“God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.”- Henri Nouwen
First of all, if you are receiving this in your inbox, it is because you subscribed to my Mailchimp email list. I’ve re-platformed to Substack because I’ve changed course a little and Substack fits my needs better at this time. Nothing has changed for you - you’ll still get the same content, just hopefully more of it and better.
In March, I lost a mentor and beloved friend quite suddenly. His name was Ralph and I loved him very much, although neither he nor I are the types to spend time on that sort of mush. He was a youth pastor at our church during most of my teenage years, was a pragmatic minister; a seeker of Christ and a skeptic in many ways. But that meant that if he believed in God, it was because he saw God at work in real ways, and his belief was something we could trust. As a church leader, he passed that on to us and while I can’t speak for my peers, that’s the way that I’ve approached religion as well. After Ralph left our church, the next preacher assigned to us divided and split the church in ways that it never really recovered from. Years later, I’d work on staff at two of the biggest churches in my city, and I also fell into an ill-advised and toxic infatuation with a church leader where I worshiped in my late-20s. All this to say, the spiritual life that my friend Ralph laid the groundwork for was pretty much destroyed by the time I turned 30.
After he died though, I kept thinking of him and what he meant to me as a person and a seeker, and how that squared up with where I am today. In the same way I answer most questions, I started Googling one night and landed on the author Henri Nouwen, and while I wouldn’t say it changed my life, I did feel it shift a bit.
I understood, maybe for the first time ever, that God wasn’t a puppeteer and God’s love wasn’t a faucet that was turned off and on based on whims that we couldn’t predict. I understood that when bad things happened, it wasn’t because God was trying to teach me a lesson, it was just the way my story was playing out, and that the whole story was God.
As an artist and a creative person and through all the uncertainty and challenges that go with that, it was implied that if I “followed my passion” things would go well for me and if things hadn’t then I had strayed from “my path” in some way. This destructive thinking did me no favors, so I had to change my perspective. To believe that God was with me when I left bad jobs and bad situations, when I questioned my abilities, when I made unconventional choices to pursue opportunities. And if Gods hand was working in my life all this time, isn’t it still? I believe so.
There’s a constant tug-of-war between art and business, and it’s become even more intense as social media and the digital space simultaneously opens unimaginable opportunities and creates algorithms and monetization funnels to change audience behaviors and incentivize creators to jockey for attention on platforms that can change any time.
I post to Instagram at least three times a week, and my ROI makes it look like I have zero supporters, which I know isn’t true. When I post on Facebook, the algorithm prioritizes those posts most when they’re shared by others, which runs the risk of distorting my message and also makes me dependent on pleasing others with what I post. It is way too easy to start “working for an algorithm.” Not to mention the privacy and disruptive engagement concerns that Facebook and other large social media platforms have.
In short, there’s a personal shift toward more authenticity and “real life’ in what I’m producing, and it doesn’t really align with my current platforms. When I write or create a piece, I know I’m putting something out there that’s personal to me and possibly to people I care about. I have to think very hard about what that looks like and how to do it the best service. Some stories are too important to be “clickbait.”
I’ve constantly told my clients to invest in the platforms they “own” and now I’m taking that advice for myself. If you subscribe to this email newsletter, you hear from me every time I have something new to share. If you visit my blog, same thing. Nothing falls through the cracks or dilutes my voice for you.
So, taking away likes and shares, how can you support me? By doing what you’re doing.
This newsletter may eventually have some exclusive content for paid subscribers, but for now it’s all available to everyone. If you enjoy my writing and art, please forward this newsletter to a friend and/or encourage them to visit my creative Web Site: stephaniekhattak.com or my business Web Site: www.khattakstudios.com.
I’m not selling much of my art at this time, but I am available for paid commercial or editorial illustration, and writing projects.
I’ll still post on social media, because I live in the modern world and it is necessary, but the “good stuff” will be here and on my personal platforms.
Basically, if you like my work, just read it and connect me with others. Be my algorithm. Be with me.
PS: Please bear with any technical glitches while I learn the new platform.
All good wishes,