Friday, January 29, 2010

Inaugural Blogural: Defining Ragamuffin Scrap Craft


Once when I was four my mother called me a ragamuffin. Using my limited context, I tried to make sense of the word.

Grover on Sesame Street taught me to take words apart when I didn’t know what they meant. The “rag” part of the new title conjured images of the shirt scraps my mother squirted with lemon Pledge to dust the furniture. The “muffin” part made me think of Strawberry Shortcake’s muffin-shaped hat. A ragamuffin then must smell delicious—like lemons and strawberries. What an honor!

Now I realize she was lovingly teasing my unkempt appearance. Hand-me-down play clothes and a terrible haircut were of no consequence to this contented child. My mother gave me the choice for my thick, coarse hair: engage in battle each day with my mangled mane—combs with bent teeth and bottles of ‘No More Tangles’ as our weapons. Or, simply cut it off. Preferring playtime to torture, I chose the latter. Between the ages of four and seven, I sported several terrible short hair styles, quite contentedly at that.

In college I encountered the word ragamuffin again, this time in my Medieval English Literature class. Rather than relying on my Sesame Street etymology practices, I employed foot notes and the Oxford English Dictionary Online to understand words not already part of my vocabulary. (Medieval English required more looking up than actual reading.) In Piers Plowman, the ragamuffin was the demon character. Oh, crushing blow! Surely, my mother meant the less severe definition for me.

I’m somewhere on the spectrum of ragamuffinness, with God’s help, constantly striving for the charming, child-like end.

Scrap Craft

This definition comes more easily—I will lift it from one of my favorite new books. In Garden Anywhere, Alys Fowler calls scrap craft “when you reuse or recycle unwanted items into something useful” (9). Fowler, a gardener and writer, adopted the practice of scrap craft as a means of protest against mass manufacturing, and a way to save money. It didn’t take long for her to feel the intrinsic reward of making something lovely and useful from trash.

In my upbringing Scrap Craft was called resourcefulness. The Green movement and the current state of the economy could be catalysts for a Scrap Craft movement, but my grandparents have always lived this way: the vegetable peels are saved for garden compost, the Ziploc bags are rinsed and hung on the clothesline to be reused, junk lumber is made into an end table.

The Bible would call this “Stewardship”, a wise use of resources. After all, none of this—not even a Ziploc bag—is ours. We should make good use of what God gives us. Our Creator Himself is the Master Scrap Crafter, taking the brokenness that we are, and making something lovely of it when we allow ourselves to be scooped from the dumpster that is this fallen world.

Ragamuffin Scrap Craft

One of the most difficult aspects of authentic Christianity is admitting our brokenness, recognizing the fact that without a loving Creator to change us, we are worthless. Without that admission, there is no need for God, no need for the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of ragamuffinness—more like a playful urchin or an utter demon—I hope my writing draws you nearer to the authentic love of God and his never-ceasing desire to use us in His beauty. Even broken, even used, even with bad haircuts.

Heavenly Father,

Bless my writing so that it may draw others to your freeing Truth and renewing love. Give me understanding of Your works that I may share with others. Help me to be courageous in writing what are normally only my inner thoughts or conversations I have with my husband.

In my vanity make me like my four-year-old self.
In my dealings with others, make me like your Son.


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