Sunday, November 30, 2008

Appreciating Who I Am

When I was a child, I had two best friends - my collection of books, and my collection of paper dolls. I was an only child whose adoptive parents were in their late thirties when I was born. Because most of their friends and relatives had children who were older than me, and because I was very thoughtful and quiet, I spent many hours alone, even in rooms filled with people.

We had no library or bookstore, so every book that entered our house became dog-eared. From the age of two, I memorized the little Golden books my parents read me and then I “read” them to myself, over and over and over again. In that way, I learned to read before I went to school. Once there, I met Dick and Jane and Sally, with their pets Spot and Puff, and found them wonderful. A Child’s Garden of Verses, Alice in Wonderland, Grimms and Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales, Peter Pan, Little Women and Little Men, the Trixie Beldon series - I read them so often that could have told each story with ease.

Along the way, I also found paper dolls. I designed new clothing for them and used them to act out stories I made up. When I was ten, I collected shirt boxes (boxes that each held about a dozen men's shirts) from my dad's clothing store and decorated them, transforming each box into a different room and connecting all the rooms with masking tape. This cardboard dollhouse covered the floor space in my bedroom. My stories became a day-to-day saga — an early version of the TV soap opera. Between reading and acting out stories with my paper dolls, for many hours each day and much of the weekend, I lived in a world of story.

Eventually, I put my paper dolls away, but the books remained. I have them still, on a special bookshelf in the midst of many more shelves filled with many more books. I still return to my old favorites when I’m feeling tired or unwell, or when I need the comfort of a familiar friend.

The stories I created for my paper dolls gradually evolved into more complex tales, captured first with pen and paper, then typewriter and finally computer. To this day, nothing gives me more enjoyment than a few hours lost in a good story, whether creating my own or reading someone else's.

Of course, there were times, particularly when I was an adolescent, that I very much resented the fact that I was alone so much. Not that I actually disliked the time I spend alone, but, when I thought about it, I found it unfair that I didn't have a brother or a sister, or even parents who could relate to me more than mine could. I never doubted my parents love for me; but my relationship with books and my endless imagination simply didn’t resonate with them. They - in particular my mother - never understood why I would choose to be alone, or how I could daydream so much. How do you explain the longing that's in your soul to create?

However, the moments when I was unhappy about being me never lasted. Even as a child, I knew that God had made me the way I was, and I assumed he had his reasons for not making me good at sports or popular or witty or beautiful. Not that I wouldn’t have minded being these things. But I had a child-like faith that I could trust him.

As I look back, I can see that my faith was justified. In his wisdom, God was sharing himself with me, giving me precious gifts that have enriched my life and enabled me to share his love with others. Every time I write a story or an article, I’m using the gifts God gave me. Each time I think of a new way to express something, I’m dipping into his great vat of creativity. I know that in those long hours of solitude I was never alone. He was with me, encouraging me, laughing with me, crying with me, giving me the gift of himself. He's with me still, at my shoulder as I write this, the only muse I'll ever need. And one day when I meet him face to face, I have a feeling that one of the best things we'll do is tell each other stories from the reservoir of creativity that flows from him.

Creativity: a gift that has existed from the beginning, the outpouring or the creator's love. A gift without end. While not everyone has been able to or would even want to use that gift the way I have been, I believe each person is born with a large measure of creativity that is just waiting for us to use it in unique ways that are appropriate for each one of us.

N. J. Lindquist frequently speaks and writes about creativity. Read her story "The Diamond Ring" in Hot Apple Cider, or her "As Each Part Does Its Work" column in the December 2008 Marantha News.

N. J.'s website is

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