Friday, September 16, 2011

The Gift That Keeps On Giving (And no, it’s not the Jelly of the Month Club.)

As much as it makes my skin crawl to end a sentence with a preposition, I decided to turn a blind eye to both the Harbrace Manual on my desk and the years of writing instruction, in order to kick off today’s blog with this most poignant quote:
‘You owe it to us all to get on with what you’re good at.’ ~W. H. Auden.
Let’s look at it again… Allow me to reconstruct the quote and add emphasis. 

YOU OWE it to all of US to share your GIFTS and get on with the things you DO SO WELL.
Whether we realize it or not, we all have the tools within us to do something special, whether it is making the perfect pie crust or coming up with the strategic plan of designing the next World Trade Center towers.   Still think those talents of yours should be chalked up as hobbies and maybe even quirks that you normally ignore? 
Then maybe you’ll believe someone higher on the totem pole.  How about a great apostle of Jesus Christ?  “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. “  1 Peter 4:10 NIV.  Is that enough credence? Doesn’t sound so much like a mere suggestion now, does it?  It took me years to realize that God really does package people with certain gifts before he spiritually ships us out to sea (read – birth).
I always knew I had a creative side.  It runs in my family, as my mom, brother and even my 10-year-old son are amazing artists.  My son is in a gifted art class and always fascinates both teachers and peers alike with his drawings.  My brother probably should have been an illustrator for comic books – nothing short of amazing.  My mother can sketch an outdoor scene that will make Bob Ross blush and probably should have worked for Hallmark as her poetry is beautiful  and more often hilarious.
So what gift did I receive?  Well, I am still in the discovery process, but about two years ago, I realized that I like “making things pretty”.  I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds.  I will say that one of my dear friends totally gets it because she is ALL about both appreciating and surrounding herself with “pretty things”.  In a similar fashion, I simply like making things pretty.  I came to this realization after I stumbled upon this wonderful book entitled, Cure for the Common Life, by Max Lucado.  Everyone needs to read this book!  They make great gifts too.  Just saying…  In an effort to help readers realize their talents and gifts, Lucado asks them to reflect over their life in an effort to recognize their “sweet spot” – more specifically, things that made them happy or that they did well.  It could be seemingly minor and simple things.  Something else Lucado said in his book moved me.  “We serve as canvases for His brush stroke, papers for His pen, soil for His seeds, glimpses of His image.”  Wow.  Okay, I’ll bite.
So, I played along and started thinking back to a time when I would draw an awful lot as a child.  I was obsessed with doing portraits of celebrities. (Don’t laugh, but I sketched a portrait of Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson.  And yes, I know how to spell NERD.)  I went on to design a t-shirt for a local band once that featured silhouettes of each of the members.  (Never mind that I got totally screwed financially on that deal – it was the creativity that mattered, right?)  I also enjoyed crafts, making ribbon barrettes, making bows and even making boxes look like baskets by using raffia paper, which made great storage boxes for shelves.  As a pre-teen, my friends would even ask me to draw those cheesy beach scenes with their names across the sky framed by palm trees.  You know… “John loves Jane; 2 lovers + 2 gether = 4 ever”.  (Hey I already admitted it was cheesy.)  I went on to write poetry all through my high school days, which, at the time, I thought rivaled the works of Robert Frost, only later to realize they were primarily useful only when my mother and I needed a good laugh.
In my college years, I became obsessed with writing.  I thoroughly enjoyed writing research papers, copy editing and writing very short stories – more like fictional essays.  I also enjoyed making an impact with my personal letters, so much so that I would often take days to perfect the “Dear John” letter, only to find that “John” had left before I had an opportunity to deliver my masterpiece.  During this time, I still enjoyed being artistic.  I was always the girl to paint the cutesy plastic cups to prepare for our annual fat Tuesday journeys.  They had to look absolutely festive and perfect!  I also took a few drawing and design courses in college that resulted in some pretty wicked banana tree sketches, I must say. That is, if you can call banana leaves wicked.  But I digress…
In my adulthood, my need to improve things aesthetically started to bleed over to projects at work like perfecting cover pages on programs and brochures as well as assuring that power point presentations looked very “together”.  At home, my desire for everything to be neat and stylish would initially be shrugged off by my family as OCD.  But it was more than that and I knew it.  My version of a perfect day would consist of being buried in home decorating magazines, only to be put down long enough to turn up the volume on HGTV.  Okay that’s still my version of a perfect day, but now it involves a glass of Pinot.  Anyway, it’s a deep strong desire in me for everything to look good and to NOT look out of place.  (That’s not to say you won’t walk in my home on any given day and think it’s been burglarized – it’s the desire for things to look nice that we’re focusing on here, okay?)
I’d also be remiss not to mention the several years I delved into photography as a side job.  As you might guess, I had way more fun editing and enhancing the picture than being behind the camera and composing the picture itself.
Anyway, to make a long story short (too late), it was after reading Max Lucado’s book, that I realized, I have a deep longing to “make things pretty”.  Still with me, Rach?  Whether it is changing the margins on a document to improve its balance, changing the color scheme on a web page to make it pop, lining shelves with perfect boxes or placing the absolute perfect pillows on a couch, I just want to make it a little bit better.
So I think it’s no surprise that Paul was divinely inspired by someone much wiser than us when he said, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” (Gal. 6:4 NIV).  The Message gives us an even more inspiring translation:
 “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (Gal. 6:4 MSG).
I started Sunny Belle mostly due to the prodding of both my mother and aunt.  I realized then that although it was a small thing, they were right.  If God gave me the talent to be creative, why not use it?  One of the gifts he gave me was to be artsy with glass and ceramics.  I may not be Michaelangelo, but God doesn’t expect me to be.  He expects me to be Crystal, owner of Sunny Belle Designs (among other things of course.)  He may change his mind and lead me in a different direction next month.  Who knows?
If you take nothing else away from this blog today, just remember this:  You and I are God’s blank canvases.  This world is for you and me to improve upon with our gifts, whatever they may be and however big or small they may be.  We owe it to each other and to our Maker to share those gifts with the world in order to make it a slightly better place… even if our gift is simply a painted glass that made someone smile!  J
Tune in next week for ways you can capture your own inspiration!

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