The kitchen is a hundred years old. The running water was added later, no doubt by some unprofessional, but nonetheless handy, neighbor, as the pipes are visible hanging at the top of the wall, running the length of the room. Void of a clear theme, the walls wear pictures important only to those who live there: License plates found in walls or the woods. A framed black and white photograph of a coal-mining grandfather. A quickly aging sketch of Donald Duck. These are random and perfect.

The space is painted a light, happy yellow and trimmed in white. Decorated with the culinary scars of spills and splashes, nothing stays white long. Kitchens and bathrooms are the hardest rooms to keep clean, and the white paint gets dingy with greasy smoke and the smells of a thousand meals. Dirty hands running in for water from the sink seem to be drawn to the white spots to leave their lasting impressions, a soiled attempt at immortality.

Last week when the boy was in town fetching necessities, the list included a small can of white paint. That trim needs a touch-up, I decided. Get some painters tape, too, I said, and pick me up a little brush. Paint, tape, and brush were delivered that afternoon and set aside for time to do the chore.

By the time I went to paint the trim on Saturday, I couldn’t find the brush. Isn’t it curious how things can just disappear? Here was the paint, here was the tape, but the brush had run in terror to a safe hiding place, it seemed. And just like that, the little project was postponed. No brush, no can do.

The importance of the brush in our little scenario cannot be overlooked. While only one member of this trifecta of kitchen-trimmed brilliance, the brush is clearly a key player. What good is the paint without a way to apply it?

A brush is a tool. It's a block of some kind, set with bristles, and used to apply something else to a surface or clean it. That’s what a brush is as a thing, but a brush is also something you do.

What if we were paintings, continually being touched up by God? What if his loving paintbrush held all the things that would happen to us and shape us and color us and our view?

We start out as the proverbial blank slates. What color is love from a mother? Would that be the rosiest pink? God certainly brushed me all over with that, and I am thankful. What color would a father be? Not a soft, lovey pink, but more a dark blue, the color of a sky before a storm, full of power, but bringing life through rain or whippings, all the same. That was a darker brush stroke from a wider brush.

Childhood will need a smaller brush than the father’s. The brushstrokes should be slight, continuous strokes of green, in all its shades. Growing and healthy, in small, happy little sections, free from drama or trouble. Teenage years can show a darker green, we hope. And when we have our babies, maybe a little blue or pink of our own, in darker hues, as our love for our babies is so much stronger than anything we ever knew.

All these things we brush against change our painting. When we lose someone, I don’t reckon their color would disappear from our canvas, but maybe even become bolder, as we think of them more. The color of their influence on our lives isn’t gone. It’s still there mixed in with all the others, even if the brush is put away.

Every lucky chance we get is from a bright brush. The better the blessing, the wider the brush and the bolder the paint will be. Tragedy could be a big block dot, maybe even like a drop straight down that takes a long time to dry because the paint is so thick.

There are people of whom I am terribly thankful to have brushed against. These are the ones you want to fill your canvas up with. Sometimes, if enough time and paint passes by, you can even mostly cover up some of those hateful black dots...though it does somehow still turn the shades darker. I’ll just keep brushing.

The kitchen still needs some attention. Attention is what it has me paying. Thinking of the different brushes and people and the continually blended hues and smeared gobs of life my canvas already holds. What will the last color be? The paint is all you see after it's over, but it wouldn't be there without the brush.

A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at

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