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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)

TITLE: A Rare Talent
By Sandra Petersen


“I knew it!” Penny’s frustrated cry echoed throughout the house.

Oh, Lord, not again! I sent a quick prayer heavenward before hurrying to lend feeble encouragement to my teenage daughter.

“What’s wrong, Penny?”

She turned to me, tears in her eyes.

“See!” She held up a ring of hardened clay coils in one hand and jabbed an angry finger at an oval base with broken coils around its perimeter. “I’m not an artist.”

“But, sweetheart, it looks like you were on the right track.”

She gave me one of those ‘Are you blind, Mom?’ glares and heaved a sigh. “It’s supposed to be a clay pot. I tried really hard. But I just can’t do art.”

She set the gray coiled ring on the kitchen counter beside its base and crossed her arms. “I give up.”

“You can’t give up. Art is a required course. You have to keep trying.”

“My sisters can make things look like they’re supposed to. What do I do? A five-year-old can draw better than me. And do I have to remind you about the fresco?”

I shuddered. ‘The fresco’ was one of the first art projects Penny attempted this year. She was allowed to choose between painting a picture on paper or creating a fresco. She insisted upon the fresco.

We bought a pail of plaster of Paris, and waited for a day when Penny’s father could oversee the art lesson.

My husband and daughter worked so well together measuring the plaster powder and stirring in the water. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. At least they were until Penny attempted to scrape the mixture into the aluminum pie pan mold.

“Now smooth it out,” my husband instructed.

“I’m trying, Dad. It’s hardening already.”

“Work faster.”

“It’s no use. It’s hardened.” What should have been a smooth, slightly moist surface was dry and lumpy.

“Plaster is difficult stuff to work with,” my husband commented. “We’ll throw this away and try again.”

“No, Dad,” Penny said with a frown. “I’ll paint a picture instead.”

In another art project she was to create a landscape in oil pastels. She sketched a field with apple trees and a beaming sun.

“Good start.” I nodded my approval.

Her sister, five years younger, was scheduled to experiment with creating the illusion of space in a landscape. Both girls worked for about thirty minutes before showing their art projects to me.

Penny glanced at Theresa’s finished watercolor, then at her own pastel painting, and threw up her hands in anguish.

Penny’s field had become a strip of black, a color intended to cover some accidental paint drips. Two dark brown triangles crowned with bright green circles huddled in it. Rectangular bars radiated outward from a yellow ball which floated in a cobalt blue sky like a runaway parade balloon.

Theresa’s painting showed five snow-capped mountains overlapping and receding into the distance. A forest of pine and deciduous trees crouched at the base of the nearest mountain and the sky was illuminated with an orange sunset.

“Your sketch was pretty good,” I offered. Penny shook her head in disgust.

“It’s garbage, Mom, and you know it.” We both sighed.

And now, with the latest failed art project, I had run out of words to say.

From the living room, the computer signaled Penny that someone had signed into her instant messaging site.

“Take a break, Penny, and come back to this later.” As she ran to answer her friend’s message, I lifted a silent prayer to the Lord.

Please help me encourage my daughter in some way.

Penny’s urgent voice interrupted my prayer. She stood at the doorway, concern etched on her face. “Mom, it was Danielle. She’s having trouble at home again and feels like cutting. I’m going to have to talk to her awhile. Can I redo my clay pot tomorrow?”

I remembered Danielle, one of several Bible camp teens with serious family problems whom Penny befriended last summer. Lord, is this Your answer?

“Yes, you may. But before you go, I want you to know how proud I am of you.”

Her eyebrows raised in wonder.

“I’m proud that I have a daughter that cares so much about others. You may never be a great artist but you are a terrific encourager. And that is a rare talent in this world.”

With a sudden smile, Penny hugged me and hurried to share the Lord’s love with her friend.

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This article has been read 1083 times
Member Comments
Member Date
william price01/26/07
The art of encouraging! The art of a mother's love. The art parenting. The art of prayer. Very well written story. It flowed smoothly and your message was delivered very clearly and expertly. Excellent job. God bless.
Joanne Sher 01/27/07
Wonderful detail - the frustration felt so real in both characters' minds. Love the message too!
Laurie Glass 01/28/07
This is nice and such a great reminder that we need to focus on how God has gifted us and not compare ourselves with others.
Crista Darr01/28/07
Awww, this is so sweet. Your ending surprised me. I love the message of pursuing our own gifts instead of chasing after the gifts of others. Great work.
Sherrie Jackson01/29/07
This was very well-written! The pacing was right on, and it is obvious that you know a thing or two about art. I sure don't. :-) And the way you set things up for the ending was just perfect. Great job!
Jan Ackerson 01/29/07
Oh, I can SO relate to Penny! Everything I ever attempted to draw or paint, I ended up calling "abstract art."

Great job with the ending of this piece, too.
Shari Armstrong 01/29/07
Wonderful - and that is an all too rare talent, indeed and the mother's wisdom to see when the focus needed to shift :)
Donna Powers 01/29/07
I enjoyed "meeting" Penny and this was a great reminder that everyone has a gift that can be used by the Lord. Thanks for sharing this
CeCe Lane01/30/07
I like it. I lived it too!
Timothy Oesch01/30/07
Well written and very true to life.
Marilee Alvey01/30/07
As one who can't seem to create anything artistic, I'm right there with this young gal. I can't even cut contac paper straight for my kitchen drawers! My biggest gift is encouragement, as well!

I would tell her what my dad used to say about his round, no necked toy pudgy poodle who couldn't do any tricks while the toy poodle that I had could do several: "Well, somebody's got to stand there and clap. That's my Bieux Bieux's job!"

We all have our gifts, but we need to be there to encourage each other. That's why God gave us different gifts! Thanks for this delightful story! I could really relate to it!
Sara Harricharan 01/31/07
This was a nice feel-good story. I liked the stubborness of Penny in the face of all her past creative endavours. Very nice discriptions and a good ending.
Sally Hanan01/31/07
Good job on tapping into the emotion of most of your readers, and for making the setting and dialogue so natural.