Monday, October 27, 2014

Whatsoever Things Are Pretty

Of all the picture books in my antique wooden bread bowl, Maisy was paging through my dear, one-of-a-kind nature journal.

"I like this," Maisy declared, pointing to a painting of a tree. "It's pretty."

I live in a house full of antiques, flowers, china and pretty one-of-a-kind things. I also live in the atmosphere of rough and tumble children. It's a good mix.

Children need to play among lovely things, to be educated about wonders. As we walk alongside children, we can teach them lessons that point the way through the brokenness and confusion they encounter.

Guests for dinner, whether for Thanksgiving or a regular Sunday dinner, gather around a table set with china and crystal, cloth napkins and candles.

"Oh, my," a new guest will comment to me, "What if a child breaks something?" But we don't worry over what might be lost or broken. Children are eternal, things are not.

Very few precious things have ever been broken in my home, and almost always the brokenness has been at my own hands. Children learn to control their strength and handle things gently. They want the privilege of touching my lovely treasures.

Hundreds of broken people of all ages have eaten from my china and crystal. I want my guests to be among the pretty things, to enjoy things from my history, to hear the stories that surface from my life. We all need to live life noticing whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, to ponder what is excellent or praiseworthy.

The china and crystal that I use is what my mother used before me. There is a handle missing on the serving bowl. I broke it putting it into the china cabinet when I was a little girl. My mother glued it back together, but it has never been quite as pretty or serviceable.  I still use it, though. It's my favorite piece of china.

The china was important to my mother because my father gave it to her during the war years when they were apart. It was important to me, as a little girl, because it was pretty, delicately painted with beautiful pink roses. It is important to me now because it represents a mother who encouraged me to live among pretty things even in a house full of rough and tumble children. Broken does not mean useless or without value.

A china pot full of tea, a stack of fragile books, a tattered Raggedy Ann that might so easily tear....all pretty things from my childhood. I could store them away out of sight, out of reach. People often choose to put away their pretty things until the children are older.

I did, too. And then I realized one day that I never want my home to be an empty nest. I want my life to always be full of curious, rough and tumble children. If I put away my "pretties", they will never know my treasures, never learn to rein in their strength to be gentle, never know that broken doesn't mean useless or without value.

As I am writing, two year old Johnathan jumps from the sofa (inherited from my grandmother) to the rocking chair (inherited from my husband's grandmother). All the way he carries with him my precious one-of-a-kind nature journal which he is now pondering, gently tracing my simple sketch of a squirrel.

He looks over at me, "Skirl. Pretty. C'mon, Nana. See?"

Maybe I'll wait to scold him for jumping on the furniture. I'd rather ponder squirrels with him.