Realizing that my gifts MATTER.

Over the past week or so, I've gotten to see a few of my graphic design projects in real life. 
Somehow, seeing things printed in mass quantities instead of just on my computer screen in Adobe Illustrator makes it seem more "real."
I designed a postcard for National Volunteer Appreciation Week (this week! Go thank some volunteers!) for Little Brothers.  This week, almost 1,500 people around the city of Chicago will receive a postcard thanking them for their service with Little Brothers this year - with my photo and design on in!
And, I came home the other day to a postcard and bookmark waiting on my desk for me from my housemate, Clarissa.  I  designed a logo for the organization she's working with this year, Grace Seeds, and they "debuted" the logo at an event this weekend - complete with the logo on a cake!!
So I've been thinking (again) about Graphic Design and how important it is to me.
I really think that's one of the biggest things I've realized this year.
Our gifts have been given to us for a reason. My gifts have been given to me for a reason.
I've loved to create for as long as I can remember.  Some of my first memories are making things out of homemade play-doh and coloring "scribble drawings" with my mom.  As a little girl, I was constantly doing some sort of craft. Making something where there used to be nothing absolutely fascinates me.  I've been through phases of just about everything - cross stitch, polymer clay, scrapbooking, shrinky-dinks, painting, quilting, handmade cards, embroidery.  I could go on.
I started college with no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  None.  I actually started as an Elementary Education major, mostly because it was something I knew.  I understood school.  Thankfully, I went to a liberal arts college that required me to do some exploring anyways.  So I took the general Art101 class that everyone takes.  I loved every moment of it.  And thankfully, I went to a college where the professors care.  (Here's a secret: If you want to get me talking about my deepest thoughts, give me a paintbrush or some clay to stick my hands in and I'll spill it all.)  So I talked to my professor.  I told him how I loved art but I just wasn't sure that it was a practical thing for me to study since I really didn't want to be an art teacher.  He introduced me to the concept of graphic design.  I had never even heard of such a thing before.  He convinced me to take Graphic Design 101 the next semester to see if I liked it.  And I loved it.  I loved how it incorporated the creative with the practical.  I loved seeing my ideas come together on the computer screen. 
So I changed my major. 
I changed my dreams.
I started dreaming of a corporate, city lifestyle.  I was sure that I would move to Seattle, ride the train to work where I would design pretty things for clients, and go home to my cute little apartment.
And then I graduated.
I quickly discovered that finding a job in this industry is next to impossible.  I didn't have any real life experience.  I didn't have any contacts.  And so my little resume never made it to the top of the pile.  I applied for well over 200 positions and never even had an interview.  It was so sad, so depressing, so discouraging. 
So I got another job.  Ironically, it was in the Education field, the field that I decided wasn't for me.  Funny how God works, right?
And slowly, my Graphic Design dreams faded.
Gradually, I decided that I probably wouldn't ever get to work in Graphic Design.  It would just be something that I could do on the side, for fun.
I accepted that.
And then God led me to the YAV program.  I knew that I needed to step out in faith, and do something crazy for God.  I knew it was time to put my Faith into action instead of just talking about it.  And this work with Little Brothers is good work, really good.  It's just my gift.  I have to rely on God to give me what I need all day long.  And relying on God is an amazing thing.  And I hope that never stops.
But gradually, over the past 8 months, He's shown me that my gifts matter.
He's given me a love for details, for typography, a passion for color theory, and an enthusiasm for problem solving that are the perfect combination for designing.
He's taught me that my skills can help people by putting opportunities in front of me. 
He's made me realize that my skills are unique.  I know things about file formats, color spaces, and vectors that the average person doesn't have a clue about. 
And He's shown me that Design is something that is needed by small non-profits, churches, ministries, and organizations just as much - if not more - than large businesses.
So now I'm here, no longer dreaming of a corporate, career-driven life, but of a life helping people further the Kingdom of God through my skills of Graphic Design and photography.
Now I just have to figure out how to do that.
So keep your ears open, friends, for jobs like that - because in a few months my student loans are going to need to be paid again and I'm going to need a real job where they pay me.