The Purpose In Just Being You/Divine Purpose Magazine

My article, ‘The Purpose In Just Being You,’ has appeared in the Spring 2021 Issue of Divine Purpose Magazine.

It’s been exciting to see my first article published, and I thank the Editors are Divine Purpose for including my piece this quarter. You can find the magazine HERE at ISSUE.com. The article appears on page 22.

Also, a huge thank you to my friend Jackie for helping me with editing. I learned so much from our back and forth, and treasure the time you took to invest in me. THANK YOU!

Keeping Creative in Isolation

We often overlook the power of quiet in our world. For many creatives, finding that quiet space can be difficult.

What do you do when the quiet finds you, and won’t leave?

We have been subjected to isolation few have known before. For some, this has created safe spaces to create, even given us a boost. We have taken stock and finish projects. It’s been thrilling!

But, It’s been over a year. How do you keep your creativity thriving when you can’t watch the hustle and bustle of everyday life from your favorite coffee shop window, when trips that feed your inspiration are discouraged? What do you do when it’s been weeks since your last conversation with another adult, and all you hear in your own brain is baby talk and cartoon theme songs? Or even just silence, and the silence is weighting on you, crushing your creativity.

Get basic.

It’s time to remember your ‘why’. What do I mean by that?

Every person engaging in their creativity has a why, an underlying reason they create. What’s yours?

For me, it’s not a choice. I must write or I get sick. It’s how my brain puts pieces together and manages stress. It’s how I entertain and am entertained. I dream, think, and live in a world of words. My why?

I write to understand myself and the word.

What is your why?

Whatever form your creativity takes, revisit your why. After you hold it in my mind and heart again, ask yourself, is it still enough? Has it changed this past year? Should it change?

I can’t answer those questions for you. I will trust you can find the answers. After you remember your why, it’s time to practice.

Practice? Yes, practice.

Sometimes creatives believe the lie that, “We always need to have a project going.” That is not true.

When you are tired, lonely, depressed, give your brain and heart a rest. Revisit things you know best like the beginning strokes of a painting, the simple forms of poetry you played with as a child.

Hop,
mop,
clop!

Let your brain wonder through small things.

What does your coffee smell like?

Is there a word to describe the wind chimes outside on the back porch?

If your art is more physical, return to the exercises your body knows. Muscle memory is powerful.

Pick up your guitar and play Mary Had A little lamb. Let your fingers roam over the strings, finding the notes your heart loves best, a favorite song. Just sing.

Then take a brake.

Put it down, walk away, play with the kids. Phone Mom! Send your girlfriend a hand-written letter.
Let creativity grow. Once you start something, it will call to you. Your heart and mind will tell you when to engage with creativity.

Do you hear her calling you?

When you do, it’s then that your heart is ready to learn from her again. This road of creativity in loneliness is difficult. But if you feed that flame inside, it won’t die. Be kind to yourself.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Six Word Stories (19)

Why is spring so fraught with rain?

Why does it pour and spatter and spit?

Dissolving snow and rinsing grime from my window pane, it’s like He knows the earth needs a good morning shower.

Or is it grief, a liquid love?

Does He weep for those who have fallen asleep in the cold shadow of winter’s rest?

Does He weep to awaken those who sleep in Gethsemane?

“Will you pray for me?”

The heavier the pour, the more of His tears I can hold to my heart.

I know He already prays for me.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photo’s sourced from unsplash.com

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Are You Scared of Creativity?

All humans have the spark of creativity. Some of us revel in it, and some of us hold it at arms’ length. Some of us even try to squelch it in our fists as if it was a bug we could squash, or a flame we could douse.

Have you ever done that?

I have.

Why do we do it?

Because creativity is not safe, and it scares us.

Why does creativity sometimes scare us? A few reasons may be fear of rejection, fear of inferiority, or fear of breaking rules.

When you share your creativity, there is always a risk that whoever you share it with, won’t get it or be able to appreciate it. It’s for each individual to decide if that risk is worth it.

We have a choice weather we hide our creativity from others. But that’s like placing a lit candle under a bucket. We should share creativity, at least with those who love us.

It is also a sacred thing. Creativity demands our energy. Inevitably, the creator will endow the project with a part of his or her self. It’s painful seeing our work rejected, as it’s painful being overlooked, or rejected as people. But I believe the risk is worth it.

Do you?

It’s also possible we are just not as gifted in our chosen art form as we wish to be. Other’s might outshine us. We may fail in front of the world.

I urge each of us not to let this fear stop us from practicing our creativity. Every great creative was once a beginner. Everyone will find someone more talented.

You know what? That’s okay.

Whether you gain great acclaim in your art, or not, your creativity has merit. Often, it’s the doing that blesses and not always the end product. We can bless others as they watch our progress, no matter how slow that progress may be. It can light the spark under their own creativity. Don’t stop doing what gives you wing just because you’re not the best at it.

Sometimes our creative takes us to places that push boundaries. We may have heard, “no you can’t do that, it’s not allowed.” Or been told that something makes us incapable of practicing this creativity. Be it cultural rules, religious rules, or something else, this can and is devastating. Dare we break those rules? Will we risk throwing the definition of norms out the window?

This is a personal choice. Are there moral reasons rules are there? Are these moral rules just? Honestly, human beings aren’t always fair with the rules we place on ourselves and others. It’s necessary to question rules and why they are in place, especially when they limit human creativity.

As we question these rules, and weigh the need to uphold, or brake them, I hope bravery, truth, and beauty prevail.

What will you do this week to practice creativity? Tell me about it!

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Our Need for Your Story

Did you know you have a story to tell?

It doesn’t matter how average you think you might be, you have a unique story all your own. No one has lived the same life or felt the same emotions. No one sees the world in quite the same way as YOU.

It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, nor your level of education. There is a story inside of you, and it’s important.

What’s your story?

It could be as simple as that casserole recipe your grandmother taught you how to make, and the things you both talked about while she taught you.

It could be your story is more of a question, something you long to know the answer to, and your quest to find it. Did you find it? Will you find it? Maybe, maybe not. That is a story.

Sure, not everyone may want to know your story. But for every story, there is an audience. Be it ever so small, it’s there.

Telling your story takes courage. It means being vulnerable. Are we brave enough to tell our stories? Not all stories are dark and painful, dramatic, or awe-inspiring. Some are quite ordinary.

Have you ever watched the movie, It’s a Wonderful life? I know many people who make it a tradition to watch this classic in the bright glow of a Christmas tree. It truly is a powerful story. But what makes it so powerful? Simple truth.

An ordinary life has reach and meaning beyond itself. We all touch others in ways we do not realize. We leave holes when we are gone, that we will never know about. There are stories behind our ordinary selves. Beautiful stories, stories worth hearing, reading, and seeing. Stories we can and should learn from.

What’s your story?

Don’t discount it and it’s power.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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The Power of Story

We tell stories in books, with pictures, with theatre, with spoken word, even with dance. Stories are powerful.

Stories change people.

Why do we tell stories?
From cave paintings to comics, humanity has a wide range of how it tells stories. Every single people’s group uses them, treasures them, and has their own. There are several answers to this.

One, we use them to teach.
Two, we use them to remember.
Three, we use them to dream and invent.

When we use stories to teach, it brings lessons to life. It makes them relatable and real. When we use a creative story to teach, it hides lessons in adventure. We can learn without even knowing that’s what we’re doing.
Do we realize the lessons we are learning? Sometimes we don’t. Be aware of what you are taking in to your heart and mind, it might change you in ways you never realized.

When we tell stories about the past. We keep lessons of experience alive. When we work hard to keep those stories accurate, we protect truth. If we don’t want truth muddied, we must tell our stories. We must search for others’ stories, and we must be open to hearing each one, no matter how difficult.

Make believe. These stories are not true, but can still teach truths. Fiction pushes the envelop. It asks, what if? It lets us learn before we have experienced. Through fiction we invent novel ways of being and understanding. What if humans could fly, breathe underwater, or visit the stars? These dreams of the once impossible have spurred many amazing inventions of today. Many of these dreams started as story.

Jesus Christ also used stories. The Christian Church called them parables and describes them as earthly stories with heavenly meaning. They teach moral truths in ways the average Jewish citizen would have understood in that time period. If Christ himself used stories, we shouldn’t shy from doing the same thing.

Whoever you are, you have a story to tell. No matter what your belief system, it’s an important story.

Tell me a piece of your story in the comments.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Six Word Stories (14)

The last few months have forced many of us to become all too familiar with ourselves. We have had time to think and think some more. This can be a good thing for people who have neglected themselves, forgetting how to listen to their own voice. Listening to self is important, but it should never be the only voice we seek.

When our world changes, and we are forced to be outwardly silent, may God be able to break though the madness of our own minds and bring his peace.

When this storm has passed, we will all have leaned much about ourselves. Be it rain, or early morning dew that collects on the threads of self, let it show the things we have forgotten.

May it teach us things we have never known before.

Through it may we persevere together with the people we hold dear. Holding on to love, and the one who loves us the most.

The cord in this image could represent many things. For me and mine, it’s God.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photos sourced from unsplash.com

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When Creativity Looks Like Doing Nothing.

Do you consider lying around as lost time?
Many kinds of creativity happen chiefly in our thoughts.

It takes a massive amount of just sitting and thinking to create new worlds for a book.
Paintings start in the mind before coming to life on canvas.
A sculptor must visualize the goal before the first cut or chisel.
Creativity can look a lot like doing nothing. I know mine often does.

What about yours? Are you giving your mind a space to create?
My kids often slouch in their chairs, roll their eyes at me and say. “I’m so bored!” In reply, I laugh. “Ha! Good, your growing brain cells. Now go play.”

Quiet thinking, being bored, is good for creativity. It forces us to find something. That’s when a potted plant becomes an unexplored island, or a spoon on the table, a boat lost at sea. Without that initial boredom, our brains wouldn’t feel the need to create stimulation on their own. Boredom can be a beautiful beginning.

Are you ready to make space to be bored? As an adult, I find it’s difficult. I have many things seeking my attention, it’s hard to sit and think.
Busyness can overwhelm. When this happens, we can look like we’re bored, but is really procrastination.
Personally, that means I’m experiencing performance anxiety. I fear I won’t be able to do something, so I’m afraid to even try. This looks like sitting around drumming my fingers. It looks bored, but it’s not, and it’s never a good thing. I am not advocating for it. When I learn how to overcome this stumbling block, I will let you know. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for me. It might be hazardous to your health.)

But I no longer find times of quiet, wasted time. I don’t continually need to fill my space with sound. I close my eyes and think. Listen to the sounds of the world. It is as pleasurable and inspiring as music. When was the last time you tried sitting and doing nothing?

I encourage you to find time during your week to practice a few moments of it. Let the dancing dust in a ray of light turn to fairy tales. Let the squeak of a rocking chair shift in to the swing of wood. Watch the wind through the trees. Listen to the chitchat of your kids. You might find inspiration there you didn’t expect. You might find a moment’s peace. Cherish it. It’s worth more than gold.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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When Creativity is Stuck

Do you ever just stare at the blank page in front of you, seeing spots? Maybe you’re holding a pen or paintbrush. Or maybe your ‘blank page’ is a metaphor for something else. A block of wood uncarved? A spool of untouched wool?

Human creativity comes in an endless array, and everyone’s blank page looks different. But no matter what form it takes, that ‘blank page’ can be torture.

What do you do when creativity grinds to a halt? If I am being honest, my first reaction is usually to pout. But that doesn’t help. So next I ask, why am I stuck?

Often it’s because I’m tired. But sometimes it’s something deeper. When a word surfaces that reminds me of hurt, or other emotions and memories that are uncomfortable, my knee jerk response is to push it away. When I deny the words a place, it stifles my creativity.

Have you ever told the uncomfortable no? That never goes well for me. It becomes a splinter in my foot that throbs and turns red.

I can exhaust myself with emotions that come with writing a difficult piece, though. It’s never a good idea to push too far too soon. Give yourself time when you are dealing with subjects that dredge up a lot of pain.

But the blank page doesn’t always mean I’m denying myself. Have you ever sat there staring in to space? That can be significantly worse than the splinter.

But what does it mean? Like I said, usually for me it’s because I’m tired. But the other times? I have noticed for me it means I haven’t learned the thing I need to fill those blank lines with yet. My brain can’t connect the dots I don’t yet understand.

What can you do if you haven’t learned what you need to create finish your project? An answer will be different for everyone. We should each seek it out.

Sometimes that knowledge isn’t something we find with research, though. It comes with life experience. Interacting with people, animals, nature, and the world. It will also depend on the manner your creativity manifests itself. How a writer finds knowledge looks different from how a sculptor does.

How to know you’re missing the knowledge and not just tired? You might not. When creativity becomes a battle, it’s time to move on. Set what you’re working on aside and do something else. Not forever, but for right now. This can help you determine why you’re stuck.

Go for a walk, chat with a friend, do the dishes, wash the car. Try changing your surroundings for a bit and see what happens. Still stuck? Then work on a different project, be it poem, painting, or anything else. It’s okay to lay it aside. It’s okay to give it a rest and flex some different muscles.

I often flip through my file of unfinished poems, read each one, and asking myself if I have found the word that fits. I pull out a few to focus on that day. But I don’t strain myself until frustration. It’s okay to put it aside until tomorrow.

What if you’re on a deadline? Well, putting it aside for something else doesn’t mean you don’t pick it up the next day. Be honest with yourself if it’s something you can finish alone.

Last bit of advice. Ask for help. My mild dyslexia has me constantly asking for help, be it from my grammar software, or friends and family. I ask the internet countless things a day. I ask surrounding people to tell me there stories and learn from them.

Sometimes the greatest tools in our creativity kit are other people. A friendly conversation can turn the blank page into a project brimming with life and potential.

When Creativity Holds Darkness

Anyone in the habit of communicating their creativity has had moments where their work is tinged with shadow. Some artist thrive in that dark place. Are you one of them? I walk the line on how dark the words I write are, and don’t believe in denying the sad, angry, or even ugly emotions and experiences we all carry. I choose to hold them, look at them, learn from them, then try to let them go.


But what to do when that darkness overshadows all other emotions when you create?


First, decide if it’s something you want to happen. Is the ugliness necessary to YOU? Is it something the world needs to see?


These are extremely personal questions. I will tell no one the way you express your creativity is wrong, or invalid, unless you are hurting other people. I will probably choose to not view your work if it’s overly dark for my own mental health. But that doesn’t invalidate it. Your art can still teach the world if you choose to share, and people decide it’s something they like. Make sure you tread that line carefully.


What if you answer no? No, you don’t want this darkness. Then you should ask is where is it coming from.
During the year I lived in The Netherlands, my boyfriend, now husband, took me to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It was a great visit, but it also haunts me.

The Corpses of the De Witt Brothers is a c.1672-75 oil on canvas painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Jan de Baen. 69.5 cm × 56 cm (27.4 in × 22 in)
Jan de Baen’s painting is the piece I will never forget. I almost walked right by it, the last small painting on the wall. It still stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn’t linger long, because it disturbed me. But I had to look closer to understand what it was. Then came the questions.


“What is that painting about?”
“What is the story behind it?”
“How could people do that to each other?”


The history behind the painting is pretty complicated, I will let you decide whether you want to look it up. The short answer is the two brothers depicted in the painting, were killed for political reasons.


As I remember viewing the painting for the first time, I ask myself, what was the artist thinking? Though the painting is attributed to Jan de Baen, it might be the work of an unknown artist. The exact reasons for its creation are not known for sure. Regardless, it’s a gruesome reminder of historical events. Which brings us back to what must the artist have been thinking?


Perhaps he had been asked to record what happened for the sake of history. Perhaps it was done for more political reasons. Was it a seen he has viewed himself? If so, was he releasing trauma? Witnessing violence like that would leave any human mind scared. We can’t know the answers to these questions, because we can’t ask the artist.


No matter what the motives and emotions behind the piece where, it’s important. Do I hate it? Yes. But I would argue it’s necessary. A necessary ugliness, a necessary reminder of human crimes. There are many works of art like this all around the world. Their darkness will not let us forget the mistakes of the past.
So what do you do when your own work haunts you? Do you have a story that needs to be told? Is its ugliness necessary? I would urge bravery and prayer.


It may be a darkness that you need to express and then release. Or it may be a darkness the word needs to acknowledge. But be kind to yourself. Be careful with your spirit, and if you need help with your journey of creativity mixed with shadow, reach out to a fellow creative who can support you. Or a mental health expert who can guide you.


Some people will disagree with me. They will recite things like Philippians 4:8 NIV. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. In reply, I would say, these works of art hold truth. Though the truth is ugly, it’s not something we should turn away from.


As a Christian, I often wear a cross. The tinny silver emblem of my faith is a work of art that holds darkness. It is a reminder of injustice, torture, and death. But is also my hope, the hope of this world. Should I turn away from the darkness of Christ’s death on the cross? Never.


Some artwork is created only for the enjoyment of morbidity. Again, I will say as long as you are not breaking any laws, or hurting other human beings, I don’t believe in forbidding you that kind of creativity. If this is you, I would like to ask you a question. Do you know your why? Is there something deep inside you might be neglected, that is the reason you enjoy dark art? Is it something you need to deal with?


For those of us who do not purposely seek dark works of art, may we be brave to telling the stories that beg to be told. May we be strong and not be trapped in darkness, but be able to let it go.

©Mary Grace van der Kroef 2020

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