Originally published Monday, 10 August 2015.
It was our second playdate.
Technically, it was my four-year-old son CJ's playdate. I was there visiting with his mom at the breakfast table, sipping water. I had just met my mommy friend the year I was writing my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. She was asking how writing was going. I tell her it's not easy, not like handing in homework. Not even like writing at work either.
"It's hard to write on a blank page," I confess. "There's so many ways of telling a story. How do I know which way is right?"
"It's like being an artist," my friend adds.
"How about you?" I ask. "What do you like to do that's artistic? Do you like to write?"
"I like to write," she pauses. "But, if I ever had the time -- which I don't -- I'd want to paint."
My friend doesn't know I've been on an anxiety-ridden journey to uncover the shadow artist in me. I'm suspicious now there is one in her.
"Oh, you like to paint," I echo. "What do you like to paint? Can I see?"
She tells me she used to paint in college. But, she hasn't painted since. Really? ...Not even once? I prod. It turns out she did. When she returned from her honeymoon years ago, she painted a beach and sky. Can I see it. I smiled. Please?
She leads me into her bedroom. And it's beautiful. A canvas of brushstrokes of color. A memory.
My friend tells me she loves how it feels when she paints. But, then she sighs. Life's so busy, keeping up with everyone's schedules.
"Do you ever feel selfish -- like it'd be a waste of time if you painted?" I ask. "I do. That's how I feel about writing."
My friend said what do you mean? So, I told her about the spelling bee.
Not So Shiny
I was in second grade. I didn't even know what a spelling bee was, until I stood at the district level spell-offs one evening. I don't remember much, but I ended up being one of the last two girls left standing.
I was so excited, because we had been told the top three contestants would get a trophy. And I would at least be number two.
I'm gonna get a trophy!
But, then I got really nervous. Because it dawned on me.
I. could. be. the. champion.
I could actually win this thing.
The moderator took time out to ask everyone to clap for us, explained the rules once again, and reminded the audience to please be quiet. I looked over at the spectacled girl standing next to me from Cumberland Elementary. She had won the year before. She sure looked smart. Only one of us would advance to the next level. Could it be me?
As the moderator announced my next word, I thought I had it in the bag.
"Lunch. L-U-C-H. Lunch."
I'm sorry. That is incorrect.
I knew how to spell lunch. I don't know, for the life of me, how I left out the n. But, I did. The whole room sighed with a unanimous, "Ohh..." I felt the panic and looked over at my mom. She shook her head in disappointment.
Afterward, I walked over to tell her I still won a trophy. But she said, "I'm not surprised you didn't win. The other girl was much more confident. She looked like the winner."
At the awards ceremony, I stepped up on stage to claim my second place trophy. But, it didn't seem that shiny anymore. In the car ride back, my mom sighed, "What a waste of time."
I never did enter another spelling bee after that year. It wasn't the last time she'd tell me something about me would be a waste of time.
After I finished telling my mommy friend my story, I told her that is what I have to fight every time I try to make time for me. I have to fight against voices that tell me I'm wasting time, especially mine.
It doesn't just happen when I write. Whenever I want to do something purely for enjoyment, with no other added "value" or "purpose," I think it's a waste of time. I think of a gazillion more "important" things I should do. I tell my friend maybe her experience wasn't exactly like mine. But, I asked her --
What was life growing up for you as a little girl?
Were you encouraged to explore and enjoy doing what you liked? Or was there a focus on getting things done, not wasting time?
I wasn't planning to stay long that day for my son's playdate. But, it turned out to be a special summer afternoon, listening to the heart of a new friend and her stories.
"Maybe we can drive out to the museum in the city one morning, when the kids go back to school?" She offered with a smile.
"Yeah. Maybe," I smiled back.
I told her hopefully, I'll finish my book by then.
What is Better
It's very easy to be distracted by what appears to be more important.
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made when she opened her home to Jesus.
She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42
What's harder is taking the faith to spend time with Jesus, by doing something we enjoy. It may not look or feel right, just like it may not have seemed right for Mary to sit, while so much needed to be done around her.
When God gave instructions to build the tabernacle where He would dwell, He gave people the gift of artistic design "in all kinds of crafts" -- "to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship" to adorn, decorate and make everything. (Ex.31:11)
Now that Jesus is here, you and I have become the tabernacle where God dwells.
We are the living temples, where Jesus lives. (2 Cor. 6:16)
Each of us is created with beauty in mind, to reflect God's artistic imprint.
There is no sunset, flower or rainbow that does not reflect the time God spent making it come alive with color and feeling.
You and I are no less.
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? ...You crowned him with glory and honor." Psalm 8:3-6
How may God be inviting you to enjoy something that feeds your soul, that may feel like a waste of time? What was life growing up for you as a little girl -- were you encouraged to explore and enjoy?
For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, which garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.
Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. She has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.
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