Sunday Sketchbook - Strength and Stubborn Gladness

 
Sunday Sketches by Jennifer Frith

I grew up without a mom.

That's not true....   I grew up without the mom I thought I wanted.

My mom – gentle, poetic, and kind – battled debilitating mental illness for her entire life.

My memories include my little sister and me tucking her into bed during the middle of the day, not the other way around.

She was severely depressed.  I didn't know this until I was in my teens. 

I ached for a mom who was strong and independent.  I wanted a woman-figure to show me how to take care of myself, to believe in myself, and to be strong for myself.

In a roundabout way, she did.

This brings me back to my Sunday Sketchbook.

When I met a stranger named Emmanuel on my trip to Florida earlier this year (you can read about our encounter here.  I kept his business card and pasted it in my pages), he shared with me this bit of encouragement: 

 

"The joy of the Lord is our strength."

- Nehemiah 8:10 -

 

These words settled into my heart.

Strength, by definition, is the ability to carry a heavy load... to withstand a great amount of force or pressure.

The verse made me realize that sometimes strength can be the willingness/willfulness to smile....  when it hurts and it sucks, and everything in you wants to fall to your knees, throw in the towel, or pack up and walk out.

Maybe my mom wasn't "strong and independent" in the way that I wanted her to be.  But what if she was strong?  What if her gentleness was her own deep resolve to not let the weight of life crush her?

So these are my Sunday Sketches.

Sunday Sketches - Jennifer Frith
Sunday Sketches by Jennifer Frith

Strength, Joy, and "Stubborn Gladness" are some of my core values... for the reasons listed above.  If you can smile when life gets hard, you're someone I want to be around.

The pages were inspired by Josh Garrels song, "Farther Along".  You can watch the video here.

What does strength look like to you?

Sunday Sketchbook - Quiet Waters

I sat on the cotton-threaded couch, toes wiggling in my shoes, my hands nervously rubbing my pant legs.  

"So, how does this work?" I asked. "What will we be talking about first?  Will there be homework assignments and self-help books to read?  Are there things that I can check off a list?  How will I know that I am making progress?"

These were the very first words that flew out of my mouth during my first session with my therapist.

She looked at me and smiled with kindness and knowing eyes.  "No, that's not how this works."

I shared this conversation with my sister.  I told her that I realized for the first time in my life that I might have some anxiety and control issues.  She laughed and kidded, "You didn't know?" 

I shared it with my husband too.  He said the same thing.  Apparently everybody knew this about me except for me.

I deal with a lot of anxiety.  It *might* have something to do with all of the coffee that I drink, but it probably has more to do with having a big imagination and a ton of empathy feelings.  I notice and feel everything.  I am a highly functioning person with anxiety.  

I love that God creates people with different wiring.  Some, like Paul, are great debaters.  Some, like Peter, are headstrong and bold leaders.  Some, like Barnabas, are naturally gifted with making friends.  Others, like Luke the doctor, are whip-smart and analytical.  And some, like myself, are big-time feeling, compassionate people who like to check things off their checklists because accomplishments and checklists make them feel good and in control in a very uncertain world.

But sometimes checklists can't fix big problems and big heartaches because that's not how life works. 

"That's not how this works."

One thing this wise sage of a woman helped me to learn is just to *be* instead of *do*.

Really, to breathe.

Watercolor journal pages by Jennifer Frith - Quiet Waters

I love that God offers stillness and quietness to people of all different types of wiring, including those who are wound up tighter than a corkscrew... like me.

Quiet Waters come when I take time out of my day to meet with Him during my early morning routine.  When I come to Him with my burdens and anxious thoughts, I'm reminded that a life of peace often first comes by being, not doing. That's when all is calm in my heart, and all is in His control.  It's from there that I can tackle my to-do list (which I fondly call my "accomplishment list"), not the other way around.  Then I can face the world and all of its uncertainties from a place of health and peace.

Watercolor journal pages by Jennifer Frith - Quiet Waters
Watercolor Journal Pages by Jennifer Frith

How are you wired?

What do quiet waters look like to you?

Sunday sketches in my hardbound journal, with Schmincke watercolors.  Inspired by my fish, Chuck.

Returning to My Sunday Sketchbook

For the past few months, I've needed to take a break from anything to do with my art.  A hibernation for healing of sorts.  To slowly wake up out of my winter and step into spring, I am going to be doing a personal project called "Sunday Sketches".  I did it a while ago and want to return to them.  (You can view my 1st Sunday Sketches flip-through video here.)

Instead of posting weekly prompts like I did with the Gratitude 52 Project, I will be sharing my completed sketchbook pages with verses or pieces of wisdom that have been speaking to my heart.  I'll start for a few weeks and see where it goes. Then I'll share them with you each Sunday through social media outlets and my blog here.  You are welcome to follow along and join me.  

I originally posted the first week on my Instagram page.  I realize that koala bears don't really have anything to do with the Bible verse, but koala bears are cuddly, and I love animals, so I included one in my sketchbook.  You'll probably see a lot of animals in these pages.

This particular sketchbook project is meant to keep me uplifted, with no pressure to perform.  I hope the words and images are encouraging to you too.  

Here are last week's verses and what I learned from them.  

With love,

Jenny


jennifer_frith_journal_page_koala

One of my favorite passages from the Bible is in the books of Luke and Mark, where a blind beggar named Bartimaues is yelling for Jesus' help.

Thronged by a large crowd of people, Jesus was making his way through Jerusalem.  Hearing the commotion, Bartimaues begins shouting for Jesus' attention.  The crowd tells him to be quiet, but Bartimaues begins yelling even louder.  Jesus then asks for Bartimaues to come to Him.

As Bartimaues makes his way to Jesus, I imagine that the crowd is now hushed.  The two men stand in front of each other face to face, and Jesus asks Bartimaues, "What do you want me to do for you?"

In that intimate moment of need and request, Bartimaues tells Jesus that he wants to see again. Jesus heals His sight, and tells him that his faith has made him well.

I love that Jesus, while omniscient, invites the lost and overlooked to come to Him with their requests.  I love that Bartimaues was quite OK with looking like a fool too.  And it makes me wonder what I would ask Jesus in that same moment.

jennifer_frith_journal_page_koala
jennifer_frith_journal_page_koala

sketchbook pages in Schmincke watercolors on Canson hot press, cotton-mould watercolor paper.

Meet "Maggie"

Jennifer Frith Ilustrator

 

After a lot of work and a lot of patience, I'm so excited to share with you that my 3rd children's book is available for purchase here on Amazon.

It's a sweet story about a lion cub named Maggie.  Maggie loves Monster Trucks.  Her family loves her for it too.

The author, Natalie Shafer, was awesome to work for.  She wants little girls to know that it's perfectly OK to be who they are, whether they're sweet and dainty, a little bit rough and tumbly, or maybe a mixture of both.

Jennifer Frith Ilustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith illustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith illustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith Ilustrator
Jennifer Frith Illustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks

This illustration journey began because I began sharing my animals, journal pages, and illustrations online with you here about 6 years ago.  I had no idea what I was doing (you can find out for yourself; my first post is here ); I just knew I wanted to draw and share those creations for whomever wanted to see them.

So with that, thank you for following and sharing your own creative work with me.  I appreciate your friendship, encouragement, and support.  I hope you keep pursuing your own creative curiosities.  I hope you share your art with the world too, or at least a close circle of trusted friends.  Who knows where it will lead.  And even if you choose not to share it with anyone, I'm 100% certain that following your "creative itch" will lead to your own joy, freedom of expression, and a greater sense of self.

Anyway, enough of the gooey stuff.

You can grab yourself a copy of Maggie Likes Monster Trucks here.  

xoxox

Thanks for being so awesome.  

 

Jesus Is My All, But Sometimes You Need to See a Therapist

I knew I needed to get help when I wanted to end my life.

It wasn't even a "want"; it felt like it was my only option.

My grandfather – one of my heroes and biggest mentors – had recently died.  We held his hand as he passed away in the Hospice room.  I was the Executrix.  I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of carrying out his arrangements.  My husband was dealing with his own stuff from his time as a Marine in the Iraq War.  We lived in a pretty terrible and cramped apartment.   I was bogged down by work.  I wanted to look out for my family during this difficult time too.  

I moved from months of feeling overwhelm/despair to months of feeling numb inside.  I felt like I was lying inside an open coffin with the weight of life being shoveled and hauled on top of me.

To make matters more complicated, I had accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 5.  But here I was, 25 years later, lying in my bed each night, feeling misery.  What Christian lives life like this?  Am I really a Christian?   What about the "Fruit of the Spirit?"   What was wrong with me that I couldn't dig myself out of this emotional mess?  Am I not praying enough?  Or praying the right prayers?   At that point, suicide wasn't a "want".  It seemed like the only way out.  

When I began picturing how I would do it, I knew I needed to reach out for professional help.

And that's when I researched and called a therapist.  It was one of the best, most difficult decisions I have ever made.

Difficult, because telling a complete stranger your problems for the first time feels like jumping out of a plane.  It feels palms-sweaty kind of scary and completely nonsensical (who willingly jumps out of a plane?).  It also feels straight-up awkward.  And then, after the first session, when a thousand locked-up hurts start to bust and break open, you can't sleep for 2 nights afterwards.  

But it was the best decision because it helped me to unravel and unwind a ton of negative thoughts.  It helped to heal wounds that I had been carrying from my younger years into my adulthood.  It taught me coping skills, boundaries, self-care, and how to forgive myself and others.  It taught me about me

The release and freedom from all of that pain was so worth it.  So very worth it.

And I no longer believe that if you are a Christian and you are depressed, that something is "wrong" with you or your walk with Jesus.  

That's why He gives some people the gift of Encouragement (Romans 12).  He wants us to be encouraged by others when we are at our lowest.  We are part of His plan to lift each other up when we can't seem to pull ourselves out of our darkest moments.  And some of those Encouragers just happen to be professionals.

If you are dealing with your own dark moments and would like to get help (please know that you don't have to go through life feeling like this), here are some resources that might be useful for you:

Older journal pages in watercolor.  Cardinals are symbols of loved ones who have passed.

Older journal pages in watercolor.  Cardinals are symbols of loved ones who have passed.

When has asking for help made you feel alive again?

Who's helped to lift you up in your time of need?   

How can you be of an encouragement to somebody today?