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To the mum who feels constantly needed and rarely seen

While our kids played in the next room, my friend and I stood in her kitchen, sipping coffee and talking about our dreams in hushed tones peppered with nervous laughter, as if the very topic was somehow taboo.

Frivolous.

Indulgent.

Maybe even selfish?

“I feel like I’ve lost pieces of myself since having kids…” She spoke quietly, almost to herself, but her words echoed loudly inside my own heart.

I knew exactly what she meant.

I think in an honest moment, many of us would admit we do.

Motherhood, especially in those early years, can be an engulfing experience. It’s a deeply beautiful, life-giving (literally), and fulfilling role that some of us have always dreamt of, but there can be moments when it feels as if motherhood and the minutia of the day might swallow our identity whole. Like we’re constantly needed yet rarely seen.

We’re busy doing those million and one little things that we worry don’t matter, even while knowing, deep in our hearts they do. We teach, we train, we pray, we worry, we kiss, we rock, we soothe, we comfort, we’re filled up and emptied clear out 100 times in a day. We lose sleep and gain access to chambers of our hearts we never knew existed. We’re driven to the edge of our sanity and then pulled back again in one suddenly tender moment.

We ride that rollercoaster of fear and worry, pride and dismay, wonder and bafflement, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We love our life.

And yet…

We wonder about those pieces of ourselves that seem to have disappeared. Our audacity, our playfulness, our ability to dream. They don’t call. They don’t send flowers. They just slipped unceremoniously out the back door.

Will they ever come back?

As mothers we gladly make room for our children to play, to discover who they are, to explore their creativity, to try and fail. We tend and grow their dreams, teach gumption and courage, and we speak life over them…

So often forgetting that God still longs to do the same for us.

Even now.

Especially now.

A common theme I hear from every single mother I talk to, one I was once painfully familiar with myself, is the feeling that we’ve “lost” pieces of ourselves somewhere along the way since having children.

It feels bittersweet.

It feels disorienting.

It feels final.

As much as we love motherhood, we quietly question if it’s become our main identifier, if it’s the only important work we’ll ever do, or if it’s the final act in the story God is writing for us.

We go through our days vaguely aware that there are dreams hidden away in the corners of our heart, but we aren’t sure if they’re big or too small and to be honest we don’t have the time to figure it out.

We’re afraid to look closely at those dreams, to name them, or to bother God with them. He’s busy… WE’RE busy. So we let fear and doubt keep us from chasing them down.

We learn to live with an ache.

A longing.

Not for a different life, but a deeper life.

One where we’re fully awake to our unique gifting. Where we allow ourselves to believe that our dreams actually matter, and not just to us. Where we bravely pursue them in the middle of motherhood and our right now life, knowing that we don’t need permission, or a formal invitation, we need only to begin.

Five years ago I stood in my kitchen (because apparently the kitchen is where all my meaningful conversations take place now?) and I blurted out to a friend that I “wanted to write a book one day.” And then I laughed. I LAUGHED like it was some kind of hilarious joke. Because at that point in my life, as a stay at home mom with very young children and no “free time” to speak of, it honestly felt ridiculous, like I may as well have said that I wanted to move to Hollywood and be famous.

What a joke, right?

I wasn’t even blogging yet at the time, but my offhand “joke” struck a chord somewhere deep in my soul, shaking the dust off of a very hidden, very real dream to write. A dream that had always been there, but that I’d been too afraid to acknowledge.

It’s easier to leave those things safely tucked away in the peripheral of our consciousness, right?

Pursuing any dream is going to require quite a lot from us- it asks us to step out of our comfort zone, embrace risk, be vulnerable, put ourselves out there, learn humility and gumption, and to sit patiently within the tension of the creative process instead of struggle against it.

The thing is, I think God longs to partner with us in all of that.

This might seem obvious and trite to you, but for me it was nothing short of revelatory. I never would’ve admitted it aloud, but somewhere along the line I subconsciously decided that God didn’t really care about woo-woo stuff like “chasing dreams” and “making art”, or even beauty for the sake of beauty. (What can I say, sometimes I’m not very smart.)

Emily Freeman once said, “I believe, deep in my bones that we can’t separate creative work from spiritual formation.”

I’ve found this to be profoundly true of my own experience. In the last few years as I’ve woken up to my creative self and the dreams tucked away in my heart, as I’ve taken my place in the creative arena, every part of this process has been inexorably linked with my inner spiritual life.

I think that’s because God actually cares about this stuff, and when we start to care about it too, there’s an intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit at work within us.

Moms, what would happen if we leaned in to those places that ache because they feel unimportant?

What if all those pieces of ourselves that feel “lost” or shoved away in a drawer marked “Inconsequential” are the very key to our own unique brand of creativity?

What if we allowed ourselves to believe that God cares about the dreams tucked way in our hearts even more than we do, because he put them there, on purpose and for such a time as this? What if we found the gumption to walk towards them with boldness and an unflagging joy?

How different would our story be?

Take heart today, mamas. If you find yourself in a season of feeling more needed than seen, know that you have not been left on the shelf. Know that you are doing important work.

Did you hear that?

You are doing important work.

Right now.

Every diaper change that turns into a tickle fight. Every moment you linger on their cheek. Every nap-time showdown. Every trip to the grocery store that takes twice as long and is half as productive. Every tiny, tender sacrifice of yourself. You are doing important work.

If you find yourself in a season of limited time, opportunity, or energy when “pursuing your dreams” and “exploring your creativity” feels impossible, just remember that the thing about seasons is they always change.

And whatever season you find yourself in, there’s always meaningful work for you to do, because you are always you.

Amber Salhus is a wife, mom, blogger, house-flipper, comedy lover, and burgeoning farmer. She lives in the Oregon countryside with her husband, their two kids, and their ever-growing list of animals. She openly shares the adventures of dreaming big in the middle of motherhood, navigating the creative process, and finding the humor in all of it at ambersalhus.com.

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For the sake of beauty: How to invite beauty into your everyday life

When I was a little girl, I spent most of my childhood hidden away in the pages of a book or wandering in the woods listening to the birds and trees whisper stories. I was drawn to beauty and mystery in equal parts. I liked to think I was unique, set apart somehow by the things I loved, my senses alone tuned to beauty.

 

I know now that I was never alone in my loves, and certainly not the only one attuned to beauty. We are all hardwired to seek it, know it, and name it. Like many children, I was drawn to stories and art and the natural world. Others are drawn to bodies in motion, bounty at the table, or the beauty of friendship and intimacy.

By nature, we desire what is beautiful, having an innate awareness of it. We’re drawn to the lovely, the sublime, the evocative. Beauty fulfills our longings, however imperfectly, providing a feast for our soul and our senses.

Our love for imperfect beauty arises out of our desire for perfect Beauty itself, which is the beauty of Christ, the Kingdom of God in its fullness.

As an adult, it’s easy to overlook the beautiful in life for pressing daily tasks and imagined urgency. I find I have to work at beauty, both in seeking and creating it. I must offer it an open invitation. I return to these simple steps when my vision clouds and I imagine I need to overhaul my life. Instead, I open my eyes to the beauty in front of me.

Perhaps you need to issue an invitation to beauty as well? Here’s how:

Kimberly Coyle

Expect Beauty:

Live expectant, open handed, wholehearted in all things. Allow Philippians 4:8 to guide you as you extend your invitation. “…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Perhaps you’ll discover beauty in nature, in a circle of sister-friends, in the work of your hands, in cooking, in children, in stories, in order, in design, in peace-making, in justice, in art.

Not all beautiful things carry an obvious form of beauty at first glance. Truth may be painful. Light may expose what’s hidden in darkness. Justice may reveal wrongdoing. But, beauty is what happens when the Kingdom of God enters in, when we see with the eyes of possibility, when redemption is at the end of the story.

Capture Beauty:

Practice new ways of capturing surprise or smallness or symmetry. Look for the odd, the original, the otherworldly. Photography, journaling, letter writing, old-fashioned crafts, collections, or capturing snippets of life using social media can help us focus and capture the beauty we might ordinarily walk past without thinking.

Return to your first love. What did you gather and collect as a child? What shimmered in the rough of everyday life and caught your eye like a magpie? Did you squirrel away small collections of shells or pressed flowers or scribble long lists of favorite lyrics? Did you write terrible teenaged poetry? How did you capture beauty when you were half-formed? When the earth and sea and sky and friends and fireworks and uninhibited play left their fingerprints on the wet clay of your soul?

How could you invite those loves back into your life today?

Practice Beauty:

The more we embrace and capture beauty, the more inspired we become to create. We are made in the image of God: the original Life Artist, the Creator of all things. Embrace your role as co-creator—participate in the naming of the unnamed. Call the world around you beautiful with defiant acts of creation.

Allow your creation to complement the beauty you discover elsewhere. Reject comparison. There is nothing new under the sun, but your unique perspective offers fresh inspiration to the rest of us.

Give us yourself and your best work, for the sake of beauty.

 

Kimberly Coyle is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of writing with an MFA in creative non-fiction. She has written for publications such as In Touch Magazine, Fathom Magazine, (in)courage, and Grace Table. When not writing or teaching, she dabbles in photography and can be found on Instagram as @kacoyle.

She writes regularly online at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com

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Nothing is wasted

If you’re reading this magazine, then it’s safe to assume that on some level, you’re interested in the creative process. Maybe you fully identify as a Creative already, or maybe you’re reading this more as someone on the outside looking in, timidly curious about the creative life but certainly not existing in that realm yourself.

Or maybe you’re more like me- new to the party and still figuring out how to fit in.

Nothing is wasted
Amber Salhus

For most of my life, I genuinely believed that I wasn’t a creative person. I wasn’t even mad about it, really, I just always put “art” into a box, and when I didn’t see myself fitting into that box, I assumed I had no place in the Creative Club.

I can’t paint or draw or write a song. I don’t craft or invent or collect artsy things. I can’t even dance, unless you count car-dancing (which I do) because it only requires me to utilize half of my body at once: The upper half, which everyone knows is the easiest part. It’s the footwork that will trip you up (pun intended.)

Other than my inability to dance, I never minded much that I wasn’t “the creative type”. I have other passions. I love words on a page, interior design, gathering and encouraging women, I love to make people laugh and to look for the humor in every situation.

It wasn’t until a few years ago as I began noticing the things that make me come alive and intentionally moving towards them that it dawned on me that I was actually being creative.

I started blogging and realized that I could connect with women, encourage them, and even make them laugh, all through words on a page.

After 10 addresses in 12 years, my husband and I developed a passion and a skill for renovating and designing homes, and we quietly started a house-flipping business on the side.

These things had always come naturally to me but for the first time ever, I actually recognized them as my creative work.

With a sudden rush of panic and delight, I realized that I’d somehow snuck into the party, but I still wasn’t sure if I belonged.

The moment I found the courage to name my talents, dreams, and creative offerings, the voice of my inner critic grew loud, plaguing me with questions of,

“Who do I think I am?”

“Do I belong into this space?”

“Is there room for me here?”

You see, it’s much easier to do your creative work when you’re not aware that you’re doing it. But the fact of the matter is that if you’re a living breathing human, you’re creative. And odds are, you’re already doing your creative work, whether you realize it or not.

That might look like tying on apron strings and making beautiful food, like bringing order to chaos within your home or on a spreadsheet, like the innate ability to make people feel welcome not just in your home but in your life, or a million other things.

Your art can be anything or nothing you expected, but it will always be what makes you come alive.

So often we overlook those things that come naturally to us because they come naturally to us.

But the second we name those things and get intentional with them is the second that Resistance will push back.

For some Resistance might look like comparison and insecurity.

You bravely try something new and you’re immediately reminded of all the people who could do it better or who’ve already done it better.

For others still, Resistance might look like circumstance and timing.

Maybe you’re in a season where your work feels more practical than creative. Maybe it looks like a day job that pays the bills, full time parenting, or both at the same time, and you find yourself in a limiting circumstance where “exploring your creativity” feels like a pipe dream. You secretly worry that the dreams and talents tucked away in your heart are forgotten on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust and losing relevance.

For others still, Resistance might look like confusion and uncertainty.

Maybe you haven’t fully realized your gifts yet, or what your creative work looks like, much less how it fits into the middle of your right-now life. Maybe you’re the type who needs to know exactly where you’re going and precisely how you’ll get there before you’ll ever take one step.

The good news is that whatever Resistance looks like for you, it does not have to win.

If you find yourself in a season of limited time and opportunity, of confusion, or of feeling unqualified, take heart, because the thing about seasons is they always change.

Whatever work you happen to be doing, trust that none of it is wasted and know there is always art you can make because you are always you.

 

Amber Salhus

Amber Salhus is a wife, mom, blogger, house-flipper, comedy lover, and burgeoning farmer. She lives in the Oregon countryside with her husband, their two kids, and their ever-growing list of animals. She openly shares the adventures of dreaming big in the middle of motherhood, navigating the creative process, and finding the humor in all of it at ambersalhus.com.