I was trying to take pictures of the light & shadow line, in the carpet of sweet little white flowers behind our house, when she plopped down in the grass next to me. I sighed, and was about to gently ask that she move out of mommy’s way… when I glanced at my frame, and realized humbly that her sweet little toes made the picture so much better.
There is a lot of creative, distracted work going on in our home…. especially lately. I’ve been writing constantly, in between the countless needs of three small children, and my husband has been writing music again. We used to just relax and “be home” on evenings and weekends, but now that God seems to have unleashed our naturally artistic hearts, we just can’t stop creating. This is all very exciting, and the kids are always swirling around with us in the fun of it all…. but I needed those sweet little toddler feet to remind me of something very important.
My home, my family, is itself a work of art.
My children are living, breathing canvases.
And how we chose to fill our space and our time with them? The brushes and palates and colors.
This wasn’t a new thought. I knew this, keenly… and until recently, used to throw myself into “homemaking” with everything I had. The problem was, I lost myself in it, and eventually realized I would be cheating my children if I gave them a flat, one-dimensional mother, who couldn’t exist outside of them. I wanted not just to care for them, but give them an example of vibrant life to follow, while they explored and searched for their own paths. And so I started running back to God, crawling in His lap, and asking Him who am I? And He reminded me of who I was before children.
I am still a wife and mother. But I am also a writer… an artist… a day-dreamy, barefoot, spontaneous lover of windy days, Celtic music, cameras, edgy questions, and big ideas. I love to challenge the status quo, read thick books, learn new things, draw maps, and explore new places.
And that’s the kind of mother I want to give my kids.
So, all this was a wonderful journey… game-changing, for sure. My kids definitely have a more cheerful, well-rounded mom, and that’s a great thing. But I got just a little too wrapped up in writing about my family this weekend, instead of creating life with them.
My pen is not the only thing I create with, and this is what I needed to remember.
It’s all in the little things. Those millions of daily moments stretching out over the years… as seemingly insignificant but startlingly defining as DNA… form lives, relationships, minds & hearts.
When I pull a chair up to the counter, and invite them to turn my cooking lunch into a joyful mess. When I let them get marvelously filthy playing in the dirt. When I take the time to pull him or her into my lap and gently explain that we all make mistakes and bad choices, but we keep praying and trying harder to make better ones every day. When I put my phone down and curl up on the couch to read them story after story after story….
These are all the colors and brush strokes, as I gradually create on their living work of art.
It’s a hefty thing, being asked to begin another person’s artwork. These children aren’t static surfaces, and they aren’t mine. One day they will hold the brushes and chose the colors, not me. But they don’t start with a white canvas. That was my privilege. And that’s a weighty thing.
Because all those lovely moments? Aren’t the only colors I’ve painted with. Every time I lose my temper, ignore their pleas for snuggle time, or nag them not to make a mess, be too loud, or touch that thing… those all get crafted into the canvas too, whether I like it or not. And there’s no mom guilt here… I’ve been down that road, and have learned that I need to give myself the grace that God does. Being a mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done…. probably the most challenging, most stressful career I could possibly choose… so I’m going to make a million mistakes. It’s a good thing grace is a color as well. I’m just saying we need to be aware of what we are painting, in that long string of countless everyday moments.
And when I got a little lost in the excitement of writing books, I needed two sweet little bare feet to remind me of the deep, enduring value, of my living art.
Each of us is an artist, in some capacity. We create living works of art out of own lives, and heavily influence those of our children… and we get to chose the colors. Will your paintings be soft? harsh? vibrant? dull? stark? daring? traditional? classical? abstract? It’s all up to you.
Often, life feels very oppressive. We forget that we have choices, and blame something or someone else for the dreariness and pain on the canvas in front of us.
But as you stand before the canvas of another day, remember….
You hold the brushes.
And all those colors…. are within your reach.