This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Today, we’re excited to welcome Quina Aragon to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Quina is wife to Jon and mother to a beautiful two-year-old girl, Jael. Today we’ll be discussing creativity in motherhood, and how being made in the image of God and identified with Christ gives us freedom to cultivate his glory in our everyday lives. Quina is an artist who enjoys writing, copyediting, and creating spoken word videos. You can find more of her work at her website, QuinaAragon.com. Let’s get to the show with Emily, Quina, and myself.
Laura: Hi Quina, thanks so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.
Quina: Hello, thanks for having me.
Laura: We are super excited to have you on. You are someone that Emily and I have been watching over the past year or two. We’ve seen more and more and more of your ministry and really enjoyed what we see you pouring out and the way God is spreading the gospel through your message and the arts that you create. One thing that we’re really excited about—that we can’t wait to share—is your new book called Love Made, and it’s a children's book.
Emily and I had a chance to have a quick glance at it ahead of time. I told Emily that it made me tear up [laughter]; it was really beautiful work and I just shared it with our audience, so thank you so much. Sorry, that was a big, long [laughter] introduction to tell everyone how excited I am about you.
Quina: Thank you. Thank God, thank you, and thank you guys for taking a look at that. I am really excited to share that with everyone, and my ministry as well. I was surprised to be reached out to to write an article for you guys; I think it was last year?
Quina: That was one of my favorite articles to write and really think through, and it really blessed my marriage because I was talking about how to cultivate and get a healthy marriage when you have a young one, or when you're new parents. That was actually very helpful for our marriage. I really thank you guys for that opportunity and also the content you guys are always putting out from the podcast to the articles, even that little Facebook post [laughter]. I've seen people sharing that. Yes, thank you guys.
Emily: Well we want you to be more formally introduced to our listeners. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your family is like, and then what you do?
Quina: Sure. My name is Quina Aragon, or if you want to be super Spanish you can say Aragón [laughter]—that’s how Jon’s, my husband, family says it. I was born in the Philippines; my mom’s Filipino-Puerto Rican and my dad’s Jamaican. I was raised in Orlando, Florida and ended up going to college in Tampa, Florida, which is not too far—like two hours from there. I now live in Tampa with my husband, and we've been married about four years, and we have a two-year-old daughter named Jael Sophia.
My husband and I serve as small group ministry leaders at our church which is Living Faith Bible Fellowship, and we also run our business which is called Jon Doulos, which is his creative name. He’s a visual artist—he's a designer, developer, creative director for a company called Native Supply. I am a writer and editor, so we sometimes get to work together on some projects. Mostly we do our own projects, but I perform spoken words sometimes and create spoken words videos when I have the opportunity. We’re a little bit all over the place, but that’s kind of [laughs] a little bit about our family.
Laura: Awesome. That just teased it up right there; by anyone’s standards you are an incredibly creative woman. That’s just something that I know some women feel like, “Oh, I am not super creative,” and then you have your friends who are like, “She is so creative.” [laughter] And we tend to have these boxes that we put people in—either you're creative or you're not creative. That’s why we want to have you talk on the show today because I know a lot of moms—especially if you don’t feel creative—are wishing that you were that creative mom.
We want to dive into what it looks like. Can you help us understand this? Is creativity reserved for just a select few or can anyone be creative? How does being made in the image of God really redefine our definition of creativity?
Quina: I love that question, because I think it’s important to define what the image of God is in order to understand creativity. As a side note, I always wish that I was the very visually artistic person. I was sharing the gospel with someone the other day and I realized I was making Adam and Eve stick figures [laughter] and the birds were like the ants, so I get that [laughter]. It sometimes feels weird to say, “I am creative,” but I think biblically, the short answer to your question is: no, creativity isn’t reserved to just a select few.
The long answer though means we’d have to define what it means to be made in the image of God, so that we can appreciate the call for us to exercise our creativity in various ways as God’s image bearers. “Image of God;” we get that phrase from Genesis 1:26-27 where it says that God said, “Let us make man in our image,” and man there is like humanity in our image, after our likeness. “And let them have dominion over the face of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Then it says, “So God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.”
That’s where we get the phrase, “image of God” in modern day, and that affects everything we do. I know pinning down an exact definition of that can be a little tricky sometimes. People emphasize the ability to reason and to think, and some people emphasize the fact that we can have relationship with God and others. But when we consider the original audience of Genesis, being the Israelites in an Ancient Near Eastern context that gives us a bit of a more holistic view of the image of God, which includes all of those qualities I just mentioned.
Sometimes that view’s called the Vice-Regency View which is just a fancy word. A Vice-Regent is just somebody who acts on behalf of a ruler, and you see that in the verses I just mentioned there. When God made humans in his image, he's acting like an Ancient Near Eastern King would act, when he would place statues of himself or his image throughout his territory to indicate like, “Hey, this is an area of my sovereign rule, authority, and protection.” Therefore anywhere the king’s image is, so is his rule and his reign.
Humans were here created to be God’s vice-regents or representatives, or partners even, on his earth so that wherever we were when we fill the earth, there is God’s rule in his reign. Which of course necessitates our ability to reason, think, and communicate in relationship. In Listen and Live, the short film we did for the Gospel Coalition Women's conference, I tried to summarize the image of God through poetry. Oh, and I tried to give a quick example; it says, “But Moses says that when God made us, he breathed into dust, a careful craftsman replicating royal image to cover every inch of the earth. Our existence meant partnering with God in his mission to cultivate or to reign and flourish like a garden well watered, a fruitful people, friends with their God.”
The idea in that is that God wanted to spread his image throughout the whole earth to take the temple that Eden was, and basically brought in Eden in a sense, to make the whole earth like the garden of Eden. Or to make the whole earth God’s temple, which should sound familiar to us as Christians because Jesus told us to pray that way, right? “May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So when you think, “Okay, what is God’s mission?” Habakkuk 2:14 summarizes it really beautifully for us, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
That’s what makes Genesis 3 in the fall of humanity and our sin coming into this world so tragic, because when we think of who we were made to be as these image bearers of the King of kings and then we think about how far we have fallen short of the glory of God, even though Genesis 9 tells us we’re still made in the image of God. But we’re no longer these perfect image bearers of the invisible God, and we don’t properly image God. Therefore that makes the good news important for us when we think about creativity or about being made in the image of God. It makes the good news very good [laughs] because God sent his Son, Jesus, the King of kings, who's the perfect image of the invisible God as Colossians says.
He perfectly lives out this Imago Dei; this image of God on our behalf. He takes the just punishment for our sins at the cross, and he raises the life in victory. And when we place our trust in Jesus, we are a new creation as 2 Corinthians 5 talks about. In Colossians it says, “Our new self is being renewed in knowledge after the image…”—there’s that word, “image” —“of its creator.” So Jesus is renewing this image of God in us as Christians, and Romans 8:29 says, “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
Therefore, every human being, Christian or not, bears the image of God. But as Christians, we also bear the image of Christ which means that our character’s becoming like his; our affections are becoming like his. But it also means that just like in Genesis 1 and 2, where Adam and Eve were these vice-regents or representatives of God the King, that we now— Paul calls us ambassadors; again, representatives—are image bearers of the King Jesus. He says, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us will employ you on behalf of Christ. Be reconciled to God.|”
When Jesus is resurrected and he gives his disciples this great commission which means a shared mission—again we think back to Genesis 1 as partnering with God in his mission— he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” which sounds very kingly, right? That’s authority. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” In other words Jesus is saying, “I am the King of kings. I am endowing you with power of the Holy Spirit to fill the whole earth with my image by making disciples of all nations. And remember, as you spread my image to the ends of the earth I am always with you.”
We see this kind of come to full circle from the beginning to now being in Christ where we can truly live out the image of God, and be God’s partners as his image bearers, to spread his authority and his glory to the ends of the earth. Which is my long winded version [laughter] of saying the image of God is both who we are and what we do. And if all of that is true, then that means creativity is isn’t specific to just visual arts or the written word.
If we understand creativity broadly as the ability to imagine or make new things, then that means creativity is just one aspect of what it means to be made in the image of God. And if you're made in the image of God which means are you human, then yes, you have the ability to be creative. Or you are, by your very nature, creative because that concept of creativity is related to the concept of cultivating, which we see in Genesis 2:15, which says, “The Lord God took the man Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it…”—“work” meaning to cultivate, serve, even to worship—“and to keep it.” “Keep” meaning guard or protect. Genesis 1 and 2 tells us God makes everything – the heavens, the earth; so there's only one capital C Creator.
But he made us humans in his likeness, which in part implies that we have the ability, and I think the mandate, to cultivate the materials of the earth which God created. And when we do that; when we take what God has made - whether its plants, colors, language, dirt, whatever it may be – and we make something out of it, what we’re doing is cultivating the earth, or in other words, making culture. When I take language and I piece together certain words to make a poem, a book, a blog post, or even a social media post, I am cultivating the earth.
Laura, I remember on one of your podcasts, you mentioned that you love creating new recipes or trying out new recipes. When you take vegetables or pasta, you didn’t make the carrots or the tomatoes or whatever. God made that. But you take what he's made and you cultivate it. You mix it and you heat it in a specific way and it creates something new in a sense—a specific dish for dinner. Therefore you're cultivating the earth in that. So that was my long winded way of just saying no, you don’t have to be a professional creative in order to be creative because you're made in the image of God.
Laura: I am never going to look at my dinner [laughter] in the same way again. Seriously, I love that. Oh my goodness, this was so good.
Emily: I am completely noting that over here, and I am swooning because I love that ability to hear something as “simple” or surface level as creativity, and hear God’s plan for it and the gospel in it interwoven all throughout scripture. And then for that to connect to all of the little things we do in our everyday life, whether it is the full craft you're doing with your kids, or a meal that you're making, or the pillows that you're arranging on your couch to make this beautiful space. And that it really intersects with all of the things that we put our hand to when we image God in that cultivating, and making new, different, interesting things. That is absolutely what God does. So thank you for that phenomenal description of imaging God in our creativity.
Quina: Yes. I was thinking of Elizabeth Elliot, and I’ll just paraphrase. She says something on the lines of, “Even when you comb your son’s hair to bring order from that chaos of his messy hair, you're imaging God.” You're bringing order out of chaos which is very God-like, so yes, in that sense you could be creative too.
Laura: I love that. Now that we've established literally everyone is creative, [laughter] so no one is off the hook here, [laughter] what if you're a mom though, and you're still feeling like, “Oh, I am just not super creative?” Or you're still in the classic creational gifts, “I am not that creative.” Maybe you don’t think you have a great singing voice, or you're just not the best at chalk art on the driveway, or things like that. How does the gospel apply when we are fearful or we feel discouraged in that area? Maybe we don’t want to engage with our kids in those creative tasks.
Quina: I think the gospel applies in that. It is humbling definitely to not be gifted at everything. I mean I Peter 4 talks about God’s very grace. So his grace comes in different forms, and I might not be graced to be able to draw birds very well [laughter]. They look like ants for me, which can be embarrassing. But when we’re tempted to fear or feel a little bit embarrassed that we’re not good or particularly gifted or creative at something, it’s important to remember Romans 8:1 talks about, “There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Ephesians 1 talks about that, “We’re accepted or blessed in the beloved Jesus.”
If I know that I am already loved and accepted, then I could blow a creative project [laughter] and my acceptance and my being loved is not going to be changed one bit. Colossians 3 is also good and talks about being hidden in Christ. That was always a very comforting passage for me when I fell into the trap of comparing myself to other people’s gifts—whether they have the same similar gifts as me and I think they're just better, or they had different gifts that I wish I had. It’s important for me to go back to Colossians 3 and remember I am hidden in Christ, and that means that God sees me, loves me, and accepts me as his child. Coming out of that, you're able to take risks or even just to do silly things [laughs] with your children that you might not be good at and you can be secure at the same time.
Laura: I literally make a new recipe almost every night. I never make the same thing twice. Very rarely.
Quina: That’s amazing.
Laura: I don’t know if it’s amazing or crazy, but it’s something that people are always like, “How do you find new ones all the time?” I think for me there's no fear of failing in the creative process and I attribute that much to the way that my parents raised me, of feeling like mistakes are a part of the process. Mistakes are going to happen, so let them happen because you're going to grow and that means you're making progress.
Often we look at like, “Oh, I didn’t draw that very well.” Or, “No one can tell it’s a dinosaur.” Or, “I am not going to sing during family quiet times, because I just don’t like the sound of my voice.” Realizing that it doesn’t really matter how you perform in those things because part of it is just that, you're going to get better as you try things. And that’s the beauty and the growth as a Christian and in our spiritual life, and even in the things we engage in day to day. But also that we don’t have to fear failing especially when these things aren’t sin issues; these are things where we have freedom to fail and to try new things, and it’s kind of just getting out of your comfort zone and being okay in that space.
Quina: And I would tell you, I wish I grasped that when I was a little kid. And I see it in my two-year-old daughter; that I am a recovering perfectionist who Jesus is constantly humbling and reminding me [laughs] that I run on grace and not on my performance. I see it in my two-year-old, like her personality; she doesn’t want to try things in front of people if she might fail. Just little things and I am like, “Oh man, how can I raise her in a way to think—like everything you just said—that “you’re free to fail in these areas because it’s a part of the learning process and growing, and you're secure in who you are in Christ?” That’s such a helpful thing to know and I am learning that still as an almost 30-year-old. [laughter]
Emily: Something we all need to keep learning. And on the flipside of that, there are people who really enjoy traditional creativity. I know that Laura and I both really enjoy writing, for instance, and there have been seasons of motherhood where we felt like, “Oh we don’t necessarily have the super valid outlet for it.” Or like, “I don’t know at what point I can call myself a writer,” and maybe there are people out there who can relate to that. “I don’t know if I can call myself an artist or if I have to have this certain outlet for that.”
What would you say to a mom who may be mourning and confused about what it looks like, in her role of motherhood, to be living out these gifts that God has given and walking in this type of creativity? How can she continue to magnify God’s beauty right where she's at in her season of motherhood?
Quina: I like that question. First, if you are that mom I really feel you, [laughter] because this last year for me has meant a lot of new creative opportunities that are pretty much in line with my gifts and passions. But the years before that it felt completely confusing for me just because I didn’t have as much time or opportunity to really exercise the gifts God has given me, in the ways that I am now. But really even now with these opportunities, I am still not able to do half of what I’d like to do with these gifts. I don’t work fulltime; a lot of time is spent taking care of my two-year-old which is a blessing in itself. But I feel like there are always like five concepts in my mind that I really want to execute and that [laughs] I still can’t get to. So I feel you first of all.
And then secondly, it’s been helpful for me to remember that seasons are seasons, and that a chapter in a book isn’t really the whole story. Therefore in this season of maybe young children or whatever the season within motherhood it is for you, it’s a season. Our main goal in every season is to know Christ in that season and to make him known. It does make me think; before I had a child I was working for three years at a hospital in an administrative job and in my mind it really had nothing to do with my passion or burdens or giftings, but I just needed to pay the bills. That was the only door that God really opened for me at that time.
The verse that can be comforting for mothers—it was comforting for me and convicting—was Philippians 1:12 where Paul being under house arrest is saying to the Philippian church, “I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” This man was under house arrest; he wasn’t working a 9 to 5 like I was, but he could still rejoice that his imprisonment served to advance the gospel. That’s convicting just because there are times, and I am not saying motherhood is the same thing as prison [laughter], I am saying that—maybe some people think so [laughter], I don’t think it is; I think it’s wonderful—but there are ways where you are limited as a mom to be able to exercise the fullness of your gifts and crafts and all of that.
But just asking yourself, “How can this limitation still be used by God in my intentionality to know him and to make him known?” I think also praying very specifically for opportunities to cultivate some of those gifts. Actually with Love Me, the book you looked at, I had originally done an animation video for that and one of the pastors at my church saw it and he's also an English poet. He pulled me aside and he was like, “Hey, I am telling you this was exceptional. What are you doing with this gift?” I proceeded to give him a list of excuses like, “Well, you know, with motherhood, dah, dah. I am not famous or have money so people don’t necessarily run to me when I have opportunities because I can’t really pay them a lot. I usually end up spending money to do these things.” [laughter]
I gave him my list of excuses and he just listened, nodded his head and then said, “Have you prayed about it?” and I was like, “Well, no, I can’t say I have.” I think that really pushed me to pray, pretty specifically, that God would help me have opportunities to use my gifts. I have seen this year a lot of answered prayer with that, and I am not saying it will always look the same for everybody. But there's definitely a call for us to pray for those opportunities, and if God doesn’t change your situation tomorrow, could you consider how you might seek him in this season and make him known still.
Emily: A really helpful way to look at it is that these limitations are also ordained by God, just as Paul was in prison glorifying him and spreading the gospel that no matter what circumstances we have, God is shaping us into the image of Christ because we depend on him. He is providing a lot of times, even small opportunities, and that when we are faithful in those small opportunities that he gives us, and even in unseen and quiet places, and we’re glorifying him in the little tasks or doing with our children.
I know whenever my kids were really young, I’d put together a few little books for them that we would talk through. And they were literally bound, had staples or something, and [laughter] a horrible clip art in them. But it was just that way and I am like, “I don’t really have time. I am not running children's books for everybody else right now, but I can write something creative for you and instructive for you.” I think a lot of times those things are available to us in some form or another; it’s just a matter of seeing them and putting thought to it.
Quina: That’s good. That’s challenging for me because I need time to think in my own sphere of influence, which obviously, my closest sphere of influence is my child, [laughter] and wanting to disciple her, and that means sacrificing. I am just being honest; sometimes I look past her and think like, “How can I serve the king? How can I advance God’s kingdom?” And then she's sitting right there and it might not look like how I would have wanted it to look or how I think I am geared or created to be creative. But I have this little two-year-old, so I could exercise my God-given creativity to serve her and to point her to Christ, or to help her thrive. So yes, that’s really good.
Laura: And we talk to so many people, so many women have been on the show, or Emily and I have talked to them in their private life, and countless women have said, “The little years, the hidden, unseen work, that’s what prepared me for greater ministry later.” They were saying that those are the years that God was cultivating in them the patience, the long suffering and even the thoughts—that he was challenging them in their thought process and revealing sin issues and teaching and growing them.
So many of those women, wouldn’t you say Emily, they’ve all said, “Those little years when I felt like I was suffocating,” or like, “I couldn’t live out my calling in the way that I wanted it to be displayed.” Looking back and hindsight being 20-20, those were very special years of growth for them to where it prepared them for mission. That’s something that we get. Yes, we feel you. I feel like motherhood cramps my style all the time with professional [laughter] endeavors; it’s one of those things where we have to say no to a lot of things so that we can say yes at home. But hopefully some day, that leads not necessarily public or famous or whatever that may be, but a different type of ministry when we have more time. I think that these years are more precious than we give them credit—for not only our children or babies, but also for our own hearts and what we will someday do.
Quina: Amen. That’s really good. The verse that comes to mind when you say that is Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men. Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” There's two motivations there—one is that we get to serve Jesus by changing poopy diapers, [laughter] whereas we may preferred to be speaking on a podcast or something in that moment. But you're serving Christ; that’s one motivation.
The other one is that knowing that from the Lord you'll receive the inheritance as your reward, there will be affirmation. For all that you do in faith, to the glory of God, including the most mundane, boring, or poopy situations [laughter] that you're in—the tasks that you have as a mother. That’s comforting. None of it is wasted on the Lord; he sees even what's done in secret.
Emily: Totally. We don’t know what he's going to use or not use for “big things,” so it’s pretty presumptuous of us to think like, “I don’t know if it’s going to be that silly spiral bound book I made when my son was three.” [laughter] It was bad; Laura’s seen it [laughter]. Or it was something I did publicly. It could be that the little spiral bound book “did more” in a sense, and it yielded more. We just don’t know.
So as we close here, could you share a few ways that your family incorporates more intentional creativity into your daily rhythms? As we know, both you and your husband are probably naturally more traditionally creative, but I feel that’s inspiring and encouraging to those of us who want to walk in this and be more aware of how we can image God.
Quina: That’s good. When we think of being creative as a family, we like to pray about and consider creative ways or different ways to encourage each other, our daughter, our neighbors, our friends, or our church members. That means may seem really simple, but I found in my marriage, as well as my friendships, that when I am really praying intentionally and specifically asking God, “Please show me creative ways to encourage this person.”
It’s not that I write every person a poem, although I've done that sometimes. But I really do feel like God places them on my heart in a specific way where I think like, “You know what, this person needs this specific thing,” or, “This person will be very encouraged by this specific thing.” And I do believe that those are answers to prayers for creative ways to encourage each other and others. That’s the basic thing that comes to mind. I also appreciate taking prayer walks. Especially when my daughter couldn’t walk, this was very helpful; putting her in the stroller and letting her sit there. Take walks and using that time to pray instead of thinking of it as, “I need an hour on my knees,” which I didn’t have usually because she was with me. Then sometimes, though not as much as Laura, [laughter] I do try new recipes [laughter]. Not nearly as much as you [laughter].
Laura: I love that so much. I love all of those tips and they are really easy ones for women to incorporate into their daily lives. I hope everyone tries a new recipe this week; [laughter] we’ll just put it out there. And be creative; image God and be creative. Quina, thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood today, we truly appreciate it.
We want all of our listeners to check out Quina’s new book. We’ll show you a little glimpse hopefully on social media this week, and if it’s available for preorder, we’ll definitely let you know. It comes out in February of 2019, but it’s called Love Made, and it is a beautiful book. Lots of Quina’s creativity went into that, so we’re really excited about this book. Of course, we’ll have lots of other things on our show notes about Quina and her work, so you can find it on her website and on her social media handles from there. Check out the show notes and thanks again, Quina.
Quina: Amen. Thank you guys. Love you all.
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