more than an ashtray

FullSizeRender (1)
FullSizeRender (1)

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.