In the image

29 06 2011

It was a cavernous sanctuary, ornate mahogany pews with red velvet cushions, a massive pipe organ dominating the wall behind the platform. We always sat in the balcony, slightly to the right of center, in the second row.

I was a small, somewhat impish child — not at all averse to occasionally sneaking up forbidden stairs and peeking between those enormous pipes as the congregation gathered, always scurrying back down at their first sonorous blast, my black, patent-leather Mary Janes echoing in long hallways as I sprinted to join my parents before the prelude ended and suspicion began.

I didn’t know Jesus then. Nor did I consciously know the power of art and beauty to move a soul. But I felt it. In the grand architecture, warm light spilling from chandeliers, glorious music from blended voices, and words. Such poetry! I listened and heard and loved it for reasons I couldn’t name. Reasons that would find me years later. On the long drive back to the suburbs from downtown Dallas, I’d whisper to myself The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. I couldn’t have told you why, but I didn’t want to lose those words. Didn’t want to forget.

Do we recognize His hand in simplest things? I didn’t then. Not yet. Two things rise as constants in those days. Two things that remain as final things now:

Hearing my mother sing alto and watching her draw on her bulletin.

The music, it was always the gift. I didn’t know my eyes and ears were being trained. I only knew I wanted it. She held the hymnal and sang, and I followed the notes and heard them and learned their language. Amazing Grace and This is my Father’s World and For the Beauty of the Earth and The Doxology — praising God from whom all blessings flow, singing and believing the truth as a child believes. As we all must believe to enter the Kingdom.

But the drawings, they were her sanctuary. She’d scan the crowd and select a subject, and all through the service she would sketch. And I watched with wonder as the image took form. That old man with the crazy eyebrows and furrowed jowls may have gone home to his fried chicken dinner after church, but he also came home with us in her purse.

We are born with abilities engineered into our DNA — those places where we feel most at home in our own skin. When she was a little girl, “going outside to play” meant taking her color books and crayons to the sidewalk. She used to tell me that story, laughing at herself. But I loved it. Loved the way our gifts discover us. In college she majored in art, and toward the end of her senior year, she had to turn in an oil painting. The project was due, and she was running out of time. She and Dad were dating then, so she sat him down and painted his portrait, all in one afternoon. She added the finishing touches after he left, and in her hurry, painted the button on the wrong side of his shirt — another joke she always loved telling on herself. The portrait still hangs in their dining room.

She doesn’t tell these stories any more. Or any other stories. But her heart’s homes remain. Music. Drawing. And my father.

Recently they were sitting at the kitchen table after breakfast, and he asked her to draw him. She balked at first, but he insisted, so she took a sheet of paper and pencil, and glancing back and forth from her favorite face to the page, she drew.

After he saw the result he took her to an art supply store and bought a sketch pad and pencils. Last week he asked her to draw me. I watched her face as she sketched, and the smile appeared of itself. The same smile that lights her face when she holds Naomi. Her words said, “It’s not very good,” but her smile said, “I’m a little girl on the sidewalk. The breeze is ruffing my hair, and the sun is warming my back, and the crayons — oh, the wonderful crayons! — they are creating something out of nothing.”

And now I’m a little girl, too. Sitting beside her in church, watching her sketch a man in liturgical robes as he raises his hands toward heaven and gives thanks to an Almighty God who spoke the world into existence, creating beauty and form from nothing. And we who are weak, earthen vessels, frail and breakable — we are His image bearers. We who are small peek through cracks, snatching mere glimpses — notes, words, the faces we know and love best. Simple, powerful, eternal things.

I grasp for words, but who can wrap words around these mysteries?

We see in part, and we don’t want to lose it. Don’t want to forget. So we sing it to the deeps, and the music, it remains. By His grace.

When Curtis and Grace were in town last week, he pulled out Mom’s old classical guitar, Grace found lyrics and chords on the internet, and we sat around the kitchen table singing songs Mom loves. I used my phone to video a couple of them and thought I’d share them here with you. These recordings aren’t professional on any level, but I’m so glad to have captured a small sample of this sweet time. I love how Mom is transported to a far away place on Summer Time, and I love watching my dad’s face as he watches her.

One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings, and you’ll take to the sky . . .

One of these mornings. Until then, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully, even as we have been fully known.

We are made in the image, and when we see Him, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. The face we love best.

* * *

Considering the Practice of Humility, or in this case, what it means to be small.


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46 responses

29 06 2011
Megan Willome

This is an amazing post. You are giving great gifts.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Megan. Leaning hard into grace . . .

29 06 2011
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

*tears dripping*

This is life.

Oh, Jeanne, thank you so much for sharing such beauty – your family, your stories, your words – so very, very eloquently.

I love you. I do.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, sweet friend. I love you, too.

29 06 2011
Mary DeMuth

The videos were almost too beautiful to watch, but I’m glad I did. What a gift.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Mary. Entering the hard to behold the good, all by grace. I don’t think there’s any other way.

Love you.

29 06 2011
Matt

That was very sweet. Thank you for sharing that.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

You’re welcome, Matt. Thanks for your kind words.

29 06 2011
Lisa notes...

Such beautiful moments and such beautiful art from your mom. Aren’t we blessed to have such memories? And such parents? God is good.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Blessed, yes. In countless ways. Thank you, Lisa.

29 06 2011
tinuviel

Such a beautiful post. The way you see these things is one of *your* gifts.

“The way our gifts discover us” – it is a mystery, isn’t it? We spend so much time and effort pursuing the knowledge of God’s will, our spiritual gifts, where exactly we fit in this world, but sometimes it is the gifts finding us, as we lose ourselves in paper and crayons. Then again, perhaps that losing ourselves is the point.

Grace and peace in Christ to you and yours.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, friend. Yes. Losing our lives to find them, and why are we surprised when brokenness takes us there? Praying to be soft clay in His hands. Grace and peace to you, too.

29 06 2011
Susan Meissner

beautiful. . .

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

xo

29 06 2011
Anika

Wow. Jeanne, thank you for this lovely testament to God’s grace and glory in your life and through your family. You have a gift of capturing these moments and I’m so glad for it!

Also, your mother’s voice is GORGEOUS.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Anika. And how lovely to hear from you! I hope all is well in that happy part of the world that gets to enjoy your delightful presence.

29 06 2011
Nancy

I’m so glad you recorded this. Such beauty here. And what a gift your father gave your mother, in asking her to draw him. And now, I’m forwarding this to my artist friend who, every Sunday, doodles in her church bulletin.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Nancy. Love to you and your doodling friend.

29 06 2011
Maureen

I am so moved by your mother’s still-giving gifts of song and art. Those gifts are always with us.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Maureen. I’m moved, too. Deep calls to deep, and who can understand these things? Beauty is never silent. May we tune our ears to hear.

29 06 2011
deb@talk at the table

I can’t watch just yet, but I will. God is moving here , too. I’m just a little afraid.
I do love you.

it’s all so hard, no?

29 06 2011
Linda

I must remember to carry a tissue with me when I begin to read these beautiful posts Jeanne. I have just come from time spent with my Mom and Dad. Oh, how this touches my heart. Your gift is precious, and I am blessed.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Linda. Sweet peace to your heart, and much love to you and your dear parents.

29 06 2011
Rachael

Truly inspirational – one to carry for the journey.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Rachael. Blessings on your journey.

29 06 2011
Grace

Ugh. Why did you have to go and make me cry??

I love the image of Mama Patsy as a little girl with her crayons. You honor her with these beautiful words.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Grace. I should honor her more.

Love you so much.

29 06 2011
Angela

What an awesome tribute! And such beautiful writing. I lost my father last month, upon reading how you video your mom using your phone I though,” Man, why didn’t I think of that with my Dad?!”

I love this blog and your writing, but always wait too long to visit so I think I need to simply subscribe. Your writing is much too rich and the lessons much too valuable to miss.

Thank you J.

29 06 2011
Angela

On another note, I just saw your book. I’m starting a blog talk radio show, “Angela talks about gateways to joy.” Sharing with folks Elisabeth Elliot premise that “Everything if given to God can be your gateway to joy.” Your book looks like it has all the elements I’m looking for.

Right now I’m reading two different book via Net Gallery (?) and if they are a match for me I will be sharing them on my show and with my blog readers.

Do you give interviews via blog talk radio?

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Angela. I love Elisabeth Elliot, and I’m honored by your interest in our story. Please feel free to email me: jeanne dot damoff at gmail.

Love to you.

29 06 2011
HisFireFly

Tears here also. May His gifts remain solid in our hearts even when we lose almost everything else.

Thank you for sharing such beauty, such tenderness…

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Amen. xo

29 06 2011
zena

oh well.

this has me thinking now…

what is more valuable than reaching, really reaching, someone who the world moves to fast for?

for me, therein lies humility.

and so it seems to for you and your beautiful ones, too.

thanks,
zena

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Such a good question. I’m rethinking many things these days. May we have eyes to see and quietness to hear and simplicity to follow.

Love to you, Zena.

29 06 2011
deb colarossi

there is nothing to say , really,
the love is humbling,
your father’s body language, smile,
slays me.

the other night on the phone with my stepfather ( which didn’t start out well I might add.. well he offered I should say goodnight to my mom, and I had assumed it was already too late of hour, but I said okay.. and then I heard him in the background calming and shushing and reassuring her. I have never ever ever never heard this . from him, her, between them , for any of us.

I still can’t get over it.

and I keep hearing the voice of my best friend in grade school’s mother.. a family that attended the Baptist church and welcomed me with open arms and then some.. and she was always telling me that the Lord Works in Mysterious Ways. in her wonderful country accent. I so believe. it. Amazing Grace indeed.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

We gather around His grace, and all our attempts to reflect His goodness fall short of the glory. Why it all comes with such an ache, that’s His wisdom, not mine. It’s mystery in any accent, no?

Amazed with you. So much love, dear Deb.

30 06 2011
Simply Darlene

Oh my. Oh my. And a million mercies back to you…

Jeanne, Beauty. Love. Grace. God. It’s all right there around that table.

Blessings.

30 06 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Darlene. Aren’t we all just messes, held together by grace? What a kindness that He gives us comrades for the journey.

Much love.

30 06 2011
Sandra Heska King

Oh, Jeanne.

Oh, Jeanne.

Beholding Him through you and your dear family.

Grace. Amazing.

7 07 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Sandra. Your words feel like a warm embrace. So much love to you.

3 07 2011
jennyh92

Beautiful, beautiful post. I loved the then and now pictures of your father. I wonder, did she see him as he is when she was drawing him or as he was? You know? I sometimes wonder how much of my husband I actually see as he is now or how much of it is what I have always known?

7 07 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Jenny. Such good questions! I was struck by my father’s agelessness in the drawing, too. Who can say how much of what we see is altered by the beautiful heart we know beats inside. Lovely to ponder.

4 07 2011
Amy Sullivan

Beautiful post, thanks for taking the time to share it with all of us.

7 07 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you!

5 07 2011
Diana Trautwein

These videos are absolute treasures. Isn’t it amazing how things like songs – and prayers – and memorized scripture can stand the ravages of that slow unraveling process that too often comes with aging? Thank you so much for this, Jeanne. There are pieces of your dear mom still there, aren’t there? Some beautiful pieces. Near Father’s Day, I wrote about my own dad’s loss of his music – which was such a huge piece of my own story growing up – and how very sad that felt. And I am glad that my brother arranged to tape him at the piano before it disappeared. You will long love these pictures – all of them. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

7 07 2011
jeannedamoff

Yes! They are treasures! I’m so glad to have them and so glad you have the tape of your father’s music. Such simple things but so dear. Love to you, Diana.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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