for 31 days

One of the best ways to become a better writer is to write. Last October I became a better writer during 31 Days of Grace. Writing everyday for a month will do that to you. But more than just the discipline of writing, 31 Days is an opportunity for each of us to discover those things that make us come alive. And then, to share those things with others.

Last year, eight of us teamed up to bring 31 days of change and inspiration. This year, we’re doing it again only this time, we want you to do it, too. I’ll be writing 31 Days to Change the World because I think it’s possible and I’m feeling just a tad bit rebellious towards people who want to tell me that it’s not. Here are the topics from the 8 of us:

Jen – 31 Days to Balancing Both Beauty and a Budget
Jessica – 31 Days of Memory Keeping
Melissa: – 31 Days: Inspired Holidays
Sandy – 31 Days of Warm Connections
Darcy: 31 Days of Photo Tips
Emily: 31 Days of the Little Things
Emily: 31 Days to Change the World
Nester – 31 Days of Charming Imperfection

What about you? On October 1st, we’ll host a linky for you to link up your own series. Will you be joining us this year? What’s your topic?

the artist’s secret

“In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace.”

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

When my friend Melissa lost her mom to cancer, she says she didn’t cry much if at all. She couldn’t find the emotion to go along with the heartbreak of losing her mom. She couldn’t reach it, grab hold of it, and move it up to the surface. It was too deep. And so it came as a great surprise to her when she discovered herself in a heap of blubbering, slobbery emotion during You’ve Got Mail. You mean to tell me she could easily find tears to mourn the last days of the Shop Around the Corner but she could not manage to locate them for her mother?

image source

Yes. That is it exactly. And Madeleine L’Engle puts into words that very simple truth of being human — art makes it possible for us to remember, both the beauty and the banal, the lovely and the loss. Art numbs the wound just enough for us to be able to access the source of it, to reach down into the depths and pull it up to examine.

The beauty of art is that it separates us enough from our own pain in order to make it safe to approach. This movie, this novel, this musical, this song isn’t my story, and so I can freely let myself identify with it. And in the freedom, the tears have permission to fall. And in the tear-fall, I realize that this movie, this novel, this musical, this song holds pieces of my story after all.

Art is a gift, and the artist’s secret is that she carries in her hands the tools of a healer. You might think just the opposite, think you have nothing to share until you are whole and well and put together. We may admire your wholeness, but we can touch your brokenness. Are you still trying to talk yourself out of your art? Please don’t. We, a broken and hurting people, so desperately need it.

how to make art when there’s no time for art

The sun comes out after two days of rain and I watch the shadows show up in the backyard. A pile of clean, unfolded clothes hangs out heavy on top of the dyer, and I sigh when I look at it. I so should have kept the ironing board. I pull out the first thing I see, purple leggings tangled up with The Man’s t-shirt and a pair of underwear. I begin to fold and dream about all the other things I’d rather be doing.

The gift given to me by the hand of grace is encouragement. I have been equipped to encourage through writing. I find moments to write the way a dog looks for food. I take them greedy when they come and I steal them if they don’t. But some days neither is possible, and that’s where I am today, standing in front of the dryer, folding wrinkled clothes.

We’ve talked about the fear of art, of entering into a stare-down with your gift and daring yourself to win. But what is even scarier sometimes is standing in the laundry room, watching the shadows show up in the backyard. What am I doing here? Where is the art? It takes faith to believe  in the midst of the ordinary, to continue to turn to Christ in every ordinary moment and trust that as you do so, he will turn you back out again.

I have lived entire seasons in my laundry room, at my kitchen sink, on the bathroom floor. I have sat in the middle of the night with two screaming babies and looked desperately for some creative expression. I have wondered if I have any thing to offer, any gifts to give. I don’t believe the answer is ever to whisk myself away to a remote island and figure out my purpose, although I wouldn’t turn down that ticket.

I do believe the answer is to turn to Jesus, to look for my reflection in his face, to trust even though it doesn’t feel true, to ask him to make beauty out of the ordinary gray. All of our things look different. It’s not always a message or an experience or a speech or a book. Everyone may not have a book to write. But everyone has a story, yes? And we get to choose the story we live. Sometimes our art is big and loud. Most times, it isn’t. Most times, it’s a quiet word, a choice to love anyway, a grace-filled glance, a still tongue, a hot dinner, a made bed, a flint-faced belief.

I am an artist, and I make art with my words, my pictures, my ladle, and my dishrag.