Cultivate (2016 Word of the Year)

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, but after the gift giving season and during Christmastide, some resolutions just kept haunting me. Rather than a post chock-full of them, I decided to do a word of the year resolution with aim to satisfy this particular need over the next twelve months. Maybe you will join me and the countless other bloggers in this kind of New Year’s one word blog posting?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been a creator of things. Some good, some really bad, but none spectacular. A “jack of all trades” is how it has been described to me. Basically, I do a lot of different things all right, but I have honed my skills in on nothing in particular. I do nothing perfectly. In fact, “perfectionist” would be the last word I would ever use to describe myself. People have always known me as crafty, artsy, and dreamy. I’m glad to be who I am, and I’m okay with the fact that I’m into way too many things. I have fun that way. But somewhere along the line, I lost my ability to be inspired in my artistic side. I think I kind of lost myself a little bit through the loss of inspiration.

What I have realized is that the expectation for me to “create” has prohibited me from being able to create anything guilt-free in a long time (with a couple of exceptions). I’ve been so overrun with guilt about anything I create because I can’t do it fast enough, or thoughtful enough, or personalized enough to keep up with “demand.” Isn’t that silly?

I think that because I have always been “artsy Hannah,” there has been an expectation that I would use that creative side for anything and everything except to just simply create. Anniversaries came around, birthdays came around, holidays came around, and I undertook projects that were just much too ambitious, and then I didn’t finish them on time, so I became plagued by guilt. After giving handmade gifts that I was happy to see someone receive, it would always feel like the bar had been raised and so the next gift must be greater and MORE thoughtful. It was never just giving selflessly and meaningfully because I just felt like a sweatshop!

Part of the reason for that cycle was that I was always designing something with the person in mind, rather than letting inspiration strike. I truly believe that God is the author of inspiration, and since I was too busy being a busybody to be open to his inspiration, how was I supposed to be inspired? Here I am, years later, finally realizing that I need to stop being a Martha (my true saint of confirmation) in my creativity.

When I was reflecting on the gifts I’ve been given, I stumbled into the realization that the reason I don’t do any one specific thing passionately is that my gift or talent is NOT that gift! My gift is that I have a hunger for knowledge! I want to know how to do things, and I want to do those things as an offering. Not an offering to people (you know, so that they like me) but an offering back to God. I haven’t been able to use my gift of late because I’ve just been squandering it by my desire to sate the appetites of the people of whom I want to love me.

It’s always a good thing to give somebody a gift, but the manner in which you give it defines whether or not it’s really a gift. I am not really sure if I’ve been giving very many gifts lately…

I did mention that there were some exceptions to my creativity. Exceptions that were truly inspired. Exceptions that came from my heart. Exceptions that were open to God. Specifically, these exceptions come in the art format.

When Eliot was a few weeks old, he took many naps (can I laugh here, out of exhaustion?). I found myself with time and inspiration to capture his beautiful sleeping expressions and practice drawing. It was the one creative thing I had done in years that didn’t stress me out while doing it! There was no guilt to it, and it wasn’t to please anybody. It was simply drawing.

That first drawing that I finished was out on the floor when Daniel came home from school. It wasn’t really all that special to me, but it was fun to do, and a good meditation on the special blessing that a child brings to a family. Upon seeing it, Daniel exclaimed and begged to have it for his studio one day. I was embarrassed, but flattered, and promised him that he could have it if he really wanted it.


Apparently, the little drawing that came about through spontaneous inspiration was a treasure to someone close to me, and I did NOT set out to make it so! I didn’t set out to make Daniel like me, or flatter me… I set out to just be inspired and practice a hobby… Somehow, through my lack of planning, God blessed someone else. I think my plans are getting in the way of truly blessing people because of my selfish desire to get on somebody’s nice list.

After a lot of thought, I have decided that 2016 is the year that I will not set out. I will not set out to make people like me. I will not set out to make the gifts that I give. I will not set out to meet expectations.

Instead, 2016 will be the year that I “cultivate.” I want to spend this year growing in knowledge and inspiration, and I want to be open to whatever God might have for me where my creative life is concerned. I want to cultivate certain hobbies and skills and I just want to be an artist in all the ways that might entail. When inspiration strikes, I don’t want a list that is a mile long of projects I need to work on, finish up, or start before I can satisfy the urge to be an artist.

Right now, I have two projects that I have to finish up because I committed to doing them for some people and I do not want to go back on my word, but then I’m closing up shop for all holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, second breakfasts, brunches, elevenses, and lunches. Not that I won’t give homemade gifts at all this year, because I still might. But just that those gifts won’t be preconceived. They’ll simply just be inspiration, both in creation and in gifting. And above all, it will be for God and not to gain affection from people!

Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, Colossians 3:23

P.S. Who else has to stop midway through typing a post to nurse a wee squalling babe? I gotta figure out how to do it at the same time… #mombloggerproblems


4 thoughts on “Cultivate (2016 Word of the Year)

  1. beautiful reflection Hannah! I am sure the year ahead will hold many wonderful discoveries with such a thoughtful ambition! Bless you!!
    And I haven’t figured out the nursing and typing thing yet… would be handy!

  2. Oh my goodness. I can’t even tell you how much I identify with this. I had to switch from tablet to laptop because I couldn’t type everything I wanted to say without getting ridiculously frustrated trying to type on my tablet. The pressure to create has always stressed me out because I get carried away trying to use it to please other people (when it often goes unappreciated) instead of just being fine flitting from one hobby to another for my own sake. I love knowing how to do things, but then I think if I can do it, then I SHOULD do it. Like last Christmas when I made everyone soaps and lotions. I’m pretty sure all of about 3 people actually appreciated it, and then everyone else probably thought nothing of all the effort that went into it. That’s always really ruined creativity for me. I used to be like a cosmetology wizard when I was like 12, and I remember once I did a BEAUTIFUL french manicure for my friend’s mom, and then she promptly took it all off and repainted her nails! That’s my earliest memory of not wanting to…prostitute….my hobbies and talents (for lack of better word). I wish I could learn how to create without that pressure, but unfortunately my inability to just create for the sake of creating determined my major in college. I really wanted to at least minor in painting, but art classes totally ruined art for me because everything had a deadline and it was all assigned rather than being truly inspired. I hated that feeling, and I didn’t paint for nearly a year after my last studio class. Then choir ruined singing for me and I only do it from the back pew now. It’s all because I never really learned how to just cultivate the knowledge and really use it to be divinely inspired and invite blessing. I wanted to impress people, and that always disappointed me because I could barely even impress myself because I set the bar so high. That’s kind of why I started doing my little saint paintings and bible verses. I used to do really ambitious paintings but even when they weren’t for anyone, I never invited God into the process. As sad as it makes me that I feel like I’m losing that talent, I know I’m less stressed with what I have chosen to do, and oftentimes it has influenced others. A friend of mine asked me to paint her friend’s confirmation saint after she strayed from the church and then the next week I saw her at church!

    I might borrow this New Year’s Resolution. Although, maybe I’ll borrow the idea of one word and say that mine will be determination. I always give up on everything so easily, so there are several things I’m determined to do. I really let my health go last year and even though I gained the weight I needed to, I am grossly out of shape. So, I’m determined to cook healthy meals (especially since now I will have the time and energy) and to exercise every day (I had the most wonderful yoga practice in which I said the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy today….killing two birds with one stone!)

    • I have to be so careful about my attitude all the time. I’m so prone to try to please people and so I’m very aware of triggers that make me fall into that again. I never realized that my creativity was one of them until just recently. I love the art that you make and the saints paintings. So wonderful. I especially love the Holy Family that you did (I still need to get a frame for it). I think there’s plenty to be said about just waiting in your creativity for divine inspiration, or simply just practicing your trade and seeing where that takes you.

      It’s totally not my idea to do a word of the year post. Lots of bloggers do, so feel free to steal away! And I love your yoga idea! I actually have been thinking of training for a 5k recently and I was thinking how great it would be to load audible rosaries and chaplets onto my phone and praying while running! I used to do it in the car on the way to work, but now that I don’t have a commute, I’ve lost my outlet a little bit.

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