Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Smears, Smudges and Masterpieces

Not all women of faith are on the frontlines of rescue missions in danger-ridden countries. Many spend their days washing dishes, changing diapers, and wondering if anything they do even qualifies them as a woman of faith.

In recognition of these women manning the homefront, some of whom will gather in Charlotte at the WOF conference next weekend, I have reposted this essay by Cristina Slattery, a mother who finds that the daily “teachable moments” are not always for the kids.

As the kids watched, I took out four blank canvases, a new set of paints and a myriad of brushes, looked at my four children and said, “Paint.” 

One was pensive, trying to figure out just what to paint.  Another flew right into it, making what she lovingly called a “messed up rainbow.” Another adamantly opposed the idea and walked away.  I knew he would do it when he felt ready and not forced. The last one took a pencil and began to draw.  Parts of his picture were intricate. I told him I was concerned the paint would spread in those areas. He was not at all concerned. He wanted to do it his way. 

My sweet tempered child who finds beauty in most everything she sees finished first. She was thrilled with her creation. “Mommy, don’t you love it?” Of course I did. It was exactly like her, a rainbow of color covering the entire canvas. 

My sulky one still refused to paint. My pensive one finally and slowly began to work on his. 
But my most detailed child started to cry. To be more precise, scream. He was furious. On his perfect white canvas were smudges.  He immediately began to blame everyone but himself. His sister had been too loud, singing while she painted, so he couldn’t concentrate.  His brother was hogging up the green he wanted. Lastly, he took his anger out on me. It was all mom’s fault. “The painting is ruined and it’s your fault because you made me do it in the first place.”

After unsuccessfully trying to rationalize with him, I sent him to his room for yelling at me. Twenty minutes later he came back downstairs and apologized. I decided to talk to him, using an example of something that had happened in the past.

 “Once you asked me to take a picture of you and Lucy. I took the picture, but it didn’t turn out quite right. Now let’s pretend I took that camera, threw it down and blamed you for the bad picture because you asked me to take it. Is that fair?”

 He understood, but suddenly became angry and defensive. I realized his apology was truly not one of the heart.

 I showed him his painting and said there were still many wonderful things he could do with it. The dirty smudges could become trees. The black spots could become birds. The smears in the grass could be painted blue and become a beautiful winding river. As I spoke, he started to smile. He began to see all the possibilities he could create if only he had taken the time to see his picture in a different light.  If only he had been willing to let go of his first concept and be willing to embrace another. 

I thought about how many times I have done the same thing.  How many times I have been angry at the God who placed me on a certain path because the road was not as I had anticipated?  How many times God taken the time to point out the pitfalls, only for me to ignore him?

How easy it is to blame those around us only to realize we were blaming the One who planted us there to begin with. How easy it is to go with a half hearted apology, only to rise in anger again when we feel the need to defend ourselves. 

Yet how many times in my life have those smudges become blessings? The black spots that have marred my soul have often ended up giving me wings to fly somewhere else on this journey of life.  The dirty smudges have become strong reminders of mistakes made that have allowed me to grow and develop in ways I had never expected.  The smears of life have led to rivers of blessings which have winded through this life of mine. 

Until I was willing to let go of the perfect picture I had imagined and accept change, I was never able to enjoy those blessings to the fullest.  One of those blessings was this same child that vexed me to the point of anger with his art, only to show me how so often I am just like him, holding on to a blank canvas with the perfect picture etched in my mind and unwilling to accept the changes that come.

Today, a beautiful picture of a flowery meadow with a winding river, blue skies and a few soaring black birds holds a center spot in our home, a constant reminder of how we can trust God to make all things beautiful in his time, even our messes.


  1. I loved this. Reminds of similar teaching moments when my children were still home.

    And yes, it is so true that when we let go of our preconceived ideas of how things should be, we recognize His gifts in unexpected packages.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Stunningly written. Your articles never fail to teach me. Thank you.


Love to hear from you