One of the greatest things about long friendships is that you get to see these people you love become more of themselves. When Sean and I met in college (over 15 years ago), we were both a little rough around the edges: I wore cut-off jeans, boy-short hair, and plaid Chucks; Sean ate nothing by Fruit Loops and soda. Now, we are both well into life: I have succumbed to being, mostly, a good girl; Sean now eats human food. And across all this accumulation of our growth rings, we have remained friends. I am amazed by that fact, and I am amazed by the beauty that my friend of Fruit Loops can produce with words and wood. Enjoy

A friend asked me to describe why I work with wood. Being the parent of a three year old, my first reaction was “because I want to.” Although that was meant humorously, my three year old actually helps me understand why I DO work with wood. He has a great book that we enjoy together. It’s by Max Lucado and is called You Are Special.

The main character of the book is a “Wemmick” named Punchinello, who is your basic ugly duckling. Eli is the wood carver that made Punchinello along with all of the other Wemmicks. The idea of the book is that the Wemmicks give each other stars and dots (good vs. bad marks) based upon outward appearances and abilities. Punchinello gets a lot of dots for his appearance and silly mistakes. One day Punchinello goes to visit Eli at his workshop. Eli comforts Punchinello by telling him that outward appearances and abilities don’t mean much to him. He doesn’t put any weight behind the stars and dots. He loves Punchinello because he created and formed him. He explains that when Punchinello believes that truth the stars and dots won’t matter to him either. What a great children’s story and life lesson about how we should view each other… the light of who created us not our own view on creation.

So what does this children’s story have to do with woodworking? For me, it is a direct parallel to why I work with wood. I love taking a stack of ugly, rough and unfinished wood and turning it into something beautiful. I like owning the idea of the piece. I enjoy the trials of sketching out the piece. I find great joy in choosing the materials. I love hearing the “swish” of my hand planes across the surface as the wood is transformed from rough to smooth. I like the smell of fresh plane shavings from my bench top. I love to see the inner beauty of the grain patterns in the wood appear as you take the time to work with it. I love finding the growth ring patterns that make each piece unique and matching them up. I like the accomplishment of seeing a finished project. I like the joy that it brings others to create something we can all enjoy and use. I like knowing where all the flaws of my piece exist and not pointing it out to anyone else. I like knowing that no one can take away my inner joy for a job well done. I love the satisfaction of hard work.

The greatest reason I work with wood is because it parallels my life. I realize I am the stack of wood that is being created into something new. I am being daily transformed and molded. The people, places, experiences, joys, hardships and lessons learned are the things that are making me into who I am. Each one of those things has made its mark, taken its cut on me, rounded my rough edges, exposed beauty & ugliness and allowed me to show myself to others. Each day I am being refined into the perfect Wemmick. It may not be what I think of as perfection, but it is perfect in my Creator’s eyes. I am daily reminded that I am loved, created and set free. Most importantly, I am reminded that I am a work in progress, will only get better with time and attention, and that the maker wants to give me those things. That is why I work with wood.

Cover of You Are Special by Max LucadoYou Are Special by Max Lucado

If you’re interested in seeing some of Sean’s work with wood (and you really should be), stop by his Facebook page.