Tuesday, September 23, 2014


A while back I came across my old bucket list. Surprisingly, I had checked off a few major ones...try ceramics? Check. In fact I devoted 4 years to studying and practicing it. Get an apartment? Check...I do like having my own place and having roommates. Travel to another country? Check! China was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Finish school? Check. And as far as thoughts of graduate school goes...think of Queen Elsa singing "Let It Go" when she sings, "I'm never going back...the past is in the paaaaaaaast!" I really was surprised at what I did because those things seemed so unattainable in some ways. It was nice to see that they happened.

Anyway, I'm feeling super old and dull lately. I work all the time, which isn't bad because I like working. But I don't play much. I'm not even sure I know how to anymore. So I think I need to set some new goals and dreams for myself. I've felt stuck in a rut recently wondering what I ultimately would like to see happen with my ceramics degree/skill. It's gotten me to think more about why I like ceramics, what I want for the future, and what do I hold important in life? I'm still thinking about this...I'd love an "aha" moment, but I haven't had one yet. But to at least get started off right and to remember that I am young and I should take time to enjoy my youth and the world around me I've set some small goals:

Dance more.
Make more art.
Claim space.
Learn to be vulnerable.
Read books.
If an opportunity arises to snuggle a baby or a puppy...take it.
Spend time outside.
Write more.
Try new things.
Plan a big trip.

I have a lot more I want to plan out. I want to set goals and dream dreams. I think that's a bit of what's making me feel so old and down...sort of like whatever things are like now is how I can always expect them to be. I don't feel like I'm able to learn new things or do something adventurous because I've sort of set a course for myself. But I am not very happy at this prospect. I want to break out of that rut and be optimistic and feel young...like there are possibilities for myself.

I think I'm a Pharisee

I'm in a Bible study that has been studying the gospel of John. It's been good, but I've been noticing something that's a bit disconcerting...I think I exhibit some characteristics of the Pharisees.

It seems that some of the bigger flaws in that group were: legalism, pride, self-righteousness, idolatry, and pride. I mean, we're all people and at one time or another we're all guilty of those things. But as a group they seemed to take great pride in their legalism and self-righteousness. And it was wrong!

I once heard a preacher say we usually fall into a camp of either legalism or licentiousness. The goal is to obey Christ, love others, and live in your freedoms without causing others (or yourself) to stumble. The Pharisees created a lot of extra rules for themselves and for others and oppressed people with them.

I try to have high standards. I want to be obedient. But I shouldn't take pride in my "goodness" or compare how good I am to how bad others are. When you do that you are making goodness into an idol of sorts. How is that possible? It seems kind of weird, right? I think we humans...Christians especially are great at taking good, holy things and turning them into idols because we hold them more dearly that Christ. It's tricky because it looks like we are clinging to Christ when we really aren't.

I haven't been able to make it to Bible study every week, but almost every time I go Pharisees show up in the text doing thinks like grumbling, arguing about little unimportant things that ultimately turns our focus away from worshiping Jesus and into a quarrel, loving the law more than Jesus (I'm thinking of John 5 where he heals a lame man on the Sabbath and they get on to him for carrying his mat instead of praising God for healing a man). I also think of the Pharisee who prayed out loud about how grateful he was not to be like the sinful man next to him. No grace...no compassion...no concern for his fellow man, just conceited arrogance at how much better he was. Or thought he was. How often do I do that consciously or unconsciously about other people? In that way, I'm portraying an attribute of the Pharisees.

I sort of became alarmed at myself when I was reading these things and caught myself thinking..."well, I'm glad I'm not a Pharisee!" Hmm...that sounded an awful lot like the Pharisee I talked about up above. And if I'm thinking that I think it almost makes me worse than a Pharisee. Because I have the benefit of scripture to look back and see how lost they were and how they held others back from truly knowing God and I don't want to be that person. I find myself feeling no compassion toward them when we all equally need(ed) Christ to pay for our sins. It's so easy for me to lost sight of who I am without Christ and with Christ...always always always in need of Him.

Anyway, if anyone should catch me exhibiting very self-righteous behaviors, holding unnecessary rules more valuable than Christ and holding them over others, please feel free to lovingly correct me.
Because contrary to what we Pharisees think, self-righteousness is just as bad as drunkeness and stealing, legalism is just as bad as licentiousness...it's all sin, it all requires the blood sacrifice of Jesus and to see ourselves as better than each other causes us not to see ourselves appropriately in comparison to Christ.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some thoughts on art and Christianity.

Spend a little time in art school or around serious artists and you will realize something: art is their religion. It's their god. I'm serious. The people I sat under in class shared their stories with us over the course of many semesters and I heard so many stories about the sacrifices they made for their art. Some of them put aside money each month for art funds to make their own art or support other artists (does that sounds a bit like tithing?). Talk to an artist for a short time and they will start singing the praises of art and let you know that it's a part of their lives. Because it's usually their whole lives and such a huge part of their identity that they can't help but talk about it (does that sound a bit like evangelism?). They believe no sacrifice is too great for their work (does that sound lot like worship?). One professor shared that when money got really tight he lived out of his car for awhile rather than stop making art to work more or taking money out of his art fund to pay rent. He believed that if he kept working and kept trying that someday he would make it work out somehow. That takes a lot of commitment. You wouldn't do that for something if it wasn't the most important thing in your life. Stories like these were not that uncommon amongst my professors and some of the students.

I had some classmates who threw themselves into their work. They worked SO HARD and it never seemed like it was enough so they worked even harder. They were incredibly dedicated to their work and their art. You see, in art school if you completed the assignments exactly as they were given that was an automatic C. You had to go above and beyond to earn an A. And I had some classmates who were bound and determined to get those As. I also had some classmates who were fine with the Cs. Or even Ds. Classes weren't quite that important to them and ceramics and art in general was an interest but not their whole life. I saw (and was guilty myself for judging people this way) classmates and professors get so irritated with those students. Things were said about those students like, "why are they even doing this? If they aren't really interested go study something else." They expected an all or nothing attitude from everyone who considered themselves to be an artist. It seemed that in some ways they based how moral you were on how dedicated you were to your work. It's kind of funny to me now. It seems that it's okay to be somewhat interested in other fields...if you want to be in college and have a life go study science or English or a language. But you must be 110% devoted to art or you pretty much aren't worthy of studying it.

So this is really convicting for me. I've rarely seen such a devout commitment in Christians. If our church couldn't meet it's monthly financial commitments I don't think any of us would decide to live out of our cars rather than not fulfill those commitments. I don't think that would even cross our minds as an option. We just say that God will provide. And it's true that we don't do things on our own strength and that God is powerful enough to make anything He wants to happen come to fulfillment. My question is where is our...okay, MY heart? Am I really willing to give everything I have to the glory of God or do I just pay that lip service and do my own thing? And I think that while we say we are all in 100% as Christians, I wonder if when people meet us it is that obvious to them that we are committed to following Jesus? Is that something that flows out in our conversations because it's our identity? When you spend a few hours getting to know someone how long does it take to learn what they're passionate about? Is their faith one of those things? Is it at the top of the list of their passions? Is it at the top of my list of passions? And if not, what is?

Last year I was flying to visit my parents and one of my seatmates on the plane was this man who after a moment or two of small talk asked me if I was an artist. I was kind of surprised and asked him why he thought that and he said he had two cousins who were artists and something about me was like them. He could just tell. I didn't think I looked particularly artsy or anything and he had hardly just sat down before asking me that. I'm still stumped as to what it was about me that said "artist" to him. But it makes me wonder, within moments of meeting me does anyone think "Christian?"

I want them to notice that about me. When I think about my professors' irritation at students who were halfhearted in their work I can't help but think of the verse in Revelation 3:15-16  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. It's not enough in the art world to be kind of interested. You have to be passionate. It's the sign that you are in it. I just want to see that same commitment and passion in myself for following Jesus. The willingness to do any and every hard thing because it's worth it.

Blessed are the Homemakers.

No, I'm not adding to the Bible's Sermon on the Mount.  But the Bible does talk about women and households a bit and that's something that's been on my mind recently. These are a few of my thoughts.

While I was in college my family moved away from WV and back to NC. It happened the summer after my freshman year and I remember how strange it felt. I felt really homeless. The town I'd spent half my life in was no longer my home. I had very little reason to ever go there and revisit the places I used to hang out at. The new place my parents settled into was really nice, but seeing that I was in college I had very little opportunity to plug into that community and make friends and create memories that would make the place feel like home. College was a very temporary home and that semester I only had three weeks after going back before I left for China for the semester. I knew I had family and friends in many places and I always had a place to stay, but I was hit with a different kind of homesickness that made me uncomfortable. It was this feeling that I had no home. I had no permanent place to build memories and ties to my community. I craved a place that felt stable and familiar. I craved community. I started thinking more about what made up this idea of home and how I could create one or if home was something I could have during this period of my life.

This had a big impact on my art making. When trying to understand what I made and why I made it I started to realize my inspirations always came from the idea of home. Ever since I was a little kid I've always liked making blankets and hats and things for people to use. When making pots I like to think of the situations in which they will be used by people...dinners, coffee visits...times where people share their lives and their stories with each other. It was about nurturing and connection. When I moved to Michigan I brought things that were handmade or had some other sentimental memory attached to them, because they were the sights, sounds, and feelings of home. They brought memories and familiarity to a strange new place and helped me deal with changes. I think that since I've moved many times already in my life home has been something I've been chasing.

When my brother moved to college he and I went to the store to get supplies for his apartment and I remember he bought a candle for the living room. He looked at me and said, "my friend's mom burns candles in her house and it always smells so nice. It's relaxing and it feels so comfortable." He wanted to recreate the sense of that peace and comfort that he experienced when walking into his friend's house so he bought a candle. This particular friend's mom doesn't have a house that looks like an interior decorator styled it. It is older and well lived in. It's very comfortable and I always enjoyed spending time at their home too. As did many other kids. It seemed that whenever I visited this family there were always a few extra kids visiting them. I, too, always wanted my home to be full of people like that.

I was talking to a co-worker about her plans for when she finishes college and she told me she wants to open a restaurant someday. She lived in a lot of different countries while she was growing up and she wants her restaurant to have different dishes from each of those countries and to put up stories about those places. She said the restaurant would have a name like "Tastes of Home" or something like that because those were all places she called home. She can't go to all those places all the time so her hope is to bring those things to one place and share them with others. This struck me because it seems like home is a muse for her too. She's ready to make a career out of capturing that essence of the homes she has had.

I think we all have this longing for home. I think that no matter our past experiences with home and how many times home has changed for us we long for that feeling of safety and connectedness and love. We long for a place where nurturing and growth happens, where we are comfortable and ourselves. Important things happen at home. We learn and grow and find our identities within our homes. We impact each other and share our lives from our homes. We work through our problems at home. It's the perfect place to do ministry and work and experience real life together. Why do we as a society look down on homemaking as a career and as a priority? We are willing to pay big money for technology and to have people design apps and upgrades for our phones or make movies for us to watch but society trains us to think it's a waste to dedicate our careers to the place that helps give life. Women are told that they are not living up to their full potential if they want to be homemakers or that they are lazy in comparison to women with careers in the workplace.

Biblically, women are the keepers of the home. We have this special call and responsibility to our homes and those within them. We women have been specially designed to nurture and create that sense of safety and comfort in our homes that allow all of us to grow and develop and excel in our lives. And it's not about how many candles you burn or how many pictures hang on your wall. It's about so much more. It's almost undefinable. It takes a special person to foster an environment that makes people feel safe and loved. It takes a lot of work and energy to take care of others' needs and help them grow. It takes a lot of skill to manage budgets and cook and teach and to do all the things that go into raising families and preserving relationships. And it is never said in the Bible that a woman must be in her home 24/7. It seems clear to me that women can be entrepreneurial and have goals and grow but that our greatest calling is to care for our families and homes.

I'm not trying to convince anyone to give up their careers or to say that the work anyone else does outside the home is bad. I'm not trying to tell anyone that they need to get home and stay there. I guess I'm just voicing my thoughts that in a world where you may be looked down upon for staying home and treated as though you're doing nothing, I would say that you have a great calling and career right there at home. The work moms and wives do is incredibly important. You have this place to care for people and pour into their lives. It's a blessing to be a homekeeper and being a homemaker is a dying art. There is nothing shameful in the dream to be the manager of your home. It's a great thing. Throw yourself into it and make the most of it.

I read a C.S. Lewis quote once that said "The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career."  I like that. :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The other night I was feeling really yucky. Tired, head-achey, a bit emotional...overall completely exhausted. I decided to skip Bible study with the group and just go to the beach for some quiet rest time and to catch the sunset. This is something I had been doing occasionally before life took a turn for the crazier and I enjoyed it so much. As it would happen, one of my roommates was going to the same beach with some friends to hang out and she invited me to come along. I don't know this roommate as well as the others and decided to go with her. And I'm so glad I did. By the end of the night I felt much better and so encouraged to have met new people and have been so welcomed by them.

So much has changed in the past year. New state...3 different houses...new friends...new jobs...new family members...  It hardly seems like it's only been a year that I've lived here. In that time, three of the friends I've met up here have become engaged and old friends of mine have gotten married. I'm so happy for them, but I know the dynamics of our friendships are going to change. You can't always drop things and go off spontaneously when it's not just you anymore. Relationships require a lot of time and attention to stay healthy so people aren't always as available anymore. It's a good thing! But it's inspiring me to get out of what feels like a rut (how you can get into a rut after one year full of change is beyond me, but sometimes I feel that I am). To try new things. To meet new people. To change alongside everyone else.

I think getting out and meeting new people and doing something out of my routine was so good for me I will try to do it more often. I crave some sort of stability and community. I usually shy away from change. I'm kind of self-conscious about putting myself out there and meeting people. It's awkward, but usually the "pay-off" is well worth it so I think I should be more open to it. :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

I got caught in the rain

Happy Labor Day weekend! I found this weekend to be the perfect mixture of work, play, and rest! For once! I even slept in really late (for me) today.

I ran an errand before heading into the studio and on my way back to my car I got caught in a downpour.  I wasn't parked too far away from the entrance of the store but I still managed to get soaked while walking back to my car.

Perspective is everything, isn't it? I've really struggled with my emotions, self-esteem, and self-worth recently. I'm not sure where some of it is coming from. Certain things that I haven't really dealt with for years have suddenly re-surfaced and demanded to be acknowledged. Yuck.

And then today I got caught in a downpour while going back to my car. While getting really wet isn't my favorite thing to do, this particular event was one of those that made me feel so alive. For some reason this event helped to remind me that it doesn't matter what I look like or what I do. The same God that knows exactly how many drops of rain fell this afternoon loves me. It reminded me of when I was baptized.

I'm grateful for senses to take in this world. I'm grateful for a mind to process it too. I'm not trying to make being doused with rain out to be anything more than it is...but I also don't want to make life out to be anything less than it is. All of it is a miracle. Life, is a miracle. A chance to know the Creator. In looking back on this situation I want to live a life where I'm all in. I'll get soaked. I'll be really happy. I'll be really heartbroken. I'll be really uncomfortable. I'll be really blessed. I'll be really frightened.

It takes a lot of bravery to live life all in. But it's REALLY living. Running out there and having my senses shocked reminded me of all there is in life to take in. And since we are more than physical beings we can take in a lot more than just the physical experiences we come across. Just like I can feel rain hitting my skin I can feel emotions and experience love in all the beautiful and painful ways it makes itself known. I am so frightened of all these things. I'm frightened to know that I can feel hurt and pain keenly. I try to shield myself from that every way I can. But my desire is to be willing to go all in and be soaked in every situation I find myself in. It takes trust and faith that God has a purpose for all these things to refine me and grow me and that my present discomfort could be something sanctifying in the end.

It's so much easier said than done. And even harder to do with a good attitude.


Help me to remember to be still and to see
Help me to see all the beauty that exists in every day
Help me to marvel at the perfect placement of petals on flowers
Help me to delight in the laughter I hear from the people I love
Help me to be grateful for the small things that make up each day.
For every sight, sounds, smell, taste, feeling, breath...
Help me to live in an attitude of thankfulness
Let it inspire a heart of worship and devotion and gladness.

Relationship Status with Ceramics

We're iffy. Ceramics and I. We're in a better place than we were last year, but not as tight as we've been before. It's okay. We're working through things.

I realize how silly it is to make this interest in ceramics out to be a relationship, but I can't help it. Clay is almost an entity to me. It has such a personality as a material. I've blogged before about how the Bible talks about God being a potter and us being the clay and I can certainly see characteristics in clay that I find in myself and other humans. Stubbornness. Weakness and strength. It takes a lot of patience to work with clay and a lot of attention too. In order to see something through to completion you spend a lot of time with it. That may be one of the things we potters like about our work. Before you send something out into the world to live with someone else you spend time with it...you have a connection to your work and you send a piece of yourself out to live with someone else.

I think that relational component that I loved about ceramics is part of what makes it so hard to do ceramics right now. Or rather, the lack of that relational component is what makes it hard to be there. In school, at first, I was making pottery because I was in a new place and really scared and homesick. I found a lot of comfort in being at the studio. My favorite time to be there was when it was quiet and no one could see me working. It was like a refuge for me. But after switching into it as a major and especially after China it almost became as much about the relationships I made in the studio as it was about the work I was making. The studio was still my space. I loved having my own studio space and knowing I could go there at any time. It was like a second home. I probably spent more time there than at my own home. And as a result I got to know my classmates really well. I was so blessed to be around them as they taught me so much. They taught me about clay, themselves, about me, and encouraged and challenged me in many ways. They also took care of me in many ways too. I can't count the number of times people made tea for me, or helped me lift heavy things or make and bag clay, or fire kilns.

I miss that. I work a lot of hours during the week and when I have time to go into the studio I don't want to be there. I don't want to spend hours by myself with no one to be around. I still enjoy making things with clay. I enjoy some of the quiet times I get to spend in the studio. But I'm realizing that I don't see myself sustaining a studio practice without community. So how do I accomplish that?

Well, when I know I'll tell you. If you come up with an idea, let me know!

On the bright side, I've had several people ask to buy work from me recently and have been invited to participate in some craft fairs too. So I really need to buckle down, lonely or not, and make work and see what happens.