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Growing creatively: part 2

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately on creativity. A few weeks back, I sat in my friend’s living room and we talked about all the things women do in that circular non-linear way that we best communicate. Children, husbands, school, life, work. And then a good dose of faith and creativity. Fast forward almost a week and I’m still thinking about it. Something feels good and right about these conversations. It’s the power of connection – MEANINGFUL connection where you are nourished at the end of it all. I have all these thoughts and ideas on the topic, especially having hopscotched through a class at church on \ Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection last semester. There is so much rich content here, friends. Creativity is essential to wholeheartedness – I believe it to be true! So I’ve been writing about creativity on my own, and I’m going to share it in a few parts over the next few weeks. Part 1 can be read here.


 

Despite dropping any formal art classes after elementary school, I continued to write, especially one we got a computer. I’d come home from school and open up Microsoft Word, spending a few hours writing stories based on architectural drawings I was making in a faux CAD program. A foray into novel writing in my early teens that culminated with mailing the much-beloved manuscript off to a publisher and waiting anxiously by the mailbox. Frustration and sadness upon being rejected (albeit gently and positively). Back to my computer after school where I’d tap out the ideas and words and once the internet started to become a thing (remember Compuserve?), I began an elementary blog before blogs were even a thing, experimenting with typography, color, photos, and the way they all interact.
But then a bright spot in high school when I was part of the first-ever creative writing class my high school had ever offered. It was a safe place to land in an unsteady daily life navigating hormonal feelings and teenage relationships. I was challenged, encouraged, enthralled. My anxiety all creatives have about the creative well running dry  was soothed by my teacher and it was the first time I’d ever heard that creativity is a muscle that we all have – it’s just that some of us exercise it more than ever. Once again, words mattered.
But in a Christian school environment where the resounding message was that our sole purpose was to reach the world for God, the caveat was that without God, your writing didn’t fulfill all its duties. You can’t be creative without God was the message I heard. And I really wrestled with that. Did I believe in God? Absolutely. But did I believe that creativity existed without God? I didn’t know.
The summer of my 16th year, my culture-loving parents said it was time for me to go to France to visit my aunt and uncle outside of Paris. I blithely agreed, having filled myself silly with Audrey Hepburn movies. And it was there that my creative heart exploded, beating more quickly with every turn in that glorious city of art and light.  But it was more than that – my ideas were tested, questioned, and pushed by my emotionally perceptive aunt and uncle who would become one of the great influencers of my life.
“What do you think the purpose of life is?” I was gently asked in the course of one conversation over dinner, sitting in the dining room with the french doors open to the evening air. A late dinner, as always, after 8 or 9pm, still in that beautiful soft glow of a summer French evening.
“Why, to reach people for God. That’s what we’re here for,” I rotely replied, just as I had learned in school.
A gentle pause and thoughtful response: “What about those people who are incapable of doing so, for whatever reason, maybe physical disability or what have you? What do you think their purpose is.”
It was more of a statement than a question. And it was there that the small bubble I’d been living in popped. I didn’t have an answer. My thoughts swirled.
Later, a few days. A long day spent in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles, surveying the most beautifully manicured trees and gardens. At one point, we stood surveying the Trianon, a marble palace built by Louis XIV for his mistress, unbeknownst to me.
My uncle again, quietly, thoughtfully, gently probing: “It is so beautiful, but is it still good in God’s sight even though it was built under such less-than-holy terms?”
Again, my knee-jerk reaction was a swiftly rote, “No,” although I felt my soul sink in sadness. How could something so beautiful be wrong? Or bad? It’s nearly 20 years later, and I still look back at this conversation as pivotal.