When A House Is More Than A Home

The tables were covered with red plastic clothes. Six gingerbread houses waited to be decorated. Bowls of festive candies and bags of royal icing were spread about on the serving table.

No one had every decorated a gingerbread house before. Were there pictures to look at? Gosh, no. I hadn’t even thought of that. Some of the women sat uneasily in front of their house unsure what to do. Then a small bustle of activity began at the candy table. Small trays of heaped candy returned to the tables and their fanciful creations began to take shape.

 Curious staff members poked their heads in the door of the dining/art room during the morning. Wandering from table to table, the wistful looks on their faces clearly showed they wished they were part of the finger-licking fun as well. As Miss Melanie admired yet another fanciful creation, Laurie looked up saying only half jokingly, “This is art therapy!”

Ordinarily, we invite art that facilitates self reflection during the weekly therapeutic art workshops we offer at the Lighthouse, a year-long residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse. But during December, we tend to offer more lighthearted, seasonally specific, and less intentionally therapeutic focused projects. Does having this much fun decorating gingerbread housed really count as therapeutic art?

I wondered. “So Laurie, how is art making therapeutic for you?” I loved her response: “It lets me work on things without thinking about them.” 

“Are you less anxious?”

“Are you less depressed?”

“Are you less stressed?”

The answer to every question was, “Yes!” Laurie continued, “Making art makes me feel balanced.”

Finding balance is a challenge during this holy season. One of the ways balance has entered my life during the busyness of the holidays is through the word margin. By that I specifically mean the silent white space around the written text on a page. If the written characters  ran from edge to edge on the page, without spaces or surrounding margins, they would be nearly impossible to read. Margins surround the printed words so that our eyes and minds will have a silent, peaceful place to rest. Life is like that. I have been intentional about looking for those quiet, restful margins in my somewhat hectic schedule. Ordinarily a frustration, one of my favorite margins this year is stopping for red lights. Since I am out and about more frequently this time of year, opportunities abound for this everyday marginal experience to stop and rest in God’s presence and the sweet silence of the peace that surrounds the Word – the Reason for the Season.

I suspect art making, even decorating a gingerbread house, is one of Laurie’s ways of living in the margins. May such margins be yours.

What brings therapeutic balance to your life during this hectic season? Where are the restful, peaceful margins in you life? If you were to write a poem about balance, what would you say? How wide would your margins be?

 PS – Enjoy the other gingerbread creations. 


4 comments to When A House Is More Than A Home

  • cynthia thomas

    for me, art is oxygen for my soul, which also suggests balance. as soon as i read the words gingerbread houses, i flashed back 50 yrs. to making gingerbread houses with my grandmother. which led to reflect on my creative heritage. i come from a family of creativity. i’m sooo grateful for this beause it has literally saved my life many times. art is what i turn to when i need to be nutured. yes, i think making gingerbread houses is therapeutic. i’m so glad you chose this project to nuture the little girl in each resident.

  • Ginny

    Two thoughts here – one of gratitude for the many years Lynne hosted a gingerbread party for my girls, and the Houtz girls and the Noell kids. Lots of good memories made – and I know what a lot of work went into those parties – and a lot of love! Second – crazily enough – repainting my dining room furniture this week (yep – buffet, corner cabinet and two bookcases..) while a lot of work, is a good counterbalance to all the rushing and shopping and consuming. Up last night at midnight sanding while the family slept was actually restful. Instead of buying something, i was transforming something – which I love to do more than buy new things… For me, the art is not the painting, but the seeing that something could be changed or remade into something better. And what is restorative is stealing time now to actually do what I have been meaning to do for – oh – seven years. I am reclaiming a tiny piece of what has been given over to child rearing – my will to say, “I want to do this!!” I know my husband, and the rest of the family think I am nuts – which may be true. But it makes me happy and it makes me feel free. And a can of paint is cheaper than therapy!!

  • Amy Tuttle

    This post reminds me of the concept of “thin place” that you taught in “Arts and Spirituality.” I love the idea of the sometimes invisible threshold that offers silence, balance, creativity, spirit, etc. when we choose to enter it. This does seem both more difficult and important during the holidays. Something that has helped me find this space is crafting my own Christmas gifts. I have found balance and enjoyment in making gifts and using my creativity to meet a holiday “need” while not forgetting my roots and what is important to me.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    I’ve always enjoyed the preparation for Christmas more than the actual day. You see, for many years the preparation came strictly within, where the day itself depended upon whom I was spending the day with. In my family of origin, Christmas day often held a lot of disappointment/popping of dreams held, for the day. But, that has changed considerably over the last 20 or so years.

    I still enjoy the preparation, even more so, with celebrating the Advent Season, and a personal favorite over the last couple of years has been watching the Wise Men and their entourage advance around the Worship Room. For instance, I spent several hours this last Monday afternoon wrapping the presents I was sending as one of Betty Whitney’s secret Santa’s for a family from the tutoring center, and enjoyed it immensely

    Some years, depending on the value of the gift I am wrapping, my time and effort in preparing the presentation of the gifts often outweighs the value of the gift itself.

    Love, hugs and prayers,


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