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For the last year this has hung in my kitchen:
This combined creation of my son’s messy finger-painting skills and my eye to make something beautiful out of it serves as a daily reminder to me:
“He sees a bigger picture than what I can see. And time after time after time he reminds me… Aprille, I know you think it’s ugly, and messy, and not worth keeping. But you are not beyond my power to make you beautiful. EVERYTHING can be beautiful in my time. Just be patient. I’m not done with you yet.”
This verse, this painting, the header image on this blog, the Beauty in the Mess blog series – it all encapsulates who I am as a blogger and what I want this space to be.
You would think that after seeing the verse and its message, its meaning daily – that the truth would eventually sink in.
And yet still I grasp for control, for my way, for perfection. Over and over and over. Time and time again.
Earlier this summer I had the extremely original (read: stolen from my former self) idea to do the spontaneous, beautiful in all its mess project…again. This time, on a tote bag that I could sport (read: show off) at Allume. That way, when people saw me they could easily associate me with my blog and know who I am and what I write about.
One thing that bloggers are encouraged to have prepared is what they call an “elevator speech” – or a “who I am and what I’m about” speech. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but simply a way to prepare so that when people ask you who you are and what you blog about you could speak freely instead of saying “Um…” and looking like a deer caught in the headlights. This tote-bag-that-matches-the-painting-in-my-kitchen was going to be the perfect prop for said elevator speech.
I made an excited trip to the craft store where I was giddy to find acrylic paint on sale 3 for $1. I got home and later on that night set up the table to be painted by my little man. He was going to go to town and make one awesome mess on this really awesome tote bag.
For about two minutes all was right in the world:
He painted the bag with hands and brushes, and I could just see the final product forming in my head. Then he stopped. He got fidgety. He fussed. He played with the paint and ignored the bag. He pushed it away, getting paint on the handles I had tucked so carefully out of his reach. He painted his hair instead of the bag.
Frustration rose within me. I coaxed. I redirected. I pleaded. He pushed back, fussed, and started crying.
Frustration turned to anger.
This is NOT how this is supposed to go!!!
We continued in this messy dance for a few minutes before I (yes, I) had a meltdown. Words came out of my mouth that, while I thankfully can’t remember, I know were berating and hurtful. My husband intervened and somehow got Ezra in the tub and then came out and held me while I cried.
A few days later, we tried again. The results were similar, although I was able to keep my anger in check. The frustration still seethed underneath the surface.
I knew what was happening, but I continued to let it happen. The message of the painting that hangs right above the kitchen table screamed at me:
It’s not about you and all your perfect plans. It’s about things being beautiful in HIS time. Girl! Let it go.
Finally, once again, we quit the project, yet unfinished. I decided that Ezra just is going through an “I-hate-painting-and-you-can’t-make-me-do-it-phase,” and it just. wasn’t. going. to. happen. I gave up, but I didn’t surrender happily. I was resentful and pouty that my project didn’t go the same way it did the first time.
The bag hung on the doorknob of the front closet for weeks. Every once in a while I would ask Ezra if he wanted to paint and he always said no. *insert resentful you-ruined-my-project sighs here*
Finally, one day he just said yes. I jumped at the chance to try yet again. I excitedly set up the paint materials at the kitchen table and then went to undress him. At which point he laid on the floor crying and wailing “I don’t want to PAINT!!!!!”
You’ve GOT to be kidding me!
In a moment of frustration, desperation, and a wee bit of genius, I picked up the two cars lying on the floor next to him and asked him this:
“Do Chuck and Big want to paint?”
The wailing stopped and the tears were replaced by smiles as he responded with a happy, “YEEAAAH!”
He, ahem, Chuck and Big finished the bag in a flourish of races and jumps through an obstacle course of paint. It was awesome and I finally had a canvas to work on.
I had picked a dark purple puff paint to do the lettering. But, much to my chagrin, after painting and letting it dry I realized that the back drop of mess on the bag was so dark that the lettering didn’t really show up that well.
Why couldn’t this just work out the way the other one did?
I made yet another trip to the craft store to get a lighter color to outline the darker lettering. Finally the project was completed.
But I didn’t like it. Nothing about this project was the way I had envisioned it.
I didn’t like the two-tone lettering and the paint on the handles. But more than the aesthetics, I didn’t like how frustrated I had gotten. I didn’t like how I had lost my temper on my son. I didn’t like how everything that happened in the GETTING to this finished product ironically went against the entire message that I longed to promote with it.
I didn’t like how I was anything but beautiful in my actions and attitudes.
And I didn’t like how God had to keep teaching me the same lesson over and over again because I just can’t seem to get it.
I felt like such a failure that I considered not even using the bag. Just tucking it away and not saying a word of the flop of a project where I lost my temper because I couldn’t have what I wanted and control a “spontaneous” project.
My husband once again intervened. He complimented the bag and told me that the lettering was perfect. The paint on the handle bars was perfect. And in spite of the ugly that got it done, the project was beautiful.
He chided me for getting so emotionally wrapped up in how I had envisioned the project that I would let the reminder of failure overshadow the beauty that came as a result. Because that’s most certainly not what God wants.
And so, if you see me at Allume, I will still be sporting this tote bag. And I will probably still use it as a prop if you ask me what my blog is about. But it will be with a lot more humility.
And maybe, just maybe, if I’m really brave – I’ll tell you the story of how God doesn’t give up on me. I’ll tell you how even though I learn the lesson of God making “everything beautiful in His time,” I still sin and need it lovingly and graciously taught to me time and time again.
I’ll tell you how God takes ugly and makes it beautiful. In His time, not mine.
To read other posts about how God is working in my heart as I prepare for Allume, please click on the button below!