Inspiration Owes You Nothing

vsco-photo-9.jpgI’ve been sitting in front of my computer screen for the past two days, racking my brain for post ideas. I kept hoping inspiration would strike in time to meet my self-imposed deadline, and that the perfect words would simply flow from my fingers like magic. After staring at the blank page for long enough to admit defeat, I decided to listen to one of my favorite podcasts, The Lively Show, in hopes that it might spark my creativity. The guest being interviewed was Elizabeth Gilbert, acclaimed author of Eat Pray Love, among many other titles. She said something that plucked at my heart strings and really forced me to think. She said:

“Inspiration owes you absolutely nothing, other than the pleasure of its company. Honor your creativity so much and love your creativity so much that you do not place upon it the demand to provide for your entire life. That is too much of a burden to put on such an ephemeral thing…keep this thing sacrosanct. And make sure you are diligently paying attention to unfolding your creativity however and wherever you can.”

I do not always pay my creativity the respect it deserves. Instead, I often bully it into a corner and force it to do things it simply doesn’t want to. Elizabeth goes on to talk about how she didn’t quit her day job until after she’d published her fourth best-selling book. Even when it looked world like she was obviously successful by the world’s standards, she didn’t want to destroy her creativity by insisting it provide.
My generation seems to think we need to strike out on our own to follow our passion, or else we’re not really living up to our full potential. Everyone and their mom is becoming an entrepreneur, struggling to make their hobby pay the bills! Don’t chase the statement Do what you love so hard and fast that you let your work become anxiety producing.

Elizabeth comments on the countless artists she’s watched destroy their creativity because they insist it isn’t real unless it makes ends meet. And when it doesn’t, they become enraged and embittered, and eventually quit their creativity all together. Putting your entire heart and soul into something doesn’t mean you have to risk ruining everything else in the process.

Freshman year of college, I was a Fine Art major. I’ve always enjoyed making art, so naturally I thought I should study it. But eighteen year old Micah didn’t realize that making art for fun and making art for a living are two entirely different things. Of course you should study something you enjoy to an extent, but make sure that enjoyment can withstand the harsh reality of hard work and criticism. In other words, are you okay if a little bit of your enjoyment might be sacrificed in the process to arrive at the final result? For me, being a successful artist wasn’t worth it if it meant my genuine love of art even slightly diminished along the way. I decided to keep art as a sacred hobby, something that can certainly influence my other endeavors, but isn’t relied upon to earn an A in class!

This is not to say deadlines and structure are unimportant- they certainly are! Nothing would ever get done if we didn’t just power through once in a while. Just remember to keep some perspective when you feel frustrated, and allow yourself to pursue other things you enjoy, even if they aren’t traditionally labeled ‘creative’. Who knows, perhaps inspiration is lying silently in wait, ready to pounce when you least expect it. As much as we’d like it to, creativity doesn’t always perform on cue. It is a precious gift that graces us with its presence every so often. This podcast was a much needed reminder to protect my creativity like I would my own child, even if that means only publishing a blog post twice a week instead of three times. I am blessed with ample amounts of creativity, so it’s my job to live a life that cultivates and cares for it!

Question of the Day
Have you ever put so much pressure on one of your creative outlets that it no longer brought you pleasure?

Magnifications: Dying to Live

IMG_8990.JPGHey there friends, are you managing to stay cool? It is mighty hot in this part of the world, and we don’t have air conditioning, so It. Is. A. Struggle. But I really can’t complain about the one or two weeks of bad weather a year in California, now can I?! Today I thought I’d share with you a piece I wrote for the site Magnifications, a blog that publishes theoretical reflections written by women from the Church of Christ. My piece is a reflection on my time abroad, and how it ties in with the message in John chapter 12. Keep reading below to read the whole thing or click here to view it on the site!IMG_9019.JPGEven now, three months later, I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I stood at the entrance to my flight departure gate at LAX airport, backpack slung over my shoulder, passport in hand. I waved goodbye to my parents and turned around, just in time to hide the tears forming in my eyes. They weren’t tears of sadness as much as tears of change. I knew I’d made the right decision, and was confident God would take care of me, but I also knew this moment marked a drastic change in my life. I say so because this moment signaled the death of my old life in this world and the start of my new life in Christ. And here’s why.

The plane I boarded was bound for Hildesheim, Germany, where I would spend three months working as a youth intern for a Church of Christ. My job responsibilities included investing in the middle school and high school aged youth group members, planning events, attending summer camp, and helping fill any of the church’s needs. And while I felt extremely fulfilled and content with my work, I also felt extremely uncomfortable at times. Living in another country is a lot of things, but comfortable is certainly not one of them.

Going into the experience, I spoke hardly any German, was unfamiliar with the cultural subtleties, and knew a total of two people. The first few weeks were full of doubts, fears and frustration. I constantly found myself in awkward situations, such as accidentally buying sour creme instead of whipped creme, or calling someone pregnant instead of beautiful! In my defense, the words sound incredibly similar.

But slowly God began the process of melting me down and reforming me to be stronger than ever. He led me outside my comfort zone and used my discomfort to shape and retrain me to be fully reliant on Him. I often fought the process kicking and screaming, as I tried to lean on my own understanding and failed. Previously trivial tasks like grocery shopping or holding a conversation with someone in German, became huge victories that I had no choice but to give God the credit for. In this reshaping process, God also revealed to me that I have a serious lack of self confidence, and showed me that the only lasting source of self confidence I will ever find flows from the cross.

With time, I started to notice that the further outside my comfort zone He led me, the more confident I felt. He blessed me with deep friendships, wise female mentors, and travel experiences I will never forget. He showed me how capable and worthy I am to do the work laid before me.

Jesus too had to die to this world in order to live again. In John chapter 12, he enters Jerusalem on a donkey to celebrate passover, and is greeted triumphantly with palm branches and praises from the adoring crowd. A short while later, Jesus predicts his fast approaching death and ultimate glorification in front of the people, saying, “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me” (verse 23-26).

Before my experience abroad, I was only a single seed, serving no one but myself. I had to fall to the ground by saying goodbye to my southern California life and everything I knew, in order to produce more seeds. The conversations I’ve had with the youth group members here are not more than seeds at this point, but I’m confident they will one day grow and bloom into beautiful plants.

If we claim to follow Jesus, then we are obliged to actually follow Him, whether that be to another country or right next door. The statement, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” has never rung truer. I was called to follow Him half way across the globe because, contrary to what I sometimes believe, Jesus is not American. He is universal, and is actively working in every heart, in every country.

Friends, I encourage you to examine your life today. Is Jesus calling you to follow Him in some new direction? Does it make you uncomfortable? Thats probably a good sign you’re headed down the right path! Jesus does his best work when you are completely and totally reliant on Him. Maybe that looks like asking someone you usually don’t converse with out to coffee, or signing up for that mission trip you’ve been thinking about. Perhaps you need to die to part of yourself in order to bring glory to Christ, and that death is precisely the place you will find new life.

A Happy List

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1. Fresh, crisp sheets.
2. Drinking coffee from my favorite mug.
3. Fascinating documentaries.
4. Saturdays with nothing on the calendar!
5. Evening hikes.
6. When someone’s passion/excitement for something rubs off on you!
7. Singing in the car alone at the top of your voice.
8. Surprise parties.
9. Back to school shopping (never too old!).
10. Moving furniture.
11. Sending/Receiving snail mail.
12. Getting new blog followers (that’s you *wink wink*)!
13. Binge watching Netflix.
14. Cooking a delicious meal from scratch!
15. Unexpected compliments.
16. Reunions with old friends.
17. Labor day. My family alway has a barbecue/swim party.
18. Starting a new book you just know is going to be good.
19. Making my bed (weird, I know).
20. Lounging on the sofa.

Question of the Day
What’s one little detail that made you happy today?

Hello Hamburg

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Greetings friends, thanks for dropping by! Today I’m excited to share about my recent experience in the german port city of Hamburg. Although it is the second largest city in Germany, it seems less well known than other cities like Munich and Berlin. I myself didn’t know much about it, which makes me all the happier I visited, because it is truly a gem. My friend from home joined me as part of her two month Pan-Europe adventure, which made the weekend extra special. Keep reading as I attempt to convince you to add Hamburg to your next travel itinerary!
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Speicherstadt First thing Friday morning, we took the underground to the Speicherstadt, an area of canals lined with warehouses from the late 19th/early 20th century. They continue to serve the bustling port of Hamburg today, and are as beautiful as they are functional. Confession: I may or may not have pretended to be in a historical romance movie while wandering through the area. Fun fact: Hamburg has more bridges then Amsterdam and Venice combined!

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St. Michael’s Kirche Whenever I visit a large city, I like to climb up to a view point to get a better idea of the layout of the city as a whole. The tower of St. Michael’s Kirche (church) provided the perfect outpost! We opted to take the elevator to the top instead of the stairs (#noregret) and were not disappointed by the panoramic views.
IMG_6549.JPGIMG_6589.JPGIMG_6600.JPGIMG_6619.JPGLandungsbrücken & Blankenese Next, we made our way to the main pier for passenger ships, called Landungsbrücken. It is situated on the Elbe river and is a major point of transportation for many of the city’s residents. We hoped on a commuter fairy because it was the cheapest option, and sailed up river to the neighborhood of Blankenese. Blankenese is the equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York City or The Strand in Manhattan Beach- ornate, grandiose mansion line the beach front streets, each with a unique style and story. We loved strolling around and looking at the architecture!

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Rathaus & Alster The Rathaus, or city hall, is that incredibly designed building in the picture above. I adore the green patina roof and central clock tower, don’t you? The Rathaus is smack dab in the part of the city called the Alster, named after the Alster river that runs through it, forming two large lakes. The atmosphere in this area was electric- people shopping, eating, and exploring. We did a bit of window shopping, ate at the weekend market in front of the Rathaus, and then took a stroll around the lake to work off said food.IMG_6844.JPGIMG_6750.JPG
Breathing in the salty sea air and having deep conversations with an old friend was just what this California girl needed! Thanks Hamburg, you spoiled us!

So, have I done it? Are you ready to book a flight to Hamburg? I will join you there, because one weekend just wasn’t enough time. Speaking of time, I’d better be off. I can’t wait till we meet here again, have a great week friends!