Healthy Extravagance

“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.” I so resonate with the words of Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way; this book has been a tremendous inspiration and guide on my journey. Cameron speaks a lot about changing our faulty beliefs that keep us blocked and stuck as artists. One of the chapters, titled “Recovering a Sense of Abundance”, challenges our backwards thinking about money and God and creative abundance and explores the ways in which our attitudes limit abundance and luxury in our lives.

Earlier this year, I was laid off. And I was presented with a few difficult choices about how I would respond. One choice would be to interpret this circumstance as yet another example of how God was punishing me and at the expense of being overly dramatic, perhaps trying to kill me. I know the idea is somewhat laughable, but most of us can relate to times in our lives where we seem to be the recipient of a series of unfortunate events with one blow after another. It is in times like these when we very easily question any faith that we once possessed, duck our heads down, get rid of all foolish, loftier notions and attempt to gut it out. And our secret beliefs about how work has to be work and not play and anything that we really want to do - like write, record, learn to dance, pursue that new venture – must be considered frivolous and be placed a distant second. We simply cannot afford such luxury, or so we tell ourselves.

When a friend of mine, who I had recently reconnected to via Facebook and who has been a studio musician and producer in Nashville for the last 9 years, posted on my wall, “I know what you can do with all your free time, let’s make a record,” it was easy to dismiss. I didn’t have any money. I was in a crisis. I would have to wait until “I had the money.” It wasn’t until a poignant conversation with another friend who is a life-coach and spiritual director that I finally began to consider the possibilities. If money was truly the only thing standing in my way, then how could I creatively overcome that obstacle?

What emerged out of my brainstorming is now what you know as The Ketola Project. But first week in, I was doubting. Surely this was never going to work. I needed to be sensible. Even if I knew that creativity is not and never will be sensible, the thought was a welcome safety net in the event that the limb that I was now standing on suddenly came crashing down. One morning, considering all of this, I asked. “God, if somehow you are in this or for this, could you just give me a little encouragement today.” It seemed like a humble enough request. I just needed a little assurance from the universe that I was on the right path.

What followed next blew me away. I received a donation of $1000 that morning. I could hardly believe it. Surely, God is much more extravagant than I ever thought. I might be stingy with myself, but clearly there is a generosity that exists in the world that I have not known. Perhaps it is true. My dreams come from God and God has the power to accomplish them.

So what is stirring in you? What are your dreams? Cameron says, “When it comes time for us to choose between a cherished dream and a lousy current drudgery, we often choose to ignore the dream and blame our continued misery on God. We act like it’s God’s fault we didn’t go to Europe, take that painting class, go on that photo shoot. In truth, we, not God, have decided not to go. We have tried to be sensible – as though we have any proof at all that God is sensible – rather than see if the universe might not have supported some healthy extravagance.” I hope this week that we can all practice a measure of  “healthy extravagance" as we continue to hold gently our dreams and wrestle boldly with our desire.

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