LES: You make many references to your husband Philip in your writing and blog posts. How has Philip’s presence in your life influenced you as a creative being?
LI: Good heavens, his influence is immeasurable! He encourages me, he keeps track of my commitments and he alternately cheers me on or tells me to take a break, depending on the situation. He’ll wash the dishes or pick up takeout so that I can pound out of few more words. He listens with infinite patience to multiple revisions of the same chapter and he even ventures suggestions, which I am hopefully humble enough to receive.
But beyond all that, he just gets excited about everything that I love and enters into my enjoyment. He validates my creative longings and he has helped me validate them myself, at times. And he always seems to know when I’m taking myself far too seriously. There is nothing like laughing in the face of something that was smothering you only a moment before.
“The bone and marrow of an artist’s life is lines. Words, notes, brushstrokes. One after another. Every single day.” Lanier Ivester, (Artists Life, July 2008)
LES: What have been the costs for cultivating beauty? What do you see as the costs ahead as you continue to cultivate the life you are creating?
LI: Counting the cost is not something I’m very good at. I can be pretty unrealistic about how long things take and how much they will require of me, and I have learned that I have got to be very intentional about my daily commitments. Sometimes it has meant forgoing a lovely gathering of friends to make a writing deadline. Other times it means closing the computer and talking on the phone for an hour. I wish there was a simple formula for simplicity, but the fact is, we have to just keep yielding and feeling our way by faith. But there is always a cost. Yes to one thing means no to something else. I can’t do everything that comes into my rather overstuffed head—I have to choose.
Needless to say, living within my means in the artistic sense is a challenge for me, but it’s a healthy discipline. I have learned to turn down opportunities that might seem more ‘spiritual’ for the sake of what I believe to be my own ‘spiritual acts of worship’. The word ‘no’ has become one of my best friends! And the ‘yeses’ to the things my heart is inclined to are like deep, fresh draughts of heavenly air. It was difficult for me to reach that place—I had to fend off a legion of guilt, and one of the main casualties was the opinion of other people. But it was so worth the fight.
Ahead, I guess I see more of the same. Many skirmishes in the same war.
LES: What would you say is your deepest hope for your website (and writing) to accomplish? Has that changed since you started the website?
LI: I would say that it is to kindle hope in other people. To avow, in the clearest way I can, that God is good and that He loves us. That beauty needs no validation and that goodness and truth have not fled from this hurting old world of ours. All ridiculously beyond me, of course, but I’d love it if God used my words to touch a spring upon peoples’ hearts by which He may rush in and speak what they most need to hear.
I don’t know that my hopes have changed so much as developed. It has been overwhelming to connect with so many truly lovely people, and they have given so much in the way of kindness and grace, that it motivates my visions afresh.
LES: What advice or words of guidance would you give to fellow believing writers and those artists cultivating beauty in life?
LI: Simply this: do no give up. Your words, your gifts, your talents and desires are valuable and valid. You are created in the image of a Creator and your joy in your art is no slight thing to Him. Art is a ‘spiritual act of worship’ for the believer, a giving of oneself in obedience, and in your obedience is your joy. Your obedience may also be the venue for someone else to encounter God. Frederick Buechner said it perfectly:
“The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done….The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
LES: What is your most tried and true well of Joy in the midst of living your life?
LI: I would have to say that my most tried and true well of Joy is Jesus Himself. When I start to lose my grasp on joy in the daily run of life, it really does have a direct correlation to my not placing a priority on intimacy with Him. But when I’m centered, grounded, remembering and acknowledging His great love all throughout the day, there is a keenness to everything and a deep sense of contentment with my calling.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.