What are you making?

I’m no farmer. But when I saw this little painting at an art show in our neighbourhood, I wondered if I should think of myself as one, at least for a little while. I resonated with the image immediately and it brought [inevitable, predictable] tears to my eyes. I thought how much work this woman farmer had done to create her world, and how intentional and simple it seemed, and with so many colours. And just look at her little red hat and overalls! (If only she had funny glasses, or I was made of paint, maybe she would be me). I spoke to the artist and shared what the painting meant to me, as a recent widow who knew I had the unwanted task of building a forced new life. This little farmer who had clearly worked so hard and stood serenely in her scene did something to my guts, which I spilled.

The nice lady artist moved in for the kill.

My small farmer hangs in my kitchen now, to remind me I am making something important right now, and so are you. We all are, just maybe not to the same extreme, or fuelled by the same reason.

In Holiness Here I wrote a chapter on beauty, which touches on how we are in the world as creative people, each of us. I wanted to explore how beauty points to holiness, and holiness leads to beauty. Here is an excerpt from that chapter. If it makes you think of your own life of making, and your own life in the making, that would be very sweet. After all, we’re all creating something, all the time. I believe that.

“Creating is a way of loving God and others. Making anything— the bread itself or the bowl in which the warm yeast will burst into its new life— is an exertion of holiness that springs best and most freely from our own belovedness and the assurance that God sees us as holy and beautiful.

On the radio once, as I was driving down the highway through Quebec, I heard an accomplished pianist tell a story about how he had been listening to a symphony on the radio and admired the arrangement and the skill of the players. As he listened to the orchestra, he found himself wishing he could play so smoothly and so free of fumbles. When the piece ended, the pianist was shocked and then delighted to learn it had been his very own orchestra playing. He himself had been playing in the recorded piece he had admired. It was his own skill and the skill of his playing partners he had accidentally enjoyed.

The pianist, whose name was James, said that musicians usually hear only what they do wrong, and that they are acutely aware of the dozens of little mistakes they might make while playing, which we ordinary listeners would probably never hear. They are their own harshest critics, like we all can be. Just look at a photo of yourself and see how you feel. But in hearing his orchestra play without realizing that there he was in the middle of it all, James allowed himself to relax and acknowledge and appreciate even a little bit his own skill in a way he would never have otherwise. He offered himself an accidental grace. He had given himself a tiny round of applause without knowing it.

There was so much to admire in this story. The skill of the pianist, and his humility, of course. The years of practicing and the joy and anguish of performing, and the way the artist was so quick to appreciate others, and was surprised and embarrassed, yet pleased, when he accidentally admired his own orchestra’s piece.

For a moment, he saw he did beautiful work.”

(I’m supposed to ask you to pre-order the book, because that helps a book find its way into the big world…And if you are handy Ottawa, please come to the book launch for Holiness Here on April 20 at 7:oo pm at St.Peter & St. Paul’s Anglican Church).

3 thoughts on “What are you making?”

  1. Timely encouragement, thank ♥️. Eagerly awaiting my preordered copy! I so wish I could go to Ottawa. But I look forward to giving you a hug in Grand Rapids.

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