A new Yes

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage
—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically,
 to say “no” to other things. 
And the way you do that is by
 having a bigger “yes” burning inside.  
Stephen R. Covey
About 4 years ago I went to a Time Out for women. I remember listening to a speaker and he was talking about dreams and goals. He asked us to make a list of things we wanted to accomplish in the next  five or ten years. So I started writing. He then said to look at our list and take off the items that are about our husband and our children. He explained that this list was supposed to be just goals for us.  I sat there and stared at my notebook and started to sob. I remember being mortified about it and trying to find a way to sneak out.
Brad had been killed less than a year earlier. I was still in survival mode. Not thinking much more than a few days ahead. That was all I could deal with. So being asked to think 5 or 10 years down the road was not just overwhelming, but heartbreaking for me.  My whole life was different than what I ever had planned or imagined. 
I kept trying to think of something to write. I could think of things that I wanted to learn, places to visit or fun things to go do… but they all seemed very superficial to me. Not worthy of a long term goal.
Brad not being physically here changed everything. See, we were supposed to have 4 or 5 kids, explore the world together and raise our little family. Teach and laugh and learn together. And someday when our kids were grown we were supposed to retire together and sit on our porch holding hands. 
Every dream, every hope I had for my life could not exist without him.
That feeling I had that day has been a hard one for me to process. I’ve been working on it for years. Coming to terms with having to change all your hopes and dreams is hard.  And trying to find new ones….
 well, for me, that was even harder. 
Obviously, my girls are my greatest joy. I feel so privileged to be their mother. They are my first and most important priority. And they always will be.  But I could see the value in having goals and dreams of my own. Because one day I would be on my own. And I needed to be able to be happy with that.  I needed to find something that I loved to do. Something that I was passionate about…. 
I kind of always knew what it was. It’s kind of always been there. This little dream. Just waiting patiently to be let out.  It was something that was never practical so I just ignored it. But when I asked myself, What would I do if I could do anything in the world?
 That little dream jumped up and yelled. 
So I knew what it was long before I dared to do anything about it. It makes me sound really wimpy, but I THOUGHT about starting on that little dream for years… but I didn’t even dare say it aloud. (because it sounds kind of goofy) and i didn’t ever dare actually START it, because, well, I hand no idea HOW to do it….
So fast forward a few years and I’m sitting at a retreat for military widows in Seattle. We are all talking and Taryn, (founder of American Widow Project) asks me what I’m passionate about. What I want to DO with my life. And I start talking about my beautiful girls…. and she says, ok, but what about YOU? What do you want to do? And you know, that little dream just spilled out. Maybe it was because I was with a bunch of people I just met, and may not see again so i wasn’t afraid of what they thought?  Maybe it was because I felt like they “got it” {other widows are really good at “getting it”}
I told them, “Someday I’m going to be an artist.”  
And you know what? they didn’t laugh –  They didn’t say well, that’s a nerdy dream.  They didn’t ask why or what is so special about that? 
But they did say one important thing, 
 WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? 
{and they didn’t buy my big plan about not being able to do it till Addie was in school all day or figuring out how to fit college into my life}
I came home inspired and signed up for my first art class in my life.
{did I add that I had zero skills to go along with this little dream?}
That was last summer. Over this past year I’ve been having fun playing with paint. And I’ve figured a few things out. The most important thing being that I LOVE doing this. I can not believe how happy it makes me. I really am feeling so grateful that I’ve found something that I love to do so much. And it has come at the perfect time in my life. I was dreading my baby starting school and I was REALLY dreading my sweet Tyler moving away to college.  It sounds dorky, but being able to go down in my little art cave has really helped me deal with all those changes. 
I used to be nervous to show my work to anyone. I thought I would be hurt if people didn’t love it. But, I’ve found that I’m not concerned about that anymore. I don’t really care if anyone else likes it, or if I ever sell a painting.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE every second spent creating these little works of art. and that, I’ve decided is what matters.
So if you can’t find me I’m probably in my basement jamming to Spotify, covered in paint. And maybe a few happy tears might be sneaking out,  because I found a new Yes. 
p.s. I’m saying no to cupcakes.
p.p.s. If you need Brad that’s where he’ll be as well.

  • Mande Opheikens - I love this post! Absolutely love this post! And I'm so proud of you for following your dreams to become an artist! Where can I place an order!? No seriously…..I'm dying to have one of these hanging on my walls. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jen - Mande you are so sweet! Most of the ones from the pictures are sold… so I need to get to work! (yay!) I'm working on an Etsy store…. I'll let you know when that is up.ReplyCancel

  • Janine - Wow!! Your art is beautiful! And you are so right. Creating has a way of reaching down deep into our souls. My theory is it is because God is so creative and we are made in His image. Art is important stuff. So glad you found it. And I look forward to seeing your Etsy store too!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - I need the "You are my sunshine" one IMMEDIATELY!!!ReplyCancel

  • Shawna - I am looking for my "ah-ha" moment with art. I started about 6 months ago. Still haven't found my "thing"…. Your art is amazing and I have been blessed by your story. Thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Parkside View - This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • Parkside View - "'I told them, "Someday I'm going to be an artist.'"

    I think that is so interesting that you said that. For all I know, you have always been an artist. As long as I've known you, you have created beautiful things. I'm glad you feel comfortable with assuming the title. It is definitely meant to be yours.

    Thank you for making me consider what my personal "Yes" might be. Perhaps someday soon I will feel brave enough to share it out loud as well.

    As always, you continue to inspire me…but I guess that should come as no surprise, for that's what artists do. They inspire others.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - Love you Amber 🙂 It's scary to say that new yes out loud – but it's also a really good feeling to let it out. I'm excited to see what yours isReplyCancel

  • Jen - Thank you Shawna. It took me a long time to find my thing – and i still feel like it's evolving… thank you for reading.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - I completely agree with that Janine! I always fill like i am fulfilling some innate desire when I get to create something. Thank you for reading 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kalani - My uber talented wonderful sister you are amazing and have always been an artist in my mind 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - I just ran across your blog and it is exactly what I needed to hear. I have 3 children, one 17 and getting ready to leave for college and go on a mission. My youngest 10. Last year I had a stillborn baby after years of trying for another child. I am no longer able to carry babies. I have been suffering so much with what I'm supposed to do now. Now that I have no babies to raise, what do I do? This was not the plan. We wanted a BIG family. You have inspired me to find my "Yes." Like you, I think I know what it is. Perhaps now I will have the courage to do it. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Jen - 🙂 love you Kalani.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - I am so happy to hear you got something positive out of this little blog. yes! you have the courage to do it. (you'll know when the time is right) Thank you so much for your kind words and for readingReplyCancel

  • Dave n Bre plus thr3e! :o) - Jen, Oh my word!! You are fabulous and I LOVE every.single.one of your pieces!! I deffinitely would love one, no some. 🙂 You are such an inspiration and example to me. I am so lucky to know such an amazing, beautiful (Inside and out) person!! ~Bre:)ReplyCancel

  • Jen - 🙂 thanks Bre! You made my day.ReplyCancel

  • Veronica@ChaosInMyCasa - Thank you for sharing your story. I saw your work at the AWP gala and was so inspired by your words that night. I always wanted to express myself through art, but told myself I wasn't born with a natural talent for it and therefore never even tried to pursue that interest. I'm thinking now is the time to just go for it, but I'm curious as to whether you took online classes or if you attend a local college? I have a 4 yr old so I'm leaning more towards something online. I would appreciate any advice you could share. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - Hi Veronica. Thank you so much for your note. (I just went to your blog and it looks FAB. I can't wait to go through it.) I will tell you that I never have had any natural talent for art either 🙂 so don't let that stop you. You should just go for it! I was always planning on going back to school when my girls were in school first time – but I decided to take an online class before then .(after attending that AWP event. The class I signed up for is called Brave Girls Art School. taught by Melody Ross. Just found her online and loved the look of what she did. I really liked the class. (and I'll be honest, I did about 2 or 3 of the homework assignments – and really enjoyed then and learned a lot and then life got busy and I haven't even done the rest. (you get a year of access and I'm thinking I've been kicked out now.) but I learned enough to start doing my own thing and that is what I've been doing since. Another class (that I've signed up for, but not actually done yet… 🙂 is one taught by Christy Tomlinson called She Art. I do plan on continuing with these – but right now I am having too much fun doing my own little thing. They both have blogs and websites. check them out. The Brave girls one has some of what I would call "soul Work" as well as art. I loved them. They get you thinking and teach you in a way that you aren't intimidated if you have never done art before – (which, really – I hadn't) Good Luck!ReplyCancel

  • Veronica@ChaosInMyCasa - Thanks so much for replying and for all the info! I came across Christy Tomlinson's website just the other day and was considering signing up for She Art 1, 2, and 3. I'm definitely checking out the Brave Girls Art School. My mother in law gave me a beginner's paint set for Christmas last year, and I have yet to even open it. It includes pastels, acrylics, canvases, and a bunch of other stuff and every time I look at it, I feel overwhelmed and end up sticking it back in my closet. I'm finally gonna give it a try and see what I come up with 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jen - Don't be overwhelmed. Christy Tomlinson even has free youtube videos – watch a few of those. I have found making art to be SO healing for me…. it really doesn't even matter about the finished project. But creating it has been such a good thing. I was seriously just like you. Thought I had no talent for it, thought about doing it all the time and was just scared to start because I worried I wouldn't be able to make anything that looked good. Don't worry about that and just start creating. I'm guessing you will love it.ReplyCancel