13 March 2014

on creativity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity in the past few months and have felt a strong need to readjust my approach to art, crafts, and making things. For the past several years a lot of my creative energy went towards my Etsy shop. When sitting down at my craft table the prevailing thought bubble above my head was, “what can I make to sell in my Etsy shop?” When working on any sort of project I often asked myself, “could this be a new product in my shop?” 
That's not necessarily bad. I think there can be space for those kinds of thoughts in my life, but after a while I wasn't feeling creative and had little motivation to make anything at all. After Christmas, especially, I was feeling a little burned out (I made a majority of the gifts I gave) and I was generally uninspired. I didn’t like the self-imposed pressure to make something worthy of being sold every time I sat down to create. I had forgotten that the process of making things is just as valuable (if not more) than the end product. I didn't spend very much time making art or crafts during January and February, but eventually I started missing the creative process. So I decided to take a break from my Etsy shop and to try working on projects just for fun. 
And let me tell you it is fun to experiment with script art (I'm so inspired by Kal) and it's exciting to paint a picture I can keep, especially when it's a painting I love. My entrepreneurial spirit has not diminished; I just try to quiet it at times so I can lose myself in the wonder of painting, drawing, scrapbooking, taking photos, so on and so forth. Being honest, though, I've been really frustrated at times. I don't always like what I make. The vision I have in my head is not always so easy to put down on paper. I'm not as skilled at drawing and painting as I want to be. I know that I have a lot to learn and honing skills takes time. Nevertheless, it's encouraging to remember that I'm actually giving myself a chance to improve.
A few practical things have aided in this process:

1. I set aside specific time in my week for creative exercise. These times are flexible, but I try to sit down at my desk on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday either right after work or in the evening after dinner. Since I enjoy this creative stuff, I tend to make things at other times too. I just have these semi-mandatory times so that I will actually create and so that I can challenge myself to learn more about work in particular medium. 

2. I have a creative accountability partner. My good friend Kelly (who is an amazing artist) and I both need a little external motivation to get ourselves to spend time being creative so we decided to talk weekly about our creative processes. We are even giving each other weekly challenges, which acts as a deadline and spices things up. More about those weekly challenges later.

3. I'm co-leading an art group for high school girls. We meet weekly and do creative writing, different types of art projects, and talk about life. We're following a curriculum and I love that I have another creative outlet through this group. We work on projects that I wouldn't think of myself; it stretches and inspires me. A recent project at Girls Group sparked the idea to paint splashes (my favorite painting is above). 

While this personal reflection was largely a means to help me process my situation , I hope it encourages or inspires some of you out there. And if you have tips on being creative, by all means, share them in the comments! 

02 March 2014

our long weekend in seattle.

Josh and I were fortunate enough to travel to Seattle a few weekends ago. Our trip was a combination of investigating grad. school options/attending the discernment weekend at Seattle Pacific Seminary (SPS) and visiting Josh’s family. We packed a lot into our four days there, and while it didn’t feel like quite enough time, it was still amazing to see our far-away family in early February.
Neither Josh nor I are ready to jump into grad school immediately. Josh is currently finishing up his Master’s thesis from the University of Oslo, so he is eager to take a break from school. We do, however, both have some academic aspirations/interests and it was cool to take some time to investigate our options. I want to be an Elementary ESOL teacher, so I need to find a way to get my teacher certification. SPU has a Master’s in TESOL, which I could combine with a K-12 certification and an ESL endorsement. It’s kind of complicated and I met with four different people at SPU to talk about the TESOL part of the program, the Elementary Education part of the program, and about applying to grad. school in general. I learned a lot and feel better able to look around online at different grad. school programs. 
Josh is interested in studying theology, so he signed up for the discernment weekend at SPS. Each potential seminarian can bring along a family member, so I got to participate in the discernment weekend with Josh. Celeste has recruited a handful of Greenville College students to come to the discernment weekend over the past couple years; this time she just so happened to recruit our good friend Mikey Ward and my cousin Maria Koppelberger!  The discernment weekend was Friday afternoon through Saturday morning. We heard some interesting presentations and panels from professors and students from SPS, we went to a Taize prayer service, ate a couple meals together, and had a couple bible studies. It was good!

One of the most interesting parts of the weekend for Josh and me was a presentation/ discussion with an SPU professor Doug Koskela who talked about vocation and discernment. What we found really helpful was his distinction between the three categories of calling from God. 1) General Calling from God to all people to love and follow God. 2) Missional Calling, which is a person's guiding purpose, mission, or vocation and is usually connected to a person's gifts, talents and interests. 3) Direct Calling is a direct call from God to do a particular task and may not have any link to one's gifts or interests. It was really encouraging to us (especially Josh who doesn't have a crystal clear understanding of his vocation) when Doug said he believes everyone has a missional calling which may take time, prayer and some trial and error to figure it out. Furthermore, not everyone has a direct calling and this is not something that we should spend time seeking. Doug said, "with direct calling, it's best to think in terms of confirmation rather than discernment." With direct callings, God will make it clear to us (think of stories like Moses and the burning bush or Jonah and the Whale).  And that is a relief. As a young person I think there is some pressure to figure your life out and to be a successful, contributing member of society. It's quite a relief to realize that success in God's eyes (which is what matters to me) can mean doing something meaningful that I love and feel drawn to do. 
After the discernment weekend was over on Saturday we had the rest of the day to hang out in Seattle with Mikey and Maria. We walked around Queen Anne Hill, where the Cranstons live, and we hiked through Discovery Park, a huge public park in the middle of Seattle on the shores of the Puget Sound. Since I didn't take my camera to Discovery Park, I am borrowing some pictures from the internet so you can see this awesome place:

Do you see those mountains?! I just love mountains. A little side note about Discovery Park: when I first visited Josh in Seattle the summer after our sophomore year of college we spent a good three or four hours exploring Discovery Park. We hiked all over the trails and then scrambled down to the shore where we wandered for a while, only to try to climb back up to the trails by way of something that resembled a bluff.  We crawled up that rocky butte, which turned into a forest of tangled vines and brambles. We were hoping that our trek would led us to the trails, but it was all for not. We ended up sliding back down the rocky hill and found the trail via the well-traveled route, but for a while we felt like explorers. 

It actually snowed on Saturday night and didn't fully melt until Sunday, which is pretty unusual. There was some concern that our Greenville people wouldn't catch their flights home, but they made it just fine. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning we hung out at home with this furry guy below (who is quite hard to photograph!), Elliot, Josh's best friend from childhood, and with some extended family. We ate Sunday lunch with Grandparents Cranston, Christopher and Ali (cousins), Aunt Paula, and Uncle Frank and Aunt Rhonda. We hadn't seen most of the Seattle contingent since last Christmas and we hadn't seen Paula since our wedding, so it was a real treat to spend time with them.
Our little jaunt to Seattle was encouraging, invigorating and down right fun. We love you family; thanks for making our time in Seattle wonderful!