When Life Feels Messy

encouraging words by artist, Jennifer Frith

I took this picture of my dad and step-mom on their wedding day. It makes me happy. 🚗

When I was 16 and my parents divorced, I was pretty devastated. I don’t know of any kid who leaps for joy when their parents split.

But I see now that beauty can come from brokenness.

What I've learned from my own experiences (and I'm still learning...still totally learning), is that life doesn't always turn out the way you think it should. In fact, sometimes it's messy, disappointing, painful, frustrating, and straight-up hard.

But God promises good things to those He loves:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29

Eventually dark clouds of disappointment sweep away, sunny days return, and you're wiser than you were before. 🌅

If your life seems messy right now, I hope you let go (maybe just a little) and let God work all things together for good.

encouraging words by Jennifer Frith, artist
encouraging words by Jennifer Frith, artist
encouraging words by Jennifer Frith, artist

Tend & Reflect

  • How has God worked out some Good Things in your life?

  • How are you wiser now than you were before a '“messy event”?

  • In what ways have you developed a deeper capacity for joy and love after a hurt or disappointment?

How to Pick Your "One Word" for the New Year

2018 was a year of dormancy for me…. roots going deep… withdrawing inside myself. It was a cold, grey, and sometimes-frustrating period (kind of like my nemesis: winter!). But I’m ready to thaw out, how about you?

With that in mind, my Word for 2019 is Bloom.

Do you do this “One Word” activity each year?

If you’ve not done it before, it’s a meditation practice to help you set a year-long intention. You pick One Word as an anthem. Once you’ve chosen One Word, you’ll find that your mind starts guiding you based on that one word for the entire year.

You can read more about the origins of it here.

I pondered about mine and decided upon bloom.

Bloom, by definition:

bloom

noun (1) \ˈblüm  \

a state or time of beauty, freshness, and vigor

As I was meditating about this word, I stumbled upon these verses, and then I knew it was a perfect pick for this time in my life:

Isaiah 35 

Joy of the Redeemed

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus,  it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,

    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isn’t that a good one? I liked it so much that I illustrated it.

Jennifer Frith - Illustrator - Bloom - My One Word

So how did I pick “Bloom?” Here are the steps I took. Maybe these steps will work for you too.


1. First, reflect upon how you FELT this past year:

I reflected upon the majority of my emotions last year:

  • I felt mostly strong but also worn out … my “roots” were strong and growing deep, but the cold winds of ennui and grey days of boredom settling in my heart were starting to get old. I was feeling both strong and tired.

2. List the words that described YOU in the last year.

After I listed how I felt, I wrote down the words I would use to describe myself in 2018.

  • the not-so-good words…. This part takes some hard honesty: worn-out, bored creatively, ungrateful, uninspired, unfocused. (ugh, It never feels good to say that).

  • the pretty awesome words: strong, brave, determined, resilient, proud (completely unrelated to art, but I finished my first Spartan Race last year. The pictures below show both my misery and pride from slugging around a 50 pound bucket in the freezing mud…. totally worth it).

Jennifer Frith - Spartan Race
Jennifer Frith Spartan

3. Determine what you want MORE of and LESS of during this year.

I want more: art, depth, trust, strength, lightness, energy, focus, kettlebells, running, gratitude, discipline

I want less: hurry, worry, impatience, wasted time, judgement

4. Meditate.

Sleep on the above. Think about what you wrote for steps 1-3. Pray about it. Ask God what He wants for you in this coming year. Come back to all of it a few days later.

5. Decide. Pick your 1 Word!

After a few days of reflecting, your One Word might rise up for you in your mind and heart, like a balloon. Hold onto it. Look up the definition. See if it fits. Decide on it for the entire year. Let it guide you. Maybe even illustrate it or sketch it in your journal to remind you of your One Word.

. . .

So my word is Bloom.

I’m looking forward to the beauty, colors, freshness, and vigor it will bring this year.

What’s your One Word for 2019?

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” 
― Benjamin Franklin ― 

Just Show Up

I purchased a vintage slate at an antique store a while back. These old framed slates were used by school children in the mid 1800s. Paper was an expensive commodity up until the the 20th century, so the kids would carry their slate and slate-pencils to and from the schoolhouse to practice their handwriting and arithmetic. I like to wonder about what they learned (or where their minds wandered) as their pencils screeched across the black surface.

On this one, I scribbled one of my favorite sayings in chalk: “Just Show Up.” I tell myself this when I am facing something that requires a little extra courage or effort.

Just Show Up - Antique Slate
Art Room - Jennifer Frith, Illustrator
Art Room - Jennifer Frith, Illustrator

Tend & Reflect:

  • Do you have a favorite antique?

  • What’s your favorite mantra?

Sunday Sketchbook - Zippy the Chameleon

Sunday Sketchbook, a blog post by Jennifer Frith

A couple of weeks ago, an older friend at church asked me how I was doing and what I had been up to with my art recently. I shrugged and told him that I've been uninspired and in some creative doldrums lately. I laughed and explained how art sometimes feels like a misfit talent and not a very practical or useful gift to have, especially when you're in the doldrums. He said, "Well, I'm wishing you inspiration. Because artists are the prophets."

Curious, I paused and asked him what he meant by that. He explained to me that artists are conduits. They carry messages. They cast visions. They build synagogues and cathedrals. They shape and influence cultures. They see things differently than most others do. "Inspiration" in Latin means "God-breathed", after all.

All of that got me thinking.... maybe I had this "inspiration" idea all upside down.

"Prophets" cannot do what they do without first hearing. And hearing can't happen without first experiencing a closeness.

I don't know of anything more practical, useful, fulfilling, or inspiring than having a closeness with Him. 🎨

Whether you're an artist, a teacher, a wife, a student, a mom, a business woman, I hope you know what a gift it is to have a closeness with your Creator.

- SundaySketchbook in gouache -

In the Brokenness

Photo of my Mom and me

When you lose a parent to a drug addiction and mental instability, you carry around a lot of heaviness, confusion, and shame as a kid. I think that's why I want to create as much love, hope, encouragement, and joy into my artwork as possible. Because life is hard.

But there is hope.

For all the things you feel were taken from you as a kid (for me: a strong, healthy example of how to be a woman), I believe you can give those things back to the world. And maybe that's where the gift in the heartache is.

To anybody carrying the weight of the universe on your shoulders, I hope you use that pain and heartache for good.

I hope you are able to move past the hurt and into forgiveness and maybe even one day gratitude.

I hope you eventually see the gift in the brokenness.

I hope it fuels you to give back to the world 100x what you've been missing.

Because the world needs it. 🌄

- photo of my mom and me.

. . .

“The world is full of suffering.

It is also full of overcoming.”

- Helen Keller -

Jennifer Frith - lion art print Helen Keller quote

Lion print available in my etsy shop.