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Finding Your Creative Side - The Gathering Retreat

I am NOT creative. That’s the lie I used to tell myself.

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My peers who could draw, paint, and mold perfect mugs were the creative ones. No one ever taught me that creativity was confined to art class, but somewhere along the way that was the how I started to define creative.

We are taught that the more we practice, the better we get. So, I drew my little heart out on scrap pieces of paper and on my school desks and in my notebooks. No one has ever seen those attempts. I tossed them all. They were awful. And I’m not degrading myself here - just stating the facts. Drawing is not one of my strengths (just ask my insanely talented 9 year old). I resigned myself to not being creative and focused on things I was better at - music, writing, being a good friend and making cookies.

The past few years, however, my definition of creative has broadened. I’ve (literally) seen the light. After I had my first child, I became obsessed with learning all I could about photography. I studied, I read the camera manual, I had a friend teach me some basics and then I practiced my heart out on anyone and everything that would let me. And guess what? I actually started to produce pretty decent images and I really enjoyed it. And any time I could spare, I picked up my camera and practiced some more. It gave me an outlet when I was bored or sad or needed to be around people. It gave me something positive to focus my energy on.

finding your creative side

Photography kept me highly entertained during an extremely challenging decade of life. It was a creative outlet.

Lately, I’ve felt the need to shake things up and look for more ways to be creative. I have noticed that when I strive to use my strengths to make something happen, I feel better about myself and I feel like I’m using the gifts God gave me to bring joy to others. Win-win.

I have never really considered myself much of an event/party planner. But, I do love being with people who have common interests. Parties with no purpose? Nah, not my thing. A gathering where people are creating, talking or celebrating something specific? I’m all in.

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My middle child loves to get together with her friends, but she has a hard time socializing in groups. She’s pretty good one on one, but tends to freeze up when there are more people involved. So, it’s been a goal of mine to figure out how to help her feel more comfortable in social settings. This summer, I decided to use one of her favorite things to get her in a situation she’d normally find uncomfortable. I mentioned before she’s my creative child - thus, Cupcake’s Craft Club was born (that little teal unicorn is named Cupcake). We invited a few of her favorite friends to our house and I planned a t-shirt making party with a 4th of July theme. It was a huge success and I watched my socially anxious child giggle the day away with good friends while they ate tons of candy and made super cute star t-shirts. There I go, being creative again.

Creativity, to me, means discovering new ways to use the gifts you have been blessed with. I might not be great with traditional art, but I am great at seeing the light in other people and trying to help them see the beauty within. I’m not crafty, but I am good at seeing my child’s needs and figuring out ways to help them make their weak things become strong.

I encourage you to spend some time thinking how you can use your strengths to be creative. Find a way to use them to bless the lives of someone else. You will be surprised with what you discover.

Fresh Face Friday - Madeline

With my son’s Birthday being last Friday and having family in town, I decided to push back this interview a week. I have watched this awesome person grow from infant to the amazing adult she is today. She is such a joy to know and it has been really fun to watch how she navigates the different stages of life. She was also the first teenager I trusted to babysit my kids. I asked Madeline kind of a hodge podge of questions on different topics and I loved reading what she had to say. I know we can all learn something from her.

Meet Madeline.

Fresh Face Friday Interview Madeline

(1) Tell everyone about you.

I am a 23 year old redhead married to the love of my life, Pete. We met at Utah State University in January 2014, dated on and off, and have been blissfully married for almost a year and a half. After graduating from USU in 2017, Pete and I moved to Boston, Massachusetts. He is an officer in the Air Force and I work as a Fitness Professional and Nutrition Coach at Life Time Athletic. My family and I are from Michigan - I grew up in Lake Orion for most of my life. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all very close while I was growing up. We are still close today thanks to a plethora of group chats.

(2) I know for a fact you have strong relationships within your family. How has that impacted your life path?

Because I was so close with my family while I was growing up, I had many great examples to look up to. The idea of the human I aspired (and still aspire) to be was set by the family I was surrounded with as a girl. Family and friends mold who you are and who you can be, and my family did me a great service by leading me down a path of happiness with their examples.

(3) What is the biggest lesson you have learned from life’s challenges?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from life challenges so far is that the Lord has a supportive hand in all that we go through. The good, the bad, the dirty. No matter what, He’s watching over us. Everything happens for a reason, and we are meant to have joy.

(4) When you don’t get what you want, how do you move forward?

I have a really hard time when things don’t work the way I plan. And it’s not in a spoiled brat kind of way, I just love to plan and know what’s happening. I’m very organized. Moving forward is difficult for me. I remind myself that it’s okay to have time to adjust and for me that means some crying, lots of exercising, cooking, and cuddles with Pete. After giving myself some time, I regroup and come up with the positives of the situation, and make a new plan. It’s essential for me to not force myself into faking it when things are difficult. Taking time to feel emotions and work through them in the best way for YOU is important for everyone, I think.

(5) How does your career help you build confidence?

My career as a personal trainer helps me build confidence in myself, sure, but more importantly I get to build the confidence of others. The opportunities that I’m able to present my clients may be challenging at first, but seeing their confidence build over time is extremely rewarding.

(6) What advice would you give to your younger self?

If I could give any advice to my younger self, I’d say to not be afraid of the things that other people think. I spent so much time worrying about being judged by others that I didn’t let me be myself until I was a Junior in high school. That was when I realized, through several different experiences, that it truly doesn’t matter what people think…and life is way more fun this way.

(7) Biggest lesson you’ve learned from your friends?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my friends is that true friendship is invaluable. Those friends, the ones who really love you for who you are and don’t judge you for your shortcomings, they’re priceless. And, we need our friends. As much as I love my husband and my family, my girl friends are a very close second. I love you guys!

(8) Why does taking care of your body matter so much?

Our bodies are very important gifts. Taking care of your body means something different to everyone - but to me, taking care of my body is so important because I want to be respectful to the gift I’ve been given. Have you ever eaten something that made you feel terrible? Or gone a long while without being active? I hate feeling like that, and I listen to my body when it says it doesn’t like something. My body likes exercise. My body loves a balanced diet. My body needs good sleeping routines and habits. Have you ever noticed what your body is trying to tell you? Listen to it! You don’t have to feel gross inside, and food and exercise has a lot to do with how we think and feel. Take care of it so it will take care of you.

(9) What encourages you to keep growing and learning new things?

I’m fascinated by learning. There is a vast array of information out there, and I wish I could learn everything! I am inspired by the fact that we can take our knowledge with us. Of all the things we don’t get to take with us after this life is over, our knowledge remains. That’s encouraging. My efforts to gain knowledge won’t go to waste like the efforts to gain almost anything else in this life that is temporal.

(10) What has surprised you about life after high school?

I am surprised that life after school doesn’t stop. It sounds silly, but there’s no scheduled breaks in the work-world. Of course, I knew that before, but being in the groove of school since I can remember, it’s weird to not have those breaks. No summer vacation. No winter break to go home and visit family. No extended time off, really. And working at a gym makes that especially true because it almost never closes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and not taking exams anymore, but the breaks…I miss those.

(11) Who in your family do you turn to when you need advice?

I turn to my mom and my husband when I need advice. Both of them are extremely invested in my happiness and can help me see the big picture when I can’t. They give wonderful advice and help me all the time.

(12) What character trait has helped you the most?

The trait that has helped me the most is my thoughtfulness. I’ve been blessed to be able to sympathize with people around me and I’ve never regretted being kind or going the extra mile for someone. i love helping people.

(13) What are your Top 3 tips for kids getting ready to leave home?

#1 - Get a calendar and stay organized! Respect the time you have as well as the time of others. That can apply to your job, friends, school, family, etc. When you move away from home you realize that you need to make time for the people/things that matter most because nobody else is going to force you to make time for anything. That being said, don’t be afraid to take time to live in the moment. Some of my favorite memories are when I allowed time to kind of stand still and soak in the time I get with family and friends.

#2 - Jump right in - get out of your bubble, people!! With nothing but a car-full of stuff and my faith, I moved 2,500 miles from home with the closest relative living three hours away from me. I knew nothing and no one and it was the absolute best decision I ever made. I have EVERYTHING I have now because I got out of my comfort zone and away from everything I was familiar with. Scary? Sure. Exciting? Yeah. Worth it? Just ask Pete how many times I will cry in random moments because I’m overflowing with happiness…100% worth it.

#3 - Think about the kind of person you want to become and make choices to get you there. Will living with those people help you be your best? What will living in that city/town do for you? What kinds of situations will you be place in in that environment? Usually, you won’t know what the future will hold, but when you are independent you can control where you live. And when you choose where you live, you choose the kind of people you’re surrounded with, and when you choose the kind of people you’re surrounded with, you choose the kind of person you’re going to turn into. Even if you don’t realize it, you’re a product of your environment in some way - and you CAN do this!

(14) Fun Facts:

Favorite Cookie - Salted Caramel

Favorite Place - Crete

Next bucket list trip - Spain/Italy

Favorite Date Night - walking around Cambridge/Boston area

Favorite Book - Slade House

Favorite Movie - Sherlock Holmes

Morning or Night person - Morning person allllll the way

Favorite thing about where you live - I love that we live in a suburban area, but we can drive just 20 minutes and be in the heart of a beautiful city with an amazing history.

Do you love her as much as I do? I love her advice to be conscious about the kind of person you want to be and then make choices accordingly. So wise.

This will be the last interview for the year. Fresh Face will be back after the holidays with more awesome people you should know.