I haven't been able to share anything on my blog for a while. I have been so busy working on our paper collections over at Ivytree Studio. Just love working with our own pattern paper so much. It is a real joy to create something digital and then see it come to life. The best part is to experience it being used by others. What a blessing!
As I am an avid cardmaker, I thought I would make something with our paper and share with you all but I would also like to share the inspiration behind Ivytree Studio's Friendship/Spring collection and it is going to be a bit of a long story, so get a cup of coffee and sit back and relax. I hope this inspires you a little, heals your heart a little and gives you hope.
Our latest collection is called "Friendship begins in the Heart". Friendship plays a really big part in most people's lives. For Highly Sensitive types like myself and most artists it doesn't come that easy. We sometimes come across being too intense, but we are such loyal and caring friends. We feel very deeply and therefore we care deeply...about EVERYTHING like you will see from my post. Mostly, we love having real and intimate friendships rather than hordes of friends that we hardly interact with....and end up hardly knowing. Our deepest desire is to be known and accepted, a desire I presume everybody has.
Something I have learned about myself is that I do not like to play games with people. What you see is what you get. But I have also realized that I really dislike it when people want to enter my life under false pretenses because they have some kind of need that they have to meet and that's the only reason they step forward to connect. A selfish desire. Friendship is about giving and receiving but in equal measures. As a believer and Christian, it is also very difficult for me to play these games. I believe God wants us to love and love deeply and honestly. We cannot do this freely if we feel we owe people something.
What complicates the desire for relationships and honest friendships is when you need to earn a living. Creating a start-up business from scratch and building it from the ground up, in times like these, are not an easy task. It has an impact on your time and energy like I have never experienced before and also has a similar impact on your relationships.
What blew me away was just because I suddenly had something to offer, after promoting our new business and product, people with similar interests took note and moved to connect with me. To be expected, right? This is when things get a bit blurry and is also when you need to be able to distinguish between good and bad, honest and dishonest, good intentions and really not so good. I was so excited to enter into a world I really have had a big interest in for a very long time. I was looking for like-minded souls and people who shared my excitement and love of paper, cardmaking, memorykeeping and mixed media art.
Now, they say it makes a difference if you tell your story. So, I am telling mine, but not to just put it out there. I want to make a difference in telling it. I want others to realize that sensitive artistic personalities have feelings...yes, deeper feelings than most and we pick up on so much around us. But I also want to tell you that when you connect with someone because you see they have something to offer you or they have something you want, they way in which you deal with them, the way in getting it from them, matters. OR even the other way around: When you think someone wants something from you, and you don't want to give it, how do you respond and put down a boundary.
Then there is the issue of gifts. We all have them. It may differ from person to person, but put a bunch of creative souls together and you either have one big happy family or one big reason for competing with each-other. And that's where your heart comes in. If you have the right heart and all is well with it and you have dealt with past hurts and you know that God is the Healer and Protector of that heart, you enter into every situation with confidence. Then there is no reason for competing with others or protecting your heart in advance in fear of it being broken again. There is no fear of rejection and you can step forward in freedom into new experiences, into new relationships and into new ventures. You can share your gifts freely without feeling that others will "steal" from you. You won't be defensive. You won't exclude others just because you feel they "may" hold some sort of threat to your heart.
Now, imagine a group of ladies who are not just talented, but also say they share the same interests and gifting and on top of that, they declare publicly that they are believers...Christians. At this point I am not really referring to those who do not share the same belief system. It is expected that when engaging with mixed groups of people with various beliefs, their will at some point be reasons for conflict or stress. I am more concerned about those who, like me, declare that they love Christ. We are held at a higher standard. We have to be strong. We have to be kind. We have to reflect our Savior.
This is the challenge. This is what broke my heart and after months I am still affected by my experience. I must add that I have had similar experiences in various different environments over the years since I've been a believer, and what saddens me is how fellow believers treat each other...not how the world treats us, but how we treat each other.
I have mulled it over and over in my head and I think it brought me to this post...writing it down here to maybe make sense of it. To understand it and the reasons behind it.
The theme of friendship and being friends, true and honest friends who stand by each other, has a grip on my heart and I think that is why I feel so affected by my recent experiences. I desire true relationship with people I can trust. But then after also looking inward, I realized because my own heart is still in need of repair in certain areas, I also reacted in defense and tried to "protect" it. And I know that it is not the hurt the world give us that makes us barricade our hearts so much, it is the hurt we experience from our fellow friends in Christ...our family of believers....those blows hurt the most. From feeling rejected, judged, ignored, mistreated over time, disregarded, undervalued to feeling unloved. These cause the most harm and takes the longest to heal.
Now add the fact that you may just also be Highly Sensitive (check out the website and do the checklist if you want to know if are or not). This opens up a whole other string of issues like being a sponge who soaks up everything around you, having to carry it physically in your body and realizing that it may not even be your own burdens you carry. You feel sick and stuck for days until you detox from it. The way to do that can range from changing your scenery, relaxing, lots of sleep and surprise surprise...getting into your art studio and making some art.
Without going into the details, the following happened. The one moment I was very happy going about my creative journey. The next, people started to contact me form all over. Wanting to meet me. O.K. Doesn't sound too bad. Should be a good thing, right? Not so much. When you put yourself out there, you will get a response and not all responses are for your good.
What I realized was that the "industry" I now formed a part of, had a specific structure in connecting and dealing with each-other. Typically also, as South Africans we have become very protective of ourselves in the last 20 years and out of fear and nothing else, we act a certain way. This protectiveness and fear causes us to have no tolerance for others together with very aggressive behaviors and rudeness. This I find really sad and I pray that this attitude will change over time.
Interesting definition but not really totally applicable to the paper art "industry" in my country. This word is loosely used among a small group of people and they decide who forms part of their group and who doesn't. It is more of a "club". Don't get me wrong. I love clubs and this is a big club and a very lucrative one at that and the focus is very much as in any industry on the economics of it all. I understood that I had a lot to learn still. I embarked on a journey to know my "industry", my product but I soon came to realize I also had to know me, I had to know what it was that I wanted and needed to do and most of all how God wanted to use me. I know more now and I am more sure of how I should move ahead and how not to.
I ventured out to distribute my product like any entrepreneur would. I had a couple of channels to choose from and I followed the trail laid out in Social Media and the internet. I had a basic plan and I had a very loyal but small team behind me. One comment made was that we "came out of nowhere". I responded by saying that we have been here all along and God had His perfect timing for us to move into this playing-field at this specific time. I still don't understand the timing myself. Quickly within months I realized that we needed to stay independent. God was saying it out loud with each and every experience and interaction. One day I may come to understand why exactly things unfolded this exact way. For now I am satisfied with His leading that we should not commit our business or ourselves to anyone but Him. That does not however mean that He intends for us to go it alone or be isolated from others. Quite the opposite. We want to add value to people experiences in paper, paper art and memorykeeping. We have a unique thumbprint and a unique approach but it is still relatable. Our aim is to bring more local flair to our paper.
Because of what has stirred in me over time, I ventured forward to also create some content to remind myself and the "industry" how we should interact with each-other. No, I don't think that I know it all or that I am the expert who should show the way. What I do believe is that one person can make a difference. I wanted to try. So I put this (click on the link) out there in the world to see who would be brave enough to join in. It is not a way for me to score points in the "industry". Quite the opposite might be closer to reality. But what I do think it has ended up doing, is being a catalyst to get people thinking hopefully and contributed to a ripple effect in some respects. My hope is that people will be reminded of the true focus behind what we all do...not economics but people. People matter more.
There is a spirit of lovelessness circling the world. Not just in our own country but globally. As sensitive believers go, we have God's Spirit in us and I know He sometimes asks us to do things that will shake the world around us. It will not be accepted and it will not be welcomed but it doesn't mean we should not attempt the brave thing. I knew my stepping forward would shake some people's cages and others would outright be alarmed and even offended. Even though I anticipated this response, it still amazed me that one very lovely person stepped forward to engage with me on this venture and then without giving it half a chance, rejected it very quickly. She is also a believer. I think my need for new friendships and my naive heart that take people at their word and believe the best of them, made me fall. I was so upset and confused afterwards. The one moment we were both on the same page. I was willing to leap into trust and into a new connection and the only reason and requirement for my trust was "she was a believer like me...trust her blindly" and I did. The very next moment...literally a couple days later, we "didn't share the same vision" any-longer. I didn't contact her initially, she felt the need to contact me after someone prompted her to. What suddenly happened that she should change her mind so quickly without giving what she asked for in the first place a proper go? She lead me to believe very passionately that she was "on board" with the vision. I knew I hadn't changed over night and neither did the vision. So, what made her change her mind? I still don't know and understand it. Since the whole experience I have learned some valuable lessons to take with me and for this I am so thankful. God is so faithful and this experience made me see how He is always in every situation with me, guiding me, telling me what's going on, revealing His truth against the lies of the enemy and that is all that matters.
I felt I had to take a step back but before I could, another bang came my way. Yes, highly sensitive people are a little dramatic. ;) Well, you get the picture. It was not a pleasant thing that happened. I think that's also difficult if you are still processing on thing when another happens and another and another...your heart doesn't keep up especially if you take a little longer than most to move through it all. I normally have a little delayed reaction to experiences. This time it was closer to home and more personal. When I share this, I want you to know that this story in no way is a retaliation on anyone. This is my experience I share in the hope that lessons can be learned all round. My heart is really for peace and not for throwing stones back. I don't want to continue the hurt I experienced and I don't want someone else to feel that I am attacking them just to feel better myself. Both the people I refer to in this post, is still people...human and fragile and fallible and in need just like me and I have lots of grace for them like I naively hope they would have for me.
I have a point, I promise.
So, back to the "next blow". It was uncalled for. It was not based on the truth. At least not from my perspective. It was hurtful. It was intended as a protection for the other person's interests and it was a big fat slap in the face for me. "You are treading on my territory and you are not welcome here!" was the message received loud and clear. Now, imagine if this was someone you have prayed for, someone that you cared about, someone you held in high esteem, someone you supported over time and someone you have also learned from. Imagine this someone also sharing similar interests and gifting as you and that you had things in common...lots of things and even people. I desired to be a friend to this person. I had nothing much to offer but my friendship and care, but suddenly looking back over about 4 years since meeting in person, I realized that she never once felt the same or had the same desire. I think that's the bigger blow. Just dismissing you like you never mattered. As a Highly Sensitive person, I think that's the worst thing you could ever do to someone...make them feel inconsequential, that you never mattered to them at all...not over time, not recently...not at all. You never made in impression on them...you never once stepped forward in conversation or connection that it mattered to them. All the little moments that you thought of them...that God prompted your spirit to pray for them and their concerns...not one message you sent...nothing touched them. You didn't after all make any difference. To add insult to injury, now on top of all this, you also had to hear that they thought you were out to take something from them or use them and that your mere existence (which is still a mystery what exactly it was that I was doing wrong) is a threat to all they hold dear. As you realize that they see you as a threat, stepping on their toes, messing up their territory...their "industry", you also realize that there is more to this situation than meets the eye. There is a story that is not being told about who they are and not just who you are. What they feel and the state of their hearts and what their intentions are and also their perceptions. Perceptions can be a scary thing. It is a mere interpretation of something or someone and can be misleading. Then there is the "butterfly effect" of a very common phenomenon called "gossip" which is common to women in general and some use it as a weapon. The effects of which can be devastating and far-reaching and some of us fall in its trap. I don't think any women can ever say she has not been affected by it or participated in it. We are all guilty of it in some way or hurt by it in some way.
I had to step back from it all. I had to take a bit of time for myself to figure it out. The message of encouragement I received in this time was: "Ansu, rejection is just a form of protection".
What I also heard in this time from God's Spirit was how women perceive themselves and others and how our hurt can cloud our judgments of others and how we should remember who God says we are in Him before we attempt to step forward in relationships. This brings me back to my position in Christ. The experiences of this year made me feel I didn't matter, that nobody cared how I was doing in all of this, how I was holding up. It made me feel rejected and unloved and unimportant to this world. Which, I must say, by now it doesn't really matter what the world thinks of me. It does however matter to me what my friends and family think and I think that is why I feel affected. God wants me to care first and foremost what He thinks and if I need to make adjustments in my thinking because He leads me towards it, I should work on that first.
I had a decision to make. Will I respond in retaliation and hurt back. Do I even need to retaliate. How should I respond to people who call themselves believers but don't act in love. I struggled with this one so much. I was angry at myself for letting this happen...for letting a couple of people in that I shouldn't have and even approaching others I shouldn't have...as if I had any control over how others acted in return. I felt hurt and I felt my whole experience muddled and polluted. I learned a while back that it is easier to show anger than to say and admit that you feel hurt. Most people will rather lash out in anger. So here goes: I felt hurt. But saying that doesn't change things, does it. Who was to blame? Who was truly to blame? If we ask the hard questions we will come to know the truth through God's Spirit. Our enemy is not flesh and blood, guys. It is not the person lashing out at you, influencing others against you, ignoring you or making sure no one else likes you by spreading lies or half truths about you where you can't defend yourself. Jip, these are things that came out of this experience and even though I have lived for nearly 43 years on this earth, it still surprises me. These things go on right now in this world. Yes, this is how we treat each other. Just switch on the news...watch any news channel and you will see it. Who is it really that we need to protect ourselves from. Not each-other. Our true enemy is like a lion walking around to see who he can rip apart. It is easy to know and recognize him. If you feel hurt, broken...feel like you have been ripped apart...you know who to blame. This doesn't excuse the way we treat each other. Repentance is needed. Forgiveness is needed. I know how hard that can be, but it brings freedom if we can muster it.
I also felt the need to protect myself and true to my temperament I put down very definite boundaries but that, even though needed, also doesn't solve the issue. Both my heart and theirs I presume have been affected. I was so looking forward to positive interactions and for reasons I still don't understand, that won't happen. Even if they don't want to ever acknowledge to themselves that they were affected or to what extent, their spirits and souls are not untouched when they treat people badly or unfairly and just walk away without any care even though they may have felt they did it in self-protection. I know how it affected me and the only thing I can be accused of was that I reached out or responded in love and honesty. I never had any malice in my heart. I never once thought: how can I use this person. For me it was connecting on mutual interests, building relationships new and old.
It leaves me as a believer up in the air. So I started to surrender the whole thing to God...which is the best you can do with anything big happening or not happening. SURRENDER. A big word.
I have to realize I cannot make things happen. If any relationship that God puts a hold on or locks me out of because it is not meant for me, is more important to me than my relationship with my King, I will get hurt. I have had to learn this one big lesson: When God says NO to a relationship, He means to protect me. If I don't get it and move forward anyway I have to know that I will come to feel the pain in the long term. I learned that even though it is super difficult for me to let go of people I held on to for a looooooong time, God has good reason for me to move on and move away from those people. Friends are suppose to love and add value to our lives and we are suppose to add value to theirs. If this is not possible, we need to stay humble and move away and do it in a loving way.
This is not a sad story however. It is said that we should count our blessings. I count it a blessing to have experienced this and countless other so-called "blows". He says in His Word that we will not have it easy in this life. That is a guarantee,right. But for me, a sensitive person who naively move forward, trusting people so easily, it is necessary to realize I should trust God first, let Him be my Friend first and allow Him to lead me into the relationships He wants for me and also to trust Him when He says no.
My conclusion is that the "friends" I left behind this year or who left me behind, was a necessary part of my journey. I may not understand the reasons. I may not feel it fair. I may still take some time to really process it and what happened, but I do know this one truth: God is still God. I am still His. My heart is still in tact because He is the protector of it. It doesn't matter what others think of my heart, my efforts or my approach in life or even of me. It does matter what God thinks. I am His unique creation and I will live out my calling and His love within my limited means for all of my life. His Spirit makes me capable and He will employ me in what He thinks is right for me and for His Kingdom.
I do also desire the following: That fellow sisters in Christ who specifically live out their callings in the arts and creative industries not just in my country but globally, realize the big difference they can make by living out love, truth and care for others and living it honestly. Dare to go outside your comfort-zone and reach out to people despite the "threat" you think they may hold you. It might just all be in your head and it might just originate from a place of fear or an enemy who wants to divide and concur. Confront your fear and realize it is not based on fact or reality. Break through that wall and move forward in freedom. Let go of those things you hold on to for dear life, because after all, we won't take any of it with us one day....not fame, our careers, our finances, our businesses, our art, our creations, that hobby we love so much. The only thing we take with us is not a thing but people. Your actions, how you live and work, may make the difference. Stop living like your life is the only one that matters, you are the only one that is affected. Stop living like victims, because we were set free to be a Light to the Nations. What light are you shining on your little world right now?
When I throw out a challenge like this, God also challenges me with it. So, in the hope that the right people will be reading my post, I want to say this last thing: If I did or said anything that offended or caused hurt, please know that it was never my intention. If you are of the impression I think myself above anyone else, please know the opposite is true. If you read this and can relate to similar feelings or experiences, post a comment and let me know. The other day on one of the Facebook groups I have recently joined, I witnessed once again how easily people take and give offence and I put a challenge forward there too. Let's realize the other person who is offending us, is just a fragile human like me, imperfect and in need of care and acceptance. If I flip the situation around, how would I feel then? Let's have more grace for each other. God has walked with me on this for a while and He will probably have to walk with me some more, but I realize that I am in need of more of His grace everyday so I can give it away to others more.
And that's why, my friends, "Friendship begins in the HEART!" If it is not in your heart, if God doesn't plant those honest seeds of true friendship there, it cannot possibly grow....no matter what you do. If you want to know if a friendship is true, just scrutinize the person's actions: Do they love freely because they don't owe you anything? Do they give lovingly, because they carry true care in their hearts for you and don't have a hidden selfish agenda or expect anything in return? Do they walk with you no matter what you do or what's going on in your life? Do they keep frequent contact just because they want to and not because they have to? Do they want to spend time with you just for the sake of spending time? Do they make time? Do you desire to give all these things in another person's life in return, just because you want to. Then you are probably friends. If not, then you probably are not.
Because of my own story and experiences, I know that I need to make a decision as to how to proceed in engaging with others from this point forward. I will either shut my life off from others and live like an island, but hey...guess what? I am not an island. OR I can choose to move forward with my hand in God's hand and let Him lead me forward into new relationship territories. Star Trek comes to mind... "to infinity and beyond" ...the great frontiers of new friendships. :)
If you give power to an experience, it can control you. I choose not to be controlled by my experiences (OR my feelings for that matter ... they are just indicators and not meant to control me) but to learn from them and I know I can only do that with God's help and not on my own strength at all.
Colossians 3:4 says: "Christ, who is your life." Charles Spurgeon writes: "Paul's marvelously rich expression indicates Christ is the source of our life. He is also the substance of our spiritual life. It is by His life that we live. He is in us, the hope of glory, the spring of our actions, the central thought that moves every other thought. Christ is the solace of our life. All our true joys come from Him. Christ is the model for our life. If we live in close fellowship with Jesus, we will grow to be like Him."
My prayer is that we as sisters in Christ, become more and more like Jesus and that we don't just share His light with the world, but with each other too and most of all that we remember we are all actually FAMILY because we say we belong to Him and therefore we belong to each other too.
And at long last, here is the images of my little something for a "friend". May the girls who feel that this post is about you or for you or should be or even if you think I may have directed this at you, know that this card is made with love for you too...to let you know that you are still a special person even after all that has happened. I have forgiven. I will move on. You are not a bad person and neither am I. We are just all still on the road to grow into the people He wants us to be. None of us are perfect but we are forgiven by Him, being made perfect if we stand under the Blood of Christ and His sacrifice for all the world. Let's try to do better.
- Anita's 3D glue,
- Tim Holtz distress mini's - various colors
- Cat's eye inkies in various colors
- Multi color diamante strips
- Purple dotted ribbon
- Scrapbook Craft glue and double sided tape
- Paper roses bought at Jimnettes in Pretoria...they have a lovely range available always.
Last but not least:
Ivytree Studio's latest collection "Friendship begins in the heart" #162/4,8,12,13 and #162/6 or 9 for the roled rosies and leaves cut from #162/15 (flower cut page)
Ivytree Elements White Cardstock 240gsm #161/39
Visit our store at www.ivytree.eshop.co.za to view or purchase the collection.
Bee the queen you are! Bee blessed. Till next time.