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.

Welcoming Advent

blog advent

I have this dreamy mindset of Advent.

I think of warm socks, lots of homemade cookies, sipping red wine and watching the lights twinkle on the tree.

I might be watching the lights twinkle right now.

I think of gathering people I love in our home around our table, breaking big loaves of homemade bread and dipping it into soup.

I think of walks outside admiring neighbors decorations, even when it's cold. I think of wrapping my hands around a warm mug of tea.

I think of dark chocolate.

More than food, I think of talking to God more. I think of sitting with Him as I would a good friend and asking Him all the many, sometimes conflicting questions on my heart.

I think of choosing to rest in the peace of not understanding all of His ways verse choosing to fight. Sometimes, it's really hard to choose rest. I think of trusting that His ways are good even with fists clenched tight and struggling to surrender. I think of thanking Him for the many blessings and expressing my deepest most sincere gratitude for the gifts He has given me.

The gifts He has given all of us.

I also think of sitting with Him in the pain and suffering of all that's happening in the world. Because I have to believe it must break His heart too.

Advent has never stood still long enough for me to really breath it in deep. It's as if I blinked and the season showed up again. Do you feel that way?

Last year we tried to slow down and take in the season but I kept giving God my leftovers.

And if I'm learning anything, it's that life isn't going to just stop turning and stand still for us. It's going to keep moving - really fast. We have to carve out space for the stillness and sit in it, even as the world tells us not to.

Truth is, I've never fully embraced the season. And more than anything this year, I want to hold on to Advent a little tighter. I want to understand what it means and why it matters. I want to be quiet and just listen.

I want to love bigger, better and crazier than before.

This endeavor required assistance. And even more, this little space on the web isn't really about me but it's about all of our voices. So I've asked a few women to share words or pictures about what this season means too.

I am really excited for them to share what's on their heart. Because while this season has a common theme woven throughout - a steady heartbeat, what it means and how it's celebrated looks different for each person.

And I think that might be my favorite part.

So join us as we hold on a little tighter. Sit in this with me a little, will you? And please, tell me what you're learning too. What might you be wrestling with?

What is your God saying to you?

I am so grateful for this season because it feels fresh and brand new. I need a fresh start once in a while. I need to know that our character and story is evolving and ever changing. I need to know that if parts of my most authentic self have been in hiding, it's okay to shake things up and bring those into the light.

Bring your whole self into the light dear one. We need your light.

I hope this season so far has been sweet. And if things have been hard or messy or not quite what you imagined, I hope you know you aren't alone in this. I hope you know there are people rooting for you.

I am rooting for you.

Happy Advent my friends. I can't wait to celebrate this together.