Friday, January 28, 2011

Beholding Beauty



My free time...of which there is little...is often spent blogging. I love to write about the crazy thoughts in my head. But, I have met another love. A gift from my parents has given me a rival time spender. Painting. I've always been fascinated with color. I could stand in front of the Benjamin Moore color display for hours just picking out colors I like, and matching them up with other colors...and I'm not even redecorating. Sometimes I slip them on my pocket to take home. Why? Because if I feel a little "blue", I just pull out my color cards for a look and somehow they cheer me up. I dream of a room I could splash with these colors. Now, I don't need a house to decorate, I have canvas! Paint! Brushes, and every color under the sun to mix, spread and form into something beautiful...or not so beautiful, but fun nonetheless.

The trick is to find a solid hour in order to play with my new friend. I have found many opportunities to do this. It's funny how when we want something bad enough we MAKE the time for it. It helps that it's January and we have been stuck inside a lot lately due to cold, stormy weather. Blessed cold, stormy weather. Today is going to be another one of those "indoor" days. I wonder what I shall do?? Laundry...dishes...cook...break up kid fights...do school...say "no" to obsessive amounts of computer game time (kids)...sit with coffee and watch the blessed snow and maybe...PAINT!

I am realizing, in my oldER age that I like to do a a lot of things. The phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none" comes to mind. My unstable, easily tired mind enjoys hopping from one activity to another. Be it painting, knitting, cooking, skiing, arranging flowers, playing guitar or piano, writing or whatever new "hobby" I take up, I am ever grateful to be able to work with my hands...which keeps my mind afloat.

God is a creator. He made us like Him in that we have the inclination to create in some way. Standing back, after fiddling with a potential masterpiece in order to make it appear "just so", and looking at something you have created, brings a natural fulfillment and joy. For some people their creations are more technical or mathematical. Creations can be more "heady"...thoughts or designs, organized and played out exactly. These geeks...I mean, left brain geniuses...are creators of a different kind. I believe I have one of these engineering Picassos in my little family. Lego, Kinnex and pencil and paper are his pallet...a marble run is his work of art. For my Dad, it's a perfectly authentic, pristinely restored antique car. His garage, filled with these art forms in the making, is his greasy, mechanical museum. At the Beaverbrook Art Museum you will find a HUGE wall canvas painted entirely in royal blue. That's it...just one color...covering the entire canvas...with spotlights on it...it took the guy several months to "create" it...worth thousands...I don't get it, but someone does.

In our homeschool, I try to take a good amount of our day encouraging the kids to be creative. Get our heads out of the books and get our hands into something. Fortunately, they never oppose this attempt. It can get quite messy sometimes, but that is part of the developmental deal. Crafty junk everywhere, cardboard skyscrapers in the living room, flour and batter strewn about the kitchen and the sound of uncontrolled drumming or off key musical notes are the stuff of budding creations. "A little of everything" is a good motto to keep in mind while teaching kids to explore this part of life. You never know what they will be good at or find a love of. I have to refrain from pushing MY loves on them, however. Having my boys knitting and making cakes all the time is not really what I foresee in their future...nor desire.

I have plenty to amuse my hands and mind at the present. Hopefully I don't discover another hobby anytime soon...I'm booked...and my family could use some clean clothes in their drawers pretty soon.



Friday, January 14, 2011

Sanctuary for My Mind




These past snowstorm days have allowed for some cozy, couch reading with the kids. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was chosen, and I was intrigued, since I had never read the "real" story before. It was a little dreary and a bit gory, but the childrens' version made it acceptable. My little princess walked around with the book for two days, seizing every opportunity to hold it out to me for more. Any spare moment she caught me having, we were in Paris, hugging Gargoyles and dodging a public hanging.

I found the story very interesting, not just because of the typical "love people even if they aren't beautiful" theme, but with the idea of obsession. It seemed that every major character in the book was obsessed with someone. Dom Claude with Esmerelda...Esmerelda with Phoebus...Phoebus with himself...the old recluse woman with her lost daughter. Every obsessed person ended up either crazy or dead, or both. Quasimodo was the only one who loved sacrificially, but ended up dying of a broken heart anyway. What a depressing ending!! I thought the kids would hate the ending, but they actually liked it. They liked a tragedy. I put my feelings aside and appreciated the lesson. They want to watch the movie now. Not the Disney version, but a "real people" version. We'll see. I depends on how disgusting Quasimodo's weeping eye is.

I have a mind that can obsess. A mind that sometimes fixates on one thing or person and won't seem to let go of the thought, speeding it forward, growing it into something very intense and controlling, but not real...nor healthy. As a kid, I just went with it, not realizing how it would effect my thinking later. As I grew up, the thinking pattern often interfered with healthy relationships and peaceful daily functioning. I wasn't until I discovered the importance of 2 Corinthians 10:5 that I got control of my thoughts before they got control of me.

"We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ"

Unlike the characters of Victor Hugo's book, I was able to "get real" and live life free from the cell my imagination tried to lock me in. Accepting reality (and loving it) rather than insisting on fantasy is very freeing. Movies, department stores and high technology continue to lure people into the prison of obsession, but trying to have the mind of Christ, taking thoughts captive and refusing to let them dictate how you feel and what you pursue allows you to live in wide open spaces. He makes me lie down in green pastures and restores my soul. All of God's ways are freeing, once they are embraced. Letting go is the hard part.

Once in awhile I randomly ask my husband what he is thinking. Expecting some dreamy thought, he is usually doing some mathematical calculation, figuring out how Barry Sanders makes those amazing touch downs or nothing. I don't know how thinking about nothing is possible, but wow...that would be nice sometimes. That is another reason why I love him so much. He helps ground me. When my thoughts are getting away with me and I'm too weak to grab a hold of them, I grab a hold of him. His mental stability is extremely attractive and peaceful. A benefit I embrace of the two becoming one in marriage. Don't tell him this, but he is like my Quasimodo, carrying my mind to sanctuary. Only WAY better looking :)




Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Minivan Milestone



I married a man from southern Ontario...very southern...like only 100 km from Detroit. At the time, I thought it was cool. You know, some mysterious man from a land far away. And from "Wallaceburg"...the town where the hero William Wallace's descendants arrived in Canada...also cool. I never had the foresight to realize all the traveling I'd be doing in my married life. He loves his home and his family very much, so we drive the 18 hour trek every year, from East to West. We flew home a few times at first when the two of us could fly "student stand by", then with our first child, on my knee, but with each additional child the price grew to an unachievable amount.

Years of the dreaded journey followed. Just imagine trying to keep nursing babies and energetic toddlers in a car seat for 18 hours straight. Nightmare. I'm sure many a truck driver saw some pretty amusing sights in our little car, upon glances, during our passing. These journeys made me hate the seat-belt law. We had a ball as kids, traveling before this restriction. Large tents, LAYING DOWN to sleep and other games made car trips (and we went on a lot of them) bearable for all. My man, being from a land far off, wasn't so appealing anymore. Not him, but his home location. It made me wonder, briefly, why I didn't go for the "boy next door".

Time went on. It took the whole year to syche myself up for the next trip and we managed each time. A strange thing happened as the kids grew. The trip became less nightmarish. Kids didn't need as much entertaining, I got to sit in the front seat and we made fewer stops. The noise level grew a little, but I got to sit still and it was laughter instead of screams and tears...fair trade. Now, with two teenagers and everyone within the age of accepting the "find something to do" directive, I've actually turned a corner and have begun to ENJOY the trip. We have dodged big chunks of ice from transport tops, squeezed through fast, big city traffic and avoided crazy sportscar drivers, by the grace of God. He goes before, after and with us all the way.

As a ministry family, we don't experience much time alone together. Every year, we get to be all alone, for 18 hours, on the open road. We even take our big hairy dog in the summertime. She's a great passenger.The kids look forward to the trip with special junk food treats, cool car watching, CN Tower sightings, big city airplanes landing nearly on top of our van and the competitive "see who can hold their breath all the way through the tunnel in Montreal" half way mark. Audio books, knitting (just me) and this year, for the first time, a portable DVD player have put the cherry on top of the road trip. Recently too, we have made the trip home after the vacation a two day event, getting a hotel room for one blessed, pampering, indulgent night. EVERYONE loves that, especially Dad, the one who sits alertly still for so many tense hours, braving the transports and the muscle cramps. He loves cruise control, multiple lanes, a van with great gas mileage, back rubs from Mom and not stopping for anything but people who are about to pee their pants.

It's wonderful how things change. It's wonderful to love and enjoy 5 people so much, that being confined with them for so long is an honor and a treat. Echoes of laughter, cuddles and interesting conversation mark our trips. The curse has turned into a blessing. One more family milestone has been overcome. I'm now thankful for seat belts, car air fresheners and that I didn't marry the "boy next door".