"I can't think of anything!" Rachel topped off Lynn's mug before turning politely to her sister. She tilted the pot toward Ann. "Coffee?"
Ann snorted, leaned back against the booth, and continued skimming through texts on her ancient flip phone.
Lynn closed Rachel's Resolutions Notebook, set it in the center of the table, and tapped it with a slender finger. "These are a fine start. Good job, Rachel."
Rachel flushed. As anticipated, victory was sweet.
"What'd she pick?" For someone who hadn't looked up from her phone in the last five minutes, Ann sounded surprisingly interested. "Something about killing all the spiders in the world?"
"Oh, good one." Rachel reached for the notebook. "Let's write that down."
Lynn pulled the notebook out of reach. "Don't be silly. Rachel has resolved to take situations at face value, to pay better attention to the sermons at church on Sundays, and to master the flying teep kick at your early-morning workouts."
Ann's gaze flicked up from her phone. "Seriously?"
"Seriously." Rachel nodded and pried the notebook from Lynn's hands. "But don't tell Coach Donovan."
"I'm absolutely telling Donovan." Ann's thumbs tapped against her phone.
"Are you texting him now? Ugh, don't."
"Why not? He'll have to know eventually."
"I just don't want him getting his hopes up."
"Are you kidding me? Rachel--you thinking about workouts when we're not actually at workouts? He'll be thrilled to know you're starting to care."
Rachel sighed. "It's not that I care, exactly. It's just that I wanted to give myself really challenging goals, and that one will probably be the hardest."
Lynn raised one well-manicured eyebrow. "Harder than tackling personality issues fundamental to your very nature?"
That cracking a slate doesn't preclude a date, because sometimes boys are the worst.
Lizzy and her Darcy prove
That first impressions change, but
That soft, shy smiles can sometimes take a while: some men lack emotional range.
Hermione and Ron show us
That opposites attract, but
That love often hides, buried deeply inside--at least 'till the castle's attacked.
Margaret Hale and Thornton prove
Some conflict's sparked by caring, but
That talking it through is the right thing to do, because nothing is solved just by staring.
Éowyn and Faramir show
First loves can goes awry, but
That not all is lost when first love is star-crossed: give wall-walking (and kissing!) a try.
Valancy and Barney show
True love's not in a name, and
That marriage is great if you wed 'fore you date, then let moonlight and trains spark the flame.
Harriet and Peter prove
That sharp wit's insufficient, but
That when it's paired with affection and care, the best love's the one with some brains in it.
Heartthrob Roll Call:
Anne and Gilbert from Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
Lizzy and Darcy from Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Hermione and Ron from Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Margaret and Thornton from Gaskell's North and South
Éowyn and Faramir from Tolkien's The Return of the King
Valancy and Barney from Montgomery's The Blue Castle
Harriet and Lord Peter from Sayers's Gaudy Night
In his book Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life, Makoto Fujimura asks the following question: "What if we saw art as gift, not just as commodity?"
That question has been vital in shaping my attitude as I contribute to the arts through books and plays.
Seeing Art as Gift
First, seeing my work as a gift frees it from the burden of my identity. My books are not me. They're a gift meant for readers. I expect no emotional return on investment. Readers can like them or not like them; finish them or not finish them; offer positive reviews or critical ones. While I'd love everyone's experiences to be positive, I have no expectations.
After all, true gifts come without demand. The recipient need not love our gift, and we don't believe the gift will lead the recipient to value or esteem us more. Gifts definitely don't mean that the giver is owed anything. That's not why we give. We give for the pleasure of others.
Second, seeing art as a gift prevents me from placing inordinate value on financial compensation. I'm not saying I shouldn't get paid, and most people are happy to compensate musicians, writers, performers, and artists. Whether that compensation is worth all the time and effort, however, is another matter. Fortunately, seeing my work as a gift allows me to continue cheerfully creating even when the compensation is small or non-existent. After all, we don't give to get. We give to give.
That being said, thus far I've found that even in writing, the old adage holds true: It is more blessed to give than receive. There's a joy I feel when someone genuinely enjoys my work that I don't experience any other way.
Third, treating my art as a gift frees me from unintended interpersonal angst. Along with every other writer since the dawn of time, I'm often asked to provide work for free. While these requests used to annoy me ("You wouldn't ask a carpenter to make you a cabinet for free!"), learning to see my art as a gift has freed me from taking offense. After all, those receiving gifts rarely think about the process of selecting, purchasing, ordering, and wrapping. They simply open and enjoy. Though in some instances they may ask a delighted, "Where did you find this?" (the equivalent to "How did you even come up with this idea?") in most cases, they simply accept the gift, rarely giving thought to the effort expended for their benefit. Which is as it should be.
I understand now that the people requesting free work have only ever been on the receiving end of the gift of art. They have no idea of the work involved. But they don't need to know. That's not how gift-giving works.
Thanking the Giver
The past few months have been a roller coaster as my books have finally started releasing. I'm thankful that in the providence of God, I found Fujimura's book when I did.
To me, that's a gift.
I'm also grateful to the ultimate Creator, who grants grace to express a portion of His image through creativity.