the everyday artist

A lot of people come into this Fancy Expensive Make-Up Store to play with the make-up—its expected—but these two thirteen year old girls were different–one was in a wheelchair, breathing apparatus strapped to her. Though Karen was working as shift manager at the time, not make-up artist, she went over to the girls, gave them make-overs—a sweep of eyeshadow over eyelids, a touch of lipstick, the right colors for their skintones.

That’s when the girl in the wheelchair told her how they’d come in that day because she’d had a test with not-so-good results. And she’d just wanted to feel like a normal girl for once—and Karen had helped her feel that way.

A couple years ago, Karen had someone in her life tell her that what she loved to do—to style, make-up, decorate, arrange–wasn’t important, didn’t make a difference, wasn’t “ministry.” She believed him. So she changed her major in college, changed her life. Now she’s back doing what she would do even if she wasn’t getting paid for it—lending an artistic touch to the everyday.

It is an art—arranging the perfect picture collage wall in a home, choosing the right color dress, styling hair just so—it is just an everyday art, an art we live in, so some don’t value it.

But to that little girl, trapped in her wheelchair, Karen practicing her art that day made all the difference.

Singers need to sing and painters need to paint. God may not have created you to be a preacher or a biblical counselor, but He will use you in whatever he has called you to do, whether you are recognized for it by the world or not.

I’m proud of my little sister, Karen, for practicing her art, what makes her heart sing, to the benefit of others.

unless the lord builds the house

the bookcase was on top of her, propped up partially by a chair it had fallen on. She was in the chair, a shelf over her neck, motionless. My husband had just left the room, and our youngest was asleep, and I had just run up to work for a couple hours.

When he heard the crash, he ran back into the room, lifted it off her, checked to see if she was fine. Thank God, she was—the bookcase she had decided to climb, to get her “favorite book” from the top shelf, was lightweight and had mostly dvds in the middle.  She was a little shaken up, like we were, but fine. Not seriously injured or dead, like she could have been. 
I’d seen those articles that float around facebook from time to time about securing your furniture to the wall, but I’d never done it. I always thought that since we’re pretty  much with the girls 24/7, this would never happen. But it did. Despite all of our vigilance and care, she still got hurt. 
Even after securing those shelves to the wall though, what other million things are there in a home, even a baby-proofed home, that a toddler can hurt or kill herself on? I’m a mom, so I can pretty much spot 100 things that can kill a baby in a room at a glance.  
Not to mention the scary world outside the room, and the home—sometimes raising girls feels likes being the mother of Gretel or Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks—tender little things skipping through the dark, wolf and witch and monster ridden forest.
Last week, I was reading the Psalms and came across this chapter:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127

I’m familiar with that first verse in the second stanza—“children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward”—what mother hasn’t heard that, and tried to remember it when the kids are screaming and covered with crusty whats-it and sleep is little and disciplining the children is lots.

But I had never paid much mind to the first half of the poem. The first half can’t be divorced from the second though—good poets don’t arbitrarily pair stanzas together, they are meant to be read in relation to each other, and in the order they are written in. I don’t think it is too wild to interpret the first half in relation to the second—to see it as, also, about raising up children.

No matter how hard I work to raise up my kids, feed them good food, educate them, clothe them, play with them—unless God builds my house, I labor for nothing.

No matter how much I babyproof, no matter how many bookshelves I nail securely to the wall, unless the Lord watches over my house, I stay awake in vain.
 
No matter how much I work and worry, no matter how many hours I stay up late to get the floor mopped and breakfast prepped for the morning, no matter how many mornings I wake up at the crack of dawn to take care of the baby who loves to wake up before the sun, all of this is for nothing, it is vanity, unless I am resting in the Lord’s promises to take care of us.
“He gives to his beloved sleep” – what a promise! Of course God knows a promise involving sleep will woo any hard-headed parent of little ones.  

Not only do I not have to worry that my children’s ultimate safety, well-being, education, health, etc, all depend on my performance, my intelligence, my self-sacrifice and mommy-awesomeness, God reminds us in the second stanza that we aren’t rewarded when our children are the best kids in the class or make it to adulthood perfect, we are rewarded by the fact that we have children.

They are the reward. We are living with that reward right now, spit-up stained shirts, messy-ponytails and all.

everything

“that june morning was when jesus plus nothing equals everything–the gospel–became for me more than a theological passion, more than a cognitive catch-phrase. it became my functional lifeline. Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that:

because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak
because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose
because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one
because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary
because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.

– Tullian Tchividjian