Through the Eyes of a Child…

One of the things I hear a lot when people see some of the things I create is, “I wish I could do that but [I’m not good at…I can’t…I don’t know how…insert reason here]. The only difference between me and them is I said I wish I could and I did. I don’t have any more talent than the next person, I don’t think my art is more amazing than anyone else’s, I’ll never be a Picasso, but when I create I feel better inside. So I keep doing it. I gave myself the freedom from self-judgment and as long as I’m exploring, it doesn’t matter if the final product is worthy of a museum or will be buried in a drawer. Ironically, some of the pieces I didn’t care for much at the time became some of my favorites years later. It’s the process of creating that’s important!

I created this last night, from a pizza box. I love the distressed look I get from peeling away some of the top layers of cardboard. There is nothing that makes me feel like a child more than finger painting. My only real rule is I try to start my piece with my color palette in mind (I have a Pinterest board named Color Love that I use) but when I’m in the mood to explore I break my only rule. It also helps to have an inspiration in mind when I start, a quote or a picture or a person that’s been on my heart.

I used inexpensive Acrylic paints mixed with Gesso (gesso gives it a little bit of grit so it sticks better to the canvas/background), Heidi Swapp Color Shine and Dylusions ink sprays, Tim Holtz distress stains, glue & glitter. (Full disclosure: Links are Amazon affiliate links)

Here is a rough video of my work in progress that I threw together with the Videoshop app. I honestly had no idea what the final product would look like…I just got out of my own way and let my inner child take over. I apologize because the bottom of the screen is cut out…something I’ll pay attention to next time. Also, Dillon and I sound like Mickey and Minnie Mouse 🙂

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” –Pablo Picasso

New Insights…

I woke up yesterday morning at 2am with this intense, gnawing pain in my right upper abdomen, just below my rib cage. I tossed and turned, got up, trying to make it go away. It was easily as intense as my post c-section pain and my first thought as a former ER nurse was it was my gallbladder. I woke Nate up and told him what was going on & I was going to go downstairs for a bit. As I sat there I remembered something I had read the day before about the power of praying the Bible. So I opened up my journal and wrote…

“God, this pain is hard to ignore–RUQ, boring into my back, unrelenting. Is it my gallbladder? It woke me up suddenly and I can’t take my mind off it. Logan has a doctor appointment, it’s Dillon’s 7th birthday today & he has school. I have work, Nate has work. I can’t afford to be sick. I turn to you for healing; your word says you want me to be in good health (3 John 1:2) and that you anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost and with power so he could heal all who were under the power of the devil (Acts 10:38). I believe in you and ask in your name to take this pain from me, heal whatever is colicky inside me. You said I can ask anything in your name and you will do it (John 14:12-14)–if it be your will, please take this pain. I have faith you can heal this (Matthew 9:20-22). I thank you for all the blessings I have in my life–too many to count and growing. I thank you for not giving up on me…Amen.”

The pain was no better. After a bit I went upstairs, got dressed, and told Nate I was going to drive myself to get checked out. As I pulled up to the ER and walked up to the door, my pain was suddenly maybe a “2” from where it was once a “6” or “7”. I almost turned away when I heard a whisper, “Just see what your labs show…”

It was 5 AM and I was immediately brought back. Most of my favorite nurses were working–they gave me sympathetic smiles and gently joked if I wanted to see them again I could’ve just stopped by. They sent my blood to the lab and an ER doctor I hadn’t met before came in. I immediately liked him as he asked his questions and did his assessment. I was candid with him about my drinking & told him I hadn’t had anything to drink since Valentine’s Day. He told me the blood work was back and my liver labs were elevated. He recommended an ultrasound to make sure nothing was going on with my liver, gallbladder, etc.

I knew it could take a while for the US tech to get to me but I was first on his list as he came in at 6 AM. Before I knew it I was back & waiting for the results. The doctor came in and told me there was sludge in my gallbladder, but nothing emergent, but I should follow up with my primary care provider. He said it could be leftover from drinking, or it could be that my gallbladder needed to come out eventually, but not today.

What a relief. I drove home, thinking how God is good. The pain easing up just as I was walking in, how smoothly everything went, I knew he answered my prayers, and then some…

I never considered myself an alcoholic and I still don’t. I don’t like slapping a label on myself.. I definitely consider myself as someone who had a serious drinking habit and someone who was self-medicating with alcohol. While before I was chasing that buzz, the inebriation to relax, I have no doubt now I could have a single glass of wine with a nice dinner without it turning into needing a second glass, followed by a third, then a box of Chardonnay on the counter… But as someone who believes in signs, I think this was a clear sign from God maybe no alcohol is best…I don’t need it, I don’t crave it, and it’s definitely not worth my health. There’s a reason they call it the liver…you need it to live (hardy har har).

There’s nothing good that can come of my old life. There’s only so much my husband can put up with, and I know my drinking was pushing him away. Dillon would ask me to quit ‘wining’…this thought makes me cringe it’s so heartbreaking. I’ve seen what happens when people push their bodies too far with alcohol and other toxins, and it’s not pleasant. I have to much to live for to settle for a life like that.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast…” 1 Peter 5:10

This verse has been on my heart all week…this piece is slowly coming along.

Problems are a Decision Waiting to Happen…

An Unexpected Circumstance

One of the things I love most about living where we do is Dillon’s school. Right now there are 9 kids in this school that teaches grades Pre-School through 5th Grade. The teacher and her husband are amazing and I love this close knit community. Our mail lady is also one of Dillon’s classmates’ grandma, and is also on the school board, and so on. Everyone is connected!

We’re trying to be frugal, and so instead of shelling out $200 for a trampoline place for Dillon’s 7th birthday party, Dillon’s teacher & our mail lady graciously offered to let us use the school. I created his silly wrestling invites (last minute…oops) and handed them out to his classmates this week. I bumped into one of the other moms, and invited her and her son, but accidentally told her it was on Saturday. A few days later, as I was driving away after dropping Dillon off at school I saw her outside her house.

I had met her over the holidays in passing at the Christmas play but I didn’t know her very well. I pulled over to apologize for my blonde moment and update her. She graciously told me no problem but then told me her son’s birthday party was also the same day, and she would just push her son’s birthday party back and the kids could come over to his party after Dillon’s.

My first thought was respect and amazement that she was so chill, so willing to do this for Dillon. My second thought was, how fun would it be to have two birthday parties at the same time?! I threw the idea of having her son’s bday party with us at the school–they have the same classmates, so why not?

She agreed and we quickly decided how we wanted to do it–low key, cake & ice cream, a little game I had in mind, and with the main objective of celebrating Kaiden & Dillon first and to have fun second.

As I drove away I couldn’t help thinking, “What are the odds, in a school of 9 kids, that we would have two kids with birthdays two days in row, and set up their birthday parties for the same day and the same time?!”

Sometimes things happen in such a way they simply can’t be a coincidence, that there simply must be a reason. Maybe it’s divine intervention, God’s providence, his way of working behind the scenes to fulfill some purpose. Whatever it may be, it’s an opportunity. “We know God causes all things to work together for good who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” or as the Message translation says, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (Romans 8:28).

Worry & Anxiety…

While I found comfort in this, I was still feeling a little anxious about co-hosting a party with people I don’t know very well, how to keep things going smoothly, etc.

I went to church last night, and before I went I prayed to God that he would amplify any message he had to me. I’m afraid I’ll miss his whispers. But then, feeling a little guilty of asking him to do all the work, I backtracked and prayed that God would quiet the noise in my head and in my spirit so I could be more open to his whispers.

As worship ended and this pastor from Australia, Mark Conner, started speaking of worry and anxiety, I could have laughed. Well played, God. If this wasn’t shouting, repeating the message I’d been hearing in whispers over the past week in my soul, by bringing a pastor all the way from Australia to Montana to repeat his whisper, I don’t know what was! Pastor Mark talked of worry, a common problem of mine and laid out a solution with the acronym of ‘STOP’.

S-Specify your worries–what are you worrying about? For me, I have to write them out. If I don’t, they just swirl in my mind like a windstorm. By writing my thoughts out, it’s like releasing the leaves and debris swirling around my mind.

T-Take action on your worries. What can I do about it? This was my favorite part of his sermon:

How can you turn your problems into solutions? And use the worry–change it from a negative thing to a positive thing–let it motivate you to action. Which leads to O…

O-Offer up a prayer to God. Don’t sit there and ruminate on your circumstances…pray, listen, and do something about it!

P-Place your trust in God. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight…”

After the sermon was over, someone asked about worry and anxiety in social circumstances, and he had the most amazing advice about charisma. “Charisma is walking into a room & instead of saying, ‘Here I am!’, saying, “There YOU are!'” Almost everyone is feeling a little social anxiety, feeling a little nervous when they’re around people they don’t know very well. But when I’m in these circumstances, the people I love and admire most are the ones who go out of their way to make me feel better, who actively engage with me, even just with a smile and a hello.

So there was my answer…get out of my own head and stop worrying about everything, and just be present and engage with others. Stop worrying about it and focus on celebrating Kaiden and Dillon.

Amazing sermon…I’ll post a link as soon as it’s uploaded!

My post from earlier this week about God’s whispers about my struggling with anxiety

Not my Plans…

I put my crazy dream out to the Universe (to be able to make enough money as a nurse and artist for Nate to quit his day job & pursue his passion of cows, horses & hay) and sat back, excited. Now how was I going to make this happen? I started researching ways to make money through art, how to use social media to expand your audience, the need for special Pinterest apps to market your online presence…and stopped trusting the one who already had everything planned out.

Yesterday I had a moment of realization while spending over an hour trying to piece together a video showing how I created the watercolor scripture from yesterday. It was slowly coming together, but the watercolor piece definitely wasn’t my best work, and I wasn’t sure about this whole online tutorial thing. This wasn’t my best work, and my spirit definitely wasn’t feeling it. But how else was I going to make money if I didn’t do all this to get people’s attention?

Then I heard a tiny tug at my heart and a sudden realization dawned on me. I was trying to force my dream to happen in a way that didn’t feel right. Because it wasn’t right.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight…” Proverbs 3:5-12 (NIV)

My dream to have Nate be able to work from home is my dream, and I would love to see it happen, but it’s just that. It’s MY dream. It might not be what God has in mind for me, for us. I don’t know yet. I do know I was wandering away from my passion to be closest to him by focusing on material things instead of creating art the way he meant me to…

For he created me in Jesus to do good works, *which God prepared beforehand* for me to do (my paraphrase of Ephesians 2:10). Wow. How liberating. I don’t need to worry about my Instagram follower count or Google analytics! I don’t need to stress or think about how I am going to MAKE this happen. I just need to let him guide my steps, even if I don’t know where we’re going. *He already has this planned out before I was even born, and all I need to do is trust him!*

This just reminded me of Logan. He doesn’t ask me or Nate where we are going when we take his hand. He just looks up at us, smiles, and walks with us, trusting us to lead him to something good. How reassuring that I have someone as powerful and loving as God, who wants to hold my hand and take me somewhere good.

And this ‘mixedmediabyjenni’? My real, true, most inspired art work is not by me. I might have physically created it, but truly, I’m just an extension of the paintbrush. It’s mixed media by him, through me.

I had forgotten going to church and listening to a sermon on how God wants brokenness. I had always thought you had to be at rock bottom, your life in shambles, to be broken, and after listening to Pastor Lee, I realized this isn’t true. He doesn’t want us to have to be in despair before we submit to him, he just wants us to break our ego, our material goals, and trust in his plan that is infinitely better than anything I could ever come up with. What is it? I don’t know. But I trust him, so I will keep listening to his whispers, one step at a time.

I had prayed to be broken, and in my human nature, quickly forgotten my prayer. But God doesn’t forget, and he answers prayers according to his will. So here I am, once again, my broken dreams placed at his feet, my heart open and my sprit ready.

New City/Pastor Lee’s sermon on brokenness

Anxiety

I remember going into my primary care provider’s office and telling Jeremiah that I was overwhelmed with anxiety, hoping he would give me a magic pill to make all my worries disappear. Luckily for me, after sitting down and talking with me for quite a while, he gently but firmly offered me several other options but told me he cared too much about me to prescribe a potentially addictive benzodiazepine like Ativan. I left, disappointed but completely understanding where he was coming from.

I would have thought anxiety would have been more of an issue during the rougher/major times & changes times in my life–college, starting a new job as a nurse, taking on the awesome job of caring for a helpless infant, losing loved ones, going through a divorce, but I don’t remember being that overwhelmed. Why, when my life was actually good, was I self-medicating with alcohol and feeling like I was one step away from losing it all together?

I couldn’t see to understand this at the time, but lying in bed an hour ago it was like an epiphany. I was definitely stressed during rougher times and major changes in my life, but I was either writing in my journal or creating art to vent my thoughts. Somehow after venting what had started out as a negative thought/emotion suddenly metamorphosed into something deeper and positively meaningful. I don’t know if it’s just me but for some reason my deepest feelings are often buried in my subconscious–I can sense them on a deeper level but I can’t quite put my finger on them until I get away from the “noise” in my head and let myself listen by getting out of my own way and just letting go as I write and create without thinking.

When I went to Jeremiah I hadn’t been sober long enough to really sit down and journal coherently or to create meaningful art in months. I don’t feel that crippling anxiety anymore. I know my husband worries because I don’t sleep as well as I used to (if passing out at 8pm in a Chardonnay stupor and waking up at 7am counts as ‘sleeping’) but I don’t feel tired. If I do, I take a nap or go to bed early. My mind is still going a million miles an hour, but my thoughts are joyful. My life is still chaotic at times with two young ones, work, and everything else, but it’s a beautiful chaos that I will look back on fondly someday.

Looking back now, my feelings of overwhelming doom and apprehension were definitely worse after reading Twitter, any Reddit sub about politics, or playing Candy Crush. (I thought Candy Crush was something to help me ‘relax’ but really it just gave me something to mindlessly do while my mind ruminated on everything I was concerned about). I deleted Candy Crush a few months ago, haven’t checked any political tweets or subreddits. Can I really change anything surrounding our President or government at this moment? Why am I wasting all this time and energy on something I can’t change?? My gratitude to my husband and my mom for being there for me & listening to me vent about the latest uproar but really I owe you both apologies! Venting about the state of affairs to them did nothing to absolve my anxiety, and only shared my negativity with them…some of the people I care most about in this world. This toxicity is definitely not something I want to share with them.

It’s been since February 15th that I really turned away from self-medicating and plunged back into art and writing and I haven’t felt this good in a long time.

Looking back at the sequence of events since New Year’s Eve that led me to where I am now…God is good. <3

Dreams

a-goal-should-scare-you-joe-vitale-daily-quotes-sayings-picturesOne of my favorite quotes is by Rumi: “Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” I’ve unwittingly lived my life this way ever since I was young. I always knew I would go into the medical field. Whether it was because of my early exposure to doctors & nurses because of my hearing problems and multiple surgeries, including several at Seattle Children’s Hospital, or simply because I was fascinated by human anatomy, I’m not sure. Becoming a nurse was fairly straightforward for me. But after realizing being an ER nurse wasn’t worth losing this time with my family, I’ve been stuck in this barren no-man’s land.

I had no idea what I was supposed to be working towards in my professional life. At first I thought I was meant to continue my nursing education and become an instructor, but over the last year, those doors have gently closed and I realized I haven’t gone back to school because honestly, my spirit isn’t that excited about the idea.

I loved creating art in middle school, using cattle markers (oil pastels) to paint a dolphin in space that my little sister now has framed in her room in Maine. I somehow ended up in Yearbook in high school and loved playing with Photoshop and creating layouts and designs. My diaries from middle school and high school are full of collages.

I never really embraced my passion for creating things until I found Pinterest and stumbled on Gabrielle Pollacco’s website. I loved watching her videos as she created beautiful mixed media masterpieces and still remember walking into Michaels, knowing I needed gesso and other supplies and having no idea what gesso even was. But in today’s world of YouTube and Google I quickly started to understand how all these art materials worked together and dabbled in my art journal. My first spreads are ugly as I experimented with the different mediums but I love them.

Dillon was 3 at the time and learned along side of me. His handiwork is on many of my art journals. At first I was annoyed with him interrupting me and wanting to get into my supplies, but then realized I should take advantage of that time with him. He has his own set up next to me now and I love watching him create art. He reminds me to get out of my head and to let my spirit guide me.

Over the last few months I’ve realized how much my art charges me, and how passionate I am about it. I don’t know how I’m supposed to go about it, but I want to explore as many avenues as I can, keep learning new techniques and ideas. I love having an idea in mind of what my project outcome will be, hitting a road block, and then somehow it goes into a completely new and better direction without me thinking about it.

I keep hearing messages through podcasts, books, etc, saying my dreams should be so great they scare me. After a lot of thought, I realized my dream would be to make enough money between nursing and my art that Nate could quit his job as a welder and pursue his passion: to have cows and horses and a little bit of hay on this land we bought for that purpose. If I wanted to get really crazy, I would love to be able to create art full-time while Nate and the boys are outside with the animals!

My shyness is…rude?!

I always felt self-conscious in social settings. What if I say something that hurts someone’s feelings or offends them? What if people think I’m weird or don’t like me? What am I going to talk to them about? Maybe it’s better if I don’t go. Or if I did go, I needed liquid courage in hand before I could lighten up and socialize.

I’ve been going about this all wrong and for way too long (no more rhymes, I promise!). I’ve been missing out on hundreds of experiences to meet new people and get to know the people I like better. How awful!

I feel awkward when I’m around really shy, insecure people. Chalene is right…you do feel like you have to take care of them. So why would I want to be shy and nervous and make people uncomfortable? That’s the opposite of what I want!

Once I realized people were not thinking about me as much as I worried they were (what ego I had to think they’re obsessing over what I said or did!) and that I didn’t care what people thought of me as long as I know God and myself are happy with me, my perspective completely changed. I don’t mind social situations anymore. I like talking to strangers now. How liberating!

Mind blown for the day. I love this podcast!

itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-chalene-show-diet-fitness-and-goal-mastery-strategies/id911042029

The Voice

I made this for my younger sister, Ronda, in 2014, when she was 12; it was one of my first forays into the world of mixed media. I love this quote by Shel Silverstein. It was created with scrapbook paper, modeling paste colored with acrylic paint through stencils, & ink sprays on a 12×12 canvas.

For the silhouette I cut out a model in a lipstick ad, painted it black, and wrote over it with a white gel pen. It’s now hanging up on her wall in Maine. 🙂