Heavy Things

IMG_4502“You will find that it is necessary to let things go simply for the reason that they are heavy.”—C. JoyBell C.

Every time we carry in the groceries, I wait for it: Laura’s lament as she totes in a case of water and three bags on each arm. As we struggle to open the doors leading to our apartment, invariably she growls, “I hate heavy things!”

And every time she says it, I think of this story.

Here at Goose Hill, I like sharing a good story—even if it’s someone else’s. This someone else happens to be my older sister, Heather. She wrote this a few years ago on her Facebook page (January of 2013), and it’s been on my mind lately.

____________

I’m thankful for the children God has given me. Through them, He teaches me so many lessons about how I respond to Him.

On Thursday of last week, Asa (4), Ava (2), and I went into Old Navy to get a birthday present. The kind cashier offered a balloon to each of the children. (Old Navy’s balloons have plastic sticks on them instead of string. This will be an important detail to remember.)

We had gotten balloons from there before, and the sticks had turned into fighting weapons in the van. But since the stick battle had been a while ago, I thought it would probably be okay for the kids to have them.

When we got outside, I was holding Ava’s hand with Asa right beside me. Traffic stopped in three directions for us to cross. But suddenly, Ava started saying, “My boon, my boon!”

Someone in one of the cars pointed to her balloon that had come off the stick and was blowing away.

Asa got upset, unnerved because Ava’s balloon was bobbing across the parking lot. I quickly picked Ava up and recovered the errant balloon. We crossed the street and got to the van—when Asa’s balloon came loose from his grip. He started screaming a horrible scream and running after it—toward the busy drive-through park of the parking lot.

I was scared to death because I was running after him, but couldn’t reach him. Even though I was calling his name, he would not stop.

Though I was calling his name, he would not stop.

Thankfully the balloon caught on a shrub, and he got it. When I caught up to him seconds later, he was still screaming and saying, “I don’t want the balloon anymore. I don’t like it when balloons blow away!”

Even when we got into the van, he was still upset, saying that he didn’t want to get a balloon anymore because he didn’t want it to get away.

We had a serious conversation, of course, about running across a parking lot and not stopping when I called his name. If the balloon hadn’t stopped, I have no doubt that he would have run right out into the high-traffic area of the parking lot because he was so intent on recovering the balloon.

I thought about the event all day, thinking about how small and insignificant that balloon was and how that, without too much of a stretch, he could have been hit by a car and badly hurt, at best, over that insignificant thing, simply because he didn’t want to let it go. He didn’t want to let go of his control and the safety that he gave the balloon. He didn’t want to have to watch it “go up into the sky.” That’s what he thought was going to happen. He didn’t think it was going to get hit by a car or popped by a stick; he thought the balloon was going to fly away, which it never would have done anyway since it wasn’t filled with helium.

I have replayed and replayed this in my head.

My tunnel vision keeps me from seeing the big picture.

Later that week, I felt God speak to my heart, gently showing me where I fit into this story: I want to hold onto things so tightly. I’m not talking about material things. I’m talking about people, circumstances, problems. I want to try to control the situation, try to hold onto people to keep something bad from happening to them. All the while, my tunnel vision on that thing or person keeps me from seeing the big picture. It keeps me from seeing the danger that I’m putting myself and others in by not simply letting God have it and rest while watching Him take care of it.

I try to justify my want for control by the fact that my “things” are much more significant than a balloon. But when I feel the need to take control, I am communicating that I can do a better job of taking care of it than God can—God who sees the whole big picture and wants the best for me and the others in my life. He wants the situation and circumstances to be worked out for His glory, and if I allow Him to, He will work them out to that end.

IMG_4503You know what happened to the balloon? Later that evening
when Asa was playing with it in my parents’ den, my dad caught it and was holding it when, for no reason, it popped!

God is in control. No matter how we try to shield, protect, and control our situations, He ultimately knows our beginning and our end (Isaiah 55:9; Romans 8:28).

A pretty heavy lesson from a simple balloon, but I expect this lesson will be replaying in my mind and heart for years to come: letting go and giving to God.

The Humility of Not Having Written Everything

IMG_4695I’ve always wanted a hobby—a creative effort that doesn’t involve writing.

I’ve always envied people who scrapbook, shoot photographs, knit, bake, make model airplanes or collect stamps. Laura cooks, writes, draws, plays violin, learns French on her app, plays word games, tends an herb garden, and crochets.

I only write.

But about a year ago, I got an idea to make Laura a wall hanging which read, “Have Courage and Be Kind” to accompany a Cinderella picture in her bedroom. After thinking through my options of people who could draw or carve or paint it for me, I decided do it myself by learning how to hand letter.

After some deliberation over this new venture, I found myself in Hobby Lobby, perusing the art supplies. As we walked out of the store with a sketch pad and pens, Laura looked over at me and said, “Congratulations, Pal. You have a hobby.”

I’ve sketched a few letterings and thoroughly enjoyed it. In high school, I drew a bit for contests and have been doodling for as long as I can remember. Still, I’m no Rembrandt. So every time I try to devise a new setting for a lettering, I run up against the boundaries of my creative abilities. Eventually, after scrawling one failed thumbnail after another, I’ll ask Laura for help. She’ll sketch something right away that blows a hole in my artistic barriers, allowing me to crawl through and take my project in a new direction.

But I don’t like asking for her help.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful for her skill or willingness. It’s just that it wasn’t my idea. I feel like a cheater, a lesser artist for accepting help. Someone else’s idea touching my work disqualifies my own creativity. Like the old myth that a human’s touch turns the mother bird against her chick, I recoil at my own product after it’s been in someone else’s hands.

Ironically, this flaw goes back to my writing. When I read an insightful essay that someone else wrote or see a metaphor that I wish I had thought of or hear a different perspective that had escaped me, I feel guilty, resentful even, that I hadn’t thought of it, as if I had let myself down—as if the world is tsk tsk-ing me for my incompetency.

In short, I feel bad for not having written everything. Likewise, I resent having to ask for creative assistance in my lettering projects because I should have thought of everything myself. You might call it pride.

___________

It’s the Fourth of July, a day all about some of the most important writing in history.

Back in 1776, the Second Continental Congress assigned a committee of five men to write a document declaring America’s independence from Britain. The committee consisted of Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson.

Though the committee wanted Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson thought that John Adams should write it. Adams, however, insisted that Jefferson be the chief writer, since, he said, “I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. . . . [And] you can write ten times better than I can.'”

decl indWhen I read this account a few days ago, I was struck with this detail—the humility of John Adams to forego the honor of drafting one of the world’s most important documents all because he knew Jefferson would do a better job. Sure, John Adams came along with the rest of the committee later and gave his input, but I’m glad that he let Jefferson pen the first draft, otherwise we might not have some of the finest lines in the English language:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

_____________

Artists are collages of experiences and relationships. A good work of art doesn’t merely incubate in the artist but rather flourishes from the encouragement, interaction, input, critiques, or evaluations of others.

Art is lonely work—but it’s certainly not something we do alone. I think of the fellow writers from my master of fine arts residencies who read my work and encouraged or challenged me to grow. I think of how dear those writers are to me still—now years after we earned our degrees. Their insight and opinions informed my writing and, I hope, mine informed theirs. But it did not happen easily. It took a great deal of humility to delete a paragraph and try someone else’s idea—and even more humility to admit that her idea was better. Art takes a sort of submission to community, the act of minimizing ourselves in order to accept more from the world.

LetteringEvery time I ask Laura for help on my lettering projects, I chafe as she adds a swirl here or shading there or a color change or (as in the lettering to the left) reflection spots. But my work always turns out better with her touch.

Her contribution doesn’t make me a weaker artist—it just makes me a more humble one. And I’d like to think I can only get better from there.

 

_____________

Author’s Note: Take some time today to read the Declaration of Independence. It’s best read slowly.