“Creativity should be an everyday experience.
Creativity should be as common as breathing.
We breathe, therefore we create.”
– Erwin McManus
Throughout my school years, I conquered every subject in my path with no mercy. However, if you were to put scissors or a paint brush in my hand, I would instantly become like a deer in the headlights, unable to escape the wreckage that was coming my way. My kindergarten coloring books were downright dreadful, and parents still make fun of me because I could never seem to cut in a straight line as a child. Ashamedly, I still cannot cut in a straight line to save my life.
Art was my undefeated enemy in battle. And my understanding of creativity at a young age left me believing that I would never possess a creative bone in my body.
Though everything in my childhood led me away from artistic endeavors, I finally began to find my vein for creativity in high school where I started to sing, play instruments, and write poetry. Most of this occurred hidden from my family and friends; but in that secret place I was finding the pulse for developing musical abilities and expressing what was buried in the depths of my soul.
The whole process of writing poetry and making music felt both uncomfortably foreign and
surprisingly natural. Finally, the artistic parts of me were awakened.
Along with the melodic and poetic discoveries of this season, I found that there has always been a beat in my heart that didn’t seem to match what the world was drumming around me. I remember the feeling that loomed over me in every sphere I entered, one that told me that I didn’t fit with everyone else. I often still feel this way no matter how hard I try to shut out those thoughts. However, now I live in the reality that I am not set aside; instead I am set apart. I have come to understand that my differing perspectives and way of interacting with the world are for a reason.
And it all hinges on this…I AM AN ARTIST.
Let me clear, I am not a professional painter which is what most people think when they encounter the word “Artist”. Isn’t that what YOU pictured when you read that last sentence?
The term “artist” equates to far more than one who paints. It refers to a way of life, a way of looking at the world, and an intention to produce what only that individual can produce. Being an artist isn't confined to exceptional scissor skills or paint stroke techniques, which is impeccable news for me. Rather, I found that being an artist is found in the way that we creatively unleash what’s stirring in our hearts and by intentionally leaving our unique mark on what has been put in our hands to accomplish.
Let me expound…
There are people, talents, and positions that seem to have just "appeared" in my life. However, I have come to realize that the things that just happen to "appear" have actually been placed in my life for specific seasons and profound reasons that only I could fill. It’s not to say that no one else could do the job; but rather, there is a role that I am destined to play.
When I was a youth pastor, my students were the canvas and my sermons were the buckets of paint that I would throw on their grey lives. My words, illustrations, and presentation were used to unlock a part of those student's souls that God designed, and I took the opportunity very seriously.
As a worship leader, Sunday worship sets are currently what are in my hands to do. However, I don’t want to just sing the part; I want there to be a sense of “me”, my heart and soul in that melody. I want my heart and my voice to color the moment in the most genuine, worshipful, and artistic way. Like a sculptor, I want to carve out of the congregation the worshipping part of their soul that they might not even know exists.
Apart from what has been placed in my hands, there are also some longings and passions deep in my heart that seem to gnaw at me until their release. For example, writing has become this inescapable part of me. I have to write. I need to write. Whether it is a sermon, an article, an Instagram post, each sentence I write is like a bold new stroke from a paint brush.
Recently I have discovered the stirring in me to write songs that withstand the test of time. I love that songwriters from hundreds of years ago can still engage audiences through the power of music and lyrics. Though I feel far from accomplishing this dream, it’s a longing I can’t shake. Every time I sit at a piano, I know there is a new song waiting to be chiseled out of those keys. I’ll shift the chords or hang on one note until I find the melody that has been waiting to be released from those strings.
As an artist, I want my voice, my fingerprints, my thoughts to bring color to my life and to the world around me.
Now, take a moment to think about what is in your hands and heart to do. Apply this mentality to where you are, whether you are in the creative arts or not. The special part about your position and your gifts in life is not the position, nor the gifts; it’s YOU in that position and YOU in those gifts. It’s your hands and your heart that matter.
A million people might do what you do; but they will never be able to bring your unique touch to life.
I have to leave my mark on this world. It’s what I was created to do. And it’s what YOU were created to do too.
Windows down, shades on, Stevie Wonder playing a concert just for me while I’m cruising to the nearest thrift store. Slow Saturdays are my jam. These easy going days that I fill with books, music, and art are SO refreshing to me; and they are such a contrast to the rest of my busy week.
Few people know this about me, but I have a bit of an “old soul”. I wouldn’t have ever said this about myself until the summer of 2017 when I started to notice my snail paced Saturday routine and my shelves lined with records, vintage cameras, and rustic books.
One of my favorite items currently in my possession is my 70s style dresser. I picked it up on the side of the road about four years ago proving once and for all that you get what you pay for. It’s on the small side and has a scratch every few inches. The drawers are about as smooth as sand paper. The handle on the top drawer won’t stay on no matter how many times I wrestle it back into place. But I love this dresser. It has style. It’s unique, simple and strong. It feels like me. Or at least what I want to be.
What I have found to be true in my life, is that the rustic things I own and my slow pace sabbaths are just echoes of the desires deep down in my soul.
I love old stuff, like my dresser, because they have character. They lasted. The fake things wouldn’t have made it this far in life. They are the real deal, and you know that because they have withstood the test of time. Yes, they may have gained some paint chips, scratches, and stains along the way; but it’s almost as if all that wear and tear actually helps us be able to see the real thing. Each imperfection was sculpted so that we can get to the item’s core.
And such is life.
The weathering of our circumstances are going to prove what we really made of. It’s going to chip away anything artificial and sculpt us until we get to the core of who we are.
Old things remind me that I want to last, but not unscathed because I also want to live fully. I don’t want to hold back even though it might mean getting a few scratches. I want the stains and rips that prove that I didn’t just sit back and hide from life.
I want my life song to sound something like the way B.B. King makes a guitar sing, full of emotion and grit. I want to somehow capture the beauty of incredible people and breathtaking places like my vintage cameras have captured countless times. I want to create something timeless like Etta James’ song “At Last” or The Beatles anthem“Let It Be” that will carry through generations and ever-changing trends. I want the rips and stains of what didn’t go right in my life to only further point to what did.
But I don’t want to miss life in the process. So, I slow down. I feel it and drink it all in because I don’t want to miss a second of this beautiful life.
Is it Saturday yet?
For a taste of some old school music,
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.