The Book That Will Release the Creative You

I’m here to tell you this is a worthy use of your life: both the grand calling of motherhood, and the smaller gifting of artistic self-expression.

~ from Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

A while back an article circulated Facebook with a title that sounded something like, “Back off Pinterest Mom. You’re making the rest of us look bad.” It seemed that there were quite a few women who felt particularly annoyed with the moms who turn simple snacks into elaborate cartoon characters and put together a creative concoction of homemade items for teacher gifts.

The article made me sad. Although I don’t consider myself to be particularly crafty, I certainly know the desire to find some kind of creative way to express myself in the midst of motherhood. In the middle of writing a book about my own desire for self-expression, I read the rant and knew my writing endeavor would upset the moms sharing that article. Because I intended to go all-out with my book like Pinterest Moms go all-out with their school snacks.

Reading the article made me sad for all women. Moms that create in the kitchen, women that throw elaborate parties, girls who sing their heart out instead of holding their voice in. With sentiments like “reign it in” circulating, no wonder we hold back. What if, instead of pressing each other into status quo-level confinement, we call out and celebrate creative self-expression in the midst of motherhood?

14317478_10153853027172555_3213682699467064735_nFrom Unfrozen to a Life Creative

The storytelling nature of Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You was intended to help women who relate to my experience as someone who felt frozen from being able to express myself fully in relationships and in my creative contribution. I am excited to say that if you identified with my story, you will most certainly be nourished by a book that releases today.

Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (–>Website Here<–) is a composition of reflective teachings that call moms to open their minds and hearts to wrestle with their own desires for creative expression. The authors know the creative-mom struggle intimately, so they speak with compassion and authority.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it hits on both our need of living in the moment with our children and our longing to tap our creativity. “If you are smack-dab in the middle of this intense season of mothering right now, and the idea of carving out even a little time for your craft overwhelms your heart and your family balance, then take this woman’s wisdom to heart. Tuck away each torn out picture from a magazine, each story concept, each personal revelation that supports your vision. Jot it down and file it away, then move about your day with peace in your heart that the inspiration waits for you. This recorded book of ideas opens wide the gift of freedom, allowing you to live your dreams first.”

I echo that advice with a big and hearty “amen!” For years I’ve been filing away metaphors, stories, feelings and inspiration in journals and notebooks. These proved invaluable when my kids both started school and I began to write and speak with more intention. And now when I take walks by myself I turn on the voice recorder and document my musings on my phone.

The book also includes a section where the authors discuss another topic dear to my heart. “When the unique needs of a sensitive soul go unmet day after day, year after year, there is the tendency to spiral downward into the pit…Here’s an ugly truth: Sensitive people can be incredibly insensitive when they lose themselves. I’d never been an angry woman until the quiet spaces of my life were threatened.” Yes! Sensitivity and creativity often go hand-in-hand. If you were able to relate to the description of my angry outbursts in Unfrozen, you will certainly be nourished by the thoughts on sensitivity in Life Creative.

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Release the Creative You

The creative life of a mom is complicated and frustrating at times, but with the guidance of those moms who have gone before us, we can be released into the joy and freedom of a non-pressured creative self-expression right in the midst of mothering. Whether you’re a “Pinterest Mom,” a wanna-be blogger, or a master-schedule master, you can live this creative mom-life with great hope. There is so much more I could say but for now, I want to offer my thanks to Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart for their hard work and beautiful mentorship through this book. They will help you release the Creative You.

“You are His Poem. Your heart and your art are His song to the world. Sing it loud. ~ Life Creative

I’m guessing that many of you need this book. If you don’t think you do, I’m confident that someone you love needs this book. So I encourage you to (–>Click Here<–) and buy it today before you forget.

Is It Bad To Love Performing?

Our family loved offering our performance as a gift to others. However, the wise reminders to use my voice for God raised a concern in me that perhaps my intense desire to perform wasn’t good. I wanted to share the song in my heart, but I didn’t want anyone to believe I was doing it for the wrong reasons. If they thought I was looking for applause, they wouldn’t respect me. They wouldn’t listen to me and truly consider what I was saying.

Excerpt from UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back & Release the Real You

Sweet Performers

It was dark out as we drove home from our first of three trips to The Dance Factory that week. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t mind the 15-minute drive. I enjoy the quiet moments to contemplate life while she’s in class and the few minutes of random conversation with her in the car. The ride home that night started like most others.

“How was dance tonight?” I asked my precious almostimg_7035
-9-year-old who sat staring out the window behind me.

“Good. We got to start learning our dance for recital.” A few blocks and bits of conversation later and Amelia casually inquired, “Why did you put me in dance?”

Her tone indicated a simple curiosity, so I answered simply. “Well, when we first moved here I wanted you to have the opportunity to be in a class. You were almost 4 years old and you love to dance, so we signed you up.” She giggled in affirmation. Our white caravan creaked down the dark road on the outskirts of town as I continued, “You complained about it constantly that first year. I assumed it was because you were required to work at paying attention the whole time. When summer came, I was ready to forget dance. But your dad wanted you to stick with it for a number of reasons and so we did. That next year you started to love it!”

“Because I got to perform!” Amelia revealed. We pulled up to a stoplight and I glanced in the rearview mirror at her softly lit grin.

Ah yes. My eyes went back to the road while my mind went back to the moment we realized we had a performer on our hands. She was 5 the first year she got to perform on stage at the spring recital. Her sequined costume wasn’t the only reason she lit up the stage that night. When Amelia stepped out under the lights, her entire being sparkled with joy. It still does. Every time.

I smiled as the breaks squeaked up to the next stoplight, because I get it. I’m a performer, too. Something in both Amelia and I turns on when we are in the spotlight. I can’t speak for her, but I know what goes on inside of me. I stand taller, dig deeper and release a more expressive version of myself. It’s as if I intuitively know that my self-expression is more than a single person can handle, so I save it for a crowd. The more people in the audience, the less of me one individual must hold. The more people in the audience, the more I can release. And I have a lot to release.

Performers get a bad rap.

Performers are often labeled as attention-seeking and fake. But great performers are some of the most self-sacrificing and genuine people I know. They are more true to themselves on stage than in conversation. Why? Because they were made for it. Something in them turns on when they step into the spotlight and they are free to release themselves with an intensity of expression that no single conversation can hold.

Performance is an opportunity for artists to transform their intense barrage of thoughts and feelings and turn them into a passionate expression. What feels like a self-centered battle on the inside becomes an others-centered song, dance, poem or painting on the outside. True performance, in my view, is not self-expression for the sake of self. It is disciplined self-expression for the sake of others.

So I admit it.

I take my young daughter to dance classes three nights a week because she is a performer. She needs it like she needs air to breathe. And I want my little performer to gain the humble confidence she needs to move with grace so she can express a true and transformed version of herself that blesses everyone around her.

Do any of these descriptions of performing resonate with you? Do you hold back so others won’t judge you as being dramatic or attention-seeking?

Portions of this post were originally published on Her View From Home

The Hard Truth About Being An Idealist

Do you have a dream? Do you think about what could or should be? If so, you may just be an idealist who longs for Utopia, a heaven on earth where perfect peace and justice reign.

It’s not easy being a dreamer.

At some point people and the world will disappoint you. Leaders cheat. Gunmen take out dozens of unsuspecting people in the blink of an eye. Friends speak harsh words to one another, wounding each other at the core. Families rip apart over pain and betrayal.

Good people suffer at the hands of other good people, making us wonder why we say they are “good” in the first place.

Broken KeysAnd when an idealist encounters the heart-wrenching, back-breaking, soul-searching painful realities of life, they begin to wonder, “Why bother dreaming of something better? It will never happen, anyway.”

Friends, that’s one reason why some of the beautiful idealists you know are so often depressed. I know. When I realized that I wasn’t the ideal me I wanted to be and I didn’t have the power to make the world the ideal world I believed it could be, I gave up trying.

Why bother with futile dreams?

I have a special place in my heart for dreamers.

I talk about this more in my upcoming book UNFROZEN, but there came a point where I had to find a deeper truth to sustain me through the heartache of life. It came down to this:

No amount of joy in this world could overcome the heartache of never achieving the ideal. But being a living, breathing display of God’s love to the world…now THAT was something I could live for.

While I am usually frustrated with anything less than the ideal, it’s often that frustration that motivates me to stand up and make a difference in the world. I see potential everywhere. Nothing and no one is without hope, until my world crushes in on me and I stop believing in dreams.

Idealists have a very difficult choice to make.

Don't believe too much in your dreamsWill we refuse to acknowledge the pain of this world? Will we succomb to the heartbreak and get lost in the loss of what “could have been”? Or will we sacrifice our need to make everything ideal so we can offer who we are to the world anyway?

Sometimes it’s easier to settle for being happy over making a difference.

Sometimes it’s easier to give up.

But not you. You have it in you to let go of your need for everything to be ideal so you can offer the best of who you are to make the world a better place, anyway.

I created something to give you the opportunity to discuss what it means for idealists to face the hard truth.

Download this discussion/reflection guide for Disney’s Zootopia.
Download

How to Say “No” When You’re Expected to Say “Yes”

We were new to town with a new baby and a new home. Every step into all of the new was a little scary and a lot overwhelming. I joined an organized mom’s group to have a place to go where I could meet other women and face the fact that my life had forever changed.

At one of my first meetings the kind leaders announced that a woman from the group just had a baby.

IMG_7002Well…that’s really nice, I managed to think as I looked down at my baby who was fussy (as usual). I anxiously bounced and hushed and pacified her so I could focus enough to engage in the moment. While I was scrambling around in the diaper bag, another kind woman in my group handed me a paper.

“When do you want to take a meal to this new mom? Our small group is responsible for eight of them.”

Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I stared at the list of open dates.

I can hardly put a meal on my own table – how will I put one on hers? I don’t even know her. I can’t believe they are making me do this!

I don’t remember if I actually took a meal to the young family or not. And now I am confident most of the moms there would not have thought poorly of me if I explained and passed the opportunity. But in that moment, I felt trapped. Overwhelm escalated to internal outrage and a strong desire to rebel against this external expectation. Inside, I beat on the walls that were pressing in on me.

Under Pressure

There are all kinds of expectations and assumptions we deal with on a daily basis. Our jobs pulling for us to do this. Friends pressuring us to do that. Sometimes we know exactly what they want. Sometimes we make guesses and play mind games, trying to figure people out. In our heads we hear them say:

Don’t let us down.
Don’t question the status quo.
Work your way into the group.
Earn your keep.
You’re a bad person if you don’t.

Of course, I can’t lie and say people never think those things. We will always live with the expectations of others. They may be communicated explicitly or they may be implied. Sometimes they may just be in our head. But the important thing to remember when you feel trapped in expectation is…

You always have a choice.You choose to say Yes or no.The decision you make has conseq

No one can make you do something you do not want to do.* You are a valuable and valued human being who gets to make choices – choices with consequences. When you and I act like we do not have a choice, we believe we are victims and we may become bitter toward those who seem to be holding us under their power. But we give others that power when we accept the pressure placed on us and lock ourselves in their cage of expectation.

You choose to stay or leave.

You choose to say no or yes.

The decision you make has consequences, so choose wisely. Choose intentionally. Put the pressure aside and think hard about what you most want to offer – what you most want to protect. And then own your decision.

You will build more robust relationships when you build them one honest and intentional decision at a time.

So if I bring you a meal, rest easy and know this: I choose to bring you a meal because I want to do it.

*If you really are trapped and do not feel you are able to make choices for yourself, I encourage you to seek guidance from a professional. Tell a friend or someone you trust. You are valuable human being and your voice matters.

Originally published at Her View From Home.

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Emergency Cancellation

Choose Love Anyway

Do you ever do something spontaneous and exciting? This week I made a last-minute decision to sign up for a workshop in Nashville. It’s the kind of workshop that could help me clarify the way I talk about my message now and for the future work I do. I would get to confer with business leaders and expert storytellers to help me make the most of what I am offering. I’ve been hungry for something like this for months and this was finally the right thing at the perfect time.

UnknownA couple of days ago I took off on a 3 1/2 hour ride to Denver so I could fly out the next morning. After a restless night sleep, I was up and on the shuttle by 4 a.m., ready to embark on my little adventure. That’s when I took this picture to send my kids.

I feel bad for the unsuspecting girl in this picture. She has no idea that she’s about to be really disappointed. A few seconds later I checked my email and saw this headline: Emergency Cancellation. Sure enough, the workshop team had to cancel our gathering due to a family emergency.

Oh.

When you get news like that at 4:00 in the morning it feels a bit like waking up from a dream. Surreal. Disappointing. This wasn’t ever real, anyway.

I took my zombie self to the ticket counter and cancelled my flight. An hour later I heaved my bag up the stairs of the shuttle, lowered into the chair and finally spilled the tears pooling in my eyes since I got the news.  There’s nothing like a vacant bus, driving away from the airport under the early morning stars, to usher in a moment of grief. Back at the hotel I wiped the tears, thanked the gruff bus driver and headed home.

Decision Time

There came a point, post-tears, where I knew I had a decision to make. Will I choose to love in this or not? Writing is good for me, if for no other reason than that I think about you in moments like this. Will I live what I say I believe or will I give into the temptation to cover, hide and blame? I handled it differently this time than I would have a few years ago. Perhaps you recognize these things in yourself.

My Choice:

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

  1. I let myself cry. I didn’t deny the fact that I was disappointed. I didn’t throw my tears onto any unsuspecting person around me, but I was honest with myself and God. I cried my little heart out on the way back to the hotel and then released myself from over thinking my sadness after that.
  1. I own my decision. It’s tempting to say all kinds of disowning comments when things don’t go as planned. I could say “it wasn’t meant to be” or “maybe something bad would have happened if I would have gone.” But there is no way of knowing what could have happened had I gone, because I didn’t go. I could say, “I must have been wrong about this opportunity, since it didn’t work out,” but I don’t believe that. I own my desire and pursuit of this little dream, whether I get another chance to go or not.
  1. I am not defensive. I had to explain why I felt the workshop was a good idea when my husband and I were deciding whether not I should go. Ultimately, he was very supportive and we made the decision together. (We make all decisions like this together.) However, years ago I would have felt like a fool for proposing such a thing and then being “wrong” because it didn’t go as planned. And when I feel like a fool, I act defensive. I would have walked into our home with a chip on my shoulder even before seeing him. But I didn’t this time.

This time was different. This time I let myself cry, I owned my decision and I didn’t get defensive. And you know what? I am still a little sad about the whole thing. But I am not carrying around additional pain from holding back tears, forsaking my decision and acting defensive whenever I talk about it.

This time, I choose love.

Which of these three choices is the hardest for you to make when you feel disappointed? Why? (They’re all hard for me!) 

Answer in the comments below or on the Facebook post.

My Birthday Proclamation

How I want to spend my life

Do you ever wonder what your life is really about? I am not talking about your overall beliefs about the meaning of life, necessarily. Rather, when you look at how you actually live, what you actually say and how you actually do what you do…how are you spending your life?

Photo by Jennifer Brungardt

Photo by Jennifer Brungardt

The other day I watched a movie that rocked me to the core and got me feeling what I was already thinking about my life-spending. In Still Alice, the main character is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I grieved as a brilliant 50-year-old Alice considered her future, forgot her family, grew anxious and lost her ability to interact with others. And I thought…

How much time do I really have left? The next fifty years are not promised to me. I turn 37 this week. What if I had thirteen years left to leave a legacy? How do I want to spend my life?

I can tell you how I don’t want to spend it.

  • I don’t want to spend my life protecting myself. I don’t want to hide or hold back for fear that I may not succeed or that someone might think negatively about me. I don’t want to restrain my love.
    • So I’m going to go for it. I’m going to step out and do something bold and brave. And then I’m going to do it again. I may fail and I may not be everyone’s favorite person, but I plan to learn and grow from it all. Because I want to love boldly.
  • I don’t want spend my life overwhelmed. I don’t want to shuffle stuff around and over-pack our schedule for fear that I might miss out on something or disappoint someone. I don’t want to act like I’m God and can handle it all.
    • So I’m going to simplify. I’m going to cut back on stuff and activities that turn into detours or stumbling blocks between us and our family purpose. I realize it will be a constant balancing act, but there will be less to balance. Because I want to think clearly.
  • I don’t want to spend my life running from feeling. I don’t want to distract myself with meaningless things so I don’t have to feel the intens
    ity of the meaningful things. I don’t want to numb my feelings or carelessly feed my emotions so they grow out of proportion. I don’t want to diminish or exaggerate feeling.

    • So I’m going to explore. I’m going to dig deep to uncover what I’m honestly feeling and why. I’m going to bring those real feelings to God and allow Him to turn them into power with His love. Because I want to live passionately.

That’s it. Those are three things I don’t want to spend my life on, and three things I do. These particular things have been on my mind for a while, but now I want to be clear: I want to love boldly, think clearly and live passionately.

How do you want to spend your life – your actual day-to-day life? What are you willing to do or give up to get there?

Go for it square

 

 

The #1 Lesson From Inside-Out

7 spoiler-free conversation starters

 

I have been waiting for months to take my kids to see Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, and I wasn’t disappointed on opening day. The movie offers a great way to explain the concept that what we feel on the inside has a direct effect on what we do on the outside.

Rather than offer a summary of the movie or comment on its stunning visuals and clever concepts, I want to simply share the #1 deep lesson I hope my kids…well…everyone learns from it and 7 conversation starters for you to use with the special kid in your life.

#1 Lesson:

Emotions can feel confusing, overwhelming and scary at times. But you do not need to be afraid of sadness. Sometimes sadness is the gateway to the deepest joy. 

Conversation Starters (not intended to use consecutively or completely):

1. What did Joy think of Sadness through the first part of the movie?

2. Why did Joy change her mind about Sadness?

3. What was good about Sadness in the end of the movie?

4. How did Sadness help Riley and her parents?

5. Sometimes I get frustrated or angry. When that happens I push people away — kind of like what Riley did. But pushing people away never makes me happy. Do you think Riley would have been happy if she stayed on the bus? Does pushing people away ever make you happy?

6. What did Riley’s parents do when she was honest about her sadness? Do you think Riley was glad she told them she was sad?

7. What color were Riley’s memories at the end? Why?

I hope you have a great time discussing Inside Out with those you love. I sure did!

 

 

Underdog!

A loving push toward who you are

Sometimes we just need a good push to become more of who we are.

My childhood backyard was situated on a corner, so my parents surrounded it with a tall privacy fence. That yard was our academy of play. Mom was our teacher and Dad was our coach. My sister and I had all kinds of fun learning and growing in our yard. We grew in strength and accuracy as we played catch. We learned how to live in and celebrate the moment while we ran through and under streams of water from the hose. And we experienced the happy exhilaration of pumping our whole selves in rhythm with external forces (eh-hem…gravity) on the swing.

The swing was my happy-place. Sometimes we faced the house, other times we would face the fence and see if we could swing high enough to peak over the top and at the world outside. And every once in a while Dad would surprise us from behind…

UnderdogUnderdog!

His force of strength thrust us higher and faster than we ever went on our own. Dad’s underdogs were scary and thrilling and they inspired us to find the new swing-beat he set for us, and pump along.

Six months ago I was sitting on a swing in my current stomping grounds, the academy of purpose. There were things inside of my mind and heart that needed to come out, but I wasn’t sure I could let them go. I wasn’t sure I could swing with enough force of strength to do justice to the message I wanted to convey. I tried pumping my legs time after time but I didn’t know which way I wanted to face and I just couldn’t get my legs and body to move in sync. I looked around at others swinging and wondered if I would ever be able to join them – or if my insides would go to waste simply because I couldn’t find the swing-beat of my purpose.

Then out of nowhere…

Underdog!

Finally – clarity! I had words to say and passion with which to say them. I drove to the closest coffee shop, popped on my earphones and typed for two hours without stopping. When I got done, I posted my intimate thoughts on the movie Frozen (Frozen Top Ten), and let the world know.

My body began moving to the rhythm of the new swing-beat and pump, pump, pump…keep pumping! Every time I lost momentum, someone would give me the push I needed by sharing how he or she connected with my message. And somehow, I kept swinging.

Six months later I am a better version of myself. I am more of myself. I am playing in a playground that feels right and good and…like it was made for me. Sometimes I swing just high enough to peek over the fence and get a glimpse of things beyond – and then I settle into my swing-beat and keep pumping, knowing that at some point the rhythm will change again. And I want to be ready.

Are you?

Because my dad gives the best underdogs.