1/18/09

A Messy Work of Art

Posted on Monday-January 19, 2009


Some friends and I were working on a project, helping a church finish a banner to display in the hall. It had phrases on it like "Encourage each other" and "Listen to one another." These sentences were repeated over and over down this banner made of fabric. We were enjoying this particular project since it gave us the opportunity to talk as we tried to color inside the lines. Our kids were in childcare, and there was a lightness to each person there, having a little free time and some listening ears.

We put some big pieces of paper under the fabric so our markers wouldn't bleed through to the table (we have a lot of practice at thinking ahead and preparing for disasters, we're moms).

When we finished coloring the letters in, we carefully lifted the banner, pulling it off the table. We looked down to find that one of the clean, white sheets of disaster-preventing paper had a perfect sentence written across it. Where other pieces of paper had half phrases, letters, and words (and a mess of colors overlapping), this particular page was complete...

Be honest with one another.

Every letter of every word had bled through the fabric in the right order, even though the banner had been moving and sliding, all different hands working their colors to fill in the lines.

I took that piece of paper home and hung it up. I thought it was pretty amazing, this one sentence, standing alone in a mess of other words.

Be honest with one another.

I thought about how people are generally anything but truly honest. I'm not talking about affairs or money laundering. I'm talking about being real. We smile and laugh. We small talk about food, jobs, and trips. There's nothing wrong with small talk, it just reminds me of how careful we are.

We tip toe around each other a bit, afraid to tell the truth about our messes, in fear that we'll appear less than the next person.

Are people seeing my insecurities, my failings, my reality, my messes? If they were a fly on the wall at my house would I still appear so bright and happy? I'm sure her messes are not as big as mine. Look at her, she seems so...together. She probably doesn't struggle like I do....she's probably really disciplined. I bet her house is always clean too...
__________
I love to sit down and get to know the heart of a person, all of it's parts. The beautiful rhythmic beats it makes and even the darker murmurs in the most hidden corners. Sometimes it's hard for me to start relationships in the place where they normally start. I'll most likely never be good at small talk, and I used to get really frustrated at how getting to know someone many times felt so awkwardly slow and careful.

But I realized that we go through these motions at first because we've all been hurt. We've protected ourselves with masks and smiles because we've told our truths before and it's made someone else uncomfortable. Or maybe we've even gotten a negative response, the person we trusted reacting in a way that told us we're not good enough in their eyes. It makes sense that we quickly learn to be more careful.

Maybe this slow beginning of friendships is actually a beautiful thing. A kind of dance we do as we discern the kindred spirit in those we meet. It exists so we can learn to be careful with each other, rather than focusing only on protecting ourselves.

We need a time of learning to simply sit and listen. Like that banner morning at church, we can let someone say whatever it is they're ready to say while they fill in the letters with the details of their lives. Sooner or later their marker will slip, a mess will be made, and they'll look up to gauge our reaction.

I want my reaction to make people feel safe. I want to allow the messes because they come in such beautiful packages. They sit in the midst of good-intentioned lives just like mine and in the hearts of people just like me. So I want to pick up my own marker and start helping with the project, attempting to color inside the lines and making a mess of my own here and there. I want that person to know that their messes won't ever make me walk away.

In the end, we'll lift up our banners, the fabric of our lives, and find the hidden treasure underneath. If only we are honest with one another, finding the strength to allow for inevitable messes, and learning to trust. The treasure we are given is a work of art, a perfect combination of words and colors. It is friendship.
__________
"Every heart has so much history. It's my favorite place to start. Sit down awhile and share your narrative with me. I'm not afraid of who you are. I'm all here and you're all there. Some of this is unique and some of it we share. Let's add it up and start from there. It's all right here." - taken from Sara Groves song "All Right Here" written by Sara Groves and Nate Sabin, 2002







33 clicked right here to comment:

Melissa said...

Really powerful post, Heather. I think you're on to something.

And the banner...love it! I think some Heavenly Hands might have been involved in that!

Kristina P. said...

What an amazing message, Heather.

And I agree with Melissa. I think there are things that are coincidences, and then I think there are things that God, or The Universe, or whatever you believe, has a hand in.

Annette Lyon said...

What a powerful experience--and a powerful concept. You're absolutely right.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

So right, so true. I am not a fan of secrets; they hurt the bearer and their relationships. There's a great freedom in honesty. I'm so grateful for people who speak, hear and embrace truth . . . You nailed the importance of it with the word "safe."

LisAway said...

That is really neat, Heather. I agree. It makes sense that there is a side of us that we are willing to show to everyone all the time, but it's when we are really open and honest that true friendship can form, and I think that is when we really bring each other joy, rather than just the brief pleasure of a friendly "conversation."

I have thought once or twice that it might be better or easier for others if I shared less of myself on my blog, but I just have to be who I am. I think honesty is the only way to go, and I really appreciate YOURS!

Jillene said...

What a great post!! I am really grateful that you shared this today!!

Jeff and Valerie Carr said...

Really nice. Thanks for the post!

Abra said...

Wow! I believe that message was meant to be. So beautifully written Heather, you are really talented :)

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Powerful, stuff. Thanks for sharing about this. You articulated it well.

Tooj said...

What a wonderful creation, that "accidental" banner. I think your post said it beautifully. I'm going to take my Moms Rock award now...I didn't feel worthy of it yesterday with the frustration I showed Wee One. :(

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

Are you SERIOUS? You didn't intend to write that, and it came out like that?!?!

Holy cow.... I'm floored...

sara said...

that was a beautiful post Heather!!! Thanks for sharing it!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

I want my reaction to make people feel safe. I want to allow the messes because they come in such beautiful packages. They sit in the midst of good-intentioned lives just like mine and in the hearts of people just like me.

This completely resonates with me today, Heather. It speaks to something that happened last summer (hugely long story) that was so painful for me . . . someone I love very much revealing a long-held reaction to some very literal messiness of mine. Anyway, this beautiful post reminds me that I may not ever be able to control how that person responds to my messes, but I can always seek to control how I respond to the messiness of others.

This is lovely. Thank you.

Kimberly said...

This is my new favourite post of yours. You've expressed it perfectly. It really hits home for me because so much of my life right now is about pursuing that sort of sincerity.

That Girl in Brazil said...

How is it that I feel like I just say ... "WOW!" at the end of every post? Either you're getting better or I'm getting stupider ... or both. At any rate, I think these sentiments were just beautiful. I'm come to hate the word 'fine.' It is the standard response to the standard "how are you?" question. And 'fine' is almost never true.

It reminds me of one of my heros - Marjorie Pay Hinckley. She had the habit of repeating the introductory sentence: "How are you REALLY?" The responses were always incredible.

I think it's time I started it up again.

Debbie said...

I love that banner. And yes, if we could all just be honest, wouldn't life be better. Great post Heather.

pam at beyondjustmom said...

Heather, you're so refreshing! You have that open, honest sincerity that does make people feel safe to open up and share their true selves. I also love how you assume everyone has "good-intentioned lives just like mine". You have a special spirit about you.

I also wanted to say that with a husband from Minnesota, I've learned that the dance of getting to know people from that world can be very. . . very. . . slow, but in the end, the treasure is beautiful. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because people work so hard to insulate themselves that they also insulate from social intimacy or pain?
You must be a breath of warm, fresh air up there!

Kim said...

That is absolutely beautiful Heather. You are so right. We are very careful not to get hurt and sometimes we miss out on so much.
Thank you for this post.

Melanie J said...

So well-written, Heather. What a powerful post. And a powerful sign.

Heidi Ashworth said...

So often your posts prompt the question "How did such a young woman get so wise?" You truly do amaze me.

Erin said...

I love how you say that the beginning of a friendship is "a kind of dance we do as we discern the kindred spirit in those we meet." Perfect!

I wish I knew more people like you in my real life. (Versus my internet life, you know.)

a Tonggu Momma said...

I've already likened myself to the abstract works of Kandinsky, Klee and Jackson Pollacks. LOL.

Loved this post, Heather.

minnesotamom said...

I always feel like I can't comment because I have nothing more to say than "Great post! I agree and wish we could be more honest!"

But...I guess affirmation is a form of honesty, because I am letting out the thing I had to say, even if it doesn't seem like it means much.

charrette said...

I LOVE that image of lifting up our banners -- the part of ourselves we allow to be seen by the world -- and uncover our real selves shining through underneath, just as beautiful.

I LOVE that you read this little miracle as a symbol and took it home to remember.

I LOVE the way you think and who you are. Another powerful post.

Jennifer said...

Wow--that was a great post and how totally cool that the paper came out that way!!

And let me make it perfectly clear--my house is a mess!!

Cynthia said...

That is such a cool 'coincidence that isn't really a coincidence'.

It's interesting to me too because it's something I'm a huge proponent of. I taught in church on Sunday and that was one of the things I really tried to stress with the women. Until we realize it's okay to not appear perfect for one another, we'll never grow, feel comforted or understood. It's through our failings (and trying to rise above them) that we inspire in a much deeper way than success ever could.

Wendi @ Every Day Miracles said...

Heather, I love the beauty with which you write.
I learn so much when I come over here. I gain wisdom from your heart as well as learn about writing. You really do a wonderful job crafting your words together. That kind of stuff makes me kind of giddy. 'Cause I'm wierd like that

Peanut said...

What a beautiful way to look at "small talk" (which I really struggle with, btw)

As always, I love your writing.

Elle said...

Heather, this is an utterly perfect post. Beautiful, beautifully written. Perfect.

Thank you.

MidnightCafe said...

Hey! I remember that banner!! Thanks so much for posting this. I have a hard time letting people in on the tough stuff in my life. I appreciate your patience. ;)

Growin' with it! said...

are you sure you don't want to write a book? this is another one of those posts that give me a big sigh and a heart that is moved. you rock heather!!!

Eowyn said...

That was an awesome post Heather. I too get bored by small talk. I want people to love me and to let me love them without reservation. It was a shock to me to find out that many people aren't that way.

Thanks for sharing!

Boy Crazy said...

just found this while peepin' through your greatest hits. I love this. I keep writing more to this comment and then deleting it, so I'll leave it at this. ;) (its that whole not being any good at saying it succinctly. i'm trying to type a conversation into a comment box and that doesn't really work so well.)

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