When I think of Leanne Penny, the word that comes to mind is ‘redemptive’. She has lived a painful story and her writing is filled with hard-won hope and light. I love that she is talking about the whole concept of redemptive art, as she really lives this out, and it is beautiful. Over to Leanne:
Everyone grows up under an umbrella of words that keep popping up when others describe them. For me it was busy, loud and creative. I hated the first two, but always loved the last one, creative.
As young girl I wondered just how creativity would manifest itself in my life, although I’m sure I didn’t use those exact words. I knew I wasn’t a painter and I didn’t have the patience for the delicate work of drawing. For a while I thought maybe I’d go into photography or graphic design but neither of those stuck either.
I always had projects and hobbies going and for a long time I enjoyed cross stitch and embroidery, honestly because it’s the only thing I had been taught to do. Art class was always my favorite hour in school (that and history), but I was never the teacher’s star artiste.
It took me a long time work out where creativity fits into my life, and truly it is still a work in progress. It has looked differently in each season of my life, but I know one thing, it must be expressed. It cannot stay inside.
I adore the quote by Brené Brown in which she says: “Unused creativity isn’t benign. It metastasizes.”
I have found this to be spot-on accurate, if I don’t create, I itch… on a soul level. There were seasons in my life when I thought that giving up all my creative endeavors was the right thing to do. I had a good friend tell me that writing and crafting weren’t hats I could wear while being a good mother, that the fewer hats I had to wear, the happier I would be.
It was true for her life, but for me it was detrimental because creating is a huge part of what God designed me to do. I can’t help but express this, and when I do so my soul feels closer to my creator than I often feel when poring over my Bible.
So I create, in many ways. Alongside my two children and away from them, usually tucked in a corner of the basement with my vintage suitcases full of fabric, yarn, paint and old sheets.
And I write; this is a primary creative outlet for me and I truly feel that it is one of the most important ways in which my creativity manifests itself. Yet, for me, I have to have hands on, messy, tangible, creative outlets as well.
My favorite non-verbal creative outlet is up-cycling. This is the process of taking something old and perhaps useless, turning it over in your hands or on your table and bringing it into new life. A sort of redemptive creativity.
My children and I can often be found cruising around town in our mini van, scoping out garage sales in search of an old chair or some used sheets. I’ve been known to pull furniture out of the trash and when we moved my aunts had a good laugh at how many things came out of the truck that were ugly, but had potential and couldn’t be left behind.
My favorite up-cycling outlet is the art of making rag rugs. It’s the process of salvaging old sheets or scraps of fabric, then ripping them up into a sort of yarn which is then braided or crocheted into a harmonious, shabby and soft rug.
I have these rugs scattered around my house and I often make them as housewarming or thank you gifts. I love giving a piece of my creative heart away to bring warmth to a friend’s cold floors.
Once I ran into dear, older woman at a thrift store while I was rifling through the used sheet section. When I told her what I was using them for she laughed, told me of her rag rug-making days and then thanked me for keeping the tradition alive.
You see, rag rugs used to be something you did because you had old fabric and you needed a rug. Back in the days when there was no Target or Amazon Prime, when the floors were cold beneath your feet and a tattered rug made all the difference.
Those were resourceful days and I often wonder if we’ve moved a bit too far away from this practice.
God is both resourceful and redemptive, isn’t he? And when I sit on my floor with my massive crochet hook turning old sheets into a funny little rug, I feel connected to this important work of turning ugly old remnants into beautiful new creations.
So yes, my basement is riddled with old sheets and chairs, awaiting their turn at my attention. Waiting to go from the garbage bin into a living room corner or in front of someone’s kitchen sink.
And it makes me smile an almost unspeakable smile, because this line of thinking, this old into new theology describes our lives so perfectly. All too often we feel too ugly to be used, too worn out to be beautiful, when God comes along once again to pick us up and turn us over in his loving hands.
That’s what I want to be a part of, whether I’m writing, painting a chair or weaving a rug. In my mothering, my marriage, my every last breath I long for God to take the flaws, the pain, the ugly, and turn it over in his ever-resourceful hands until it’s tattered-lovely and beautiful once again.
Leanne Penny is a mother, writer, wife and overall creative soul who is passionate about partnering with God on the business of redemption. She lives with her husband and two preschool-age children in West Michigan where she reads, plays, cooks and squeezes the rest into the cracks somehow.
Over to you:
- Where do you experience this pattern of redemptive creativity in your life?