Monday, August 14, 2017

Blessed Assurance

I feel like I owe you guys an update. Well, maybe I just want to give you an update.

Mostly because after my last post, I was pretty overwhelmed by the number of folks who (a) seem to care and (b) have had a similar journey in their attempts at having children. Also, a lot of you have asked how it went, which is also pretty humbling.

Thanks for caring.

Thanks for reaching out, for your kind words, for the stories you shared. I know we all handle this struggle differently and it's neat for me to be reminded that there are other people out there on a quest to have children and not just having it happen instantaneously. I also know that in the quest, there have been so many heartaches for so many of you. Losses, disappointments, despair. Lots of joy, after years of trying. I love what community can look like as we share our hearts and our stories with each other. I love how beautiful it can be, even if I don't really know you and even if you don't really know me. Because we're all just trying to figure this life out and doing the best we can with the hand we get dealt.

You guys are neat and I'm so blessed by the many of you who gave to me.

So here's where we're at.
I went to a Family Medicine doctor last week. Nothing special in the way of infertility, but because of my referral, I was confident that I could get at least a few more answers.

I wasn't sure if my nerves prior to the appointment were because of my fear of what the doctor might say or because of my heavy dislike of being poked and prodded, but I had that slightly queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach for a few hours leading up to the event.

It was fine.
Our options were laid out before us. After 2.5 years of trying with no pregnancies, we have a few decisons to make. It mostly just depends on how much time, money and effort we want to put into anything.

She told me that PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) is hard to diagnose, but it's likely that I have it. It used to be required that cysts on the ovaries were necessary for the diagnosis, but more recently there are other symptoms that also give way to it, infertility being one of them.

So, here are our choices moving forward:
  • Testing (me: pelvic ultrasound, husband: semen). She encouraged us to be tested to make sure we don't have anything we are unaware of. 
  • Medication. There are two known medications that can often help with PCOS: Clomid and Metformin. Both basically help regulate ovulation and help all the hormones do all the things they are supposed to do.  
  • IUI. Intrauterine insemination. This involved placing the sperm inside of the woman's uterus to hopefully facilitate fertilization. 
  • IVF. In Vitro Fertilization. A medical procedure where an egg is fertilized by a sperm in a test tube and then transferred to the uterus. 
  • Fertility clinic. She could refer us to the Fertility Clinic in Albuquerque and we do it all there, or we do a hodge podge of it in Santa Fe. 
We haven't spent a ton of time processing or talking through it all, but we did tell her then that trying one of the medications would be at least something. I'm now taking Metformin, so we'll see how it goes. There's a high chance we'll get tested as things settle down around camp a bit more. Maybe just so we know. There's still a deep part of my heart that just thinks it'll work out how it's supposed to and I don't need to worry and that I don't need to try so hard to make something happen. 

We had an end of summer celebration today with our full-time staff and families--filled with a lot of laughter and fun for me. We closed out the day with worship and one particular lyric struck my soul a bit profoundly even though I've heard it thousands of times. 

This is my story, this is my song... praising my Savior all the day long. 

It's from an old hymn called Blessed Assurance and something about this lyric was incredibly beautiful to me. 

Because my story, my song... it doesn't have to be about me. It doesn't have to be about how I had to wait "forever" to get married, or about how I can't have kids, or about my job and my passions and me me me. But my story and my song... to be praising the Lord all the day long. Because blessed assurance, Jesus is mine

Lyrics like that make me want to weep. 
The words are powerful. Even more powerful when lived. 
More than the cry of being single or childless, can the sound that echoes the loudest from me be a song of praise? A song of His goodness that dwells deep within me, despite what may surround me? 

I want to share this journey with you. I want to share it because it's real life and it can sometimes weigh heavy on my heart. But I never want to share it in a way that communicates that Jesus is anything less than good and perfect and gracious and kind and gentle. I never want to share in a way that overshadows or disregards His goodness. I never want to share it in a way that doesn't show how much I desire for Him to be at the center of everything. 

I love how the Lord covers my inadequacies. 
I love how I'm reminded, through an age-old song, of what matters above all else. 

These are the moments... the moments where I feel like I've been given something out-of-this-world. Moments where perspectives shift, where priorities align, where I get it. Moments that are indescribable. 

And as much as I wish I could change and fix all the things that are wrong in this world... there's a peace, a hope, a joy, a promise that this life isn't it. 
  1. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
    I in my Savior am happy and blest,
    Watching and waiting, looking above,
    Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
  2. This is my story, this is my song,
    Praising my Savior all the day long;
    This is my story, this is my song,
    Praising my Savior all the day long.
  3. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rejoicing & Mourning

I wrote this blog over the last week and a half... editing it, subtracting from it, writing more as my heart and mind carried on. I wondered if I might just write it and keep it...but, I've decided to share it with you. It feels a bit more vulnerable this time, but maybe that's why you need to read it. Have at it.
____________________________

"Debbie, can I talk to you?"
As we sat in her car, my mind mulled through the endless possibilities of what my friend was about to tell me. It seemed serious.

"I'm pregnant..."
Her words were shocking, because in all of my possible possibilities... this hadn't even occurred to me. I laughed and was about to congratulate her when I realized that her exclamation hadn't been one of excitement, but one of fear and sadness.

"Wait, are you not excited?"
"No..."
She went on to tell me how this wasn't the plan. It wasn't what she wanted, not right now. They had actively been trying to prevent pregnancy. "Condom baby" is what she called it.

It made me laugh all the more.
Because as she explained to me the situation, all I saw was God, the Creator of life, with His hand all over it. I laughed because try as we may to have a child and try as we may to not have a child... He is in control. And to me, it's a really beautiful thing.

"But you need a baby. Not me. You deserve one."
She kept making me laugh in her irrational, I-just-found-out-my-whole-world-is-changing frame of mind.

And I know it must feel like that. I know it must be somewhat horrifying to tell your friend who has been trying to have a baby that you, who doesn't even want a baby, are pregnant. It must feel awful and agonizing - it must make one feel guilty, even if they have no reason to be.

But I loved that she told me.
I loved getting to be a tiny part of this newness and miracle- getting to see the Creator's fingerprint undeniably all over this new life.

I loved that she let me celebrate with her and pray for her and remind her that this is good instead of just trying to protect me. I felt really honored in that, actually.

In some ways, that's been the most painful part of this process. Feeling like people have to walk on eggshells around me or that I'm the last to know about exciting life events because no one wants to tell the infertile couple that they're pregnant. Sometimes it makes me rethink my life mantra that being open and transparent is always better than be closed-off and secretive. Being transparent is kind of the worst when it breeds pity or this overwhelming urge to protect through secrecy or "perfect timing".

I can handle it.
That's the thing about mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice...it isn't contingent upon our circumstances. And as much as you might mourn with me when I express some confusion or sorrow about not being able to have children, I would hope that you would also allow me to rejoice with you when you find out that you can and are!

If there's anything the Lord has taught me in this journey it's that He's got this. He's in charge. He makes it happen. He breathes life. He takes it away. It seems to rarely be in our time or within our ability to understand, but it doesn't negate His goodness in the midst of a thousand questions and all the unknowns.

There's been a lot of freedom in this journey for me.
I hope you know that. I don't agonize every day over my infertility. SOME days, I do. But they're few and far between and generally just on the day I find out that I'm not pregnant, again. And then I move on. Because life is too short and the days are filled with laughter and tears and how I can be better at a million other things in life (maybe eventually I'll add being fertile to that list).

Ironically enough, today is one of those agonizing days. And tomorrow I'm sure I'll move on. Again.

I spent the last week thinking I was most likely pregnant. 
Like, actually pregnant. 

In our 2.5 years of trying, this has only happened a few times. And none of them have really ever felt like this. In fact, I've been so nonchalant about having a kid lately that the prospect of actually having one caused my thoughts to get a little crazy, a little futuristic (something I actually have felt like the Lord was protecting me from). 

But not this time. My sleep was fitful, my brain brimming with an endless amount of questions about life as a pregnant lady, as life with a baby. What would full-time child care look like if I wanted to keep working? What would the baby room look like? What types of maternity clothes would I have to get? Would we want to know the gender? 

These are questions normal people probably already know the answers to if they're trying to get pregnant. I guess, in our long stint of no pregnancies, I hadn't really taken the time to put much stock into figuring out the answers. Just peeing on a stick and seeing a "pregnant" was mostly my goal. As if that were the final success and that there wasn't much more to worry about beyond that. Crazy how a single occurrence on the porcelain throne can be life-changing. 

But then there's a week when you're out-of-nowhere nauseous and you're exhausted and sore and everything you know about pregnancy signs are happening and all you can do is wait. Wait until you can take a pregnancy test or start your period. Wait and pray. Wait and hope. Wait and freak out

Because as excited and hopeful as I got and the nearer to taking a pregnancy test that I got...my mind became frantic when I, once again, thought about everything that changes the moment a new life comes into this world. Once again, the questions: do I want that? Can I do that?  

It wasn't long before the question was answered for me, even though it felt like an eternity. 
Not pregnant. 
Again. 
And as much as I can feel relief in that, there's some incredible amount of sadness that still pervades my heart and soul. Like I've lost something that I never had. Maybe it was hope. 

I woke up this morning mad. 
Mad at my body for teasing me and causing me to think about all the possibilities. 
Mad at myself for not even knowing what I want. 
Mad at obsessing over 5000 websites all weekend, scrutinizing every story and wondering if that might be me. 
Mad at myself for holding onto hope.
Mad at the world for not relating to me.
Mad, because I feel alone. 

And, mostly just sad. 
Sad because this journey, while still freeing, is getting harder. Sad because this time I invested a little bit more. 

So here we are.
Mourning and rejoicing.
Trusting and releasing.
Living and hoping.
And recognizing that with the possibility of much joy, I'm also more susceptible to much pain. 

Let's cry and laugh in the Lord's goodness and weep in the unknowns.
But let's never stop trusting that His plan is infinitely greater, better, more beautiful. 

After all, haven't I seen His goodness evidenced over and over again in my life already?

So here's the deal.
Let me rejoice with you, and I'll let you mourn with me. It's the only way this works. And maybe tomorrow, I'll mourn with you and you'll rejoice with me. 

But please don't shield me from your good. Because even though it's not always mine, it still serves to remind me that there's hope, there's joy, there's life outside of me. 

And, we have a doctor's appointment next week. 
So cheers to all the things.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Better

I set out to write a new blog yesterday.
Hammock strung up, laptop out, birds chirping, dogs digging... it was an ideal set-up for a Saturday afternoon.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote... but something seemed off about it. Maybe even a little artificial. Maybe even a little hypocritical. While it's content was all about how I want to be better at all of the things, there was something lacking. Maybe because in the desire for better, there's sometimes still an apathy about wanting to try to be better at all. Can't it all just be good enough how it is? Can't I be good enough...? Isn't this life I'm leading sufficient enough?

Because I'm tired.
And lazy.
And being better takes work.
And while yes, I want to be better... I don't know if I have the energy right now to work at what "better" requires.

It means sacrifice.
It means less sleep.
It means spending time with people when I really just want to curl up in a ball on the couch and stream Netflix.
It means admitting that I'm wrong.
It means letting my husband off the hook when he hasn't done everything my way.
It means thinking of others over myself.
It means patience and kindness and humility.

But lately, I've had this overriding desire to be better, to want better. To not settle for this complacent version of myself that just exists, whiling away the hours.

I want to be a better mentor. A better boss. A better developer and manager of people. I want to be better at investing in those around me. I want to be better at motivating and inspiring and reminding people what actually matters and seeing how that might transform attitudes and shape character.

I want to be a better friend. A friend who communicates more frequently with those who are far away. A friend who takes the time to ask people how they're doing instead of just talking about work. A friend who reaches out, a friend who can sit in the silence without always trying to fix things. A friend who knows what's really going on in people's lives. A friend who prays steadfastly.

I want to be a better wife. A better helpmate. A wife who isn't nagging or critical or demanding. A wife who supports, encourages and selflessly cares about the needs of my husband over my own. I want my husband to know, undoubtedly, how much I love, respect and believe in him.

I want to be a better follower of Jesus. A better servant. A better lover of God and His people. I want to be better about spending time in Scripture, I want to be better about having His name be quick on my lips. I want my life to be more centered on Him and living out of the fullness of who He is calling me to be.

I want to be better about handling frustration. Better about responding with kindness and gentleness instead of assumption and pride. I want to be better about seeking solutions instead of just identifying problems. I want to be patient and open-minded and eager to point out the good instead of my words being consumed with the constant need for improvement.

I want to be a better adventurer. Better about saying YES and doing things that get me out of my comfort zone. Things that are physically challenging and demanding, things that cause my knees to ache and my back to groan. Because, as exhausting as they are, these things also breathe life into my soul as I work my way into settings and sights that are unbelievable and impossible to truly capture on film. These are the types of things that remind me that God is big and amazing and that He has created me to do more than what I often think is possible.

I want to be better about change. Better about receiving criticism and recognizing that in my imperfection there is room for growth. Better about admitting my flaws and acknowledging that I can't do everything and be everything. I want to be willing to step into newness and hardness and leave behind who I was so that I might move more toward something better. So, essentially.. being better at being better...

And that all requires work.
More than just reading a few self-help books, it requires sweat and probably even some tears. It requires determination, steadfastness, and willingness. And, I imagine, on some days it will require grace. Grace to fail. Grace when I'm selfish. Grace when I've spoken too harshly or rashly. And humility when I know that I must actually allow the Lord to do a number on me instead of thinking I can accomplish any of this on my own.

If I were to continue in the stream of thought I was in yesterday, I would assure you, dear reader, that I will indeed begin the path toward better. I would assure you that I'm the type of person who would automatically leap into a new life of sheer determination and willpower that would put others to shame, emerging into a world of blissful obedience and life changing companionship with Jesus.

But, if I'm any type of real person at all, I have to admit the truth.
I want better. I do.
And there may be glimpses and moments where I'm doing all the things to get better. But it won't be all the time. There will still be days when I curl up on my couch and watch Heartland for hours or mornings when I choose to sleep in instead of spending time with the Lord or moments when I'm annoyed with my husband for not picking up the white hairballs that are all over the house on his day off. Days when I'm tired. Apathetic. Lazy. Days when I'm fighting with myself internally- fighting to do what I know is right vs. giving into my own selfishness, pride, and laziness.

Because of all of that, I will tell you that I'm pursuing "better" with much wariness.
Don't expect me to be different overnight.
But maybe, with God's grace, we're all slowly getting better over time as we fight the internal battles, as we get over ourselves, as life happens and we learn a bit more what really matters.

I think most of us want better. We want better for ourselves and for the world around us. We just don't always have what it takes to get there.

And so while I can't tell you that I'm going to change everything in my life (even if I can tell you that I probably should)... I can commit to this: I'm going to try moving in this direction with a little more focus and determination. I'm going to invest a little more. Go on a few more adventures. Memorize some more of Philippians. Continue to beg that I might be a lady who is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. I'm going to pursue learning more about how to develop others, both spiritually and professionally. I'm going to work on loving my husband in the ways that he needs, not just the ways I want to.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll be imperfectly working our way toward better: two steps forward, one step back.

And maybe, just maybe, it's a truer glimpse of life changing companionship with Jesus. Raw, but authentic. Hard, but refining. Ugly, but beautiful.

Want to come?

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Song

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

The lyrics echoed off my shower tiles this morning and quieted my aching heart.

In Christ alone.
He is my light, my strength, my song...

There have been a lot of feelings of defeat lately.
A lot of... "do more, be more, do this, do that, can you...". A lot of feelings of inadequacies, of never being enough, of rarely doing things "right". There's always something new to figure out, something to fix, something I didn't communicate well enough, something I need to apologize for. The list drags on.

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

To top it off, there have been these moments where my heart continues to wonder, "Do I want them? And, even if I do, can I have them?" My desire doesn't just make it magically happen.

Part of my job is to meet people. Meet all the people. See how they're doing, how their week is, how we can improve, what they love, etc. Inevitably, part of meeting people also means a bit of introduction and small talk. Names, occupations, family.

The other day, a woman... a mom... asked the question I've grown to dread: "Do you guys have kids?"

I don't hate saying no.
That's not what I hate.
What I hate is the reaction that immediately follows, because I think the expectation is that my answer will be an easy "yes" and that we'll go on chatting and laughing about our silly, wonderful kids. There's often an awkwardness that's there in the wake of my "no" and the gap between our similarities immediately widens. I generally try to recover in one of two ways. A quick deflection to the next talking point OR, I proceed to share where my husband and I are at in this journey. Because... why not? If I write a blog about it, and if I work at a Christian camp, and if I honestly believe that the Lord is good in this- can't I just proclaim that, even with total strangers?

Usually I choose to do the latter.
Usually, I explain it all to the poor soul standing opposite of me. No, not only do we not have kids, but we've actually been trying for two and a half years... and while, no, we haven't really done anything about it beyond just... you know... we are content. We see the Lord's goodness and faithfulness in this and continue to feel really blessed in our marriage and in our ministry.

And usually, there's this fear that by this point I've offended the mom because I've probably also said something along the lines of how I love that I get to do full-time ministry and how I'm not even actually sure I want kids and...

**deep sigh**
In Christ alone, my hope is found...

Lately, this too has brought about a deep inadequacy in me.
We hold this future possibility of ours loosely, not really knowing if children will ever be on the table. And it's still okay. 

I wish I could explain it to people in such a way that didn't cause them to look at me differently or to pity me or to remind me of Hannah. I wish I could do it in such a way that doesn't elicit a need for them to try to fix it- offering solutions or empty platitudes. I wish I could do it in five minutes and somehow bridge the gap that has suddenly come between us.... a woman with three kids standing next to a woman with none. We are different. And maybe I feel it more than she does...but we're both searching for another avenue in which to connect. In an instant, it's easy for me to feel less than...

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

And then I'm reminded of this resounding, necessary truth that is screaming its way through my veins and trying to get into my heart and into my head. Listen!

In Christ alone

Not in my job.
Not in my marriage.
Not in my ability or inability to have children.
Not in my relationships and friendships.
Not in my family.
Not in my perfection (or lack thereof).

Because sometimes you just need a slap in the face. 
The reminder that this world isn't it. 
The reminder that my only hope must be rested in the One who is unchanging, the One who has saved me, the One who has conquered death, the One who repeatedly takes this unfaithful child back time and time again. The One who sees all of me, in all time, and still loves me just the same. 

The aching subsides. 
This too shall pass. 
My life, my story, my song, is His. Not mine. 

In Christ alone, my hope is found... 




In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love
What depths of peace
When fears are stilled
When strivings cease

My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life
No fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

I found my strength, I found my hope
I found my help in Christ alone
When fear has set, when dark has fall
I found my peace in Christ alone

I give my life, I give my all
I sing my song to Christ alone
The King of kings, the Lord I love
All heaven signs to Christ alone

To Christ alone
To Christ alone

Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Here in the power of Christ we stand




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Full Heart

I've been a little weepy lately.
Not like sobbing... just having to blink back tears and fan my eyes a lot.

I'm not pregnant. I promise.
But there's been something in the air lately that makes my heart full.

It's been far from a perfect summer, but it's been such a good one. It seems that around every turn I'm reminded of the Lord's faithfulness, His provision, His ability to work powerfully when we just can't. To Him be the glory. 

There's something beautiful about summer staff dancing, about the way He is calling them to hard things, about the questions they are wrestling with and the decisions that they have to make. There's something beautiful about seeing them walk boldly, serve sacrificially, laugh heartily. Something beautiful about how they make friends and become role models. Something beautiful about the way the Lord uses camp to change people.

My heart is full.
And I'm a little weepy.
Because God is good.
And every day, I get to be a part of that. And, in the summers, I get to see the goodness more tangibly.

I won't ever get to be a summer staffer again. My time has passed. But those summers changed me. There's nothing quite like a night around a campfire, or bunking with 10+ other girls for three months as we learn how to survive together with all of our soaring emotions. There's nothing quite like the dance parties, the late night conversations, the early morning devotions, the lives that were shared. There's nothing quite like the campers that have etched themselves onto my heart for this lifetime (like the Hungry Hungry Homies) or David Crowder on repeat for 13 weeks straight. Nothing quite like the evening dips in the Nueces River while we listened to the songs being sung in the pavilion above, or the baptisms we witnessed in the pool, or the nights at Tent City.

That stuff sticks with you.
It changes you.
Because, for whatever reason, God moves at camp.

There are a lot of reasons I've stayed in camp ministry full-time- a lot of reasons that, even when I tried to leave, I found myself coming back.

The past few weeks have reminded me that I'm a part of something that is out of this world. Something good. Something powerful. Something life-changing.

I won't ever get to be a summer staffer again, but I get to be a part of other people taking on the challenge. Other people partaking in the journey that is never what was anticipated, but oftentimes better. Other people proclaiming the Gospel, asking campers hard questions, being a part of new faith in Christ. Other people having a summer that is unforgettable... having a summer where God changes them.

It's kind of indescribable.
I imagine those people who have done camp know a bit of what I'm talking about.

God is moving here.
I don't know why, and a lot of times I don't fully even know how, but I know that He does. That He is.

And maybe that's where the tears come from.
Maybe this summer it felt unlikely that He would... and maybe I'm just humbled again that He is. That as much as I can recite over and over again that the Gospel is sufficient- I'm seeing that it really, truly is. He is enough. Even if all else fails, even if nothing is perfect or according to plans... He still is. He is doing beautiful things in the hearts of people around me. Young campers, college students, full-time staff, older volunteers, moms and dads, youth pastors. He is changing all of us.

My heart is full.
Because even in the smallest ways, He is moving. Reminding me, constantly, that He is good. He's got this. He's got us. He's making His name known. He is enough.

To Him be the glory. 


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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Potter's Hands

I took up a new hobby recently: pottery.

I'm not entirely sure why, but while reading through Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster, I was especially challenged during the chapter on solitude. Challenged to do something different, to pause, to consider different goals for my life, to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.
Reorientation and goal setting do not need to be cold and calculating as some suppose. Goals are discovered, not made. God delights in showing us exciting new alternatives for the future. Perhaps as you enter into a listening silence the joyful impression to learn how to weave or how to make pottery emerges. Does that sound too earthy, too unspiritual a goal? God is intently interested in such matters. Are you? 
It definitely didn't feel like much of a spiritual decision, honestly. I read the chapter, the word pottery leapt off the page at me as something intriguing, I did a little research (being just outside of Santa Fe, and all) and decided taking a class might just be wonderful. I coerced a few friends into joining me and we, very soon after, began a 7-week adventure into the world of clay.

You should know that I can't recall touching clay in my past. I'm sure I have- it just doesn't stick out to me. My fine arts credits were fulfilled through choir in high school, so I had always managed to avoid coming face-to-face with my lack of artistic skills. Because, I assumed, since I couldn't draw or paint, I probably couldn't do much else in the art world, either.

Our first night of class, we were tasked with making a cylinder. Our instructor demonstrated. He threw some clay on the wheel, shaped it into a hockey-puck-looking thing, dropped his thumbs down to create a hole, and began to pull the sides up in to a vase-shaped piece.

Easy.
I can do that. 
My pride pounded within.

We weren't the only beginners in the room, but the girl on my left had done this before. She was already making plates and was quick to assure the rest of us that this new hobby of ours wasn't for perfectionists. We would have to learn to get over ourselves, hold things loosely, and be patient. Unfortunately, those aren't things I'm great at.

I threw the clay onto my wheel and tried to make that hockey-puck shaped thing, just like I had been shown. I didn't really understand the importance of making sure that clay was entirely centered on the wheel- not considering the challenges I would encounter if it wasn't. You won't be surprised to know that my first few pieces were about an inch tall, an inch wide and far from symmetrical.

One of my first pieces...
It wasn't until week 3 that I felt like I began to grasp the concept of "centering" enough to actually implement on my own without my instructor coming to the rescue. It had been a frustrating process. I felt like I had been going through my 25lbs of clay swiftly, only instead of having any successes, I had a wet pile of clay failure. Countless attempts of not being centered, pulling up too quickly or unevenly, slicing the tops off, clumsily taking my hands away too fast, and, just generally, ruining almost everything I was working toward.

Our instructor always encouraged us to keep the things we salvaged, even if ghastly. Keep it. Practice trimming and glazing with it. Keep it as a reminder of what your first pieces were so you can see the progress you've made. So I did. They are a humbling reminder that things take time, and that I don't always do things right the first time (I often don't, actually).

But I kept going.
Outside of class, some of us would frequent the studio when we could spare the time. I loved it. I fell asleep thinking about centering clay. I dreamt about pulling up the sides of a cylinder with ease and grace. I talked about it often and, as I began to see and feel improvement, I felt accomplished. I was learning something new...and I could see visible change happening.

There's something strangely cathartic I've found in working with clay. Something so satisfying when you realize the clay you are trying to shape is finally moldable and pliable. Something indescribable when it begins to do exactly what you want and begins to transform from a lump of clay to a beautiful work of art.

I had the opportunity to teach a class on sanctification a few weeks into my pottery class. Naturally, there were some parallels to make at the time, but the parallels haven't stopped coming. There's been something profound about working with clay, especially when I take myself out of the potter's role and put myself into the piece of clay, into the Potter's Hands.

I've found myself often humming a melody I grew up singing in church- some of you may recognize it:
No eye has seen

No ear has heard
The good that the Lord has prepared for those
Who wait on Him
To hear His voice
"I am the potter
And you are the clay" 
Jesus take me in Your hands

And make me all that You want me to be
Jesus help me understand my purpose
And what You can do through me
Fulfilling my destiny
accidental spout
The even more beautiful part of it is knowing a bit more about what it means to work with clay and what that image requires. In order to be molded, the clay [us] has to be centered. Only then are we ready and truly willing to succumb to the hands of the Potter. Only then can we be shaped into what we are intended to be, into who He is calling us to be.

Today I picked up 18 finally finished pieces.
It's been a process.
A process of failing, disappointments, mishaps, uneven pulls, accidental spouts, lumpy handles, tragedies while trimming and the unknowns of glazing. It's been a process filled with small victories, vast improvements, waiting and hoping, and finally... results.

I think this is just the beginning of my adventure with pottery. I hope to keep learning and growing, allowing this new hobby to affect me and challenge me on a more spiritual level. To seek solitude. To seek change. To be more centered, so that I might be molded and shaped to be more of what the Potter intends for me to be. A beautiful work of art... and while I can't begin to fathom what the end result will actually be, I must trust that He knows what He's doing and that I'm in His hands throughout the entire process.