The Necessity of Making Art

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One of the biggest influences in my life is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I learned so much about what it meant to be creative from that book. The most important lesson being that art doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be yours. A singer/songwriter that I admire said that artists always take the pain they have and put it in their art so that they can share their pain with others.

And I think that’s the beauty of art. That it provides a way for us to the pain we experience and create something good out of something bad. 

I don’t think it’s any surprise to me that adult coloring books are the latest trend. I know that when I color, my energy starts focusing more on creating something rather than letting my thoughts go towards emotions like anger or anxiety or sadness. Sometimes, we can choose colors that express the things that we feel.

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But art isn’t just a matter of crayons and paper. The first time I experienced art therapy was indirectly, when I created this shield using oil pastels and a pencil:

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Sometimes, people can choose words to express their feelings. Some do so through writing stories. Others do it through poetry. I tend to express my emotions in a mix of both.

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Yet there is also another beautiful aspect about art. There’s something more to art than just an outlet for emotions. In the act of making art, we become creators. It isn’t just found in painters, drawers, and sculptors who can literally create a new thing using materials and tools. Fantasy and sci-fi writers create entire lands and universes in a process called “worldbuilding.” Mystery writers get into the minds of villains in the hopes of understanding evil. Romance writers explore the nature of love and how it manifests in two people. Dancers and actors become experts of their own bodies and show how beauty can exist through movement and gestures and expressions.

I always marvel at the concept that there are people who believe that the universe, this entire, beautiful, vast universe filled with stars and planets, came at random, out of nothing for no reason whatsoever. How can people look at the beauty of this world: the biodiversity of every animal and insect and plant, the intricate colorings of every single butterfly and flower and bird, and the colors painted in the sky and think that it’s nothing but cold hard scientific theories? Science is a part of our world, but can it explain the purpose of beauty? Even if you try to explain it with “the continuation of the species” it doesn’t explain why there is beauty in the vastness of space, in the various blues and greens and grays of the oceans, and the death and rebirths of the millions of stars in our galaxy. There is evidence of a Divine Artist because we see His art everywhere.

But honestly, I think the words of a saint can say the necessity of artists better than I can.

 

How To Feel Beautiful Without Having a Bikini Body

It’s summer time, which means shopping for bathing suits, dieting, and working out for that “bikini body.” I’m not the kind of woman who feels insecure about her looks, but there are times when even I feel like a hundred-pound cow. Last night, a video of men trying on women’s bathing suits showed up on my social media feed. I rolled my eyes at the antics of the men, but I felt extremely, irrationally jealous over the woman who modeled the bathing suits. 

I grew up reading stories of girls starving themselves or making themselves throw up to try and look like their favorite celebrity or to be as skinny as possible because our society sees skinny as beautiful. I never had those issues, but I still recall when I got called “snaggletooth” in high school due to my crooked teeth and a “Cabbage Patch Kid” in college because I wore braces and bucket hats. Sometimes, it takes time for a girl to grow into her looks. 

“That’s all well and good, you say, but how does that help how I feel about myself right now?” you ask.

It starts with having an attitude of gratitude. You may not have a bikini body. Love it anyway. You may not even feel like you have a healthy weight. Work towards that. You’re still alive and presumably able to go about your day normally, which means you are on some levels healthy. You can at least start with the fact that you are alive, which is always a blessing in and of itself. Then remember these Bible verses:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

“Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30

“But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Start from the inside and work your way out. Maybe you have the talent of playing a musical instrument or you’re really good with saving and investing money or you know how to change the oil in a car. Maybe you have a great passion for gardening or know how to cook a seriously good omelet or you can knit a sweater better than your grandma. Maybe you’re serious about the things that you love and stand up for it no matter what. These are all amazing gifts to have and are part of what makes you beautiful. Forget what One Direction says. You need to know that you are beautiful and own it. That is what makes you beautiful.

Whether or not you believe it, you were created with careful thought and love. Remember in Genesis that God saw his Creation and said that it was good. I realize that also includes mosquito and cockroaches, but also keep in mind that Hebrews 2:7 says “You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor.” We aren’t entitled special snowflakes who deserve the world on a silver platter, but we should value ourselves as human beings.

No matter how you look, know that you were created with love. 

Today, I got ready, but I didn’t put any makeup. I went to get the mail dressed in your typical jean shorts and tshirt. Then I opened up a package that contained I’ve been waiting an entire week to get:

MY BUFFY T-SHIRT!

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T-Shirt from TeePublic, created by alecxps. #nomakeup #nofilter

I don’t care that it’s summertime and wearing black is basically asking for trouble. I know it’s not a bathing suit. I don’t even care that I’m not wearing any makeup. I feel like a superhero. And that’s all that matters.

Resonance: Beauty Leading to Goodness and Truth

I don’t claim to have good taste in music. I actually like “Here I Am, Lord” and “Ashes.” I grew up in the 90s and went through what some music critics call the worst era of music in the early 2000s. However, I really hope my taste has improved since then.

What I want to talk about here is those times when you hear a song that completely changes your mood, whether it’s for the better or for the worse. There’s this joke on Blimey Cow about some songs providing a “spiritual high” and yes, that has happened to me sometimes. But it’s not always like that. Back when Taylor Swift came out with her Red album, I enjoyed the songs, but didn’t relate to as many of them as I did with her Speak Now album. However, I found myself relating to those same songs later on when I found stories and situations that resonated with them.

And sometimes, the song you hear isn’t even a song from Christian radio. The artist may not even be religious, let alone nominally Christian, and yet their songs have a way of resonating with you. I think the Jesuit principle of finding God in all things particularly applies here.

Earlier this week, I suffered an anxiety attack. And even though it didn’t last long, I still felt shaken that it happened, given that I hadn’t had one in almost two years. Then, when I was browsing my YouTube feed, I found a song entitled “Relax/Take a Walk With Me”. And while I’m sure that the artist didn’t intend on it, the chorus reminded me of resting with Christ and walking with Him. When I listened to that song, the memory of the anxiety I suffered faded out.

Something similar happened when I got my heart broken as well. As anyone knows, there are phases you go through when you get your heart broken, similar to the five stages of grief. I was going through the “depression” phase, wanting to wallow in my feelings. Then, as I was browsing Facebook, this song appeared in my news feed. Needless to say, the song made me feel a lot better.

It’s always funny how songs can resonate with people and how songs can mean something that the artist may not have intended, but that’s the nature of art itself. Beauty speaks out universally, leading those who recognize it to goodness, and maybe eventually, to truth. When you hear a song that resonates, you find a connection and that wonderful feeling of not being alone. This leads to a change in how you feel and eventually learning from what had happened before.

So what songs resonate with you? Have you ever had the right song come in at the right moment? Please comment and let me know!

Women of Christ Wednesday: Leah Darrow

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Back when I was in high school, I used to be obsessed with America’s Next Top Model. I got into it when I found out that one of the contestants, Heather Kuzmich, had Asperger’s Syndrome. Little did I know that I would later learn of another contestant who left the modeling lifestyle and became a well known Catholic speaker. When I first heard of Leah Darrow, I knew her as a speaker, not as a reality show contestant. Later on, I watched her when she gave her conversion story on The Journey Home and found myself fascinated.

After watching her testimony on The Journey Home, I found a video clip of her elimination from America’s Next Top Model. I watched in awe as the judges said that her outfit was more suited for a “secretary contest,” telling her to take off her jacket since she was wearing a tube top underneath. In my honest opinion, she was definitely less “soccer mom” than Tyra Banks declared her to be.

With beauty queens these days showing themselves to be less-than-stellar when it comes to world matters, Leah Darrow stands out as a woman who wears a better crown on her head: the crown that God gives to all of his daughters. And the fact that I first knew her as a speaker rather than a reality show contestant tells me that she’s come a very long way.

What did your time on America’s Next Top Model teach you about being on TV and the “glamorous” lifestyle?
My time on ANTM taught me that there is no such thing as the “glamorous lifestyle” – that’s only something that Fergie and Beyonce sing about. The lifestyle perpetuated by fashion, music, and movies is one focused on instant gratification and constant conformation to a ridiculous standard of beauty and entertainment that one has no control over.
Tell me how you met your husband and how things are for you and your family now.

We were introduced by friends. When we met in 2008, Ricky had just returned from his first deployment to Iraq (he’s a US Army Special Forces Green Beret) and was prepping for his second deployment, so, a “relationship” was a bit out of the question. We started and maintained a friendship, and for the next four years and really got to know each other. In 2011, we just happened to be in the same place, at the same time — and that’s when Ricky knew I was the love of his life and he couldn’t live without me…that’s at least my version of the story.
What advice would you give about relationships?
We are obsessed with relationships today and define ourselves by them. Sadly, we have forgotten the art of friendship. We end up dating strangers and attempt the friendship while we navigate the dating process. Try friendship out first before you go and date a stranger. People who have a strong relationship with Jesus tend not to jump into relationships too quickly because they have a stronger sense of self, worth, and dignity. When we allow our identify to be defined by HIM, we don’t seek it in the world or in others.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty should inspire and empower love. Beauty should not reduce a person to a collection of parts or use. True beauty is rooted in service to another – “The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face” Ven. Fulton Sheen.
What is your favorite go-to outfit for a typical day? How would you describe your style?
My favorite go-to outfit for a typical day is something that snot, markers, and banana can be washed out of quickly – my fashion choices are now inspired my daughter, Agnes. However, I’ve always leaned toward classic pieces that stand the test of time. I update them with accessories (jewelry, scarves, jackets, shoes) but rarely go with “trends”. Instead, I stick with what works for my figure and budget.
Who are your go-to saints?
I like St. Theresa of Avila because she’s feisty and she ‘gets’ my lack of patience that I am forever trying to quell, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen because he is a pro when it comes to evangelization with a microphone, and St. John Paul II because, well, he’s John Paul II.
What would you say to girls who want to audition for reality TV shows or pursue a career in fashion/acting?
Don’t audition for reality TV shows. It’s not worth your time and people rarely take you seriously afterward. Just take a look at all the reality TV contestants out there today and their lives – for most of us, it didn’t exactly help our situation in life.
Acting and designing are both amazing creative arts that require God-given talent, time and practice. In either one of those fields, a strong faith community is a must for accountability and support.
To see more of what Leah Darrow is doing right now, go to Leahdarrow.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

What Does It Mean to be Beautiful?

In my honest opinion, butts are overrated.

It baffles me to this day that people write songs and lyrics about a person’s hindquarters. Seriously? How is a butt more beautiful than a person’s eyes or hair or voice? Or for that matter, what about personality?

But then again, Top 40 songs aren’t what you call “deep.”

On the other hand, celebrities are making such a big deal about the importance of body positivity. While I support the idea of appreciating the body one was born with, I don’t want it to come at the expense of shaming others for their bodies.

Julie Borowski pointed out the hypocrisy of some curvy women shaming skinny women in her latest video (to this date). And there are girls out there who are underweight for a lot of reasons that don’t involve eating disorders.

Disclaimer: What I’m about to say is just my opinion. I am not saying that I’m not above being superficial every now and then. I rarely look at a person and notice his or her physical beauty first. That’s not the same for everyone and that’s okay. I’m just stating that if we want to be truly body positive, we have to look beyond the superficial and figure out what beauty actually is.

So what does it mean to be beautiful?

To me, true beauty is a mix of a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual makeup. A beautiful person is someone who lives a healthy lifestyle. Someone who does the best they can to have a balanced, moderated diet and exercises, but not to the extent that they practically live at the gym. Someone who may or may not put on makeup or style their hair, but knows their best traits and gives those traits a featured role. (Examples of physical features I find beautiful include hair, eyes, smile, and voice. Something that every human being has and can show off easily.)

On top of being physically healthy, a beautiful person has to have a beautiful personality. To me, a beautiful person is someone who is kind, generous, and loving. And it can’t just extend to just those one likes, but the less fortunate and even a person’s perceived enemies and “haters.” Nobody can really be that perfect, but we can all do our best to go out of our way for somebody.

I find all different types of people beautiful, like children with Down Syndrome, a handful of Hollywood actors, and the many friends I have. I think that if the body positivity movement should move towards something, it should move towards showing the beauty in everyone and making the world a more beautiful place.