Monet’s The Beach at Trouville

This is one of my favorite paintings on earth.

Meet Monet’s The Beach at Trouville, currently hanging in The National Gallery in London. It’s a painting of Monet’s wife and a friend of theirs, sitting on the beach and enjoying a leisurely afternoon.

And you know why I love it? 

One of my favorite things to do here is wander the halls of all the amazing art museums here and live in the past for the briefest of moments. I admire brushstrokes and color choices, the way the light plays across the surface, the texture of the oil paint long since dried.  I wonder if the subject ever imagined that this painting they were sitting for would ever be hung in a museum three centuries later. I laugh at these stunning “unfinished works” and “studies” — these painfully beautiful paintings that the artist dashed off in an hour or two one day, prep work for some bigger and better piece of art — the art they completed in a hurry, the kind that’s still leaps and bounds over anything 99.9% of painters could ever hope to accomplish.

And I wonder how the artist — Monet in this case — got inspired to paint a specific scene… what piece of his life — his dreams, his hopes, his terrors — he decided to save for us. Because life, your real life, in all its weird absurdities, always gets reflected in your art.

Which brings me back to The Beach at Trouville. 

It’s one of my favorite paintings because there are still grains of sand and bits of seashell from that day — so long ago and so far away — embedded in the paint.  Monet was really painting in that moment. It wasn’t a revisiting, it wasn’t a memory.  It was now, this moment, right in front of me. Real life saved in the paint.

Metaphor become real. And our world is all the more beautiful for it.

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The Importance of Being Inspired

                          Van Gogh and Monet together

Imagine that first twinge of inspiration. Think about it.  I know you’ve been there.  A road before you was muddled, and is now clear.  The questions you’ve fought through suddenly have answers, a way through you’d never seen before.  This is the beauty of inspiration.  

I don’t know anyone who would pass up a chance to be inspired, whether through a movie or song or encouragement from friends and family or an excellent essay from someone else.  But over the past few months, I’ve begun to realize that inspiration is not so much icing on the cake, as it is the essential air we must have to survive.  

I love frosting as much as the next girl, but if I go the rest of my life without air, it’s going to be a very short life.  And I have a lot of living left to do.  

Inspiration can take so many forms, and I’d bet the farm that it looks different for every single person. In my life, I’m inspired by Luke.  He’s the craziest, most wonderful person I’ve ever met, and he can make friends with anyone, anywhere.  He’s just that guy.  (My first job in the industry was a direct result of him striking up a conversation in the middle of a grocery store, I kid you not.)  He makes me want to be a better person.

In my writing, I’m inspired by so many people, it would take weeks to write out all the names.  From Aaron Sorkin to Rob Bell, from J.M. Barrie to J.K. Rowling, I love the way they put words and ideas on the page, how they bring new worlds to life, and how they challenge me to never rest in mediocre or halfway-done writing.  I can always be better.  Always be stronger.

My best friend Laurie has been to hell and back, and is one of the most joyful, peaceful people I know.  She’s always there at the moment I’m about to give up.  My friend Sarah is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, and if I have a great idea, she’s back in about ten seconds with a plan for how we’re going to accomplish it. Love that about her. My sister can make me laugh like no one else on the planet.  Cheryl was the first one to encourage me to become a vegetarian, and the difference it’s made in my life honestly can’t be overstated.  She’s another one who’s always there at the moment I’m about to give up.  One of my cousins just joined the Army, choosing to risk life and limb to protect us.  Another one of my cousins is going to become a firefighter, the guys who rush into burning buildings to save lives every day.  ”I saved a guy today” is an average statement on an average day for him.  I can’t imagine what a good day must look like.  My friend Alli saves babies in Africa.  Cat is conquering New York City, and she can cook healthy circles around anyone.  Really.  Jenny, Crystal and Jess reminded me to keep going in the midst of a lot of pain last year. I’ve worked with unbelievably talented and creative people who have believed in me and inspired me with their creativity and new projects. My pastors, specifically Scott & Tim, helped me make it through my teenage years and into my adult life relatively unscathed, believing great big things were coming just around the corner. These are the people who have taught me not to be afraid of anything. They were the air that I needed, the little God-whispers in life pushing me along.  Without them, I’d probably be small and alone, still stuck somewhere scared of my own shadow. But I’m not, because they came along and surprised me. They pointed me to hope.  To life.  

I love Monet and Van Gogh (in fact, the photo above is two of their paintings, hanging side by side in a Getty gallery.  I spent a lot of time sitting there.)  I love Banksy.  I love Brooke Fraser, Gungor, David Crowder, The Civil Wars, Florence + The Machine, Mumford + Sons and Mutemath, all for different reasons. They inspire me, usually at extremely loud volume. I watch Finding Neverland at least four times a year. I also read Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water about that often. They’re a brilliant reminder that creativity takes work and passion and a little bit of letting everyone think you’re crazy. Inspiration does that to a person. 

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of these disparate influences, inspiring me and moving me forward. 

So what inspires you? How can you pursue inspiration every single day?  How much would your world change if every single day you had a moment of sheer wow to play with? 

I’d imagine it would be a beautiful thing to see… 

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