Known and Loved

By

bootsThe 7:30 “you’re-late” mark whizzed past me as I got ready for school on Tuesday morning, and I hurriedly twisted my hair into two little unruly knobs behind my ears. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about my appearance, but pulled on my shiny black rain boots and ran out the door. As I braved the crosswalk in the rain with many maple-syrup-scented, mussy-haired children, I was cheerily greeted by a girl named Julia. Whenever Julia sees me, she says nothing but looks askance at me, smiles big and throws her arms open in expectation of the hug that always follows. Our little embrace shifted the path of an otherwise unpleasant morning.

I was further bombarded with “hello Miss Coates!”-es from all sides as I made the trek to my subterranean art cavern, and then again as I carried my cowboy mug to the teachers’ lounge. Even the middle-schoolers muttered some “HeyMissCoates”-es from beneath their shrouds of long hair that are forever hiding their bleary eyes. (Why does it feel as though pigs are flying somewhere when an adolescent boy speaks kindly to me?) As I swirled cream into my coffee, it occurred to me how these mutual recognitions and little greetings-in-passing had made my day’s beginning so very much more bearable, and that they were little gifts from God.

“I like you hair, Miss Coates. It’s really pretty,” he said with a sheepish grin over my shoulder as I finished my sweet potato at the lunch table.

cooperDear reader, meet Cooper. He is in third grade, is a die-hard Auburn fan, displays the facial expressions of a 73 year old man, crosses his arms knowingly, taps his little sneakered toe and says things like “I think it’s time for you to get a 2000 car soon, don’t you?” He knows that I drive an old pick-up and he might be a little worried about me. “Well, in 2015 when you’re driving a 1971 car, don’t come runnin’ to me.” His eyes positively twinkle, and I love this kid dearly.

“Your earrings are so sparkly!” he offered with an equally sparkly smile as he entered the classroom. As we settled into learning mode, I explained and demonstrated how thorough coloring would make the robot’s feet look sooo much more lively, I heard, “I just love you, Miss Coates,” and he patted my [lower] back sympathetically in a manner similar to that of a concerned aunt. His classmates erupted into laughter and those rollercoaster-y “oooooohhhh”s that I dislike so intensely. His face flushed berry red and his head lowered a bit. As soon as the taunting died down I said, “Cooper, I just love you, too.” “But you’re too old for him!” they cried, and we all laughed.

I took a break from coloring my robot and launched into a mini-sermon on how important it is for us to love each other well, and that it’s one of the big reasons we were even put on this earth. These unsuspecting third graders’ faces were displaying blank stares for the most part, but I could recognize the light of understanding in a precious few pairs of wide eyes.

Van Gogh strung the words together in the loveliest way: “I tell you, the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” A friend of mine has posed this question to me a few times: “What do you want your legacy to be?” After thinking about it for a couple of years, my answer has formed into this: I want to be remembered for loving people well through offerings of my creative gifts. They are what God gave to me and I offer them, in turn, so gladly. I hope that when I am remembered, it is for the meals I make, the flowers I arrange, the home atmospheres I create, the music I share, the letters I write, and the art I offer. (And maybe for my curly hair…and my staggering sense of humor…then there’s my obvious knack for comedic timing….oh, and my spelling ability….ummmm, that’s it for now.)

There are so many intricate, winding pathways that lead to loving artfully, and we all go about the business of love from different angles — we show it (and receive it) in various ways, but the emotion ultimately makes its way to the heart of the recipient, despite our bumbling and tripping ways. We hold its beautiful, quiet, but overwhelming power so timidly in our hands and extend it to one another. This is where the art happens. Being an artist of any kind requires equally heavy doses of vulnerability and bravery, as does this hugely complex and deep matter of love. The creative process is much like a relationship in that it is a journey, most times a long, laborious one. The idea or dream of something new grows and develops, then slowly turns into reality as we come to know and understand our subject matter, or our friend or lover. How good of our God to give us unending supplies and time enough, in both the worlds of art and love, to explore the possibilities.


9 Comments

  1. Tom

    I really enjoyed this story Evie! Thank you very much for sharing it! The Rabbit Room has become my favorite online hideaway because of the honesty, beauty and hearts for Christ I find here. Thank you all very much!

    In Christ,
    Tom

  2. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Evie, beautiful thoughts. Regarding vulnerability vs bravery: The best vocalists always have a fairly even ratio of these in their singing. There are female singers out there who lean too hard on the brave, the strength side, and so, at least to me, are unappealing. And there are male singers who lean too hard on the vulnerability side and sound (at least to me) like whining sissies. But the best combo, in both men and women, is both, men leaning maybe a little more to the strength side and women to the vulnerability side, but basically even ratios. Merle Haggard, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, early Joni Mitchell fall in this “balanced” category.

    This holds true even in daily human interaction; there’s nothing like a guy who is all macho bluster and no transparency (annoying! Get real!) or one who is all transparency and little courage (head for the hills!). And women, the same – Screwtape said, “As regards the male taste we have varied a good deal. At one time we have directed it to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men’s vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the most arrogant and prodigal women. At other, we have selected an exaggeratedly feminine type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the general falseness and littleness of mind that go with them, shall be at a premium.” Balance in vulnerability and bravery is essential to being truly human, the prototype of this being Jesus.

  3. Travis Avila

    “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world – no matter how imperfect – becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.” – Kierkegaard

    Beautiful post Evie. A glimpse into the realm of love.

  4. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Speaking of hilarious things that kids say, I’ve been growing my beard out for a week now and yesterday a kid walks into my shop, goes all wide-eyed and says, “Mr. Pete! You look like a man!”

    I had no clue what to do with that.

  5. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    What a great post and a great reminder, Thanks Evie! A lovely breath of fresh air. I wish I were in your art class ;-).

    As an artist and minister, the greatest challenge to me is to remember that my number one job above all else is to love my audience. This post helped me remember this.

  6. Profile photo of Curt McLey

    Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    I think if we understood how much we mean to each other, we would reach out even more.

    Great essay, Evie. Truly. The timing of its publication was interesting. As I lay in bed the morning of the day that I read your narrative, I was thinking about a young lady that was a camp counselor for me when I was a kid. She was college age and I was twelve or thirteen. In my eight plus years of attending church camp, I had many close relationships but on this day, it was this particular person that randomly floated into my thoughts. Some 30 plus years later, having not thought of her for years, she was suddenly on my mind.

    As I racked my brain, her first name came to mind (Karen) but I was mildly troubled because I couldn’t recall her last name. Further, I couldn’t remember one specific thing about the time I shared with her at camp, other than an embrace that we shared. Hugs are good and memorable, aren’t they! And yet, I had a strong intuitive recollection that she was important to me–not in a school boy crush sort of way–but in a big sister in Christ/younger brother in Christ sort of way. I have a decent memory and it bothered me a little that I had such a strong emotional imprint, yet nothing tangible in terms of events that I could recall. Just a vague recollection of phone calls and letters that lasted for months after camp.

    As I continued to wade into my reflective mode, I realized that I shouldn’t feel too badly that on this day my memory didn’t produce details of specific events. What I experienced may be similar to what others experience with teachers, counselors, and other kind and caring adult leaders. That though specific events may evaporate with time, the residue of warmth, kindness, and caring often vividly remain.

  7. Joy Carren

    Thanks, Evie. BTW I read all of your blurbs as I looked at your art pieces for the songs on Behold the Lamb of God dvd. I cried a lot too. thanks.

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