Friday, December 28, 2012

Home Makeover Edition

It is true.  In the past two weeks I have painted the walls of two rooms in my home, replaced the kitchen backsplash, installed a bookshelf, assembled a homemade bulletin board and ordered some wall decals for a finishing touch.  Don't mind me, I'm going through a phase.  I'm addicted to pretty, it's a thing.

Some quick reflections to the creative process.  We've been in our home for three years and it wasn't until recently I noticed the wall and the color it lacked.  It's certainly an indispensable part of our shelter, this wall, holding up the room and shielding our family from the elements.  But I never was aware of its existence much less the hues it reflected to my eyes.  Something inspired me to notice.  A reminder that behind every creative endeavor is a story, whether suddenly or subtly, rousing the creator to notice.

Once I started paying attention to the wall, the bland space became stifling.  Offensive, almost.  The empty canvas pleaded to be filled:  with color, a frame, or a focal point, something which will allow it to be more than an idle utilitarian prop, but to come alive and enter the story of our family.

Then comes the part where I suppose the creative industries throw the big bucks at.  Whether it's PIXAR hiring the best writers to imagine a story to capture the attentions of kids and adults alike, or the Apple design team innovating the most elegant tech gadgets, this is the part of the process when one simply dreams of what could be.  The possibilities are endless.  Anyone who has painted a wall has been overwhelmed by the myriad of color samples from the paint store:  every color in the spectrum further specified into infinite choices of shading.  A realist can never push boundaries, it takes that visionary, uninhibited by practicalities, to truly imagine into our limited finite world - beauty.

I'm painting walls.  Others are preparing a meal, teaching, doing research, writing books, designing buildings, crafting a project.  Could it be we are most like the Creator when we notice, become offended, and dream?  What stories are drawing your attention?

One of my favorite lines from the Disney Princess movie 'Tangled"when Rapunzel finally realizes her dream of seeing the lanterns and worries what will she do if they are every bit as wonderful as she thinks they are.  Flynn's response:  "You get to go find a new dream."

Dreams don't ultimately become reality unless you actually do it.  Finally, I did put on my scrubby paint clothes, recruited some help, and just did it.  It turned out okay.  However, I might be done painting the walls, but I'm not done dreaming.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Faith in Santa, and God.

Some old six-year-old soul broke the news to Lizzy in Kindergarten:  Santa is not real, it's just Mom and Dad.  We are not dogmatic about Santa.  As she has discovered the truth, we didn't force the fantasy.  What we didn't expect was for her younger brother by three years, to come along and convert her back into a believer.  Typically, Hayden absorbs all the wisdom passed down by his sister, but when it came to Santa, his adamant insistence in Santa's realness led to Lizzy's skepticism of her previous stance.  Now, at the ages of 6 and 9, both kids are unsure but hopeful.

This is faith, is it not?  Sometimes we believe, sometimes we don't, and sometimes we change our minds.  

When I was introduced to faith in Christ as a child, I learned as a child, in simple black and white categories.  If you believe in Jesus, you will go to heaven, if you do not, you will go to hell.  If you pray and read the Bible, you will grow in your faith, if you do not, you will be led astray.  If you make good choices in life, you will reap good consequences:  a good tree will bear good fruit.  There's a lot of good, biblical wisdom in these teachings and I will forever be grateful to the loving community who discipled me and sheltered me from making destructive choices in my life.  

I carried this childlike faith with me into a nice Christian college, married a nice Christian man, and then life happened.  Woven throughout our life adventures were instances of pain, betrayal, and heartbreak.  We saw some very bad things happen to very good people.  We reached out in love and received judgment in return.  We were surprised, when tested by cultural stress and lack of support, at our own depravity.  Each incident chipped away at the naivete of my child like faith.  Those black and white categories slowly blurred into a massive grey area, where faith and doubt mingled, one or the other intermittently bobbing to the surface.  

When my friend's 8 year old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, out of anxiety and unrelenting cynicism, I swore to Jason:  "If she doesn't make it, that's it, I'm done with God."  My sweet husband, quite used to my dramatic proclamations, responds by pointing out children die every single day of disease, hunger, and poverty.  Not helpful.  Trying to reconcile a good and loving God with the crap that happens in our world requires emotional, intellectual, spiritual stamina I'm afraid I lack.  Pat answers in response to suffering physically hurt me.  These days,  if I vaguely pick up phrases like "God has a purpose" in a conversation about abused children, I die a little inside.  

These days I  have more questions than answers.  Ironically I seem to be more at peace with this internal arrangement.  Being okay with "I don't know" turns out to be more comforting to me than having all the right responses.  

Like my children, I am unsure but hopeful.  

This Christmas season is lovely because I'm on pinterest this year and wahhhhh, so fun.  Just kidding.

Christmas is hopeful for me because it is a time to reflect on the scandalous doctrine of Incarnation:  God stepping into the messiness of humanity.  God didn't come bearing pat answers.  God came as a Person, one who laughs, cries, gets angry, works, sleeps, and enters into relationship with people.  I have learned there's nothing in life messier and grey-er and has the most potential for beauty and devastation than relationships.  God chose this.  Immanuel, God with us.

Peter Rollins says, "To believe is human.  To doubt, divine."  Having faith doesn't mean an absence of doubt.  Sometimes it is in those darkest moments when we encounter the divine.

Behold, the light has come.