Getting Real About the Creative Process

Anne Rulo Getting Real About the Creative Process

Well, she’s out there! The God Blanket officially launched into the world this past Tuesday and it’s been fun. And weird. And uncomfortable. And very, very vulnerable. Sometimes people imagine that creative endeavors are some sort of mystical process (kinda’ like I used to). But, when we put things in mystical categories they become unreachable and intimidating and highbrow…and ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense.

Now that this second book is out, one thing I’ve been really wanting to do is take the opportunity to tell you a few things I’ve learned about the creative process. I’m telling you this because it’s fun to relive the journey. But, mostly I’m telling you this for you, in the hopes that it would encourage even one to step out into something you may have considered for a long time. So to that end, here’s a few pieces of unfiltered truth that I hope will bless your own adventure.

  1. Creative processes are HARD. I’ve literally had years of practice along with some natural gifting with words and language. And still, almost every single time I sit down to write it takes way longer than I expect and I have at least one or two times where I think about quitting or how incompetent I am. While the easy magic of something spilling onto a page has happened a handful of times, most of the time it is a grind — and therein lies the gift.
  2. Doing hard things is a blessing. When you step into something God has called you to, it does not mean it is going to be easy. In fact, if Biblical examples teach us anything, it means it’s probably going to be really hard sometimes. That’s the gift I’m talking about. I’ve never been surer that I am living according to my design and yet, God has allowed it to be so hard sometimes that I have had to rely on nothing else than my trust and faith in Him to keep going. Diving into the unknown has transformed my faith in Christ in ways nothing else could.
  3. We create best when we mimic how God created. Even though He could have created everything at once, He didn’t. He showed us how to create from the basics (day/night, land/water) to the detailed and polished (plants, animals, people). We shouldn’t expect everything to come together right away! Even more importantly, He showed us how to enjoy the process as it goes along. In Genesis 1 He didn’t say, “It’s still awful. It’s still awful. It’s still awful.” He said, “It is good. It is good. It is good.” Until it was finally, “very good.” Don’t mentally whip yourself along the way, enjoy the process and trust in its development. Do like He did.
  4. You will feel exposed. Even if you only show your work to a couple people, it is a vulnerable thing to be creative and then open it to public opinion. When The God Blanket launched I spent the entire day vacillating somewhere between celebration and wanting to cover my head with every blanket in my house. It’s weird and uncomfortable to put your stuff out there and even weirder to promote yourself. Just ride that awkward wave as it rises and falls and trust that God is in charge of it all.
  5. Your obedience to God’s call will bless others. This is the one I didn’t see coming. Living out an unknown process gives other people permission to be vulnerable and say, “It’s okay to do scary stuff.” And while I appreciate the grown-ups who may fall in this category, you know who I ended up affecting more than anyone else? My children. (Cue unsightly Mom sobs.) I haven’t hidden the hard of this journey from them. They have heard me admit I don’t know what I’m doing but that I’m trusting God. They have seen me struggle and they have seen me celebrate. And on Tuesday, they brought me the cards you see in the picture above and my heart busted open because even if I don’t sell a single copy of a single book I have shown my children what it is like to live out in the unknown and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to do that too.

So thank you, everyone who has been part of this journey and everyone who may now start their own. I don’t know what adventure into the unknown God may be calling you to but calling you I am sure He is. Remember, creativity is not just found in the arts. God calls us to the unknown in lots of areas of our lives so that we will have to trust Him there. It won’t be comfortable but you can trust that He will give you all the love and guidance you need for that first step forward. It’s thrilling and scary and awesome out here folks. Let’s go.

(Sneak Peek!) The God Blanket

Anne Rulo Sneak Peek The God Blanket

It’s almost here! My next book study, “The God Blanket” releases next Tuesday and I’m so excited! And scared. And humbled. And grateful. And tired. I’m all the things that go along with putting hard work into a thing and then releasing it into the world. It is a beautifully vulnerable space to be. A space I’ve learned to love more and more in this journey to becoming a writer.

In next week’s blog post I am going to share more about the process of writing a book and remove some of the mystical nonsense that people sometimes put around the creative process. But, until then, I wanted to give you a little sneak peek into this study before it releases next week.

First, I want you to know I chose the book of Colossians because I am a great big chicken. I was avoiding another book that felt too theologically “heavy” and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I assume God later found it amusing that Colossians is chock-full of really thick, challenging concepts but I was already too far in to back out. It was an immense blessing to have to wade through hard things, do some research, and come out on the other side seeing God’s love clearer than ever.

Secondly, I wanted to share that this book is very similar in structure to my first publication, “Cultivating Joy”. That first book was created in response to my sister asking if I knew of any strong studies that were also manageable for busy Moms of young children. Hear me clearly, that’s not code for “I’m too busy for God”. It’s the reality that some folks are just in a stage of life that has restricted time but they still really want to grow in their faith! It was with those parameters in mind that I set out and created a five-week, four days a week study with all the verses, reading and reflection opportunities build right in. High value, low volume.

Third, I wanted to share a few lines from the first day’s reading that summarizes the whole study well. If you pick up this book, this is what is comin’acha. I hope it is as much a blessing to you as it has been to me.

“The God Blanket” Day 1: “In the time that I have spent wandering through this book, Paul’s words have become almost like a laser for my faith. Not only do they point specifically at what really matters, but they also cut off the edges of all the things that I have tried to ‘add’ to Jesus over the years. It has been a focusing and refining experience that I didn’t know was coming. I am so delighted for you to join in during these next five weeks as we get to re-fall in love with Jesus and the community of Christ through this direct and much-needed letter.”

Available on Amazon Tuesday, January 21st!

Keep Going, Even If It Didn’t Start Well

Anne Rulo Keep Going Even If It Didn't Start Well

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.” (Mark 1:9-13a, NIV)

As we make our transition out of Christmas and into the New Year, I am drawn to the story of Jesus’ life that makes a similar transition. The front end of the Gospels is “The Christmas Section.” But then, aside from one brief mention in Luke 2 about the boy Jesus, we don’t see Him again until He is an adult. After all the Christmas stuff, the next thing we watch is how Jesus gets started in a new thing. In this case, His formal ministry.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to wait those thirty-some-odd years before He finally got to step forward into His purpose. I suspect in His humanity there may have been some apprehension. But, there also must have been a longing to do what He came for. After all those years of waiting, He finally got to step His dusty feet into the cool Jordan where He was baptized, the heavens burst open and His father says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” He’s finally ready to go.

But, instead of getting to move forward in His ministry, He has to go tangle with the devil for a while. Man, I would find that really frustrating.

You know, one of the most precious parts about the God we serve is that He gave us Jesus as an example (1 Peter 2:21, NIV). Rather than serving a distant, unknowable being, we get a real flesh and blood Savior who “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, NLT)

In short, we serve a God who “gets it.”

I know there are some of you who set out in 2020 with God speaking something new into your life. You felt Him call you to it, approve of it, and commission you forward. You were super excited to get started, finally stepping into the thing you were meant to do — but then you ran into the devil. And it’s been really, really frustrating.

If this has been your experience, I need you to know Jesus gets it. He knows exactly what it is like to wait years and years to finally get the chance to do something. He knows what it is like to finally feel blessed and approved to move forward. And, He knows exactly what it is like to take that first step and find yourself fighting in the desert instead. It is such a sweet gift that God let us see Jesus facing this type of challenge. But, it is an even greater gift that He also showed us how He got through it — by fighting with God’s Word. (For full verbal sparring match between Jesus and the devil see here, Matthew 4:1-11, NIV)

Scripture is the most powerful weapon you could ever wield against an enemy who seeks to destroy your calling or your progress. Just as Jesus used lines from God’s truth to combat every ridiculous arrow the devil threw at Him, we must do the same if we are to make it through our desert spaces and into the forward progress we desire. The battle will almost always be there. The defeat does not have to be.

Keep fighting desert traveler, He’s with you. He understands where you are and He has every weapon you need because He’s been there. Remember, He wrote the Book.

Used with permission, photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

 

 

Uncovering Your Adventure

Anne Rulo Uncovering Your Adventure

If you have followed my writing for any time at all, you know I don’t especially enjoy cooking. I do it out of necessity of course, but I don’t hang out in the kitchen a lot, so sometimes things escape my notice. As examples, I was in my previous house for quite a while before I realized the “drawer” at the bottom of my oven was, in fact, a second oven. And, it was only a few weeks ago when I discovered that the little rubber button on the side of my faucet changes the stream from regular to power wash. Good grief, I’ve lived here for over a year trying to scrub food from our plates like a fool with unnecessarily gentle water pressure.

And so, it should come as no surprise when this past summer, I made yet another kitchen discovery. As I walked by the sink, the late afternoon sun cast its light just perfectly above my awesome 90’s cabinets, revealing something I had not seen before. Words. Faint, pale and hard to read, but definitely words. I stood there shifting back and forth, attempting to get just the right angle, and was finally able to make it out.

“Love and cooking with reckless abandon.”

They were vinyl letters, long covered over with paint and as you can see in the picture, almost impossible to detect. It initially hit me as amusing that this specific message about “cooking with reckless abandon” was found in my rather under-utilized kitchen. However, that amusement quickly shifted into reflection as I thought, it is actually kind of sad to have a message of adventure like this “covered over.”

I know, I know. For all practical purposes, those words above my cabinets were painted over because someone just didn’t like the decoration anymore. But, in our lived experience, this type of “covering over” is exactly what we do sometimes when God speaks a call into our lives. Like the words above my cabinets, the message originally seems clear, and maybe even exciting. But then if it feels too risky, too hard, or simply like it couldn’t actually be meant for us, we cover it over, look away, and try our best just not to notice it anymore.

As we set out in these first days of 2020, I want you to consider if there are things God has called you to that you may have covered up. I know it can seem really scary to follow God’s call in our lives but remember, He sees the potential in us that we do not. He sees the future of that call and how it will bless His people. And He knows what will come of living out that faded message.

You can trust Him. Uncover that old message in your life and fill in the blank accordingly.

“I hear you, Lord. Let’s do this. Love and _____________ with reckless abandon.”

The Sacred Sorrow of Christmas

Had the gift of being the Christmas post for The Glorious Table! Please enjoy a preview here with a link to the full article below.

Anne Rulo The Sacred Sorrow of Christmas

I love Christmas. I keep Christmas CDs in my car year-round and get obnoxiously happy when Walmart and Hobby Lobby put Christmas decorations out while we are still in triple-digit temperatures. I am the female version of Buddy the Elf and give fair warning to anyone who would like to unfollow me on social media from November to February. I repeat, I love Christmas.

I am well aware, particularly in my training as a mental health therapist, that Christmas is not experienced this way by everyone. Part of the reason I have the privilege of enjoying Christmas is because I have had positive Christmas experiences. I know this is a privilege, and thus, I don’t share to boast. Instead, I share it to point out how very surprising it has been to have a sort of “sacred sorrow” creeping into my Christmas experience over the past several years. Sadness has been a strange addition to my usual holiday cheer.

Being a Mother changes things like Christmas. It changes it in all the happy ways like adding to the magic, creating and renewing fun traditions, and finding secret joy when the toys of your youth come back in vogue and you can buy your kid something like an Etch-A-Sketch. However, as fun as all this is, I think being a mother has also changed the spiritual side of Christmas for me. I know now what it means to have a baby, to raise a child, and to know the pain that comes with your heart is walking around outside your body. It makes me see that babe in the manger very differently.

To read the full post head over to The Glorious Table here.

Coping with Christmas Changes

Anne Rulo Coping with Christmas Changes

Christmas is a holiday marketed and built on tradition, expectations, and memories. And, as we tend to find comfort in the predictable, that can make it especially hard to adjust when Christmas changes. Shifting family dynamics, the arrival of new life and passing of others, weather, work, and travel challenges are just some of the many influences that can throw your “usual” Christmas experience unexpectedly (and possibly unwelcome-ly) in a different direction.

As I reflect, I’ve certainly had some varied Christmases. Some have been lean-er and some more abundant. There have been some really sad Christmases after losing loved ones and joyful ones like Christmas after getting married. Christmas has been quiet when there weren’t children and beautifully nuts when there were. Sacred, silly, meaningful, monotonous, easy and challenging, all in a handful of years.

But even though no two Christmases have been exactly alike, sometimes I still find myself really hanging on to a specific picture of what Christmas “should” be. I suspect this isn’t healthy since it makes me feel more like the Grinch than like Jesus, so I went looking for a little wisdom. And I found it right where you might expect, flowing from the pen of King Solomon.

It turns out Christmas, like life, was never designed to remain the same year in and year out. God’s Word tells us that everything goes through seasons, so it makes sense that we should expect the same for Christmas. To that end, let us breathe in these words from the wisest man who ever lived. It’s amazing what a reminder about the inevitability of change may do to calm our holiday hearts…

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV)

Yes, my fellow fighters of Christmas change, find comfort in this. Just as this list of seasons applies to our lives, it applies to Christmas. It means our holidays are going to look different sometimes and that’s really…normal. For all of us who tend to grip our vision and traditions with a choke-hold, this list reminds us to let go so it can survive…and so we can love. We have to give all things the freedom to become what they need to be in their season. The changes that sometimes come with Christmas time are just like the ones that come with life…

They are under His control,
they are covered by His love,
and they do not surprise Him.

So, if you are encountering a different Christmas this year, take heart. A shifting Christmas experience is just part of the overall design of life. Ultimately, it is a chance for us to trust God with the changes. And, it is a chance for us to worship and remember that He never, ever does.

He knows exactly what Christmas we need this year.

Happy birthday Jesus. Excited to see what You have planned.

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

The Gift of Childhood Boredom

One of the greatest gifts we can ever give our children is... Boredom

(Here’s a short but potent post for this week because, well, it’s Thanksgiving and ain’t nobody got time for all that writing now!)

In the coming weeks, many of us will decide what to give our children for Christmas. We will also be with them more often as they have lots-o free time away from school. It’s a really sweet time of tradition and togetherness, but it can be stressful to be away from our routines. To that end, I wanted to add one little item to your Christmas lists…

Give them boredom. For your sanity and their benefit, give those precious children boredom. We can feel such pressure to get gifts that will really captivate them as well as provide constant stimulation and entertainment in those days away from school. But, hear me say this in the most loving voice. That’s. Not. Your. Job.

Our job is to love them. To keep them safe, fed and clothed. And then? Let their precious little minds have space to think without input, create without direction, and feel without oversight. To help them learn now what it means to manage their experience, draw resources from their surroundings, and cope with a life that is not always exciting, or entertaining. Because it’s not.

So, when your kids get bored this holiday season, please know you aren’t neglecting them. You are loving them. You are gifting them with the opportunity for independence, self-reliance, and creativity. You are creating beautiful functional adults.

(Last thing, if they tell you they are “bored”, remember that “bored rhymes with chores.” This phrase is a great reminder that they would much rather come up with their own way to fill the time than to allow their meanie-pants parents to come up with the solution.)

Happy Ho-Humm Holidays everyone!

Nothing is Too “Trivial” for God

Anne Rulo Nothing is Too Trivial for God

Our football season ended the other night. As a coach’s wife, this experience always leaves me dead center in the middle of competing emotions. I am so thrilled at the idea of having my husband back and yet, there’s such sadness. Big boys in big pads crying big tears because the game they love is done. For some, it’s done for the season and for others, done forever. And that’s a heavy thing to process.

The following morning I noticed an odd sense of guilt at the sadness I was “still” carrying. I mean, this is football people. While certainly a ministry, we’re not pastors. We’re not missionaries. We’re not running some non-profit for the disadvantaged. We’re in coaching. It can be a really secular world sometimes and yet, I was really bummed. I was sad for the boys. I was sad for my husband. I was just, sad.

On this same morning, my church put on a women’s retreat. As I drove there, slightly tearful, I noticed how excited I was to be headed somewhere I could really focus and talk to Jesus about it. And this sweet little thought entered my mind…

“God is so gracious to let us bring anything to Him.”

In my years as a therapist, one of the more damaging patterns I saw in people was an effort to “poo-poo their pain.” It’s when we say, “I’m really hurting but I shouldn’t be because other people have it so much worse than me” or “I’m hurting but this thing shouldn’t be a big deal.” Rather than acknowledging the hurt and dealing with it, we deny its validity and, in effect, invalidate ourselves and our emotions. We so often judge ourselves for being sad about “trivial” things. We decide they are too small or too meaningless. And then we shove those “small sadnesses” into the “meaningless sadness” box in our heads and expect them to go away.

Spoiler alert…they don’t always go away in there. Sometimes they just pile up.

Listen folks, the God we serve is a God of details. He knows the number of hairs on our head and the number of stars in the sky. As we enter into this Thanksgiving season and focus on being grateful for the little things, maybe we should also give ourselves permission to feel sad about the “little things” too. After all, He cares about all of it. You are never bothering Him.

There is no joy too small or sadness too insignificant for God. So, rather than guilting ourselves over it, let’s join with Him instead. He is the one with the big perspective. He is the one who loves us, designed us, and knows us better than we know ourselves. He is the one who can (and wants!) to take our “insignificant” pain and heal it or teach us and use it for our good and His glory.

My dear reader, lean into the details this Thanksgiving. Find joy and gratitude in your many many blessings. But please, if your football team loses, or your pie burns or your hair does that “woohoo” thing and you can’t get it under control before the big family gathering? Feel free to be sad about it. I don’t care how small it seems, take it to Him. Always, always, take it to Him, because He loves you.

Every tiny-little-itty-bitty-part of you and your experience.

And that is something to be thankful for.

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

Worshiping God Alone

Writing over at The Glorious Table today! Preview and link below:

Worshiping God Alone Lights

Growing up in Kansas City, I experienced a unique Thanksgiving tradition. We did all the common things: the turkey, the pies, the gathering of family. But then we would bundle up, leave the house, and make the trek to “The Plaza.” Just south of downtown Kansas City, the Country Club Plaza is a beautiful fifteen-block shopping district modeled after the Moorish architecture of Seville, Spain.

For some ninety years, from Thanksgiving through January, these incredible buildings are covered from top to bottom with Christmas lights. Thousands of people like our family walk their turkey-stuffed selves down the hills into The Plaza to listen to music, mingle with humanity, and ultimately participate in the countdown as those beautiful lights come on.

It is an incredible tradition and a beautiful sight, but I admit I don’t often go anymore. As a mama of littles, I am a little intimidated by the growing crowds. I tried to find an accurate headcount somewhere but only found phrases like “tens of thousands” and “up to 100,000” people. Suffice it to say there are a whole lot of souls packed into a fifteen-block area. When I can’t discern the end of myself from those around me, I tend to bow out and watch the merriment from the comfort of my living room. Recently, it was these very crowds that God used to show me something.

To continue reading link here to The Glorious Table.

Be Available

Be Available Anne Rulo

I’ve been watching a lovely little movie, The Bookshop. It was never released in the United States but it is currently on Amazon Prime. It is delightfully full of mid-century British people, spunky, driven women, and lots of books…all things I love dearly. As the film opens, we meet Florence Green, a war widow who shared a passion for literature with her late husband. Now 16 years after his passing, she has summoned the courage to purchase a property and open a bookshop in the quiet coastal town of Suffolk.

Mrs. Green and her bookshop encounter quite a bit of opposition, with more than a few people offering passive-aggressive suggestions about her lack of experience, ability, and financial competence. Others, in an effort to cut her down more “kindly”, patronizingly offer veiled comments about how innocent and naive her dream is.

Despite all the flaming arrows of discouragement, Florence perseveres for her bookshop. Shortly after opening, she recognizes the need for an assistant. The scene opens with Florence peering skeptically over a cart of books at Christine, the young girl with a stern face who has been charged as her help. The following conversation ensues…

Florence (rising slowly): You mustn’t think I don’t want to consider you for the job, it’s just that you don’t really look old enough…or strong enough.

Christine: That’s hard to say after first glance. You look old, but you don’t look strong. It’s all the same anyway. We’re all available.

I about fell off the elliptical (where I watch movies) trying to manipulate the screen to go back and forth several times, rewatching this scene. In less than twenty seconds, these two summed up and solved a problem that has plagued women for, well, ever.

Ladies, we have an uncanny ability to decide that we aren’t enough for something. We think we aren’t strong enough or smart enough, brave enough or polished enough, old enough or young enough, experienced enough or well-studied enough. We absorb these things within ourselves and it keeps us from adventure and (gasp!) we sometimes speak it over others and that keeps them from theirs. To that end, I want to let you in on a little secret…

It is not our job to be enough. It’s our job to be available.

In this one tiny film clip, young Christine sums up the truth we see about so many of God’s people:

Peter had zero experience, but He had a boat for Jesus to climb in. Moses had no eloquence but he had a connection back in Egypt. Rahab had a scandalous past but bravery in spades. Sarah was too old. Timothy was too young. Jonah was a procrastinator. Thomas was a skeptic. And Zaccheus was too short.

Listen to Christine you guys, “It’s all the same anyway. We’re all available.”

I don’t know your “not enough” reason, but it’s all the same anyway. It’s a reason you can either keep listening to or, you can press the mute button on that nonsense and say, “Here I am! Use me!” (Isaiah 6:8, NIV)

I’m available.