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