{This year during Lent, looking for some creative writing theme, I happened on this idea: check out the mugs in the Kellam kitchen cupboard for ideas. Odd, I know. But it is what it is.}

Today’s coffee found its way into this vessel. It was a Christmas gift in…well, it says right there: 2008. And the artist is Ryan, my oldest grandson. I’ve forgotten what inspired this elementary school arDSC07329.jpgtwork, but it’s special.

Now and then I run across some artwork our children brought home from school or maybe created at the kitchen table over three decades ago. The edges of the paper are mangled, the colors faded a bit, but what treasures they remain. I know coloring books are popular now, even among adults, but the idea of drawing whatever springs from your imagination in the flash of a moment has more appeal than just coloring inside the lines someone else put there.

Look at Ryan’s crayoned creation. A flower within a flower? Some jagged lines, some straight. Every color in the box. What did he “see” before he drew? Or, did he draw without anything in mind, letting the hands-fingers-crayons just do their thing without thought? The original is now no doubt lost among the hundreds of other artworks that didn’t make it onto coffee mugs. But there’s that one, still appreciated by his Papa. (This is actually the first of three Christmas mugs in a row (2008-2010) that I unwrapped; the others will appear here later in Lent.)

Do you remember any particular artwork you made that you wish you still had? I recall two, and rather vividly. One from fifth grade was to depict “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” I had drawn a movie projectionist. I’d never been in a projection booth, so the picture was purely imaginary. And I drew myself way too short. The second artwork was from ninth grade. It was a pastel chalk architectural drawing of a modernistic church, and my art teacher Mrs. Bryan was quite impressed with it.

This reminds me of a finger-painted artwork given to me by young children at a church I once served. I was leaving the church after many years there, and that painting, rendered by one child in particular, was a “parting gift.” Many years later, that child and his family visited us in our new community, and I noticed the boy taking a particular interest in looking around our house, room to room. His mother told me he was looking to see if we still had his artwork hanging somewhere. It meant a lot to him to have created it, to have gifted it, and to find it still appreciated. Sadly, he didn’t find it. I had stored it away. Somewhere. I shared the boy’s disappointment, and was thankful I could retrieve it before the family left for home. At least he knew I still had it…and still do.

A child’s creative expressions, whether scrawled cursive stories or finger-painted  splotches of gooey colors, are always worth saving, though practically speaking we can’t possibly keep each one. But a representative few, framed and hanging in the living room or pressed into a scrapbook in a closet, serve as reminders that children have rich imaginations, fanciful and artistic ways to tell stories or share feelings. “Tell me about your picture,” we say as we open the door to what might be a deeply meaningful conversation we recall long after the artwork has disappeared.

Is there a connection with Lent here? Like drawing a cross on someone’s forehead with the ashes of last Palm Sunday’s fronds? No, that’s too much a stretch. But it’s odd that this comes to mind: the last time I drew anything that found its way public, it was a pencil drawing of Jesus before the crowds during Holy Week. I hadn’t thought about ordering a special Good Friday bulletin, so I drew my own. And the critic in me told me the shadowed scene was just OK, and that my Jesus looked awfully short. Maybe he was…ever think of that? It wasn’t as good as most Sunday School art. But (ahem) I still have it.

To paraphrase Jesus, “Let the little children draw something for me, and forbid them not.”