book review

Book Review: Of Mess and Moxie

I’m reading a lot of books on creativity as I immerse myself in the topic of my current work in progress, a book about working creativity into our everyday life. I picked up this book for a break from the topic, only to discover Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life included a chapter on creativity, Chapter 10: Makers and Dreamers. It turns out, it was my favorite chapter. While I occasionally laughed out loud at the humor in the “How To” lists, and loved author Jen Hatmaker’s unique voice and style of writing, it turns out Chapter 10 was exactly what I needed to read today. From page 94:

“Don’t we want our lives to be lovely and creative and productive and meaningful? Don’t we want to offer exquisite, sacred things to the world?” 

Yes, and yes.

“This draw toward creation is important, worthy of our time and attention and nurture. We have these magnificent minds and hands and ideas and visions, and they beg us to pay attention, give them permission, give them life.”

“I sincerely believe we are created by a Creator to be creative. This is part of His image we bear, this bringing forth of beauty, life, newness. This bears out in one thousand different ways: we write, sculpt, paint, speak, dance, craft, film, design, photograph, draw, bring order, beautify, garden, innovate, produce, cook, invent, fashion, sing, compose, imagine. It looks like art, it looks like music, it looks like community, it looks like splendor. The thing in you that wants to make something beautiful? It is holy.”

Oh, yes.

Hatmaker goes on to say that creating takes time and hard work, and the time isn’t just going to magically appear.

“I am here to tell you with certainty: if you wait until you have a natural margin to create, you will go to the grave empty-handed…

…If you are waiting for someone to beg you to do the work or promise to give you a huge paycheck or rearrange your schedule to clear the time or somehow make this whole part easier, you might as well take your little dream for a long drive into the country and say goodbye. Creators create.”

This uncomfortable truth is why I bring this photo with me to the writing workshops I teach.

baby on back

Because, inevitably, there will be someone in the room who bemoans their lack of time for writing, using that truth (because we all lack time) as an excuse for not writing.

“Art requires time, which of course, you have none of. This is the creator’s dilemma. You will not miraculously produce by carrying on exactly like you are. It’s a whole thing, and you have to make room for it.” (page 96)

You can read more about Jen Hatmaker and her books (yes, she has more, and I’m going to read them all) at jenhatmaker.com. 

 

beautiful things, books, faith, stuff, things

A few of my favorite things…

I begin every day in my office, even those mornings I need to rush to get to my workplace. I sit in my recliner, my book lamp on, a cup of coffee sitting on the end table where I keep my Bible, a devotional and writing materials.

bookshelves.jpg

I can look in one direction and see my beautiful oak bookshelves filled with a few of my favorite things. Next to it, the St. Michael the Archangel wood carving I inherited from the man who bought it from my mother more than forty years ago. It sits on my grandmother’s trunk that is covered by a quilt my mother handmade for me. Each day, I gather strength from the visual reminder of God’s promise in Psalm 91:9-16
“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.”

st michael.jpg

In the other direction, on the wall near my desk, are decorative and inspirational wall plaques, reminding me to dream and explore.

wall.jpg

I’m never sure if it’s the surroundings, the gift of silence, or the coffee that jump-starts my day. It might be the combination of all three. But it is in this space, this haven, that I do my deepest thinking and my best writing.

For the majority of my adult life, my purchases were mostly utilitarian, and nearly always second-hand. Raising a large family meant operating on a tight budget. It wasn’t until I began conducting workshops that I needed to invest in some nicer clothing for myself. It was around that same time I developed a penchant for jewelry. Not high-priced diamonds or expensive gold, mind you, but dangly earrings and long chains with meaningful pendants and charms or steam-punk style; keys, gears, feathers, butterflies. I still enjoy that style of jewelry and since Christmas, thanks to my daughter Katie, I now have a way to display it.

jewelry

After my husband died, the purchases of “stuff” got out of control. Still not of the fur, diamond and gold variety, but everywhere I went I was picking up books, stationery, jewelry, inspirational wall plaques, and clothing; anything to fill the gaping hole in my heart. Of course, it didn’t work. Nothing would fill that gaping wound.

The binge-buying was financially unhealthy, but my urge to surround myself with beauty and inspirational messages was not. Many of those items from that period of buying still bring me joy; the jewelry, the stationery, a butterfly pillow, and those inspirational plaques and pictures on my walls.

Author Alexandra Stoddard is convinced our surroundings can nourish us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“The home is the center of your soul; it’s a total reflection of your inner life. If you have a dreary home, it means you are dark inside,” she wrote.

Possessions aren’t all bad. Our desire to surround ourselves with beautiful things is natural. God decorated our skies with stars and rainbows, peppered our hills with budding flowers, and filled our pastures with bright green blades of grass. An artsy plaque with an inspirational message on our wall or the soft glow of a lamp in the corner of the room can be soothing to the soul. My home office is full of such things, and my favorites are hand-made; my mother’s wood carvings, my daughters’ paintings and drawings, the painted brick books one daughter made, or wooden letters that spell out the word “WRITE” that another daughter crafted with the cover designs of my books. My book lamp, a handmade quilt on a trunk, and solid oak bookcases filled with books; these things make me feel as though I am surrounded by warmth and beauty.

What about you? What are a few of your favorite things?

life

Life isn’t fair

Life isn’t fair.  We’ve been taught that since we were kids, and the point has been reiterated numerous times throughout our growing years; during sibling fights when brother Billy got something we’d wanted or when we were sure our piece of cake was much, much smaller than the other nine that were doled out to our siblings. As adults, the point was brought home on a daily basis; when someone with 14 items went ahead of us in the “10 items or less” line, when jobs went to someone less qualified, or in the parking lot as we watched the car coming from the opposite direction zoom right in front of us and take the space we’d been patiently waiting for.

As parents, we shrug away our children’s laments that “It isn’t fair.” even as we silently agree with them.

Life isn’t fair.

A sister who is the kindest, gentlest soul and the most loving of mothers, should not have to suffer daily from a rare illness, nor see her children deal with the same disease.

A strong, manly brother-in-law who has avoided all doctors like the plague should not have to be brought to his knees by abdominal pain and end up staying in the hospital for over two weeks with pancreatitis.

A man who fought for his life during a bout with cancer shouldn’t have to fight for his job later.

But there it is; proof that life isn’t fair.

As Christians we comfort ourselves with the platitude that good can come from bad, that there is meaning behind the madness of life.

And occasionally, our eyes are opened in wonder to a great and wonderous plan.

The sister becomes a shining light in the family that watches her deal with her illness with grace and forbearance.

The couple who went through cancer together discovers a revitalized and rewarding relationship unlike any they have ever imagined.

Other times we look askance at a God that would allow bad things to happen.

Why Me?  Why now? we wonder.

“Why not you? Why not now?” comes the answer.

Why can’t I have the good job, the lottery win, the money, the fame?

And sometimes we get it, and we greedily lap up the winnings, the money, the fame.

And want more.

“But I want it!” our child wails in the aisle of the grocery store.

We dismissively reply,“I want a million dollars, but I don’t get it.”

Another day their dad surprise them with a candy bar on their pillow, their mom hides a pretty notebook in their sock drawer, or we give them a gift for no other reason than that we love them.

So it is with Our Father, who gives us unexpected gifts in the form of blossoming relationship, a healthy child after a night of illness, or an honor bestowed upon us for our hard work.

Life isn’t fair.

But it is truly wonderful.