Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pencil It In

There were a few stock stories that circulated regularly when we had guests. These were the stories that you just knew were going to be told at some point during their stay. There were certain signs that the moment had come: Mom’s dark eyes would light up, a barely suppressed smile would squirm over her mouth, and her hands would begin rubbing briskly. Sure signs that a story was coming.


One such story that my mother could be counted on to share was the Joni story. When I was about four years old, my hero was Joni Eareckson Tada. Our church had a movie night when they showed “JONI,” and I was mesmerized. I loved that movie. I thought Joni was beautiful; and more than that, she was tragically beautiful. Left a quadriplegic after a diving accident, she wrestled with God’s sovereignty and omniscience and ended up a beautiful singer, broadcaster, and artist. I was intrigued by her ability to use her teeth to control a pencil or paintbrush, creating gorgeously detailed pieces of art. She could sing. Before her accident, she rode horses. She swam. What was there not to love?


Timmy was not convinced. He lived over thirty minutes away from our kindergarten, and my mother would take care of him after school until his mother got off from work. We played GI Joe. We played Cops-n-Robbers. We played Cowboys-n-Indians. We played House. And, after that fateful church movie night, we played Joni. To Tim, even House was better than Joni. Playing Joni took a great deal of imagination and little else. I would pull out two chairs, and we would sit there. I was a stickler for details: you could sing, talk about God’s work in your life, or fall out of your chair. You could NOT fly, run faster than a speeding bullet, or use your legs for anything other than floundering.


Not exactly thrilling, to Timmy’s way of thinking. After about twenty minutes of this, he would start asking when we could be finished to go play with the tools in the shed or go to the park or get a snack or do anything other than sit in the chair motionless. Complain, complain, complain. And one day, I had had enough of his complaining. My mother remembers peeking in on us only to find me, exasperated, breaking my own rules to get up from my chair, grab Tim’s pencil with my functioning hands, and shove it in his mouth, yelling, “Shut up and draw!”


I never understood why this story was in Mom’s Arsenal of Stories to Illustrate, Educate, Pontificate, Contemplate, or Entertain(ate?). But it was. And the guests always laughed, shaking their heads at me and sometimes repeating the last few words: “Shut up and draw, oooh, hooo, that’s a good one, shut up and draw.”


Some people just don’t know what fun is.



  1. I always liked the Joni story too... I remember trying to write and draw with a pencil in mouth. The results were not artistic.

  2. Children don't always understand why their parents find certain things they do so amusing and that is a part of the story fun! I liked Joni's story too, but not enough to pretend to be her. I always pretended I was Laura Ingalls. Great story!

    Thanks for participating in the Blog Tip Challenge!

    Tia Linschied

    Senior Editor of HSB

  3. servingtheKingofkingsOctober 22, 2007 at 10:24 AM

    I love and admire Joni, too. Thanks for sharing this cool story! My kids and I tried to hold a pencil with our mouth and write/draw. It's very difficult. Joni has been blessed with wonderful talents and been used mightily for God's glory.

    I found your blog through the pencil challenge. I'm #23 ("LivingforGod") on Mr. Linky.

  4. did you find the Tshirts? I just googled "Little Miss Helpful" and there were several matches, I hope you can find a good price. I don't remember any Little Miss Pencil in Mouth so maybe there will not be one appropriate for you.

  5. I tried to draw with my mouth, too, because of the Joni story. Which led to my trying to draw with my feet, my armpit, my knee, .... It all looked the same as I really, truly cannot draw. :>)

    Many Blessings,



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