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Framed In Joy, Melissa N Smith: What Else?

A simple question that is impacting my life: What else?


We spend a lot of time defining ourselves by our roles or work, yet at the end of the day, our value lies elsewhere - in the heart of God. 

In the fall of 2018, my older two children went to private school, and our youngest began attending a small hybrid homeschool group that met 4 days a week. Translation: I had worked myself out of a job. In college, I trained to be an educator. For years, I worked as a teacher, then quit to stay home with our children who I then began educating at home. After a decade oriented around our children and education, I had time on my hands. 

Yes, I was excited. Yes, I was ready for rest. However, what surprised me was how empty and spent, and lost I felt. If I’m not spending my days raising my kids and teaching them, then who am I? 

That was the wrong question. Who I was had not changed, but how I spent my time had. 

We tend to think in an “or” kind of way. I can stay home OR I can work. I can be a writer OR I can make money. I can homeschool OR I can build my business. 

Instead of an “or” life, let’s build a life of “and.” 

  • I am a stay-at-home mom, and I’m building a business.
  • I am a writer, and I also teach.
  • I paint for fun, and I charge for my art.

There were many years when I locked myself into a box with my limited thinking about who I was and how God built me to operate. I tangled up my value with my work, and when my work shifted, I thought my value shifted in kind.

In my middle years, I’m learning to be more gracious and flexible with my days. As I lean into being deeply loved by God, I am also leaning into His design for my life. Instead of seeing myself through my roles or my work, I'm learning the abundance of this question: "And what else?”

  • I am raising my children, writing words, teaching writers, coaching creatives, and loving working from home.  And what else?
  • I take Zumba classes and paint just for fun. And what else?
  • I meet with friends and coordinate groups and take vacations and cry in my closet. And what else?
  • I hate cooking and ordered Green Chef. And what else?
  • Some days I doubt that any of my work matters and I drink sweet tea and read a book. And what else?
  • My body aches and I can’t always operate at capacity, so I have to slow down. And God still loves me. And what else?
  • I didn’t write any words for a month, and I’m still a writer. And what else?
  • I call myself a photographer because I’ve had a camera since 4th grade and love visual arts, but I’ve never made any money and don’t plan to. And what else?
  • I almost walked away from the church, but I’m still attending and slowly learning to be vulnerable again. It’s slow and messy and awkward. And He still loves me. And what else?
  • Art and music and creativity weave colorful threads through my entire life, even when no one but God saw them. He thinks they are beautiful. And what else?

The "And" life is one of abundance. It is knowing that no matter what, we are seen, known, and loved by God. Our identity, purpose and hope rest securely in Christ. 

Do you hesitate to call yourself a writer or artist or creative because…

…no one knows?

…you don’t post on social media or a website?

…it’s been years since you pursued it?

…you haven’t made money with your craft?

…you doubt you are good enough?

The beautiful creative desire you hold in your heart was given to you by our beautiful, creative God. It’s a gift, and it is part of you. Unwrapping and enjoying that gift helps you fulfill your ultimate purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

What roles do you fill today AND how can you steward your creativity in them?

What has God called you to in this season AND how is He walking with you in it?

What do you need today AND how is God fulfilling your desires?

It’s an “and” life with God, friend. As you look at your life and purpose, you can ask with a face upturned and a hopeful lilt to your voice, “What else, Father?”

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