07 October 2013

making art

When I was in the very early stages of the education program in college, I did "teacher assisting" in a 2nd grade classroom.  This, more or less, was an opportunity to observe a real-life teacher in action.  I ran copies and checked papers.  Every once in awhile I got to take a small group of students to another room for a group activity.  I was given the opportunity to fancy up the bulletin boards and even escort the class to specials!  Toward the end of the semester I had to do a whole-class-lesson.  I chose a Thanksgiving craft.  It was basic.  Make a bowling-pin-shaped-turkey body and add construction paper feathers.  I think I cut the turkey body out for each student and then gave them the choice of colors of construction paper they wanted.  I had cut the construction paper into feather-sized-rectangles; all the students had to do was taper an end to make a feather.

After explaining the project to the class, I hung my finished "turkey" on the blackboard and began to walk around the room to see how the kiddos were doing.  They all seemed so eager to get started.  One student asked me to help cut a feather.  So I did.  I heard my name being called out from various places around the classroom.  Kind of frantically.  I also began to notice hands waving violently at me.  The eagerness was replaced with desperation.  I had no idea what was happening.

The classroom teacher must have noticed that I was confused and things were falling apart.  She stood up and met me across the room, she whispered, "they all want theirs to look just like yours."

My heart sank. There was not nearly enough time for me to go around and cut five feathers for each student, and besides, I didn't even know if I had enough of the same colors I had used to make mine.

I had no idea they would want to make theirs look just like mine.  I thought they would love the idea of making their very own unique project.

I think I tried to tell the students to make theirs their own, but I'm not sure how many left that day with a finished project they were proud of.

I never forgot this lesson.

When I went on to teach, I always reminded myself about that instance.  I wouldn't make a finished example to show the class.  I left the projects open-ended and would be as encouraging as possible for students to put their own twist on it.

I did the same thing when I offered that little series of sewing classes at my house.

I don't know if we had stellar art teachers in grade school or if our parents did a super job of making us feel like our own flair was what made our work special. {My sister is crazy creative.}  I just don't know.  All I know is I rarely try to make anything creative exactly like someone else's.  I like to make it my own.  That is not to say that I make up all of the ideas myself, no no no, I just put my own spin on the ideas I come across.  I really enjoy creating.  Especially when I think of creating in the terms of "creative things."

You know how we kind of categorize things as "creative" or not.  Some people say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body."  You've heard that said, right? 

Here's the lesson I am learning lately though.  God is a Creator.  We are made in His image.  We are all creators. We do our best work, when our work is creative.  I am the best mom, when I am doing it with my personality - the personality that God has given me, the one He is continually shaping. When I try to make my momming look like someone else's?  I end up frustrated.  And frantic. And desperate.  And so much like a 2nd grader trying to do her teacher's art instead of making it her own.

The gentle gene is not dominant in my voice or parenting style.  I'm silly, and loud, and a little bit cray-cray.  I can't tell you how relieved I was to find out there are other parents like me... did you read this by Jen Hatmaker?  I'm spicy. 

The point is my momming should look like my own. I can certainly find resources to help in my parenting - as long as I am willing to seek His wisdom in how to put my own twist on the strategies.  Picking up a parenting book and trying to implement it all the exact same way as the author will lead to frustration and disappointment. 

I want to recognize my parenting as art.  I want to be an image-bearer of Creative God in my day-to-day.  Sometimes that will be making super hero capes.  Some days it will be baking pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  Most days it will be looking into little boy eyes and speaking love and growing patience.  Each will reflect God's glory. 

Do your recognize your creativity?  Have you thought about it before in terms of being an image-bearer of God - the One who spoke the world into being, with all of its vivid colors and vast variety?

One of my favorite voices on the internet is Emily Freeman.  She has been exploring this theme on her blog calling out the art in all of us over the past year or so.  It has been refreshing and challenging at the same time.  Her newest book, "A Million Little Ways," is all about this idea.  I've just begun reading it.  Every time I open it, I teeter between wanting-to-read-the-whole-thing-as-quickly-as-possible and wanting to savor it s-l-o-w-l-y.  It already has plenty of underlines in it.  Here is a quote that I'd love to hear your thoughts on::
He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us.  He loves us.  Is with us.  And believing Him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like lukewarm water turning merlot red right there in the cup. And hope sprouts new, because God doesn't give us a list.  He invites us into the story.  God is not a technician. God is an Artist.  This is the God who made you.  The same God who lives inside you.  He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.  
Right now, Emily, is writing 31 days of Living Art.  She describes it this way:: "This 31 day series is the fresh, colorful, yet not-quite-all-the-way-filling salad, while the book is the complete main course – warm bread, rich wine, lean meat. Eat what you will. All are welcome."

I'm eager to see how God uses this book to help me recognize the art in my everyday.   I pray that it will move me closer to unflappable.

P.S. I have a bowling-pin-shaped-turkey activity that I want to share with you later this week.  It's not so much the craft as the activity that goes along with it that makes me eager to share it.  It is one of my favorite things to unpack from our fall bin!  Sounds fun, huh?


  1. just reading this now. LOVE it! I taught art through either a homeschool coop or most recently in our christian school for at least 7 years. It's one thing that I kept saying year after year...you are all artists made in the image of God our Creator...you were made to be creative and have it within you. And, so I could totally relate to that but love the way you applied that to motherhood! I really appreciated the encouragement in that area right now. Been feeling so inadequate and overwhelmed...now I feel inspired to be creative. :-) Thanks for the link to Emily Freeman...I just popped over to her blog and it looks really neat.