Two quotes for you today.
"The effort to say beautifully [is] a way of seeing beauty." - John Piper
"Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy." - Ann Voskamp
I've been trying to figure out why people love photographs so much. Yes, because it helps with memory...but I'm not necessarily thinking of wedding photos or first birthday pictures here. I'm thinking of all the "artsy" photos people on Instagram have been posting lately. Pictures of food at just the right angle, attempts at capturing the way light falls on a beat-up sofa, endless imagery of delicous coffee. I press like on almost every single one. I've heard lots of reasoning from hip people saying they like capturing daily life, even if its not a pretty subject. But see, all the angles and the Asian photography posing and the filters and twenty takes to get it right are striving at creating a beautiful image, not capturing something exactly as it is. You can make spinach look appealing with vscocam. I've seen it happen.
The quote above from Piper is what got me thinking about all this. The book the quote is from (which I've been reading) is about poetry. He cites the poet George Herbert, whose poem "The Quidditie" proclaims "while I use/I am with Thee", referring to the place when Herbert is writing poetry. I immediately applied the same truth to creating any kind of art. When I make, I am with Thee. When I capture....I am with Thee. Making an effort to create something beautiful lets us better see, better appreciate, better wonder.
It is a way of gratitude.
The second quote I wrote out, from Ann Voskamp (author of the stellar book One Thousand Gifts), gives me the too often lost connection between gratitude and joy. Isn't it so absolutely true that when I am most thankful, my heart is filled with the most joy? Isn't saying yes to whatever God gives the way to peace in all circumstances?
I've already learned this week that it is more than okay to give thanks for anything, even small things, and that more than that, God wants us to give thanks for everything - doesn't He command it? And so, I am beginning to see my picture taking and my memory writing and my sketching and my silence and my sitting at my desk as moments to let myself enter into wonder and say thank you, God, that you've given me sight to see the chipped nail polish on my fingertips and that you made me to love the color pink.
There's another part in her book where Mrs. Voskamp talks about why this might seem trivial and silly to us - and I'll admit that I've seen giving thanks in this way as a bad thing before. When there's such horrible suffering in this world, how can I possibly thank God for things that aren't life necessities? When someone doesn't have access to clean water, how do I get to paint my nails on my night off and say how refreshed and stupidly girly I feel? Her answer is that we could further rip a hole in the world by neglecting to see the good gifts that a good God gives, or we can say thank you for ALL things, no matter which person we are or which family we are in or which corner of the earth is spilling those blessings out for us.
It's hard to do. This weekend Ryan and I tried to go see a movie at the park but it was crowded and I was disappointed. We left and tried to figure out an alternate evening. I didn't care what we did. So he suggested hot chocolate and driving up valley to see the super moon that was supposed to come out. And when I whispered thank you to The Lord for Ryan's gentleness and his patience with me, his willingness to help me have a good time, and for the warm liquid in my hands, it turned into one of the most magical evenings we've had in a long time. We drove past the lights and the wineries and sat atop the car freezing but staring up in wonder at the night sky that could be nothing less than the Creator showing off. I thought no matter how many things I make with my hands I can never rival the moon. The field it rises over. The treeline in the distance. A single leaf crunched under the car.
I tried to take a picture, thinking of writing this post and wanting to say thank you by preserving that night, wanting to better appreciate the moon by attempting to duplicate it. But I couldn't. My iphone just isn't capable of capturing the pure light that was coming off the moon and filling up the valley. All I have of that night is a little white dot on a black screen. It could never capture the stirring leaves in the summer breeze that framed the shot, anyways.