Challenges, Growth & Opportunities

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Hi Everyone,

We all face challenges at different times in our lives; and how we embrace these challenges impacts our ability to transcend their circumstances. Challenges force us– and our souls– to grow in unimaginable ways.


The past few years, since I became a widow, have been the most challenging period of my life– and yet they have also been the most rewarding. I have grown creatively, practically and spiritually, which I attribute to keeping my heart open to possibility and living with intention. I also strive to look for the blessing in every situation, which helps me stay grounded in gratitude.

As regular blog readers know, I try to start each day with a pen in my hand so I can express what’s in my heart. The page below, from one of my morning journals, is fairly typical of some of the pages I pen.


Living with intention requires practice; it means really understanding WHAT you want, so you can try to figure out HOW to try to achieve it. It requires patience, flexibility, dedication and a willingness to embrace yourself and where you are on your life’s journey.

Below is a page from one of the journals I kept the year after my husband died:


Although I was giving myself permission to start again, I didn’t really have any idea where I wanted to be, much less how I was going to get there. That same year, as I dreamed of designing a new life for myself and my children, I wrote a saying that Leanin’ Tree just licensed for a graduation card:

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Given how profoundly dysfunctional we were at the time, designing a new life seemed an impossible dream. And yet I knew that if I was committed to building a future which reflected my core values, I would have to try. That’s when I made the decision to start living with intention. Although I would never have willingly chosen this, I recognize that few people have the opportunity to re-envision their life’s purpose, and I am profoundly grateful to be in the process of reinventing myself.

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Today, as I look back over the past few years, I realize that my blog– and the heart connection that I’ve forged with so many of you– has played a huge part in helping me heal, and in helping me transition to whatever lies ahead. My heartfelt gratitude to everyone in the Zenspirations® community. Together we are building something incredibly special.

To reminisce a bit, last year at this time, as I was working on Zenspirations® Birds & Butterflies, my publisher told me that I could add 16 pages of color to the front of the book. I decided to use most of these pages to show examples of how differently the designs could be interpreted, and invited some of my blog followers to color a few pages from the book. Wow, wow, WOW!!! I was blown away by the incredible creativity that I saw when people started using my illustrations as a springboard for their own artistry. This was the catalyst for starting the Zenspirations Create, Color, Pattern, Play Facebook group.  Our FB group is a haven where members not only share their creative efforts, but support one another while doing so. It a privilege to be part of a group of kind, caring people who share my commitment to making a difference in the world.

It’s hard to believe, but this Thursday, July 21st, we will be celebrating our 1st anniversary, and I invite you to join the celebration! There are lots of wonderful surprises in store. Click the link above to visit the group, and if you aren’t a member, click the ‘join’ button when you get there (if you’d like to join). That way you’ll be ready when the celebration kicks-off on Thursday, July 21st.

Something else which is kicking-off this week (finally!) is The Lettering Club. My heartfelt apologies to those of you who have had trouble signing up, or aren’t sure if you are actually registered. Developing an on-line classroom, along with an infrastructure for the Club has been more challenging than I realized… in part because ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’– and I didn’t know that the system I chose was free —as long as there were under 500 members. Apparently a lot of you want to learn how to letter, because more than 700 people signed up! The first 500 to register were notified, but the rest weren’t notified until I upgraded the account yesterday. I hope everyone who wants to be part of the Club has gotten a confirmation note, but because we’ve had some issues, I have extended the registration period through midnight on Wednesday, July 20th.

Everyone who is registered for The Lettering Club should have received a letter which looks like this:


If you haven’t gotten this letter, please check your spam and junk-mail boxes. If you are sure you don’t have the letter, that means YOU ARE NOT IN THE LETTERING CLUB and you will need to sign up in the box below.  

If you don’t get the letter within 12 hours of signing up, please either e-mail me or leave a comment on the blog. I will check to make sure that everyone who wants to participate will be able to. Registration for this free class closes Wednesday at midnight, so please make sure you sign up before then, as I will not be able to add you once the class gets underway .

In terms of supplies, you’ll need one of Sakura’s 3mm Pigma® Calligrapher pens in whatever color you want. They come in Black, Royal Blue, Red, Sepia, Purple (my favorite!), and Hunter Green (not my favorite). You can buy them individually, as a set of 3 black pens (one each 3mm, 2mm, 1mm), or as a set of all six colors in either 3mm, 2mm, or 1mm. If your budget permits, I’d recommend getting one 3mm, one 2mm, and one 1mm in the same color, and then at least one extra 3mm in a different color.

You can probably find the pens at your local craft retailer or on Amazon, but since you are about to enter the wonderful world of lettering, I’d like to introduce you to the best calligraphic resource I know: John Neal Bookseller. I have purchased my calligraphy supplies and books from John for more than 30 years, and can personally attest to the fact that he ships quickly– and he ships internationally! Best of all, John was kind enough to set up a page just for us, where you can order the pens you’ll need for class. (FYI, the 3 pack is the last item on the page). Individual pens are $3.49 each; 6 or more assorted are $3.14 each. John’s staff is very knowledgeable, so don’t hesitate to ask them if you have questions.

Thank you again for your patience. I’m looking forward to finally getting The Lettering Club underway!

Before closing this week, there are two birthdays to celebrate. Cheri’s is on Thursday, the same day as our anniversary, and since she likes music I made her a music-themed card:


Leitha’s birthday is on Sunday, and since she loves to color, I made her a card that she could color.


Hope this week will be filled with wonderful and memorable celebrations!

Stay Zenspired,


20 thoughts on “Challenges, Growth & Opportunities”

  1. Thank you so much Joanne! I love it! I will be sure to post the finished picture! Love it, love it, love it!!!!

  2. Congrats on the anniversary. I as well had a chance to reimagine my life and crating through several ways have healed me. Thank you for sharing your love with us!

  3. Thank you for your forthright, sensitive and encouraging thoughts with your artwork, your words and your attitude of gratitude.
    Although I have been hesitant to sign up for your lettering class, as you mentioned in this post, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” So, with that said, I am intentionally refreshing –and possibly learning for the first time– the fundamental principals of lettering.
    I’m looking forward to helping celebrate Zenspirations 1st year on FB… Congrats!
    Happy creative time to all as we uplift each other with new connections!

  4. Inspiring as always! I am so happy to be a part of this group. Everyone is encouraging, loving and fun. We are quirky and unique and I love this! One year later and I still can’t wait to see what happens next. Joanne, you know my goals and you coach me along the way. Thank you for that!

    Love and hugs,

  5. I must tell you ~ I have been a calligrapher since I was 11 years old (my private school banned the use of ball point pens as they said it caused lazy penmanship LOL) so with that teaching under my belt ever since I learned to write = making the transition was fairly easy. I have a favorite pen and have always loved the rhythm of writing.. Since I have never had a class on decorative writing or calligraphy, I had no idea how much I DIDN’T know haha…While preparing for the upcoming club with you, I decided to do some research and have been absorbing information like a starving person!! I had NO idea there were names for every element of a letter had a name! (seriously – I had NO idea what Sans Serif meant! I knew (thanks to Latin) that it indicated the lack of a serif… what a serif was – I never knew! All of this is probably pointless for the beautifully free style of writing you use, but it sure showed me that there is a WORLD of classic lettering out there that I never knew about!! I can’t WAIT until the 21st!

  6. My Dear Joanne.
    Thank you for today’s blog. I felt like you were talking directly to me sharing yourself as an example that I can also make that transition into creating who I now want to be.
    As you know Thurs is also an anniversary for me. In 2005 it was the day my life forever changed by being t-boned in my car and having the 1st of 3 TBIs.
    I feel like you’ve given me a very special gift on your blog today and I plan to copy and print the text to look at often.
    Thank you my friend.

  7. Joanne, this was so inspirational – not only for me but other family members. You have such a kindness and coming from a place of love – you can “feel” this message in your heart. Bless you! Hugs. Linda

  8. Little did I know when I first came across your artwork that months later I would be in the deepest grief…my 33 year old son passed away on June 28. Grief is necessary, definitely not pretty, but definitely necessary. Thank you for some brightness on some teary, dreary days. Blessings! Shalom!

    1. Nancy, sending you my deepest sympathy, imagining what that pain must feel like since I have two adult sons in their late 30’s but am afraid to look ahead because my husband has stage 4 cancer. I believe each of us who trust in the Lord with our circumstances, have the optimal opportunity for transformation! Bless you!

      1. Oh Chris,
        My heart goes out to you, too… I have not walked in your shoes… my husband died unexpectedly from a heart attack. I spent the entire first week thanking God that he didn’t suffer… I encourage you to try to stay as present as you can, and to celebrate each moment you have together. The blessing of a terminal illness is that you get to say goodbye– and your husband (if he is able) can share how he wants to be remembered. You and your children are his legacy… and I’ll be keeping your family in my prayers.

    2. Oh Nancy,
      My heart goes out to you… I am so very sorry for your loss. Has anyone told you about Compassionate Friends? It’s an international organization which supports parents who have lost a child. I know from belonging to The Modern Widows Club, that being with others who ‘get it’ can make a big difference on your grief journey. Please let me know if you’d ever like to talk… May your son’s memory be for blessing…

  9. You amaze me, Lady! what you say, what you do, everything you touch just inspires me. You make me feel as if I can start any project and be gratified with whatever the outcome. Thank you.

  10. Well my dear friend, what can I say? Once again you touched my heart and soul with your authenticity and love. Many times I have said almost the same words……mine are, “I wouldn’t wish chronic pain on anyone, but for me, it has been a blessing!” Not only has it allowed me to be with my parents, in their later years, but it has opened the door to my creativity. And finding you, along with all of the amazing and inspiring artists in the Zenspirations group, has been a HUGE gift! “I just love us!!”

    Love and hugs!
    Mary Anne

  11. Joanne, you give me great hope as you explain transition replaced by transformation, as my husband is surviving his 4th year of stage 4 kidney cancer. We celebrate our 40th anniversary this Nov. You are a testimony to transformation my dear❣

  12. Joanne Thank you so much for your inspiration and challenges that you have shared with us.I hope that I can create a new me I so need it I am so thankful I found your page and your books I am a member of the fb group but just haven’t shared anything because I am not sure it would be very great but I am trying to work on something . Hope to share soon

  13. Love your inspirational words. My birthday was yesterday. I hope to follow your example and try to be more creative and motivate myself. You truly are an inspiration to us all.

  14. My dear Joanne, our wifi on holiday is intermittent..I have tried several times to write this and I really want you to know how wonderful it was to find your blog 18 months ago. I can remember seeing your call for colourists and then reading your email, whilst at the airport in Rhodes , that my swan piece was to appear in your book…the rest as they say is history. The FB platform has grown so beautifully. You are the most remarkable lady, I cannot imagine what a dark place you were in when your darling husband passed away, but the way you have picked yourself up and inspired others via your Zenspirational work is truly inspirational. I am blessed to call you a friend and cannot thank you enough for the caring, sharing approach your demonstrate in your art and in your life. Your soul is so very pure. Here’s to many more years blogging friendship. With my love and gratitude, your friend, Jane xxxx

  15. I found you on Pinterest after looking @ dangles & doodles. Excited to be added to a group of continuous growth and sharing❤

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