The Grace of Creativity: Chapter 3 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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Have you ever asked yourself, “Just how did I get here, anyway?” When I feel like I’m in over my head with something, that’s the first question that comes to mind.

In Chapter 3 of The Grace of Yes, Lisa Hendey muses,

I can see forks in the path, places where a yes led in one direction and away from another at exactly the right moment. I give the glory to God for opening doors, pointing the way, and over and over again graciously accepting my yes.

A yes may be spoken at just the right time, but that doesn’t mean the road down which it leads will be an easy one. It requires generosity of spirit. It requires us to do the best we can at whatever we’re doing, no matter what that is. If we do that, we will be enabled to show God’s goodness to others.

So that means that when, each and every morning, I write “Do your best today!” on the blackboard in the second-grade classroom where I’m substitute teaching, I’m encouraging the students not only to use their neatest handwriting and to double-check their math, but to do their work to the best of their God-given abilities. That’s creativity.

If you think that you have to be good at things like scrapbooking, knitting, quilting, or cake decorating to be considered creative, think again. The grace of creativity touches our work, no matter what we do, whether we teach, fold laundry, program computers, comfort babies, fly airplanes, or compose symphonies. Our challenge is to be open to doing our best with the gifts we’ve been given, to making the most of the opportunities that are presented to us, and, yes, even to graciously do those tasks we don’t find the most fulfilling, fascinating or fun.

One of the biggest obstacles to creativity can be our own perfectionism. In this chapter, Lisa divulges that she finds herself putting off certain tasks because she doesn’t have all the perfect conditions in which to work, from the proper light to the optimal temperature of her cup of coffee. She refers to this as “hound-winding,” after the tendency of a dog to circle around and around before it settles in to rest. I’m so guilty of doing that, and woe to anyone who suggests that I’m merely procrastinating! That’s not it at all, I rationalize; I’m just waiting for conditions to be right.

I’m here to tell you that conditions will never be right. And that’s OK. What’s not OK is letting our opportunities to bless others with our creativity slip away because conditions were not quite right. Real creativity comes when we do our best under less-than-perfect conditions.

As we consider creativity–and the challenges that it brings, Lisa reminds us that we need to back it up with prayer:

The smartest thing work-wise that I do every day is to include among my morning prayers a plea to accurately hear and respond to God’s agenda for my work.

May I suggest St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer Before the Cross:

Most High, all-glorious God,

Bring light to the darkness of my heart.

Give me right faith, firm hope, and perfect charity,

With wisdom and insight, O Lord, that I might always discern Your holy and true will.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. What is your biggest obstacle to creativity? Brainstorm ways to overcome this challenge.
  2. Read Colossians 3:17. How can this passage inspire your creativity?
  3. Think about a time when you worked through the challenge of less-than-perfect conditions to complete a task. What was the grace behind your creativity?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 4: The Grace of Integrity. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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Copyright 2014 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, and editor at CatholicMom.com. Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.

36 Comments

  1. My biggest obstacle to creativity is pride. I suppose I have those same perfectionist tendencies, and I see those traits coming out in my two children. We all have a reluctance to share, or give of ourselves at times, if we are not confident that the outcome will be perfect! It took me a long time at our parish to offer my singing talent, partly because it was difficult when my kids were very young, but partly out of fear “what if I’m not good enough?, surely there are many far better than I who can do this better?” Anyway, the deeper I got into my faith, the more I realized that it’s wrong of me not to offer that and so, for the past 3 years I’ve cantored at Mass. I’m not perfect, and I do still compare myself unfavorably to others, but I push past that and do it anyway because I’ve accepted that God gave me a gift and he expects me to nurture it and share it. Doing so is also helping to teach my kids that this is what God calls us to do. I also work in my parish, and part of my job involves educating parishioners on Stewardship, cultivating gifts, sharing their creativity. This is not an easy task, because, there are many, many people in our pews who are no doubt feeling as I did for so long, that they don’t know what gifts they have, how to share them, or perhaps don’t even understand that part of the Christian life should involve action, rather than passive attendance at mass once a week. Improvement in my prayer life is helping me deal with 1. Frustrations that people seem slow to ‘get it’; 2. Humility that I need to be more creative in the approaches I take and, 3. My trust in God to guide my efforts.

    • Annie, thank you for sharing your responses. I continue to think that sometimes writing out the things we struggle with can be a proactive step towards solving those problems. From one who struggles with pride and perfectionism, you are in my prayers today!

    • Annie, I’m glad you didn’t let perfectionism stand in the way of your singing at Mass! I have been a musician and vocalist at Mass for well over 30 years. I’m not the best. Not even close. But I show up and want to be there and want to pray through music. And most days, that’s enough.
      As a good friend of mine prays before each Mass and rehearsal for sacred-music events: “We thank God for the gift of music and the opportunity to share that gift, to give honor and glory to God.”
      Keep sharing your gifts!

  2. Sandi Belleque on

    It took me 15 years of ministry before I realized that I didn’t need to do it all. Delegating and finding the gifts in others has become my creativity and my better way of saying yes to God. My answer now when someone compliments me or is happy with our program is “it’s not me it’s the holy spirit”. When you “let go and let God” he really does work through you in ways you never felt capable of. Annie you are right there are many people who don’t feel qualified to do things in our parish and what a joy it is to watch them do it when we have the nudge of the holy spirit to ask them to give it a try. I love ministry work!

    • Sandi, I love this: “Delegating and finding the gifts in others has become my creativity and my better way of saying yes to God.” My friend Martha who I wrote about in the book has this gift too – she is great at inviting people into ministry roles. She has a true ability to help others discern their spiritual gifts. Thank you for inviting others to share their “yes”!

  3. I resonate with Annie’s comment about sharing music and simultaneously being shy about my own abilities as a “real” musician. It took me several years, maybe even a decade or so, before I felt comfortable picking up a guitar and “trying” to play with other people…I was so wary at how some folks pick up so many things in just a few months, or how young kids, or older folks just really had a knack for that instrument.

    Any way, in relation to this topic, I also think of the Second Reading for this Sunday–The Feast of Christ the King. It can be hard to delve into how we are made in the image of God and to look to Christ as the example of who we are called to be. Yet, in that Reading where Paul describes this wonderous beatific vision of what God accomplishes in Christ with the Power of the Holy Spirit…until God is ALL in ALL.

    I may not be (or always allow myself to be so God-filled, loved, accomplished) that I readily identify with that kind of TRIUMPH and GLORY…but then again, I think of that great down-to-earth beat and song about the Saints…”I want to be in that number!”

  4. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

    Never thought of this verse in relation to creativity … funny, I was writing this post when I was interrupted by an incoming email with very disappointing news, directly related to my creativity. Humbling and painful … when I came back to see this verse staring back at me, I remembered, God knows what He has planned for that project. Instead of the pity party I was in the process of organizing in my heart, I am going to praise His Holy name … and continue to do all that I do in the name of Jesus!

  5. I think what gets most in my way of creativity is exhaustion. As a matter of fact, I never got around to responding to last week’s chapter because my work at church was demanding my creativity. When taken on on my own, I get worn-out. When taken on with Jesus, I get inspired. I need to “remember first and foremost why I do what I do and through whom I do it.”

    • There are so many ‘GOOD’ things to choose from when it comes to serving God… so many yeses, I struggle on knowing which ones are meant for me from God, and which are someone else’s blessing. I can so understand your creativity hurdle of exhaustion!

    • Kelly, I am believing these days that our “creativity” comes in seasons. I know I’ve too often neglected seeing my creative efforts because they were not my idea of “creative”. Serving those around us, doing dishes, bathing children, and working at church are all the work God has you doing right now… and you do it beautifully! Praying for you, that you get some rest soon.

  6. I am just getting in touch or rather accepting my creative side. I have never claimed to be nor have I ever thought of myself as a creative person…well unless it came to children. I created my fair share of those. My finest work yet if I do say so myself. :))

    When it comes creativity as a grace I think that is where God proves his candor in my life. No matter how much I plan, prepare, and organize there is always an essential component to my creative attempts that fall through and I am left to make due with what is on hand. That is where I flourish. Frightening as it is for some, I find I can be at my calm and creative best amidst chaos. While the elaborate creative touch I had in mind may not always work out I can creatively diffuse an otherwise chaotic situation. My grace…I going with it.

    My challenge is accepting help and delegation. I don’t like to impose on others. This is the cause of much anxiety for me. Barb, this is where your suggested prayer will set me free.

  7. Wow!! This chapter touched me on many levels. It contained affirmation and confirmation (the bullet points in the section, Giving Oneself Over to the Work) as well as a challenge to keep on doing what I’m doing (amazingly, I realized only yesterday that I am not ready to give up being with nursing students and people because I am not ready to give up the awesome opportunity to make a positive difference to someone in crisis [patient/family] or to a struggling student [many of whom are career-changing due to lack of employment in their previous field]).
    I believe one area of creativity that God gave me is the gift of Barnabas–encouragement. This just comes naturally to me, yet it seems to be lacking in the world today and especially in teaching, specifically teaching nursing–you would not believe some of what faculty says to the students. My philosophy is your success as a student and then as a nurse reflects back to me and allows my (small) influence to spread to all for whom you give care.
    I have begun a file of teaching tips that I hope to compile into a short book to help other clinical instructors. I have the “goal” of adding to it after every clinical, over the course of a year or so, and then organizing it into a book. Maybe an e-pub, to make it readily available to those who teach future nurses. It is easy to hound-wind in avoidance of jotting notes.
    And, yes, I am a crafty person. I sew, quilt, work in mixed media, do papercraft and needlework. However, I am a recovering perfectionist and am beginning to accept imperfect work from myself, even though my Native American heritage believes that anything you make should have a flaw in order to acknowledge God as the only Perfect Creator. I do not have a problem with expecting perfection from others, as one statement I tell students is to strive for excellence, not perfection, as we are human and will make mistakes.

    • Dear Okla… I love that “gift of Barnabas”. I’d never heard that before. Thank you for the ways in which you create and especially for the work you do as a teacher.

  8. Nice reflection, Barb. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Regarding Question 1, I think my biggest obstacle to creativity is that I get frustrated with random bursts of inspired thoughts that I don’t make time to cultivate. I have a million good ideas (or so I think) that never see the light of day when it comes to my writing and social media work. Now not all of those ideas should see the light of day, of course, but I’ve been praying for better discipline and focus so that when I do have some margin in order to write, etc, I’ll be able to do so.

    • Lisa, this is probably why I keep notebooks EVERYWHERE, to capture those bursts. Many of the best ideas remain within them, but I’m learning to trust God’s plan for having that time to “cultivate”. You are in a beautiful, irreplaceable phase of life right now. Solitary time will come (far too soon!) and you do a great job with all that’s on your plate given your service to your family and our Church. I can’t wait to see the ideas yet to come!

  9. As has already been said, time constraints are a big obstacle to putting all those creative ideas into a finished product. I suppose I could solve that time problem by not going to work but then I’d have other problems, like how to pay the mortgage? Being creative in small things is important. I love to cook and entertain, but lately I cook for just me and my husband, but I put more effort into it because it’s a creative outlet m=for me. Other things I like to do have been temporarily put aside. Being creative is about possibilities and it is a way to nurture myself and those I love.

  10. Samantha Hough on

    When I sat down to read this week’s chapter, my first thought jumped straight to interest and how completely uncreative I am, in spite of all those super cute projects I’d love to make. Once I allowed to move past that, I would say my biggest hinderance to my creativity is the ability to just let go. For me, I think this is the result of spending ten years active duty military. Everything had a specific way it needed to be done, at a specific time, in a specific order. Creative free thinking was not encouraged. As I’ve been transitioning from a control-freak existence to that of a full-time mom and working at a Catholic retreat center, my ability to creatively think is slowly returning to me.

    I really liked the Bible passage in conjunction with this chapter. In this chapter, Lisa says to essentially bring glory to God, regardless of what we are doing. In our reluctant but obedient yeses, those are the ones we truly honor God. This has a lot of meaning for me in my life right now. To go from having forty people working for me, responsible for not only their professional but personal lives as well, making decisions that impacted people’s very lives to my days revolving around diapers, bottles, fruit snacks, nap times, and constantly dry hands from washing dishes all the time, I sometimes times lose perspective on my life. I am so grateful for the chance to be the one to raise my children, but sometimes it’s so unglamorous lol. Those are the moments that I try to take a step back and remind myself that I am exactly where God wants me and doing exactly what HE wants me to do. And doing those to the best of my ability, even though I often feel like I fall and fumble, that’s what matters.

    There is not one specific situation I can think of that really exemplifies my creativity. I’m a total procrastinator, but it’s not because I need the perfect conditions. For me, it’s because I work best under pressure. I thrive off deadlines. In fact, I really should be working on my paper that is due this weekend. But I probably won’t because there’s other things I’d rather do with my time right now, and I’ll whip that paper up at the last minute!

      • I stay far, far away from Pinterest. For me, it’s a near occasion of self-loathing.
        Glamour and creativity don’t have to go hand in hand. In fact, I’d bet that normally they DON’T. And the all-day, every-day shifting of gears that comes along with raising little ones is a creative challenge in and of itself. So be gentle with yourself!
        (As to the dry hands, get yourself a pair of dishwashing gloves. Best $3 you’ll ever spend.)

    • Samantha,
      I commend you for your military service. A noble and honorable career choice.
      I believe your “control-freak existence” to be an asset in chaotic and indecisive situations.
      Sounds like you have a strong spiritual foundation to keep your sanity about you in those unglamorous moments of motherhood that inevitably are the moments you will most cherish in the years to come.
      Best wishes to you and your family.
      Gina

    • Samantha, you are living your “Yes”. Perhaps even more so in recognizing that at times your giving of yourself to your current life’s work involves sacrifice and commitment, which you do out of love. I think I discovered this in my laundry room. I really don’t enjoy laundry, but I’ve turned that little workspace into a chapel of sorts with pictures of my boys, artwork from their school days, holy cards, inspirational quotes, etc. It’s not a “Pinterest” type of workspace. It’s messy and unorganized and totally “me”. Seeing my laundry room as a little chapel where I do work I don’t really enjoy out of love for my family and as a little act of prayer has made this into a chore I now sort of enjoy (after many years of working on this). I find God in that laundry room, I speak to him in the folding of my boys or husband’s clothes (praying for them). I praise him for the roof over our heads and electricity and detergent and clean water… it’s likely not what many others would think of as “creative” time, but for me laundry has become an act of love, prayer and creativity. Praying for you and your studies this morning.

  11. The biggest obstacle to my creativity is often deciding where to start and remembering to keep things simple. I usually do not receive peace until I remember to ask the Holy Spirit to guide me through my work. Once that prayer is said, I can proceed with all my imperfections, setbacks, unknowings, and blunders with a heavenly confidence similar to that of a child creating a drawing for God’s “refrigerator” in Heaven.

  12. I really enjoyed this chapter because I always want the stars to allign in order for me to get to bringing that idea I have to life. I have learned, slowly but surely, that I should trust the holy spirit to guide me. Writing for me is one of those things, as well as ideas for something I want to create and the list goes on and on. This is definetly something I need to keep praying about…knowing when it is right to say yes.

    • Elizabeth, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the chapter. I’m also glad that you shared your creative goal of writing! Praying that the trust to commit will deepen within all of us. Thank you for your “Yes”.

  13. Thanks Lisa and Gina for your encouragement!

    I am thankful for this chapter and Lisa,I find your thoughts about our avatars delightfully reassuring. Often I wake up before daylight and head to my studio. It’s only when I realize it is lunch time and pass by a mirror that I notice I am still in my robe sporting my “mad scientist” hairdo!
    Creativity and spirituality sprout from within, and the intensity of that sprouting can reveal itself like stitches on the back of a tapestry. Straggly, but strong threads holding it all together by sheer accidental binding. Miraculously by grace and our yes, consistent effort reveals something beautiful on the finished side. Thank goodness for Avatars!

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