Our daughter and three granddaughters visited recently. Pem, their dog, came too. The weather was overcast, but fortunately, we had a reprieve from the onslaught of rain. The adults emphasized the need to keep the doors shut since the mosquitoes were waging war.
Despite the small black hordes, we sprayed repellent on seven-year-old Annabelle since she’s our outside girl. She managed to find what she called a “spiny” lizard in our backyard, though he didn’t stick around long. She also found a giant, uber-ugly slug and considered it quite the treasure. Inside, I played games with five-year-old Ria—we happily built Cootie bugs, covered our Zingo cards with chips, and hammered plastic ice blocks. Ellie, the youngest, contented herself with exploring the house, leaving a trail of toys and moving objects from room to room. Earphones, cough drops, and Calico Critters from the dollhouse—nothing was safe. Now when my husband and I can’t find some small item, we exchange knowing looks and say, “Ellie was here.”
It was a great time all around, but my favorite photo was Mrs. Potato Head. We’ve had Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head since our oldest grandchild came along, and every child has enjoyed playing with them. Two-year-old Ellie found the container of accessories and put together her version of the beloved toy. A hand in the eye slot, tongue and eyes in the ear holes and crooked lips where the nose belonged. She was proud of her masterpiece and showed it to us. Her weird concoction brought smiles to all our faces.
Her wonky version of Mrs. Potato Head immediately brought to mind when I write a first draft. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fifty-word pitch, a 650-word column, or an eighty thousand-word novel. The first time I write something, the goal is to get ideas on paper—or these days, it’s the document on the computer screen. It has to happen, but it’s only the starting place. It’s pretty typical to have paragraphs in the wrong place in a first draft, long unwieldy sentences, and crucial elements missing. No matter how bad the draft is, the words must be on the page to fix it.
Then I revise and edit until I’m bleary-eyed, which takes much longer than one would think. Depending on the piece, I send it to a crit group or an editing partner—people I trust who understand the writing process. Most of the time, they see a whole new batch of problems. Half-baked ideas, overlooked grammar mistakes, and a phrase that makes me sigh—“It’s just not there yet.” In other words, I may have gotten a few things right, but it still looks like Ellie’s version of Mrs. Potato Head.
What a relief that God isn’t upset over my less than stellar labors. He’s patient with me and knows better than anyone how inclined I am to get it wrong. He isn’t holding some heavenly measuring stick to see how far short I fall. He already knows and loves me anyway.
That’s what keeps me going, even though I still make mistakes. All. The. Time. But when I stabilize my life in Jesus, he promises that I can produce good fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23) The fruit is not just for me either; it’s to share with others through my actions.
The fruit will come if I stay close to the One who loved me first. I have only to remember that I’m a work-in-progress too.
In the meantime, when my projects resemble a two-year-old’s Mrs. Potato Head, I like to think it brings a smile to God’s face.
Children have a way of making that happen.