headphones and the artist’s angst

Monday at lunch, the raccoon was up to his normal mischief.  When Paul rhetorically asked, “What are you going to be like when you are a teenager?  Are you going to drive too fast and always see what kind of trouble you can get in?”,  Ava didn’t miss a beat: “Or date too early!”  We laughed.  She said, “You know, he’ll be one of those teenage boys who dates too early and wears headphones for no reason…”  What a little social commentator we have!  Thank goodness, she’s got some wits about her!

Yesterday, we celebrated Columbus Day by searching for materials to use for our Texas Explorers unit.  The girls will be making their own Native American costumes.  They both have chosen to do their best to emulate the Karankawa Native Americans who lived on the coast of Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.  They also have both chosen the explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, to research.  (I think their decision to pick the same explorer is solely because Helen is trying to ride on the coat tails of Ava’s research.)  Their costumes will double as their Halloween costumes.  We are combining several areas of study: how to research, historical narratives, map making, art, and Texas History.  They will research Cabeza de Vaca and make a map of his journey to and in Texas.  They will gather some facts about his discoveries and his relationship with the Native Americans he met along the way.  They will then write a historical narrative that includes facts they have gathered, but is written from the perspective of their personal characterization of the Native Americans.  On Halloween, they will have a green button and a red button taped to their arm.  When someone presses the green button, they will start to recite their historical narrative.  When the red button is pushed, they stop, mid-sentence even.  (We are trying to make it as fun and silly as possible.)

We found imitation suede, leather, and feathers for the costumes, and we bought some dowel rods for spears.  We also bought some raffia to weave some baskets.  On our field trip last month to the Bob Bullock Museum, the girls had noticed all of the baskets in the Karankawa exhibit.  They thought it would be neat to weave their own and then have it to collect all their Halloween candy.  Yesterday, when we came home from the store, we went to work weaving their baskets.

Now let me tell you, raffia is thin and it has the tendency to split.  Making a basket that is woven tight enough to hold candy was dang near impossible.  We spent all day on this project.  Raffia was all over the floor and we spent the majority of the time wrestling it away from the raccoon and the cat.  We didn’t really have a plan, and so we created as we went.

This is usually how I function.  I cook this way.  I clean this way.  I paint this way.  I mold clay this way.  I sew this way.  For those who always use a cookbook, a system, a template, a model, or a pattern–I’m sorry.  I know that people like me make people like you uncomfortable.  When people with a plan see people like me pull out the paints without drawing an outline in pencil first, they wince.  When people with a plan see people like me add more salt and then scan the contents of the refrigerator for something else to add to the pot, they usually speed dial the nearest pizza delivery.  When people with a plan see people like me whip out the scissors to a yard of freshly bought fabric just laying on the table, they usually say a prayer.  When the shape of the painted bird wing is too long, when the sauce is too thin, and the armhole too large, I improvise.  I get creative.

So yesterday, when the raffia was too thin, the weave of the basket too loose, and the circumference of the bottom too small, we got creative.   As I watched Ava and Helen chuckle at the baskets as they appeared more and more haphazard, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Just wait.  We’re not done yet.  You’ll see.  It’s gonna be something.  I don’t know what, but something!”  And as we mutually twisted and tucked, pushed and pulled, the baskets began to take on more shape, more form, and more strength.  After we finished our attempt to just miraculously weave Native American baskets without guidance or directions, we happened to find ourselves with some pretty realistic and authentic woven goods despite our lack of premeditation.


What was intended to hold candy, will now hold spears for Helen.  For Ava, she will just have to also carry an extra bag for when the contents of her candy basket overflows.  At least my seemingly foolish unplanned projects result in something.  At least there is more purpose to them than wearing headphones that aren’t plugged into anything.

I like to think of my lack of directions, recipes, and preparation as a necessity for an artist.  I rarely find joy in following a pattern.  But when I can hold up a dress that I made from scratch, knowing all the pain that it took to get there, all the dresses that ended up in the scrap bin along the way, there is such an overwhelming satisfaction.  I’ve been told that if I just followed a pattern I could avoid so much of the frustration, so much of the waste.  If I just started with a pencil, I could avoid all the crumpled up paper in the basket…I’m killing trees after all!  But to me, it’s not waste or trash, rather it’s all valuable trial and error that holds irreplaceable lessons. The angst of solving the problem is like completing a puzzle without looking at the picture on the box: I believe there is no other way to live life!

If ever there was an artist, none could argue with the magnificent art of God.  From beautiful sunsets to animals that are so colorful and abstract they hardly seem real, He created them all from scratch.  I like to think that God is working His artistry in and through us as well.  He might not sit down at his craft table with a bag of limp raffia and start haphazardly weaving a Native American basket for Halloween candy.  But- I think he sits down with a limp me every morning.  He stretches out my frazzled ends and lays me out next to a bunch of other messed up people and starts to weave us together.  Through out the day he wraps and winds together our seemingly stray and loose ends into something that looks to us rather haphazard and misshapen.  Months and years sometime pass as He continues to work more and more people, experiences, and places into His great masterpiece.  I would argue, that while God knows everything and knows the end result, He is an artist who works in redefining ways with those of us who resist staying in the weave.  He has angst over those of us who have colored outside the lines, not with disappointment, but as an artist, who finds a new, creative way to adjust the painting.

Right now, I have days where I know without a doubt I am acting like that darn piece of raffia.  I come to the craft table too thin, too weak, to wily.  I refuse to follow God’s plan.  I push against the weaving of his giant loom.  I try to control the paintbrush and end up spilling the water over everything.  But, the artist that He is–He blots the dripping water and reshapes the running colors.  He gently tucks and pulls on my stubborn straw-like nature, and I start to take shape, have more form, and have more strength.  He reassures me, “Just wait.”  While things look haphazard and down-right ridiculous in my world right now, He’s not done yet.  One day, I will see.  He’s doing something.  He’s making something.  He’s got a plan.  He may not be using a pattern, or sketching lightly in pencil first.  He is wandering through the pantry and the spice rack looking for something to excite and dazzle the senses.  He’s an artist.  I am so thankful that He is the potter and I am the clay.  I appreciate the angst and the tension He has over me, as He works out the kinks and chuckles at what is becoming of me and my plans.  He delights in me, His creation.  I am excited to see what He does, where some of the crazy paths before me will lead.  I pray I can continue to hand over control.  I pray that I stop trying to draft a pattern for Him, stop suggesting more salt, and stop looking over his shoulder as He works His magic artistry.

I pray that I stop wearing spiritual headphones on my ears that are plugged into silent pockets of nothingness.  I pray that I stop acting as if I’ve got His plan in there, and that I am tuned in, when really I am just ignoring all that is going on around me.  I want to be more aware, more keen to His great tapestry.  I am engulfed in it.  It is all around me.  From where I am, if I keep my eyes up, and not worry about how odd or ridiculous I might look, I might catch a glimpse of the Great Creator overhead smiling and working all things out for my good.  I might realize that my spiritual headphones actually have a purpose when they are plugged into the sounds and movements of the Holy Spirit instead of my static-filled expectations.  I can stop being uncomfortable like those who have observed me going straight to the wall with a hammer and nail without measuring first.

I can trust the ultimate artist.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t find joy in following a pattern.  And while it may take less time to do so, I’d miss the satisfaction at the end.  So, why can I not give that creative freedom to God?   Go on, God!   Put together the puzzle of my life without looking at the picture on the box.  When You put the last piece in, I will be ready to stand back and marvel at what you have put together.  I wouldn’t want to live life any other way!

1 Comment

  1. Angie, I just love your blogs, you are quite a good writer!!!!!

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