BY MOLLY MILTENBERGER MURRAY
My husband and I live in a giant manse from 1914. It is part of being in ministry in the Scottish Highlands.
One hundred years after its birth, our house is being reborn. It is renewed through paint, screws, and gallons of heavy-duty cleaning spray, through lots and lots of scrubbing. It is reborn through the people who come through it.
Remnants of past tenants are everywhere, from the old chairs in the living room to the old bills in old secretary desks, and the antiquated books on the shelves. We live in ancient grime. We find ancient dead creatures, ancient stains. Most of the chimneys are blocked with ancient soot.
I spent my first few months here hording my spare minutes to scrub bathrooms and clean cabinets, trying to sanitize a few rooms where we could live. It was a few months before I made it upstairs to the top floor. I found more live insects, more dead insects, and more dirt than I could deal with.
The project list is longer than the clothesline outside. The cost is probably more than this entire house is worth – and definitely more than we make. The pressure of living with this giant, unaffordable to-do list that we inherited completely stresses me out. It eats my spare time and it blocks creativity.
The sheer space has given a little more perspective over time, and the blank walls are a metaphor that has enriched my life. I’d like to share it.
I’ve realized that this house is a giant canvas. We are the artists.
I’m a dabbler and I usually don’t expect my projects to last very long, but this one will definitely outlast us. At some point in our lives, we’ll leave this house to be inhabited by the next hundred years.
Even though this isn’t a project that we chose, it is our project. You can’t always choose your projects, but you should approach them like an artist: graciously, giving them the time, perspective, and patience that art craves.
In the end, art affects the artist as much as it affects anyone. I think of the projects that I’ve left behind or unfinished, or how I would do it differently next time. Your work really defines you – at least it recreates you as much as you create it. Our approach to this house will define our time in the Highlands…whether we make it a home, or treat it like a one-night stand.
So, lots to think about, but just stretch that metaphor around whatever huge obstacle is blocking up your creativity right now. How could you approach it differently, so that it is a positive influence that is constructive instead of destructive? What kind of print is this obstacle going to leave on you? What kind of imprint will you leave through your situation? And, to really stretch the metaphor, if your obstacle was a painting, would you be happy to sign your name on it? Just think of your block to creativity like a painting…or a giant, rambling house.