DIY as a Path to Virtue -

{I published the first version of this post on in the spring of 2017. I have edited and updated it to better capture my goals for this blog and provide a framework to refer to in the future.}

So what does DIY, specifically recycled DIY, have to do with virtue, beauty, and truth?

I think lots.

Something I have realized about myself is that I am internally a poet above all else. Even when I am nowhere near a poem (which is the norm these days) my mind sees the world like a poem – beautiful and layered metaphors for the reality of things that we can only grasp though analogy, simile, and hijacked imagery.

And recycled DIY, my friends, is a land ripe for metaphor.

Think about it. Taking trash, adding creativity and a spark of life from our own hands and creating something of beauty and/or use. Remind you of anything?

Maybe our Creator?

On this blog I will be presenting recycled DIY as a way to grow in gratitude, generosity, creativity, appreciation of beauty, and ultimately as a profoundly spiritual exercise. This idea might seem strange to you, but if you think about it we are really called to do this with everything we do.

“Pray without ceasing” Paul tells us in his letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:16). So how do you pray with DIY? How do grow with DIY? How do you let it help you become the person God wants you to be?

That’s what I’m here to help you explore.

I think the spiritual values of DIY can be summed up in the following five ways.

1. It nurtures creativity and appreciation of beauty.

Learning to look at old and typically disposable things and see the potential in them is a skill developed over time. Just like a person off the street can’t taste the subtleties of a wonderful wine like wine connoisseur, it may take a while to see past the obvious uses of items to what they could be.

But everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re one of those people who always wished they were more creative, recycling is a great place to start. Over the coming months I will be sharing lots of simple but unexpected recycling tutorials, and those can serve as a means to learn the skills necessary while introducing you to the special way of thinking required for recycled DIY.

And just like most things, the more you practice creativity, the more natural it becomes. When I started designing full time 5 years ago I initially worried that somehow I would start to run down my internal reservoir of ideas and have to find another job. But my experience has been the opposite – the more I design and practice creativity the easier it becomes and the more ideas I have.

And all of the sudden it’s easier to problem solve in other areas of life too – all the “could be’s” start popping out so much more readily. You rewire your brain over time so that connections come that much easily. Solutions to some of life’s challenging logistics are that much easier to find.

Building creativity also helps you begin to see and appreciate beauty in a new way. It’s one thing to look at the Sistine Chapel and see its beauty, it’s another thing to look at after trying your own hand at painting or studying painting over an extended period of time. This appreciation of beauty can also create an environment ripe for humility and hope, both virtues essential to the Christian life.

  1. It breeds gratitude.

Recycling is so in keeping with the minimalism that has taken over the national imagination over the last few years, and with good reason – people have started having more and more things and valuing them less and less. If things are plentiful and disposable, why try and be grateful for what you already have? It’s halfway to the garbage already, so why not just get another thing to replace it?

But recycling slows you down and helps you look at the innate qualities of whatever you’re working with – a milk jug, an egg carton, a cereal box. You have to appreciate the things that make it a good candidate for recycling and making whatever you are trying to make. You have to see the actual value in a clear berry box or a juice carton, and that’s not something that happens very often in everyday life.

Recycling also breed gratitude because it can help you appreciate the things you don’t have to make yourself! Suddenly it can be easier to realize that a lot of time and energy goes into creation of everything we use – especially if it’s handmade. It may become a little easier to see why the cost of handmade goods is substantially higher, and it can become easier to both understand why and be grateful for the people who lovingly create handmade goods.

  1. It creates meaningful, bodied experiences for little to no cost.

One of my favorite books outlines the ways in which living with a focus on our bodied reality helps us to create much more satisfying, fully integrated lives. I think that is so true, and the book gave words to so much of what I have felt, especially as an artist, for a long time. So much of our life is virtual right now – mine especially since I work online! But there is so much to be gained by unplugging from the virtual and engaging fully in the real world – talking with people, using your hands, spending your leisure time doing or making something instead of passively absorbing virtual entertainment.

Recycled DIY gives you a wonderful opportunity to do just that – no expensive supplies or trips to the store required. You can use what you have, where you are and use your own two hands to create something.

  1. It can allow you to give more generously.

I love to give gifts. I love to give gifts for all the reasons. And while I can spend real money on birthdays, Christmases, and Mother’s Days, just because gifts for a super pregnant friend or a friendly fellow church member aren’t usually in the budget. So I make them things. I make all kinds of gifts for people, typically at little to no actual cost. This allows me to give generously and helps the recipients keep from feeling like they have made me go out of my way financially.

Or, if you’re not at the point where you want to give the things you’ve made, you can begin by making things you need and would otherwise spend money on for yourself, creating a surplus that you can use for giving – whether as gifts or to charities and causes. Even a little bit can mean so much.

Although my projects are primarily geared at adults, there are lots of ways to modify them for kids as well as lots of other places to look online for kids recycled crafts, which then empowers kids to make and give their own gifts as well.

  1. It helps you learn to look at things like God does.

I love the image of divine recycling. My little poet heart.

God has told us He works all things together for good, and that’s got to be some pretty intricate recycling going on right there. Lots of horrible things happen, lots of things hurt us that God doesn’t want or intend, but He still manages to bring the good out of them – even if it takes a lifetime.

And our recycled DIY adventures mean infinitely less in the course of our lives, but there is a clear aspect of redemption to it. We are all less than perfect materials, but God is consistently creative, constantly inventive, trying out new ways to mold us, shape us, and turn us into the kind of people He call us to be if we let Him. We are all on the road to becoming what we are meant to be, and so we need to look at each other in that light – seeing the beauty that is there now as well as the beauty that is constantly being created.

I absolutely cannot wait to share some incredible projects with you over the coming weeks – I have some wonderful things that are practically free, easy, and will create moments of beauty in your life.

Have you ever thought about DIY or some other daily activity as prayer? How do you keep your mindset in line with that while you do daily activities? I’d love to read about it in the comments.