These Vessels of Mercy Include All of Us (and a Retreat!)

by Christina Hubbard. Before you read today’s poem, I want to tell you about an upcoming women’s retreat coming later this summer. The Sacred Space Retreat for women will be happening in the Kansas City area in August. Intentional time to recover your life and get away with God. Doesn’t that sound amazing? To stay in the loop, go here. Now, for some poetry!

How quick I am to catch a snatch of anger,

Ragged rope.

I tie it to the creaking dock of social media

Where all grievances can be aired by anyone, anytime.

Free port. Tie yourself tight.

The storm cometh.

How heavy hearts are, wounded by centuries of injustice.

It makes me sick.

I want to jump ship and never ever

Let my shadow absorb what a screen tells me

Is reality.

Oh, people, hope in the Lord,

Not your feelings.

Not even your brother,

Your sister.

They will let you down.

We are all unsteady seafarers.

We must not hasten to conclusion

As waves break upon our bows.

Your hands, your heart, such a harbor

For so many souls

Like mine.

Let us lash ourselves together

For the ride.

Include what needs love,

All things,

All people.

Alien, different, disabled, mentally unsound.

Each of us, unstable,

Teetering on unworthy legs.

Throw me a line of hope.

Dear, vessel of mercy.

Insiders and Outsiders

24 These vessels of mercy include all of us. God has invited Jews and non-Jews, insiders and outsiders; it makes no difference. 25 The prophet Hosea says:

I will give a new name to those who are not My people; I’ll call them “My people,”
    and to the one who has not been loved, I’ll rename her “beloved.”[a]
26 And it shall turn out that in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,”
    they will be called “children of the living God.”[b]  Romans 9:24-26 The Voice (VOICE)

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a creative community of writers. This week our one-word prompt was INCLUDE. Note: I usually go over the five, and yes, I edit. It’s how I roll. 

How to Know What You Are Doing Matters

by Christina Hubbard. This doesn’t feel like I thought it would. In this territory of doing what makes me come alive, there are few assurances with just a sprinkling of hints that maybe, just maybe, I’m going in the right direction. I’m doing the things I believe I was made to do: write, speak, teach, and invite others into the journey. Regularly, I do things which scare me, but my voice hasn’t stopped shaking. At least, it doesn’t FEEL like it.

I told a friend recently, “I thought this would feel surer. I thought doing what I am called to do would give me a sense of purpose.” Maybe I expected self-doubt to disappear or my inner critic to hush up once and for all. But with each step into the unknown, I continually ask myself, “Should I be running in the other direction?”

Does doing what makes us come alive really change us?

Do we get more confident on this path of creative courage? Why don’t we experience the positive side effects right away? Things like boldness and just knowing. Things like speaking into empty spaces and seeing God at work. Evidence, people.

What we influencers want to know is this: am I making a difference? We want physical confirmation, outside ourselves and within. We want to both see and hear the stories of transformation and new connections. We want to experience bravery in our bones.

We expect results for our effort. Not necessarily numbers or success, but a core belief that what we are doing really does matter. We hope our faithfulness in the menial will fill us with significance. That we have endured and done well. Our work is worth a sense of self-worth, right?

Wrong.

God does not give us self-esteem. He does not even promise us tomorrow. He hands us right now. This moment. He gives us the work of today. More importantly, He offers us faith. I love to call it a belief beyond ourselves. In the present moment, we come honestly, imperfectly and ask Him to help us do the task at hand. Because we know we can’t. Not on our own. If we do believe that, then we’ve got some pride to work through. We depend on God, small choice by small choice. Tweet This

Call this abiding, showing up, or listening.

Sometimes we get a high five. Most days we do not. Chances are we’ll hear someone else being told “Awesome job!” We’ll overhear that friend we’ve poured our effort into saying thanks to another person who’s influenced them. Those are the moments we are really tempted to wonder: is what I’m doing important?

Let me tell you my truth (the one that hit me upside the head this morning): what you do is not the ticket. Who you are is. Remember: you are a daughter or a son of the King. You are beloved, not compared. You are known, not ignored. You are a new creation, not a recycled milk jug. You are filled. You are empowered. You are gifted.

You don’t have to feel it to know it.

You don’t have to see the person you are praying for to know that God is helping them when you ask. You don’t have to see a blessed miracle or know the next thing to do.

What we are doing is moving steadily in the right direction, inch by inch. There will be moments of great knowing. Of feeling the sinews of your muscles taught with God-breathed energy and life and you feel like you could explode with joy! There will be many, many of those. There will moments when your fingers fly across a keyboard or your voice says things you could never come up with on your own but you know it was God. It happens. There will also be moments, like mine today, when the rejection notices pile up and you run to a book, podcast, or a blog post, to escape the discomfort.

These are the intermittent moments, when birds chirp and traffic passes and you’re staring out the window, a little down, a tad faithless, a bit wound and frayed from all the wondering: know you matter. Know that by living into the identity of one who is loved, the doing happens, but it’s importance lessens.

You will care less about yourself and more about God. You will learn to hone a sense of the eternal, not the temporal. You will relish the internal tension which reminds you are human, God is God, and He knows what we need this very second.

Yes, my friend, you are changing. Even now. That influences a lot.

A Simple Prayer by Richard Foster

from Prayers from the Heart

I am, oh God, a jumbled mass of motives. One moment I’m adoring You and the next I’m shaking my fist at You. I vacillate between mounting hope and deepening despair. I am full of faith and full of doubt. I want the best for others and am jealous when they get it. Even so, God, I will not run from your presence nor will I pretend to be what I am not. Thank you for accepting me with all my contradictions. Amen.

Turn Your Art Inside Out: Make to Share

by Christina Hubbard. An artist naturally makes art for herself. She does her craft because it’s what she loves. But our art is not for ourselves. It is meant to be shared.

For Whom Do You Create?

This past weekend I encouraged a group of creatives to write down who they were created to be. My instructions were to finish a prompt like this:

  • I make…
  • I lead…
  • I help…
  • I recreate…
  • I change…

Then I said, “Don’t write down who you are.” (Roles, jobs, etc.) I wanted them to think about the gift they bring to the proverbial creative table. “Don’t overthink it. Write down the first thing that comes to mind.”

The exercise proved challenging for several reasons: 1. I didn’t explain it that well AND 2. we should have started with another person, not ourselves.

When we create, it’s often just us and our raw materials in a room shut out from the world. What if we started our art with another person in mind?

We are called to believe and serve beyond ourselves. Scott Cormode says it well,

“…But we do not exist for ourselves and neither can we work for ourselves. Instead, every Christian’s calling begins with listening to the longings and losses of the people entrusted to our care.

God calls us neither to a task nor to a job, and not even to exercise a gift. God calls us to a people. The entire point of doing the task or exercising the gift is to benefit others. For example, we create because God creates. Artists and entrepreneurs alike celebrate this point. But why did God create? God creates for the sake of his people.10 Artists who create just for the sake of creating miss the point. Art should be shared.”

Your Art Heals Someone

Think of the individual who needs the beauty you bring. Who is she? What does she look like? What are her struggles and stories? What is her deepest desire? How can you help?

When I consider these questions, I construct a bridge between my heart and another’s. My art extends beyond the bounds of my body. Tweet This

Pair what you do with whom you serve. Pay attention to the “longings and losses” of your people. Turn the “I” into “we.” Make to share.

Share a sentence about the person you serve in the comments below.

This post is inspired by Five Minute Friday. Our one word prompt was TURN. I always try to write it in five minutes or less, but I went over again. C’est la vie!

FOMO, Get Tos, and Real Success

by Christina Hubbard. This winter FOMO and I became fast friends. Two-thousand seventeen left and 2018 entered quietly as I succumbed to the ick. Instead of partying it up with the fam on New Year’s Day, I watched PBS travel shows while I huddled and shivered under a blanket. Keep reading for giveaway info.

FOMO or fomo: 

nounSlang. a feeling of anxiety or insecurity over the possibility of missing out on something, as an event or opportunity

Two weeks of sickness, a reprieve, and then the flu hit. Over the next three months, I spent the total of an entire month either being sick or taking care of someone who was. (I added it up.)

This winter the world officially passed me by.

A Bad Case of FOMO

FOMO is short for the “fear of missing out.” When we can’t keep up with the world, racing at its frantic pace, comparison and a general feeling of uselessness can overtake. An injury lands you on the couch. Winter blues hit. The kids are out of school for another day off. Life happens. Sometimes it feels like the universe is doing its darndest to ensure you will never finish that house project you’ve been slogging through.

Cooking show binges and Netflix do not heal feelings of worthlessness and unproductivity.

Hopping onto Instagram and scrolling through friends’ seemingly amazing lives doesn’t help either. Social media is not real life, and we know it. Yet we scroll, enforcing the soul dissonance.

Even when we stay offline, less-than thoughts still have a way of entering.

Thoughts like…

  • How can I keep up?
  • Rest is for the weak.
  • I’m so behind!
  • Somebody’s got to make dinner.
  • Who is going to take care of all the things?

We’re doing exceptionally well to simply exist, but it feels like the world is passing us by like a bullet train.

FOMO, Speed, and Addictive Affirmation

Fear of missing something important is what drives a lot of us. Has so and so posted anything lately? OMG, I have no idea what is going on in the world! I haven’t read a blog post in months! We get on the interwebs and everything we can’t do or participate in is crystal clear. Comparison settles in.

Speed also contributes to FOMO. So many of us are used to going, going, going all the time. Sitting still and doing what seems like nothing feels like someone has wrapped us in duck tape. Going fast and strong constantly primes us for a false sense of productive identity and affirmation.Tweet This

Likes come from social media and people giving us high fives and dollars for things we’ve done efficiently and well? They’re awesome, but they’re also addictive. They stir in us the longing for more, the kind that can never be satisfied really. We become chasers of things which were never meant to last.

We’re approval junkies who long for another hit, but the only cure is recovery.

What’s a body to do?

We could power through. Keep going until we crash. From personal experience, I can say that chugging Dayquil and telling yourself it’s all going to be over soon is not the magic sauce.

Let’s be clear: none of us can keep up with the world and not one of us should. (Especially when life throws us a snowball for Easter!)

When you can’t keep up, need a rest, or get sidelined by life happening, there is something you CAN do. It requires absolutely nothing. Warning: if you’re a hustler, it might demand everything.

It’s a beautiful little word: RECEIVE.
  • RECEIVE grace for your inner superwoman.
  • RECEIVE understanding for your drive to overachieve.
  • RECEIVE self-compassion for not doing it all.
  • Let others lift your load. Ask for help and take it gratefully.
  • Remember your finiteness. The world doesn’t depend on your hustle. Can I get an amen?
  • This is time for you to think, to remember you don’t have to compete to be worthy.
  • RECEIVE slowness and healing. Recuperate. Restore.
  • RECEIVE the blessed reminder to be still and small.
  • Recover your life.
  • Recall your GET to’s.

What You Get To

GET TO: noun, slang. Tasks and circumstances viewed as a privilege or blessing because we get to do them. But we often take them for granted because they seem small or insignificant.

Just when spring was springing and staying well promised to blossom into reality, I broke my foot. It happened hours before I was to throw my sister a baby shower. Now a boot and crutches help me get around rather skiddishly.

What takes five minutes now takes fifteen. I plan my route through the house and remember to wear clothes with pockets to help me carry my phone. I can’t cook dinner, prep a bath, or get the mail without help.

I’m learning to receive and let go. Naturally, I thought I was over my winter FOMO. Turns out, sitting with a propped-up foot messes with one’s mind in serious ways. At night, I’ve had several good cries on the matter.

Recently, I’ve watched writing friends release books or get published in literary journal after journal. I’ve had to cancel classes and a writing conference. I’ve succumbed to comparison and self-defeating thoughts.

Move on to Better Things

When FOMO hits, it’s easy for resentment to build and pity parties to have their way with us. When receiving the gift of self-compassion proves tough, try get to’s.

Get to’s turn what we can’t do into what we can. They shift our perspective from what’s not to what is. A dose of gratitude. Get to’s open our eyes to what’s good.

FOMO fades when I get to:

  • Snuggle up with my son to read The Lord of the Rings.
  • Help my daughter brush her hair.
  • Receive a cheesy, heavenly casserole from a new friend.
  • Understand someone else’s disability firsthand.
  • Teach my kids how to be helpers with gusto.

Real Success

True success is not the hustle. It’s not the have to’s and want to’s. It’s not attaining lofty goals, getting ahead, or even winning approval by what you do. Success is aiming your life with purpose and integrity. It’s serving God and others. Success is using what you’ve been given today to make the world more beautiful.Tweet This

Sometimes it is giving, and, sometimes, more often than we’d like to think, success is receiving humbly.

When FOMO Strikes, Remember

  • Move at your pace, whether you’re a bullet train or a sniffly blob recuperating on the couch.
  • Admit your humanity.
  • Discern what is necessary today.
  • Remember the value of rest.
  • Honor quality over quantity.
  • Enjoy a break from media noise. Ask yourself why it’s your default.
  • Listen to what your body and your life are telling you. Tweet This
One day we are strong, the next we are weak. This is real life.

We don’t have to fear what we’re missing. We don’t have to do more to be more. Comparison kills our creativity. Let’s choose better. Slow down. Take care. Rest up. We’ll have more perspective, energy, and clarity for tomorrow.

Do what you get to, and do it with love.

Giveaway (This giveaway has ended.)

One of the best ways to fight FOMO is to celebrate friends’ successes. Today I’m giving away a signed copy of Kate Motaung‘s memoir A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging. She tackles the questions of, “Where is home?” and “How do we find hope in the midst of pain?”

Her story travels from Michigan to South Africa and back. I know Kate personally and her story intrigued me from the moment we met. She’s the real deal, on the page and in person. Her memoir shows us redemption rescues, even in the messy parts of our stories.

To enter, share your get to in the comments.

Giveaway runs from April 3, 2018, 4 p.m. CST through Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at 4 p.m. Winner will be identified in the comments. The winner has 36 hours to claim their book by emailing their mailing address at christina@creativeandfree.com, otherwise, a new winner will be chosen. USA and Canadian entries only.

Good Friday: History Pivots on Its Crown

by Christina Hubbard. What’s so amazing about Good Friday? On the history book’s, this day appears as a bleak period of death. Christians celebrate the goodness of the day because, without it, the crux of our faith would not exist.

Good Friday’s Crown: the Day the World Is Saved

This is part I of an Easter poem for Mary Brack’s lovely art journaling series Lent Words.

Drape me in black cloth

Today as I forego food,

Push away drink.

Lash me, not Him!

Sharp rocks unflesh

Innocence.

I cry out

In hunger and thirst

Because I don’t feel a thing.

He feels it all.

His very nerves fray apart

Before my eyes.

He is my Rock,

Hunched over.

Thorns, a grisly honor-crown

Askew—

My Refuge.

Read parts II and III HERE. Be sure to check out all of Mary’s lovely reflections on her site.

Suffering, Spring, and the Resurrection of God’s Timing.

The Reward of Routine

routineby Christina Hubbard. Routine feels so routine. Personally, I resist it on a regular basis. In some ways, I’m addicted to novelty and adventure, that intoxicating sense of the unknown. Yet routine benefits our creativity in countless ways.

When I was a girl, my mom taught my sister and me piano lessons. From the time I was three until age fourteen, we practiced our scales and etudes nearly every day. No, we did not love it. I secretly wished I was shooting hoops in the driveway or riding my bike around the block. Sitting down day after day to the black and white keys, I learned the discipline of routine.

The Pay Off

In high school, I opened my own private piano studio in my living room, just like my mom. I earned good money without having to drive anywhere or flip burgers. Routine turned out to be a huge blessing.

What routine gives us is the ability to do something with less thought. The more we do it, the better we get at it. Even though I haven’t played the piano seriously in years, I can still sit down and sit down a piece fairly well.

Sit Down and Get to Work

Routine eliminates the daily decision: should I work at my creative passion or not? Routine sits the will into the chair and instructs it in the art of showing up and working hard.Tweet This

…routines allow you to carve out time to pursue your passion every single day. Once it’s a routine, there’s no more wriggling out of painting or writing or working on your business plan because you’re too tired or the muse eludes you. -Ellie Robins, “The Secret Benefit of Routines: It Won’t Surprise You

More on welcoming routine.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a creative community of bloggers who write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word is ROUTINE.

How does routine help you?

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