Stillness

There's something that's been on my mind for the past 10-ish years and I've never really been able to resolve it. The thing is, I've been broken for the past 10-ish years and no matter what I've done to try to aide it, nothing has sufficed and has only broken me even more. Though the purpose of writing these blogs is to bare my soul and show whomever is listening that weakness is, in fact, strength, I don't think you're ready to sit here and read a post that'll take you hours. So I won't touch too much on those events that have broken me quite yet - at least not all at once.

As I've mentioned before, photography has been a long-time hobby of mine. But this isn't the only form of art that I've grown up doing and love. Crafting things with my hands brings me so. much. joy. I love finding new crafts and trying them (even though I'm a perfectionist and literally throw so many things away before giving them a full chance). I am by nature, "a creative" in every sense of the word. And by this, I have bonded deeply with God. It still trips me out to this day all the beauty that he's made here for us to dwell with. The bible also speaks of God as a potter with us being his clay. All of creation - people, flowers, mountains, etc - was made for his glory.

So that brings me to my issue. At the beginning of giving my life to God, I went to a church that fostered religion though it was constantly spoken against. We were told to break free of religion and its routines and instead to have our own personal relationship with Jesus. Yet somehow, in an attempt to do just that, it was all the opposite. This church caused me some great pain even though I disagreed a lot with the culture and didn't play too much into it. I completely lost my identity there because I was constantly torn between what the church was doing and what I thought God was doing. But I stayed. Mainly because this church was all I knew about "Christianity" and once I started attending, I had lost touch with all of my friends outside of the church. That place became my home, where my friends were and where I spent the most time.

From that point, everything I had was given to the church. I was given my first DSLR as a high school graduation present. I treated it as a baby, my most prized possession. But being at this church, nothing was really mine. I began serving at the church almost immediately after people found out I loved photography. The idea was this: Service is a form of worship. You were created to serve God. He gave you this skill and this camera. Use all those things for the church. I did this for free for most of my years at that church. The years I wasn't doing it was because I was given ultimatums in obeying everything the church did and I still did not agree. Don't get me wrong, I loved serving and using my God-given talents back to God by building up his body. But it became a freaking chore. I cannot tell you how many times we (the photo team) stayed up all night editing photos to put on the church website. How excruciating it was editing the photos in ways that took away from the artistry of photography. How many hours we spent photographing every event (we had something 4-7 times a week). In the end, I lended my dear camera to the church and had it returned broken, never to be used again. I cannot tell you how much emotional strain all of this put on me and my own relationship with God.

I wanted to be obedient to God and use these things for him, but I hated doing it there. I had two close friends who also enjoyed photography, just maybe not as much as I had thought. The three of us tried starting a photography business together. One person dropped out because they were told by the pastor to stay away from the other two of us (this happened often as we were often referred to as the rebels of the church though we just really weren't conforming to their ideals of a segregated church). The two of us went on. We prayed a lot, got a business license, started a blog, created a website, and actually booked some photoshoots. But then my other friend became uninterested and poof, it was over. I couldn't do it alone, nor did I really want to. She was the personable one and I most definitely was not. Still am not, but you know... I'm me. Haha. With those plans falling through and my choosing to stay in that church, I feel I had given up on my creativity in a sense. I found jobs to keep me afloat financially that I didn't find much joy in. But through these jobs, I found ways to be creative. Most notably, working as a preschool teacher and putting together Christmas photoshoots with the kids (completely free, might I add).

Three years ago, I left the church and found a job I thought I'd love - doing social media for a retail company. And I did, until they threw me into doing a lot of other jobs for them that I wasn't necessarily good at. So here I am now, going on almost 7 months of joblessness and I started really losing hope. On this island, we don't have many creative job opportunities and it seems like I'm stuck here for the foreseeable future. I applied for a LOT of jobs. At first, I was looking for something that would foster my creativity. Something I'd enjoy doing and could also benefit from. There weren't many options and to be honest, how do you create for a company or business you don't relate to (ie social media for a dental company). Then I became desperate and let's be real - medical insurance is important. So I applied for more. Most of them being clerical work and something I could kind of just do for the money. I had a few interviews and could almost laugh with them about how unexperienced I am for those jobs. Sad, I know. 

I'm one of those people that's ultra-sensitive but is really good at hiding it. So you may not know if you've talked to me in person recently, but I have really been struggling with all of this lately. I came to a breaking point last week when I really just sat and asked God why these things weren't working out. Why are you putting me through this? What are you trying to teach me? I had a pretty clear revelation of who exactly I was serving with my art for the past however many years: me. I've been doing it to bring myself joy, to make a name for myself and to be recognized. I apologized to God, asked for forgiveness and really was just like, "now what?" Then Alabaster Co. came out with A Liturgy for Creatives. It's a free, downloadable book for creatives that touches on our purpose here. If there were ever a sign I was heading in the right direction, this was it. The first chapter talks about silence and the effects it has on our creativity.

Silence is for calming, for emptying out, for letting go. In silence, we allow Jesus to do his work. - A Liturgy for Creatives

And I did just that. I stopped searching and applying for jobs to catch up with Jesus. I found times to be still and silent, stop the busy-ness and tuned my heart into his. Knowing for sure that he is the only one who completely knows me and wants the best for me. A few days went by and an opportunity arose that I caught online. I applied, without being too hopeful that it would work out and completely forgot about it. This is strange for me. With an opportunity like that, I cannot let go. I cannot stop checking my email. But in this newfound peace, I just simply let it go. Knowing that if it was meant to be, God would do his work. I found out yesterday that I was chosen for the project. Something I've learned thryough this and will continue to learn is that God wants us happy. He's given us talents and skills that don't only bring us joy and happiness, but things he finds joy in as well. If we're mindlessly or reluctantly doing things to serve him, it doesn't bring him any type of satisfaction because we're not giving it to him out of love. And if you feel stuck in a place like that, don't be afraid to stop to refocus on him. Because he'll surely resurrect what he's called you to do in a way that you're happy to and he's happy to receive.

I'm putting this out there for all of you to hold me accountable. I was lost and broken for so long, not knowing how to integrate this creativity into my relationship with Jesus. Thinking I'd always have to follow someone else's rules and regulations. And when I finally decide to just completely surrender it all to him, he answered. Moving forward, I hope to continue to rely completely on him for my creative vision. I know it won't be easy, as it's only taken me 10 years to get to this point *eyeroll*. It may not be a full time job that'll provide me with all types of insurance that I wanted, but as long as I choose not to lose sight on who brought me to this point in the first place, I think I'll be alright.