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 | Jen Norton

Art Is the Language of "Be Not Afraid"

As a child, I was painfully shy and terrified to speak to anyone. Still, I would happily spend hours coloring and working on any art or craft project. Inside my mind and armed with crayons and paint, I was in a safe world, free from criticism. Art is a language of emotion, and mine was made of colors and shapes, paints and canvas, quietness and reflection. Truthfully, art was my first language; English came second.

Many years later, this is still how God speaks to me in my "inner room" (Matt 6:6). All the hours, months, and years of thinking, discerning ideas, and just plain doing something I loved were all conversations between me and the God who knows my heart.

Making art was easy when I was young. There were no expectations, no career goals. My parents told me I was good at it, and I believed them. It was fun. Now, with an art degree and decades of design and painting experience, I find I must constantly battle my intellect and distractions to hear that still, small voice trying to reach me. I must face my insecurities and not let them paralyze my efforts. Every painting I create challenges me to step away from fear to trust. Every artwork is a prayer.

The emotional steps to making art are the same as many other life challenges. See if these sound familiar to you too:

  • Research ideas and make my plans. Set expectations.
  • Begin my journey, believing I'm on the right path.
  • Second-guess myself; wonder if there's a better way.
  • Get frustrated because I keep going in circles.
  • Pray and ask God for some “Divine Intervention.”
  • Set the work aside and wait for new inspiration (a good time to take a walk!).
  • Start painting again, with fresh eyes and in any way that makes me happy. It is essential at this stage that I let go of any worry about ruining my earlier work or holding it too precious.
  • Work with design elements to find the harmony and balance that feels right.
  • Settle into the details, reconnecting with my initial joy as it comes together.
  • Observe the miracles, all the unplanned surprises that could have never been planned in step one!

The final step is to share my art because, as Christians, we are not meant to keep our talents to ourselves. Our creative endeavors illustrate the cycle of birth to death to rebirth over and over again until we understand in our soul how God continually calls to us to trust in Him. As we share that with the world, we inspire others in their journeys of faith from fear to trust.

When we speak in our creative language, we silence the language of judgment and spread the Love of God. When we know God's Love, we love more because we are less afraid.

Jen Norton, parishioner at a Diocese of San José parish, creates artwork that celebrates the Catholic tradition with a colorful twist. She is the author of "Surrender All: An Illuminated Journal through the Stations of the Cross" by Ave Maria Press.

Website: Use coupon code NORTON13 for a discount on Jen's book at the Ave Maria Site at