As I prepare for the holiday season this year, it's amazing to see how much my little business (and myself) has grown. How I've followed a path to who-knows-where not because it would be so immediately profitable, or the exchange of time would match the received amount of money; or because it was the direct manifestation of everything I invested in as a young person (a college degree, 'finding myself,' having a 9-5, desiring stability- all the things they tell you to do), but because I simply loved it.
And like any object of our love, if we're loving it well, we should see it grow.
That's been a gratifying, empowering feeling.
To watch it grow into something bigger, something more sure of itself, something that spreads light to more people. Something powerful but humble. Something ever-changing but rooted in secure soil. These are principles that are deeper than what I thought I needed to propel a successful business: I needed them to propel a successful life.
The world's definition of success doesn't always match them, of course. The world thinks of success often in terms of money and comfort; in terms of 'how much better I am doing than the other guy,' (competition and comparison), in terms of how well I am fitting in and influencing others- how well I am liked and accepted.
And of course you can have all these things (money, comfort, more than the next guy; popularity, influence, and acceptance), and still feel really empty.
I noticed that building a business (which, as twenty-something, happened to be at the same time I was building a life and a character):
that even if this goes well, it's not actually going to change how successful I believe I am.
It is very possible that I could gain the approval of lots of people with pretty pictures and inspiring messages, and still not really know myself, and love myself for it; know my real worth; understand that what I do and what I make aren't ever really going to be 'enough,' in terms of self-definition, love, and worth.
It has been more sacrificial than comfortable to chose another path.
This is, understandably, how principles of faith have become a part of my search for a real, authentic, true life. Mark 8:36 asks us, 'what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?' As I build a business and a life, that question has my answer: it's no good. Whereas I used to believe it was good (I need security, I need money, I need all things things and then I can work on that abstract concept called 'my soul'), I'm realizing that my soul is all I really am.
Ultimately, the whole world- money, success, prestige, popularity, acceptance, image, how things seemed- now in the present moment and fifty years from now, will not be what I remember about my existence. I'll only remember what I loved.
And I want to remember what I did about that, not what I was afraid to do because I anxiously chased security more than I sought the restfulness of my own being.
It is joy-inducing to see my business grow. It's an unmatched feeling to hear from other people that something I created brightened their life in some way. Those random emails from total strangers somewhere else in the world that wanted a painting or just to tell me that some words I wrote helped them in some way; there's nothing like that.
When we extend those kinds of gestures, the kind that help someone else's soul heal versus just our own ego advance, we represent the heart of Christ. And since that's the goal of my life, that's the goal of everything in my life, including art and my business. I want the belief in my heart to be bigger than the doubt I've created in my mind. I want that- other peoples' healing- to be my success, versus just a business that's 'doing well.'
It's been amazing to look back over the past three holiday seasons and see more and more of this vision come to life: more to share, more work coming out of me, more creative ways of getting it out there and- the best thing- more incredible people in my path who love and support it.
I didn't have that when I started as an artist; the decision to be true to myself and my goals actually drove many of the people who were once in my life away. As my values shifted from comfort, money, image, and self-reliance to adventure, love, authenticity, and trust in the Lord, naturally, I lost a lot of people.
And that was really scary. Rejection- especially from those closest to you- is scary, scarring, and trust-shattering. And the possibility of failure and 'not being good enough' (no matter how good you are) is still scary. But the losses have revealed to me that while love is not always convenient, it is always right to give. With self-confidence, it is a feeling that can easily be justified against; but with faith, it is a conviction.
I've learned it's important to stand by people for who they are, not for who we wish they were, and it's important to follow through with what we love- any under or as-yet developed thing (a business, an idea, another person, our faith, ourselves) because the chance to invest always yields more in the end than simply jumping from comfort to comfort.
It's an eternal principle that doesn't always fit into the world's fast-track thinking, but it also never fails. Whatever we love well grows. Definitely over time, certainly slowly, but always without fail.
So here's to planting more love this upcoming holiday season- and manifesting it for years to come.