Today, I am at home, sitting in my messy living room as my children play with random toys and the folded-up boxes I have leaning against one side of our couch in preparation to start packing and sorting things. I am also facebook-stalking old classmates and wistfully thinking about what might have been.

I went to an arts school in 9th and 10th grade. My family had just moved from Middle-of-Nowhere Pennsylvania to Charlotte, NC the summer before 9th grade. So in one fell swoop, I was suddenly 600 miles away from my friends, in a new city, going to a new school that was much more liberal than the conservative, sheltered home that I'd grown up in.

Ninth grade was a little rough emotionally, to say the least. How was I - an overweight, shy, average-grades, four-eyed, self-conscious girl, supposed to fit in with kids who knew they could act/sing/dance/paint - who knew they were destined for Broadway, or Hollywood - destined for greatness? I didn't even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. All I knew is that I loved music, loved singing. And this arts magnet school would give me the opportunity to be surrounded by music all the time.

I awkwardly shoved my glasses up the bridge of my nose as I walked down the hallways past dancers in tights and leotards, actors who created their own unique wardrobes, and even a girl who claimed to be a witch, and wore a silk cloak to school. I fought with myself when it came time to answer questions in class, I derided myself for weeks if I sang a wrong note in my musical theater class, and don't even get me started on how I handled my most-of-the-school-year crush on a boy who turned out to be gay.

I was surrounded by people I simultaneously looked up to and couldn't understand. How could they feel so comfortable with themselves, with who they were, while I was standing here wanting to crawl out of my own skin?

I will never forget the day that I threw a fit before school because I had "nothing to wear." So I haphazardly put together some kind of shoddy combination of a white-and-blue plaid crinkle skirt, a blue college sweatshirt, navy blue tights, and these hideous Xhileration sneakers from Target. I was so embarrassed, but I ran into my crush in the hallway and he stopped, smiled, and told me how nice I looked (!). For a sliver of a second I clung to hope that maybe...maybe... And then I laughed. I looked nice? Ha!

I only started realizing that people actually noticed me at all at the end of my 10th grade year. I was not going to be coming back to the arts school the following year, as I had felt that both my faith and my grades were slipping. (Not cool when you get As in all the classes you sing in, and Ds in Algebra 2.) As one of our last class sessions for a leadership class I had (we were sort of the student government), my teacher had us all sit in a circle and, one by one, we all had to sit in the middle while everyone else either gave us constructive criticism or told us what they admired about us. There were several seniors in the class whom I greatly admired but thought they didn't really know who I was. They teared up as they told me how they admired me, for being so true to my faith, for singing beautifully, for doing any number of things I thought no one had noticed that year. I was so shocked. That day is one that will stay with me forever.

I left the school after that year, but I always thought back on my experiences, wondering what everyone was up to now, wondering what I might be up to now.

Well, apparently half of my class from that school now lives and works in the great New York City, pursuing and living their dreams. I mean, Broadway actors, dancers, directors; celebrity hairstylists; you name it, they're living their creative dreams.

Where am I?

Nashville. In a messy living room. With kids who fight over baby carrots and flashlights.

But you know what? I am living my dream. Because my dream was always - even if I didn't fully realize it or understand it at the time - to be a mommy and a writer. Sure, it may be fun to perform on Broadway, to sing and act and get standing ovations and have my name in lights. It may be fun to make music, go on tour, and have thousands of fans screaming my name. But I couldn't possibly leave these two beautiful, amazing children at my feet. Just thinking about it makes me sad. I don't even like to be away from them for a whole day. (Alright, there are some days I'm okay with being away from them for the whole day. But not frequently.)

And I am currently working on the first draft of the third book in a trilogy I'm writing. And even though it's not published yet - even though no one out there knows yet how this story has moved me to tears,  how the writing of it has changed me - I know that they will. Someday soon. Because these words are my dream. These pages are my stage. And though right now I only have an audience of one, I know that one day, this dream will go live.

And when it does, I'll have my husband and my two awesome children by my side.

What dream could be better than that?


Being Fruitful

The act of creating is supposed to be pleasurable. Overwhelmingly pleasurable.

Not work. I mean, sure, you can get worked up about it. Like, your heart beats faster, you're energized.

But it should be something enjoyable, invigorating, inspiring, and perhaps even a bit of a stress reliever.

No, I'm not talking about sex.

Well, not entirely.

Sex is the most primal act of creativity. It's been around, oh, pretty much since the beginning of human history. I mean, if not, we wouldn't all be here.

But, we create in other ways also.

We write. We paint. We draw. We make music. We design. We act. We imagine.

So, why do these things become so difficult? So mundane?

I am listening right now to Red, one of my favorite bands ever. Their music has what I would describe as an epic quality. Many of their songs have something in them that makes my stomach feel like I just went down the first hill of a roller coaster. It's not just the lyrics, either, though they are good. It's the music itself.

Have you ever listened to music, or read a piece of writing, or viewed a piece of artwork, that stirred something deep within you? Something that seemed arousing, but to your spirit rather than your senses?
You feel something rise within you, a response to what you're experiencing. But you can't quite describe it. It's like something in the piece of art you're experiencing has made a connection with your soul. And you don't want to leave. You want to just take it in, stay right here, listen one more time, hold the words in your heart and repeat them over and over again. Because this experience seems right. That connection we feel, that thing that cannot be described, is our soul getting a taste of God. Call it touching the hem of Jesus' robe if you will. It is small, but it is so huge.

And there is something so absolutely right in creating or experiencing creativity. Because it's what we were designed for. We were made to create. To imagine. To give of the deepest part of ourselves in ways to which other people can relate.

Any creative act is ultimately both an act of giving and of trust. And those two things are intrinsically intertwined.

Just as with sex, you cannot give of yourself fully unless you trust your partner completely. Same with creating and God. If we hold anything back, it is because of a lack of trust. And holding back in an act of creativity leaves us feeling disappointed, unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and even empty.

If you have something in your soul that is crying to take shape, you feel it, even when you ignore it. It's there. A small pulsing, a throbbing ache, an insatiable need that goes beyond desire. Maybe you try to ignore it by working longer hours. Or putting your energy into some other thing, like cleaning the garage. Or maybe you drown it, by watching movies or playing video games. Because there's something you're holding back. Or maybe you only pretend to be creative - maybe you should be writing, but instead of writing what you need to write, you throw all your energy into "research." (I'm totally preaching to myself here, if you haven't noticed...)

Why not open yourself up to God in unabashed trust?  He is the one that put that desire within you. And He is the one that can fulfill that desire.

God wants to create with you, in you, through you.

Don't hold back. It just hurts. If you are holding back, examine your heart. See what lies there. Are you afraid that what you'll create will make waves? People won't understand you, you'll be criticized - perhaps by those you love?

God is bigger than that. And maybe that thing you have to create is just what those people need to hear. Or read. Or see.

Trust God in this act of creativity. In trusting and giving of yourself, something beautiful can happen.

And it's exciting. And it feels good.

Because when you trust and give everything that's in you, that act of creativity fulfills you. And you might be surprised at the results.

With God working in you, it's guaranteed to turn out better than you expected. Certainly better than anything you could do on your own.