“I confess I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m simply throwing things against the wall, trying to find what sticks. I wasn’t out to serve—I didn’t think serving was the point of my artwork. I was out to make money because I need the income and thought I could do it this way.”
These are the words I recently penned to God in my journal. In my last blog post, I mentioned my need to spend time journaling and praying. I needed to bring all my concerns and frustrations to God rather than trying to chart my own course. I only opened my Etsy shop about a month ago, but I seemed to believe I’d have instant success.
My business didn’t take off quite the way I hoped it would. I started it with the end goal of selling art prints. I figured since this had worked for me in the past, it was God’s way of showing me what would work in the future. Truth be told, I hadn’t sold an art print since I was in college; I thought that was because I had given up the art form. I assumed if I jumped back into it and tried to sell what I made God would bless it.
I was wrong.
I serve a God who invites me to His table—regardless of whether I deserve my seat.
I don’t particularly enjoy admitting any of that. It makes me sound gross and concerned only with money which, I suppose, I have been. Thankfully, I serve a God who invites me to His table—regardless of whether I deserve my seat.
I’m reading through Nehemiah right now and was struck by a couple of things. The people completed a crazy amount of work, and they also renewed their commitment to God’s law. That’s how I feel right now, like I’m coming back and intend with all my heart to serve Him well. At the end of my journal entry, I started asking God some simple questions:
“How do you want me to serve with visual art? Can I even serve that way?”
“In what ways would you have me work?”
“Are there doors for me to knock on? Or am I on the other side, waiting for the knock?”
I asked Him to direct my path and explained how I’d like to work: part-time and remote so that I can continue creating the other half of the time.
The next day held a couple of sweet surprises for me. I had been working with a writer friend to design her eBook cover. I volunteered to do it because it’s something I enjoy. Once the cover was selected, I also volunteered to create some images of the cover mocked up on an e-reader. She loved them and I was so happy! She was incredibly sweet and asked if she could at least tip me for the work. I hadn’t anticipated payment of any kind so that was the cherry on top.
That evening I woke up during the night and rolled over to check the time on my phone. To my surprise, I was greeted with a notification that I had made my first sale on Etsy! It was for the printable planner sheets I had designed, not for an art print. I was so excited to have made any sale at all that I couldn’t get back to sleep for a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, as is often the way with us humans, I quickly forgot about those successes. I started to become discouraged and frustrated again. I wanted to know if I was wasting my time trying to sell art prints. I prayed again and was honest about my struggles. I saw no point in creating more art if no one wanted it. I didn’t want a bunch of things lying around collecting dust. Art is meant to be seen—if only by the creator—but I knew I wasn’t going to hang up a ton of my own art.
The next day, after church ended, I looked at my phone and saw a notification. Someone had bought not one, but two of my prints. I was thrilled! I packed and shipped them off the next day, reminded once again of how much I love having my own business.
What those experiences have taught me is that a lack of results doesn’t necessarily mean I’m on the wrong path. Sometimes it takes a while for people to find my work, but mostly, I think God wants me to invite Him into it. He wants to be part of what’s going on in my life, and the truth is that nothing meaningful is going to happen without Him. He needed me to get to a point where I would slow down, start to question everything, and bring it to Him. He renewed the desire of my heart—but only after I asked Him to lead.
It’s a difficult thing to balance my ambitions with the heart of God. I struggle with this daily, but I have at least learned not to rest on my laurels. Instead, I’m learning all over again that I serve a God who is incredibly personal and wants to be part of my life. Amen.