August 12, 2015

Lessons on Creativity {Why we need to consider the art we have to offer}


On Sunday, I got caught coloring.

I heard their squeals over the roar of the lawn mower. Jeff hasn’t taken to Sabbath-keeping like I have. He spends a lot of summer Sunday afternoons on the lawn mower. The heat index was 119 and I wasn’t too happy with him being out risking heat stroke. I am his wife, not the Holy Spirit, so I let him be.

I saw their curls bouncing as they raced across the yard, yelling as loud as they could “Do Dah, Do Dah!” Do Dah is Jeff’s grandpa name. It sometimes gets shortened to just plain Do, or sometimes, a double Do when they want to tease him with potty talk.

I’m Dandy---or shortened, Dan. They found me in my office sitting on the couch with a coloring book and colored pencils lying all around. Their eyebrows arched up over their blue eyes revealing an expression of surprise, then mischief. They wanted in on the action. We flipped through pages and pages of the Enchanted Forest colouring book picking favorites from the black and white whimsical designs reminiscent of tattoos.

I was acting my age, and didn’t want them scribbling up my book, so we traipsed off to the other side of the house to make copies, a floral fox for Naomi and a swirly squirrel for Olivia.

Olivia is really into the color pink, but she’s not really into coloring. She covered the squirrel’s eye with a few strokes of pink and was off to find the toy basket.

Naomi found inspiration in the color palette I was working with---pink and orange flowers and a great swath of green leaves in the middle of circular design. She chose orange, pink and a couple of greens as I had, and added a splash of turquoise and a touch of red to her fox printed on the copy paper.

I gave up coloring for the joy of watching my grandgirls play on the hot afternoon. I was careful to listen for their lessons, the kind that can only be taught by children. It wasn’t long before one of those lessons popped up into the room like a daffodil in spring.

Naomi sat on the rug and hugged up to the round distressed wood coffee table. Its top resembles a sunburst creating a rough surface for coloring but it didn’t seem to bother Naomi.

Light fell slant across her page through the west window. She worked the orange pencil lead into the design and stated confidently, “I am an artist.” She is four.

Their momma sat in the chair beside her and we all agreed Naomi is an artist. Annie explained that Olivia is a sculptor. When she gives Liv a color page at home, she quickly scribbles over it and heads for the blocks. She is almost three.

“I am an artist.” Naomi’s words resonated in my heart. I prayed silently, “Oh Lord, may Naomi always know that you made her to create art (and Olivia, too.)

Her blond curls hung down over her cheeks. She brushed them back occasionally, revealing the faintest of freckles. I suggested to Naomi that I create art, but with words. Her wrinkled nose told me she wasn’t convinced. I clarified, telling her I write stories, and sometimes poetry. Still unconvinced, I asked if she liked poetry. She lifted her cherub face, and nodded. She didn’t tell me, but I’m sure she was thinking of Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Earlier in the afternoon when I was coloring, tears slipped down my cheeks as I prayed for the family members and friends of my friend Micah who left the world, and cancer, behind a couple weeks ago. Micah was an artist, with paint and ink, with needle and thread, and with words. She was a hair stylist by trade, and to me, the very definition of a creative.

I prayed for her the year and months she battled cancer. She became a friend of my heart through shared concerns and shared respect. She was the first person from my town to ever comment on my blog. Ours was a quiet friendship. Our lives brushed each other’s as God planted us in the same little town. I always thought when we got our kids raised, we’d collaborate on something. It wasn’t meant to be.

Micah was an artist, but not only with the brush, or scissors, or pen. She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. She was a lover of God and a lover of people. She was brave, and vulnerable, and confident in the person who God made her to be. She brought all of these beautiful qualities into her creative life, even into her battle with colon cancer. When God came for her, we celebrated and we grieved. 

I know that many stop living, stop creating, when cancer comes, but Micah kept creating. Her writing voice found its wings and took off. No time to mince words, she spoke the truth plainly and with authority. She engaged her world of influence when others in her shoes might have retreated. And her world, they cheered her on.

When Naomi stated as a matter of fact, “I am an artist.” I thought of Micah. I thought of her art, of the beauty she left behind for her children, and her grands yet to be.

Micah’s life taught me how important it is to live out of the gifts God has given me. Naomi is teaching me to embrace who I am, how I was made.

I want to recapture the simplicity of a child who fills her world with color. And I want courage like my friend who lived the creative life all the way to the end. For this I was made--- to write “words that make souls stronger” because that is how God created me. I am storyteller, a writer, a prayer warrior, a truth teller, and by God’s grace, a friend. I was made to tell stories that lift others up, that point to them to the Savior.

The Bible says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

We reflect the image of God when we create beauty and give it to the world. We must never forget we are the masterpieces of the Greatest Artist. Through Jesus, we are given the privilege and the call to give out his abundant grace---our unique offering because there is no else exactly like us. Our art becomes a prayer, a praise, a reflection of our Maker---an act of worship, a gift.

We are to create with the abandon of a child and give to the world our offering born out of what God has given to us. It really is His gift through us. We give freely---like if today were our very last day. It may well be...

However our creative gifts are expressed, we can we can be sure of this: When we live out of our gifting, it brings our Father joy. 

So today we sing our songs, write our stories, bake cakes, take photos, sew, garden, rearrange the furniture. The possibilities are unique to all of us. Some of us have to be very creative about how we create. We may have to think a little differently about creativity, be open to the possibilities of how we are made to bring light into the darkness of this world. It is to the Father's glory. 


https://ililiastrotter.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/our-works-will-follow-us/

The results need not end with our earthly days. Should Jesus tarry, our works will follow us. God may use, by reason of the wonderful solidarity of His Church, the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us:  as these twigs and leaves of bygone years, whose individuality is forgotten, pass on vitality still to the new-born wood-sorrel. God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!” 
(Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), The Parables of the Cross--- missionary, watercolorist, writer)