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Where a Creative’s Journey Begins

By Jenny Fulton

It begins deep within the heart of the artist.

There is a whisper, an idea; it stems from the spiritual depth of a being.

It is a voice yearning to be expressed.

-Jenny Fulton

For as long as I can remember, storytelling has been a part of me. When I was no more than four-years-old, I would draw pictures that had very detailed storylines.

“Come hewoo, Mommy,” I’d say. “Look at my pictoow. Look at what’s happening!”

A Child’s Story

Mommy would come, pencil in hand, ready to patiently dictate the story she knew I was about to tell her.

“The smoke is puffing up. The lightening is flashing. A tornado came up and make the smoke even higher. A flash of lightening filled the sky. The little girl was in her playhouse. She was frightened. Then she benembold [remembered] that Jesus was taking care of her. She knew that Jesus was by her even though she could not see Him. Then the storm went away because Jesus, said, ‘Quiet down storm, the little girl is frightened.’ So the storm quieted down and so the little girl smiled. The little girl’s name was Jenny.”

My head was full of words and stories that couldn’t seem to be contained, whether that release came by means of paper and pencil, or through playing pretend.

I certainly wasn’t the only creative in our house.

Some form of cross-stitch would usually be lying within reach of my mom’s hand. Sometimes she’d get out her autoharp and sing. She taught us to sing and harmonize with her.

My dad would often be working on some craft or other. Sometimes it was a piece of wood or leather that he chiseled and worked designs into. Sometimes it was beadwork or jewelry that took shape under his artisan hands. My favorite times were when he’d get out his banjo or guitar and play away in answer to some melody that danced through his heart and flowed out through his spirit by means of the notes played upon strings.

I loved those times of singing or listening to the music, loved how my soul seemed to soar and connect in joy with God.

As I grew older, my love for both music and writing grew. I learned how to play the guitar so I could sing and enjoy its sound anytime I wanted.

I wrote because, I couldn’t keep from doing so.

Thoughts unknown

Words unspoken

A universe waiting to be explored but lacking a vehicle to take me there

Until my fingers picked up the pen and unlocked my unspoken soul

I was known, throughout my school days, as the quiet one.  Parent-teacher conferences would generally include some version of, “Jenny is a great student, but I just wish she would speak up more in class.”

At some point, I realized that I didn’t want to speak up unless I knew exactly what I was going to say and how I was going to say it.  Socially, I was the same way.  My mind would play out a million options for the conversation and analyze each possibility, along with the potential outcomes.  By the time it settled on one it deemed “safe,” the real conversation had already moved on.

Everything was different when I was alone and could pick up a beautiful, blank sheet of paper.  My fingers would reach down, pick up the pen, and say for me on paper what I could never seem to say in person.  Thoughts that were too numerous and too complicated to understand suddenly came pouring out through my fingers.   Things that didn’t make sense in my brain suddenly made sense on paper.  My spirit was given full, unhindered access as it raced through the pen and revealed itself in visible words.

In these moments, I was free.

My thoughts were known.

My spirit was given a voice.

I have believed in and followed God since I was very young – at least 5-years-old, if not younger, if my early stories are any indication. As I grew, I did the things good Christians are told to do: I prayed and read my Bible regularly. While those practices are good and they helped me grow in my relationship with and knowledge of God, it was those moments of immersing myself in music or writing that made me feel the most connected to Him.

As Laura Bartnick writes in her book, Welcome to the Shivoo,

In the beginning, God revealed Himself by creating. Apparently, this was His heart’s desire.

When I create, when we create from a Heart that loved us, we connect to this Heart in a strong, almost tangible way, as two beings whose camaraderie is strengthened by partaking in the joy of creation. We call this creativity, this similar activity. And, God’s Word says He created humanity in His own image. We are creatives because He is the Creative.

Like all other creatives, this is where my journey as a creative began. In the beginning, created in the image of God.

Little did I know where or how God would use my gifts in the future.

Psalm 45:1

My heart overflows with a good theme;

I address my verses to the King;

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.[1]

 

Psalm 33:1-2

Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;

Praise is becoming to the upright.

Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;

Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.[2

Indian woman an angel and a child
Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, children’s book

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 45:1.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 33:1–2.

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LEADING THE WAY

By Tonya Jewel Blessing

I am a leader. As a woman in leadership, some days I feel great about leadership and other days. . . not so much.

Leadership is the ability to influence others into following your lead. It comes in a variety of forms and is defined in numerous ways. Making presentations, forming a company, bookmaking, posting articles, publishing blog posts, teaching and coaching, and other expressions are readily available to peruse principles for leading others.  
 
I train leaders. I am a partner in ministry. I teach, inspire, and preach in a variety of settings. I also write books. For me, one of the key ways I measure leadership is through effective communication. Am I communicating biblical principles in what I do and what I say?

In a time when there is great fear… LEADERS are more necessary than at any other time. (anonymous)

In order to communicate biblical principles, I need to experience daily intimacy with God. I want to use tactical, God-inspired, insights in my communication.
 
Another way is to gauge whether others are able to hear my words. Lately, I’ve been testing whether I communicate in ways others can hear, not merely the way I voice my vowels and consonants but also hear me in a way that they are able to live out those words in their own world. It isn’t just once that my husband has told me I have talked around issues of importance so that when I am done speaking, I may have left people wondering about the heart of what I have said.

T-Junction

I’m working on direct and healthy communication by a method of asking some questions. Have I presented my point? Have I given applicable examples? Have I given too little information, or have I rambled and overwhelmed the audience with too much?
 
It is likewise vital to me that others can emulate my leadership. I want my strides along the paths we walk as leaders to be in a clear direction not just speak about guiding lights as principles. Combining my words and actions, is my model of leadership effective? Can others put Jesus-living into practice?
 
As women in leadership, my prayer is that each of us becomes great communicators through words and deeds. I hope that those who view our lives and listen to our words are personally moved forward and are able to move those around them in a good and wise direction.

Tonya Jewel Blessing
Tonya Jewel

Tonya Jewel Blessing is a sought-after teacher and speaker. She is the author of The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries. Her writing leads the way for Christian authors to write difficult scenes of gender and sexuality in fiction.

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Lilacs and the Silence In Between

By Kathy Joy Hoffner

We’re experiencing some threshold moments: the silent in-between spaces where we have left something behind but have not yet entered the next portal. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart expressed it this way,

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.”

Breath of Joy: by Kathy Joy

That interval between moments? That’s the space where we can be awake and ready for the next wonder.

You know what’s really beautiful in this moment?
The lilacs.

Nature considers them “essential” as they hang in abundant clusters from their branches. They have shown up to spread the fragrance of the familiar into our world of ambiguity.
With little regard for restrictions, the lilacs and magnolias, dogwoods and redbuds, are shaking off the grip of winter and spreading their glory onto a grateful canvas.

They are doing the essential work of being beautiful and sending healing.

Silent caregivers, these delicate buds nurture us back to curiosity; we are re-honing our ability to be astonished.

“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.”

Nancy Levin, Network for Gratefulness
Singing Spring, by Kathy Joy, photos by David T. Sayer, Glenn Damon

If we are stuck living inside the uncertainty, it’s at least really nice to look around at what’s real; what returns and wildly splashes color onto the landscape — year after year.

Be watchful. It only happens in the silence in-between. Let’s try to hold these moments with greater openness, in that uneasy experience of curiosity and trust.

Lunch Jab

Kathy Joy is the author of the gift book series, Breath of Joy. She is available for a variety of retreats, speaker events, and conferences. Book her now through her agent. https://booksforbondinghearts.com/contact/

Book Cover, Singing Spring
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TO POST OR NOT TO POST

When and How to Leave a Review.

Book reviews are an author’s lifeline. To sell books, positive reviews are required. The reviews also need to appear in a variety of venues and sales platforms such as Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.

Do you know that there are bookstagrammers on Instagram stirring up goodwill for authors these days? And even Pinterest boards are a great way to share a book review!

My book sales flourish in direct relation to the number of reviews others have posted for each title.

I am an avid book reviewer on Goodreads, and although I’m sure that somewhere there are specific instructions for writing a book review, my personal perspective on reviews are as follows:
  

1. I write reviews for genres that I enjoy or because of information gained.  It isn’t fair to write a biased review based on a genre that might not be a favorite of mine.

2. I also don’t write reviews on books that I read out of necessity but might be about topics that I don’t particularly enjoy. 

3. I don’t include criticisms in a book review that are outside the scope of the story.  Authors often don’t have control over font size, book covers, chapter heading designs, etc. 

4. I also pay attention to a book synopsis before reading the material. If a book overview gives direction about the story, I don’t want to complain about something that I knew upfront. 

5. If I have a criticism about book content, I research and do my best to make sure that my input is valid. 

6. Some books are agenda driven. If I know that in advance, I don’t believe that I should use a book review as a platform to debate a personal agenda. 

7. Authors have no control over book orders and shipping. If I order a book and there is a shipping problem, I don’t penalize the author by writing a negative review. 

8. I am diligent about sharing just enough information about the story but not too much information that might spoil the book’s story for the next reader

MOST IMPORTANTLY – I enjoying reading and sharing feedback freely and appropriately.
 
As an author, I welcome reviews. The positive reviews warm my heart, and the not so positive reviews challenge me to grow in my writing.