Laudable Linkage

Here are some great reads from around the Web:

I Learned to Read the Bible Through Tears, HT to True Woman. “But on days when I felt desperate, I didn’t care about duty. I was dedicating time to be with God because I needed it — not because I had to. I approached my Bible reading with a different mindset, with expectation and anticipation, not a sense of obligation.”

How Reading the Bible Changed My Life, HT to Challies.”So when I look back at that time in my life, I don’t see a 14-year-old who suddenly became ‘spiritual’; I see a gracious God who chose to intervene in an apathetic teen’s life. I don’t see my own faithful heart; I see the faithful heart of God that kept on pursuing me, despite my faithlessness, and that still pursues me to this day.”

Am I Invisible? One Mom’s pain-relieving response to being excluded, HT to Linda.

Age-ism: The New (or Old) Prejudice, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “About forty percent thought that older people should be banned from public activities, like shopping. Then the vitriol gets worse. Some of sites declared that older folks should ‘hurry up and die already.’ One quote went, ‘Anyone over the age of 69 should immediately face a firing squad.’ This is nothing but brutal hate-speech.”

Children Who Get What They Want Are Not Creative, HT to The Story Warren. Interesting piece on how creativity thrives within structure and discipline rather than in total freedom. “When we [always] give a three-year-old whatever he wants, we are just postponing that child’s battle with his desires until a time in which he will find the fight far more difficult.” I don’t know that the best reason to serve a child food that he doesn’t like is so that he can engage his creativity by figuring out various ways to get rid of it, but I am thinking that section might be written tongue-in-cheek.

My Mother Practiced the Piano. “Certainly motherhood may limit your participation in certain endeavors, and there are some years that moms mostly just have to survive. However, if you are reading a site like Story Warren, my guess is that you are already highly committed as a parent, and that commitment frees me up to remind you that your passion and curiosity matter. There’s nothing selfish about working toward your artistic interests as God allows the time. In fact, your children can benefit from watching you model discipline and discovery, so don’t give up on your art, invite your kids into it. Let them watch you conquer little pieces of the world so that they will know how to tame their own chaos one measure at a time.”

Finally, seen on Pinterest from the Prince of Preachers site, this principle is not easy, but it is true.

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Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

HomemakingEven though I’ve been discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club, I wanted to write an overall review to have one post to refer back to when discussing the book. Too, I thought perhaps some who weren’t interested in reading the weekly chapter summaries might enjoy perusing one smaller review.

The basic theme of the book could be summarized in this quote from it:

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation” (p. 109).

As a teen I struggled with whether the desire to look “pretty” and dress nicely was a fleshly one, and as a young woman I had the same struggles in regard to wanting an attractive home. Was it a waste of the resources God gave me to use them in such a way, or would it be in better keeping with Christian character to buy bargain basement items, no matter whether they suited me? Were decorative items wasteful and selfish or an enhancement?

It helped me greatly to realize that God could have made the world simply functional, but he made it beautiful as well. Another help was realizing that the Proverbs 31 woman dressed in “coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple,” the finest in her day.

I read Edith’s book as some point during this time, and I remember feeling so relieved that my natural inclinations were okay. She discusses the principles above, and the principle of balance: we have to keep our artistic desires within the context of our finances, our season of life, our responsibilities to our families and our calling in life at any given point. It’s possible to go overboard. Yet within those contexts, God gives us great freedom of self-expression which in turn can be used to glorify Himself and draw others to Him.

She discusses in turn (these are all linked to my discussions of each chapter):

The First Artist (God’s creativity)
What Is Hidden Art?
Music
Painting, Sketching, and Sculpturing
Interior Decoration
Gardens and Gardening
Flower Arrangements
Food
Writing
Drama
Creative Recreation
Clothing
Integration (of different races, ages, cultures, etc.)
Environment (the type we create in our homes or with our personalities)

She does concede that in some cases we may only be able to cultivate an appreciation for some of these areas rather than a talent in them, and she acknowledges that probably no one can incorporate all of them at once, but she makes a strong case for each one and brings out a variety of ways to employ them in our homes.

The book isn’t flawless: some of its examples and illustrations are a bit dated (it was originally published in 1971), sometimes Edith can get just a touch preachy, sometimes she goes on and on with examples when we’ve gotten the point already. But overall it is great encouragement and inspiration to employ creativity. I enjoyed perusing the book again.

I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Hobbies

Apparently January is National Hobby Month, according to an e-mail from Michael’s. But even before that Katrina’s earlier post about hobbies got me to thinking about them.

Actually, her post was more about dabbling and whether or not that was a good thing. I think that can depend on personality. One of my sons dabbled in a number of different hobbies, and I used to be concerned that his not sticking with them was perhaps a lack of discipline. But each one was enriching in its own way and time, and maybe some day he’ll be able to come back to them.

I think you do have to dabble at a number of things before you can see what you really like to do. I’ve learned, for instance, that I’m not good at things that have to be exact. I have trouble drawing a straight line even with a straight edge. I have trouble cutting something out on a drawn line — I tend to go back and forth over the width of the line. So something like piecing a quilt would probably have me tearing my hair out when everything didn’t come together just right. But I am not good at things that are mostly free-form, either. I used to work part-time for a friend who had a florist business in her home. I mainly worked when there was a heavier workload, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and when the local Christian college would have special programs for which guys bought corsages for their dates. With some introductory instruction from my friend, I could do corsages and bud vases, but bigger arrangements threw me. I could get the major flowers in — there is an almost geometric balance to them. But I was never satisfied with all the filler flowers and never seemed to strike just the right balance in placement and proportion. My friend, however, could throw something together in five minutes that looked gorgeous. But this same friend agonized over cross stitch and eventually gave it up, whereas I thought that was pretty simple.

I also used to think people either were creative or were not, and I didn’t think I was very much. But I learned, by dabbling and by observation, that there were different types of creativity, different ways to be creative. Creativity isn’t just craftiness. Some people are very creative in coming up with solutions to problems, in adding just a touch of something different to turn an ordinary meal into something special, in finding unique ways to teach, etc. (When we home schooled for four years, my husband taught a couple of subjects most days and had to do the bulk of it when I was ill for several weeks. He was much more creative than I was, coming to class as Einstein one day, etc. He began one of his speeches in college with a gas mask on.)

Dictionary.com defines a hobby as “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.” Pleasure and relaxation are probably the main benefits we get from hobbies, but I think they’re stimulating to everyday life in many ways. As a homemaker, a lot of my everyday tasks involve doing the same things — washing the same dishes, cleaning the same bathrooms, etc. Creating something that lasted more than a few days was very satisfying. It’s also nice to do something productive during what would otherwise be waiting time (watching TV, traveling, etc.). Sometimes it provides time to either think about or get away from our regular occupation. Stimulating our brain with different activities is supposed to be good for it. Years ago I read a quote from an unnamed pioneer woman that went something like, “I make my quilts warm to keep my family from freezing.  I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking.” That resonated with me, thinking of the hardness of pioneer life and the need to bring some beauty into it. I think one of the ways we’re made in God’s image is that desire to create. Of course, all thing must be kept in balance: time and expense are factors as are everyday demands of life. There may be seasons we can be more creative than others.

My family didn’t have many hobbies except reading. My grandmother crocheted — you rarely saw her sitting down without a crochet project in her hands. Even though I never took up crochet, I love that example she set for me.

So, what kinds of hobbies have I experimented with? In more or less chronological order I tried:

  • Reading — though that’s really more than a hobby to me.
  • Ceramics. I dabbled with this a bit in high school and have in a box somewhere a ceramic plaque with mushrooms on it I made for my mom.
  • Writing. I kept a lot of journals as a teen and, sadly, threw them away. I also wrote a lot of poetry then. When my kids were growing up my main writing was letters to the grandparents. 🙂 I’ve gotten back to writing in recent years with a few magazine articles and now an occasional newspaper column.
  • Sewing. I can’t do things that have to be extremely exact, so nothing I make is very tailored, but I’ve made clothes, curtains, things for the house, etc.

Country bear

  • Needlework of various types. Embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch. This is one of my favorites, made either when I was expecting my firstborn or not long after he was born:

Needlework bears

You can’t really tell from the picture, but there are different types of stitching in different places and the little cookies are raised rather than flat.

CIMG0557

It was also a very big deal for me then to vary from the pattern: originally the background behind the trees was supposed to be yellow (for sunshine, I guess). But I thought it would look better with blue for the sky. Nowadays I am a bit more comfortable changing something about a pattern.

I did a lot of this kind of thing just before having children or when they were little, but as we had more children and they grew, I laid it aside. Most of what I made was either for children or for gifts, so I didn’t really have anything around the house that I had stitched. I’ve just gotten back to it the last few years and enjoy it though it takes reading glasses and a magnifying glass to see it. Here’s a more recent cross-stitched project:

  • Lampshades. I took one of those little college non-credit courses for that. This picture isn’t very clear, but it was fun to cut and then bend the paper (or whatever it was — similar to card stock) so the light shines through. I also stenciled one for the kids’ room.

CIMG0175

  • Quilting. Took a non-credit course in that, too, and I really love the idea of them, but can’t do piecing very well. Lately I’ve seen some that are a little freer than piecing that I may give a whirl some time.
  • Calligraphy. Took another adult ed. class in that and had great plans, but never really got into practicing it regularly. Now I’d rather use fonts on the computer for printing.
  • Smocking. A friend at church endeavored to teach a handful of us. If I’d had girls I probably would have done more with this, but little boy outfits with smocking tended to look too girlish except for very young baby clothes.
  • Cake decorating. Did not get that very well!!! It’s not something that came naturally, and it would’ve taken a lot of practice to get it to really look right, and I’m not motivated to do that for something that’s going to disappear post-haste. We pretty much only have cakes on birthdays, and if it needs to be nicely decorated for a party, I order it from somewhere else. But usually my family just makes do with my not-so-artful “creations.” They say as long as it tastes good, that’s all that matters.
  • Stenciling. That was really big for a while.
  • Stamping was, too, and I did that for a while.
  • Papercrafting, cards and collages:

image0-11.jpg

Fall card

  • Scrapbooking. I’ve done just a smidgen of this and would like to do more.
  • I don’t know if you’d call this “button crafts” or “gluing stuff. 🙂

Heart button wreath

  • Blogging, of course. 🙂
  • Music: I only had one semester of piano one year in college. I would have loved to have grown up with music lessons (I say now — I probably would have disliked practicing as much as the next kid) but either my parents couldn’t afford it or didn’t think it important. I know I could learn now. I thought it was neat to find out that a grandma in our church is taking piano lessons! But I have too many other interests now to develop it to the place where it would be a joy.
  • One stroke painting. Took a couple of classes at Michael’s and would love to do more of that.

Blue snowman ornament

This Christmas ornament is, I think, the only thing I have made with that style of painting besides what I dabbled with on paper. I had a goal one time to make an ornament with every craft I had tried. I haven’t done so with all of them, but have with many. An ornament is actually a good project to try a new craft with because it is a smaller project.

I think I may have taken one class in knitting, but just didn’t get into it. I like the idea when I see sweet baby blankets at showers or cozy sweater patterns. It’s one of those things that I don’t know if I could do well enough to be satisfied.

There are other things I do occasionally but not enough to be called hobbies. I take photos here and there, more so since digital cameras and blogging came along, but not enough to really say it’s a hobby. I plant things occasionally but am not a gardener. I bake sometimes and enjoy the results but not necessarily the process. I don’t know if you can call decorating a hobby. I enjoy it and enjoy poring over decorating magazines and Pinterest, but I don’t change the decor around too much.

So there you have it. Some things I still do, some fell by the wayside, but I think they all taught me something. I mentioned laying aside some things while my children were young: I talked more about that in an article called The Back Burner. Some things have to be put there for a while, but hopefully the simmering will make it even more hearty and flavorful.

What kinds of hobbies have you had? Are there some you regret not keeping up with, and some you’re glad to have abandoned? Do you have one or two main ones, or do you like to dabble in a number of different things?