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Quiet Preparation

2013 Nicki Black

November 15, 2013: "Continue to prepare", He said, as I quietly began to clean up the art room this morning. It's been a few weeks since I've worked on any of my unfinished pieces. It's not an overwhelming number of things, but enough that I need to mark them off my plate. I have a lot swirling around in my head of what I need to complete on these not-quite-dones that occupy both floor and brain estate. But like everything else over the last handful of years specifically, I've had to prioritize an even more narrow road of what I'm supposed to wrap up and plug in to, and in what order.

I've thought about preparation a lot, actually. The older I become and the more trials I walk through, the more I see that preparation isn't about doing everything to captivate a void or lack. It's about allowing room for the void and lack to become cleaned out and willing, so it can become fruitful.

So the art room, this space in the house that is at peace despite its state of cleanliness, hasn't seen the usual flurry of activity, mostly in the late night hours of the late night flow. Mainly, I've just gone in and out, piling up tools and paint on any available flat surface for my wall project in the foyer nearby. But even so, there comes a point with me that I can't stand the mess any longer, and I have to make order and harmony out of the cacophony of stuff competing for space.

Competing for space.

You know, I've never been much for competition, in all truthfulness. I don't like comparison, the lesser, the greater. I try to avoid it, unless it has a heart of learning and raising up behind it. In that, I do think growing from milestone to milestone is exactly what we're called to do, in whatever we do.

Oh yes, the art room. I return to the reason I think I'm writing this. As I was putting up supplies, I noticed a big mason jar full of pencils that haven't been sharpened in a long while. I tend to sharpen them as I need them, and it was obvious that I had not been working on anything that required pencils. "Prepare". His voice again. I arranged the last stack of paint on the shelf, took the mason jar in my hands, and pulled up a chair to the table. Time to sharpen these pencils. Ok, Lord. You have my time and my ear.

I began to sharpen the first pile. Slowly they came along, and then the effort of my hands labored more with each turn. The tips started to shatter, break off, and clog up the blade. Turn, turn, stop, tip over the sharpener to dump out the brokenness, repeat. This went on in earnest for a while until I knew it was time for something different. I'm losing too much pencil. I'm losing what's valuable and could have been used. These pencils have a price. Even though I wasn't using the wrong tool, I saw that the tool had run its course. How long have I had this pencil sharpener I'm using? It still looks pretty good on the outside, but on closer inspection the blades were dull and hindering progress. Yes, Lord. It was time to move to a sharper tool. It was time to do something different. Show me, Lord. Show me.

Thank you, Lord.

I found a different sharpener that I had not really used before. Maybe a few times, when I was desperate. It was basic and not as pretty, and the size barely fit comfortably in my fingers. "Compact, for tighter turning", He noted, as if He was sitting right there with me, observing my struggle (He was). I smiled in the moment, and reached for the next pile.

Unlike the first, this tool was getting the job done. Sharp, clean, and expedient. My fingers adapted quickly. The brokenness turned into usefulness. Yes, having the right tool is not only easier, but necessary. Why was I using the dull sharpener? The inside is key. How long had I settled for having ok, and not best? How many times have I walked around Jericho? He answered in the way that He does, spectacularly to the point: "Perhaps too long, but now you know. Now you understand. Now you can do it."