When My Kids Got In The Way Of My Passion

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It was a form of adult grounding, I suppose; one of those life events that demanded my schedule grind to a travel-free, work-minimized halt. While the introvert in me initially welcomed the mandatory hiatus, the rest of me chewed on the reason and all its implications: radiation. The six weeks of daily treatments were only a safeguard to eliminate any lingering cells from a surgically-removed lump. But still, even a very minor cancer painted in neon strokes that my health, and life, wouldn’t last forever.

Full of idealism and energy in my twenties, I confidently believed I could manage a marriage, kids and my desire to execute watercolor paintings for commission.  But one day with two toddlers running around in our Cheerio-scattered 1940’s bungalow, painted the color of sunshine, I reached a fork in the road. Pursuing my artistic talents meant saying no to other callings I realized, like helping my husband in the nonprofit for marriages and families he and I had recently founded. But most importantly, some small people who looked a lot like me, were always confounding my painting plans. Instead of sleeping for two hours one afternoon, both kids were interrupting my prized creative alone time. I understood I had a choice: I could sculpt my artistic passion…or sculpt my children now, and my passion later.  It was a truly an epiphany.  My children, I knew, would not wait, but someday there would be time for art once again.  So I boxed up my art supplies and made a decision to postpone my personal development for the sake of my children.

Commencing painting lessons twenty-five years later felt like a banquet after a long famine. It was exhilarating to unfold the dream I’d shelved, the creativity I’d channeled into smocking and photography, painted furniture and school projects. And as had always been true, my creative work centered in my laundry room, home to paints and brushes, fabrics and trims, and now laptop and thesaurus!

Soon all six children had graduated and as my empty nest years dawned I discovered my decades of parenting had matured me alongside our now grown-up non-profit, FamilyLife.  Its fruition brought with it a platform for art I never would have conceived all those diaper-bag laden years ago. Though I had tentatively re-entered the world of art, my days of radiation kick-started those abilities and dreams. I didn’t want to wonder what might have happened if only I had tried.  So in the eerie calm of that summer respite I dialed Carrie, a local creative thirty-something whose work I had long admired. Together, we began dreaming and designing what is now Ever Thine Home.  Six months later Carrie and I met Gina Galvin whose enthusiastic belief in us was a gift from God.

With her encouragement we began creating an Christmas ornament line that returns meaning back into this internationally popular holiday. Each of our ornaments teaches a name of Jesus, the One whose birth we commemorate.  People of all faiths have a sense that our materialism and consumerism has gotten out of hand and many, like me, were longing for ways to communicate faith to family and welcomed guests.

My own artistic endeavors taught me that when we open our eyes to the beautiful, our souls are drawn toward God. We want to capture beauty and hold on to it because it speaks to a reality and a truth we know exists but cannot yet touch. That conviction is bottled up in Ever Thine Home’s motto: Believe beautifully.

One of the positive benefits to starting an endeavor later in life is the marvelous way in which all my life experiences are supplying greater capacity for risk, a richer understanding of Providence, and a wider vantage point than I would have had earlier in life.  Overseas travels with FamilyLife have enriched my life with cultural and relational experiences in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Cathedrals, museum masterpieces, and architectural marvels told me that faith-based art owned a rich worldwide history.  An ancient sentence, “He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers,” reminded me that from the beginning there have been others like me who desired to proclaim faith through art.

I’ve come to see that God has each of us on a quest to know Him more fully. So my line endeavors to include hints of His calling card in everything we create. From our first set of ornaments to items for every holiday and our new designs for the home, this is what I craved in my mothering years; tangible expressions of the Creator visible in my home, beautiful to behold and centered on True North.

All artists wonder if their visions and gut intuition were well founded, and I am no different. With each new product I have wondered, will anyone actually purchase this?   Was what I’d always wanted to create what other women wanted, too?  Our first year generated a complete sellout and I felt vindicated. There have been many naysayers and the work was more difficult than I expected.  With gratitude we celebrated; relieved that our vintage look and feel resonated with other women, too.

It’s a profound delight of mine to share these products with my children, and now 22 grandchildren. It’s an honor when I witness my artwork in their own homes, proclaiming faith to their neighbors, friends and their children.

The story behind my story is ultimately about a Designer with impeccable timing and limitless creativity. I continue to be amazed at the doors that open, the people who come, the ideas that bloom and most importantly the stories from other women who love what we are creating, who have found joy in proclaiming faith at home.  Though my artistic journey didn’t unfold as I would have planned, I trust the One who knows all.  And I am having a great time!

This article originally appeared in Where Women Create,  Aug/Sept 2014. 

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