I can understand about every fourth word Beth speaks. She has long, involved, animated conversations non-stop, and she doesn’t really care if I am in on it. She has been pretending for hours, in the same room as her brother, who has been building Lego creations on the table beside her. She stirs a pot of Star Wars figures as she sips a cup of JarJar Binks tea, sharing it kindly with a plastic giraffe and a stuffed manatee. She has just shuffled over to my side, singing this declaration: “Time for din-ner. Pizza! Pizza ready!” I take a little bite of the invisible slice and thank her.
She has discovered the Magna-tiles Calvin is now playing with and a fight ensues, resolved this round with a win by Calvin, because Beth can be distracted by princesses. She lines them up on the coffee table. Fifteen minutes later there is a wedding. This is the unlikely pair:
I watch Beth and her brother pretend, and because it is a sacred time of year, and our hearts are tenderized by recent events, I see in it a manifestation of divinity. It strikes me with great force that we are alive, that we share time and space with particular people, and I can see layers upon layers of purpose in all of it. I watch two-year-old Beth of the golden imagination frolic through the world of her imaginings, and I am reminded of this quote by our prophet, Thomas Monson:
"God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged, the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to us the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that we might know the joys and glories of creation."
Beth has not yet discovered her limitations. Maybe it is more accurate to say that her limitations have not yet discovered her. She is blessed in her innocence to be emotionally free to pretend and imagine and create.
I grew up in a home where the whole house was filled with raw material. Our poor mom! My brother George was particularly good at taking raw materials and creating something other than Mom might have wanted out of them. Now the work of George’s creative efforts has changed the way our world works, quite literally. But that’s another chapter.
Tomorrow we will boil some fresh white chicken eggs in water. We will set a handful of small bowls on the kitchen table, fill them with water and vinegar, then drop colored pellets in each one. Each of us, from three generations, will dip those eggs in the dye and create whatever we want; plaids, rainbows, plain bold colors or soft pastels. We may draw pictures in wax before we dip them, or we may add stickers and glitter and such. I’ll tell my treasures that we are like those eggs. What is inside, the embryo of godliness, is in all of us. But the Lord gave us form, and knowledge, and the right to choose as His first and best gifts to us. And He says, as he sends us off to earth still pure and white;
“Go now. Color yourselves however you want. But do not forget who you are inside.”
I love coloring Easter eggs because it reminds me that we are blessed with the power and the right to color ourselves in whatever manner we choose. Still, however desperately we want to become something different and unique, we are all embryo of something magnificent. As much as we might like to take credit for what we have made of ourselves, we were first living creatures created by someone else.
I am of the opinion that all of us who have ever lived had some role in the creation this planet; some small task we were given in the design and creation of our earth. Wise parenting dictates such opportunities for children of a household. When I was PTA president we wanted to create a greater sense of unity among the students, and a deeper respect for the school. So we gave each student responsibilities; planting flower bulbs, sweeping sidewalks, painting the bench out front. Involving them in the creation gave them ownership, and the combined ownership gave them a greater sense of unity. The urge to create is part of the divine in all of us, and when we use that gift we are invited to access the godliness inherent in each of us.
I am conscious of the possibility of using creation for ungodly purposes. In fact, it’s a pretty foolproof way to determine how divine a gift is when you can see it being used to deflate, demoralize or destroy goodness. Just about every form of art rides the golden pendulum, swinging from profoundly inspirational to frighteningly evil. Music…visual art…theatre, dance, film, literature… they have all been used to build up and tear down mankind with the same measure of passion, energy and funding. If you’re dealing with serious temptation of struggle, consider it a compliment. It means your potential for good is equal to the pull the devil is putting on you.
My hope is to remain true to the God given gifts of creation planted in me before time began. And it is my hope for you as well. Whether you’re composing a tune in your head, gathering a string of tasty words together, stirring up a recipe, mapping out a delightful outing with your children, or designing the bulletin board outside a classroom, the gifts you use are divine. We are invited by the ultimate Creator to enter His workshop and use His tools. That’s an awful lot of confidence He must have in us.
During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day. I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity. This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.