more than an ashtray

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The summer before I got married I took a pottery class in an old dairy barn.

It was something I had always wanted to do and felt a season before great change was ideal to press into creativity and art.

Truthfully, I needed something to ground me before such a huge transition.

So I took this class because I love the way coffee and tea feel in a handmade mug and because like you - gardeners, painters, bread makers, writers - I crave to use my hands to make something beautiful.

The class was small. I was the youngest by about twenty years. They were a tight knit group and often wondered how I even found this little dairy barn.

There is technique to wheel throwing but I discovered so much of it is in how you feel. It's a delicate balance and movement, a dance of sort, of keeping your feet firmly planted, elbows by your side, and arms relaxed as your hands and body apply pressure to a piece of clay in hopes of turning it into something durable and lovely.

And there's a whole other dance to pull up the sides so a mug or vase or bowl can actually function.

Often I'd be strong and focused with setting the clay and softening it on the wheel. I'd carefully maneuver my fingers and thumb to make the piece come to life. Until suddenly, I'd push too hard or not enough. One side would collapse and I'd have to start all over again or grab a small knife to cut the top.

My mug would become an ashtray.

It became our running joke.

Let's not make any more ashtrays, yeah? How about we go for something different today. 

In so many ways, this season feels a lot like that piece of clay on a wheel.

Maybe life always will?

We're constantly being molded and shaped and cut to form something durable. I can feel my God applying pressure to one side, an area of weakness, and sometimes it's so tender and fragile that it collapses.

And it feels like we're starting at the very beginning.

A new bud growing on a branch.

Though His work is very different than mine. You see, He doesn't strip things away, start anew and leave me there to dry and crack.

A piece to place on a windowsill, that while beautiful, has no real extra purpose or ability than holding small coins or rings. 

No, I think He's much more creative. I don't think He keeps us there - even when the journey is long and we're stuck in the waiting room.

Slowly, with time, an empty vessel becomes something that carries weight and isn't so afraid to take up space.

He turns what was once broken into something useful and plentiful.

I've met women in my work who wonder if they are too far gone. Women who have seen and experienced too much to believe that redemption is possible. I have friends who feel stuck in negative patterns and are covered in fog; who feel the weight of anxiety and discontent and not enough.

I've been there and am there. I think maybe we always waver in the in-between.

They'll be those days we think the potter is done.

So you're just going to make another ashtray, are you? 

And the human element might think: well, would it really be so bad? I mean, an ashtray can be used for beautiful things too. It's okay if you stop right there and keep me where I'm comfortable.

Please don't push or pull any further.

I don't know about you friend, but I get antsy in that place. Like a child sitting inside at school on a really beautiful, sunny day.

I really want to swim out further. I want to enter the place where I have to cry out for something bigger than just me. Because in that place of discomfort and fear, what I trust is actually happening is the potters finest work.

Something that was once sitting on a windowsill collecting dust is reborn and used for more. 

And in this space, we're able to hear a soft whisper, close enough that it tickles our ear: Don't be so afraid to take up more space dear one. I designed you to be filled up, poured out and deeply loved.

When it's Bigger Than You Thought

Hey there, Maeve here. When I started this blog, one of my hopes was to connect with other writers. Though I didn't really know how and I was intimidated to reach out to folks with really pretty blogs and good grammar. Somehow I stumbled upon Songbird & Nerd and saw the words "Guest Post". As I read further, I felt a nudge to let go of fear and send a few words to Lindsey. To my surprise, she got back to me and wanted to share my words. [You can read that very first guest post here if you'd like here. And while you're there, read some of her words too!] This one moment served as a catalyst to be a little more brave, again and again. It pushed me to reach out to other writers in hopes of fostering connection. And I am so grateful I did. I am so thankful to Lindsey and her writing - she writes with an open, unfiltered heart. She writes not solely when she's learned a lesson but when she's still in the wrestle. I am honored to feature her here on the wee spoon and hope you enjoy her words as much as I do. 


 

PC: Greg Raines

I’ve been on the road lately.

Last fall a nearby church invited me to speak to their mom’s group about neighboring, being present to the people God puts in our path. The talk was well received and the group leader shared my name and contact information with other mom’s groups in the state. Since then I’ve fielded invitations from many group leaders to come and encourage their women with funny stories and a fresh dose of truth.

It’s been a blast.

I’ve spoken to rancher’s wives in a tiny farm town, rocked the microphone in a strip-mall church start-up, and found myself in front of a stained glass window telling a story about failed efforts at breastfeeding.

Last week I invited my friend Gina to join me as I headed down to a nearby suburb to speak at a nighttime gathering of young moms. We had about an hour in the car to catch up while we made our way to the meeting. I had entered the address the group leader sent into my GPS, so although I was following instructions about when to turn, I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going.

Until suddenly the computerized voice told us we’d arrived at our destination.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I was shocked. This wasn’t a tiny farm town, a small chapel with stained glass or a strip-mall start up. This was a mega-church and I mean MEGA. I’m not sure I’d ever seen a church so big in real life. It looked like it could possibly be big enough to host a professional sporting event. And the parking lot was packed.

My heart began to thud in my ears.

“Okay, wow,” I said to Gina.

“How big is this mom’s group?” she asked, echoing my own questions.

I hadn’t read the email that closely. Had they neglected to tell me that I was the opening act for Jen Hatmaker? Was it possible that I was about to speak to 3,000 women? Would my thoughts on cultivating friendships in this season of life work as well in a cavernous auditorium as they did around the table with a dozen mamas in a small town?

“Yeah, I’m not totally sure,” I replied to Gina, breathing deeply, trying to steady myself. I noticed in that moment that I hadn’t remembered to change my pants, which bore evidence of a day spent with 2 toddlers including food from lunch and dirt from playing at the park.

Why hadn’t I changed my pants? Why hadn’t I read the email? WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

I prayed, quickly, under my breath that God would carry me through whatever it was we were walking into and in we went.

As we entered the atrium, with 4 story ceilings and a fully appointed restaurant in view, an electronic marquee prominently displayed a listing of that day’s events. As I read the list, I felt myself relax. There were entries for a high school play rehearsal, a 7th grade basketball tournament, a support group for recovering addicts and a class about blending families after divorce.

And the mom’s group, upstairs, in a classroom down a hallway. Which sounded just about right.

When we walked into the room, we were warmly welcomed and invited to join a table full of other young moms, one of whom was also sporting dirty pants. My people.

The night was sweet, laughing and telling the truth about some of the challenges of developing relationships while raising children. We ate too much chocolate and told our real stories. One woman at my table cried as she shared how much she longs for deeper connections in this stage of life. As Gina and I said our goodbyes, I felt grateful, satisfied. I was in my sweet spot, speaking and teaching from the front, sharing stories in small groups, leading times of prayer.

Here’s the thing – I loved that night as it was, but I also loved that moment, that tiny space where I had to breathe deeply and accept that I might be about to get up in front of a stadium full of people. It was scary and thrilling and reminded me when life doesn’t go according to plan we can lean into what we know to be true.

That dirty pants don’t actually matter.

That God is present for big jobs and little ones.

That all we need to remember is to do the next thing.

If you’re lucky, the next thing will have fun new friends and a plenty of chocolate.


 

Lindsey Headshot NewLindsey Smallwood has good relationships and bad dance moves. She lives in Boulder, Colorado where she works, writes and raises little ones. Read more by Lindsey at her blog or connect with her on Facebook.