Soul Arts was born in the spring of 2004. Ever since, I've been trying to figure out how to explain what it is to people. I'm going to give it my best shot here.
An avid journal keeper since a kid, I took a bookbinding class in the fall of 2001 and started making my own journals (as well as journals for everyone for Christmas that year). The handmade journals are made with unlined paper, which opened up the unlimited creative potential to do more than just write in my journal. Now I was inticed to draw and collage and write in circles or whatever I felt like doing at the time.
I taught a few of my friends how to make the journals and encouraged them to start creative journaling, like I was doing. Five of us starting meeting every Saturday morning for about two hours sharing our journals with eachother and doing fun writing or art projects together in our journals. We did Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, and we found other great ideas for self discovery and exercises that inspired creativity. The group met weekly for two and a half years, and the most beautiful friendships were formed. We only disbanded because everyone but me moved away! (Now we send a shared journal around through the mail in an effort to keep the faith!)
Well, during this time, I went to Mississippi to visit my parents. They agreed to watch my toddler and baby while I took a little break for a couple of days at a Franciscan prayer center about a half hour away from them called The Dwelling Place.
I spent my alone time there enjoying the beautiful space the two nuns and small staff have created there. I listened to the birds and watched the pond ripple in the breeze, all the while writing, praying and doodling in my little handmade journal.
The counselor on staff approached me the second afternoon for a visit, to see if I needed prayer or wanted to talk about anything. In our conversation, she asked about my journal. I showed her the kinds of things I put in it, and she loved it. Then she said to me, "I feel like the Holy Spirit is prompting me to ask you to come here and lead a retreat on journaling and journal making."
I was immediately flattered and intrigued by the opportunity. I said, "Of course. I would love to do that." We set a tentative date for the following summer.
When I returned home to Montana, little bouts of anxiety began. The voice in my head starting saying, "You can't lead a retreat. Who are you to teach anybody anything..."
My mode of defense against the little voice usually is to find a solution, so that's just what I did. I decided to plan a retreat with people I knew in Montana as a trial run, so I would know how to prepare for the one in Mississippi.
I set it all up and 12 people signed up for the retreat. But in the weeks that led up to the first retreat in Montana, the most amazing things began to happen. I would wake up in the mornings with these fantastic ideas. I would envision that certain people were going to be at the retreat, and then sure enough, those same people would have their deposits in my mailbox within a day or two. I woke up one morning with the name Soul Arts. I knew that was what this thing would be called. God was just pouring out the vision for Soul Arts.
The retreat was great. The participants enjoyed it, and I learned a lot. I felt more prepared.
Since then, I've done two retreats at the Dwelling Place now, and two in Montana, as well as a few workshops and classes.
Through this process, I have discovered that I have the spiritual gift of exhortation (also known as encouragement) and I want to use this gift to glorify God. More than anything, I love to encourage people to live their biggest, most authentic lives possible. That's why I follow up the title Soul Arts with the words "Be Real. Live Big."
I would love to offer Soul Arts to existing groups, whether they are women's Bible study groups or stay-at-home mom groups or just whatever, and lift them up with this kind of encouragement through journaling and other forms of creative expression. Also, I will continue to offer retreats, workshops and classes which will put new groups together. Let me know if you are interested.
So, would you call Soul Arts a ministry? A life coaching business? An organization that teaches creative expression as a vehicle to living a fuller life? I don't know. Do you have any ideas?