Only recently have I been the type of person to pick a word or phrase to focus on for the upcoming year (as opposed to more concrete resolutions), but as I’ve thought ahead to what I want my 2021 to look like, my mind kept bringing up the word “faith.”
What do I mean when I say “faith?” I mean belief in God or a higher being, and trusting that God is actively working in my life, that things in my life are happening for a reason – and enjoying the peace that comes with that conviction.
For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been very mindful that my faith feels like it is lacking. It’s most noticeable when I am around someone who has strong faith – whose faith influences their daily decisions and isn’t just something they talk about in appropriate religious contexts.
Religion is something that has always been a part of my life – I grew up going to church every Sunday, and in general have always been a rule-follower and someone who is concerned with “doing the right thing” and being a “good person.” But religion and faith are very different.
Like many others who grew up being religious or going to church, there comes a point in your life when you start to wonder why your church/religion does things the way they do, and if you actually believe those are the right things to be doing in the first place. Depending on what conclusions you come to in answering those questions, this can be a pretty scary or even earth-shattering time of life.
Despite having a lot of homework last year, I still managed to read a handful of really great books! I am a pretty avid reader (and writer I suppose) and I just don’t feel right if I’m not reading something. Lately I’ve been really interested in personal development books or books with a spiritual focus. I wanted to share some of my favorites from the past year:
Dare to Lead – Brené Brown
Everyone should read this book! (Yes, I said it!) I had never read any of Brené Brown’s other books, but this book gives a good summary and builds upon things she has talked about previously. My main takeaways from this book were 1) Making your list and 2) Choosing your Core Values. Your list is a small (1 inch by 1 inch) piece of paper with names of people whose opinion of you matters – the idea is that you should not worry about what everyone thinks about you (you will be crippled with anxiety) but you should also not disregard all opinions of you, for fear of turning into a person you don’t want to be. We all need a core group of people to hold us accountable to being the person we want to be. These people could be mentors, role models, family members – anyone whose advice you value and that knows you well. The “choosing your values” exercise required you to look at a list of about 50 attributes, and choose 2 that you felt embodied you and that you wanted to live into. These values define every choice you make. It is hard to narrow it down – but I ended up choosing Honesty and Making a Difference as my two values. It has empowered me to make hard decisions as I view life through this “lens.” There are so many more good things about the book that I don’t have time to talk about – read it, you won’t regret it. I have a quote from the book written on my white board at work:
“If you choose courage, you will absolutely know failure, disappointment, setback, even heartbreak. That’s why we call is courage. That’s why it’s so rare.”
The past two days I have set my alarm for 5:30am (though to be honest I snoozed ’till 6) and got up to write for 20 minutes. It’s still dark outside, and no one else in the house is awake. I take our laptop to our office and plug in the charger, as our computer’s battery hardly holds a charge anymore. I open a blank Google doc and begin to write. I’m not writing about anything specific – just writing to write. Writing to learn. Writing to listen.
This early morning practice of writing each day is a recommendation by Janice Elsheimer in her book, The Creative Call. She calls it having an “artist’s daybook.” The term “artist” does not have to imply art in the traditional sense of painting or sculpting – creating in any avenue allows us to call ourselves artists. Here’s why Elsheimer says we should journal in our daybook every morning:
To force yourself to have quiet time to hear what God has to say to you
To be receptive to God’s guidance in nurturing the artist within us
To tap into our unconscious source of creativity
To track our growth as an artist, to note what works or doesn’t work
There is a lot of creativity in me that has been sitting dormant for a while. Having a baby, working full-time and going back to graduate school have pressed me for time. (At least, that’s my excuse.) When I’m not having my time taken up by those things, it’s usually a game of catching up on things like laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and all the other day-to-day kinds of things. I had convinced myself that creative tasks like writing, reading for fun, crocheting, painting, or playing music were activities that I could reward myself with once all the urgent tasks had been completed. The thing is, those “urgent” tasks just never all get done. There always seems to be at least one more dish I could clean, one more room I could vacuum, or one more load of laundry I could do.
Since starting The Creative Call, I have had a shift in my mindset. Elsheimer makes the claim that God created all of us with skills and talents to be creative, and we can use these skills and talents for the work of God. The parts of me that want to be creative and desire to write, read, and paint are God-given.