A Jill of All Trades

Adriaen_van_Utrecht_I freely confess that I am a hobbyist.  I love to dabble, and my life sometimes reminds me of one of those Flemish still life paintings, full of a confusing array of seemingly insignificant objects.  My new year resolutions last January were quite modest.  They were: learn to read New Testament Greek fluently, finish the first draft of a fantasy novel, sew three winter dresses, learn to paint with pastel, buckle down and learn piano theory, create an Amazon bookstore, — that is not all, but need I continue?

I like to think of myself as the tortoise, slow but sure.  I may not look like I am making any progress but . . . well . . . actually, to be entirely honest, I am not making progress in the conventional sense of the word.  I doubt I will ever pass the hare, no matter how long he sleeps.  I don’t really expect to become a successful author or artist, nor do I have of visions of making a fortune selling books on Amazon.  But I am fine with that, my ambition, my finish line, is in a very different direction from the hare’s.

Today I spent two hours with one of my favorite people; my piano teacher, who also makes pottery, plays the violin, draws,–you get the idea, another hobbyist.  She was telling me that she had decided to revisit and improve a lovely piano piece, which she had learned in college, after listening to a recording of it played by a concert pianist.  She played bits of it and told me how it ought to sound, and what she was doing wrong, then she smiled and said: “I know I’ll never be able to play it like he (the concert pianist) does.”  A half rueful, half humorous look passed between us.  The dismissal of one dream for another.

We live in a culture that encourages specialization.  When we graduate from high school and enter college we are expected to choose a field; the field we wish to spend four years (usually) studying, and the rest of our lives until retirement, practicing.  Later we are asked by every new acquaintance: “so what do you do?” and naturally they don’t expect us to reply : “well, when I get up in the morning, the first thing I do . . . ” they expect an answer like: “I’m an accountant.”  Specialization is a good thing, please don’t think I dislike it, but because of our culture’s emphasis, the hobbyist can sometimes feel sadly alone, out of place, unnecessary.

I like to think of specialization as a Rembrandt painting in which the light is carefully cast to highlight to important part of the painting, the focal point, while less important details are hidden by shadow.

Rembrandt

It is beautiful, very; but I think the Flemish still life, the conglomeration, can be beautiful too.

It could be said of the hobbyist that he is not very good at anything, except that the hobbyist is very good at being somewhat good at lots of things.  What he lacks in mastery he makes up for in diversity, for to the hobbyist belongs the remarkable talent of experiential comparison.  His knowledge and practice of various subjects relate and contrast with one another like the shapes and textures in the Flemish painting.

But is this really a worthwhile occupation?  If our goal is success in the world’s eyes, then, perhaps not.  It is unlikely, at best, that a hobbyist ever will become president of the United States or president of Yale.  But it is God who is the artist, and true success is to glorify Him with the talents He has given us.  By that standard, it is conceivable that a life of conglomeration is a worthy goal, for it brings a new perspective on the beauty of God’s truth.

~Jane

 

 

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Why Don’t The Children Read?

bwandcolor

“I hate reading.” Oh how I cringe and weep inside when a child says those words! Where have they missed the bridge between ink on a page and the passport of the mind? More and more often, I hear those fateful words, and I wonder “Why don’t the children read?”

There is a pattern that I have observed in children who hate or dislike reading. Commonly, the books they have been given to read are on subjects that do not interest them – do not capture their imagination. So while we may think that all children should quote Shakespeare and Milton by the age of 5; they will never, ever dare to test the waters if they have never read anything interesting. Reading is viewed by them now as a chore and an immense bore. They would never dream of picking up a book just for the sheer pleasure of reading it.

So let me encourage you that when you are introducing the world of the written word to a child, you should not view them as minds to be filled but rather as minds to be cultivated. Find what interests them, and start them reading there. If they like horses or dogs, give them books like Misty of Chincoteague or Big Red. If they like pirates, let them read Pippi Longstocking, Coral Island, Mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty, and Kidnapped. If they dream of far off places, daring sword fights, and the days of yore, then let them read of the heroes of old in the fairy tales, give them The Princess and the Goblin and The Coronet of Horse; then work them up to books like The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel. If they prefer stories of home, then let them read books like An Old-Fashioned Girl, Farmer Boy, and Mildred Keith. Maybe they love mysteries; give them The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Father Brown, and, eventually, Sherlock Holmes. You may even find a child who would rather read a how-to book than a novel; that, too, should be encouraged. Find books that capture their imagination. And then slowly introduce books that hold the same elements, but introduce new ideas or ways of expressing ideas.

Do not be disheartened because a child has been captured by the simple story of Misty of Chincoteague. That can lead them in a million different directions. They might race across the Arabian plains in King of the Wind or experience the great love and devotion found in Lassie Come-home. And those stories can lead to others, as they might discover a fascination for Arabia or wish to do further research on working dogs. And so each book is a start to another story, another path, another discovery. And they build one on another. Encourage children to read those stories. I, however, must give a word of caution: the written word is powerful, so make sure that what they read is sound; good for both the mind and the character, as well as appropriate for their individual level of maturity. There are millions of books in the world, choose them wisely. As the children mature, both in mind and body, their literature will mature with them. And one day, you never know, they might surprise you with a quote from Hamlet.

~Jo

*If you are no longer a child, but hate reading, here is a note for you: you are never too old to read a children’s story. C.S. Lewis once said, “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” So don’t feel silly reading fairy tales and children’s stories. There is no shame in going back to tap into that wellspring of wonder.

“…if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”~C. S. Lewis. Be progressive! Read a children’s book and discover the joy of reading.

Now, Concerning Dress

IMG_1196I consider myself a morning person; I think best in the morning, I love the smell of morning air, I love to watch the day unfold, and I’m usually grouchy or silly in the evening.  All that being said, I do not like to get out of bed in the morning.  Often I wake up before dawn, turn on my lamp and read until the rest of the family begins to stir, then, unable to concentrate, I lay down my book and tell myself that I really ought to get up.  For several minutes I will then relax with the virtuous feeling that I have made a wise decision.  Then I will realize that I am way too comfortable and again I will say: you really ought to get up.  After a few more minutes I will reach over and turn out the light. That was not a good idea, but the light is off anyway, so I might as well make a plan for the day.  And so it will go on for another fifteen minutes until I finally drag myself out of bed and face the music.  Not my daily tasks, I love my work.  Not my family, I love them too, but the annoying little detail that I will have to find something in my closet to wear.

Sometimes I think wistfully of the descriptions of a girl’s wardrobe in the Little House books or the Trapp Family Singers.  Five dresses for summer and three for winter.  How simple that would make my life!  If only I lived in a culture where such a life was acceptable.  If only I had a taste for fashion.  If only . . .  But why do clothes bother me so much?  After all they are really insignificant, hardly worth all this worry and procrastination.  Small things, insignificant things, are sometimes the most annoying things in life.  If only there was some rule like, you must wear an pink cardigan and khaki pants every second Thursday!  I could be content, I think, looking bad as long as it was not my fault.

My daily struggle reminds me strongly of Philippa Gordon from Anne of the Island.  She could not choose between her hats, or her suitors, not because she had no opinions, nor because she did not care, but because she had lots of opinions and cared very much indeed.  She was a perfectionist and because of that she relegated the choice of which hat to wear to chance, she made no choice.  Likewise I, in my obsessive concern for perfection, stalemate myself with fear.

This temptation, I think, is often forgotten by perfectionists but none the less worthy of attention.  We must not only learn to bear our imperfections with equanimity but to persevere in things which consistently defeat us, without worrying.  Whether it is an attempt to dress well or something of greater importance it is counterproductive to let a presentiment of failure hamper action.  As G.K. Chesterton writes: “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

~Jane

This Is Me. Who Are You?

21587507794_e27f86d00b_kHave you ever stopped to wonder how others would describe you? How they talk about you to those they know? Attractive. Intelligent. Kind. Weird. Reserved. Dangerous. What are the words that they use? Has that question ever crossed your mind? It has mine – many times. Ever since I started working outside the home and became a part of a work-team, I have often wondered how they describe me. Was I the know-it-all girl that didn’t say much? Or was I the reliable one who was reserved and hard to get to know? Or was I the strange bird who didn’t fit anywhere and whom no one could figure out? One day, I got a glimpse at how one person described me to others who didn’t know me. It was along the lines of: “She’s quiet and reserved, but with time she opens up.” So that’s how they perceive me: quiet and reserved. Ok, that is better than the description I had gotten a couple years earlier of being the tall redheaded girl with a ponytail. (For the record, my hair is a non-descript blonde color. Not red.) But was that the only way I was described? Things have a way of coming full-circle at my workplace, and I have received some pretty strange questions that have led me to believe that they talked about me quite a bit; or at least way too much for my comfort. But were any of their perceptions correct? Did they accurately describe me? Most of the time, I didn’t feel as though they got me right. Like the time my boss told me I was low-key and not prone to being emotional or temperamental. At that point, I confess, I laughed at the description. I have a temper something awful and I am most certainly not low-key. As we say in my family, “I just play one on TV.” But he insisted he was right in his perception of me. However, I knew that’s not who I really was.

Often there is quite a difference in how people perceive us and how we actually are. Businesses, colleges, and other people push us to take these “personality tests” to find out who we “really are.” I’ve often gotten to the end of one of those tests and sat there thinking: “Some of it is right, but it is not me dead on.” Why is that? I answered all of the questions as honestly and accurately as possible. And yet, I’m getting a “not-quite” personality result. So, one day, I had my mother – the person who knows me best – take the test for me. The result was accurate. Well, that’s strange. I recorded my result and her result. Then I had her take the test for herself. And then I took it for her. We got two different results. My result for her was the accurate one. Hmm, that is peculiar. So, I contacted my dad to find out his personality type. Then Mom and I took the test for him. Again, they were two different results. And again, the one we took was more accurate than the one he took himself. At this point, I took the results I had and laid them out to see if there was a pattern. And what do you know, but that there was! Every one of us switched two letters between profiles. For example, I am really INTJ, but when I take the test the result is ISFJ. I swapped out my iNtuitive and Thinking for Sensing and Feeling.

So I started thinking about it. What was my second “fake” personality there for? Was it just my mind playing tricks on me or was it there for a purpose? That’s when I went back to how my coworkers describe me. It seemed so close and yet something was off, just like my “fake” personality. Was that it? Did I live in this other personality when I was at work? I took a closer look. The personality and my coworkers’ words lined up. They were one and the same. So, people who don’t know me very well or who I don’t trust yet see this other personality. That makes the ISFJ my “professional” personality, so to speak. The outside world that I come into contact with on a surface level sees a façade of the real me in this other personality. It’s not really “betraying” my real self since I still hold onto my Introvert and Judging qualities. Rather, I have developed myself to put forward a personality which I think is more acceptable for the circles that I am in. If I were to be my true INTJ self, it wouldn’t be acceptable in those circles. They would not be able to handle it. Therefore, in a “professional” setting: at work, at a rabbit show, in a club meeting, at the farmer’s market, at church with the entire church (not the individuals that I have a personal relationship with); I am my “professional” personality, the ISFJ – the Defender. And at home with my family or close friends, I am free to be my real personality, the INTJ – the Architect. So when someone says, “Hey, you’re really low-key;” they’re not mistaken. My “professional” personality is really low-key, but the real me is not. I choose to present to the world an image of a person that I like and feel comfortable introducing other people to. And that just so happens to be the same as my mom’s real personality; the one I get to see every day.

So, this is me. Who are you?

~Jo