You're Getting Older, and That's Amazing

Jennifer Frith, Artist.jpg

It's trippy to watch yourself getting older in photos. You can easily spend a lot of time pointing out your "flaws" in pictures. But what others can't easily see in photos is how much *you've* seen. The hurts that have healed. The hard-won wisdom you've earned. How much you've overcome.

Instead of laugh lines needing to be fixed, why can't they remind you of all the belly laughs that you've had? Instead of freckles and age spots needing to be scrubbed away, why can't they remind you of the afternoons you spent soaking up summer sunshine?

I once heard a Yoga instructor call our bodies "meat suits". 🚀 It's a cheeky statement, but it's true. Our temporary bodies are amazing vessels that will one day expire and release us to our eternal home.

(Have you ever seen someone with a crap-ton of botox, and you wished someone would have an honest conversation with them about how fleeting all of this is?)

Here's to getting older. ❤ Let's treat our beautiful selves with honor.

Photo by  A. L.  on  Unsplash

Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

What are some things you appreciate about getting older?

originally shared on my instagram. I’m poking around with starting up YouMatterJournaling again. Would you be interested? If so, drop me a line.

Where You've Been, and Where You're Going

sailboat pencil drawing in one of my sketchbooks

sailboat pencil drawing in one of my sketchbooks

I’ve been thinking about this online space for a while… where I began almost 8 years ago on this blog, and where I am now.

I’ve been on some cool adventures together with you, and I’ve loved connecting with here.

Over the last year or so though, I’ve felt locked up with my outlet …Not knowing how to get the creative gears going again. Not knowing how to bring value to you as friends and readers. Feeling a confusion and vanity of sorts for sharing my art for the sake of “just sharing my art”. Feeling pressure at my 9-5 job, and feeling a ton of pressure to chase after what our first-world society defines as success.

In 2016, my family experienced a hardship that made me really evaluate where I was putting my attention and what I was chasing. I found out that my daughter was hurt by a stranger. (Her story is not mine to tell, so I’ll respect her privacy by not sharing details.) Since that time, I closed up. I shut down. Grieved hard. Raged hard. Questioned God. Felt God’s love. Thawed out. Opened up. Forgave myself as a mom. Forgave. Forgave. Forgave.

We’ve been through a lot, and we’ve learned a lot together. One thing I’ve been learning is how crisis changes people. In Latin, the meaning of “crisis” is “to sift.” I’m learning that the gift behind crisis is that yes, it unsettles everything and shakes up your life mightily, it also sifts out the junk, the distractions, the less important things. It has a way — if you are open to it — of leaving behind the lasting. …Gems of healing, jewels of deeper love. Commitment, forgiveness, freedom, clarity.

There’s still a corner of my heart that hasn’t known how or where to fit my art outlet into all of this. When I get stuck, I’ve found that it’s helpful to have conversations with my past self or future self (not audibly, but I guess you could do that if you wanted.) With this in mind, the other day I imagined what my 85 year old self would say to Present Jenny in all of her “creative stuckness”.

With her face full of wrinkles and wisdom in her eyes, she’d pat my hand and tell me, “Jennifer, the pressure you feel in this world is misguided. The marketing, monetizing, and social media stuff is unimportant. The stress of your 9-5 job is unimportant. The stress and pressure you feel in general…. Jenny, you need to let that go.” She’d then tell me four specific things: to keep loving big, to keep cultivating my relationship with God, to write and illustrate my own kids book (!), and to save up to go sailing.

I’m telling you all of this because I’m learning that pain and questions bring great clarity. Maybe not right away. Maybe not even after a few years. But it comes. The important stuff comes.

I might not post as often here as I once did, and I might not even know which direction I’m headed with my art (besides that kid’s book), but I’m committed to sharing from my heart; to loving big whether it’s through my artwork, in my family, or at my job; and to saving up to buy that sailboat.

To honor my 85 year-old-self’s guidance, I want to keep encouraging you here. I deeply want people to know that they matter, that they have value, and that they are loved. I have journal prompts in mind that I’d like share with you in this regard. It’ll be a revised continuation of our YouMatter Journaling project. More details are forthcoming. You can join me if you’d like.

I’m also considering sharing 1) drawing tutorials to help equip you to be more creative and 2) interviews with other big-hearted, resilient creatives to help pass along their inspiration. I’ll be sharing my artwork here as well, but only because it makes me happy, not because of any self-imposed pressure. ;)

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’ve got clarity.

I look forward to sharing our journeys together, where we’ve been… and where we might go.

What words of encouragement does your 85-year-old self need to tell you?

sailboat photo I took last summer at Lake Nockamixon

sailboat photo I took last summer at Lake Nockamixon

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

  • 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 ―