In this final installment, I’d like to level with you, dear readers.
I want this to be a space where we can talk about difficult things, but at the same time I don’t want people knowing everything about me. I want us to be able to share openly, but I don’t want to share TOO openly.
This blog is not some kind of diary or journal. That kind of blog works for some people, and I say more power to them.
But that’s not me.
You don’t need to hear all my inner thoughts (believe me, you really don’t) and I don’t need to vent all my issues here. You don’t need to know what I look like when I first wake up or the fact that I don’t wash my jeans after wearing them once.
I also want you to know that I’ve been keeping things from you. I’ve shied away from writing as much, not knowing quite how to stretch out our small talk, not wanting to overwhelm you with gloom or all the mixed up feelings I’ve got about the church (amongst other things) right now. If you look at the overall arch of my personality and tendencies, I’m a pretty upbeat person who tries to look for the positive even in rough situations. Getting bogged down in negativity just isn’t my style. Because it isn’t my style, and in the spirit of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” I’ve found that words are not my easiest medium right now.
Even working on the fiction projects I love — those have been more energy draining than life-giving right now. You might already know I’ve been working on revising a novel I wrote about a year ago. In the fall I started writing a new novel, but when we discovered my dad’s diagnosis, any energy I might have had to put towards that project fizzled out. I’ve tried to pick up these stories, put in some time moving them forward, but mostly they’ve sat quietly on the back burner.
Words escape me.
That’s where art journaling comes in.
In our two previous installments, I fear that I’ve minimized the impact or significance of this art journaling discovery.
Today I hope to clarify that.
First of all, I want to state for the record that I don’t fancy myself a painter. I can’t draw realistic objects very well — they come out flat or with the perspective wrong so they’re either stretched out too long or super stubby…or both at once.
Secondly, I want you to know that it doesn’t matter if I’m not a painter. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a painter. Art journaling is for anybody.
Because I’m a word-nerd who is struggling to find energy to put towards those words, art journaling has become a great way to tap into the creative stream without relying on language to convey meaning.
It has been a great relief to still scratch that creative itch but in a different form, one where colors, textures, shapes, and layers give “voice” to a feeling behind an idea.
Thirdly (aren’t we organized today with our linear points?), art journaling allows me to engage in active prayer conversation.
What the heck is that?
To be honest, I don’t exactly know. I made it up, although I’m sure there are a gazillion others who have articulated it better and practiced it ahead of me (Ignatius might qualify as one school of thought on this). What I know is that I feel that many times as I put paint onto the page, I am communing with God in a way I haven’t been able to in a more formal way.
Because I don’t know what to pray.
Because I know the Spirit prays when I don’t have the words. (Romans 8:28)
Because I’m scared to pray because I want my own way and have no assurances that I will get it.
Because trying to put words to the ever shifting waves of my brain and heart sounds like a monumental task that I’m just not up to right now.
And so, art journaling has become a way for me to move in prayer, contemplation, wrestling, meditation, and spiritual discovery, all while using a different non-verbal part of my brain.
Those are all fancy ways of saying that when I open up my art journal and get to work, God shows up. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. I just know that it has become a form of spiritual connection when words aren’t working for me. Time passes quickly as I experiment with different types of paints and goo to see what will happen. And in the midst of experimenting, there is a joy in creating and discovery, a joy in cultivating the spiritual connection that I deeply desire but for which traditional forms are falling flat right now.
Thanks for listening. I just didn’t feel I had done it justice yet. Art journaling is more than just playing around with watercolors, or dabbling with a new hobby, although there is an element of play and an element of learning something new. My art journal is helping sustain me through a challenging time, and is actually enriching my spiritual walk.
I’m becoming convinced it can do the same for other people as well.
Do you have a non-traditional activity that feeds your soul in times of dryness? Would you share it here, along with how you discovered it? I’d love to hear from you.