Creative Play

Oh, friends, it has been awhile and we are long overdue for recess… Do you remember watching the clock during your own elementary school days, waiting for playtime? Some days the minute hand seemed to be ticking backwards and I couldn’t help but fidget in my seat. Life has felt a little like that recently, so I’m grateful for my friend Sara urging us back out to play, to enjoy the time to stretch and run free and just go for it. Our simple creative efforts come from the heart, after all. Let’s spread some love and joy!

re:create recess #6: Sara Pantazes

I never thought of myself as a creative person. I was the kid who always colored within the lines rather than one who relished the completely empty pages of a sketchbook. As an adult, I continue to struggle to be creative when my kids want to “play” (a problem my children never seem to have!). But when I read the prompt for this blog series, I realized there are two activities I periodically make time for which challenge me to be creative, and that these activities have become my grown-up play times.

The first creative activity I got into as an adult was scrapbooking. I fell into this hobby somewhat begrudgingly: it is a project that is never completed and is super hard to do with young kids around. But it is those young ones who make this creative activity so worthwhile, because my sons love looking at our family scrapbooks.

My creative process involves ordering tons of pictures, laying them out along with the cards or ticket stubs or whatever else I saved that go along with the pictures’ events, and deciding how much can fit on each 12X12 page. Then I pick out the background paper and embellishments and decide what words to write on the page.

The scrapbooks have become the stories of our family, which my kids “read” and enjoy. They “remember” things their brains were not developed enough to have formed memories of, but they have looked at the pictures and heard the stories retold often enough that they know their family history. My creative play has resulted in tangible objects that help my children know themselves, those who love them, and the seasons of their lives.

The second creative activity I discovered in more recent years is making cards. I freely admit that I struggle with how homemade my cards look and that they lack the eloquent sentiments of Hallmark cards. Yet I enjoy the process of creating them enough to continue doing so. I enjoy looking through Pinterest for ideas and then interpreting those designs to make them work within the boundaries of my own supplies.

I tend to create simple designs but I am okay with that because simple is an expression of me. I hope that the family and friends who receive my cards see them as the expression of love that I intend them to be. I also appreciate all the blank space inside the cards. It challenges me to write words that matter to the recipient and gives my children space to make their own 6- and 4-year-old marks on whatever occasion we are recognizing.

Scrapbooking and card making play a back seat to nearly everything else in my life; I don’t get to “play” with them often. When I do have time, I still find that being artistic and creative does not come easily to me. Yet I have learned to appreciate the challenge these creative play activities present and how it refreshes my brain to engage in something so different from my norm, something so creative. The blank pages still unnerve me, but I no longer avoid them. Bring on the card stock, stamps and inkpads, fancy scissors and washi tape—I have some playing to do!

Sara is wife of Tom and mom of Ben and Matt. Their family life started in Williamsburg, VA but they now live in a beautiful rural-suburban corner of southeast Pennsylvania. When she is not having all kinds of mom fun, Sara is working to earn a Master of Arts in Christian Education.

 

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Word Doodles

Most of us want to fit in. But often creative types just don’t–their forms of play, of self-expression, set them apart from the crowd. Many of us learn to love that about ourselves, at least most of the time. Then again, it’s also nice to receive appreciation for our unique gifts and our very selves. I so resonate with today’s post: creating to create because it’s just who you are and what you do; not fitting in, and rejection; to acceptance and recognition. Bless you for sticking with it!

re:create recess #5: Mandi Diehl

Throughout junior high and high school, I had an obsession with perfecting my handwriting. I would come up with new fonts for myself all the time. In class, my friends would doodle these gorgeous drawings with geometric shapes and flowers that repeated down the sides of their pages, and I just did not have a knack for that. I stink at doodling. So when I “doodled,” it wasn’t pictures, it was words. I would make collages of verses and song lyrics along the margins of my notes.

In a high school art class, we had a collage project, so my collage was a huge board with all of these different song lyrics patched and painted together. I was so proud of it. My art teacher gave me a C. When I went to talk to him about it, he said that he “just didn’t get it and whatever message was supposed to come across, just didn’t.” While I felt upset by his response, haven’t all artists been misunderstood at one point? Or had their art cast aside because it wasn’t normal for the time? It didn’t matter to me what he said, because my art isn’t for anyone else. It’s for me.

My word doodles and collages are a way for me to play and relax. It’s something that gives me joy. When the world around me feels chaotic (with two kids under four and another on the way, it often does), it’s something I can go back to to feel centered and have access to peace.

Flash forward from high school days to today’s world of Pinterest and customized everything, my art has found its place. Words mean so much to different people: a sign that says “gather” in the dining room, one for the nursery with the details of a sweet little one’s arrival, or a seating chart for a couple’s big day. It’s amazing to not only get to play, but have my play serve someone else.  And, I have to say, it feels good to have people “get it” now.


Mandi Diehl is a wife and work-at-home-mommy of two. She loves Jesus, super hot lattes, Pirates baseball, and the Pacific Northwest. Contact her for custom word doodle creations or makeup consulting.
www.creationsonboard.com
www.stylesbymandi.com
IG: @stylesbymandi
Facebook.com/stylesbymandi
stylesbymandi@gmail.com

 

To Unite Creativity to Communion with God

Today’s guest post comes from a precious friend of many years with whom I have spent far too little time face-to-face. In fact, had I not opened an email from a stranger, we might not be friends at all. Some years after Guy and I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, Danielle and Matt followed in our footsteps. As married seminary-educated ministry teams are all too rare, friends and mentors told them we needed to meet and passed on our contact info. We exchanged emails until we all moved from SoCal to NorCal and finally met in person. We are so grateful others thought to introduce us! Three Humphreys babies and a couple of churches later, they are in Oregon while we remain in NorCal and we remain grateful for social media that keeps us connected and praying for this sweet family.

Create Challenge #32: Danielle Humphreys

When I was a kid, I loved to doodle, cut-and-paste paper creations, and would go to school sick so I wouldn’t miss that week’s art project. In third or fourth grade, my teacher looked at a paper mask I made and told me I outdid myself. I glowed in the affirmation of what I loved doing. From FIMO creations to beaded necklaces to decorating homecoming floats in tissue paper, being creative just seems to be in my DNA.

In college and beyond, I grew as a visual artist, squeezing in a few art studio classes with whatever free electives I had as a science major. Sculpture and interactive art that invited engagement, like the swings I hung in the university plaza and the “GO” signs I made and installed along bike paths, or even the paintings dealing with my own biracial identity played on themes of whimsy and the potential for deep commentary and conversation. I would have switched my major to art studio, but let’s just say my parents were already disappointed that I got off the pre-med track.

In college and beyond, I grew in my relationship with Jesus and found that the intersection of faith and art just made sense to me. I was invited to use creativity in worship services and retreats through response stations and by designing the environment. My own participation in creative response stations and taking in the visual environment are ways that help me have a heart connection with God while reflecting on how to live out my faith in everyday life. In an increasingly visual world where so much is communicated and felt through design, image and color, I am almost equally if not more impacted by the visual “message” of a worship service (yes, even the fonts matter!) as I am by the sermon itself. I imagine I am not alone in this reality.

Sometimes, my creativity feels like it has shifted to satisfy more utilitarian needs like cooking, making Halloween costumes for my kids, throwing themed birthday parties, and designing print communications for our church. And while I can lose track of time pouring myself into these things (I once spent an hour carving a watermelon to look like the Death Star), it doesn’t satisfy the desire to go deep; to unite creativity to communion with God, truth, wonder, and wrestling. Where the process itself is like entering another dimension where time slows down, I can hear the whisper of God and sometimes see life more clearly. The most recent experience I had where the process of creating art drew me closer to God was a couple of weeks ago when I helped paint and redesign the high school room at church.dhumphries-1dhumphries-2

 

As a long-time youth pastor/leader, I strongly value involving students in the creative process and invite their ideas and input. Would it be easier to just design and execute the ideas I have in my head by myself? Absolutely. But I have found that the benefit of working on a collaborative art piece far outweighs the messiness of involving others and the balance and simmering down of many ideas. Students especially need the affirmation that their creativity and faith are valuable and beautiful. And so I may gently guide and nudge ideas I’ve been collecting for months on my Pinterest board, but I try to be an adult that says, “YES! That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” because I want to help students not only have a hospitable place that inspires their faith, but I want their creativity to feel at home in the church and see how this might be a way God wired them to connect with their Creator. Working with students on art projects is not only a way to create a mosaic or stage design or mural, but an opportunity for discipleship, encouraging reflection on one’s spiritual journey.dhumphries-3

I love our mural of the Sisters Mountains with its taped off edges and facets, the night sky and sunset. The concept for this wall went through much evolution from my initial offering of building trees out of reclaimed fence boards or using something more temporary like canvas banners. But it’s awesome. And it’s not perfect. Parts could be touched up, and the door still needs to be painted, but many hands and minds came together to create this majestic offering. And while I thoroughly enjoyed working on this mural with others, I didn’t mind when the school year started and our students weren’t able to help as much. I happily added the finishing touches from writing the verse to individually gluing tiny Swarovski crystals into constellations on the night sky, smiling at the idea of someone with eyes to see noticing the unexpected twinkling reflection of light. In my alone times, I cranked up my favorite worship songs and blended colors into a sunset while God blended love through music and paint into me. I thought about the real Sisters Mountains I’d seen earlier this summer; the expanse of the night sky with its starry host declaring the grandeur of God, the same God who created all of it, and who created me, too. I hope that those who use this space, created with a heart of worship, will encounter God’s loving Spirit and hospitality.

dhumphries

 

Danielle is a native Bay Area gal, adjusting to life in Oregon, married to Matt and mom to 3 pint-sized humans. She has a B.A. in Aquatic Biology, an M.A. in Theology (Fuller), and enjoys conversations about church, community, Jesus, and gardening. She is also a lover of good food, music, creativity, and outer space. Her neglected blog is daniellehumphreys.wordpress.com.

Create Hope

I have known today’s guest post writer for close to half my lifetime, and she has been one of God’s best gifts to me: laid back and passionate; thoughtful and whip-smart; kind and prayerful. She also has one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard. She seriously listens and together we laugh until we cry. She’s also the rare bird who thinks I’m funny, which also makes me laugh. Kelly is one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met, and I pray you will be encouraged by reading her post.hope-sun

Create Challenge #9: Kelly Bermudez-Deutsch

While I could make you laugh at my many attempts to “be creative” and the pintrosities (Pin-tros-ity: a deeply troubling creation inspired by a beautiful picture on Pinterest that bears no resemblance to its original inspiration) that have resulted from my pursuit of artistic expression, I have slowly come to realize that my creativity lies elsewhere.

I have a gift for building relationships with almost anyone. With those who live inside and outside my same-ness, that is, my culture, language, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status and life experience. I also have this crazy ability to speak truth and encouragement (or, in-courage-ment: putting courage into someone) for the next step of their journey. In so doing, my creative expression reveals itself in the unique way I help to build hope in the hearts of the people I meet.

Creating hope sounds great, but what does that even mean? How do you create hope? Does that even count as real creativity? Believe me, I’ve had this conversation with myself a thousand times. Creativity manifests itself tangibly, like on a canvas, but creativity is not limited by artist’s tools. It shows up in our everyday. And my way is found in this nebulous, ever-changing dynamic of relationships. It’s in discerning what God is doing. In walking with someone to the edge of their next leap of faith, reminding them that no matter what God is with them, for them and can be trusted with their whole heart, even when God has asked them to do scary things.

How do you create hope? I can’t give you a formula. We’ll all do it a little differently, but I have no doubt that we are all called to do so. The Bible says, “God puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, Restoring dignity and respect to their lives— a place in the sun!” We are called to partner with God in His work in the world, and part of what God is doing in the world is rekindling burned-out lives with fresh hope. Here’s the really exciting part: when we get onboard with His work rather than our own, God shows up in the most awesome ways.

God gives us hope and yet, at times, I have lost it. During difficult moments, my heart identified with David who cried out: “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” Honestly, my prayers have been less gracious, filled with more colorful language, wailing, screaming, even (shudder) cussing at God. I have felt pushed to the brink of ending the relationship I gave my life to so long ago. Broken and frustrated, I didn’t want to continue with “the plans God had for me” if they were going to be like this.

At the end of my own rope, my own effort, my own desires to appear righteous in my own strength, at the end of my own all-figured-out version of Christianity, something ordinary and extraordinary happened.

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After years of silence, a friend picked up the phone. “What in the world is going on with you?” she asked. “God has put you on my heart and I can’t stop praying for you.” I burst with deep sobs and blabbered something about the pain and sorrow I strained to carry. And in that vulnerable moment she said something I will never forget. “Kelly, I know these last few years have been painful for you. I can hear it in your voice. But God has good plans for you and is laying the groundwork for something far greater than you could imagine. I know you don’t have the strength to believe that right now, but I do. And with my portion of faith, I will carry you to the cross until you believe in His goodness once again.”

I can’t explain what happened, but somehow everything changed. Her words and prayers touched me and a hope that I believed dead started to stir. God allowed her to be a part of how He “lifted me out of the ditch, and pulled me from deep mud.” She saw how “He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip and taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God” (Psalm 40:1-3).

Shane Claiborne talks about catching hope: “You can’t really learn God’s hope like you learn the logic of an argument or the details of a story. It’s more like learning to belly laugh. You catch hope from someone who has it down in their gut” (The Irresistible Revolution). God uses those who have hope to share it with others.

My personal friend, Merriam-Webster, defines hope: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true. Hope implies little certainty but suggests confidence or assurance in the possibility that what one desires or longs for will happen.” Hope is both noun and verb. Something you do hoping for a good result; and an actual thing, someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping. Christ is our reason to hope. Christ creates hope in us and in the world.

God has always been clear about what He set out to accomplish on earth. In Isaiah 42 God promises that “He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right. He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth.” In Matthew 12, a retelling of Isaiah 42, God says, “Before you know it, his justice will triumph; the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.”

So how do we create hope? We look at how God does it. We don’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt. We don’t disregard the small and insignificant. We get in there, wherever there may be. We roll up our sleeves and lend a hand. We carry each other’s burdens. We listen, cry and get messy. We remind those who have no hope that they have reason to hope. That with God, truly “ALL things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) and that in Christ all hope is never, ever lost. As we line up with what God is already accomplishing in the world, we get to be a part of how God creates hope in this crazy, beautiful, broken world. Isn’t that AMAZING?

I do not perfectly practice partnering with God in creating hope. I am—we all are—a work in progress. While I wholeheartedly believe in creating hope, creativity involves courage. What if all I have to offer isn’t good enough? I fear both public and private criticism and feel a deep sense of personal rejection if my work is met with less than adoration. I don’t always feel courageous. Yet I value courage more than fear. Therefore, my choice must be creativity, vulnerability and risk over self-protection and fear.

Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I make a valiant attempt but still fail miserably. Sometimes, before I even begin, I find myself in a ball on the couch slaughtered by the voices of self-doubt.

But God tells us to “take heart, because He has overcome the world” (John 16:33). So, as long as I have breath, I pray that I choose to participate in what God is doing in this world. “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

KBermudez

Kelly Bermudez-Deutsch lives in Northern California with her sexy husband, three beautifully quirky kids, a dog named Lucy and a cat named Jack. She loves spending time with her family, good friends and good books. She hopes that one day her home will be organized and tidy, but until then finds joy in the messiness of life and love.

Meatless Monday – Cauliflower Soup

A year ago I wrote this post about lining up my expectations with my Quirky Christmas reality. Always a struggle, during this month between Thanksgiving and Christmas the house has been clean for about three-quarters of one day; the cards still haven’t been mailed; worse yet, the packages will cost us a mint to ship overnight; and the tree was up and lit for three weeks (as opposed to last year’s one week) before the kids had time together to decorate it.

You know what? Oh well! I’m not Pinterest Perfect, and that’s alright with me. The house is festive, the kids clean and fed, and we’re focusing on joy. Today, in fact, was downright close to perfect: I got up before the guys and reveled in morning quiet with coffee and a book. I met up with friends and kids for more coffee and belly laughs. Guy took the day off work and, because it’s raining and we’d originally planned a hike or a walk on the beach, we went to an indoor archery range and discovered a super-fun new family activity we can all enjoy; we ate a late lunch out; and now we’re cozy at home. And a cup of tea and another good book await me at bedtime.

There is beauty in brokenness

There is beauty in brokenness

Yes, it’s Christmas week and I have yet to plan the holiday menu and shop and slowly begin to prep ingredients over the next few days. But some days you just want something simple, quick, and healthy. A sweet friend who is way closer to Martha Stewart-dom (or her French counterpart, whoever that may be), introduced me to this recipe years ago when I thought cauliflower could only be endured in small florets doused in Ranch dressing presented on a party veggie tray. That is, in fact, how I introduced my kids to it. Later I took Tween to a farmer’s market where he discovered purple and peachy-orange cauliflower; of course we bought them and he ate them, still raw but relishing every bite. Since then we’ve added it to mixed roasted veggies and stir fry but most often in this soup, which looks like caramel and tastes like comfort.ingredientscauliflower soup

Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4-6

½ white or yellow onion, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt/pepper to taste
4 c veggie broth

Sautee onion, potato and garlic in a large soup pot, stirring occasionally. Chop cauliflower. When potatoes start to soften, add cauliflower, rosemary, salt/pepper, and broth. Cook over medium-high heat 15-20 minutes or until veggies are very soft. Use an immersion blender (or transfer soup to a blender) to blend completely. Homemade rustic bread croutons are a nice addition.