Thursday, December 28, 2006


What is it about a blank canvas that puts me in such a mood?

We ventured out today. That makes us sound timid, doesn't it--like we're a family of field mice living under the floor boards, watching the giants we co-habit with through mice-sized eyeholes and wondering if we can scurry out fast enough to collect their dropped morsels without being spied and scooped. It's just that we've been hunkered down in this house all week, enjoying the after-Christmas stillness and moving only enough to refill our coffee cups or fetch our slippers or throw a bit more wood on the fat fire. Today, though, we traded robes for coats and slippers for real shoes, and we ventured out.

Our destination was the mall. That's a place I'm not fond of even during the slow shopping months, let alone the first few days after Christmas. We needed to do an exchange at REI and another at a sheepskin kiosk. Before we braved the mall mob, though, Dave had to drop off some paperwork at our insurance place out at Smokey Point. While he was handling that task, I took a stroll down the strip mall sidewalk until I found an art supply store. I love such places. If they didn't kick you out for doing so, I'd open every tube of paint and stick my fingers in all that color; crack open the linseed oil bottles and turpentine and take impolite whiffs; slit the plastic covering off every canvas and run my hands over all that pristine possibility.

Since I'd like to be free to return to that particular store from time to time, I resisted my artistic urges and tried to keep a safe distance from that side of the store. For a long time, I contented myself with thumbing through the art books (as my thumb is still not back up to par, and I'm still wearing this annoying brace, maybe I should say I contented myself with fingering through the art books) and reading all the technique tips. But I kept peeking toward the back of the store, where one entire corner boasted a ten-foot tall, two-decker display of plastic-wrapped canvases. It wasn't long before my feet dragged the rest of me back to ogle the bounty.

I hadn't been there five seconds and I knew I'd be leaving the store with a new canvas. I've been feeling a strong urge lately to start a painting. The nudge pokes me at odd times, like when I'm just dropping off to sleep, and the memory of oils tickles my nose and runs across my fingertips again. Or when I'm driving past a wide-open pasture and the cows within arrange themselves in 3-dimensional letters that read "paint me."

It took awhile to select just the right size. I almost went with the 14 x 18, but there was something so majestic and intense about the 20 x 24. I had to have it. And when I pulled it down from the top shelf (did I tell you I'm 10-feet tall?) and held its slickery self in my happy hands, a familiar, lovely feeling of hope washed right over me, just like it does every time I hold a frame stretched tight with touch-me, shape-me, tell-me-who-I-am potential.

It could be anything, you know. It could be a still life of plump limes resting in my burgandy wooden bowl, with rare Pacific Northwest sunlight dancing speckles across the green orbs while winter-bare branches fill the windows beyond the kitchen. It could be a pair of barefoot girls sitting on the front stoop of a cottage, whispering giggly secrets while a family of June bugs skitter toward the edge of the painting. It could be anything at all. That's the power of untouched canvas.

A few weeks ago, Zac handed me his headphones and twirled the pad on his iPod. Switchfoot's "This is Your Life" filled my ears. Nice song. But long after the song had ended, one line continued to play in my head: This is your life. Are you who you want to be?

I couldn't shake the question. Am I who I want to be? If not, what would I change? What will I regret if it's not added to my life at some point? Before I knew what I was doing, I'd begun a list. I'd like to be kinder. Less impulsive. More self-controlled. More disciplined. Less of a procrastinator. A better communicator. It's a big list ... but I'm ready.

In a few days, another year begins. Indulge me here: God is placing a brand new, still-wrapped canvas before me, before you. Anything at all can happen this year. We can change that moodiness, finish that goal, mend that relationship. We can fill our lives with good things so there's no room for the bad. We can put our energy where it matters. The truth is, we can become who we want to be--but only if we surrender. No painting ever painted itself. The only way to bring lasting beauty into our lives is to take the palette, the oils, and the brushes, and lay them at the feet of the Master Artist--then unfurl the list and hand it over.

Here are the lyrics to an old favorite written by brothers John Michael and Terry Talbot:

The Empty Canvas

An empty canvas waits before the Painter
It waits to be the painting it must be
Unto this end it has rightfully been created
To reflect the rightful beauty the Painter sees

A beauty that will surely find its life within its dying
So another might be born again
And in this constant death a constant beauty is created
Within a constant love that never ends

Jesus is the Master Painter
And the Holy Spirit is the Master’s Brush
To be dipped within the colors
That portray a Father’s love
That the Master’s painting might be born of us
To portray the beauty of the Master’s Brush
That the canvas of our life might know the Master’s touch

An empty canvas waits before the Painter
An empty canvas destined to be hung
Within the gallery once it has been created
Will the canvas bear the beauty of God’s Son?

Here's praying that God adds color and beauty to your life this year, and that you bear His image wherever you go.

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4 Comment:

At 12/29/2006 9:51 AM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...


At 12/29/2006 10:29 AM, Anonymous Pam D. had this to say ...

I can SO relate to all you said about painting... I haven't painted in oils for 20 years (where did THAT time go?) But that urge comes on me so many times, (I especially feel it in the glory of a fiery fall, or on summer beach days when the water is all a-sparkle or when I see a child's smile). Your word picture makes me think...it's TIME to get back to it! :)

At 12/29/2006 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Life as blank canvas... empty. Yet pregnant with potential.

It is true, Shannon. And only so much canvas left. What will I let Him paint on the 2007 portion of the scene?

God uses you, Shannon... hooking my heart everytime.

Grateful for the catch,
Ann V.
who is now going to squirrel away with some blank sheets and hear what He whispers

At 1/12/2007 5:18 PM, Blogger Stephen had this to say ...

This Is Your Life...funny, I was also listening to that song today, for the first time in a long time, and thinking exactly the same thing.


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