People are always asking us how they can get involved with our ministry & what Legacy Shelters is up to lately. Until recently, I have felt like we really hadn't been up to much since the turn of the new year. Yeah, there was your occasional casual networking & informational conference, but other than the PIT Count in January & the Walk to End Homelessness in April, our community outreach to our homeless neighbors had severely lacked most of the first half of the year. I blame this primarily on the notion that I did not want our organization getting deterred by doing a whole lot of events that were not going to propel us in the direction we first set out. As an organization, it is important to us to stay focused on the outcomes we hope to achieve & not be distracted by trying to do everything & impress everyone.
But, if I am honest with myself (& with you), I think I was subconsciously afraid of growing too quickly & not having the right tools & people in place to sustain our growth. Essentially, my faith was just not big enough. When reviewing our budget, overhead, & [limited] resources, I just could not wrap my head around what it would entail to make this dream become a reality. Fear is a double-edged sword that I am constantly learning to thrust as far away from our vision as a company & my daily life as possible. It has caused weeks of inactivity to turn into months. The few things that we have accomplished this year have not satisfactorily achieved our desired results either, which is ultimately to change & empower lives for the Kingdom of God.
I say all of this as an encouragement to my fellow starter-uppers. It's okay to get some things wrong, or to occasionally end up at a destination you did not anticipate. The truth is that you can never succeed with out first stepping out into the deep, unforeseeable future. It's scary, it's wild! Yet, I'd rather fail a million times & succeed once rather than give up, never try again, & win at accomplishing nothing at all. That's the risk we take on the journey to achieving greatness or suffering mediocrity. I'd rather die trying than live with regret.
Recently, we tried our luck at a new fundraising campaign. Thankfully, before execution, we had invested some of our own income (not your donations) into business systems that would help to leverage our time & productivity. Otherwise, the time spent on this one campaign would have cost us more man-hours than it was worth. You may have heard about our "Donate Art for a Cause" campaign followed by our "Donate to Win" campaign. Both sucked lol.
Now, I do not want to mistake our lack of benefit from this campaign with any of the artists' incredible abilities. We had some extremely talented women generously give without hesitation to create & provide pieces so that people could donate towards winning them. The donated money would help us reach two of our primary organizational goals: build up our rental assistance fund & acquire our first facility. Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful in that we received ZERO donations towards any of the pieces. It was not advertised as widely as we had hoped, therefore, it did not gain enough exposure to reach the scope of audience we had had anticipated engaging. There were also some issues with artists promising pieces & donations that we never received.
Once the fundraising period ended we had to really sit down & take a look at what we hope to accomplish. Do we have friends, family & businesses that support our ministry? Absolutely. Do we know that God has called us to partner with our local communities to help house his children & end cycles of financial & relational poverty? Without a doubt! Do we have a plan that supports our goal to grow into multiple facilities across the nation? Well, yes; but it's currently not working as effectively as we had hoped. Back to the drawing board we go!
We truly appreciate everyone who participated in some way during this fundraiser, including our Flipcause team who custom built the campaign from beginning to end specifically to accomplish our business needs. Check out the pieces below, which are still up for purchase if anyone would like to donate towards winning-just email us!
Keeping the Vision Alive
One thing we are very passionate about here at Legacy Shelters is cultivating the gifts & talents each person has been innately given by God. While we want to encourage financial, emotional, & spiritual growth & stability among our clients, we also want them to pursue their wildest dreams-the things they are passionate about, which bring them joy & fulfillment. Yes, each of us has a responsibility to financially support ourselves. In a crisis, however, it can be near impossible to imagine how you're ever going to recoup let alone dream again. Nonetheless, we promote an environment where people can pursue all of their aspirations & explore the full scope of the legacy they hope to leave their families. We thought carefully about this desire to spark vision among our supporters, too, when incorporating our last fundraiser.
Throughout this last campaign, we wanted to inspire our supporters to tap into the deep, hidden or even lost ideas they once had by following the stories of local artists’ journeys. We completely support the vision of all of our partners to grow their businesses, which is why we have such an adamant focus on word of mouth referrals & other forms of advertising for local, reputable partners that are doing good works. We glean from these mom-and-pop's. We stand in the same big shoes to fill that they once did. For those that are currently building their empires, we share many of the same challenges & celebrate with them at every light of success. We want to give back to our community by standing with those who make it up.
What's great about the interview you’re about to read is that the artist, Jennifer Paul, & I share more than just creative juices. When preparing for the interview, it did not take long to connect our roles as wives, mothers & followers of Christ to a story that most women & families can relate to. With this blog, my wish is for each reader to be ignited to start something fresh, or to finish something that may have been pushed aside for whatever reason. I want to reassure you that it is okay to not have everything figured out! It is okay to revise & revisit your plan along the way as goals change, markets adjust, & life just happens. You should be ever evolving!
So, before our ministry becomes all work & no play, check out the interview below to find out why creating beautiful things with your gifts is necessary in spite of life & society's demands. Have there been some outrageous milestones while trying new things & pursuing our dreams? Yes! Was it always easy? I think you know the answer to that... no! But, the "wins"-the wins are why we keep at it, for the people who are touched by the work we create.
Interviewing an Artist: A Family Affair
Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Time: 9:30 am PST
Setting: Jenn & I are conducting a video conference call while I am at the Chevy dealership getting my car serviced & she is at home with the family. Mind you, her two little ones are in the background interrupting all the while, & we are laughing & entertaining their curious questioning until Jenn finally asks her husband for help.
Ginger: When did you start doing art & why?
Jenn: Basically, from the time I could hold a pencil, since childhood, I was drawing. My mom would give me sketch books, & I would have them with me all of the time & fill them up. She would just give me new ones, & I would keep filling them with all kinds of things I was interested in drawing. At that point I liked monkeys, so I would make all sorts of monkey houses. That was the start of the journey. There were all kinds of ups & downs to get to where I am now, evolutions & all kinds of stuff like that, but that was the start of it.
Ginger: When did you decide to take art seriously? And, when I say "seriously" I mean that some people do art for fun, but I noticed you have your website up; you have pieces available for purchase; you've done events where people can look at & handle your art & also purchase there. So, when did you start to see it more as a business or as something you wanted to share with the rest of the world?
Jenn: So, that goes into "the journey" part of it. From when I was in high school & I started falling in love with painting specifically, I thought I was going to be an artist. I started looking for how I was going to make that happen. I thought I was going to be an animator. I was going to move to Japan & do animation.
[From there] I got really discouraged because I would look at the other people that were surrounding me in my art class, which were typically a lot of dudes. Also, there were not a lot, but there were some people that were just naturally gifted & didn't have to try [hard] at all. I don't know what you want to call them? Maybe "genius art people?" And, I didn't necessarily feel like I was that either. You know? So there was that discouragement going on.
Then, I became an atheist when I was like 16? 14? At that point like within a year, I became unable to create art. I had a huge artist block where I just couldn't figure it out anymore. I couldn't figure out paintings. I couldn't figure out the colors. And so, I basically had a few paintings unfinished, & I just left them that way & basically walked away from art. I walked away from God pretty much.
Later, when I became a Christian again, there were a few things that God redeemed & brought back into my life. One of those things was art, & I don't think I was really making art at that time at all. I think I was just on track to be the teacher [in Sunday School]. And, then, there just kept being all these [prophetic] "words" that people would give me like,
"I see you doing art," or "I feel like God wants to use your art."
And, "I feel like I see you doing art with God."
And I was like "that's weird because I don't want to do that at all."
I was a believer, but I had just walked away from it, you know? I was maybe about a year in the Lord, & [a mutual friend] was one of the ones who had [given me] those words. And, so she said, "Well, it's okay. Don't worry. If it's God, you'll want to do it."
So, I was like, "Okay, cool." At one point, I went back to those old paintings, & I turned some worship music on, & I was actually able to get past the blocks I had before just by trying to welcome God in that process. After that point, after I just got into it more, I knew that I wanted to do art for a living, but I was not sure how that would work out because it's a process. There are some circumstances that are different, but a lot of times with art, you have to work up to being able to support yourself. It's just going to be your night job for long time until you can really make some money out of it that's going to sustain you. And, then, you know we had kids, & that definitely complicated the process (laughs).
So, yeah, I think once God was a part of the process again, there became such a joy in making art & to learn how to make it with him. One of the things he told me through an epiphany was:
"You don't have to be the best at making art. You just have to make art the way that you're supposed to make art, & people will respond."
So, I don't have to be the best, & that's okay. And, I also don't have to be a dude (laughs). I think it's just a matter of trying everything I can as often as I can, to just wait for something to click, to build up knowledge & word of mouth [referrals]. It's definitely not sustaining us, but I really want it to get to that point because I believe that God has said that it will.
Ginger: What kind of pieces do you create?
Jenn: Right now I am doing a children's book. I'm really excited about that. I also do commissions where people want something specific, like whatever comes to their minds. Or, I'll change something that fits to their house, or an idea that they've got, sort-of custom pieces. Right now, I am really getting into digital art to do children's books. It's such a fun medium that is easily modifiable & super fun. Eric (a mutual friend) is the model for the dad in the book. You'll like it when it's done, I hope.
Ginger: I think you somewhat answered this question earlier, but, how do you stay motivated to keep doing art, especially since you said that you started doing art seriously as a teen, but obviously, you are somewhat older, now? I mean, how do you keep pursuing not only what you believe that God has spoken into you, but your passion for this?
Jenn: It's just the pleasure, the joy that God has given me in making art. It's fun when I do it, & it also fulfills me in some sense. It just feels right to do. It feels good to do, but then there's also the encouragement that he's been giving me over the years in different words & encouragement about it being a blessing. The act of it is fun because of him, & then, the encouragement to keep going is there because of him, too. Mostly, that's enough.
One thing that I've been trying to do is to get together with other artists & talk about where we are in our journey. For a while, I was getting together with a group of women that were also artists. We would get together to talk about what we are working on, what's inspiring us, & what we need to be challenged in. Being around other artists is really inspiring because you feel a camaraderie. You know you're not alone in it.
Ginger: One dynamic that I think is really neat, is that all of the artists who donated & I all share some similarities: we are all women, we are all married, we all have children. So, I think one cool aspect is creating something that we all want to influence the world with, but [doing it] as a mother, as a wife, as a follower of Christ. So, how would you say that all of those dynamics have affected you as an artist?
Jenn: Well, you tend to create art from your knowledge & experience. A lot of times, I make art kind of out of necessity. [For example] I started doing this particular children's book I'm working on, now, for the nursery [in Sunday School]. I wrote it because we needed it; & I wouldn't be in the nursery if it wasn't for my kiddos. It's not my preference to serve in nursery, but it's not a "me" thing; it's a God-thing. I felt like he told me to do it, & so I did it. There was a need for it. There were just some stories that we wanted to tell that weren't in the books that we had, & so I was like, Well, I'm an artist. Why don't I just whip something up? This will be fun, it's a challenge. Let's do it! And, I've been so excited about what's been created by the art &, also, the curriculum! I'm very proud of it.
I feel also like when I'm not working on pieces for furthering the business, every piece can [still] further my business. Even the pieces that I do for my loved ones can help build my portfolio. And, because my loved ones are now expanded into my children, I create paintings for them. So, I did a picture of a mama bunny & two baby bunnies, which is really inspired by Beatrix Potter, who this is this children's illustrator. It's a painting that hangs in [my children's] room, & they love that painting because they know that it's supposed to [represent] me & them. I think it's definitely caused me to be more comfortable & aware of things about kids. I do a lot of art that's geared towards that, now, I'd say, which is definitely different from how it would be.
The challenge is being able to make art when you also need to be pouring into these beautiful works of art that God gave you - these children.
So, there's definitely a time management aspect of it. I don't know if you want me to talk about that?
Jenn: Well, yeah, I think there's two elements of it. One is that you try to find times during the day when, once your kids are old enough, you can all be working on art together. Maybe I have a project that I'm working on while they work on their own water color? Or, they work on play dough, & I will work on my digital stuff. Then, we are all creating at the same time.
But then, another element is that you just have be okay with working nights until something changes. I'm not [working] every night, of course. Our family has to be in balance, & I bear a lot of that, you know? I bring the peace & the comfort to the home. There are a lot of times when I have to not do art & give myself grace for that. Then I have to forgive myself for that, & pickup my tools the next night, & pick up where I left off.
It's incredibly difficult to learn not how to paint in a vacuum. When I was in college, or just after college, I'd think, I'm going to work on this all weekend, paint for 14 hours a day. I'll probably get it done in a few weeks, & it's going to be great! And, so you feel like you have all of this passion & time & devotion to put towards your art, & nothing's going to get in the way of that because you don't have that many obligations. To be able to be disciplined enough to do art in short spurts, where it's harder to start, & to be able to know that what your'e doing is worthwhile & worth the sacrifice, that's what has made the difference.
It can't just be a passion.
It has to also be a discipline, or it will fail.
It will not be a business for you.
Ginger: Last question. When you were approached about donating a piece for the Legacy Shelters "Donate Art for a Cause" campaign, why were you willing to donate a piece for free towards the cause?
Jenn: Because I love you, & I want to support you! But, also I love your heart in this, & I want to support with that. I love you heart to minister to the homeless. That's really beautiful.
Find Your Tribe. Love Them Hard.
It's amazing to hear other peoples' stories & to know that you're not alone. Thankfully, throughout this process we have had such an outstanding support system to cheer us on, put the hand to the plow, & simply love on us for being us, imperfections & all. Legacy Shelters tries to be that community for others, for anyone who is willing to be vulnerable & transparent-because, sometimes, life is tough.
For more information on Flipcause, our amazing everything platform for doing non-profit business, click here. If you are a non-profit looking to expand your fundraising capabilities & minimize the number of applications to make one business work cohesively, let them know that Legacy Shelters sent you! We love our Flipcause team, our supporters & the communities we serve!
Click here to find out how you can become part of our story.