31 days :: What is Art? pt. 1

I brush her hair before school while she finishes her rubberband bracelet. “Is my hair as long as Ruby’s?” She asks without looking at me.

I tell her I don’t know Ruby so I can’t say, but I can tell she hopes I’ll say yes. Ruby must have beautiful hair.

you are art

I pull the brush through the tangles, try not to yank too hard. She squints, but stays mostly quiet. It’s hard for her to see herself separate from how she compares to someone else. I know because I’ve done  this too.

What does this measuring do to our souls, this comparison of competency and beauty?

Silently I wonder how to teach her the truth so she’ll always know: You are a masterpiece, a poem. You have a rhythm all your own.

The best way to teach her this truth is to live like it’s true about me.

“What is art? You are. And the mayfly. And every wasp novel ever lived. And the hard Winter overthrown by Spring. Motherhood. Grass. Jupiter. Your annoying neighbor. Art is.”

–N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Art is.

You are.

And so am I.

white button with borderThis is Day 2 of a series, Made for This: 31 days of Living Art. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.

If you would like to have these posts delivered directly into your email inbox, subscribe here. Everything I write about this month is inspired by the work I did on my newest book, A Million Little Ways, which officially releases this week.


  1. says

    Yes – this: “The best way to teach her this truth is to live like it’s true about me.”

    Oh that ever Mama would get this and live it out loud! (and that we would gently remind each other whenever we forget because oh, how it is so easy to forget!)

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Sandi says

    The depth of that is so true. I want to have the type of relationship and security of who I am in Jesus that the words “THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH” is more than a song. It is a reflection of my life. The reflection is Art, whether in writing, knitting, housekeeping, cooking. The Art is me.

  3. says

    I started reading your book last night and am looking forward to getting into it deeper! I enjoy your words. :)

    This post reminded me of the book, “Scribbling in the Sand” by Michael Card. It became clear as I read, that all is art. And the value of art is so different to God than to the world which we fight conforming to… The child’s watercolor equally valuable to Monet’s masterpiece. And being a Mother is art. There is no ladder to climb with God, because He is the lifter of us all.

    When I am tempted to compare (often-far too often) I hear that Voice behind me or rather within me, “Would you accuse Me of favoritism?” and I fall back into the arms of His grace.

    “Never cease praying that you will not become a star or celebrity. Donald Davidson has said, “Our culture places an absolute premium upon various kinds of stardom. This degrades and impoverishes ordinary life, ordinary work, ordinary experience. “” ~Michael Card (in closing of Scribbling in the Sand-Christ and Creativity-2002)

  4. says

    “The best way to teach her this truth is to live like it’s true about me.”

    mmm… this was the line i needed exactly at this moment, reiterating something God’s been putting on my heart concerning my 16 yr old girl.

    simple. powerful. moving truth! thank you, emily.


  5. says

    i don’t have a lot of fancy words but the part about having a rhythm our very own and how we need to live like that to teach that truth? ok. yes. i’m in. amen.

  6. says

    The doorbell rang this morning and when I opened the door thete was a package from Amazon on the door mat.
    YOUR BOOK IS HERE. I sm so happy. Thank you for sharing your heart Emily. You are a pure blessing.

  7. says

    You paint such beautiful, poetic pictures with your words. I love the idea of making art with every aspect of our lives. It gives a little spice and meaning to menial tasks.

  8. says

    Hi Emily,
    My youngest cut half her hair off in February. It’s growing back but she looks absolutely adorable with it short. She gets so many compliments. She likes it. Recently though she’s befriended a little girl with long dark hair and has begun to ask about her hairs growth and walks around the apartment with a long scarf as “play hair” . I know she’s struggling with her different albeit beautiful look. This series is lovely and so inspiring, this post in particular reminds me to stay prayerful about the images we are exposed to and my job in making sure my girls see themselves a glorious works of art. Tank you.

  9. says

    “You have a rhythm all your own.”

    I love that. I took Modern Dance in college for my Physical Education credit to avoid what I thought would be the greater embarrassment of team sports. And I can’t say that I’m much of a dancer. Awkward is a word that comes to mind. And I think, because I compared my dance, my rhythm in this life, to the gracefulness of others, I labeled myself “awkward” and therefore less than for far too many years.

    How precious to be learning He finds my rhythm (and even my lack of it, at times) beautiful – beautiful as I live and breath and move for Him.

    Blessings, sweet and humble Emily.

  10. says

    Comparisons they start so young. I see my daughter now altering slowly day by day. Losing her belief in herself as an artist, a musician, an actor, a writer and above all as an individual. Comparing, comparing.
    “The best way to teach her this truth is to live like it’s true about me.” yes and thank you.

  11. Jessica says

    I have your book “A Million Little Ways” in hand. It arrived today. I’m reading it slowly because I have a feeling it will end too soon, which is why I am looking forward to reading your 31 days posts. You’ve uncovered what I’ve been trying to tell myself for some time now–to be courageous enough to be my authentic self–the person God created me to be. What an even more amazing place this world would be if we all lived as the artists we are meant to be!

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