined “successful” artists, but I felt like I would never be good enough. I was always a little embarrassed telling people I was an artist, even though it interested people.
I have a bizarre, convoluted story about one of the moments that contributed to my insecurities as an artist. I’m feeling a little embarrassed at the thought of telling it, but what the heck. I’ve already been brutally honest about myself on this blog, so I might as well spill this story too. Warning: You will either laugh or judge.
Once upon a time… My brother Buddy thought it would be funny to see me drunk. I rarely drank alcohol, and definitely not before I was 21, since I am a strict rule follower. When I was 23, we went on a family vacation to the beach, and although I had no desire to get drunk, I decided it would please me to grant his greatest wish. Proverbs would have called me foolish, and I would have agreed. The strong drinks flowed and so did my tongue- I rhymed and rapped and said everything on my mind, which was pretty refreshing. I literally thought I could jump off of the high deck and land like the Black Panther. Thank goodness I didn’t try it, but my altered mind was confident that I could.
Then somehow we got into the most EPIC brother/sister battle of all time. We were in the kitchen of the beach house karate chopping and tackling and popping each other on the head. At one point he punched me in the boob, and I went psycho on him. Then I collapsed on the kitchen counter, with Buddy slapping the back of my head, so I backhanded him in the face. My grand finale involved karate chops all over him and one chop on the counter too. I howled out in pain and held out a damaged and droopy hand for a reconciliation handshake. I slept off the alcohol and realized in the morning that I had a very injured hand and an embarrassing story to explain it.
I couldn’t draw with my right hand anymore- I gave my weekly art lessons with my LEFT hand! I decided I needed an x-ray, so I headed to the closest urgent care. I REALLY should have come up with a reasonable story, but when the doctor asked, I told him I hurt it karate chopping my brother…
Apparently he didn’t look at my age on the paperwork. And to be fair, I still looked like a young karate chopper back then. “What do you do?” he asked me. “I’m an artist,” I told him. He raised his eyebrows. “That won’t be a wise career field. You should pick something different to study.” Me: “I’m already an artist. I’m 23.” He got all flustered. “Oh, I thought you had parents. I mean, of course you still have parents, I just thought you lived with them, like in high school.” Wrong, not in high school. Wrong, just one parent left. And even though my visit was necessitated by a lack of wisdom, I took “not a wise career field” to heart. I didn’t even know the man, so his disapproval shouldn’t have mattered to me. But I haven’t been able to shake it off. To this day, when I tell people I’m an artist, I feel like I’m inwardly cringing as I say it. I realize, as I think about the event, that it still hits a raw nerve in me. Why? Pride. Yes, it is a fault I am constantly trying to put in check. It’s funny that I am proud of my skills yet embarrassed by them at the same time.
When I was a little karate chopper kid I had piles of sketchbooks filled with drawings. I would sit for hours doodling and coloring things from my head. I was brimming over with creativity and loved the process of creating art. But that got lost along the way. Years of doing commissioned paintings for people took its toll on my creative spirit. I got burnt out, and the process felt forced. I entered juried competitions, hoping someone would see something special in my work, but never won any awards. I told myself that just making it into the juried competition was an honor, and it was, but I kept hoping for something more that would, I don’t know… boost my ego? Make me feel like my artwork was really going somewhere? I got really nervous when I went to see my art in a show. Sometimes I didn’t even go. I thrived on competition in sports growing up, but this felt different. How could I measure where I stood here?
One really cool thing about blogging that I didn’t expect is the comradery and friendships built between bloggers. I often have meaningful communication with one Christian blogger named T.R. Noble. She has a great devotional blog called Inside Cup that you should check out. After my Discoveries post, we were commenting back and forth about how easy it is to put ourselves in a box and look at what we do through the world’s eyes. I often box myself in by saying I’m “just an artist” or “just a stay at home mom.” I think she nailed it on the head for me. She said:
“You wonder about where life is going. Is effort enough? Then God reminds me whose standards am I living by? The worlds or His because He desires a lot of different things than what the world does out of me. Success to Him is not in $$$ signs and I struggle with that sometimes. Value is not $$$ nor accomplishment in His eyes. We have value alone because we are His. Plain and simple.”
I find my value in Christ. I am His. That is so powerful. It’s a truth that I need to cling to until I feel it in my bones. It’s what I need to tell myself whenever I have doubts. I need to ground myself in Christ so I don’t get carried away by the worries and distractions of the world.
And this artsy part of me- that I am often confused by and embarrassed about… I KNOW in my heart that God made me this way– to be an artist, whatever form it may take. To create beautiful things. To love color and want to somehow, in the tiniest way, depict the beauty of God’s creation. I don’t know where I will go with it in the future, but I’m trying to embrace this God given part of me.
This is one reason I finally vowed to start a blog. Many people told me over the years that they would love to see me write a blog. I liked the idea of it, and I actually had a constant narrative going in my head at all times, as if I were composing posts in my mind. Fear kept me from starting the blog. Every time I thought about writing one, the doubts crept back in. No one wants to read what I have to say. If they do read it, they’ll think it’s silly or stupid or terrible writing. Maybe this is too personal. Do I really want to let people in to my life in such an intimate way? Honestly, my list of doubts went on and on. And the reasons to not do it got really LOUD!
But then Zach Williams’ voice belted out:
Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear, he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar
Zach Williams, “Fear is a Liar”
And I think that Satan has been winning in my life these past few years. These whispers into my soul that told me I’m not good enough slowly broke down my confidence bit by bit until I felt fragile and vulnerable, unsure of who I was. But another song swooped in for clarity:
Hello, my name is child of the one true king
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free
Matthew West, “Child of the One True King”
As you can tell, songs often speak wisdom into my life. That’s why I only listen to Christian radio stations these days. Because, although it’s not always my favorite sounding music, the message is always important and needed, and every other song cuts straight to my heart. I think, “Wow, that was just what I needed to hear today!” Yesterday morning, on the way to preschool, one Christian station was fundraising and the other had preaching on. So I scanned to the next station, which happened to be country. I grew up in the south, on a farm, “underneath the shade of a Georgia pine,” but the song on the country station crooned away about drowning out his sorrows at a bar. Ugh, I felt empty and frustrated hearing that. I moved on to a classical station, and we jammed out to Dvorak the rest of the way to school.
My plan is to only put things in my life that are wholesome and build my confidence in who I am as a child of God, whether it be books, music, people, or tv.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
In August, I hit rock bottom. The only direction to go from there was UP. Now I’m in a period of growth, and I need to fill myself with things that will help me grow. SO often I think about the verses in Hebrews that talk about being weaned from milk.
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14
Those verses keep flashing through my mind and making me think, “I’m ready to be done with milk! Time to grow up and be more mature in my faith!” This isn’t done instantly, and I’m sure it will take a lifetime of growth mixed with setbacks and re-humbling myself again at the feet of Jesus. But I think it is a start to acknowledge where I am and open my hands before the Lord. “Please use these hands, Lord, for your good purpose.”