I had gone to the special presentation at our public library to hear an author talk about her writing. The last thing I expected to do was create something with anything except words. But shortly after she introduced herself, Jerusalem Jackson Greer invited each of us to come to the front and gather an assortment of materials for the craft she displayed.
She called it a “hope hoop”. A wire clothes hanger which had been formed into the shape of a circle, covered in burlap then decorated with various strips of fabric, lace, yarn and other ornamental items.
“Well that’s nice,” I thought, “but what does this have to do with writing?” Not being an especially crafty person I doubted my ability to create anything I would be proud of but I dutifully selected items from the front, cut and ripped fabric strips, selected some lace and went back to my seat to work. True to form, as soon as I started to twist the curved part of the top of the hanger so I could form it into a circle, the entire hanger part snapped off. “Great! I can’t even untwist a clothes hanger successfully,” I murmured under my breath.
“Well that’s nice,” I thought, “but what does this have to do with writing?”
Without anything to grab onto it was virtually impossible to untwist the top of the hanger to create a circle so I decided instead on a diamond shape. Arkansas is, after all, referred to as “The Diamond State”. I would simply pretend I had intended it to be this way.
As we wound the burlap and tied our strips Jerusalem encouraged us to “embrace the messy”. Walking around the room rather than standing at a podium, this mom/wife/writer/minister/crafter person began telling us about her messy life and the lessons it had taught her. As my fingers moved steadily I felt my crafting project absorbing the stress of the day as my mind absorbed what this woman had to say. Later I learned she had taught children with Attention Deficit Disorder in public schools for a number of years and that using fidgit spinners or other tactile distractions helped the students relax and learn more. It was working for me. I was taking no notes and yet felt I could easily remember everything she said.
Thirty minutes later I had completed my “diamond door hanger”, a shabby chic creation which gave me a sense of accomplishment. Part of it may have been the sheer satisfaction of completing something in one sitting and part of it may have been Jerusalem’s “anything goes” attitude about our work. By the end of the evening I could see how she had used our “messy creations” as a metaphor for valuing and embracing our “messy lives”.
In her latest book, AT HOME IN THIS LIFE (Finding Peace at the Crossroads of Unraveled Dreams & Beautiful Surprises), she shares how the perfect life she envisioned for her family was on a farm with several acres, fresh crops of fruits and vegetables and lots of animals. She and her husband found the farm they wanted, put their house up for sale and waited. And waited. And waited. Not only did their house not sell, but their six chickens were killed in an owl attack, their roof fell in, a wooden bench came down on Jerusalem’s foot breaking it in three places and their beloved family dog died.
Angry with her situation and with God himself, she finally came to a place of humble awareness that if she didn’t find peace and contentment in the mess she was in, she would never have it in a new surrounding either. So began her journey of studying and practicing one spiritual discipline at a time while learning to “embrace the messy”. I found her book to be both entertaining and inspiring. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed making that simple craft!
If she didn’t find peace and contentment in the mess she was in, she would never have it in a new surrounding either.
Jerusalem’s first book, A HOMEMADE YEAR (The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together), is full of colorful crafts, party ideas and recipes. As a grandmother, I have always made it a point to have craft supplies on hand. Not only does it help keep little ones occupied, using their creativity rather than just watching cartoons on TV, it also gives them a huge surge of self confidence whenever they create something on their own.
Anytime we can teach our kids a skill or craft not only does it help enable them to take care of themselves someday but it also deposits into their confidence bank a large sum of self esteem. Just last week one of the screws had come out of our mailbox lid leaving it hanging gingerly in a lopsided fashion. Because some of his other grandparents are handy in the “how to fix it” department, eight-year-old Owen walked in and nonchalantly announced that he had found a screw and fixed my mailbox for me. I was stunned . . . and proud.
Before she could even pronounce it correctly three-year-old Scarlet had made her first pineapple upside down cake (with a little help from Mimi of course). Last week six-year-old Katie took her first sewing lesson in which she completed a pillow and blanket for her American Girl doll. Paints, markers, glitter and glue. Eggs, flour, sugar and a pan. A screwdriver and a screw. All are tools that can help craft confidence in the heart of a child. And sometimes a clothes hanger and some fabric will do the same thing in the heart of an adult who came to hear a writer talk about writing but learned a little bit more.