My mother helped make me an artist because she taught me to see as one struck by wonder. Through her eyes, I first treasured thistle’s down and oak’s curved limb, leaf’s shadow and bird’s wing, the shapes of clouds and the kind of smiles made only with eyes.

My mother also showed me I was not an artist, not because of what she taught me, definitely not, but because I simply could not see the potential of the creativity in myself. I was blinded by the beauty of her art.

For it moved through genres and mediums and dotted the landscape of my childhood — from oils to colored pencils, yarn and thread to bubbling yeast, from words to photographs.

Her creativity became the fullness of art’s very definition. When I saw I did not possess her patience, spacial intelligence or light touch, when I saw I could not draw or weave or bake like she did, I believed the lie that art did not exist in me, that I was not creative.

I struggled for years under the weight known to sensitive people-pleasers and perfectionists — that I could not do or be enough — while I longed for the freedom of creativity and a life walked in wonder.

I found it in glimmers, when I gathered flowers for the table, decorated my home with touches of the unexpected or jotted down an occasional poetic line in fall’s fresh air. But creativity as I envisioned it seemed like something outside my abilities and the stuff of someday. Maybe with training, after I’d gotten my life together, after the kids grew older, I’d be able to produce real art.

But then, without knowing exactly what I was doing, I let myself feel the nudges to slow, to leave life details undone and come away with my Beloved to a holy place, also known as the desk in my basement, where I could write.

Once a week for a year and a half, during my baby’s nap, I wrote. I did not press “publish,” and no one saw the words. Instead, I simply listened in God’s presence and tapped out joyfully what I felt in response. And more and more I left behind self-criticism, that harsh editor who’d followed me for years with her sharp little pencil.

I started to let go and I felt the freedom of one waking up, the very stuff of alive unfurling in me.

A created being lives out its creation; one who walks with Jesus creates from the uniqueness of identity enveloped in him and in grace, that is both nourishment and overflow to others.

So whether grilled vegetables and risotto, black notes on a staff, paint pressed on canvas or bare feet gliding across floor — when you live out the unique picture of the Creator within, you release creativity, this pent up glory.

A few days ago, I walked through our neighborhood park and watched from the path as a teenager dribbled alone on the basketball court. He spun a tight circle with a ball cradled in his arm, rolled it to his hand and pushed the ball up through air and toward the hoop. The ball bounced at the boy’s feet as he twirled arms wide and free above his head in dance.

And then he repeated the exact same sequence of moves again.

As I walked closer, I heard the low rumbles of the teenager’s voice and then saw the white cord connected to his ear phones.

They played music only he could hear, the song’s rhythm informing his unique movement, his art, this freedom.

And I thought, Yes, this is just what it’s like.


How has comparison or a specific definition of creativity caused you to doubt your own? In what ways do you make excuses or excuse yourself from the freedom of creativity?


During September at Living the Story, we explore the theme Create. On September 30th, author Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky, joins us with her story, an opportunity for bloggers to link-up, and a giveaway of her new book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. We hope you’ll join us on the fifth Monday in the comments for a chance to win and share your stories with us on how the word Create speaks to you.

giving yourself permission to create

by Ashley Larkin time to read: 4 min