A Thing of Beauty

horse

In my pre-teen years, I was a motivated babysitter. I’d make up games, run around in the yard, and clean up the house—determined to earn every dollar. It was never much in the early 1990s, but still I was excited to get my little stash of folded bills when the parents came home.

After one particularly long day of babysitting, the mom returned with excitement.

“I got you something!” she sang.

That was thoughtful of her.

“Here it is. It can be your payment for babysitting today,” she shoved a small white box at me.

Oh.

I opened the box and immediately loathed the item inside. It was a largish, blue Scandinavian-inspired horse necklace.

I don’t want this. Nope.

Even though I wasn’t the epitome of fashion then (or now), I didn’t want to look like I just came from Shipshewana all the time.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she demanded. And even worse, “It reminds me of you.”

“It’s adorable,” my unassertive 12-year-old self lied.

Ugh. How I wish I had had the courage to say what I was really thinking— “I can see why you like it, but it’s not my taste. I’d prefer money as payment.”

But how could I when it reminded her of me, she was sort of paying me a compliment even though I didn’t agree with her assessment. Knowing I had to sit in a car together as she drove me home, I stuffed down regret and frustration to avoid awkwardness. I could not stomach the idea of disappointing her, even over my own desires.

So despite my hard work, I headed home empty-handed, save the hideous horse necklace.

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I ended up keeping that thing for years, in a box under my bed. I tried to convince myself that I would wear it someday. Or play with it. Or something with it. But no, it was just a tangible reminder of my failure to speak up and say what I really wanted. Probably the biggest emotion I have from this memory is a feeling of helplessness. That mother gave me very little out to say no, and I was silent. As a pre-teen girl who tended to want to please adults, it’s not a big shocker that I went along with it.

But now as a big girl, thinking back objectively, there is another, deeper meaning to the old memory: she projected her idea of beautiful art on me, and that is what created unnecessary tension. Yes, I missed out on $20 and wondered why a cutesy blue horse represented me. All folksy and sturdy and stuff.

But the worst part was—her projection of beauty—it silenced me.

So years later that horse has resurrected and redeemed itself in the form of a lesson.

We can’t force our ideas of creative beauty on others, it stifles them. We can share creations we find beautiful, but others aren’t obligated to positively respond. Each of us has a history, inner workings, a cultural bent that define creative beauty for us.

On a trip to Italy, my husband and I practically ran through The Uffizi Gallery in Florence; Renaissance art doesn’t really do it for us. However, we spend hours listening to music and trying new restaurants; looking for the most inspiring band and food we can find.

As a (budding) writer, sometimes it’s hard not to feel rejected if people don’t resonate with my work. But I have to remember that all I’m called to do is follow my God-given passion and He will bring the completion.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. Philippians 1:6, The Message Bible

As you notice or generate creative beauty in your world, unashamedly follow your heart. Rejoice in the beauty. Proclaim it, share it, sculpt it, strum it, garden it, write it, bake it, knit it, scrap it, or bedazzle it.

But don’t feel that others must see eye to eye with you. You don’t need to waste any time wondering: How many? or Who? agrees with you. Beauty is valid without being validated; it’s holy work to look for and produce beauty in the world. When we feel that we must strong arm others into our definition, tension will ensue—either for us or them.

And also…it’s probably best not to pay your babysitter with your latest poem or you may find yourself the subject of a blog post in 20 years.

XO,

Heidi

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Cathy Wheeler says:

    I could just feel that uneasiness you felt in the car on the way home. That was a very awkward situation and you handled it politely; I don’t know why she would have thought you would have the same taste and also rather have the necklace than the money. But….your point of looking for beauty in the world is well taken. We can fear the world everyday just by listening to the 6 o’clock news, but we can instead rise above that fear and search for beauty in the world. God is in that beauty. Thanks, Heidi!!