Why Fish Can't Ride a Bicycle

9:47 AMHeather

I've always been a crafty girl. As long as I can remember, I've felt a unique thrill for new crayons, blank sketch pads, colored pencils and a wide assortment of art supplies.  Remember those scented markers by Mr. Sketch? Perhaps one of my most thrilling gifts as a child. Art AND delicious smells? What?!  



My parents were on to this aspect of my personality. In fact, during a particularly trying time (for every member of our family) when I fell into emotional melt-downs, my sister created "happy grams" that I would earn for each day that I was able to hold myself together. These were posted on my bedroom door and a solid week of them meant one thing-- the ultimate prize. A fresh pack of construction paper. Or a box of colored pencils. Glue and new scissors. Sketch pads. Anything and all things crafty.  

I was basically bribed with art supplies to become the awesome person I am today.

Look, I can't recall all the details of that rough patch in my early years, but I do know one thing. I was not happy. Really I wasn't. I can remember feeling downright lonely and misunderstood. I had this huge imagination and obviously, felt all the feelings BIG TIME. I had a speech impediment that brought teasing and bullying and I felt like the odd man out. Any friends I had were quite temporary as we all lived on an Army base...where people come and go at the drop of a hat. And I spent a huge chunk of my daily school schedule on the frustrating and super relevant "H.E.P." That stands for the Hawaiian English Program. Which is oh-so-applicable on an Army base in Hawaii where people speak English. 

So art was my escape. Art was where I felt most like myself. Art was my safe place to land, to express myself, to let go and just create things. I didn't care what I was making or what the medium was. I loved the smell of those scented markers or the feel of Elmer's glue dried all over my hand (Who didn't peel them off like dead skin after a messy project?!) I loved the feel of clay in my hands, forming it and getting it stuck under my fingernails. I began to sew little stuffed animals and purses from scraps of fabric at home. I filled up sketch book after sketch book with repeated graphic designs or a still life. 

And how my heart soared when my Grandmother would come for a visit and ohh and ahh over every last bit of art that I showed her. 

In the beginning, art was my escape. It was the light house in my angry seas. It was comforting and comfortable. 

But like playing with baby dolls, I seemed to outgrow my art eventually. When I entered middle school, I left behind the doll house I had made from scrap boxes, full of all the furniture I had created and the wall paper that I had colored. It all fell by the wayside, along with the clothes I sewed for my Barbie dolls.

Somewhere in the busy days of growing up, I came to view my creativity as a luxury rarely afforded.  For most of my life since then, I've denied it, ignored it and neglected it. And until quite recently, I've kept it on a leash as a luxury rather than viewing it as a necessity required for my very life. I've boxed it in and constrained it as something to do in my free time. 

Oh, yes, I have a long and complicated relationship with my God given creativity. During college, I allowed myself some time to cross stitch, but only because I saw it as a way to relax watching television while also being productive. Oh, yes. My performance mentality has basically held my artistic soul captive for years. 

When I worked full-time as an adoptive parent caseworker, my creativity was reduced to how to keep my sanity while being completely overworked and constantly on call. While that balancing act did require a lot of creativity, my lack of artistic outlet was probably part of why I eventually cratered in that position. 

I did a brief stint painting murals on people's walls after my sister tapped into my creative bent for her first child's nursery. Then, I applied that skill to my own children's nurseries, before once again, letting my creativity wither away under the guise of lacking any time for such extravagance in life. Who has time for crafts when attempting to keep two little boys alive and fed and basically content?

My co-dependency between creativity and productivity hit a new level when I allowed myself to scrapbook only because it was also accomplishing something. I was a tortured artist, trying to get amazing, creative scrap pages accomplished QUICKLY in order to cross as much as possible off my scrapbook task list. Nothing like a loud ticking clock making demands of your "creative, Mommy break" time.

And then, after years of people suggesting I sell my arts and crafts, a dream to actually make a business from my creativity led me to start my own stationery business. I handled all the design and production. Again--I was giving myself permission to explore this because it was an attempt at some extra money after my third child was born.

I eventually imploded from the pressure. I simply couldn't be a mom to three kids, run a business, and create things as a means to an end. The number crunching, bookkeeping, and need to promote myself killed all joy of the artistic side of things. I just wanted to sit and design all day, not worrying about the production of said designs into profitable products.

Oh, yes. My relationship with my creativity had a healthy start during some hard times, but became dysfunctional for decades. It took a wrong turn toward a rarity only when time allowed, like some extraneous part of my identity. My hard and fast rule became creative outlet for productivity sake, bearing a striking resemblance to my many other tasks that were reigning supreme in my life.

My stationery business had its good moments, but it too, evolved into another detour that bypassed the creative outlet and took on the form of taskmaster. 

There was a bit of a lull there for the creative part of me. Visited infrequently, in an occasional scrap book or craft session, like some distant relative. 

As my children grew a bit, and we moved into a home that had an extra room I've claimed as my craft room, God has been dealing with me on the topic of my artistic bent and his call for my life.

To be honest, I'm still in the middle of it. I'm still living in the space of asking him to reveal how my creativity converges with my his purposes for me. 

Where do they intersect?

I'm getting closer. Sometimes, the fog lifts and I feel I'm on the verge of seeing some grander picture. To be honest, it still feels elusive. It still feels hard to grasp. Because my ideas are as varied as my creative interests. One day, I think God intends for me to write and tell stories for his glory's sake. Other days, I think maybe I should create a ministry combining crafting with greater needs in the world. Or maybe, I am to sell my goods and send all the money to vulnerable children worldwide? 

Oh, yes, my history with my creativity has been sordid and taken some windy roads. It has caused me to doubt how it all fits together. It makes me wonder when it might be my turn or how it might look to truly find that glorious intersection of creativity and calling.

Yet, I know I'm getting closer. In the last few years, I have married my artistic bent with ministry. And it feels like a big fat YES to my soul. A neighbor and I started a monthly craft club called Art and Soul. We took turns picking a (theoretically) easy craft and purchased supplies. Women came and paid only to cover costs. As they sat and crafted and created, they found their inner crafter. They bonded and formed relationships.

And my heart soared every time someone said, "Look what I made! I didn't even think I was crafty at all!"

It was exactly how I felt when I used to show my Grandmother my sketch book.

While Art and Soul eventually came to an end, it led me to organize an annual ladies gathering at my church with a similar structure. Create Christmas happens in November, and those who attend can choose from five stations, each with the supplies and instructions for an easy to finish project. They track their projects on a tally sheet, and pay $5 per project on their way out. 

It's an event that always makes me feel satisfied and fulfilled. Because I see grandmothers and daughters and granddaughters all crafting together. I see strangers become friends while coaching each other through their projects. I see women who might never step foot into a church find themselves welcomed and embraced. And I see tired and weary women uplifted and encouraged through the creative process.

Here are some things I have learned. When we pigeon hole creativity as merely a hobby or a means to make money we deny the necessity of embracing every part of who we are. Every bit of how the ultimate Creator made us in his image. And we can easily thus allow this part of ourselves to wither and die rather than nurturing it as a core essence of our being.

Being creative and artistic is part of what I was created for and what I was made to do. It's as crucial to my well being and faithfulness. And without allowing the expression of it, I'm like a fish trying to ride a bicycle.

But of course, the Creator himself made us in his image. And I've realized that we all have a need to create. We all have this built within our DNA, although we each express it in our own unique way. Whenever someone says they aren't crafty at all, I chuckle. Because I think we all need to explore until we find our inner crafter.

We tend to think so narrowly about creativity. Thinking it has something to do only with hot glue guns and paint and markers. But I think if we are consider it, the art of creativity is so broad and all encompassing that I would boldly proclaim that we all have it somewhere. 

Maybe it's in creating extremely technical computer code. Or in solving math problems. Or taking on the creative challenge of teaching children or managing people or building new businesses. 

It's not just the traditionally creative professions of musician or artist or writer.

Understanding that the Creator has intentionally ingrained within me a need to create is becoming instrumental in embracing my call and my purpose and my ministry. It's paramount to finding the abundant life that he has promised. 

And I think the same can be said of you. What makes you feel fulfilled? Whole? Calmed? Contented? Purposeful?  And how do you order your life around these God given bents so that it becomes a regular rhythm of your life? 

Just as a fish cannot ride a bicycle, so we, too, cannot deny ourselves the creative and artistic process. God has placed masterpieces in our paths every single day, painting the sky with bold strokes of color at sunset and designing intricate flowers. 

So, let us stop and pause and admire the art all around us. 

Let us be about the business of creating in our lives. 

Creating legacies of love and grace and relationships and connection. Creating a welcoming home for other people. Using our natural talents and gifts and skills to create glory for his name's sake. 

And embracing creativity as a regular rhythm to our lives rather than a hobby in the nearly extinct free time we tend to have.

Go ahead. Grab the Elmer's glue and some smelly markers and get to work.

The end result doesn't have to be beautiful. Because the process will be.

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