While searching for an extension cord the other night I stumbled across my old sketchbook that I sometimes took to using during my final year of college. When it comes to the arts, I usually stick to music, but for whatever reason, making oil pastel creations for that period of time in my life filled a particular need for expression during a lonely season. I have zero technique or training and I’m not much of a natural drawer, so while the images themselves would probably seem rudimentary and lacking in form to just about everyone else, I remember the heart and desire behind them. They are precious to me for that reason alone.
After finding my sketchbook I sat down the next few nights and attempted a couple of artistic, expressive strokes, energized by my discovery of this past “self” I had long since forgotten. I didn’t get very far. Even though I was motivated to engage in the activity, the attempts themselves seemed forced and I was unable to generate the peaceful process of constructing an image that gave me any sense of personal satisfaction in the same way it had ten years ago. I soon understood this creative outlet to be a seasonal one, perhaps even only sporadically useful. I can’t pinpoint what exactly propelled (propels) me toward this desire to draw. I only know it remains dormant until the moment it doesn’t.
I would venture to say there are interests and hobbies in everyone’s lives that take a similar position. We invest in them for a time, and then find life moving us on to the next thing. Maybe you come back to those pursuits and maybe you don’t. Regardless, they shape a piece of you. Or maybe it’s the motivation behind the activity that is more formative than the actual activity itself. Like I said, I’m not a great drawer. There’s nothing awe-inspiring about my pictures. The images themselves didn’t cause any seismic shift in perspective or life direction. It was the flow of desire to create something that filled a void and inhabited a once-empty space I didn’t know existed, a visual representation of feeling separate from my music and tremendously therapeutic.
Life cracks us in ways we may not even recognize as we are carried along in its swiftly moving current- cracks that can unknowingly leak precious energy and soul fuel out into the wide open spaces while we become increasingly baffled by our slowing pace and darkening horizon. Where did this negativity come from? Why do I feel so afraid? What is this confusion? Why am I so frustrated and overwhelmed? Or whatever type of uncertainty or questions you may start to feel and ask yourself. And as the cracks deepen and widen, a void becomes visible.
I find musical expression to be my most common construct for communication between myself and God. All the sadness, intensity, joy, desire, longing, anger, despair, and hope can often be channeled into melodies and lyrics. The largest cracks during my middle school and high school years, and much of my college years were filled and sealed with the flow of poetic rhyme and the strum of guitar strings. But there were other, less noticeable gaps that required something different. Enter oil pastels. And a marathon. Advocating for the Invisible Children organization. Attempting a meal delivery service venture. And now blogging. These are just a few of the activities that have served (and some that still serve) a very specific purpose as seasons of reconstruction and growth, other methods of connection between my spirit and God’s.
Training for and running in the Chicago Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, for example, was a deeply personal venture; rooted in my own story as a cancer survivor and my sister’s lost battle to that same cancer. During our childhood struggles with Leukemia we were the “heroes” who other runners ran in honor of and raised money for to give to this organization. The loss of my sister has always been a deep, closed off well of thoughts and feelings. But by accepting and entering into this season of training, then running the actual marathon in her honor with this same organization, joy poured itself into that well, filling in the deep cavernous spaces that had for so many years caused an unspoken grief to take up residence. I don’t think I’ll ever run a marathon again. It was all at once terrible and exhilarating. But the driving intensity that fueled the fire of self-discipline to train has since been satisfied. That season came to a close once I crossed the finish line. That period of reconstruction and healing is finished.
And looking back on that time, God was clearly intentional in the way He steered me in that direction. Because what came about through that experience was not just a necessary heart-healing, but a whole new path to personal education in health, wellness, and nutrition which has since transformed the way I live. Mostly. Except for when I’m pregnant… because chocolate. And sugar in general.
So these seasonal gifts and experiences that are given to us throughout our lifetime are opportunities for growth, healing, reflection, and teaching- to perhaps be the turning point toward a new direction, teach us a truth we would otherwise miss, or simply be a momentary grace in the midst of difficulty. Embrace them for the time they are given to you, and if you come to a point when the activity or hobby feels forced or no longer brings the joy it once did, consider the possibility that the season for that interest has come to a close. In those moments reflect on the changes it has produced in you, the soul connection created that allowed a different avenue for the channeling of God’s love, grace, and teaching, and then be willing to look up and around and offer up your heart to whatever may come next. Or perhaps you will return to an original passion with renewed zeal.
Whatever the case may be, embrace these seasonal interests, thank God for them, seek out the divine purpose, and grow.
Peace & Love, Amy