All in Crafty

Permission to be a Beginner

Taking this pottery class was giving that back to me. I was a beginner again. I wasdoing it simply because it brought me joy. Sitting at the pottery wheel was giving me freedom and space. I’d sit and work the clay, and my mind was at rest. The wheel would spin and the clay would slide through my hands, and I could feel myself relax. It was quiet. I needed that.

River of Disappointment

We never ask for disappointment, do we? It shows up uninvited like grumpy Aunt Lurleen, unexpected as a canker sore, as unwelcome as salt in a wound. It does not politely remove its hat upon entering our world, nor does it apologize. Disappointment never apologizes. Forgoing customary greetings, it barges in and sets to flooding the place. So what of it, Eric? Big deal. Grow up. Be an adult. Though indeed responses, they avoid the question:  What do we do with all the disappointment? Accept it? Get on with life? Love it? Hide from it? Pull it close? Push it away? Drown in it? Grieve? Take joy in it? Capitulate? 

Key of David

Advent is not only about what has happened; it is about what we still need to happen. It is about waiting, about that quiet, anticipatory, mildly uncomfortable moment before the song starts up, the lights come on, the guests arrive. Advent takes place in the dark.

Stalled by Grace

My dear Britney, I felt, take note of this: You should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Not simply because it will end in less frustration and hurt feelings, but because it is how we are surprised by life, and grace, and God.

True-ing

I am no carpenter. But my doctor son, with a degree in tropical medicine, volunteers for a humanitarian agency in Burma, exercising his skills with bodies and souls. He is also a poet and artist. His hobby, and a way of calming his mind and expressing his sense of shape and beauty in the midst of suffering and destitution, is to find odd pieces of wood and fashion from them objects beautiful or useful, exposing the wood's inherent quality. Tables, chairs, bowls, spoons! He’s skilled with a scalpel, either on human bodies or on the striated muscles of something that used to be a tree.

Without knowing it, he has given me a metaphor to live by—the sizing up of my trajectory in life.

The structure underneath—the bones of the house—are good because someone we trust knows they’re good, sturdy, strong and able to be restored, and they can tell us this and we believe them. And maybe that’s what we’re after all along—someone who comes along to tell us that there is treasure here in our bones, someone who can see the intrinsic value in what others might consider a teardown.

When I stitch my little felt ornaments, my fingers sometimes get sore. I take breaks and rub them, looking out the window and listening to the sermon that is streaming. “It is perhaps through the work of kind welcome and laden table and warm bed,” the pastor says, “that the church labors most effectively to bear witness to the reality of the kingdom of God and the welcome that we receive in God in Christ.” He is preaching on the book of Ruth. Ruth! I studied it so many times in college, together with girlfriends all waiting for men, for boyfriends, for husbands, trying to glean some insight from this woman who did strange things indeed to secure her man. That is not the point of the book, the preacher says. I breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, he gleans kindness, hope, hospitality from the passages. The kind of hospitality that hems in, honors, and protects everything about the person being welcomed into our lives.

For a long time, I did not love poetry.

I read poetry. I memorized poetry to get me through a job that left me weary from boredom. I tried to understand poetry. But I didn't love it.

I loved words. Any words. Words in books, words in songs, words on the shampoo bottle. I loved stories long ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I loved metaphors. I even loved select poems. But I did not love poetry.

Every step merits intentionality and reevaluation. I have learned that a way to assess whether or not I have remained in rhythm while crocheting is to compare the row of stitches I have just finished to the foundational row with which I started. With every turn of the corner, I raise up the work and see if it is still in balance. If it is, I keep going. If it is not, I unravel just a few stitches back and adjust accordingly. This is how a blanket gets made, with ever-present intentionality.

Nearly every step of the slow DIY building project was a step-by-step trial by fire for me. Though untrained and in anti-possession of any legitimate carpentry skills, the one trait I have going for me is that, though slow, I am a willing student. When someone reacts in response to seeing my now complete dwelling, You are so handy. I could never do that, my inner, if not verbal, response is, I have no idea what I am doing. If I can do this, anybody can. And I absolutely mean it.

As much as motherhood has taken away — time to write, the ability to practice the piano without little hands taking over the keyboard ("Scooch, Mama”), the mental acuity to use polysyllabic words (or, some days, to finish sentences) — it has given me more. I have not lost myself in motherhood, as I had feared, but discovered myself. I don't just mean I've realized the beauty and joy of being a mother, but in and through motherhood I've grasped new ways of being creative. I learn creativity from my children, who are infinitely the same as and different from me; I learn creativity through my desire to create for them; I learn creativity simply by opening myself up to being something else.