Unpacking Second Thoughts

My trip to Italy for a faith and art retreat is less than two months away and I'm already packing my bags. The space in my suitcase is filling up fast.

The retreat leader sent a list of art supplies we need to bring with us and the only thing I recognized was an apron. 

I’ve never heard of gesso or matte medium and I'm especially wondering what an HB pencil is. There are specific sizes of paintbrushes, types of pens, adhesives and erasers to buy. 

Oh and a journaling Bible, too. {I might even have to leave a pair of shoes behind to make room in the suitcase for the Bible.}

So I made a trip to an art supply store where I thought I could find what I needed, but when I saw an entire aisle devoted just to paintbrushes, I quickly realized I needed professional help. 

That's when Lex from Sam Flax appeared at my elbow, eager to assist. 

After asking me what kind of painting would I be doing {I had no idea} and would I be using the gesso on canvas {huh?}, Lex could clearly see I was an art supply novice. So he said he'd take care of everything. 

I happily handed him my list and off he went to gather my supplies in a little basket. 

With Lex dispatched as my personal shopper, I was free to check out the journals and greeting cards that were much more my style.

He brought me the bottles of gesso and matte medium and paused dreamily {the way I imagine artists do} and asked me if I was sure I could get them through security at the airport. 

I said I had no idea, but I told him my brother-in-law checks his guns as baggage when he goes on hunting trips so surely gesso and matte medium could fly?

He assured me they weren't flammable and suggested maybe I could pour them into smaller bottles and mark them as shampoo or lotion, just in case customs had any questions.

Then he said, "I don't think I'd want to fly with your brother-in-law." As we both stared at the gesso and matte medium, he said {very slowly}, "On second thought, maybe I DO want to fly with your brother-in-law."

Even Lex has second thoughts. 

As do I.

As I looked at the paint and sketchbooks and brushes surrounding me, a little art-anxiety started seeping into my soul. 

Months ago when the details were vague, I thought I could give this art thing a try, even though my last art class was during elementary school. I thought maybe I’d learn a new skill or even if I didn’t, it might be funny to write about. 

But as it gets closer, I’m having second thoughts. I often have to fight my feelings of inferiority when trying something new and I’m afraid art classes might bring out my worst worries. 

But I have to go on this trip. 

And not because I've already booked all my travel plans. {And bought my art supplies.}

This art and faith creative retreat is an invitation from God to go on a new adventure with him. 

Have you ever just known that you have to go? 

On a new adventure, to a place beyond the comforts of your cozy circle, to a risky ridge where you might encounter God like never before?

I didn’t have any travel plans for this year, but somehow I think this beautiful crossroads of art and faith is where I’m supposed to be. 

So I'm unpacking my second thoughts from my suitcase and leaving them behind.

Without them, there's more space for God and me to create a new storyline in my life. One that blends who I already am with who I am becoming.

Writer, art student, follower of God. I wonder what else I could be that I never imagined for myself. 

{You too?} 

  ". . . God who calls things that are not as though they were." Rom. 4:17

Are there second thoughts about yourself or God or a dream that might be weighing you down? What if you unpacked those thoughts from your life and freed up the space to explore a new name or new experience God might have for you?

I wonder if we'd discover the bravery and boldness that comes not from our strength, but his. Would we corral the courage to do whatever it is -- to fulfill his holy purposes -- that he intended for each one of us long ago? Could we overcome our fears and insecurities and nerves to encounter the goodness he has for us?

I know these truths can carry us across an ocean, across town or across the street to reach what he has called us to do. And I hope you know it too.

When Lex at Sam Flax finished shopping for me, he wished me a good trip and told me to send him a postcard.

Maybe I'll create one with my new paintbrushes. Or at least send him a note with my HB pencil.

{Just as soon as I figure out what HB means.}

I'm linking up with my friends at Bonnie Gray's Faith Barista and at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join us there!


  1. You're going to be a great artist! And with the selfie stick, you will even be able to take a photo with your masterpiece. :) Leave all the second thoughts behind, and focus on the possibilities. It will be a lifetime of wonderful stories!

    1. Bree,
      I get the sinking feeling you are going to gift me with a selfie stick before I leave and you know how I would feel about that!! Yes, I'm sure that no matter what happens, some stories will emerge! :)

  2. Valerie,
    I'm tickled to be linked up beside you again at Holley's place :). Your retreat to Italy sounds WONDERFUL!!! Can I come too? There will be so much to inspire you both from a faith perspective as well as an art perspective and especially when God joins them both. I often have second thoughts about a lot of things...but the more God nudges me outside my comfort zone, the more freeing it becomes. This control freak has come a long way lol. I will be looking for your artwork to be posted upon your return!! Thanks for a wonderful post!

    1. Hi Bev,
      Yes, I just love it when we're neighbors at Holley's! I appreciate your confidence in my potential artwork but I would be surprised if it is post-worthy! :) Taking us outside our comfort zones is God's way of asking us control-freaks to trust and grow, isn't it? Thanks for your words here today, friend!

  3. 'Have you ever just known that you have to go?'

    well, ummm ... yes. That's what I'm doing right now. Leaving so much of the past 38 years behind, but taking the important stuff with me.

    I'm on an adventure with you, alongside you, friend. We'll compare notes, ok?

    1. Linda,
      I can imagine your mixed feelings of leaving 38 years behind and moving to a new place! Yes, we will journey on our God-led adventures together, friend!

  4. This is awesome!! ♥ First things first: I looove those pencils in your first picture!! Secondly: You called yourself and art student! Yay!! Third: I have a lot of unpacking to do after reading your post.... I'm carrying around some serious doubts this week that just need to hit the road. Loving your words today! xo

    1. Heather,
      I'm laughing that you're happy that I called myself a student (when I really had some other nouns in mind that fit better!:)) Aren't those pencils sweet? And I'm so glad you're leaving some doubts in the dust too!

  5. I love your post, just what I needed today! What an amazing experience the Lord is inviting you to! I have started a new journey and know those feelings of second guessing, and little bit of fear covering it all. I plan to attend the She Speaks Conference this summer as part of this new journey and I have definitely had moments of "what have I signed up for, I do not have the qualifications for this!" Visiting from Holley's

    1. Winter,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving these sweet words for me! How exciting to attend She Speaks! I have heard wonderful things about it and I'm so glad we can relate to our feelings of inadequacies for our God-given adventures -- but he will equip us!

  6. Valerie- I am so excited for you and wish I could go- what a perfect combination, art faith and writing!! perfect! You will have so much fun -but know what you mean bout second thoughts- I am awful about that and often talk myself back out of things for fear- (I love the song from Bethel "You Make Me Brave") --It has helped me when I feel fear creep in calling me back to 'safety' - Love this-"I wonder if we'd discover the bravery and boldness that comes not from our strength, but his." This is so great- thanks for this thought- I struggle with fear - and this is so good because I know I can be sure of His bravery when I can't find mine- Thanks so much for sharing al this Valerie! with much love

    1. Susie,
      I don't know that song -- I must check it out! It sometimes seems as if I have brave and fearful feelings interchanging sometimes within the same few minutes. I can only look at the one who will make me brave!

  7. Those are the prettiest art supplies I have ever seen! Leave it to you (and Lex) to find everything in beautiful pastels! Great post, this is great advice about taking a leap towards something that you know is good but is kind of scary! This is perfect timing for my life right now!

    1. Brittany,
      Taking leaps requires so much of us that we can't even muster up if we tried, but knowing growth comes no other way keeps us moving forward! :)

  8. You are getting to go on a trip the rest of us will only get to dream about going on! You go girl, take everything in, be brave, and have the time of your life. I look forward to reading all about it when you return.

    1. Alecia,
      I will remember these words -- they are like a blessing spoken over me - thank you, friend! xo

  9. Valerie--you are really speaking to my heart in this post! I love that you "just know" that you need to go and that you're entering into the awkwardness of getting these supplies that you don't know about! I have a feeling you will be blessed for your willingness to let God bless you. This sounds like a dream and I hope to catch your writing about it!

    1. Amy,
      Thank you for your encouraging words! Awkward is the key descriptor of how I feel but trying to be brave and overcome it -- thank you for your willingness to follow along -- I'm sure our paths will cross on our community link-ups! :)

  10. I totally know the feeling, and that just means it is going to be amazing! Can't wait to hear what happens! :)

    1. Sarah,
      Yes! I can't wait to see what happens either --I'm fairly sure it WON'T be what I'm expecting! :)

  11. I just love how willing you are to try new things and step outside your comfort zone - first cooking, now an art retreat in Italy. You are so inspiring, Valerie! Thanks so much for sharing this with us!!

    1. Kristen,
      Always love hearing from you in my little corner of the world! I wish you would have come along on this adventure -- I think it would have been exciting! xoxo

  12. I just adored this post. Sometimes you have to leave your baggage behind to see what is really waiting for you. Recently, I had to step outside my comfort zone and let me tell you it was uncomfortable at first, but after I learned a valuable lesson. The best laid plans may not be what God has for you. Great post as always Valerie :).

    Kia / The House of KTS

    1. Kay,
      Oh stepping outside our comfort zones just stretches us beyond belief, doesn't it? But actually I'm always surprised when I look back at what I learned! Thanks for reading, as always, Kay!


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