When my daughter, Holly, was about two years old, we were sitting on the carpet drawing with crayons on a jumbo drawing pad. She was an avid Frozen fan, so I drew a picture of one of the main characters, Anna. This drawing was one of the first I had made for fun in a long time, and I was proud of how it turned out. As I admired my work, my daughter scribbled over my drawing. I broke down crying.
“This is my life now,” I thought to myself. The action of her scribbling over my artwork and the silly crayon drawing I had been proud of moments earlier felt like some sort of metaphor for my life. I was the hardworking art student turned teacher turned stay-at-home mom who was trying to figure out “what to do with my life” during, what I was calling, my quarter-life crisis.
Is It One or the Other?
My daughter’s non-malicious act of scribbling over my drawing felt like I was being told, “You don’t deserve to have dreams or happiness.”
As pathetic as it was to be crying over a crayon drawing of a cartoon character, I was frustrated and trying to find a balance between being a mom and an artist. I felt like I had to put my dreams and passions on hold. I would be able to pick up art again when my children had grown and I somehow magically had more free time… like when I was retired.
Anything for 15 Minutes
Sometime after the crayon art incident, I read the quote, “You can do anything for 15 minutes,” on a cleaning website. The idea was to not let perfectionism intimidate you from starting a task around the house. The author encouraged people to set a timer and see how much housework they could accomplish in 15 minutes. When I did this in my own home, I was surprised how much I could clean or declutter in a short amount of time. I thought to myself, “If I can do this around the house, then I can definitely set aside 15 minutes a day to do something I love, like drawing or painting.”
Matthew Kelly’s idea of keeping a Mass journal to help parishioners listen to the ways God speaks to us at Mass was the inspiration behind my first attempts to get back into art. I would bring little pieces of drawing paper to mass and try to listen to the ways I felt God was trying to speak to me through the readings, homilies, or music.
During Mass, I would write down a sentence or two as a personal Mass reflection. After my daughter went to bed, I would illustrate on the opposite side of my Mass reflection paper. I would set a timer for 15 minutes and draw my thoughts. The purpose wasn’t to make a perfect drawing, but to start the habit of doing something I loved and felt called to do in a prayerful way.
Pursuing my passion in the beginning felt kind of like going to the gym: a part of me didn’t want to go and I felt awkward. But I was always glad that I did the work. I had to establish the habit and start slow. Every night when the girls would go to bed, I would go to my art desk, set a timer for 15 minutes, and work until the alarm sounded. It felt like I had to re-train my drawing and creative muscles. But the more time that passed, the easier it became. I built up an endurance. Some nights I would paint for up to two hours at a time.
During this time of growth, there was a Teachable Tuesday talk with Beth Davis that especially made a connection with me and my journey. Beth talked about how fear tells us to “scale back, keep it small, to keep it comfortable…”
When she quoted 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love,” I felt more convicted to not let fear, doubt, or my twisted ideas of perfectionism and achievement prevent me from using my time and God-given talents to create. No more waiting for the so-called “perfect moment” (or until retirement) to pursue my passions!
Cultivating Our Passions Glorifies God
When I take time to practice art daily, I’m a better person. I’m using my time to reflect on and glorify God. This makes sense to me, knowing that my charism is Craftsmanship. In Sherry Waddell’s book The Quick and Catholic Charism Handbook, she says:
The charism of Craftsmanship empowers a Christian to be an effective channel of God’s goodness to others through artistic or creative work that beautifies and/or orders the physical world.
Since putting aside a minimum of 15 minutes a day to work creatively, my abilities as an artist have improved. My relationship with God has developed. It feels good for my soul because it’s the most natural way to express my faith. Sometimes when I do my 15 minutes, it can feel like I’m chipping away at an iceberg. Certain projects can take longer to complete. When I feel this way, I’m reminded of a quote by the famous Italian painter and sculptor Michelangelo: “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” God, the master Craftsman, always sees the big picture and helps guide us to the end result.
Discovering Your Passion
What passions has God given you? What might He be asking you to devote time to?
It can be a challenge to find the perfect time for those 15 minutes a day. Take a look at your current daily habits. Really scrutinize how you spend your day. Do you waste time on Netflix or social media? You probably have more pockets of time than you think! If you’re most productive in the morning, schedule your 15 minutes before you begin to get ready for work. Part of a lunch break can be utilized for pleasure reading or taking a walk.
If you want to work on a bigger passion project, think about how you can tackle it in smaller pieces. What is the easiest first step that you can take? For example, 15 minutes of prepping ingredients for baking the day before can make the task more enjoyable the following day.
If an activity like knitting or journaling is what brings you joy, you can make up a “go-bag” with the supplies you need so they’re all in one place and ready-to-go. A go-bag activity can easily be tackled in between classes on campus, while you’re waiting in the pick-up line at your child’s school, or when you have a scheduled break at work.
If you’ve figured out where to schedule your time but you’re not sure of where to start, you should start by asking God about it in prayer. Invite the Holy Spirit in and ask, “God, what do you love about me?”
Try to listen to how He’s inviting you to make changes to your life.
Writing a stream-of-consciousness list of things you’re passionate about (coffee, singing, bicycle rides, etc.) or your hopes and dreams (even if they seem silly or unattainable) can be helpful in giving you an idea of common themes or activities to try. Over time, I like to revisit my lists to see how God has worked in my life.
If you’re still stuck trying to figure out what your talents or passions are, you can ask a friend or family member, “What are my strengths? What’s something that comes naturally to me that may be harder for someone else?”
Asking someone for their opinion on your gifts shouldn’t be seen as an ego boost! We’re often our harshest critics. Asking a loved one can help give us a different (and more honest) perspective.
Are you currently pursuing your passions, or have they fallen to the side? What are your thoughts on devoting 15 minutes a day to what makes you come alive?
15 Minutes a Day: Cultivating Our Passions #BISblog //Click to tweet
Amy Heyse is an artist and mother who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her graphic designer husband. You can often find her trying to squeeze in time for personal art-making between motherhood and working as an art instructor at a local paint and sip studio. You can find out more about her here.