It has been quite a long time since I have written anything on here and there’s a whole list of reasons why I have avoided writing but today I just want to articulate the purpose behind my small business. So just as a little background, I officially decided I would sell the things I make in October of 2017. I opened an Etsy shop and posted some of my watercolor and calligraphy work. I did this mostly because other people told me I should and I figured it would be cool to see if anyone other than my friends thought I was talented. (Yea, prideful decision, oh well). I called my ‘business’ TLClettering and created an Instagram for it. Again, the main purpose was to build up my self esteem surrounding my skills. It wasn’t until this past summer that I really allowed God to be a part of this thing and that’s when He took that opportunity to speak into it.
One morning this summer I woke up and vividly remembered the dream I had that night. I dreamed that I was standing in a room filled with women of all ages. I was leading them in various types of creative outlets. There were multiple tables and each table was something different: painting, journaling, music, etc. and then I was leading them in connecting what they were doing to their relationship with the Lord. I wish I woke from this dream understanding all of the specifics of how this was supposed to happen but that’s not often how the Lord works. So anyways, I wake up from this dream and say “nope”. For a while I was able to ignore this and pretend it didn’t mean anything but the Holy Spirit doesn’t work that way either. He just keeps tapping and saying “are you ready to look at it yet?”. Finally one day I decided to share this dream with a friend and what I WANTED was for her to say “oh that’s cool” and then move on. However, that’s not who my friends are. Instead she started speaking truth and possibility into this dream. She pointed out how many people there are in my life that do various types of creative things and how I could reach out to them when I figure out how to put this together. Thus began a long stream of moments where the Lord has confirmed that this is something He wants me to keep on the table. He has given other people dreams about it, introduced me to people who are doing similar things and people who want to join me in this, and has given clarity on the purpose and name of my business.
I share that paragraph because I want to be open about a dream the Lord has given me for accountability and to ask for prayer for vision of how to pursue that and when. Next I just want to share the reason behind the name and what my hope is for this small business.
This past summer I got to sit and watch some of my dear friends speak to campers about the power of instead in their lives. This idea comes from Isaiah 61 which says:
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor….
Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.”
The concept of ‘the power of instead’ comes from a teaching produced by Cageless Birds (podcast linked). The teaching focuses on the fact that because we have Jesus, we have the power of the ‘insteads’ that the Lord offers us throughout our life. “The Father sees you, is attentive to you and is present in your circumstances.” These verses are being written to the people of Judah and the prophet Isaiah is proclaiming the coming Messiah. When I read the story of Israel I am always shocked by their ability to forget how awesome their God is no matter how many times He has shown Himself to be faithful. They are constantly either in a time of praising God for what He has just done or questioning His goodness and power. Then I am always humbled to remember that I do the same thing. No matter how many times God has proven Himself to be God, I can easily be caught up in the negative circumstances of my life and question whether He will be faithful again. There are many ‘instead’ statements in these verses but “beauty instead of ashes” is the one that stuck with me the most. I think that’s because for me personally I really resonate with the fact that, because of Jesus, we get to have beauty in our lives. This does not mean that everything is always going to be sunshine and rainbows. This just means that we are offered beauty and joy and comfort through knowing God, abiding in His teaching, and trusting that He is who He says He is. With that perspective and truth, we get to see the beauty He has set into our lives in the midst of hard things. Our circumstances could always look like ashes for the rest of our lives but all of those other things are available to us instead because of the hope we have in Jesus. Without our hope in Jesus, negative circumstances seem purposeless and dark. But when we look at our lives with a kingdom mindset we are able to see it the way He does, as a beautiful story being woven. He truly does work all things together for our good, EVEN WHEN WE CAN’T SEE IT.
So this is where my dream for Beauty for Ashes comes in. About a month ago I heard the Lord speaking very clearly into what His vision for this business is. One of those visions is that I hope to create beautiful things that would be a reminder that the Lord offers us beauty instead of the ashes that we may see in our circumstances. He offers us His view, one that sees the beauty in our growth, the beauty in our trials, the beauty in our hard stuff. We often can’t see that on our own and so I just want to shift our view and our perspective. Let’s invite Him into what we see as ashes and ask Him to show us the beauty.
The other main vision for this business goes back to that original dream. A while back I read something in a Cageless Birds book about creativity. It was talking about how we are all creative. Now before you stop reading and shut this idea down saying you aren’t creative, just hear me out and consider it. We were all created in the image of God, who is a Creator. If we are image of God bearers, do we then all possess the ability to be creators? I believe the answer is yes. Are we all artistic? NO. Is artistic and creative the same thing? NO. These quotes from that original writing about creativity puts it well:
The words artist and creative have become so intertwined that people find if they are not gifted in singing, drawing or writing then they are excluded from being creative…’Not creative.’ This is not an ability statement; this is an identity statement. To declare “I am not creative” is to literally strip down our callings as humans, as living beings. To be creative is to problem solve, to come up with ideas during your day, to find a way to relate to a stranger, to try a new seasoning in your stir fry. Creativity is a gift God bestowed upon humanity from day one. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our own image, in our own likeness’ ” (Gen 1:26). Before He said this, He was sure that His image and likeness were painted clearly in the 25 verses before. Those verses clearly show that He was creative, that He enjoyed creating, that He was powerful and patient with His work, and He longed for company.
Creativity cannot be confined to only those that are ‘the creative type’. I understand that this idea is not accepted by everyone and that’s okay. It is only my hope to begin to get people to allow this idea to bounce around their heads. It’s my belief that allowing God into our creative process unlocks a new side to our relationship with Him and a new beautiful way to engage with Him. Often times whatever your creativity looks like is stifled by the artistic box that creativity seems to be put in. But please hear that your creativity does not have to look like mine, or your roommates, or your friends. Your creativity is unique and it DOES exist. It could very well be painting even if you don’t think you’re good at it. Do you find joy when you paint? Then continue to do it! Don’t let the fear of it not looking the way you want it to keep you from creating. And I believe the Lord is wanting to engage in that space with you, whatever it looks like. So would you just open your hands and ask Him to reveal to you what that thing is, and then (and this is the hard part) let yourself JUST enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you will fail, but continue to enter into those spaces because the Lord wants to engage with that part of your identity.
Thank you for reading the words that have been on my heart for the past few months. My hope is that the Lord would continue to guide this small business of mine to impact His kingdom in whatever way He wants to. Every time He gives me another glimpse of His purpose I feel more and more inadequate. But thankfully He continues to give me confirmation that this is what He wants right now so I’m going to keep showing up.